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The Ethics of Drink and Other Social Questions by James Runciman

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_Author of "A Dream of the North Sea," "Skippers and Shellbacks," Etc_



All the statistics and formal statements published about drink are no
doubt impressive enough to those who have the eye for that kind of
thing; but, to most of us, the word "million" means nothing at all, and
thus when we look at figures, and find that a terrific number of gallons
are swallowed, and that an equally terrific amount in millions sterling
is spent, we feel no emotion. It is as though you told us that a
thousand Chinamen were killed yesterday; for we should think more about
the ailments of a pet terrier than about the death of the Chinese, and
we think absolutely nothing definite concerning the "millions" which
appear with such an imposing intention when reformers want to stir the
public. No man's imagination was ever vitally impressed by figures, and
I am a little afraid that the statistical gentlemen repel people instead
of attracting them. The persons who screech and abuse the drink sellers
are even less effective than the men of figures; their opponents laugh
at them, and their friends grow deaf and apathetic in the storm of
whirling words, while cool outsiders think that we should be better
employed if we found fault with ourselves and sat in sackcloth and ashes
instead of gnashing teeth at tradesmen who obey a human instinct. The
publican is considered, among platform folk in the temperance body, as
even worse than a criminal, if we take all things seriously that they
choose to say, and I have over and over again heard vague blather about
confiscating the drink-sellers' property and reducing them to the state
to which they have brought others. Then there is the rant regarding
brewers. Why forget essential business only in order to attack a class
of plutocrats whom we have made, and whom our society worships with
odious grovellings? The brewers and distillers earn their money by
concocting poisons which cause nearly all the crime and misery in broad
Britain; there is not a soul living in these islands who does not know
the effect of the afore-named poisons; there is not a soul living who
does not very well know that there never was a pestilence crawling over
the earth which could match the alcoholic poisons in murderous power.
There is a demand for these poisons; the brewer and distiller supply the
demand and gain thereby large profits; society beholds the profits and
adores the brewer. When a gentleman has sold enough alcoholic poison to
give him the vast regulation fortune which is the drink-maker's
inevitable portion, then the world receives him with welcome and
reverence; the rulers of the nation search out honours and meekly bestow
them upon him, for can he not command seats, and do not seats mean
power, and does not power enable talkative gentry to feed themselves fat
out of the parliamentary trough? No wonder the brewer is a personage.
Honours which used to be reserved for men who did brave deeds, or
thought brave thoughts, are reserved for persons who have done nothing
but sell so many buckets of alcoholized fluid. Observe what happens when
some brewer's wife chooses to spend L5000 on a ball. I remember one
excellent lady carefully boasting (for the benefit of the Press) that
the flowers alone that were in her house on one evening cost in all
L2000. Well, the mob of society folk fairly yearn for invitations to
such a show, and there is no meanness too despicable to be perpetrated
by women who desire admission. So through life the drink-maker and his
family fare in dignity and splendour; adulation surrounds them; powerful
men bow to the superior force of money; wealth accumulates until the
amount in the brewer's possession baffles the mind that tries to
conceive it--and the big majority of our interesting race say that all
this is good. Considering, then, how the English people directly and
indirectly force the man of drink onward until he must of necessity
fancy there is something of the moral demi-god about him; considering
how he is wildly implored to aid in ruling us from Westminster;
considering that his aid at an election may procure him the same honour
which fell to the share of William Pitt, Earl of Chatham--may we not say
that the community makes the brewer, and that if the brewer's stuff mars
the community we have no business to howl at him. We are answerable for
his living, and moving, and having his being--the few impulsive people
who gird at him should rather turn in shame and try to make some
impression on the huge, cringing, slavering crowd who make the
plutocrat's pompous reign possible.

But for myself, I cannot be bothered with bare figures and vague abuse
nowadays; abstractions are nothing, and neat arguments are less than
nothing, because the dullest quack that ever quacked can always clench
an argument in a fashion. Every turn that talk can take on the drink
question brings the image of some man or woman, or company of men and
women, before me, and that image is alive to my mind. If you pelt me
with tabular forms, and tell me that each adult in Britain drank so many
pints last year, you might just as well recite a mathematical proof. I
fix on some one human figure that your words may suggest and the image
of the bright lad whom I saw become a dirty, loafing, thievish sot is
more instructive and more woeful than all your columns of numerals.

Before me passes a tremendous procession of the lost: I can stop its
march when I choose and fix on any given individual in the ranks, so
that you can hardly name a single fact concerning drink, which does not
recall to me a fellow-creature who has passed into the place of wrecked
lives and slain souls. The more I think about it the more plainly I see
that, if we are to make any useful fight against drink, we must drop the
preachee-preachee; we must drop loud execrations of the people whose
existence the State fosters; we must get hold of men who _know_ what
drinking means, and let them come heart to heart with the victims who
are blindly tramping on to ruin for want of a guide and friend. My
hideous procession of the damned is always there to importune me; I
gathered the dolorous recruits who form the procession when I was
dwelling in strange, darkened ways, and I know that only the magnetism
of the human soul could ever have saved one of them. If anybody fancies
that Gothenburg systems, or lectures, or little tiresome tracts, or
sloppy yarns about "Joe Tomkins's Temperance Turkey," or effusive
harangues by half-educated buffoons, will ever do any good, he must run
along the ranks of my procession with me, and I reckon he may learn
something. The comic personages who deal with the subject are cruelly
useless; the very notion of making jokes in presence of such a mighty
living Terror seems desolating to the mind; I could not joke over the
pest of drink, for I had as lief dance a hornpipe to the blare of the
last Trumpet.

I said you must have men who _know_, if you care to rescue any tempted
creature. You must also have men who address the individual and get fast
hold of his imagination; abstractions must be completely left alone, and
your workers must know so much of the minute details of the horror
against which they are fighting that each one who comes under their
influence shall feel as if the story of his life were known and his soul
laid bare. I do not believe that you will ever stop one man from
drinking by means of legislation; you may level every tavern over twenty
square miles, but you will not thereby prevent a fellow who has the
_bite_ of drink from boozing himself mad whenever he likes. As for
stopping a woman by such merely mechanical means as the closing of
public-houses, the idea is ridiculous to anybody who knows the foxy
cunning, the fixed determination of a female soaker. It is a great moral
and physical problem that we want to solve, and Bills and clauses are
only so much ink and paper which are ineffective as a schoolboy's
copybook. If a man has the desire for alcohol there is no power known
that can stop him from gratifying himself; the end to be aimed at is to
remove the desire--to get the drinker past that stage when the craving
presses hardly on him, and you can never bring that about by rules and
regulations. I grant that the clusters of drink-shops which are stuck
together in the slums of our big towns are a disgrace to all of us, but
if we closed 99 per cent. of them by Statute we should have the same
drunken crew left. While wandering far and wide over England, nothing
has struck me more than the steady resolution with which men will obtain
drink during prohibited hours; the cleverest administrator in the world
could not frame a network of clauses that could stop them; one might
close every drink-selling place in Britain, and yet those folks that had
a mind would get drink when they wanted it. You may ply bolts and bars;
you may stop the working of beer-engines and taps; but all will be
futile, for I repeat, that only by asserting power over hearts, souls,
imaginations, can you make any sort of definite resistance to the
awe-striking plague that envenoms the world. With every humility I am
obliged to say that many of the good people who aim at reform do not
know sufficiently well the central facts regarding drink and drinkers.
It is beautiful to watch some placid man who stands up and talks gently
to a gathering of sympathizers. The reposeful face, the reposeful voice,
the refinement, the assured faith of the speaker are comforting; but
when he explains that he has always been an abstainer, I am inclined to
wonder how he can possibly exchange ideas with an alcoholized man. How
_can_ he know where to aim his persuasions with most effect? Can he
really sympathize with the fallen? He has never lived with drunkards or
wastrels; he is apart, like a star, and I half think that he only has a
blurred vision of the things about which he talks so sweetly. He would
be more poignant, and more likely to draw people after him, if he had
living images burned into his consciousness. My own set of pictures all
stand out with ghastly plainness as if they were lit up by streaks of
fire from the Pit. I have come through the Valley of the Shadow into
which I ventured with a light heart, and those who know me might point
and say what was said of a giant: "There is the man who has been in
hell." It was true. Through the dim and sordid inferno, I moved as in a
trance for awhile, and that is what makes me so keen to warn those who
fancy they are safe; that is what makes me so discontented with the
peculiar ethical conceptions of a society which bows down before the
concocter of drink and spurns the lost one whom drink seizes. I have
learned to look with yearning pity and pardon on all who have been
blasted in life by their own weakness, and gripped by the trap into
which so many weakly creatures stumble. Looking at brutal life, catching
the rotting soul in the very fact, have made me feel the most careless
contempt for Statute-mongers, because I know now that you must conquer
the evil of evils by a straight appeal to one individual after another
and not by any screed of throttling jargon. One Father Mathew would be
worth ten Parliaments, even if the Parliaments were all reeling off
curative measures with unexampled velocity. You must not talk to a
county or a province and expect to be heard to any purpose; you must
address John, and Tom, and Mary. I am sure that dead-lift individual
effort will eventually reduce the ills arising from alcohol to a
minimum, and I am equally sure that the blind groping of half-informed
men who chatter at St. Stephen's will never do more good than the
chatter of the same number of jackdaws. It is impossible to help
admiring Sir Wilfrid Lawson's smiling courage, but I really do not
believe that he sees more than the faint shadows of the evils against
which he struggles; he does not know the true nature of the task which
he has attacked, and he fancies that securing temperance is an affair of
bolts, and bars, and police, and cackling local councils. I wish he had
lived with me for a year.

If you talk with strong emotion about the dark horror of drink you
always earn plenty of jibes, and it is true that you do give your hand
away, as the fighting men say. It is easy to turn off a light paragraph
like this: "Because A chooses to make a beast of himself, is that any
reason why B, and C, and D should be deprived of a wholesome article of
liquid food?"--and so on. Now, I do not want to trouble B, and C, and D
at all; A is my man, and I want to get at him, not by means of a
policeman, or a municipal officer of any kind, but by bringing my soul
and sympathy close to him. Moreover, I believe that if everybody had
definite knowledge of the wide ruin which is being wrought by drink
there would be a general movement which would end in the gradual
disappearance of drinking habits. At this present, however, our state is
truly awful, and I see a bad end to it all, and a very bad end to
England herself, unless a great emotional impulse travels over the
country. The same middle class which is envenomed by the gambling
madness is also the heir of all the more vile habits which the
aristocrats have abandoned. Drinking--conviviality I think they call
it--is not merely an excrescence on the life of the middle class--it
_is_ the life; and work, thought, study, seemly conduct, are now the
excrescences. Drink first, gambling second, lubricity third--those are
the chief interests of the young men, and I cannot say that the
interests of mature and elderly men differ very much from those of the
fledglings. Ladies and gentlemen who dwell in quiet refinement can
hardly know the scenes amid which our middle-class lad passes the span
of his most impressionable days. I have watched the men at all times and
in all kinds of places; every town of importance is very well known to
me, and the same abomination is steadily destroying the higher life in
all. The Chancellors of the Exchequer gaily repeat the significant
figures which give the revenue from alcohol; the optimist says that
times are mending; the comfortable gentry who mount the pulpits do not
generally care to ruffle the fine dames by talking about unpleasant
things--and all the while the curse is gaining, and the betting,
scoffing, degraded crew of drinkers are sliding merrily to destruction.
Some are able to keep on the slide longer than others, but I have seen
scores--hundreds--stop miserably, and the very faces of the condemned
men, with the last embruted look on them, are before me. My subject has
so many thousands of facets that I am compelled to select a few of the
most striking. Take one scene through which I sat not very long ago, and
then you may understand how far the coming regenerator will have to go.
A great room was filled by about 350 men and lads, all of the middle
class; a concert was going on, and I was a little curious to know the
kind of entertainment which the well-dressed company liked. Of course
there was drink in plenty, and the staff of waiters had a busy time; a
loud crash of talk went on between the songs, and, as the drink gathered
power on excited brains, this crash grew more and more discordant. Nice
lads, with smooth, pleasant faces, grew flushed and excited, and I am
afraid that I occupied myself in marking out possible careers for a good
many of them as I studied their faces. There was not much fun of the
healthy kind; fat, comfortable, middle-aged men laughed so heartily at
the faintest indecent allusion that the singers grew broader and
broader, and the hateful music-hall songs grew more and more risky as
the night grew onward. By the way, can anything be more loathsomely
idiotic than the average music-hall ditty, with its refrain and its
quaint stringing together of casual filthiness? If I had not wanted to
fix a new picture on my mind I should have liked better to be in a
tap-room among honestly brutal costers and scavengers than with that
sniggering, winking gang. The drink got hold, glasses began to be broken
here and there, the time was beaten with glass crushers, spoons, pipes,
and walking-sticks; and then the bolder spirits felt that the time for
good, rank, unblushing blackguardism had come. A being stepped up and
faced a roaring audience of enthusiasts who knew the quality of his
dirtiness; he launched out into an unclean stave, and he reduced his
admirers to mere convulsions. He was encored, and he went a trifle
further, until he reached a depth of bestiality below which a gaff in
Shoreditch could net descend. Ah! Those bonny lads, how they roared with
laughter, and how they exchanged winks with grinning elders! Not a
single obscure allusion to filth was lost upon them, and they took more
and more drink under pressure of the secret excitement until many of
them were unsteady and incoherent. I think I should shoot a boy of mine
if I found him enjoying such a foul entertainment. It was leze-Humanity.
The orgie rattled on, to the joy of all the steaming, soddened company,
and I am not able to guess where some of the songs and recitations came
from. There are deeps below deeps, and I suppose that there are skilled
literary workmen who have sunk so far that they are ready to supply the
unspeakable dirt which I heard.

There was a merry crowd at the bar when this astounding function ceased,
and the lively lads jostled, and laughed, and quoted some of the more
spicy specimens of nastiness which they had just heard.

Now, I should not have mentioned such an unsavoury business as this, but
that it illustrates in a curious way the fact that one is met and
countered by the power of Drink at every turn in this country. Among
that unholy audience were one or two worthies who ought by rights to
have called the police, and forced the promoters of the fun to appear
before the Bench in the morning. But then these magistrates had an
interest in Beer, and Brewery shares were pretty well represented in the
odious room, and thus a flagrant scandal was gently passed aside. The
worst of it is that, after a rouse like this, the young men do not care
to go to bed, so they adjourn to some one's rooms and play cards till
any hour. In the train next morning there are blotchy faces, dull eyes,
tongues with a bitter taste, and there is a general rush for "liveners"
before the men go to office or warehouse; and the day drags on until the
joyous evening comes, when some new form of debauch drowns the memory of
the morning's headache. Should you listen to a set of these men when the
roar of a long bar is at its height at night, you will find that the
life of the intellect has passed away from their midst. The fellows may
be sharp in a small way at business, and I am sure I hope they are; but
their conversation is painful in the extreme to any one who wishes to
retain a shred of respect for his own species. If you listen long, and
then fix your mind so that you can pick out the exact significance of
what you have heard, you become confounded. Take the scraps of "bar"
gabble. "So I says, 'Lay me fours.' And he winks and says, 'I'll give
you seven to two, if you like.' Well, you know, the horse won, and I
stood him a bottle out of the three pound ten, so I wasn't much in."
"'What!' says I; 'step outside along o' me, and bring your pal with you,
and I'll spread your bloomin' nose over your face.'" "_That_ corked
him." "I tell you Flyaway's a dead cert. I know a bloke that goes to
Newmarket regular, and he's acquainted with Reilly of the Greyhound, and
Reilly told him that he heard Teddy Martin's cousin say that Flyaway was
tried within seven pounds of Peacock. Can you have a better tip than
that?" "I'll give you the break, and we'll play for a bob and the
games." "Thanks, deah boy, I'll jest have one with you. Lor! wasn't I
chippy this morning? I felt as if the pavement was making rushes at me,
and my hat seemed to want a shoehorn to get it on or off for that
matter. Bill's whisky's too good." "I'm going out with a Judy on Sunday,
or else you'd have me with you. The girls won't leave me alone, and the
blessed dears can't be denied." So the talk goes steadily forward. What
can a bright lad learn there? Many of the assembly are very young, and
their features have not lost the freshness and purity of skin which give
such a charm to a healthy lad's appearance. Would any mother like to
see her favourite among that hateful crowd? I do not think that mothers
rightly know the sort of places which their darlings enter; I do not
think they guess the kind of language which the youths hear when the
chimes sound at midnight; they do not know the intricacies of a society
which half encourages callow beings to drink, and then kicks them into
the gutter if the drink takes hold effectually. The kindly, seemly woman
remains at home in her drawing-room, papa slumbers if he is one of the
stay-at-home sort; but Gerald, and Sidney, and Alfred are out in the
drink-shop hearing talk fit to make Rabelais turn queasy, or they are in
the billiard-room learning to spell "ruin" with all convenient speed, or
perhaps they have "copped it"--that is the correct phrase--rather early,
and they are swaggering along, shadowed by some creature--half girl,
half tiger-cat--who will bring them up in good time. If the women knew
enough, I sometimes think they would make a combined, nightly raid on
the boozing-bars, and bring their lads out.

Some hard-headed fellows may think that there is something grandmotherly
in the regrets which I utter over the cesspool in which so many of our
middle-class seem able to wallow without suffering asphyxia; but I am
only mournful because I have seen the plight of so many and many after
their dip in the sinister depths of the pool. I envy those stolid people
who can talk so contemptuously of frailty--I mean I envy them their
self-mastery; I quite understand the temperament of those who can be
content with a slight exhilaration, and who fiercely contemn the
crackbrain who does not know when to stop. No doubt it is a sad thing
for a man to part with his self-control, but I happen to hold a brief
for the crackbrain, and I say that there is not any man living who can
afford to be too contemptuous, for no one knows when his turn may come
to make a disastrous slip.

Most strange it is that a vice which brings instant punishment on him
who harbours it should be first of all encouraged by the very people who
are most merciless in condemning it. The drunkard has not to wait long
for his punishment; it follows hard on his sin, and he is not left to
the justice of another world. And yet, as we have said, this vice, which
entails such scathing disgrace and suffering, is encouraged in many
seductive ways. The talk in good company often runs on wine; the man who
has the deadly taint in his blood is delicately pressed to take that
which brings the taint once more into ill-omened activity; but, so long
as his tissues show no sign of that flabbiness and general
unwholesomeness which mark the excessive drinker, he is left unnoticed.
Then the literary men nearly always make the subject of drink attractive
in one way or other. We laugh at Mr. Pickwick and all his gay set of
brandy-bibbers; we laugh at John Ridd, with his few odd gallons of ale
per day; but let any man be seen often in the condition which led to Mr.
Pickwick's little accident, and see what becomes of him. He is soon
shunned like a scabbed sheep. One had better incur penal servitude than
fall into that vice from which the Government derives a huge
revenue--the vice which is ironically associated with friendliness, good
temper, merriment, and all goodly things. There are times when one is
minded to laugh for very bitterness.

And this sin, which begins in kindness and ends always in utter
selfishness--this sin, which pours accursed money into the
Exchequer--this sin, which consigns him who is guilty of it to a doom
worse than servitude or death--this sin is to be fought by Act of
Parliament! On the one hand, there are gentry who say, "Drink is a
dreadful curse, but look at the revenue." On the other hand, there are
those who say, "Drink is a dreadful thing; let us stamp it out by means
of foolscap and printers' ink." Then the neutrals say, "Bother both your
parties. Drink is a capital thing in its place. Why don't you leave it
alone?" Meantime the flower of the earth are being bitterly blighted. It
is the special examples that I like to bring out, so that the jolly lads
who are tempted into such places as the concert-room which I described
may perhaps receive a timely check. It is no use talking to me about
culture, and refinement, and learning, and serious pursuits saving a man
from the devouring fiend; for it happens that the fiend nearly always
clutches the best and brightest and most promising. Intellect alone is
not worth anything as a defensive means against alcohol, and I can
convince anybody of that if he will go with me to a common lodging-house
which we can choose at random. Yes, it is the bright and powerful
intellects that catch the rot first in too many cases, and that is why I
smile at the notion of mere book-learning making us any better. If I
were to make out a list of the scholars whom I have met starving and in
rags, I should make people gape. I once shared a pot of fourpenny ale
with a man who used to earn L2000 a year by coaching at Oxford. He was
in a low house near the Waterloo Road, and he died of cold and hunger
there. He had been the friend and counsellor of statesmen, but the vice
from which statesmen squeeze revenue had him by the throat before he
knew where he was, and he drifted toward death in a kind of constant
dream from which no one ever saw him wake. These once bright and
splendid intellectual beings swarm in the houses of poverty: if you pick
up with a peculiarly degraded one you may always be sure that he was one
of the best men of his time, and it seems as if the very rich quality of
his intelligence had enabled corruption to rankle through him so much
the more quickly. I have seen a tramp on the road--a queer, long-nosed,
short-sighted animal--who would read Greek with the book upside-down. He
was a very fine Latin scholar, and we tried him with Virgil; he could go
off at score when he had a single line given him, and he scarcely made a
slip, for the poetry seemed ingrained. I have shared a pennyworth of
sausage with the brother of a Chief Justice, and I have played a piccolo
while an ex-incumbent performed a dance which he described, I think, as
Pyrrhic. He fell in the fire and used hideous language in Latin and
French, but I do not know whether that was Pyrrhic also. Drink is the
dainty harvester; no puny ears for him, no faint and bending stalks: he
reaps the rathe corn, and there is only the choicest of the choice in
his sheaves. That is what I want to fix on the minds of young
people--and others; the more sense of power you have, the more pride of
strength you have, the more you are likely to be marked and shorn down
by the grim reaper; and there is little hope for you when the reaper
once approaches, because the very friends who followed the national
craze, and upheld the harmlessness of drink, will shoot out their lips
at you and run away when your bad moment comes.

The last person who ever suspects that a wife drinks is always the
husband; the last person who ever suspects that any given man is bitten
with drink is that man himself. So stealthily, so softly does the evil
wind itself around a man's being, that he very often goes on fancying
himself a rather admirable and temperate customer--until the crash
comes. It is all so easy, that the deluded dupe never thinks that
anything is far wrong until he finds that his friends are somehow
beginning to fight shy of him. No one will tell him what ails him, and I
may say that such a course would be quite useless, for the person warned
would surely fly into a passion, declare himself insulted, and probably
perform some mad trick while his nerves were on edge. Well, there comes
a time when the doomed man is disinclined for exertion, and he knows
that something is wrong. He has become sly almost without knowing it,
and, although he is pining for some stimulus, he pretends to go without,
and tries by the flimsiest of devices, to deceive those around him. Now
that is a funny symptom; the master vice, the vice that is the pillar of
the revenue, always, without any exception known to me, turns a man into
a sneak, and it generally turns him into a liar as well. So sure as the
habit of concealment sets in, so surely we may be certain that the
dry-rot of the soul has begun. The drinker is tremulous; he finds that
light beverages are useless to him, and he tries something that burns:
his nerve recovers tone; he laughs at himself for his early morning
fears, and he gets over another day. But the dry-rot is spreading; body
and soul react on each other, and the forlorn one soon begins to be
fatally false and weak in morals, and dirty and slovenly in person. Then
in the dead, unhappy nights he suffers all the torments that can be
endured if he wakes up while his day's supply of alcohol lies stagnant
in his system. No imagination is so retrospective as the drunkard's, and
the drunkard's remorse is the most terrible torture known. The wind
cries in the dark and the trees moan; the agonized man who lies waiting
the morning thinks of the times when the whistle of the wind was the
gladdest of sounds to him; his old ambitions wake from their trance and
come to gaze on him reproachfully; he sees that fortune (and mayhap
fame) have passed him by, and all through his own fault; he may whine
about imaginary wrongs during the day when he is maudlin, but the night
fairly throttles him if he attempts to turn away from the stark truth,
and he remains pinned face to face with his beautiful, dead self. Then,
with a start, he remembers that he has no friends. When he crawls out in
the morning to steady his hand he will be greeted with filthy
public-house cordiality by the animals to whose level he has dragged
himself, but of friends he has none. Now, is it not marvellous? Drink is
so jolly; prosperous persons talk with such a droll wink about vagaries
which they or their friends committed the night before; it is all so
very, very lightsome! The brewers and distillers who put the
mirth-inspiring beverages into the market receive more consideration,
and a great deal more money, than an average European prince;--and yet
the poor dry-rotted unfortunate whose decadence we are tracing is like a
leper in the scattering effects which he produces during his shaky
promenade. He is indeed alone in the world, and brandy or gin is his
only counsellor and comforter. As to character, the last rag of that
goes when the first sign of indolence is seen; the watchers have eyes
like cats, and the self-restrained men among them have usually seen so
many fellows depart to perdition that every stage in the process of
degradation is known to them. No! there is not a friend, and dry, clever
gentlemen say, "Yes. Good chap enough once on a day, but can't afford to
be seen with him now." The soaker is amazed to find that women are
afraid of him a little, and shrink from him--in fact, the only people
who are cordial with him are the landlords, among whom he is treated as
a sort of irresponsible baby. "I may as well have his money as anybody
else. He shan't get outrageously drunk here, but he may as well moisten
his clay and keep himself from being miserable. If he gets the jumps in
the night that's his look-out." That is the soaker's friend. The man is
not unkind; he is merely hardened, and his morals, like those of nearly
all who are connected with the great Trade, have suffered a twist. When
the soaker's last penny has gone, he will receive from the landlord many
a contemptuously good-natured gift--pity it is that the lost wastrel
cannot be saved before that weariful last penny huddles in the corner of
his pocket.

While the harrowing descent goes on our suffering wretch is gradually
changing in appearance: the piggish element that is latent in most of us
comes out in him; his morality is sapped; he will beg, borrow, lie, and
steal; and, worst of all, he is a butt for thoughtless young fellows.
The last is the worst cut of all, for the battered, bloodless, sunken
ne'er-do-well can remember only too vividly his own gallant youth, and
the thought of what he was drives him crazed.

There is only one end; if the doomed one escapes _delirium tremens_ he
is likely to have cirrhosis, and if he misses both of these, then dropsy
or Bright's disease claims him. Those who once loved him pray for his
death, and greet his last breath with an echoing sigh of thankfulness
and relief: he might have been cheered in his last hour by the graceful
sympathy of troops of friends; but the State-protected vice has such a
withering effect that it scorches up friendship as a fiery breath from a
furnace might scorch a grass blade. If one of my joyous, delightful lads
could just watch the shambling, dirty figure of such a failure as I have
described; if he could see the sneers of amused passers-by, the timid
glances of women, the contemptuous off-hand speech of the children--"Oh!
him! That's old, boozy Blank;" then the youths might well tremble, for
the woebegone beggar that snivels out thanks for a mouthful of gin was
once a brave lad--clever, handsome, generous, the delight of friends,
the joy of his parents, the most brilliantly promising of all his
circle. He began by being jolly; he was well encouraged and abetted; he
found that respectable men drank, and that Society made no demur. But he
forgot that there are drinkers and drinkers, he forgot that the
cool-headed men were not tainted by heredity, nor were their brains so
delicately poised that the least grain of foreign matter introduced in
the form of vapour could cause semi-insanity. And thus the sacrifice of
Society--and the Exchequer--goes to the tomb amid contempt, and hissing,
and scorn; while the saddest thing of all is that those who loved him
most passionately are most glad to hear the clods thump on his coffin.
I believe, if you let me keep a youngster for an hour in a room with me,
I could tell him enough stories from my own shuddery experience to
frighten him off drink for life. I should cause him to be haunted.

There is none of the rage of the convert in all this; I knew what I was
doing when I went into the base and sordid homes of ruin during years,
and I want to know how any justification _not_ fitted for the libretto
of an extravaganza can be given by certain parliamentary gentlemen in
order that we may be satisfied with their conduct. My wanderings and
freaks do not count; I was a Bohemian, with the tastes of a Romany and
the curiosity of a philosopher; I went into the most abominable company
because it amused me and I had only myself to please, and I saw what a
fearfully tense grip the monster, Drink, has taken of this nation; and
let me say that you cannot understand that one little bit, if you are
content to knock about with a policeman and squint at signboards. Well,
I want to know how these legislators can go to church and repeat certain
prayers, while they continue to make profit by retailing Death at so
much a gallon; and I want to know how some scores of other godly men go
out of their way to back up a traffic which is very well able to take
care of itself. A wild, night-roaming gipsy like me is not expected to
be a model, but one might certainly expect better things from folks who
are so insultingly, aggressively righteous. One sombre and thoughtful
Romany of my acquaintance said, "My brother, there are many things that
I try to fight, and they knock me out of time in the first round." That
is my own case exactly when I observe comfortable personages who deplore
vice, and fill their pockets to bursting by shoving the vice right in
the way of the folks most likely to be stricken with deadly precision by

It is not easy to be bad-tempered over this saddening business; one has
to be pitiful. As my memory travels over England, and follows the tracks
that I trod, I seem to see a line of dead faces, that start into life if
I linger by them, and mop and mow at me in bitterness because I put out
no saving hand. So many and many I saw tramping over the path of
Destruction, and I do not think that ever I gave one of them a manly
word of caution. It was not my place, I thought, and thus their bones
are bleaching, and the memory of their names has flown away like a
mephitic vapour that was better dispersed. Are there many like me, I
wonder, who have not only done nothing to battle with the mightiest
modern evil, but have half encouraged it through cynical recklessness
and pessimism? We entrap the poor and the base and the wretched to their
deaths, and then we cry out about their vicious tendencies, and their
improvidence, and all the rest. Heaven knows I have no right to
sermonize; but, at least, I never shammed anything. When I saw some
spectacle of piercing misery caused by Drink (as nearly all English
misery is) I simply choked down the tendency to groan, and grimly
resolved to see all I could and remember it. But now that I have had
time to reflect instead of gazing and moaning, I have a sharp conception
of the thing that is biting at England's vitals. People fish out all
sorts of wondrous and obscure causes for crime. As far as England is
concerned I should lump the influences provocative of crime and
productive of misery into one--I say Drink is the root of almost all
evil. It is heartbreaking to know what is going on at our own doors,
for, however we may shuffle and blink, we cannot disguise the fact that
many millions of human beings who might be saved pass their lives in an
obscene hell--and they live so in merry England. Durst any one describe
a lane in Sandgate, Newcastle-on-Tyne, a court off Orange Street or
Lancaster Street, London, an alley in Manchester, a four-storey tenement
in the Irish quarter of Liverpool? I think not, and it is perhaps best
that no description should be done; for, if it were well done it would
make harmless people unhappy, and if it were ill done it would drive
away sympathy. I only say that all the horrors of those places are due
to alcohol alone. Do not say that idleness is answerable for the
gruesome state of things; that would be putting cause for effect. A man
finds the pains of the world too much for him; he takes alcohol to bring
on forgetfulness; he forgets, and he pays for his pleasure by losing
alike the desire and capacity for work. The man of the slums fares
exactly like the gentleman: both sacrifice their moral sense, both
become idle; the bad in both is ripened into rankness, and makes itself
villainously manifest at all seasons; the good is atrophied, and finally
dies. Goodness may take an unconscionable time a-dying, but it is
sentenced to death by the fates from the moment when alcoholism sets in,
and the execution is only a matter of time.

England, then, is a country of grief. I never yet knew one family which
had not lost a cherished member through the national curse; and thus at
all times we are like the wailing nation whereof the first-born in every
house was stricken. It is an awful sight, and as I sit here alone I can
send my mind over the sad England which I know, and see the army of the
mourners. They say that the calling of the wounded on the field of
Borodino was like the roar of the sea: on my battle-field, where drink
has been the only slayer, there are many dead; and I can imagine that I
hear the full volume of cries from those who are stricken but still
living. The vision would unsettle my reason if I had not a trifle of
Hope remaining. The philosophic individual who talks in correctly frigid
phrases about the evils of the Liquor Trade may keep his reason balanced
daintily and his nerve unhurt. But I have images for company--images of
wild fearsomeness. There is the puffy and tawdry woman who rolls along
the street goggling at the passengers with boiled eye. The little pretty
child says, "Oh! mother, what a strange woman. I didn't understand what
she said." My pretty, that was Drink, and you may be like that one of
these days, for as little as your mother thinks it, if you ever let
yourself touch the Curse carelessly. Bless you, I know scores who were
once as sweet as you who can now drink any costermonger of them all
under the stools in the Haymarket bar. The young men grin and wink as
that staggering portent lurches past: I do not smile; my heart is too
sad for even a show of sadness. Then there are the children--the
children of Drink they should be called, for they suck it from the
breast, and the venomous molecules become one with their flesh and
blood, and they soon learn to like the poison as if it were pure
mother's milk. How they hunger--those little children! What obscure
complications of agony they endure and how very dark their odd
convulsive species of existence is made, only that one man may buy
forgetfulness by the glass. If I let my imagination loose, I can hear
the immense army of the young crying to the dumb and impotent sky, and
they all cry for bread. Mercy! how the little children suffer! And I
have seen them by the hundred--by the thousand--and only helped from
caprice; I could do no other. The iron winter is nearing us, and soon
the dull agony of cold will swoop down and bear the gnawing hunger
company while the two dire agencies inflict torture on the little ones.
Were it not for Drink the sufferers might be clad and nourished; but
then Drink is the support of the State, and a few thousand of
raw-skinned, hunger-bitten children perhaps do not matter. Then I can
see all the ruined gentlemen, and all the fine fellows whose glittering
promise was so easily tarnished; they have crossed my track, and I
remember every one of them, but I never could haul back one from the
fate toward which he shambled so blindly; what could I do when Drink was
driving him? If I could not shake off the memories of squalor, hunger,
poverty--well-deserved poverty--despair, crime, abject wretchedness,
then life could not be borne. I can always call to mind the wrung hands
and drawn faces of well-nurtured and sweet ladies who saw the dull mask
of loathsome degradation sliding downward over their loved one's face.
Of all the mental trials that are cruel, that must be the worst--to see
the light of a beloved soul guttering gradually down into stench and
uncleanness. The woman sees the decadence day by day, while the blinded
and lulled man who causes all the indescribable trouble thinks that
everything is as it should be. The Drink mask is a very scaring thing;
once you watch it being slowly fitted on to a beautiful and spiritual
face you do not care over-much about the revenue.

And now the famous Russian's question comes up: What shall we do? Well,
so far as the wastrel poor are concerned, I should say, "Catch them when
young, and send them out of England so long as there is any place abroad
where their labour is sought." I should say so, because there is not a
shadow of a chance for them in this country: they will go in their turn
to drink as surely as they go to death. As to the vagabond poor whom we
have with us now I have no hope for them; we must wait until death weeds
them out, for we can do nothing with them nor for them.

Among the classes who are better off from the worldly point of view, we
shall have sacrifices offered to the fiend from time to time. Drink has
wound like some ubiquitous fungus round and round the tissues of the
national body, and we are sure to have a nasty growth striking out at
intervals. It tears the heart-strings when we see the brave, the
brilliant, the merry, the wise, sinking under the evil clement in our
appalling dual nature, and we feel, with something like despair, that we
cannot be altogether delivered from the scourge yet awhile. I have stabs
of conscience when I call to mind all I have seen and remember how
little I have done, and I can only hope, in a shame-faced way, that the
use of intoxicants may be quietly dropped, just as the practice of
gambling, and the habit of drinking heavy, sweet wines, have passed away
from the exclusive society in which cards used to form the main
diversion. Frankly speaking, I have seen the degradation, the
abomination, and the measureless force of Drink so near at hand that I
am not sanguine. I can take care of myself, but I am never really sure
about many other people, and I had good reason for not being sure of
myself. One thing is certain, and that is that the creeping enemy is
sure to attack the very last man or woman whom you would expect to see
attacked. When the first symptoms are seen, the stricken one should be
delivered from _ennui_ as much as possible, and then some friend should
tell, in dull, dry style, the slow horror of the drop to the Pit. Fear
will be effective when nothing else will. Many are stronger than I am
and can help more. By the memory of broken hearts, by the fruitless
prayers of mothers and sorrowing wives, for the sake of the children who
are forced to stay on earth in a living death, I ask the strong to help
us all. Blighted lives, wrecked intellects, wasted brilliancy, poisoned
morality, rotted will--all these mark the road that the King of Evils
takes in his darksome progress. Out of the depths I have called for aid
and received it, and now I ask aid for others, and I shall not be

_October, 1889._


A philosopher has described the active life of man as a continuous
effort to forget the facts of his own existence. It is vain to pin such
philosophers to a definite meaning; but I think the writer meant vaguely
to hint in a lofty way that the human mind incessantly longs for change.
We all crave to be something that we are not; we all wish to know the
facts concerning states of existence other than our own; and it is this
craving curiosity that produces every form of social and spiritual
activity. Yet, with all this restless desire, this uneasy yearning, only
a few of us are ever able to pass beyond one piteously narrow sphere,
and we rest in blank ignorance of the existence that goes on without the
bounds of our tiny domain. How many people know that by simply going on
board a ship and sailing for a couple of days they would pass
practically into another moral world, and change their mental as well as
their bodily habits? I have been moved to these reflections by observing
the vast amount of nautical literature which appears during the holiday
season, and by seeing the complete ignorance and misconception which are
palmed off upon the public. It is a fact that only a few English people
know anything about the mightiest of God's works. To them life on the
ocean is represented by a series of phrases which seem to have been
transplanted from copy-books. They speak of "the bounding main," "the
raging billows," "seas mountains high," "the breath of the gale," "the
seething breakers," and so on; but regarding the commonplace, quiet
everyday life at sea they know nothing. Strangely enough, only Mr. Clark
Russell has attempted to give in literary form a vivid, veracious
account of sea-life, and his thrice-noble books are far too little
known, so that the strongest maritime nation in the whole world is
ignorant of vital facts concerning the men who make her prosperity. Let
any one who is well informed enter a theatre when a nautical drama is
presented; he will find the most ridiculous spectacle that the mind of
man can conceive. On one occasion, when a cat came on to the stage at
Drury Lane and ran across the heaving billows of the canvas ocean, the
audience roared with laughter; but to the judicious critic the real
cause for mirth was the behaviour of the nautical persons who figured in
the drama. The same ignorance holds everywhere. Seamen scarcely ever
think of describing their life to people on shore, and the majority of
landsmen regard a sea-voyage as a dull affair, to be begun with regret
and ended with joy. Dull! Alas, it is dull for people who have dim eyes
and commonplace minds; but for the man who has learned to gaze aright at
the Creator's works there is not a heavy minute from the time when the
dawn trembles in the gray sky until the hour when, with stars and
sea-winds in her raiment, night sinks on the sea. Dull! As well describe
the rush of the turbulent Strand or the populous splendour of Regent
Street by that word! I have always held that a man cannot be considered
as educated if he is unable to wait an hour in a railway-station for a
train without _ennui_. What is education good for if it does not give us
resources which may enable us to gather delight or instruction from
every sight and sound that may fall on our nerves? The most melancholy
spectacle in the world is presented by the stolid citizen who yawns over
his _Bradshaw_ while the swift panoramas of Charing Cross or Euston are
gliding by him. Men who are rightly constituted find delight in the very
quietude and isolation of sea-life; they know how to derive pure
entertainment from the pageant of the sky and the music of winds and
waters, and they experience a piquant delight by reason of the contrast
between the loneliness of the sea and the eager struggling life of the
City. Proceeding, as is my custom, by examples, I shall give precise
descriptions of specimen days which anybody may spend on the wandering
wastes of the ocean. "All things pertaining to the life of man are of
interest to me," said the Roman; and he showed his wisdom by that

Dawn. Along the water-line a pale leaden streak appears, and little
tremulous ripples of gray run gently upwards, until a broad band of
mingled white and scarlet shines with cold radiance. The mystery of the
sea is suddenly removed, and we can watch the strange serpentine belts
that twine and glitter all round from our vessel to the horizon. The
light is strong before the sun appears; and perhaps that brooding hour,
when Nature seems to be turning in her sleep, is the best of the whole
day. The dew lies thickly on deck, and the chill of the night hangs in
the air; but soon a red arc looms up gorgeously at the sea-line; long
rays spread out like a sheaf of splendid swords on the blue; there is,
as it were, a wild dance of colour in the noble vault, where cold green
and pink and crimson wind and flush and softly glide in mystic mazes;
and then--the sun! The great flaming disc seems to poise for a little,
and all around it--pierced here and there by the steely rays--the clouds
hang like tossing scarlet plumes.

Like a warrior-angel sped
On a mighty mission,
Light and life about him shed--
A transcendent vision!

Mailed in gold and fire he stands,
And, with splendours shaken,
Bids the slumbering seas and lands
Quicken and awaken.

Day is on us. Dreams are dumb,
Thought has light for neighbour;
Room! The rival giants come--
Lo, the Sun and Labour!

After witnessing that lordly spectacle, who can wonder at Zoroaster? As
the lights from east and west meet and mingle, and the sky rears its
blue immensity, it is hard to look on for very gladness.

I shall suppose that we are on a small vessel--for, if we sail in a
liner, or even in an ordinary big steamer, it is somewhat like moving
about on a floating factory. The busy life of a sailor begins, for Jack
rarely has an idle minute while he is on deck. Landsmen can call in help
when their house needs repairing, but sailors must be able to keep every
part of _their_ house in perfect order; and there is always something to
be done. But we are lazy; we toil not, neither do we tar ropes, and our
main business is to get up a thoroughly good appetite while we watch the
deft sailor-men going about their business. It is my belief that a
landsman might spend a month without a tedious hour, if he would only
take the trouble to watch everything that the men do and find out why it
is done. Ages on ages of storm and stress are answerable for the most
trifling device that the sailor employs. How many and many lives were
lost before the Norsemen learned to support the masts of their winged
dragons by means of bull's-hide ropes! How many shiploads of men were
laid at the mercy of the travelling seas before the Scandinavians
learned to use a fixed rudder instead of a huge oar! Not a bolt or rope
or pulley or eyelet-hole has been fixed in our vessel save through the
bitter experience of centuries; one might write a volume about that
mainsail, showing how its rigid, slanting beauty and its tremendous
power were gradually attained by evolution from the ugly square lump of
matting which swung from the masthead of Mediterranean craft. But we
must not philosophise; we must enjoy. The fresh morning breeze runs
merrily over the ripples and plucks off their crests; our vessel leans
prettily, and you hear a tinkling hiss as she shears through the lovely
green hillocks. Sometimes she thrusts away a burst of spray, and in the
midst of the white spurt there shines a rainbow. It may happen that the
rainbows come thickly for half an hour at a time, and then we seem to be
passing through a fairy scene. Go under the main-yard and look away to
leeward. The wind roars out of the mainsail and streams over you in a
cold flood; but you do not mind that, for there is the joyous expanse
of emerald and snow dancing under the glad sun. There is something
unspeakably delightful in the rushing never-ending procession of waves
that passes away, away in merry ranks to the shining horizon; and all
true lovers of the sea are exhilarated by the sweet tumult. Remember I
am talking about a fine day; I shall come to the bad weather in good
time. On this ineffable morning a lady may come up and walk briskly in
the crisp air; but indeed women are the best and coolest of sailors in
any weather when once their preliminary troubles are over. The hours fly
past, and we hail the announcement of breakfast with a sudden joy which
tells of gross materialism. I may say, by-the-way, that our lower
nature, or what sentimental persons call our lower nature, comes out
powerfully at sea, and men of the most refined sort catch themselves in
the act of wondering time after time when meals will be ready. For me I
think that it is no more gross to delight in flavours than it is to
delight in colours or harmonies, and one of my main reasons for dwelling
on the delights of the sea lies in the fact that the voyager learns to
take an exquisite, but quite rational, delight in the mere act of
eating. I know that I ought to speak as though dinner were an ignoble
institution; I know that the young lady who said, "Thanks--I rarely
eat," represented a class who pretend to devote themselves to higher
joys; but I decline to talk cant on any terms, and I say that the
healthy, hearty hunger bestowed by the open sea is one of God's good

The sweet morning passes away, and somehow our thoughts run in bright
grooves. That is the strange thing about the sea--its moods have an
instant effect on the mind; and, as it changes with wild and swift
caprice, the seafarer finds that his views of life alter with
tantalizing but pleasant suddenness. Just now I am speaking only of
content and exhilaration; but I may soon see another side of the
picture. The afternoon glides by like the morning; no churlish houses
and chimney-pots hide the sun, and we see him describe his magnificent
curve, while, with mysterious potency, he influences the wind. Dull!
Why, on shore we should gaze out on the same streets or fields or trees;
but here our residence is driven along like a flying cloud, and we gain
a fresh view with every mile! I confess that I like sailing in populous
waters, for indeed the lonely tropical seas and the brassy skies are not
by any means to be regarded as delightful; but for the present we are
supposing ourselves to be in the track of vessels, and there is some new
and poignant interest for every hour. Watch this vast pallid cloud that
looms up far away; the sun strikes on the cloud, and straightway the
snowy mass gleams like silver; on it comes, and soon we see a superb
four-masted clipper broadside on to us. A royal fabric she is; every
snowy sail is drawing, and she moves with resistless force and matchless
grace through the water, while a boiling wreath of milky foam rushes
away from her bows, and swathes of white dapple the green river that
seems to pour past her majestic sides. The emigrants lean over the rail,
and gaze wistfully at us. Ah, how many thousands of miles they must
travel ere they reach their new home! Strange and pitiful it is to think
that so few of them will ever see the old home again; and yet there is
something bright and hopeful in the spectacle, if we think not of
individuals, but of the world's future. Under the Southern Cross a
mighty state is rising; the inevitable movement of populations is
irresistible as the tides of mid-ocean; and those wistful emigrants who
quietly wave their handkerchiefs to us are about to assist in working
out the destiny of a new world. Dull! The passing of that great vessel
gives matter for grave thought. She swings away, and we may perhaps try
to run alongside for a while, but the immense drag of her four towers of
canvas soon draws her clear, and she speedily looms once more like a
cloud on the horizon. Good-bye! The squat collier lumbers along, and her
leisurely grimy skipper salutes as we near him. It is marvellous to
reflect that the whole of our coal-trade was carried on in those queer
tubs only sixty years ago. They are passing away, and the gallant,
ignorant, comical race of sailors who manned them has all but
disappeared; the ugly sordid iron box that goes snorting past us,
belching out jets of water from her dirty side--that is the agency that
destroyed the colliers, and, alas, destroyed the finest breed of seamen
that ever the world saw! So rapidly do new sights and sounds greet us
that the night steals down almost before we are aware of its approach.
The day is for joy; but, ah, the night is for subtle overmastering
rapture, for pregnant gloom, for thoughts that lie too deep for tears!
If a wind springs up when the last ray of the sun shoots over the
shoulder of the earth, then the ship roars through an inky sea, and the
mysterious blending of terror and ecstasy cannot be restrained. Hoarsely
the breeze shrieks in the cordage, savagely the water roars as it darts
away astern like a broad fierce white flame. The vessel seems to spring
forward and shake herself with passion as the sea retards her, and the
whole wild symphony of humming ropes, roaring water, screaming wind,
sets every pulse bounding. Should the moon shine out from the charging
clouds, then earth has not anything to show more fair; the broad track
of light looks like an immeasurable river peopled by fiery serpents that
dart and writhe and interwind, until the eye aches with gazing on them.
Sleep seems impossible at first, and yet by degrees the poppied touch
lulls our nerves, and we slumber without heeding the harrowing groans of
the timbers or the confused cries of the wind.

So much for the glad weather; but, when the sky droops low, and leaping
waves of mournful hue seem to rear themselves and mingle with the
clouds, then the gladness is not so apparent. Still the exulting rush of
the ship through the gray seas and her contemptuous shudder as she
shakes off the masses of water that thunder down on her are fine to
witness. Even a storm, when cataracts of hissing water plunge over the
vessel and force every one to "hang on anywhere," is by no means without
its delights; but I must candidly say that a ship is hardly the place
for a woman when the wild winds try their strength against the works of
man. On the whole, if we reckon up the pains and pleasures of life on
board ship, the balance is all in favour of pleasure. The sailors have a
toilsome life, and must endure much; but they have health. It is the
sense of physical well-being that makes the mind so easy when one is on
the sea; and refined men who have lived in the forecastle readily
declare that they were happy but for the invariable dirt. Instead of
trooping to stuffy lodgings, those of my readers who have the nerve
should, if not this year, then next summer, go right away and take a
cheap and charming holiday on the open sea.

_October, 1887._


The brisk Pressmen are usually exceedingly busy in calculating the
chances of a huge fight--indeed they spend a good part of each year in
that pleasing employment. Smug diplomatists talk glibly about "war
clearing the air;" and the crowd--the rank and file--chatter as though
war were a pageant quite divorced from wounds and death, or a mere
harmless hurly-burly where certain battalions receive thrashings of a
trifling nature. It is saddening to notice the levity with which the
most awful of topics is treated, and especially is it sad to see how
completely the women and children are thrust out of mind by belligerent
persons. We who have gazed on the monster of War, we who have looked in
the whites--or rather the reds--of his loathsome eyes, cannot let this
burst of frivolity work mischief without one temperate word of warning
and protest.

Pleasant it is to watch the soldiers as they march along the streets, or
form in their superb lines on parade. No man or woman of any sensibility
can help feeling proudly stirred when a Cavalry regiment goes by. The
clean, alert, upright men, with their sure seat; the massive war-horses
champing their bits and shaking their accoutrements: the rhythmic thud
of hoofs, the keen glitter of steel, and the general air of power, all
combine to form a spectacle that sets the pulses beating faster. Then,
again, observe the strange elastic rhythm of the march as a battalion of
tall Highlanders moves past. The fifes and drums cease, there is a
silence broken only by that sinuous beautiful onward movement of lines
of splendid men, until the thrilling scream of the pipes shatters the
air, and the mad tumult of warlike sound makes even a Southron's nerves
quiver. Then, once more, watch the deadly, steady march of a regiment of
Guards. The stalwart men step together, and, as the red ranks sway on,
it seems as though no earthly power could stand against them. The gloomy
bearskins are like a brooding dark cloud, and the glitter of the
rifle-barrels carries with it certain sinister terrible suggestions. The
gaiety and splendour of Cavalry and Infantry all gain increased power
over the imagination since we know that each of those gaily clad fellows
would march to his doom without a tremor or a murmur if he received the
word. Poor Tommy Atkins is surrounded by a sort of halo in the popular
imagination, simply because it is known that he may one day have to deal
forth death to an enemy, or take his own doom, according to the chances
of combat. I need say little about the field-days and reviews which have
caused so many martially-minded young men to take the shilling. The
crash of the small-arm firing, the wild galloping of hasty
aides-de-camp, the measured movement of serried lines, the rapid flight
of flocks of bedizened staff-officers, all make up a very exciting and
confusing picture, and many a youngster has fancied that war must be a
glorious game. Let us leave the picturesque and theatrical business and
come to the dry prose.

So far from being an affair of glitter, excitement, fierce joy, fierce
triumph, war is but a round of hideous hours which bring memories of
squalor, filth, hunger, wretchedness, dull toil, unspeakable misery.
Take it at its best, and consider what a modern engagement really means.
Recollect, moreover, that I am about to use sentences accurate as a
photograph. The sportive Pressman says, "Vernon began to find the
enemy's cloud of sharp-shooters troublesome, so the 5th sought better
cover on the right, leaving Brown free to develop his artillery fire."
"Troublesome!" Translate that word, and it means this: Private Brown and
Private Jones are lying behind the same low bank. Jones raises his head;
there comes a sound like "Roo-o-osh--pht!"--then a horrible thud. Jones
glares, grasps at nothing with convulsed hands, and rolls sideways with
a long shudder. The ball took him in the temple. Serjeant Morrison says,
"Now, men, try for that felled log! Double!" A few men make a short
rush, and gain the solid cover; but one throws up his hands when half
way, gives a choking yell, springs in the air, and falls down limp. The
same thing is going on over a mile of country, while the shell-fire is
gradually gaining power--and we may be sure that the enemy are suffering
at the hands of our marksmen. And now suppose that an infantry brigade
receives orders to charge. "Charge!" The word carries magnificent poetic
associations, but, alas, it is a very prosaic affair nowadays! The lines
move onward in short rushes, and it seems as if a swarm of ants were
migrating warily. The strident voices of the officers ring here and
there: the men edge their way onward: it seems as if there were no
method in the advance; but somehow the loose wavy ranks are kept well
in hand, and the main movement proceeds like machinery. "I feel a bit
queer," says Bill Williams to a veteran friend. "Never mind--'taint
every one durst say that," says the friend. "Whoo-o-sh!" a muffled
thump, and the veteran falls forward, dropping his rifle. He struggles
up on hands and knees, but a rush of blood chokes him, and he drops with
a groan. He will lie there for a long time before his burning throat is
moistened by a cup of water, and he knows only too well that the surgeon
will merely shake his head when he sees him. The brigade still advances;
gradually the sputtering crackle in their front grows into a low steady
roar; a stream of lead whistles in the air, and the long lurid line of
flame glows with the sustained glare of a fire among furze. Men fall at
every yard, but the hoarse murmur of the dogged advance never ceases. At
last the time comes for the rush. The ranks are trimmed up by
imperceptible degrees; the men set their teeth, and a strange eager look
comes over many a face. The eyes of the youngsters stare glassily; they
can see the wood from which the enemy must be dislodged at any price,
but they can form no definite ideas; they merely grip their rifles and
go on mechanically. The word is given--the dark lines dash forward; the
firing from the wood breaks out in a crash of fury--there is a long
harsh rattle, then a chance crack like a thunder-clap, and then a
whirring like the spinning of some demoniac mill. Curses ring out amid a
low sound of hard breathing; the ranks are gapped here and there as a
man wriggles away like a wounded rabbit, or another bounds upward with a
frantic ejaculation. Then comes the fighting at close quarters. Perhaps
kind women who are misled by the newspaper-writer's brisk babblement
may like to know what that means, so I give the words of the best
eyewitness that ever gazed on warfare. He took down his notes by the
light of burning wood, and he had no time to think of grammar. All his
words were written like mere convulsive cries, but their main effect is
too vivid to be altered. Notice that he rarely concludes a sentence, for
he wanted to save time, and the bullets were cutting up the ground and
the trees all round him. "Patches of the wood take fire, and several of
the wounded, unable to move, are consumed. Quite large spaces are swept
over, burning the dead also; some of the men have their hair and beards
singed, some burns on their faces and hands, others holes burnt in their
clothing. The flashes of fire from the cannon, the quick glaring flames
and smoke, and the immense roar--the musketry so general; the light
nearly bright enough for each side to see the other; the crashing,
tramping of men--the yelling--close quarters--hand-to-hand conflicts.
Each side stands up to it, brave, determined as demons; and still the
wood's on fire--still many are not only scorched--too many, unable to
move, are burned to death. Who knows the conflict, hand-to-hand--the
many conflicts in the dark--those shadowy, tangled, flashing,
moon-beamed woods--the writhing groups and squads--the cries, the din,
the cracking guns and pistols, the distant cannon--the cheers and calls
and threats and awful music of the oaths, the indescribable mix, the
officers' orders, persuasions, encouragements--the devils fully roused
in human hearts--the strong shout, 'Charge, men--charge!'--the flash of
the naked swords, and rolling flame and smoke? And still the broken,
clear, and clouded heaven; and still again the moonlight pouring
silvery soft its radiant patches over all."

There is a description vivid as lightning, though there is not a
properly-constructed sentence in it. Gruesome, cruel, horrible! Is it
not enough to make the women of our sober sensible race declare for ever
against the flaunting stay-at-homes who would egg us on to war? By all
means let us hold to the old-fashioned dogged ways, but let us beware of
rushing into the squalid vortex of war. And now let us see what follows
the brilliant charge and bayonet fight. How many ladies consider what
the curt word "wounded" means? It conveys no idea to them, and they are
too apt to stray off into the dashing details that tell of a great
wrestle of armies. One eminent man--whom I believe to have uttered a
libel--has declared that women like war, and that they are usually the
means of urging men on. He is a very sedate and learned philosopher who
wrote that statement, and yet I cannot believe it. Ah, no! Our ladies
can give their dearest up to death when the State calls on them, but
they will never be like the odious viragoes of the Roman circus. At any
rate, if any woman acts according to the dictum of the philosopher after
reading my bitterly true words, we shall hold that our influence is
departed. Therefore with ruthless composure I follow my observer--a man
whose pure and holy spirit upheld him as he ministered to sufferers for
year after year.

"Then the camps of the wounded. Oh, heavens, what scene is this? Is this
indeed humanity--these butchers' shambles? There are several of them.
There they lie, in the largest, in an open space in the woods--from two
to three hundred poor fellows. The groans and screams, the odour of
blood mixed with the fresh scent of the night, the grass, the
trees--that slaughter-house! Oh, well is it their mothers, their
sisters, cannot see them, cannot conceive, and never conceived such
things! One man is shot by a shell both in the arm and leg; both are
amputated--there lie the rejected members. Some have their legs blown
off, some bullets through the breast, some indescribably horrid wounds
in the head--all mutilated, sickening, torn, gouged out, some in the
abdomen, some mere boys." Alas, I have quoted enough--and may never such
a task come before me again! The picture is sharp as an etching; it is
drawn with a shudder of the soul. Is that grim sedate man right when he
says that women are the moving influence that drives men to such
carnage? Would you wantonly advocate war? Never! I reject the solemn
philosopher's saying, in spite of his logic and his sententiousness.

Who shall speak of the awful monotony of the hospital camps, where men
die like flies, and where regret, sympathy, kindness are blotted from
the hardened soldier's breast? People are not cruel by nature, but the
vague picturesque language of historians and other general writers
prevents men and women from forming just opinions. I believe that, if
one hundred wounded men could be transported from a battle-field and
laid down in the public square of any town or city for the population to
see, then the gazers would say among themselves, "So this is war, is it?
Well, for our parts, we shall be very cautious before we raise any
agitation that might force our Government into any conflict. We can die
if our liberties are threatened, for there are circumstances in which
it would be shameful to live, but we shall never do anything which may
bring about results such as those before us." That would be a fair and
temperate mode of talking--far different from the airy babble of the
warlike scribe.

An argumentative person may stop us here and ask, "Are you of opinion
that it is possible to abolish warfare?" Unfortunately, we can cherish
no such pleasing hope. I do emphatically believe that in time men will
come to see the wild folly of engaging in sanguinary struggles; but the
growth of their wisdom will be slow. Action and reaction are equal; the
fighting instinct has been impressed on our nature by hereditary
transmission for countless generations, and we cannot hope suddenly to
make man a peaceful animal any more than we can hope to breed setters
from South African wild dogs. But the conditions of life are gradually
changing, and the very madness which has made Europe into a huge barrack
may work its own cure. The burden will probably grow so intolerable that
the most embruted of citizens will ask themselves why they bear it, and
a rapid revolution may undo the growth of centuries. The scientific men
point to the huge warfare that goes on from the summit of the Himalayas
to the depths of the ocean slime, and they ask how men can be exempt
from the universal struggle for existence. But it is by no means certain
that the pressure of population in the case of man will always force on
struggles--at any rate, struggles that can be decided only by death and
agony. Little by little we are learning something of the laws that
govern our hitherto mysterious existence, and we have good hopes that by
and by our race may learn to be mutually helpful, so that our span of
life may be passed with as much happiness as possible. Men will strive
against each other, but the striving will not be carried on to an
accompaniment of slaughter and torture. There are keen forms of
competition which, so far from being painful, give positive pleasure to
those who engage in them; there are triumphs which satisfy the victor
without mortifying the vanquished; and, in spite of the indiscreet
writers who have called forth this Essay, I hold that such harmless
forms of competition will take the place of the brutal strife that adds
senselessly to the sum of human woe. Our race has outgrown so many forms
of brutality, so many deliberate changes have taken place in the course
of even two thousand years, that the final change which shall abolish
war is almost certain to come. We find that about one thousand nine
hundred years ago a polished gentleman like Julius Caesar gravely
congratulates himself on the fact that his troops destroyed in cold
blood forty thousand people--men, women, and children. No man in the
civilized world dare do such a deed now, even if he had the mind for the
carnage. The feeling with which we read Caesar's frigid recital measures
the arc of improvement through which we have passed. May the improvement
go on! We can continue to progress only through knowledge; if our
people--our women especially--are wantonly warlike, then our action will
be wantonly warlike; knowledge alone can save us from the guilt of
blood, and that knowledge I have tried to set forth briefly. By wondrous
ways does our Master work out His ends. Let us pray that He may hasten
the time when nation shall not rise up against nation, neither shall
they draw the sword any more.

_December, 1886._


I have no intention of imitating those intemperate advocates of
temperance who frighten people by their thunderous and extravagant
denunciations; I leave high moral considerations on one side for the
present, and our discussion will be purely practical, and, if possible,
helpful. The duty of helpful men and women is not to rave about horrors
and failures and misfortunes, but to aim coolly at remedial measures;
and I am firmly convinced that such remedial measures can be employed
only by private effort. State interference is always to be deprecated;
individual action alone has power to better the condition of our
sorely-tempted race. With sorrow too keen for words, I hear of blighted
homes, intellects abased, children starved, careers wrecked, wives made
wretched, crime fostered; and I fully sympathize with the men and women
who are stung into wild speech by the sight of a curse that seems
all-powerful in Britain. But I prefer to cultivate a sedate and
scientific attitude of mind; I do not want to repeat catalogues of
evils; I want to point out ways whereby the intemperate may be cured.
Above all, I wish to abate the panic which paralyzes the minds of some
afflicted people, and which causes them to regard a drunkard or even a
tippler as a hopeless victim. "Hopeless" is a word used by ignorant
persons, by cowards, and by fools. When I hear some mourner say, "Alas!
we can do nothing with him--he is a slave!" I feel impelled to reply,
"What do you know about it? Have you given yourself the trouble to do
more than preach? Listen, and follow the simple directions which I lay
down for you."

First, I deal with the unhappy beings who are called periodical
drinkers. These are generally men who possess great ability and a
capacity for severe stretches of labour. They may be artists, writers,
men of business, mechanicians--anything; but in nearly every case some
special faculty of brain is developed to an extraordinary degree, and
the man is able to put forth the most strenuous exertions at a pinch.
Let us name some typical examples. Turner was a man of phenomenal
industry, but at intervals his temperament craved for some excitement
more violent and distracting than any that he could get from the steady
strain of daily work. He used to go away to Wapping, and spend weeks in
the filthiest debauch with the lowest characters in London. None of his
companions guessed who he was; they only knew that he had more money
than they had, and that he behaved in a more bestial manner than any of
those who frequented the "Fox under the Hill" and other pleasing
hostelries. Turner pursued his reckless career, till his money was gone,
and then he returned to his gruesome den and proceeded to turn out
artistic prodigies until the fit came upon him once more. Benvenuto
Cellini was subject to similar paroxysms, during which he behaved like a
maniac. Our own novelist Bulwer Lytton disappeared at times, and plunged
into the wildest excesses among wretches whom he would have loathed
when he was in his normal state of mind. He used to dress himself as a
navvy, or as a sailor, and no one would have recognized the weird
intellectual face when the great writer was clad in rags, and when the
brutal mask of intoxication had fallen over his face. It was during his
recovery from one of these terrible visitations that he drove the woman
whom he most loved from his house, and brought on that breach which
resulted in irreparable misery. Poor George Morland, the painter, had
wild spells of debauch, during which he spent his time in boxing-saloons
among ruffianly prize-fighters and jockeys. His vice grew upon him, his
mad fits became more and more frequent, and at last his exquisite work
could be produced only when his nerve was temporarily steadied by
copious doses of brandy. Keats, who "worshipped Beauty," was afflicted
by seizures like those of Turner and Morland. On one occasion he
remained in a state of drunkenness for six weeks; and it is a wonder
that his marvellous mind retained its freshness at all after the poison
had passed from amid the delicate tissues of the brain. He conquered
himself at last; but I fear that his health was impaired by his few mad
outbursts. Charles Lamb, who is dear to us all, reduced himself to a
pitiable state by giving way to outbreaks of alcoholic craving. When
Carlyle saw him, the unhappy essayist was semi-imbecile from the effects
of drink; and the savage Scotsman wrote some cruel words which will
unfortunately cleave to Lamb's cherished memory for long. Lamb fought
against his failing; he suffered agonies of remorse; he bitterly blamed
himself for "buying days of misery by nights of madness;" but the sweet
soul was enchained, and no struggles availed to work a blessed
transformation. Read his "Confessions of a Drunkard." It is the most
awful chapter in English literature, for it is written out of the agony
of a pure and well-meaning mind, and its tortured phrases seem to cry
out from the page that holds their misery. We are placed face to face
with a dread aspect of life, and the remorseless artist paints his own
pitiable case as though he longed to save his fellow-creatures even at
the expense of his own self-abasement. All these afflicted creatures
sought the wrong remedy for the exhaustion and the nameless craving that
beset them when they were spent with toil. The periodic drinker takes
his dive into the sensual mud-bath just at the times when eager exertion
has brought on lassitude of body and mind. He begins by timidly drinking
a little of the deleterious stuff, and he finds that his mental images
grow bright and pleasant. A moment comes to him when he would not change
places with the princes of the earth, and he endeavours to make that
moment last long. He fails, and only succeeds in dropping into
drunkenness. On the morning after his first day he feels depressed; but
his biliary processes are undisturbed, and he is able to begin again
without any sense of nausea. His quantity is increased until he
gradually reaches the point when glasses of spirits are poured down with
feverish rapidity. His appetite is sometimes voracious, sometimes
capricious, sometimes absent altogether. His stomach becomes ulcerated,
and he can obtain release from the grinding uneasiness only by feeding
the inflamed organ with more and more alcohol. The liver ceases to act
healthily, the blood becomes charged with bile, and one morning the
wretch awakes feeling that life is not worth having. He has slept like a
log; but all night through his outraged brain has avenged itself by
calling up crowds of hideous dreams. The blood-vessels of the eye are
charged with bilious particles, and these intruding specks give rise to
fearful, exaggerated images of things that never yet were seen on sea or
land. Grim faces leer at the dreamer and make mock of him; frightful
animals pass in procession before him; and hosts of incoherent words are
jabbered in his ear by unholy voices. He wakes, limp, exhausted,
trembling, nauseated, and he feels as if he must choose between suicide
and--more drink. If he drinks at this stage, he is lost; and then is the
time to fix upon him and draw him by main force from the slough.

Now some practitioners say, "Let him drop it gradually;" and they
proceed to stir every molecule of alcohol in the system into vile
activity by adding small doses of wine or spirit to the deadly
accumulation. The man's brain is impoverished, and the mistaken doctors
proceed to impoverish it more, so that a patient who should be cured in
forty-eight hours is kept in dragging misery for a month or more. The
proper mode of treatment is widely different. You want to nourish the
brain speedily, and at any cost, ere the ghastly depression drives the
agonized wretch to the arms of Circe once more. First, then, give him
milk. If you try milk alone, the stomach will not retain it long, so you
must mix the nourishing fluid with soda-water. Half an hour afterwards
administer a spoonful of meat-essence. Beware of giving the patient any
hot fluid, for that will damage him almost as much as alcohol. Continue
with alternate half-hourly instalments of milk and meat-essence; supply
no solid food whatever; and do not be tempted by the growing good
spirits of your charge to let him go out of doors amid temptation. At
night, after some eight hours of this rapid feeding, you must take a
risky step. Make sure that the drinker is calm, and then prepare him for
sleep. That preparation is accomplished thus. Get a draught of hydrate
of chloral made up, and be sure that you describe your man's
physique--this is most important--to the apothecary who serves you. A
very light dose will suffice, and, when it is swallowed, the drugged man
should be left in quietude. He will sleep heavily, perhaps for as much
as twelve hours, and no noise must be allowed to come near him. If he is
waked suddenly, the consequences may be bad, so that those who go to
look at him must use precautions to ensure silence. In the morning he
will awake with his brain invigorated, his muscles unagitated, and his
craving utterly gone. It is like magic; for a man who was prostrate on
Sunday morning is brisk and eager for work on Monday at noon. Whenever
the cured man feels his craving arise after a spell of labour, he should
at once recuperate his brain by rapidly-repeated doses of the
easily-assimilated meat-essence, and this, with a little strong black
coffee taken at short intervals, will tide him over the evil time. He
saves money, he keeps his working power, and he gives no shock to his
health. Since a beneficent doctor first described this cure to the
British Medical Association, hundreds have been restored and ultimately

And now as to the persons who are called "soakers." Scattered over the
country are thousands of men and women who do not go to bestial
excesses, but who steadily undermine their constitutions by persistent
tippling. Such a man as a commercial traveller imbibes twenty or thirty
nips in the course of the day; he eats well in the evening, though he is
usually repelled by the sight of food in the morning, and he preserves
an outward appearance of ruddy health. Then there are the female
soakers, whom doctors find to be the most troublesome of all their
patients. There is not a medical man in large practice who has not a
shocking percentage of lady inebriates on his list, and the cases are
hard to manage. An ill-starred woman, whose well-to-do husband is
engaged in business all day, finds that a dull life-weariness overtakes
her. If she has many children, her enforced activity preserves her from
danger; but, if she is childless, the subtle temptation is apt to
overcome her. She seeks unnatural exaltation, and the very secrecy which
is necessary lends a strange zest to the pursuit of a numbing vice. Then
we have such busy men as auctioneers, ship-brokers, water-clerks,
ship-captains, buyers for great firms--all of whom are more or less a
prey to the custom of "standing liquors."

The soaker goes on without meeting any startling check for a good while;
but, by slow degrees, the main organs of the body suffer, and a chronic
state of alcoholic irritation is set up. A man becomes suspected by his
employers and slighted by his abstemious friends; he loses health,
character, prospects; and yet he is invariably ready to declare that no
one ever saw him the worse for drink. The tippling goes on till the
resultant irritation reaches an acute stage, and the faintest disturbing
cause brings on _delirium tremens_. There is only one way with people
thus afflicted. They must be made to loathe alcohol, and their nerves
must at the same time be artificially stimulated. The cure is not
precisely easy, but it is certain. If my directions are followed out,
then a man who is in the last stage of alcoholic debility will not only
regain a certain measure of health, but he will turn with horror from
the stuff that fascinated him. In the case of the soaker a little wine
may be given at meal-times during the first stages of the cure; but he
(or she) will soon reject even wine. Strong black coffee, or tea, should
be given as often as possible--the oftener the better--and iced
soda-water should be administered after a heavy meal. Take this
prescription and let it be made up--Rx Acid. Acet. eight ounces. Sponge
down the patient's spine with this fluid until the parts moistened
tingle smartly; and let this be done night and morning. Also get the
following from your chemist--Rx Ext. Cinch. Rub. Liq. four ounces--and
give one teaspoonful in water after each meal. In a week the drinker
will cease to desire alcohol, and in a month he will refuse it with
disgust. His nerves will resume their healthy action, and, if he has not
reached the stage of cirrhosis of the liver, he will become well and
clear-headed. Recollect that this remedy is almost infallible, and then
even the most greedy of literary students will hardly reproach me for
placing a kind of medical chapter in the quarter usually devoted to
disquisitions of another kind. From every side rises the bitter cry of
those who see their loved ones falling victims to the seductive scourge;
from all quarters the voices of earnest men are raised in passionate
pleading; and in every great city there are noble workers who strive to
rescue their fellow-creatures from drink as from a gulf of doom. My
words are not addressed to the happy beings who can rejoice in the
cheerfulness bestowed by wine; I have before me only the fortunes of
those to whom wine is a mocker. Far be it from me to find fault with the
good and sound-hearted men and women who are never scathed by their
innocent potations; my attempt is directed toward saving the wreckages
of civilization who perish in the grasp of the destroyer.

_March, 1886._


Some five years ago a mere accident gave to the world one of the most
gruesome and remarkable pieces of literature that has ever perhaps been
seen. A convict named Fury confessed to having committed a murder of an
atrocious character. He was brought from prison, put on his trial at
Durham, and condemned to death. Every chance was given him to escape his
doom; but he persisted in providing the authorities with the most
minutely accurate chain of evidence against himself; and, in the end,
there was nothing for it but to cast him for death. Even when the police
blundered, he carefully set them right--and he could not have proved his
own guilt more clearly had he been the ablest prosecuting counsel in
Britain. He held in his hand a voluminous statement which, as it seems,
he wished to read before sentence of death was passed. The Court could
not permit the nation's time to be thus expended; so the convict handed
his manuscript to a reporter--and we thus have possibly the most
absolutely curious of all extant thieves' literature. Somewhere in the
recesses of Fury's wild heart there must have been good concealed; for
he confessed his worst crime in the interests of justice, and he went to
the scaffold with a serious and serene courage which almost made of him
a dignified person. But, on his own confession, he must have been all
his life long an unmitigated rascal--a predatory beast of the most
dangerous kind. From his youth upward he had lived as a professional
thief, and his pilferings were various and extensive. The glimpses of
sordid villainy which he frankly gives are so poignantly effective that
they put into the shade the most dreadful phases in the life of Villon.
He was a mean sneaking wretch who supported a miserable existence on the
fruits of other people's industry, and he closed his list of crimes by
brutally stabbing an unhappy woman who had never harmed him. The fellow
had genuine literary skill and a good deal of culture; his confession is
very different from any of those contained in the _Newgate
Calendar_--infinitely different from the crude horror of the statement
which George Borrow quotes as a masterpiece of simple and direct
writing. Here is Borrow's specimen, by-the-way--"So I went with them to
a music-booth, where they made me almost drunk with gin and began to
talk their flash language, which I did not understand"--and so on. But
this dry simplicity is not in Fury's line. He has studied philosophy; he
has reasoned keenly; and, as one goes on through his terrible narrative,
one finds that he has mental capacity of a high order. He was as mean a
rascal as Noah Claypole: and yet he had a fine clear-seeing intellect.
Now what does this gallows-bird tell us? Why, his whole argument is
intended to prove that he was an ill-used victim of society! Such a
perversion has probably never been quite equalled; but it remains there
to show us how firmly my theory stands--that the real scoundrel never
knows himself to be a scoundrel. Had Fury settled down in a back street
and employed his genius in writing stories, he could have earned a
livelihood, for people would have eagerly read his experiences; but he
preferred thieving--and then he turned round and blamed other people for
hounding him on to theft.

There are wrong-doers and wrong-doers; there are men who do ill in the
world because they are entirely harmful by nature, and they seek to hurt
their fellows--there are others who err only from weakness of will. I
make no excuse for the weaklings; a man or woman who is weak may do more
harm than the vilest criminal, and, when I hear any one talk about that
nice man who is nobody's enemy but his own, I am instantly forced to
remember a score or thereabouts of beings whom I know to have been the
deadliest foes of those whom they should have cherished. Let us help
those who err; but let us have no maudlin pity.

Moralists in general have made a somewhat serious error in supposing
that one has only to show a man the true aspect of any given evil in
order to make sure of his avoiding it. Of late so many sad things have
been witnessed in public and private life that one is tempted to doubt
whether abstract morality is of any use whatever in the world. One may
tell a man that a certain course is dangerous or fatal; one may show by
every device of logic and illustration that he should avoid the said
course, and he will fully admit the truth of one's contentions; yet he
is not deterred from his folly, and he goes on toward ruin with a sort
of blind abandonment. "Blind," I say. That is but a formal phrase; for
it happens that the very men and women who wreck their lives by doing
foolish things are those who are keenest in detecting folly and wisest
in giving advice to others. "Educate the people, and you will find that
a steady diminution of vice, debauchery, and criminality must set in." I
am not talking about criminality at present; but I am bound to say that
no amount of enlightenment seems to diminish the tendency toward forms
of folly which approach criminality. It is almost confounding to see how
lucid of mind and how sane in theoretical judgment are the men who
sometimes steep themselves in folly and even in vice. A wicked man
boasted much of his own wickedness to some fellow-travellers during a
brief sea-voyage. He said, "I like doing wrong for the sake of doing it.
When you know you are outraging the senses of decent people there is a
kind of excitement about it." This contemptible cynic told with glee
stories of his own vileness which made good men look at him with scorn;
but he fancied himself the cleverest of men. With the grave nearly ready
for him, he could chuckle over things which he had done--things which
proved him base, although none of them brought him within measurable
distance of the dock. But such instances are quite rare. The man whose
vision is lucid, but who nevertheless goes wrong, is usually a prey to
constant misery or to downright remorse. Look at Burns's epitaph,
composed by himself for himself. It is a dreadful thing. It is more than
verse; it is a sermon, a prophecy, a word of doom; and it tells with
matchless terseness the story of many men who are at this hour passing
to grim ruin either of body or soul or both. Burns had such magnificent
common sense that in his last two lines he sums up almost everything
that is worth saying on the subject; and yet that fatal lack of will
which I have so often lamented made all his theoretical good sense as
naught He could give one every essential of morality and conduct--in
theory--and he was one of the most convincing and wise preachers who
ever lived; but that mournful epitaph summarises the results of all his
mighty gifts; and I think that it should be learned by all young men, on
the chance that some few might possibly be warned and convinced. Advice
is of scanty use to men of keen reason who are capable of composing
precepts for themselves; but to the duller sort I certainly think that
the flash of a sudden revelation given in concise words is beneficial.
Here is poor Burns's saying--

Is there a man whose judgment clear
Can others teach the course to steer,
Yet runs himself life's mad career
Wild as the wave?
Here pause, and through the starting tear
Survey this grave.

The poor inhabitant below
Was quick to learn and wise to know,
And keenly felt the kindly glow
And softer flame;
But thoughtless follies laid him low
And stained his name.

Reader, attend! Whether thy soul
Soars fancy's flights beyond the pole;
Or, darkling, grubs this earthly hole
In low pursuit,
Know--prudent cautious self-control
Is wisdom's root.

When I ponder that forlorn masterpiece, I cannot help a tendency to
despair; for I know, by multifarious experience of men, that the curt
lines hint at profundities so vast as to baffle the best powers of
comprehension. As I think of the hundreds of men who are minor copies of
Burns, I have a passionate wish to call on the Power that sways us all
and pray for pity and guidance. A most wise--should I say "wise"?--and
brilliant man had brought himself very low through drink, and was dying
solely through the effects of a debauch which had lasted for years with
scarcely an interval of pure sanity. He was beloved by all; he had a
most sweet nature; he was so shrewd and witty that it seemed impossible
for him to be wrong about anything. On his deathbed he talked with
lovely serenity, and he seemed rather like some thrice-noble disciple of
Socrates than like one who had cast away all that the world has worth
holding. He knew every folly that he had committed, and he knew its
exact proportions; he was consulted during his last days by young and
old, who recognized the well-nigh superhuman character of his wisdom;
and yet he had abundantly proved himself to be one of the most unwise
men living. How strange! How infinitely pathetic! Few men of clearer
vision ever came on this earth; but, with his flashing eyes open, he
walked into snare after snare, and the last of the devil's traps caught
him fatally. Even when he was too weak to stir, he said that, if he
could move, he would be sure to take the old path again. Well may the
warning devotees cry, "Have mercy upon us!" Well may they bow themselves
and wail for the weakness of man! Well may they cast themselves humbly
on the bosom of the Infinite Pity! For, of a truth, we are a feeble
folk, and, if we depended only on ourselves, it would be well that
George Eliot's ghastly thought of simultaneous universal suicide should
be put into practice speedily.

Hark to the appalling words of wisdom uttered by the good man whose name
I never miss mentioning because I wish all gentle souls to refresh
themselves with his ineffable sweetness and tender fun! "Could the youth
to whom the flavour of his first wine is delicious as the opening scenes
of life or the entering upon some newly-discovered paradise look upon my
desolation, and be made to understand what a dreary thing it is when a
man shall feel himself going down a precipice with open eyes and a
passive will--to see his destruction and have no power to stop it, and
yet to feel it all the way emanating from himself--to perceive all
goodness emptied out of him, and yet not be able to forget a time when
it was otherwise--to hear about the piteous spectacle of his own
self-ruin--could he see my fevered eye, feverish with last night's
drinking and feverishly looking for this night's repetition of the
folly--could he feel the body of the death out of which I cry hourly,
with feebler and feebler outcry, to be delivered--it were enough to make
him dash the sparkling beverage to the earth in all the pride of its
mantling temptation, to make him clasp his teeth,

And not undo 'em
To suffer wet damnation to run thro' 'em."

Can that be beaten for utter lucidity and directness? Not by any master
of prose known to us--not by any man who ever wrote in prose or in
verse. The vision is so completely convincing, the sense of actuality
given by the words is so haunting, that, not even Dickens could have
equalled it. The man who wrote those searing words is to this day
remembered and spoken of with caressing gentleness by all men of
intellect, refinement, quick fancy, genial humour; the editing of his
works has occupied a great part of the lifetime of a most distinguished
ecclesiastic. Could he avoid the fell horror against which he warned
others? No. With all his dread knowledge, he went on his sorrowful
way--and he remained the victim of his vice until the bitter end. It was
Charles Lamb.

A gambler is usually the most prodigal of men in the matter of promises.
If he is clever, he is nearly always quite ready to smile mournfully at
his own infatuation, and he will warn inexperienced youngsters--unless
he wants to rob them.

In sum, intellect, wit, keenness, lucidity of vision, perfect reasoning
power, are all useless in restraining a man from proceeding to ruin
unless some steadying agency is allied with them. After much sad
brooding, I cannot but conclude that a fervent religious faith is the
only thing that will give complete security; and it will be a bitter day
for England and the world if ever flippancy and irreligion become

_June, 1889._


A great American writer has lately given a terrible account of "The
Social Influence of the Saloon" in his country. The article is very
grave, and every word is weighed, but the cold precision of the paper
attracts the reader with a horrible fascination. The author does not so
much regret the enormous waste of money, though he allows that about two
hundred millions of pounds sterling are spent yearly in the States on
strong drink; but he mourns most because of the steady ruin which he
sees overtaking the social happiness of his country. The saloon is
subtly corrupting the men of America, and the ghastly plagues of
selfishness, brutality, and immorality are spreading with cruel
swiftness. The great author's conclusion is more than startling, and I
confess to having caught my breath when I read it. He says in effect,
"We sacrificed a million men in order to do away with slavery, but we
now have working in our midst a curse which is infinitely worse than
slavery. One day we shall be obliged to save ourselves from ruin, even
if we have to stamp out the trade in alcohol entirely, and that by means
of a civil war." Strong words--and yet the man speaks with intense
conviction: and his very quietude only serves to emphasise the awful
nature of his disclosures. As I read on I saw with horror that the
description of the state of things in America accurately fits our own
country. We do not talk of a "saloon" here, but "bar" means the same
thing; and the "bar" is crushing out the higher life of the English
middle-class as surely as the saloon is destroying American manhood.
Amid all our material prosperity, amid all the complexities of our
amazing community, an evil is at work which gathers power daily and
which is actually assassinating, as it were, every moral quality that
has made England strong and beneficent. Begin with a picture. The long
curved counter glistens under the flare of the gas; the lines of gaudy
bottles gleam like vulgar, sham jewelry; the glare, the glitter, the
garish refulgence of the place dazzle the eye, and the sharp acrid
whiffs of vile odour fall on the senses with a kind of mephitic
influence. The evening is wearing away, and the broad space in front of
the bar is crowded. A hoarse crashing babble goes steadily on, forming
the ground-bass of an odious symphony; shrill and discordant laughter
rises by fits and starts above the low tumult; a coarse joke sets one
group sniggering; a vile oath rings out from some foul-mouthed
roysterer; and at intervals some flushed and bleared creature breaks
into a slavering laugh which has a sickly resemblance to weeping. At one
of the side-tables a sodden brute leans forward and wags his head to and
fro with ignoble solemnity; another has fallen asleep and snores at
intervals with a nauseous rattle; smart young men, dressed fashionably,
fling chance witticisms at the busy barmaids, and the nymphs answer with
glib readiness. This is the home of Jollity and Good-fellowship; this is
the place from which Care is banished; this is the happy corner where
the social glass is dispensed. Alas for the jollity and the sociability
and all the rest of it! Force yourself to study the vile spectacle, and
you will soon harbour a brood of aching reflections. The whole of that
chattering, swilling mob are employing their muddled minds on frivolity
or obscenity, or worse things still. You will hear hardly an intelligent
word; you will not catch a sound of sensible discussion; the scraps of
conversation that reach you alternate between low banter, low
squabbling, objectionable narrative, and histories of fights or swindles
or former debauches.

Middle-aged men tell interminable stories about money or smart strokes
of business; youngsters wink and look unspeakably wise as they talk on
the subject of the spring handicaps; wild spirits tell of their
experiences at a glove-fight in some foul East-end tavern; amorous
exploits are detailed with a fulness and freedom which would extremely
amaze the ladies who form the subject of the conversation. In all the
nasty confusion you never hear a word that can be called manly, unless
you are prepared to allow the manliness of pugilism. Each quarter-hour
sees the company grow more and more incoherent; the laughter gradually
becomes senseless, and loses the last indication of pure merriment; the
reek thickens; the dense air is permeated with queasy smells which rise
from the fusel oil and the sugared beer; the shrewd landlord looks on
with affected jollity, and hails casual friends with effusive imitation
of joy; and last of all "time" is called, and the host of men pour into
the street. They are ready for any folly or mischief, and they are all
more or less unfitted for the next day's work. Strangely enough, many of
those wretched fellows who thus waste time amid sordid surroundings come
from refined homes; but music and books and the quiet pleasant talk of
mothers and sisters are tame after the delirious rattle of the bar, and
thus bright lads go home with-their wits dulled and with a complete
incapacity for coherent speech. Now let it be remembered that no real
friendships are contracted in those odious drinking-shops--something in
the very atmosphere of the place seems to induce selfishness, and a
drinker who goes wrong is never pitied; when evil days come, the smart
landlord shuns the failure, the barmaids sneer at him, and his boon
companions shrink away as though the doomed man were tainted. Monstrous
it is to hear the remarks made about a lost soul who is plunging with
accelerated speed down the steep road to ruin. His companions compare
notes about him, and all his bodily symptoms are described with
truculent glee in the filthy slang of the bar. So long as the wretch has
money he is received with boisterous cordiality, and encouraged to rush
yet faster on the way to perdition; his wildest feats in the way of
mawkish generosity are applauded; and the very men who drink at his
expense go on plucking him and laughing at him until the inevitable
crash comes. I once heard with a kind of chilled horror a narrative
about a fine young man who had died of _delirium tremens_. The narrator
giggled so much that his story was often interrupted; but it ran
thus--"He was very shaky in the morning, and he began on brandy; he took
about six before his hand was steady, and I saw him looking over his
shoulder every now and again. In the afternoon a lot of fellows came in,
and he stood champagne like water to the whole gang. At six o'clock I
wanted him to have a cup of tea, but he said, 'I've had nothing but
booze for three days.' Then he got on to the floor, and said he was
catching rats--so we knew he'd got 'em on.[1] At night he came out and
cleared the street with his sword-bayonet; and it's a wonder he didn't
murder somebody. It took two to hold him down all night, and he had his
last fit at six in the morning. Died screaming!" A burst of laughter
hailed the climax, and then one appreciative friend remarked, "He was a
fool--I suppose he was drunk eleven months out of the last twelve." This
was the epitaph of a bright young athlete who had been possessed of
health, riches, and all fair prospects. No one warned him; none of those
who swilled expensive poisons for which he paid ever refused to accept
his mad generosity; he was cheered down the road to the gulf by the
inane plaudits of the lowest of men; and one who was evidently his
companion in many a frantic drinking-bout could find nothing to say but
"He was a fool!" At this moment there are thousands of youths in our
great towns and cities who are leading the heartless, senseless,
semi-delirious life of the bar, and every possible temptation is put in
their way to draw them from home, from refinement, from high thoughts,
from chaste and temperate modes of life. Horrible it is to hear fine
lads talking familiarly about the "jumpy" sensations which they feel in
the morning. The "jumps" are those involuntary twitchings which
sometimes precede and sometimes accompany _delirium tremens_; the
frightful twitching of the limbs is accompanied by a kind of depression
that takes the very heart and courage out of a man; and yet no one who
travels over these islands can avoid hearing jokes on the dismal
subject made by boys who have hardly reached their twenty-fifth
year. The bar encourages levity, and the levity is unrelieved
by any real gaiety--it is the hysterical feigned merriment of
lost souls.

[Footnote 1: This is the elegant public-house mode of describing
_delirium tremens_.]

There are bars of a quieter sort, and there are rooms where middle-aged
topers meet, but these are, if possible, more repulsive than the
clattering dens frequented by dissipated youths. Stout staid-looking
men--fathers of families--gather night after night to sodden themselves
quietly, and they make believe that they are enjoying the pleasures of
good-fellowship. Curious it is to see how the fictitious assertion of
goodwill seems to flourish in the atmosphere of the bar and the parlour.
Those elderly men who sit and smoke in the places described as "cosy"
are woeful examples of the effects of our national curse. They are not
riotous; they are only dull, coarse, and silly. Their talk is confused,
dogmatic, and generally senseless; and, when they break out into
downright foulness of speech, their comparatively silent enjoyment of
detestable stories is a thing to make one shiver. Here again
good-fellowship is absent. Comfortable tradesmen, prosperous dealers,
sharp men who hold good commercial situations, meet to gossip and
exchange dubious stories. They laugh a good deal in a restrained way,
and they are apparently genial; but the hard selfishness of all is plain
to a cool observer. The habit of self-indigence has grown upon them
until it pervades their being, and the corruption of the bar subtly
envenoms their declining years. If good women could only once hear an
evening's conversation that passes among these elderly citizens, they
would be a little surprised. Thoughtful ladies complain that women are
not reverenced in England, and Americans in particular notice with
shame the attitude which middle-class Englishmen adopt towards ladies.
If the people who complain could only hear how women are spoken of in
the homes of Jollity, they would feel no more amazement at a distressing
social phenomenon. The talk which is chuckled over by men who have
daughters of their own is something to make an inexperienced individual
redden. Reverence, nobility, high chivalry, common cleanliness, cannot
flourish in the precincts of the bar, and there is not an honest man who
has studied with adequate opportunities who will deny that the social
glass is too often taken to an accompaniment of sheer uncleanness. Why
have not our moral novelists spoken the plain truth about these things?
We have many hideous pictures of the East-end drinking-bars, and much
reproachful pity is expended on the "residuum;" but the evil that is
eating at the very heart of the nation, the evil that is destroying our
once noble middle-class, finds no assailant and no chronicler. Were it
not for the athletic sports which happily engage the energies of
thousands of young men, our middle-class would degenerate with appalling
rapidity. But, in spite of athletics, the bar claims its holocaust of
manhood year by year, and the professional moralists keep silence on the
matter. Some of them say that they cannot risk hurting the sensibilities
of innocent maidens. What nonsense! Those maidens all have a chance of
becoming the wives of men who have suffered deterioration in the reek
and glare of the bar. How many sorrowing wives are now hiding their
heart-break and striving to lure their loved ones away from the curse of
curses! If the moralists could only look on the mortal pathos of the
letters which I receive, they would see that the maidens about whom
they are so nervous are the very people who should be summoned as allies
in our fight against a universal enemy. If our brave sweet English girls
once learn the nature of the temptations to which their brothers and
lovers are exposed, they will use every force of their pure souls to
save the men whom they can influence from a doom which is death in life.

_May, 1887._


The memoirs that are now poured into the book-market certainly tend to
breed cynicism in the minds of susceptible persons, for it appears that
to many eminent men and women of our generation friendship was almost an
unknown sentiment. As we read one spiteful paragraph after another, we
begin to wonder whether the living men around us resemble the dead
purveyors of scandal. The fashionable mode of proceeding nowadays is to
leave diaries crammed with sarcasm, give some unhappy friend orders to
wait until you are settled in the grave, and then confound your friends
and foes by attacks which come to the light long after your ears are
deaf to praise and blame. Samuel Wilberforce went into the choicest
society that Britain could show; he was the confidant of many people,
and he contrived to charm all but a few cross-grained critics. His good
humour seemed inexhaustible; and those who saw his cherubic face beaming
sweetly on the company at banquets or assemblies fancied that so
delightful a man was never known before. But this suave, unctuous
gentleman, who fascinated every one, from Queen to cottager, spent a
pretty fair share of his life in writing vicious witticisms and scandals
concerning the folk with whom he seemed to be on affectionate terms. At
nights, after spending his days in working and bowing and smiling and
winning the hearts of men, he went home and poured out all the venom
that was in his heart. When his memoirs appeared, all the most select
social circles in the country were driven into a serious flutter. No one
was spared; and, as some of the statements made by Wilberforce were, to
say the least, a little sweeping, a violent paper warfare began, which
has hardly ceased raging even now. Happy and contented men who believed
that the Bishop loved and admired them were surprised to find that he
had disliked and despised them. Moreover, the naughty diarist had an
ugly habit of recording men's private conversations; and thus a good
many sayings which should have been kept secret became public property.
A very irreverent wag wrote--

How blest was he who'd ne'er consent
With Wilberforce to walk,
Nor dined with Soapy Sam, nor let
The Bishop hear him talk!

and this crude epigram expressed the feelings of numbers of enraged and
scandalized individuals. The wretched book gave us an ugly picture of a
hollow society where kindness seemed non-existent, and where every man
walked with his head in a cloud of poisonous flies. As more memoirs
appeared, it was most funny to observe that, while Wilberforce was
occupied in scarifying his dear friends, some of his dear friends were
occupied in scarifying him. Thus we find Abraham Hayward, a polished
leader of society, writing in the following way of Wilberforce, with
whom ostensibly his relations were of the most affectionate
description--"Wilberforce is really a low fellow. Again and again the
committee of the Athenaeum Club have been obliged to reprove him for
his vulgar selfishness." This is dreadful! No wonder that petty cynics
snarl and rejoice; they say, "Look at your great men, and see what mean
backbiters they are!" Alas!

Thomas Carlyle's memoirs are a kind of graveyard of reputations; and we
can well understand the rage and horror with which many individuals
protested against the fierce Scotchman's strictures. In the hearts of
thousands of noble young people Carlyle's memory was cherished like that
of some dear saint; and it was terrible to find that the strong prophet
had been penetrated by such a virus of malice. Carlyle met all the best
men and women in England; but the only ones whom he did not disparage
were Tennyson, the Duke of Wellington, Mr. Froude, and Emerson. He
could not talk even of Charles Darwin without calling him an imbecile;
and his all-round hitting at his closest intimates is simply merciless.
The same perversity which made him talk of Keats's "maudlin weak-eyed
sensibility" caused him to describe his loyal, generous, high-bred
friend Lord Houghton as a "nice little robin-redbreast of a man;" while
Mrs. Basil Montagu, who cheered him and spared no pains to aid him in
the darkest times, is now immortalized by one masterly venomous
paragraph. Carlyle was great--very great--but really the cultivation of
loyal friendships seems hardly to have been in his line. Men who know
his works by heart, and who derived their noblest inspiration from him,
cannot bear to read his memoirs twice over, for it sadly appears as
though the Titan had defiled the very altar of friendship.

What shall we say of the cunning cat-like Charles Greville, who crept
on tiptoe through the world, observing and recording the littleness of
men? His stealthy eye missed nothing; and the men whom he flattered and
used little thought that the wizened dandy who pleased them with his
old-world courtesy was chronicling their weakness and baseness for all
time. A nobly patriotic Ministry came before the world with a flourish
of trumpets, and declared that England must fight Russia in defence of
public law, freedom, and other holy things. But the wicked diarist had
watched the secret proceedings of his dear friends; and he informs us
that those beloved intimates were all sound asleep when a single
Minister decided on the movement which cost us forty thousand men and
one hundred millions of treasure. That close sly being used--to worm out
the secrets of men's innermost hearts; and his impassive mask never
showed a sign of emotion. To illustrate his mode of extracting the
information of which he made such terrible use, I may tell one trivial
anecdote which has never before been made public. When Greville was very
old, he went to see a spiritualistic "medium" who was attracting
fashionable London. The charlatan looked at the gray worn old man and
thought himself safe; four other visitors attended the _seance_, but the
"medium" bestowed all his attention on Greville. With much emotion he
cried, "There is an aged lady behind your chair!" Greville remarked
sweetly, "How interesting!" "She is very, very like you!" "Who can it
be?" murmured Greville. "She lifts her hands to bless you. Her hands are
now resting over your head!" shouted the medium; and the pallid
emotionless man said, with a slight tremor in his voice, "Pray tell me
who this mysterious visitant may be!" "It is your mother." "Oh," said
Greville, "I am delighted to hear that!" "She says she is perfectly
happy, and she watches you constantly." "Dear soul!" muttered the
imperturbable one. "She tells me you will join her soon, and be happy
with her." Then Greville said gravely, in dulcet tones, "That is
extremely likely, for I am going to take tea with her at five o'clock!"
He had led on the poor swindler in his usual fashion; and he never
hinted at the fact that his mother was nearly a century old. His friends
were "pumped" in the same subtle manner; and the immortally notorious
memoirs are strewn with assassinated characters.

As we study the phenomena indicated by these memoirs, we begin to wonder
whether friendship is or is not extinct. Men are gregarious, and flocks
of them meet together at all hours of the day and night. They exchange
conventional words of greeting, they wear happy smiles, they are
apparently cordial and charming' one with another; and yet a rigidly
accurate observer may look mournfully for signs of real friendship. How
can it exist? The men and women who pass through the whirl of a London
season cannot help regarding their fellow-creatures rather as lay
figures than as human beings. They go to crowded balls and seething
"receptions," not to hold any wise human converse, but only to be able
to say that they were in such and such a room on a certain night. The
glittering crowds fleet by like shadows, and no man has much chance of
knowing his neighbour's heart.

How fast the flitting figures come--
The mild, the fierce, the stony face;
Some bright with thoughtless smiles, and some
Where secret tears have left their trace!

Ah, it is only the faces that the tired pleasure-seeker sees and knows;
the real comrade, the human soul, is hidden away behind the mask!

Genuine heroic friendship cannot flourish in an artificial society; and
that perhaps accounts for the fact that the curled darlings of our
modern community spend much of their leisure in reading papers devoted
to tattle and scandal. It seems as though the search after pleasure
poisoned the very sources of nobleness in the nature of men. In our
monstrous city a man may live without a quarrel for forty years; he may
be popular, he may be received with genial greetings wherever he
goes--and yet he has no friend. He lingers through his little day; and,
when he passes away, the change is less heeded than would be the removal
of a chair from a club smoking-room. When I see the callous indifference
with which illness, misfortune, and death are regarded by the dainty
classes, I can scarcely wonder when irate philosophers denounce polite
society as a pestilent and demoralizing nuisance. Among the people
airily and impudently called "the lower orders" noble friendships are by
no means uncommon. "I can't bear that look on your face, Bill. I'm
coming to save you or go with you!" said a rough sailor as he sprang
into a raging sea to help his shipmate. "I'm coming, old fellow!"
shouted the mate of a merchant-vessel; and he dived overboard among the
mountainous seas that were rolling south of Cape Horn one January. For
an hour this hero fought with the blinding water, and he saved his
comrade at last. Strange to say, the lounging impassive dandies who
regard the universe with a yawn, and who sneer at the very notion of
friendship, develop the kindly and manly virtues when they are removed
from the enervating atmosphere of Society and forced to lead a hard
life. A man to whom emotion, passion, self-sacrifice, are things to be
mentioned with a curl of the lip, departs on a campaign, and amid
squalor, peril, and grim horrors he becomes totally unselfish. Men who
have watched our splendid military officers in the field are apt to
think that a society which converts such generous souls into
self-seeking fribbles must be merely poisonous. The more we study the
subject the more clearly we can see that where luxury flourishes
friendship withers. In the vast suffering Russian nation friendships are
at this very moment cherished to the heroic pitch. A mighty people are
awakening, as it were, from sleep; the wicked and corrupt still sit in
high places, but among the weltering masses of the populace purity and
nobleness are spreading, and such friendships are fostered as never have
been shadowed forth in story or song. Sophie Peroffsky mounts the
scaffold with four other doomed mortals; she never thinks of her own
approaching agony--she only longs to comfort her friends and she kisses
them and greets them with cheering words until the last dread moment
arrives. Poor little Marie Soubotine--sweetest of perverted children,
noblest of rebels--refuses to purchase her own safety by uttering a word
to betray her sworn friend. For three years she lingers on in an
underground dungeon, and then she is sent on the wild road to Siberia;
she dies amid gloom and deep suffering, but no torture can unseal her
lips; she gladly gives her life to save another's. Antonoff endures the
torture, but no agony can make him prove false to his friends. When his
captors give him a respite from the thumbscrews and the red-hot wires
that are thrust under his nails, he forgets his own torment, and
scratches on his plate his cipher signals to his comrades. Those men and
women in that awful country are lawless and dangerous, but they are
heroic, and they are true friends one to another.

How far we proud islanders must have forsaken for a time the road to
nobleness when we are able to exalt the saying "A full purse is the only
true friend" into a representative English proverb! We do not rage and
foam as Timon did--that would be ill-bred and ludicrous; we simply smile
and utter delicate mockeries. In the plays that best please our golden
youth nothing is so certain to win applause and laughter as a sentence
about the treachery or greed of friends. Do those grinning,
superlatively insolent cynics really represent the mighty Mother of
Nations? Ah, no! If even the worst of them were thrust away into some
region where life was hard for him, he would show something like
nobility and manliness; it is the mephitic airs of ease and luxury that
breed selfishness and scorn in his soul. At any rate, those effeminate
people are not typical specimens of our steadfast friendly race. When
the folk in the colliery village hear that deadly thud and feel the
shudder of the earth which tell of disaster, Jack the hewer rushes to
the pit's mouth and joins the search-party. He knows that the gas may
grip him by the throat, and that the heavy current of dissolution may
creep through his veins; but his mate is down there in the workings,
and he must needs save him or die in the attempt. Greater love hath no
man than this. Ah, yes--the poor collier is indeed ready to lay down his
life for his friend! The fiery soldier, William Beresford, sees a
comrade in peril; a horde of infuriated savages are rushing up, and

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