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  • 1892
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there is only one pony to carry the two Englishmen. Beresford calls, “Jump up behind me!” but the friend answers, “No; save yourself! I can die, and I won’t risk your life.” Then the undignified but decidedly gallant Beresford observes, “If you don’t come, I’ll punch your head!” The pony canters heavily off; one stumble would mean death, but the dauntless fighting man brings in his friend safely, though only by the skin of his teeth. It is absolutely necessary for the saving of our moral health that we should turn away from the dreary flippancy of an effete society to such scenes as those. If we regarded only the pampered classes, then we might well think that true human fellowship had perished, and a starless darkness–worse almost than Atheism–would fall on the soul. But we are not all corrupt, and the strong brave heart of our people still beats true. Young men cherish manly affection for friends, and are not ashamed to show it; sweet girls form friendships that hold until the maidens become matrons and till the shining locks have turned to silver white. Wherever men are massed together the struggle for existence grows keen, and selfishness and cynicism thrust up their rank growths. “Pleasure” blunts the moral sense and converts the natural man into a noxious being; but happily our people are sound at the core, and it will be long ere cynicism and corruption are universal. The great healthy middle-class is made up of folk who would regard a writer of spiteful memoirs as a mere bravo; they have not perhaps the sweetness and light which Mr. Arnold wished to bestow on them, but at any rate they have a certain rough generosity, and they have also a share of that self-forgetfulness which alone forms the basis of friendship. Having that, they can do without Carlyle’s learning and Wilberforce’s polish, and they can certainly do without the sour malice of the historian and the prelate.

_July, 1887._


During last year the register of slaughter on the ocean was worse than any ever before seen since the _Royal Charter_ took her crew to destruction; and it seems as though matters were growing worse and worse. One dismal old story is being repeated week in, week out. In thick weather or clear weather–it does not seem to matter which–two vessels approach each other, and the presiding officers on board of each are quite satisfied and calm; then, on a sudden, one vessel shifts her course, there are a few hurried and maddened ejaculations, and then comes a crash. After that, the ugly tale may be continued in the same terms over and over again; the boats cannot be cleared away, the vessels drift apart, and both founder, or one is left crippled. I shall have something to say about the actual effects of a collision presently, but I may first go on to name some other kinds of disaster. A heavy sea is rolling, and occasionally breaking, and a vessel is lumbering along from crest to hollow of the rushing seas; a big wall of water looms over her for a second, and then comes crashing down; the deck gives way–there are no water-tight compartments–and the ship becomes suddenly as unmanageable as a mere cask in a seaway. Again, a plate is wrenched, and some villainously-made rivets jump out of their places like buttons from an over-tight bodice; in ten minutes the vessel is wallowing, ready for her last plunge; and very likely the crew have not even the forlorn chance of taking to the boats. Once more–on a clear night in the tropics an emigrant ship is stealing softly through the water; the merry crowd on deck has broken up, the women, poor creatures, are all locked up in their quarters, and only a few men remain to lounge and gossip. The great stars hang like lamps from the solemn dome of the sky, and the ripples are painted with exquisite serpentine streaks; the wind hums softly from the courses of the sails, and some of the men like to let the cool breeze blow over them. Everything seems so delightfully placid and clear that the thought of danger vanishes; no one would imagine that even a sea-bird could come up unobserved over that starlit expanse of water. But the ocean is treacherous in light and shade. The loungers tell their little stories and laugh merrily; the officer of the watch carelessly stumps forward from abreast of the wheel, looks knowingly aloft, twirls round like a teetotum, and stumps back again; and the sweet night passes in splendour, until all save one or two home-sick lingerers are happy. It never occurs to any of these passengers to glance forward and see whether a streak of green fire seems to strike out from the starboard–the right-hand side of the vessel–or whether a shaft of red shoots from the other side. As a matter of fact, the vessel is going on like a dark cloud over the flying furrows of the sea; but there is very little of the cloud about her great hull, for she would knock a house down if she hit it when travelling at her present rate. The captain is a thrifty man, and the owners are thrifty persons; they consider the cost of oil; and thus, as it is a nice clear night, the side-lights are not lit, and the judgment of the tramping look-out man on the forecastle-head is trusted. Parenthetically I may say that, without being in any way disposed to harbour exaggerated sentiment, I feel almost inclined to advocate death for any sailor who runs in mid-ocean without carrying his proper lights out. I once saw a big iron barque go grinding right from the bulge of the bow to the stern of an ocean steamer–and that wretched barque had no lights. Half a yard’s difference, and both vessels would have sunk. Three hundred and fifty people were sleeping peacefully on board the steamer, and the majority of them must have gone down, while those who were saved would have had a hard time in the boats. Strange to say, that very same steamer was crossed by another vessel which carried no lights: but this time the result was bad, for the steamer went clean through the other ship and sank her instantly.

To return to the emigrant vessel. The officer continues his tramp like one of the caged animals of a menagerie; the spare man of the watch leans against the rail and hums–

We’ll go no more by the light of the moon; The song is done, and we’ve lost the tune, So I’ll go no more a-roving with you, fair maid– A-roving, A-roving, &c.

–the pipes glow in the clear air, and the flying water bubbles and moans. Oh, yes, all is well–beautifully well–and we need no lights whatever! Then the look-out man whistles “Hist!”–which is quite an unusual mode of signalling; the officer ceases his monotonous tramp and runs forward. “Luff a little!” “He’s still bearing up. Why doesn’t he keep away?” “Luff a little more! Stand by your lee-braces. Oh, he’ll go clear!” So the low clear talk goes, till at last with a savage yell of rage a voice comes from the other vessel–“Where you coming to?” “Hard down with it!” “He’s into us!” “Clear away your boats!” Then there is a sound like “smack.” Then comes a long scraunch, and a thunderous rattle of blocks; a sail goes with a report like a gun; the vessels bump a few times, and then one draws away, leaving the other with bows staved in. A wild clamour surges up from below, but there is no time to heed that; the men toil like Titans, and the hideous music of prayers and curses disturbs the night. Then the vessel that was hit amidships rolls a little, and there is a gurgle like that of an enormous, weir: a mast goes with a sharp report; a man’s figure appears on the taffrail and bounds far into the sea–it is an experienced hand who wants to escape the down-draught; the hull shudders, grows steady, and then with one lurch the ship swashes down and the bellowing vortex throws up huge spirts of boiling spray. A few stray swimmers are picked up, but the rest of the company will be seen nevermore. Fancy those women in that darkened steerage! Think of it, and then say what should be done to an owner who stints his officers in the matter of lamp-oil; or to a captain who does not use what the owner provides! The huddled victims wake from confused slumbers; some scream–some become insane on the instant; the children add their shrill clamour to the mad rout; and the water roars in. Then the darkness grows thick, and the agonized crowd tear and throttle each other in fierce terror; and then approaches the slowly-coming end. Oh, how often–how wearily often–have such scenes been enacted on the face of this fair world! And all to save a little lamp-oil!

Yet again–a great vessel plunges away to sea bearing a precious freight of some one thousand souls. Perhaps the owners reckon the cargo in the hold as being worth more than the human burden; but of course opinions differ. The wild rush from one border of the ocean to the other goes on for a few days and nights, and the tremendous structure of steel cleaves the hugest waves as though they were but clouds. Down below the luxurious passengers live in their fine hotel, and the luckier ones are quite happy and ineffably comfortable. If a sunny day breaks, then the pallid battalions in the steerage come up to the air, and the ship’s deck is like a long animated street. A thousand souls, we said? True! Now let some quiet observant man of the sailorly sort go round at night and count the boats. Twelve, and the gig aft makes thirteen! Allowing a tremendously large average, this set of boats might actually carry six hundred persons; but the six hundred would need to sit very carefully even in smooth water, and a rush might capsize any one boat.

The vast floating hotel spins on at twenty miles an hour–a speed that might possibly shame some of the railways that run from London suburbs–and the officers want to save every yard. No care is omitted; three men are on the bridge at night, there is a starboard look-out, a port look-out, and the quartermaster patrols amidships and sees that the masthead light is all right The officer and the look-out men pass the word every half-hour, and nothing escapes notice. If some unlucky steerage passenger happens to strike a light forward, he stands a very good chance of being put in irons; and, if there is a patient in the deck-house, the windows must be darkened with thick cloths. Each officer, on hazy nights, improvises a sort of hood for himself; and he peers forward as if life depended on his eyesight–as indeed it does. But there comes a bright evening, and the monster liner’s journey is all but over; three hours more of steaming and she will be safe. A little schooner comes skimming up on the port side–and the schooner is to the liner as a chip is to a tree-trunk. The schooner holds on her course, for she is not bound to give way at all; but the officer on the bridge of the steamer thinks, “I shall lose a quarter of an hour if I edge away to starboard and let him fall astern of us. I shall keep right on and shave his bows.” The liner is going at nineteen knots, the schooner is romping along at eight–yet the liner cannot clear the little vessel. There comes a fresh gust of wind; the sailing vessel lies over to it, and just touches the floating hotel amidships–but the touch is enough to open a breach big enough for a coach and four to go through. The steamer’s head is laid for the land and every ounce of steam is put on, but she settles and settles more and more. And now what about the thirteen boats for a thousand people? There is a wild scuffling, wild outcry. Women bite their lips and-try, with divine patience, to crush down all appearance of fear, and to keep their limbs from trembling; some unruly fellows are kept in check only by terror of the revolver; and the officers remember that their fair name and their hope of earthly redemption are at stake. In one case of this sort it took three mortal hours to ferry the passengers and crew over smooth water to the rescuing vessel; and those rescued folk may think themselves the most fortunate of all created souls, for, if the liner had been hit with an impetus of a few more tons, very few on board of her would have lived to tell the tale. Unless passengers, at the risk of being snubbed and threatened, criticise the boat accommodation of great steamers, there will be such a disaster one day as will make the world shudder.

The pitiful thing is to know how easily all this might be prevented. Until one has been on board a small vessel which has every spar, bolt, iron, and plank sound, one can have no idea how perfectly safe a perfectly-built ship is in any sort of weather. A schooner of one hundred and fifty tons was caught in a hurricane which was so powerful that the men had to hang on where they could, even before the flattened foaming sea rose from its level rush and began to come on board. All round were vessels in distress; the scare caused many of the seamen to forget their lights, and the ships lumbered on, first to collision, and then to that crashing plunge which takes all hands down. The little schooner was actually obliged to offer assistance to a big mail-steamer–and yet she might have been rather easily carried by that same steamer. But the little vessel’s lights were watched with sedulous care; the blasts might tear at her scanty canvas, but there was not a rag or a rope that would give way; and, although the awful rush of the gale carried her within eight miles of a rocky lee-shore, her captain had sufficient confidence in the goodness of his gear to begin sailing his ship instead of keeping her hove to. One rope faulty, one light wrong, one hand out of his place at the critical time, and the bones of a pleasant ship’s company would have been strewn on a bleak shore: but everything was right, and the tiny craft drew away like a seagull when she was made to sail. Of course the sea ran clean over her, but she forged quietly on until she was thirty miles clear of those foaming breakers that roared on the cliffs. During that night more good seamen were drowned than one would like to number; ships worth a king’s ransom were utterly lost. And why? Simply because they had not the perfect gear which saved the little schooner. Even had the little craft been sent over until she refused to rise again to the sea, the boats were ready, and everybody on board had a good chance. Care first of all is needed, and then fear may be banished. The smart agent reads his report glibly to the directors of a steamboat company–and yet I have seen such smart agents superintending the departure of vessels whereof the appearance was enough to make a good judge quake for the safety of crew and cargo.

What do I advise? Well, in the first place, I must remind shoregoing folk that a sound well-found vessel will live through anything. Let passengers beware of lines which pay a large dividend and show nothing on their balance-sheets to allow for depreciation. In the next place, if any passenger on a long voyage should see that the proper lights are not shown, he ought to wake up his fellow passengers at any hour of the night, and go with his friends to threaten the captain. Never mind bluster or oaths–merely say, “If your lights are not shown, you may regard your certificate as gone.” If that does not bring the gentleman to his senses, nothing will. Again, take care in any case that no raw foreign seamen are allowed to go on the look-out in any vessel, for a misunderstood shout at a critical moment may bring sudden doom on hundreds of unsuspecting fellow-creatures. Above all, see that the water-casks in every boat are kept full. In this way the sea tragedies may be a little lessened in their hateful number.

_March, 1889._


There came into my life a time of strenuous effort, and I drank all the joys of labour to the lees. When the rich dark midnights of summer drooped over the earth, I could hardly bear to think of the hours of oblivion which must pass ere I felt the delight of work once more. And the world seemed very beautiful; and, when I looked up to the solemn sky, so sweetly sown with stars, I could see stirring words like “Fame” and “Gladness” and “Triumph” written dimly across the vault; so that my heart was full of rejoicing, and all the world promised fair. In those immortal midnights the sea spoke wonderful things to me, and the long rollers glittering under the high moon bore health and bright promise as they hastened to the shore. And, when the ships stole–oh, so silently!–out of the shadows and moved over the diamond track of the moon’s light, I sent my heart out to the lonely seamen and prayed that they might be joyous like me. Then the ringing of the song of multitudinous birds sounded in the hours of dawn, and the tawny-throated king of songsters made my pulses tremble with his wild ecstasy; and the blackbird poured forth mellow defiance, and the thrush shrilled in his lovely fashion concerning the joy of existence.

Pass, dreams! The long beams are drawn from the bosom of dawn. The gray of the quiet sea quickens into rose, and soon the glittering serpentine streaks of colour quiver into a blaze; the brown sands glow, and the little waves run inward, showing milky curves under the gay light; the shoregoing boats come home, and their sails–those coarse tanned sails–are like flowers that wake with the daisies and the peonies to feast on the sun. Happy holiday-makers who are wise enough to watch the fishers come in! The booted thickly-clad fellows plunge into the shallow water; and then the bare-footed women come down, and the harvest of the night is carried up the cliffs before the most of the holiday-folk have fairly awakened. The proud day broadens to its height, and the sands are blackened by the growing crowd; for the beach near a fashionable watering-place is like a section cut from a turbulent city street, save that the folk on the sands think of aught but business. I have never been able to sympathize with those who can perceive only vulgarity in a seaside crowd. It is well to care for deserted shores and dark moaning forests in the far North; but the average British holiday-maker is a sociable creature; he likes to feel the sense of companionship, and his spirits rise in proportion to the density of the crowd amid which he disports himself. To me, the life, the concentrated enjoyment, the ways of the children who are set free from the trammels of town life, are all like so much poetry. I learned early to rejoice in silent sympathy with the rejoicing of God’s creatures. Only to watch the languid pose of some steady toiler from the City is enough to give discontented people a goodly lesson. The man has been ground in the mill for a year; his modest life has left him no time for enjoyment, and his ideas of all pleasure are crude. Watch him as he remains passively in an ecstasy of rest. The cries of children, the confused jargon of the crowd, fall but faintly on his nerves; he likes the sensation of being in company; he has a dim notion of the beauty of the vast sky with its shining snowy-bosomed clouds, and he lets the light breeze blow over him. I like to look on that good citizen and contrast the dull round of his wayfarings on many streets with the ease and satisfaction of his attitude on the sands. Then the night comes. The dancers are busy, the commonplace music is made refined by distance, and the murmur of the sea gathers power over all other sounds, until the noon of night arrives and the last merry voices are heard no more. Poor harmless revellers, so condemned by men whose round of life is a search for pleasure! Many of you do not understand or care for quiet refinements of dress and demeanour; you lack restraint; but I have felt much gladness while demurely watching your abandonment. I could draw rest for my soul from the magnetic night long after you were aweary and asleep; but much of my pleasure came as a reflection from yours.

As my memories of sweetness–yes, and of purifying sadness–gather more thickly, I am minded to wonder that so much has been vouchsafed me rather than to mourn over shadowy might-have-beens. The summer day by the deep lovely lake–the lake within sound of the sea! All round the steep walls that shut in the dark glossy water there hung rank festoons and bosses of brilliant green, and the clear reflections of the weeds and flowers hung so far down in the mysterious deeps that the height of the rocky wall seemed stupendous. Far over in one tremendously deep pool the lazy great fish wallowed and lunged; they would not show their speckled sides very much until the evening; but they kept sleepily moving all day, and sometimes a mighty back would show like a log for an instant. In the morning the modest ground-larks cheeped softly among the rough grasses on the low hills, while the proud heaven-scaler–the lordly kinsman of the ground-lark–filled the sky with his lovely clamour. Sometimes a water-rail would come out from the sedges and walk on the surface of the lake as a tiny ostrich might on the shifting sand; pretty creatures of all sorts seemed to find their homes near the deep wonderful water, and the whole morning might be passed in silently watching the birds and beasts that came around. The gay sun made streams of silver fire shoot from the polished brackens and sorrel, the purple geraniums gleamed like scattered jewels, and the birds seemed to be joyful in presence of that manifold beauty–joyful as the quiet human being who watched them all. And the little fishes in the shallows would have their fun as well. They darted hither and thither; the spiny creatures which the schoolboy loves built their queer nests among the waterweeds; and sometimes a silly adventurer–alarmed by the majestic approach of a large fish–would rush on to the loamy bank at the shallow end of the lake and wriggle piteously in hopeless failure. The afternoons were divinely restful by the varied shores of the limpid lake. Sometimes as the sun sloped there might come hollow blasts of wind that had careered for a brief space over the woods; but the brooding heat, the mastering silence, the feeling that multifarious quiescent living things were ready to start into action, all took the senses with somnolence. That drowsy joy, that soothing silence which seemed only intensified by the murmur of bees and the faint gurgle of water, were like medicine to the soul; and it seemed that the conception of Nirvana became easily understood as the delicious open-air reverie grew more and more involved and vague. Then the last look of the sun, the creeping shadows that made the sea gray and turned the little lake to an inky hue, and then the slow fall of the quiet-coloured evening, and, last, the fall of the mystic night!

Poor little birds, moving uneasily in the darkness, threw down tiny fragments from the rocks, and each fragment fell with a sound like the clink of a delicate silver bell; softly the sea moaned, softly the night-wind blew, and softly–so softly!–came whispering the spirits of the dead. Joyous faces could be seen by that lake long, long ago. In summer, when the lower rim was all blazing with red and yellow flowers, young lovers came to whisper and gaze. They are dead and gone. In winter, when the tarn was covered with jetty glossy ice, there were jovial scenes whereof the jollity was shared by a happy few. Round and round on the glossy surface the skaters flew and passed like gliding ghosts under the gloom of the rocks; the hiss of the iron sounded musically, and the steep wall flung back sharp echoes of harmless laughter. Each volume of sound was magically magnified, and the gay company carried on their pleasant outing far into the chili winter night. They are all gone! One was there oftenest in spring and summer, and the last sun-rays often made her golden hair shine in splendour as she stood gazing wistfully over the solemn lake. She saw wonders there that coarser spirits could not know; and all her gentle musings passed into poetry–poetry that was seldom spoken. Those who loved her never cared to break her sacred stillness as she pondered by the side of the beloved tarn; her language was not known to common folk, for she held high converse with the great of old time; and, when she chanced to speak with me, I understood but dimly, though I had all the sense of beauty and mystery. A shipwrecked sailor said she looked as if she belonged to God. Her Master claimed her early. Dear, your yellow hair will shine no more in the sun that you loved; you have long given over your day-dreams–and you are now dreamless. Or perhaps you dwell amid the silent glory of one last long dream of those you loved. The gorse on the moor moans by your grave, the brackens grow green and tall and wither into dead gold year by year, the lake gleams gloomily in fitful flashes amid its borders of splendour; and you rest softly while the sea calls your lullaby nightly. Far off, far off, my soul, by quiet seas where the lamps of the Southern Cross hang in the magnificence of the purple sky, there is one who remembers the lake, and the glassy ice, and the blaze of pompous summer, and the shining of that yellow hair. Peace–oh, peace! The sorrow has passed into quiet pensive regret that is nigh akin to gladness.

How many other ineffable days and nights have I known? All who can feel the thrilling of sea-winds, all who can have even one day amid grass and fair trees, grasp the time of delight, enjoy all beauties, do not pass in coarseness one single minute; and then, when the Guide comes to point your road through the strange gates, you may be like me–you may repine at nothing, for you will have much good to remember and scanty evil. It is good for me now to think of the thundering rush of the yacht as, with the great mainsail drawing heavily, she roared through the field of foam made by her own splendid speed, while the inky waves on the dim horizon moaned and the dark summer midnight brooded warmly over the dark sea. It is good to think of the strange days when the vessel was buried in wreaths of dark cloud, and the rush of the wind only drove the haze screaming among the shrouds. The vast dim mountains might not be pleasant to the eye of either seaman or landsman; but, when they poured their thundering deluge on a strong safe deck, we did not mind them. Happy hearts were there even in stormy warring afternoons; and men watched quite placidly as the long grim hills came gliding on. Then in the evenings there were chance hours when the dim forecastle was a pleasant place in bad weather. The bow of the vessel swayed wildly; the pitching seemed as if it might end in one immense supreme dive to the gulf, and the mad storming of the wind forced us to utter our simple talk in loudest tones. Gruff kindly phrases, without much wit or point, were good enough for us; perhaps even the appalling dignitary–yes, even the mate–would crawl in; and we listened to lengthy disjointed stories. And all the while the tremendous howl of the storm went on, and the merry lads who went out on duty had to rush wildly so as to reach the alley when a very heavy sea came over. The sense of strength was supreme; the crash of the gale was nothing; and we rather hugged ourselves on the notion that the fierce screaming meant us no harm. The curls of smoke flitted softly amid the blurred yellow beams from the lamp, and our chat went on while the monstrous billows grew blacker and blacker and the spray shone like corpse-candles on the mystic and mighty hills. And then the hours of the terrible darkness! To leave the swept deck while every vein tingled with the ecstasy of the gale! The dull warmth below was exquisite; the sly creatures which crept from their, dens and let the lamplight shine on their weird eyes–even the gamesome rats–had something merrily diabolic about them. Their thuds on the floor, their sordid swarming, their inexplicable daring–all gave a kind of minor current of _diablerie_ to the rush and hurry of the stormy night; for they seemed to speak–and the creatures which on shore are odious appeared to be quite in place in the soaring groaning vessel. Ah, my brave forecastle lads, my merry tan-faced favourites, I shall no more see your quaint squalor, I shall no more see your battle with wind and savage waves and elemental turmoil! Some of you have passed to the shadows before me; some of you have only the ooze for your graves; and the others cannot ever hear my greeting again on the sweet mornings when the waves are all gay with lily-hued blossoms of foam.

Pale beyond porch and portal,
Crowned with dark flowers she stands, Who gathers all things mortal
With cold immortal hands.

Gathers! And Proserpina will strew the flowers of foam that I may never see more–and then she will gather me.

All was good in the time of delight–all is good now that only a memory clings lovingly to the heart. Take my counsel. Rejoice in your day, and the night shall carry no dread for you.

_June, 1889._


I fully recognize the fact which the Frenchman flippantly stated–that no human beings really believe that death is inevitable until the last clasp of the stone-cold king numbs their pulses. Perhaps this insensibility is a merciful gift; at any rate, it is a fact. If belief came home with violence to our minds, we should suffer from a sort of vertigo; but the merciful dullness which the Frenchman perceived and mocked in his epigram saves us all the miseries of apprehension. This is very curiously seen among soldiers when they know that they must soon go into action. The soldiers chat together on the night before the attack; they know that some of them must go down; they actually go so far as to exchange messages thus–“If anything happens to me, you know, Bill, I want you to take that to the old people. You give me a note or anything else you have; and, if we get out of the shindy, we can hand the things back again.” After confidences of this sort, the men chat on; and I never yet knew or heard of one who did not speak of his own safe return as a matter of course. When a brigade charges, there may be a little anxiety at first; but the whistle of the first bullet ends all misgivings, and the fellows grow quite merry, though it may be that half of them are certain to be down on the ground before the day is over. A man who is struck may know well that he will pass away: but he will rise up feebly to cheer on his comrades–nay, he will ask questions, as the charging troops pass him, as to the fate of Bill or Joe, or the probable action of the Heavies, or similar trifles.

In the fight of life we all behave much as the soldiers do in the crash and hurry of battle. If we reason the matter out with a semblance of logic, we all know that we must move toward the shadows; but, even after we are mortally stricken by disease or age, we persist in acting and thinking as if there were no end. In youth we go almost further; we are too apt to live as though we were immortal, and as though there were absolutely nothing to result from human action or human inaction. To the young man and the young woman the future is not a blind lane with a grave at the end; it is a spacious plain reaching away towards a far-off horizon; and that horizon recedes and recedes as they move forward, leaving magnificent expanses to be crossed in joyous freedom. A pretty delusion! The youth harks onward, singing merrily and rejoicing in sympathy with the mystic song of the birds; there is so much space around him–the very breath of life is a joy–and he is content to taste in glorious idleness the ecstasy of living. The evening closes in, and then the horizon seems to be narrowing; like the walls of the deadly chamber in the home of the Inquisition, the skies shrink inward–and the youth has misgivings. The next day finds his plain shrunken a little in expanse, and his horizon has not so superb a sweep. Nevertheless he goes gaily on, and once more he raises his voice joyously, and tries to think that the plain and the horizon can contract no more. Thus in foolish hopefulness he passes his days until the glorious plain of his dreams has been traversed, and, lo, under his very feet is the great gulf fixed, and far below the tide–the tide of Eternity–laps sullenly against the walls of the deadly chasm. If the youth knew that the gulf and the rolling river were so near–if he not only knew, but could absolutely picture his doom–would he be so merry? Ah, no!

I repeat that, if men could be so disciplined as to believe in their souls that death must come, then there would be no lost days. Is there one of us who can say that he never lost a day amid this too brief, too joyous, too entrancing term of existence? Not one. The aged Roman–who, by-the-way, was somewhat of a prig–used to go about moaning, “I have lost a day,” if he thought he had not performed some good action or learned something in the twenty-four hours. Most of us have no such qualms; we waste the time freely; and we never know that it is wasted until with a dull shock we comprehend that all must be left and that the squandered hours can never be retrieved. The men who are strongest and greatest and best suffer the acutest remorse for the lost days; they know their own powers, and that very knowledge makes them suffer all the more bitterly when they reckon up what they might have done and compare it with the sum of their actual achievement.

In a certain German town a little cell is shown on the walls of which a famous name is marked many times. It appears that in his turbulent youth Prince Bismarck was often a prisoner in this cell; and his various appearances are registered under eleven different dates. Moreover, I observe from the same rude register that he fought twenty-eight duels. Lost days–lost days! He tells us how he drank in the usual insane fashion prevalent among the students. He “cannot tell how much Burgundy he could really drink.” Lost days–lost days! And now the great old man, with Europe at his feet and the world awaiting his lightest word with eagerness, turns regretfully sometimes to think of the days thrown away. A haze seems to hang before the eyes of such as he; and it is a haze that makes the future seem dim and vast, even while it obscures all the sharp outlines of things. The child is not capable of reasoning coherently, and therefore its disposition to fritter away time must be regarded as only the result of defective organization; but the young man and young woman can reason, and yet we find them perpetually making excuses for eluding time and eternity. Look at the young fellows who are preparing for the hard duties of life by studying at a University. Here is one who seems to have recognized the facts of existence; his hours are arranged as methodically as his heart beats; he knows the exact balance between physical and intellectual strength, and he overtaxes neither, but body and mind are worked up to the highest attainable pressure. No pleasures of the destructive sort call this youngster aside; he has learned already what it is to reap the harvest of a quiet eye, and his joys are of the sober kind. He rises early, and he has got far through his work ere noon; his quiet afternoon is devoted to harmless merriment in the cricket-field or on the friendly country roads, and his evening is spent without any vain gossip in the happy companionship of his books. That young man loses no day; but unhappily he represents a type which is but too rare. The steady man, economic of time, is a rarity; but the wild youth who is always going to do something to-morrow is one of a class that numbers only too many on its rolls. To-morrow! The young fellow passes to-day on the river, or spends it in lounging or in active dissipation. He feels that he is doing wrong; but the gaunt spectres raised by conscience are always exorcised by the bright vision of to-morrow. To-morrow the truant will go to his books; he will bend himself for that concentrated effort which alone secures success, and his time of carelessness and sloth shall be far left behind. But the sinister influence of to-day saps his will and renders him infirm; each new to-day is wasted amid thoughts of visionary to-morrows which take all the power from his soul; and, when he is nerveless, powerless, tired, discontented with the very sight of the sun, he finds suddenly that his feet are on the edge of the gulf, and he knows that there will be no more to-morrows.

I am not entering a plea for hard, petrifying work. If a man is a hand-worker or brain-worker, his fate is inevitable if he regards work as the only end of life. The loss of which I speak is that incurred by engaging in pursuits which do not give mental strength or resource or bodily health. The hard-worked business-man who gallops twenty miles after hounds before he settles to his long stretch of toil is not losing his day; the empty young dandy whose life for five months in the year is given up to galloping across grass country or lounging around stables is decidedly a spendthrift so far as time is concerned.

I wish–if it be not impious so to wish–that every young man could have one glimpse into the future. Supposing some good genius could say, “If you proceed as you are now doing, your position in your fortieth year will be this!” what a horror would strike through many among us, and how desperately each would strive to take advantage of that kindly “If.” But there is no uplifting of the veil; and we must all be guided by the experience of the past and not by knowledge of the future. I observe that those who score the greatest number of lost days on the world’s calendar always do so under the impression that they are enjoying pleasure. An acute observer whose soul is not vitiated by cynicism may find a kind of melancholy pastime in observing the hopeless attempts of these poor son’s to persuade themselves that they are making the best of existence. I would not for worlds seem for a moment to disparage pleasure, because I hold that a human being who lives without joy must either become bad, mad, or wretched. But I speak of those who cheat themselves into thinking that every hour which passes swiftly to eternity is wisely spent. Observe the parties of young men who play at cards even in the railway-train morning after morning and evening after evening. The time of the journey might be spent in useful and happy thought; it is passed in rapid and feverish speculation. There is no question of reviving the brain; it is not recreation that is gained, but distraction, and the brain, instead of being ready to concentrate its power upon work, is enfeebled and rendered vague and flighty. Supposing a youth spends but one hour per day in handling pieces of pasteboard and trying to win his neighbour’s money, then in four weeks he has wasted twenty-four hours, and in one year he wastes thirteen days. Is there any gain–mental, muscular, or nervous–from this unhappy pursuit? Not one jot or tittle. Supposing that a weary man of science leaves his laboratory in the evening, and wends his way homeward, the very thought of the game of whist which awaits him is a kind of recuperative agency. Whist is the true recreation of the man of science; and the astronomer or mathematician or biologist goes calmly to rest with his mind at ease after he has enjoyed his rubber. The most industrious of living novelists and the most prolific of all modern writers was asked–so he tells us in his autobiography–“How is it that your thirtieth book is fresher than your first?” He made answer, “I eat very well, keep regular hours, sleep ten hours a day, and never miss my three hours a day at whist.” These men of great brain derive benefit from their harmless contests; the young men in the railway-carriages only waste brain-tissue which they do nothing-to repair. A very beautiful writer who was an extremely lazy man pictures his own lost days as arising before him and saying, “I am thy Self; say, what didst thou to me?” That question may well be asked by all the host of murdered days, but especially may it be asked of those foolish beings who try to gain distinction by recklessly losing money on the Turf or in gambling-saloons. A heart of stone might be moved by seeing the precious time that is hurled to the limbo of lost days in the vulgar pandemonium by the racecourse. A nice lad comes out into the world after attaining his majority, and plunges into that vortex of Hades. Reckon up the good he gets there. Does he gain health? Alas, think of the crowd, the rank odours, the straining heart-beats! Does he hear any wisdom? Listen to the hideous badinage, the wild bursts of foul language from the betting-men, the mean, cunning drivel of the gamblers, the shrill laughter of the horsey and unsexed women? Does the youth make friends? Ah, yes! He makes friends who will cheat him at betting, cheat him at horse-dealing, cheat him at gambling when the orgies of the course are over, borrow money as long as he will lend, and throw him over when he has parted with his last penny and his last rag of self-respect. Those who can carry their minds back for twenty years must remember the foolish young nobleman who sold a splendid estate to pay the yelling vulgarians of the betting-ring. They cheered him when he all but beggared himself; they hissed him when he failed once to pay. With lost health, lost patrimony, lost hopes, lost self-respect, he sank amid the rough billows of life’s sea, and only one human creature was there to aid him when the great last wave swept over him. Lost days–lost days! Youths who are going to ruin now amid the plaudits of those who live upon them might surely take warning: but they do not, and their bones will soon bleach on the mound whereon those of all other wasters of days have been thrown. When I think of the lost days and the lost lives of which I have cognizance, then it seems as though I were gazing on some vast charnel-house, some ghoul-haunted place of skulls. Memories of those who trifled with life come to me, and their very faces flash past with looks of tragic significance. By their own fault they were ruined; they were shut out of the garden of their gifts; their city of hope was ploughed and salted. The past cannot be retrieved, let canting optimists talk as they choose; what has been has been, and the effects will last and spread until the earth shall pass away. Our acts our angels are, or good or ill; our fatal shadows that walk by us still. The thing done lasts for eternity; the lightest act of man or woman has incalculably vast results. So it is madness to say that the lost days can be retrieved. They cannot! But by timely wisdom we may save the days and make them beneficent and fruitful in the future. Watch those wild lads who are sowing in wine what they reap in headache and degradation. Night after night they laugh with senseless glee, night after night inanities which pass for wit are poured forth; and daily the nerve and strength of each carouser grow weaker. Can you retrieve those nights? Never! But you may take the most shattered of the crew and assure him that all is not irretrievably lost; his weakened nerve may be steadied, his deranged gastric functions may gradually grow more healthy, his distorted views of life may pass away. So far, so good; but never try to persuade any one that the past may be repaired, for that delusion is the very source and spring of the foul stream of lost days. Once impress upon any teachable creature the stern fact that a lost day is lost for ever, once make that belief part of his being, and then he will strive to cheat death. Perhaps it may be thought that I take sombre views of life. No; I see that the world may be made a place of pleasure, but only by learning and obeying the inexorable laws which govern all things, from the fall of a seed of grass to the moving of the miraculous brain of man.

_April, 1888._


Soon, with pomp of golden days and silver nights, the dying Summer will wave the world farewell; but the precious time is still with us, and we cherish the glad moments gleefully. When the dawn swirls up in the splendid sky, it is as though one gladsome procession of hours had begun to move. The breeze sighs cool and low, the trees rustle with vast whisperings, and the conquering sun shoots his level volleys from rim to rim of the world. The birds are very, very busy, and they take no thought of the grim time coming, when the iron ground will be swept by chill winds and the sad trees will quiver mournfully in the biting air. A riot of life is in progress, and it seems as if the sense of pure joy banished the very thought of pain and foreboding from all living things. The sleepy afternoons glide away, the sun droops, and the quiet, coloured evening falls solemnly. Then comes the hush of the huge and thoughtful night; the wan stars wash the dust with silver, and the brave day is over. Alas, for those who are pent in populous cities throughout this glorious time! We who are out in the free air may cast a kindly thought on the fate of those to whom “holiday” must be as a word in an unknown tongue. Some of us are happy amid the shade of mighty hills: some of us fare toward the Land of the Midnight Sun, where the golden light steeps all the air by night as well as day; some of us rest beside the sea, where the loud wind, large and free, blows the long surges out in sounding bars and thrills us with fresh fierce pleasure; some of us are able to wander in glowing lanes where the tender roses star the hedges and the murmur of innumerable bees falls softly on the senses. Let us thankfully take the good that is vouchsafed to us, and let those of us who can lend a helping hand do something towards giving the poor and needy a brief taste of the happiness that we freely enjoy.

I do not want to dwell on ugly thoughts; and yet it seems selfish to refrain from speaking of the fate of the poor who are packed in crowded quarters during this bright holiday season. For them the midsummer days and midsummer nights are a term of tribulation. The hot street reeks with pungent odours, the faint airs that wander in the scorching alleys at noonday strike on the fevered face like wafts from some furnace, and the cruel nights are hard to endure save when a cool shower has fallen. If you wander in London byways, you find that the people are fairly driven from their houses after a blistering summer day, and they sit in the streets till early morning. They are not at all depressed; on the contrary, the dark hours are passed in reckless merriment, and I have often known the men to rest quite contentedly on the pavement till the dawn came and the time of departure for labour was near. Even the young children remain out of doors, and their shrill treble mingles with the coarse rattle of noisy choruses. Some of those cheery youngsters have an outing in the hopping season, and they come back bronzed and healthy; but most of them have to be satisfied with one day at the most amid the fields and trees. I have spoken of London; but the case of those who dwell in the black manufacturing cities is even worse. What is Oldham like on a blistering midsummer day? What are Hanley and St. Helen’s and the lower parts of Manchester like? The air is charged with dust, and the acrid, rasping fumes from the chimneys seem to acquire a malignant power over men and brain. Toil goes steadily on, and the working-folk certainly have the advantage of starting in the bright morning hours, before the air has become befouled; but, as the sun gains strength, and the close air of the unlovely streets is heated, then the torment to be endured is severe. In Oldham and many other Lancashire towns a most admirable custom prevails. Large numbers of people club their money during the year and establish a holiday-fund; they migrate wholesale in the summertime, and have a merry holiday far away from the crush of the pavements and the dreary lines of ugly houses. A wise and beneficent custom is this, and the man who first devised it deserves a monument. I congratulate the troops of toilers who share my own pleasure; but, alas, how many honest folk in those awful Midland places will pant and sweat and suffer amid grime and heat while the glad months are passing! Good men who might be happy even in the free spaces of the Far West, fair women who need only rest and pure air to enable them to bloom in beauty, little children who peak and pine, are all crammed within the odious precincts of the towns which Cobbett hated; and the merry stretches of the sea, the billowy roll of the downs, the peace of soft days, are not for them. Only last year I looked on a stretch of interminable brown sand, hard and smooth and broad, with the ocean perpetually rolling in upon it with slow-measured sweep, with rustle and hiss and foam, and many a thump as of low bass drums. There before me was Whitman’s very vision, and in the keen mystic joy of the moment I could not help thinking sadly of one dreadful alley where lately I had been. It seemed so sad that the folk of the alley could not share my pleasure; and the murmur of vain regrets came to the soul even amid the triumphant clamour of the free wind. Poor cramped townsfolk, hard is your fate! It is hard; but I can see no good in repining over their fortune if we aid them as far as we can; rather let us speak of the bright time that comes for the toilers who are able to escape from the burning streets.

The mathematicians and such-like dry personages confine midsummer to one day in June; but we who are untrammelled by science know a great deal better. For us midsummer lasts till August is half over, and we utterly refuse to trouble ourselves about equinoxes and solstices and trivialities of that kind. For us it is midsummer while the sun is warm, while the trees hold their green, while the dancing waves fling their blossoms of foam under the darting rays that dazzle us, while the sacred night is soft and warm and the cool airs are wafted like sounds of blessings spoken in the scented darkness. For us the solstice is abolished, and we sturdily refuse to give up our midsummer till the first gleam of yellow comes on the leaves. We are not all lucky enough to see the leagues upon leagues of overpowering colour as the sun comes up on the Alps; we cannot all rest in the glittering seclusion of Norwegian fiords; but most of us, in our modest way, can enjoy our extravagantly prolonged midsummer beside the shore of our British waters. Spring is the time for hope; our midsummer is the time for ripened joy, for healthful rest; and we are satisfied with the beaches and cliffs that are hallowed by many memories–we are satisfied with simple copses and level fields. They say that spring is the poet’s season; but we know better. Spring is all very well for those who have constant leisure; it is good to watch the gradual bursting of early buds; it is good to hear the thrush chant his even-song of love; it is good to rest the eye on the glorious clouds of bloom that seem to float in the orchards. But the midsummer, the gallant midsummer, pranked in manifold splendours, is the true season of poetry for the toilers. The birds of passage who are now crowding out of the towns have had little pleasure in the spring, and their blissful days are only now beginning. What is it to them that the seaside landlady crouches awaiting her prey? What is it to them that ‘Arry is preparing to make night hideous? They are bound for their rest, and the surcease of toil is the only thing that suggests poetry to them. Spring the season for poets! We wipe away that treasonable suggestion just as we have wiped out the solstice. We holiday makers are not going to be tyrannized over by literary and scientific persons, and we insist on taking our own way. Our blood beats fully only at this season, and not even the extortioners’ bills can daunt us. Let us break into poetry and flout the maudlin enthusiasts who prate of spring.

With a ripple of leaves and a twinkle of streams The full world rolls in a rhythm of praise, And the winds are one with the clouds and beams– Midsummer days! Midsummer days!
The dusks grow vast in a purple haze, While the West from a rapture of sunset rights, Faint stars their exquisite lamps upraise– Midsummer nights! O Midsummer nights!

* * * * *

The wood’s green heart is a nest of dreams, The lush grass thickens and springs and sways, The rathe wheat rustles, the landscape gleams– Midsummer days! Midsummer days!
In the stilly fields, in the stilly way, All secret shadows and mystic lights, Late lovers, murmurous, linger and gaze– Midsummer nights! O Midsummer nights!

* * * * *

There’s a swagger of bells from the trampling teams, Wild skylarks hover, the gorses blaze, The rich ripe rose as with incense steams– Midsummer days! Midsummer days!
A soul from the honeysuckle strays, And the nightingale, as from prophet heights, Speaks to the Earth of her million Mays– Midsummer nights! O Midsummer nights!

And it’s oh for my Dear and the charm that stays– Midsummer days! Midsummer days!
And it’s oh for my Love and the dark that plights– Midsummer nights! O Midsummer nights!

There is a burst for you! And we will let the poets of spring, with their lambkins and their catkins and the rest, match this poem of William Henley’s if they can. The royal months are ours, and we love the reign of the rose.

When the burnished tints of bronze shine on the brackens, and the night-wind blows with a chilly moan from the fields of darkness, we shall have precious days to remember, and, ah, when the nights are long, and the churlish Winter lays his fell finger on stream and grass and tree, we shall be haunted by jolly memories! Will the memories be wholly pleasant? Perchance, when the curtains are drawn and the lamp burns softly, we may read of bright and beautiful things. Out of doors the war of the winter fills the roaring darkness. It may be that

Hoarsely across the iron ground
The icy wind goes roaring past, The powdery wreaths go whirling round Dancing a measure to the blast.

The hideous sky droops darkly down In brooding swathes of misty gloom,
And seems to wrap the fated town In shadows of remorseless doom.

Then some of us may find a magic phrase of Keats’s, or Thomas Hardy’s, or Black’s, or Dickens’s, that recalls the lovely past from the dead. Many times I have had that experience. Once, after spending the long and glorious summer amid the weird subdued beauty of a wide heath, I returned to the great city. It had been a pleasant sojourn, though I had had no company save a collie and one or two terriers. At evening the dogs liked their ramble, and we all loved to stay out until the pouring light of the moon shone on billowy mists and heath-clad knolls. The faint rustling of the heath grew to a wide murmur, the little bells seemed to chime with notes heard only by the innermost spirit, and the gliding dogs were like strange creatures from some shadowy underworld. At times a pheasant would rise and whirl like a rocket from hillock to hollow, and about midnight a rapturous concert began. On one line of trees a colony of nightingales had established themselves near the heart of the waste. First came the low inquiry from the leader; then two or three low twittering answers; then the one long note that lays hold of the nerves and makes the whole being quiver; and then–ah, the passion, the pain, the unutterable delight of the heavenly jargoning when the whole of the little choir begin their magnificent rivalry! The thought of death is gone, the wild and poignant issues of life are softened, and the pulses beat thickly amid the blinding sweetness of the music. He who has not heard the nightingale has not lived. Far off the sea called low through the mist, and the long path of the moon ran toward the bright horizon; the ships stole in shadow and shine over the glossy ripples, and swung away to north and south till they faded in wreaths of delicate darkness. Dominating the whole scene of beauty, there was the vast and subtle mystery of the heath that awed the soul even when the rapture was at its keenest. Time passed away, and on one savage night I read Thomas Hardy’s unparalleled description of the majestic waste in “The Return of the Native.” That superb piece of English is above praise–indeed praise, as applied to it, is half an impertinence; it is great as Shakespeare, great almost as Nature–one of the finest poems in our language. As I read with awe the quiet inevitable sentences, the vision of my own heath rose, and the memory filled me with a sudden joy.

I know that the hour of darkness ever dogs our delight, and the shadow of approaching darkness and toil might affront me even now, if I were ungrateful; but I live for the present only. Let grave persons talk about the grand achievements and discoveries that have made this age or that age illustrious; I hold that holidays are the noblest invention of the human mind, and, if any philosopher wants to argue the matter, I flee from his presence, and luxuriate on the yellow sands or amid the keen kisses of the salty waves. I own that Newton’s discoveries were meritorious, and I willingly applaud Mr. George Stephenson, through whose ingenuity we are now whisked to our places of rest with the swiftness of an eagle’s flight. Nevertheless I contend that holidays are the crowning device of modern thought, and I hold that no thesis can be so easily proven as mine. How did our grandfathers take holiday? Alas, the luxury was reserved for the great lords who scoured over the Continent, and for the pursy cits who crawled down to Brighthelmstone! The ordinary Londoner was obliged to endure agonies on board a stuffy Margate hoy, while the people in Northern towns never thought of taking a holiday at all. The marvellous cures wrought by Doctor Ozone were not then known, and the science of holiday-making was in its infancy. The wisdom of our ancestors was decidedly at fault in this matter, and the gout and dyspepsia from which they suffered served them right. Read volumes of old memoirs, and you will find that our forefathers, who are supposed to have been so merry and healthy, suffered from all the ills which grumblers ascribe to struggling civilization. They did not know how to extract pleasure from their midsummer days and midsummer nights; we do, and we are all the better for the grand modern discovery.

Seriously, it is a good thing that we have learned the value of leisure, and, for my own part, I regard the rushing yearly exodus from London, Liverpool, Birmingham, with serene satisfaction. It is a pity that so many English folk persist in leaving their own most lovely land when our scenery and climate are at their best. In too many cases they wear themselves with miserable and harassing journeys when they might be placidly rejoicing in the sweet midsummer days at home. Snarling aesthetes may say what they choose, but England is not half explored yet, and anybody who takes the trouble may find out languorous nooks where life seems always dreamy, and where the tired nerves and brain are unhurt by a single disturbing influence. There are tiny villages dotted here and there on the coast where the flaunting tourist never intrudes, and where the British cad cares not to show his unlovable face. Still, if people like the stuffy Continental hotel and the unspeakable devices of the wily Swiss, they must take their choice. I prefer beloved England; but I wish all joy to those who go far afield.

_June, 1886._


Perhaps there is no individual of all our race who is quite insensible to the pleasures of what children call “dressing-up.” Even the cynic, the man who defiantly wears old and queer clothes, is merely suffering from a perversion of that animal instinct which causes the peacock to swagger in the sun and flaunt the splendour of his train, the instinct that makes the tiger-moth show the magnificence of his damask wing, and also makes the lion erect the horrors of his cloudy mane and paw proudly before his tawny mate. We are all alike in essentials, and Diogenes with his dirty clouts was only a perverted brother of Prince Florizel with his peach-coloured coat and snowy ruffles. I intend to handle the subject of dandies and their nature from a deeply philosophic starting-point, for, like Carlyle, I recognize the vast significance of the questions involved in the philosophy of clothes. Let no flippant individual venture on a jeer, for I am in dead earnest. A mocking critic may point to the Bond Street lounger and ask, “What are the net use and purport of that being’s existence? Look at his suffering frame! His linen stock almost decapitates him, his boots appear to hail from the chambers of the Inquisition, every garment tends to confine his muscles and dwarf his bodily powers; yet he chooses to smile in his torments and pretends to luxuriate in life. Again, what are the net use and purport of his existence?” I can only deprecate our critic’s wrath by going gravely to first principles. O savage and critical one, that suffering youth of Bond Street is but exhibiting in flaunting action a law that has influenced the breed of men since our forefathers dwelt in caves or trees! Observe the conduct of the innocent and primitive beings who dwell in sunny archipelagos far away to the South; they suffer in the cause of fashion as the youth of the city promenade suffers. The chief longing of the judicious savage is to shave, but the paucity of metals and sharp instruments prevents him from indulging his longing very frequently. When the joyous chance does come, the son of the forest promptly rises to the occasion. No elderly gentleman whose feet are studded with corns could bear the agony of patent leather boots in a heated ballroom with grander stoicism than that exhibited by our savage when he compasses the means of indulging in a thorough uncompromising shave. The elderly man of the ballroom sees the rosy-fingered dawn touching the sky into golden fretwork; he thinks of his cool white bed, and then, by contrast, he thinks of his hot throbbing feet. Shooting fires dart through his unhappy extremities, yet he smiles on and bears his pain for his daughters’ sake. But the elderly hero cannot be compared with the ambitious exquisite of the Southern Seas, and we shall prove this hypothesis. The careless voyager throws a beer-bottle overboard, and that bottle drifts to the glad shore of a glittering isle; the overjoyed savage bounds on the prize, and proceeds to announce his good fortune to his bosom friend. Then the pleased cronies decide that they will have a good, wholesome, thorough shave, and they will turn all rivals green with unavailing envy. Solemnly those children of nature go to a quiet place, and savage number one lies down while his friend sits on his head; then with a shred of the broken bottle the operator proceeds to rasp away. It is a great and grave function, and no savage worthy the name of warrior would fulfil it in a slovenly way. When the last scrape is given, and the stubbly irregular crop of bristles stands up from a field of gore, then the operating brave lies down, and his scarified friend sits on _his_ head. These sweet and satisfying idyllic scenes are enacted whenever a bottle comes ashore, and the broken pieces of the receptacles that lately held foaming Bass or glistening Hochheimer are used until their edge gives way, to the great contentment of true untutored dandies. The Bond Street man is at one end of the scale, the uncompromising heathen barber at the other; but the same principles actuate both.

The Maori is even more courageous in his attempts to secure a true decorative exterior, for he carves the surface of his manly frame into deep meandering channels until he resembles a walking advertisement of crochet-patterns for ladies. Dire is his suffering, long is the time of healing; but, when he can appear among his friends with a staring blue serpent coiled round his body from the neck to the ankle, when the rude figure of the bounding wallaby ornaments his noble chest, he feels that all his pain was worth enduring and that life is indeed worth living. The primitive dandy of Central Africa submits himself to the magician of the tribe, and has his front teeth knocked out with joy; the Ashantee or the Masai has his teeth filed to sharp points–and each painful process enables the victim to pose as a leader of fashion in the tribe. As the race rises higher, the refinements of dandyism become more and more complex, but the ruling motive remains the same, and the Macaroni, the Corinthian, the Incroyable, the swell, the dude–nay, even the common toff–are all mysteriously stirred by the same instinct which prompts the festive Papuan to bore holes in his innocent nose. Who then shall sneer at the dandy? Does he not fulfil a law of our nature? Let us rather regard him with toleration, or even with some slight modicum of reverence. Solemn historians affect to smile at the gaudy knights of the second Richard’s Court, who wore the points of their shoes tied round their waists; they even ridicule the tight, choking, padded coats worn by George IV., that pattern father of his people; but I see in the stumbling courtier and the half-asphyxiated wearer of the padded Petersham coat two beings who act under the demands of inexorable law.

Our great modern sage brooded in loneliness for some six years over the moving problem of dandyism, and we have the results of his meditations in “Sartor Resartus.” We have an uneasy sense that he may be making fun of us–in fact, we are almost sure that he is; for, if you look at his summary of the doctrines put forth in “Pelham,” you can hardly fail to detect a kind of sub-acid sneer. Instead of being impressed by the dainty musings of the learned Bulwer, that grim vulturine sage chose to curl his fierce lips and turn the whole thing to a laughing-stock. We must at once get to that summary of what the great Thomas calls “Dandiacal doctrine,” and then just thinkers may draw their own conclusions.

Articles of Faith.–1. Coats should have nothing of the triangle about them; at the same time wrinkles behind should be carefully avoided. 2. The collar is a very important point; it should be low behind, and slightly rolled. 3. No license of fashion can allow a man of delicate taste to adopt the posterial luxuriance of a Hottentot. 4. There is safety in a swallowtail. 5. The good sense of a gentleman is nowhere more finely developed than in his rings. 6. It is permitted to mankind, under certain restrictions, to wear white waistcoats. 7. The trousers must be exceedingly tight across the hips.

Then the sage observes, “All which propositions I for the present content myself with modestly, but peremptorily and irrevocably, denying.” Wicked Scotchman, rugged chip of the Hartz rock, your seven articles of the Whole Duty of the Dandy are evidently solemn fooling! You despised Lytton in your heart, and you thought that because you wore a ragged duffel coat in gay Hyde Park you had a right to despise the human ephemera who appeared in inspiriting splendour. I have often laughed at your solemn enumeration of childish maxims, but I am not quite sure that you were altogether right in sneering.

So far for the heroic vein. The Clothes Philosopher whose huge burst of literary horse-laughter was levelled at the dandy does not always confine himself to indirect scoffing; here is a plain statement–“First, touching dandies, let us consider with some scientific strictness what a dandy specially is. A dandy is a clothes-wearing man, a man whose trade office, and existence consist in the wearing of clothes. Every faculty of his soul, spirit, purse, and person is heroically consecrated to this one object–the wearing of clothes wisely and well; so that, as others dress to live, he lives to dress. The all-importance of clothes has sprung upon the intellect of the dandy without effort, like an instinct of genius; he is inspired with cloth–a poet of cloth. Like a generous creative enthusiast, he fearlessly makes his idea an action–shows himself in peculiar guise to mankind, walks forth a witness and living martyr to the eternal worth of clothes. We called him a poet; is not his body the (stuffed) parchment-skin whereon he writes, with cunning Huddersfield dyes, a sonnet to his mistress’s eyebrow?”

This is very witty and very trenchant in allusion, but I am obliged to say seriously that Carlyle by no means reached the root of the matter. The mere tailor’s dummy is deplorable, despicable, detestable, but a real man is none the worse if he gives way to the imperious human desire for adornment, and some of the men who have made permanent marks on the world’s face have been of the tribe whom our Scotchman satirised. I have known sensible young men turned into perfectly objectionable slovens by reading Carlyle; they thought they rendered a tribute to their master’s genius by making themselves look disreputable, and they found allies to applaud them. One youth of a poetic turn saw that the sage let his hair fall over his forehead in a tangled mass. Now this young man had very nice wavy hair, which naturally fell back in a sweep, but he devoted himself with an industry worthy of a much better cause to the task of making his hair fall in unkempt style over his brow. When he succeeded, he looked partly like a Shetland pony, partly like a street-arab; but his own impression was that his wild and ferocious appearance acted as a living rebuke to young men of weaker natures. If I had to express a blunt opinion, I should say he was a dreadful simpleton. Every man likes to be attractive in some way in the springtime and hey-day of life; when the blood flushes the veins gaily and the brain is sensitive to joy, then a man glories in looking well. Why blame him? The young officer likes to show himself with his troop in gay trappings; the athlete likes to wear garments that set off his frame to advantage; and it is good that this desire for distinction exists, else we should have but a grey and sorry world to live in. When the pulses beat quietly and life moves on the downward slope, a man relies on more sober attractions, and he ceases to care for that physical adornment which every young and healthy living creature on earth appreciates. So long as our young men are genuinely manly, good, strong, and courageous, I am not inclined to find fault with them, even if they happen to trip and fall into slight extravagances in the matter of costume. The creature who lives to dress I abhor, the sane and sound man who fulfils his life-duties gallantly and who is not above pleasing himself and others by means of reasonable adornments I like and even respect warmly. The philosophers may growl as they chose, but I contend that the sight of a superb young Englishman with his clean clear face, his springy limbs, his faultless habiliments is about as pleasant as anything can be to a discerning man. Moreover, it is by no means true that the dandy is necessarily incompetent when he comes to engage in the severe work of life. Our hero, our Nelson, kept his nautical dandyism until he was middle-aged. Who ever accused him of incompetence? Think of his going at Trafalgar into that pouring Inferno of lead and iron with all his decorations blazing on him! “In honour I won them and in honour I will wear them,” said this unconscionable dandy; and he did wear them until he had broken our terrible enemy’s power, saved London from sack, and worse, and yielded up his gallant soul to his Maker. Rather an impressive kind of dandy was that wizened little animal. “There’ll be wigs on the green, boys–the dandies are coming!” So Marlborough’s soldiers used to cry when the regiment of exquisites charged. At home the fierce Englishmen strutted around in their merry haunts and showed off their brave finery as though their one task in life were to wear gaudy garments gracefully; but, when the trumpet rang for the charge, the silken dandies showed that they had the stuff of men in them. The philosopher is a trifle too apt to say, “Anybody who does not choose to do as I like is, on the face of it, an inferior member of the human race.” I utterly refuse to have any such doctrine thrust down my throat. No sage would venture to declare that the handsome, gorgeous John Churchill was a fool or a failure. He beat England’s enemies, he made no blunder in his life, and he survived the most vile calumnies that ever assailed a struggling man; yet, if he was not a dandy, then I never saw or heard of one. All our fine fellows who stray with the British flag over the whole earth belong more or less distinctly to the dandy division. The velvet glove conceals the iron hand; the pleasing modulated voice can rise at short notice to tones of command; the apparent languor will on occasion start with electric suddenness into martial vigour. The lounging dandies who were in India when the red storm of the Mutiny burst from a clear sky suddenly became heroes who toiled, fought, lavished their strength and their blood, performed glorious prodigies of unselfish action, and snatched an empire from the fires of ruin.

Even if a young fellow cannot afford fine clothes, he can be neat, and I always welcome the slightest sign of fastidiousness, because it indicates self-respect. The awful beings who wear felt hats swung on one side, glaring ties, obtrusive checks, and carry vulgar little sticks, are so abhorrent that I should journey a dozen miles to escape meeting one of them. The cheap, nasty, gaudy garments are an index to a vast vulgarity of mind and soul; the cheap “swell” is a sham, and, as a sham, he is immoral and repulsive. But the modest youth need not copy the wild unrestraint of the gentleman known as “‘Arry”; he can contrive to make himself attractive without sullying his appearance by a trace of cheap and nasty adornment, and every attempt which he makes to look seemly and pleasing tends subtly to raise his own character. Once or twice I have said that you cannot really love any one wholly unless you can sometimes laugh at him. Now I cannot laugh at the invertebrate haunter of flashy bars and theatre-stalls, because he has not the lovable element in him which invites kindly laughter; but I do smile–not unadmiringly–at our dandy, and forgive him his little eccentricities because I know that what the Americans term the “hard pan” of his nature is sound. It is all very well for unhandsome philosophers in duffel to snarl at our butterfly youth. The dry dull person who devours blue-books and figures may mock at their fribbles; but persons who are tolerant take large and gentle views, and they indulge the dandy, and let him strut for his day unmolested, until the pressing hints given by the years cause him to modify his splendours and sink into unassuming sobriety of demeanour and raiment.

_June, 1888._


A very lengthy biography of Percy Bysshe Shelley appeared recently, and the biographer thought it his duty to give the most minute and peculiar details concerning the poet’s private life. In consequence, the book is a deplorable one in many respects, and no plain-minded person can read it without feeling sorry that our sweet singer should be presented to us in the guise of a weak-minded hypocrite. One critic wrote a great many pages in which he bemoans the dreary and sordid family-life of the man who wrote the “Ode to the West Wind.” I can hardly help sympathizing with the critic, for indeed Shelley’s proceedings rather test the patience of ordinary mortals, who do not think that poetic–or rather artistic–ability licenses its possessor to behave like a scoundrel. Shelley wrote the most lovely verse in praise of purity; but he tempted a poor child to marry him, deserted her, insulted her, and finally left her to drown herself when brutal neglect and injury had driven her crazy. Poor Harriet Westbrook! She did not behave very discreetly after her precious husband left her; but she was young, and thrown on a hard world without any strength but her own to protect her. While she was drifting into misery the airy poet was talking sentiment and ventilating his theories of the universe to Mary Godwin. Harriet was too “shallow” for the rhymester, and the penalty she paid for her shallowness was to be deceived, enticed into a rash marriage, brutally insulted, and left to fare as well as she might in a world that is bitterly cruel to helpless girls. The maker of rhymes goes off gaily to the Continent to enjoy himself heartily and write bewitching poems; Harriet stays at home and lives as best she can on her pittance until the time comes for her despairing plunge into the Serpentine. It is true that the poet invited the poor creature to come and stay with him; but what a piece of unparalleled insolence toward a wronged lady! The admirers of the rhymer say, “Ah, but Harriet’s society was not congenial to the poet.” Congenial! How many brave men make their bargain in youth and stand to it gallantly unto the end? A simple soul of this sort thinks to himself, “Well, I find that my wife and I are not in sympathy; but perhaps I may be in fault. At any rate, she has trusted her life to me, and I must try to make her days as happy as possible.” It seems that supreme poets are to be exempt from all laws of manliness and honour, and a simple woman who cannot babble to them about their ideals and so forth is to be pitched aside like a soiled glove! Honest men who cannot jingle words are content with faith and honour and rectitude, but the poet is to be applauded if he behaves like a base fellow on finding that some unhappy loving creature cannot talk in his particular fashion. We may all be very low Philistines if we are not prepared to accept rhymers for chartered villains; but some of us still have a glimmering of belief in the old standards of nobility and constancy. Can any one fancy Walter Scott cheating a miserable little girl of sixteen into marriage, and then leaving her, only to many a female philosopher? How that noble soul would have spurned the maundering sentimentalist who talked of truth and beauty, and music and moonlight and feeling, and behaved as a mean and bad man! Scott is more to my fancy than is Shelley.

Again, this poet, this exquisite weaver of verbal harmonies, is represented to us by his worshippers as having a passion for truth; whereas it happens that he was one of the most remarkable fibbers that ever lived. He would come home with amazing tales about assassins who had waylaid him, and try to give himself importance by such blustering inventions. “Imagination!” says the enthusiast; but among commonplace persons another word is used. “Your lordship knows what kleptomania is?” said a counsel who was defending a thief. Justice Byles replied, “Oh, yes! I come here to cure it.” Some critical justice might say the same of Shelley’s imagination. We are also told that Shelley’s excessive nobility of nature prevented him from agreeing with his commonplace father; and truly the poet was a bad and an ungrateful son. But, if a pretty verse-maker is privileged to be an undutiful son, what becomes of all our old notions? I think once more of the great Sir Walter, and I remember his unquestioning obedience to his parents. Then we may also remember Gibbon, who was quite as able and useful a man as Shelley. The historian loved a young French lady, but his father refused consent to their marriage, and Gibbon quietly obeyed and accepted his hard fate. The passion sanctified his whole life, and, as he says, made him more dear to himself; he settled his colossal work, and remained unmarried for life. He may have been foolish: but I prefer his behaviour to that of a man who treats his father with contumely and ingratitude even while he is living upon him. We hear much of Shelley’s unselfishness, but it does not appear that he ever denied himself the indulgence of a whim. The “Ode to the West Wind,” the “Ode Written in Dejection near Naples,” and “The Skylark” are unsurpassed and unsurpassable; but I can hardly pardon a man for cruelty and turpitude merely because he produces a few masterpieces of art.

A confident and serene critic attacks Mr. Arnold very severely because the latter writer thinks that poets should be amenable to fair and honest social laws. If I understand the critic aright, we must all be so thankful for beautiful literary works that we must be ready to let the producers of such works play any pranks they please under high heaven. They are the children of genius, and we are to spoil them; “Childe Harold” and “Manfred” are such wondrous productions that we need never think of the author’s orgies at Venice and the Abbey; “Epipsychidion” is lovely, so we should not think of poor Harriet Westbrook casting herself into the Serpentine. This is marvellous doctrine, and one hardly knows whither it might lead us if we carried it into thorough practice. Suppose that, in addition to indulging the spoiled children of genius, we were to approve all the proceedings of the clever children in any household. I fancy that the dwellers therein would have an unpleasant time. Noble charity towards human weakness is one thing; but blind adulation of clever and immoral men is another. We have great need to pity the poor souls who are the prey of their passions, but we need not worship them. A large and lofty charity will forgive the shortcomings of Robert Burns; we may even love that wild and misguided but essentially noble man. That is well; yet we must not put Burns forward and offer our adulation in such a way as to set him up for a model to young men. A man may read–

The pale moon is setting beyont the white wave, And Time is setting with me, oh!

The pathos will wring his heart; but he should not ask any youth to imitate the conduct of the great poet. Carlyle said very profoundly that new morality must be made before we can judge Mirabeau; but Carlyle never put his hero’s excesses in the foreground of his history, nor did he try to apologize for them; he only said, “Here is a man whose stormy passions overcame him and drove him down the steep to ruin! Think of him at his best, pardon him, and imitate, in your weak human fashion, the infinite Divine Mercy.” That is good; and it is certainly very different from the behaviour of writers who ask us to regard their heroes’ evil-doing as not only pardonable, but as being almost admirable.

This Shelley controversy raises several weighty issues. We forgive Burns because he again and again offers us examples of splendid self-sacrifice in the course of his broken life, and we are able to do so because the balance is greatly on the good side; but we do not refrain from saying, “In some respects Burns was a scamp.” The fact is that the claims of weak-headed adorers who worship men of genius would lead to endless mischief if they were allowed. Men who were skilled in poetry and music and art have often behaved like scoundrels; but their scoundrelism should be reprobated, and not excused. And my reason for this contention is very simple–once allow that a man of genius may override all salutary conventions, and the same conventions will be overridden by vain and foolish mediocrities. Take, for example, the conventions which guide us in the matter of dress. Most people grant that in many respects our modern dress is ugly in shape, ugly in material, and calculated to promote ill-health. The hard hat which makes the brow ache must affect the wearer’s health, and therefore, when we see the greatest living poet going about in a comfortable soft felt, we call him a sensible man. Carlyle used to hobble about with soft shoes and soft slouch-hat, and he was right But it is possible to be as comfortable as Lord Tennyson or Carlyle without flying very outrageously in the face of modern conventions; and many everyday folk contrive to keep their bodies at ease without trying any fool’s device. Charles Kingsley used to roam about in his guernsey–most comfortable of all dresses–when he was in the country; but when he visited the town he managed to dress easily and elegantly in the style of an average gentleman.

But some foolish creatures say in their hearts, “Men of genius wear strange clothing–Tennyson wears a vast Inverness cape, Carlyle wore a duffel jacket, Bismarck wears a flat white cap, Mortimer Collins wore a big Panama; artists in general like velvet and neckties of various gaudy hues. Let us adopt something startling in the way of costume, and we may be taken for men of genius.” Thus it happened that very lately London was invested by a set of simpletons of small ability in art and letters; they let their hair grow down their backs; they drove about in the guise of Venetian senators of the fifteenth century; they appeared in slashed doublets and slouched hats; and one of them astonished the public–and the cabmen–by marching down a fashionable thoroughfare on a broiling day with a fur ulster on his back and a huge flower in his hand. Observe my point–these social nuisances obtained for themselves a certain contemptible notoriety by caricaturing the ways of able men. I can forgive young Disraeli’s gaudy waistcoats and pink-lined coats, but I have no patience with his silly imitators. This is why I object to the praise which is bestowed on men of genius for qualities which do not deserve praise. The reckless literary admirer of Shelley or Byron goes into ecstasies and cries, “Perish the slave who would think of these great men’s vices!”–whereupon raw and conceited youngsters say, “Vice and eccentricity are signs of genius. We will be vicious and eccentric;” and then they go and convert themselves into public nuisances.

That vice and folly are not always associated with genius scarcely needs demonstrating. I allow that many great men have been sensual fools, but we can by no means allow that folly and sensuality are inseparable from greatness. My point is to prove that littleness must be conquered before a man can be great or good. Macaulay lived a life of perfect and exemplary purity; he was good in all the relations of life; those nearest to him loved him most dearly, and his days were passed in thinking of the happiness of others. Perhaps he was vain–certainly he had something to be vain of–but, though he had such masterful talent, he never thought himself licensed, and he wore the white flower of a blameless life until his happy spirit passed easily away. Wordsworth was a poet who will be placed on a level with Byron when an estimate of our century’s great men comes to be made. But Wordsworth lived his sweet and pious life without in any way offending against the moral law. We must have done with all talk about the privileges of irregular genius; a clever man must be made to see that, while he may be as independent as he likes, he cannot be left free to offend either the sense or the sensibility of his neighbours. The genius must learn to conduct himself in accordance with rational and seemly custom, or he must be brought to his senses. When a great man’s ways are merely innocently different from those of ordinary people, by all means let him alone. For instance, Leonardo da Vinci used often to buy caged wild-birds from their captors and let them go free. What a lovely and lovable action! He hurt no one; he restored the joy of life to innocent creatures, and no one could find fault with his sweet fancy. In the same way, when Samuel Johnson chose to stalk ponderously along the streets, stepping on the edges of the paving-stones, or even when he happened to roar a little loudly in conversation, who could censure him seriously? His heart was as a little child’s: his deeds were saintly; and we perhaps love him all the more for his droll little ways. But, when Shelley outrages decency and the healthy sense of manliness by his peculiar escapades, it is not easy to pardon him; the image of that drowned child rises before us, and we are apt to forget the pretty verses. Calm folk remember that many peculiarly wicked and selfish gentry have been able to make nice rhymes and paint charming pictures. The old poet Francois Villon, who has made men weep and sympathize for so many years, was a burglar, a murderer, and something baser, if possible, than either murderer or burglar. A more despicable being probably never existed; and yet he warbles with angelic sweetness, and his piercing sadness thrills us after the lapse of four centuries. Young men of unrestrained appetites and negative morality are often able to talk most charmingly, but the meanest and most unworthy persons whom I have met have been the wild and lofty-minded poets who perpetually express contempt of Philistines and cast the shaft of their scorn at what they call “dross.” So far as money goes, I fancy that the oratorical, and grandiose poet is often the most greedy of individuals; and, when, in his infinite conceit, he sets himself up above common decency and morality, I find it difficult to confine myself to moderate language. A man of genius may very well be chaste, modest, unselfish, and retiring. Byron was at his worst when he was producing the works which made him immortal; I prefer to think of him as he was when he cast his baser self away, and nobly took up the cause of Greece. When once his matchless common sense asserted itself, and he ceased to contemplate his own woes and his own wrongs, he became a far greater man than he had ever been before. I should be delighted to know that the cant about the lowering restrictions imposed by stupidity on genius had been silenced for ever. A man of transcendent ability must never forget that he is a member of a community, and that he has no more right wantonly to offend the feelings or prejudices of that community than he has to go about buffeting individual members with a club. As soon as he offends the common feelings of his fellows he must take the consequences; and hard-headed persons should turn a deaf ear when any eloquent and sentimental person chooses to whine about his hero’s wrongs.

_March, 1888._


Has any one ever yet considered the spiritual significance of slang? The dictionaries inform us that “slang is a conversational irregularity of a more or less vulgar type;” but that is not all. The prim definition refers merely to words, but I am rather more interested in considering the mental attitude which is indicated by the distortion and loose employment of words, and by the fresh coinages which seem to spring up every hour. I know of no age or nation that has been without its slang, and the study is amongst the most curious that a scholar can take up; but our own age, after all, must be reckoned as the palmy time of slang, for we have gone beyond mere words, and our vulgarizations of language are significant of degradation of soul. The Romans of the decadence had a hideous cant language which fairly matched the grossness of the people, and the Gauls, with their descendants, fairly matched the old conquerors. The frightful old Paris of Francois Villon, with all its bleak show of famine and death, had its constant changes of slang. “_Tousjours vieil synge est desplaisant,”_ says the burglar-poet, and he means that the old buffoon is tiresome; the young man with the newest phases of city slang at his tongue’s end is most acceptable in merry company. Very few people can read Villon’s longer poems at all, for they are almost entirely written in cant language, and the glossary must be in constant requisition. The rascal is a really great writer in his abominable way, but his dialect was that of the lowest resorts, and he lets us see that the copious _argot_ which now puzzles the stranger by its kaleidoscopic changes was just as vivid and changeable in the miserable days of the eleventh Louis. In the Paris of our day the slang varies from hour to hour; every one seems able to follow it, and no one knows who invents the constant new changes. The slang of the boarding-house in Balzac’s “Pere Goriot” is quite different from that of the novels done by the Goncourt brothers; and, though I have not yet mustered courage to finish one of M. Zola’s outrages, I can see that the vulgarisms which he has learned are not at all like any that have been used in bygone days. The corruption of Paris seems to breed verbal distortions rather freely, and the ordinary babble of the city workman is as hard to any Englishman as are the colloquialisms of Burns to the average Cockney.

In England our slang has undergone one transformation after another ever since the time of Chaucer. Shakespeare certainly gives us plenty; then we have the slang of the Great War, and then the unutterable horrors of the Restoration–even the highly proper Mr. Joseph Addison does not disdain to talk of an “old put,” and his wags are given to “smoking” strangers. The eighteenth century–the century of the gallows–gave us a whole crop of queer terms which were first used in thieves’ cellars, and gradually filtered from the racecourse and the cockpit till they took their place in the vulgar tongue. The sweet idyll of “Life in London” is a perfect garden of slang; Tom the Corinthian and Bob Logic lard their phrases with the idiom of the prize-ring, and the author obligingly italicises the knowing words so that one has no chance of missing them. But nowadays we have passed beyond all that, and every social clique, every school of art and literature, every trade–nay, almost every religion–has its peculiar slang; and the results as regards morals, manners, and even conduct in general are too remarkable to be passed over by any one who desires to understand the complex society of our era. The mere patter of thieves or racing-men–the terms are nearly synonymous–counts for nothing. Those who know the byways of life know that there are two kinds of dark language used by our nomad classes and by our human predatory animals. A London thief can talk a dialect which no outsider can possibly understand; for, by common agreement, arbitrary names are applied to every object which the robbers at any time handle, and to every sort of underhand business which they transact. But this gibberish is not exactly an outcome of any moral obliquity; it is employed as a means of securing safety. The gipsy cant is the remnant of a pure and ancient language; we all occasionally use terms taken from this remarkable tongue, and, when we speak of a “cad,” or “making a mull,” or “bosh,” or “shindy,” or “cadger” or “bamboozling,” or “mug,” or “duffer,” or “tool,” or “queer,” or “maunder,” or “loafer,” or “bung,” we are using pure gipsy. No distinct mental process, no process of corruption, is made manifest by the use of these terms; we simply have picked them up unconsciously, and we continue to utter them in the course of familiar conversation.

I am concerned with a degradation of language which is of an importance far beyond the trifling corruption caused by the introduction of terms from the gipsy’s caravan, the betting ring, or the thieves’ kitchen; one cannot help being made angry and sad by observing a tendency to belittle all things that are great, to mock all earnestness, to vulgarize all beauty. There is not a quarter where the subtle taint has not crept in, and under its malign influence poetry has all but expired, good conversation has utterly ceased to exist, art is no longer serious, and the intercourse of men is not straightforward. The Englishman will always be emotional in spite of the rigid reserve which he imposes upon himself; he is an enthusiast, and he does truly love earnestness, veracity, and healthy vigour. Take him away from a corrupt and petty society and give him free scope, and he at once lets fall the film of shams from off him like a cast garment, and comes out as a reality. Shut the same Englishman up in an artificial, frivolous, unreal society, and he at once becomes afraid of himself; he fears to exhibit enthusiasm about anything, and he hides his genuine nature behind a cloud of slang. He belittles everything he touches, he is afraid to utter a word from his inner heart, and his talk becomes a mere dropping shower of verbal counters which ring hollow. The superlative degree is abhorrent to him unless he can misuse it for comic purposes; and, like the ridiculous dummy lord in “Nicholas Nickleby,” he is quite capable of calling Shakespeare a “very clayver man.” I have heard of the attitude taken by two flowers of our society in presence of Joachim. Think of it! The unmatched violinist had achieved one of those triumphs which seem to permeate the innermost being of a worthy listener; the soul is entranced, and the magician takes us into a fair world where there is nothing but loveliness and exalted feeling. “Vewy good fellow, that fiddle fellow,” observed the British aristocrat. “Ya-as,” answered his faithful friend. Let any man who is given to speaking words with a view of presenting the truth begin to speak in our faint, super-refined, orthodox society; he will be looked at as if he were some queer object brought from a museum of curiosities and pulled out for exhibition. The shallowest and most impudent being that ever talked fooleries will assume superior airs and treat the man of intellect as an amusing but inferior creature. More than that–earnestness and reality are classed together under the head of “bad form,” the vital word grates on the emasculate brain of the society man, and he compensates himself for his inward consciousness of inferiority by assuming easy airs of insolence. A very brilliant man was once talking in a company which included several of the superfine division; he was witty, vivid, genial, full of knowledge and tact; but he had one dreadful habit–he always said what he thought. The brilliant man left the company, and one sham-languid person said to a sham-aristocratic person, “Who is that?” “Ah, he’s a species of over-educated savage!” Now the gentleman who propounded this pleasant piece of criticism was, according to trustworthy history, the meanest, most useless, and most despicable man of his set; yet he could venture to assume haughty airs towards a man whose shoes he was not fit to black, and he could assume those airs on the strength of his slangy impassivity–his “good form.” When we remember that this same fictitious indifference characterized the typical _grand seigneur_ of old France, and when we also remember that indifference may be rapidly transformed into insolence, and insolence into cruelty, we may well look grave at the symptoms which we can watch around us. The dreary _ennui_ of the heart, _ennui_ that revolts at truth, that is nauseated by earnestness, expresses itself in what we call slang, and slang is the sign of mental disease.

I have no fault to find with the broad, racy, slap-dash language of the American frontier, with its picturesque perversions and its droll exaggeration. The inspired person who chose to call a coffin an “eternity box” and whisky “blue ruin” was too innocent to sneer. The slang of Mark Twain’s Mr. Scott when he goes to make arrangements for the funeral of the lamented Buck Fanshawe is excruciatingly funny and totally inoffensive. Then the story of Jim Baker and the jays in “A Tramp Abroad” is told almost entirely in frontier slang, yet it is one of the most exquisite, tender, lovable pieces of work ever set down in our tongue. The grace and fun of the story, the odd effects produced by bad grammar, the gentle humour, all combine to make this decidedly slangy chapter a literary masterpiece. A miner or rancheman will talk to you for an hour and delight you, because his slang somehow fits his peculiar thought accurately; an English sailor will tell a story, and he will use one slang word in every three that come out of his mouth, yet he is delightful, for the simple reason that his distorted dialect enables him to express and not to suppress truth. But the poison that has crept through the minds of our finer folk paralyses their utterance so far as truth is concerned; and society may be fairly caricatured by a figure of the Father of Lies blinking through an immense eyeglass upon God’s universe.

Mr. George Meredith, with his usual magic insight, saw long ago whither our over-refined gentry were tending; and in one of his finest books he shows how a little dexterous slang may dwarf a noble deed. Nevil Beauchamp was under a tremendous fire with his men: he wanted to carry a wounded soldier out of action, but the soldier wished his adored officer to be saved. At the finish the two men arrived safely in their own lines amid the cheers of English, French, and even of the Russian enemy. This is how the votary of slang transfigures the episode; he wishes to make a little fun out of the hero, and he manages it by employing the tongue which it is good form to use. “A long-shanked trooper bearing the name of John Thomas Drew was crawling along under fire of the batteries. Out pops old Nevil, tries to get the man on his back. It won’t do. Nevil insists that it’s exactly one of the cases that ought to be, and they remain arguing about it like a pair of nine-pins while the Moscovites are at work with the bowls. Very well. Let me tell you my story. It’s perfectly true, I give you my word. So Nevil tries to horse Drew, and Drew proposes to horse Nevil, as at school. Then Drew offers a compromise. He would much rather have crawled on, you know, and allowed the shot to pass over his head; but he’s a Briton–old Nevil’s the same; but old Nevil’s peculiarity is that, as you are aware, he hates a compromise–won’t have it–_retro Sathanas!_–and Drew’s proposal to take his arm instead of being carried pick-a-or piggy-back–I am ignorant how Nevil spells it–disgusts old Nevil. Still it won’t do to stop where they are, like the cocoanut and pincushion of our friends the gipsies on the downs; so they take arms and commence the journey home, resembling the best friends on the evening of a holiday in our native clime–two steps to the right, half a dozen to the left, &c. They were knocked down by the wind of a ball near the battery. ‘Confound it!’ cries Nevil. ‘It’s because I consented to a compromise!'”

Most people know that this passage refers to Rear-Admiral Maxse, yet, well as we may know our man, we have him presented like an awkward, silly, comic puppet from a show. The professor of slang could degrade the conduct of the soldiers on board the _Birkenhead_; he could make the choruses from _Samson Agonistes_ seem like the Cockney puerilities of a comic news-sheet. It is this high-sniffing, supercilious slang that I attack, for I can see that it is the impudent language of a people to whom nothing is great, nothing beautiful, nothing pure, and nothing worthy of faith.

The slang of the “London season” is terrible and painful. A gloriously beautiful lady is a “rather good-looking woman–looks fairly well to-night;” a great entertainment is a “function;” a splendid ball is a “nice little dance;” high-bred, refined, and exclusive ladies and gentlemen are “smart people;” a tasteful dress is a “swagger frock;” a new craze is “the swagger thing to do.” Imbecile, useless, contemptible beings, male and female, use all these verbal monstrosities under the impression that they make themselves look distinguished. A microcephalous youth whose chief intellectual relaxation consists in sucking the head of a stick thinks that his conversational style is brilliant when he calls a man a “Johnnie,” a battle “a blooming slog,” his lodgings his “show,” a hero “a game sort of a chappie,” and so on. Girls catch the infection of slang; and thus, while sweet young ladies are leading beautiful lives at Girton and Newnham, their sisters of society are learning to use a language which is a frail copy of the robust language of the drinking-bar and the racecourse. Under this blight lofty thought perishes, noble language also dies away, real wit is cankered and withered into a mere ghastly crackle of wordplay, humour is regarded as the sign of the savage, and generous emotion, manly love, womanly tenderness are reckoned as the folly of people whom the smart young lady of the period would describe as “Jugginses.”

As to the slang of the juniors of the middle class, it is well-nigh past description and past bearing. The dog-collared, tight-coated, horsey youth learns all the cant phrases from cheap sporting prints, and he has an idea that to call a man a “bally bounder” is quite a ducal thing to do. His hideous cackle sounds in railway-carriages, or on breezy piers by the pure sea, or in suburban roads. From the time when he gabbles over his game of Nap in the train until his last villainous howl pollutes the night, he lives, moves, and has his being in slang; and he is incapable of understanding truth, beauty, grandeur, or refinement. He is apt to label any one who does not wear a dog-collar and stableman’s trousers as a cad; but, ah, what a cad he himself is! In what a vast profound gulf of vulgarity his being wallows; and his tongue, his slang, is enough to make the spirits of the pure and just return to earth and smite him! Better by far the cunning gipsy with his glib chatter, the rough tramp with his incoherent hoarseness! All who wish to save our grand language from deterioration, all who wish to retain some savour of sincerity and manhood among us, should set themselves resolutely to talk on all occasions, great or trivial, in simple, direct, refined English. There is no need to be bookish; there is much need for being natural and sincere–and nature and sincerity are assassinated by slang.

_September, 1888._


That enterprising savage who first domesticated the pig has a good deal to answer for. I do not say that the moral training of the pig was a distinct evil, for it undoubtedly saved many aged and respectable persons from serious inconvenience. The more practical members of the primitive tribes were wont to club the patriarchs whom they regarded as having lived long enough; and an exaggerated spirit of economy led the sons of the forest to eat their venerable relatives. The domestication of the noble animal which is the symbol of Irish prosperity caused a remarkable change in primitive public opinion. The gratified savage, conscious of possessing pigs, no longer cast the anxious eye of the epicure upon his grandmother. Thus a disagreeable habit and a disagreeable tradition were abolished, and one more step was made in the direction of universal kindliness. But, while we are in some measure grateful to the first pig-tamer, we do not feel quite so sure about the first person who inveigled the cat into captivity. Mark that I do not speak of the “slavery” of the cat–for who ever knew a cat to do anything against its will? If you whistle for a dog, he comes with servile gestures, and almost overdoes his obedience; but, if a cat has got into a comfortable place, you may whistle for that cat until you are spent, and it will go on regarding you with a lordly blink of independence. No; decidedly the cat is not a slave. Of course I must be logical, and therefore I allow, under reasonable reservations, that a boot-jack, used as a projectile, will make a cat stir; and I have known a large garden-syringe cause a most picturesque exodus in the case of some eloquent and thoughtful cats that were holding a conference in a garden at midnight. Still I must carefully point out the fact that the boot-jack will not induce the cat to travel in any given direction for your convenience; you throw the missile, and you must wait in suspense until you know whether your cat will vanish with a wild plunge through the roof of your conservatory or bound with unwonted smartness into your favourite William pear tree. The syringe is scarcely more trustworthy in its action than the boot-jack; the parting remarks of six drenched cats are spirited and harmonious; but the animals depart to different quarters of the universe, and your hydraulic measure, so far from bringing order out of chaos, merely evokes a wailing chaos out of comparative order. These discursive observations aim at showing that a cat has a haughty spirit of independence which centuries of partial submission to the suzerainty of man have not eradicated. I do not want to censure the ancient personage who made friends with the creature which is a thing of beauty and a joy for ever to many estimable people–I reserve my judgment. Some otherwise calm and moral men regard the cat in such a light that they would go and jump on the tomb of the primeval tamer; others would erect monuments to him; so perhaps it is better that we do not know whose memory we should revere–or anathematise–the processes are reversible, according to our dispositions. Man is the paragon of animals; the cat is the paradox of animals. You cannot reason about the creature; you can only make sure that it has every quality likely to secure success in the struggle for existence; and it is well to be careful how you state your opinions in promiscuous company, for the fanatic cat-lover is only a little less wildly ferocious than the fanatical cat-hater.

Cats and pigs appear to have been the first creatures to earn the protective affection of man; but, ah, what a cohort of brutes and birds have followed! The dog is an excellent, noble, lovable animal; but the pet-dog! Alas! I seem to hear one vast sigh of genuine anguish as this Essay travels round the earth from China to Peru. I can understand the artfulness of that wily savage who first persuaded the wolf-like animal of the Asiatic plains to help him in the chase; I understand the statesmanship of the Thibetan shepherd who first made a wolf turn traitor to the lupine race. But who first invented the pet-dog? This impassioned question I ask with thoughts that are a very great deal too deep for tears. Consider what the existence of the pet-dog means. You visit an estimable lady, and you are greeted, almost in the hall, by a poodle, who waltzes around your legs and makes an oration like an obstructionist when the Irish Estimates are before the House. You feel that you are pale, but you summon up all your reserves of base hypocrisy and remark, “Poor fellow! Poo-poo-poo-ole fellow!” You really mean, “I should like to tomahawk you, and scalp you afterwards!”–but this sentiment you ignobly retain in your own bosom. You lift one leg in an apologetic way, and poodle instantly dashes at you with all the vehemence of a charge of his compatriots the Cuirassiers. You shut your eyes and wait for the shedding of blood; but the torturer has all the malignant subtlety of an Apache Indian, and he tantalizes you. Presently the lady of the house appears, and, finding that you are beleaguered by an ubiquitous foe, she says sweetly, “Pray do not mind Moumou; his fun gets the better of him. Go away, naughty Moumou! Did Mr. Blank frighten him then–the darling?” Fun! A pleasing sort of fun! If the rescuer had seen that dog’s sanguinary rushes, she would not talk about fun. When you reach the drawing-room, there is a pug seated on an ottoman. He looks like a peculiarly truculent bull-dog that has been brought up on a lowering diet of gin-and-water, and you gain an exaggerated idea of his savagery as he uplifts his sooty muzzle. He barks with indignation, as if he thought you had come for his mistress’s will, and intended to cut him off with a Spratt’s biscuit. Of course he comes to smell round your ankles, and equally of course you put on a sickly smile, and take up an attitude as though you had sat down on the wrong side of a harrow. Your conversation is strained and feeble; you fail to demonstrate your affection; and, when a fussy King Charles comes up and fairly shrieks injurious remarks at you, the sense of humiliation and desertion is too severe, and you depart. Of course your hostess never attempts to control her satellites–they are quiet with her; and, even if one of them sampled the leg of a guest with a view to further business, she would be secretly pleased at such a proof of exclusive affection. We suppose that people must have something to be fond of; but why should any one be fond of a pug that is too unwieldy to move faster than a hedgehog? His face is, to say the least, not celestial–whatever his nose may be; he cannot catch a rat; he cannot swim; he cannot retrieve; he can do nothing, and his insolence to strangers eclipses the best performances of the finest and tallest Belgravian flunkeys. He is alive, and in his youth he may doubtless have been comic and engaging; but in his obese, waddling, ill-conditioned old age he is such an atrocity that one wishes a wandering Chinaman might pick him up and use him instantly after the sensible thrifty fashion of the great nation.

I love the St. Bernard; he is a noble creature, and his beautiful life-saving instinct is such that I have seen a huge member of the breed jump off a high bridge to save a puppy which he considered to be drowning. The St. Bernard will allow a little child to lead him and to smite him on the nose without his uttering so much as a whine by way of remonstrance. If another dog attacks him, he will not retaliate by biting–that would be undignified, and like a mere bull-dog; he lies down on his antagonist and waits a little; then that other dog gets up when it has recovered breath, and, after thinking the matter over, it concludes that it must have attacked a sort of hairy traction-engine. All these traits of the St. Bernard are very sweet and engaging, and I must, moreover, congratulate him on his scientific method of treating burglars; but I do object with all the pathos at my disposal to the St. Bernard considered as a pet. His master will bring him into rooms. Now, when he is bounding about on glaciers, or infringing the Licensing Act by giving travellers brandy without scrutinizing their return-tickets, or acting as pony for frozen little boys, or doing duty as special constable when burglars pay an evening call, he is admirable; but, when he enters a room, he has all the general effects of an earthquake without any picturesque accessories. His beauty is of course praised, and, like any other big lumbering male, he is flattered; his vast tail makes a sweep like the blade of a screw-propeller, and away goes a vase. A maid brings in tea, and the St. Bernard is pleased to approve the expression of Mary’s countenance; with one colossal spring he places his paws on her shoulders, and she has visions of immediate execution. Not being equal to the part of an early martyr, she observes, “Ow!” The St. Bernard regards this brief statement as a compliment, and, in an ecstasy of self-approval, he sends poor Mary staggering. Of course, when he is sent out, after causing this little excitement, he proceeds to eat anything that happens to be handy; and, as the cook does not wish to be eaten herself, she bears her bitter wrong in silence, only hoping that the two pounds of butter which the animal took as dessert may make him excessively unwell.

Now I ask any man and brother, or lady and sister, is a St. Bernard a legitimate pet in the proper sense of the word? As to the bull-dog, I say little. He at least is a good water-dog, and, when he is taught, he will retrieve birds through the heaviest sea as long as his master cares to shoot. But his appearance is sardonic, to say the least of it; he puts me in mind of a prize-fighter coming up for the tenth round when he has got matters all his own way. Happily he is not often kept as a pet; he is usually taken out by fast young men in riverside places, for his company is believed to give an air of dash and fashion to his master; and he waddles along apparently engaged in thinking out some scheme of reform for sporting circles in general. In a drawing-room he looks unnatural, and his imperturbable good humour fails to secure him favour. Dr. Jessopp tells a story of a clergyman’s wife who usually kept from fifteen to twenty brindled bull-dogs; but this lady was an original character, and her mode of using a red-hot iron bar when any of her pets had an argument was marked by punctuality and despatch.

The genuine collie is an ideal pet, but the cross-grained fleecy brutes bred for the show-bench are good neither for one thing nor another. The real, homely, ugly collie never snaps at friends; the mongrel brute with the cross of Gordon setter is not safe for an hour at a time. The real collie takes to sheep-driving by instinct; he will run three miles out and three miles in, and secure his master’s property accurately after very little teaching; the present champion of all the collies would run away from a sheep as if he had seen a troop of lions. In any case, even when a collie is a genuine affectionate pet, his place is not in the house. Let him have all the open air possible, and he will remain healthy, delightful in his manners, and preternaturally intelligent. The dog of the day is the fox-terrier, and a charming little fellow he is. Unfortunately it happens that most smart youths who possess fox-terriers have an exalted idea of their friends’ pugilistic powers, and hence the sweet little black, white, and tan beauty too often has life concerted into a battle and a march. Still no one who understands the fox-terrier can help respecting and admiring him. If I might hint a fault, it is that the fox-terrier lacks balance of character. The ejaculation “Cats!” causes him to behave in a way which is devoid of well-bred repose, and his conduct when in presence of rabbits is enough to make a meditative lurcher or retriever grieve. When a lurcher sees a rabbit in the daytime, he leers at him from his villainous oblique eye, and seems to say, “Shan’t follow you just now–may have the pleasure of looking you up this evening.” But the fox-terrier converts himself into a kind of hurricane in fur, and he gives tongue like a stump-orator in full cry. I may say that, when once the fox-terrier becomes a drawing-room pet, he loses all character–he might just as well be a pug at once. The Bedlington is perhaps the best of all terriers, but his disreputable aspect renders him rather out of place in a refined room. It is only when his deep sagacious eyes are seen that he looks attractive. He can run, swim, dive, catch rabbits, retrieve, or do anything. I grieve to say that he is a dog of an intriguing disposition; and no prudent lady would introduce him among dogs who have not learned mischief. The Bedlington seems to have the power of command, and he takes a fiendish delight in ordering young dogs to play pranks. He will whisper to a young collie, and in an instant you will see that collie chasing sheep or hens, or hunting among flower-beds, or baiting a cow, or something equally outrageous. Decidedly the Bedlington does not shine as a pet; and he should be kept only where there are plenty of things to be murdered daily–then he lives with placid joy, varied by sublime Berserker rage.

As to feathered pets, who has not suffered from parrots? You buy a grey one at the docks, and pay four pounds for him on account of his manifold accomplishments. When he is taken home and presented to a prim lady, he of course gives her samples of the language used by the sailors on the voyage home; and, even when his morals are cured and his language is purified by discipline, he is a terrible creature. The imp lurks in his eye, and his beak–his abominable beak–is like a malicious vice. But I allow that Polly, when well behaved, gives a charming appearance to a room, and her ways are very quaint. Lonely women have amused themselves for many and many a weary hour with the antics of the pretty tropical bird; and I shall say nothing against Poll for the world.

I started with the intention of merely skirting the subject; but I find I am involved in considerations deep as society–deep as the origins of the human race. In their proper place I like all pets, with the exception of snakes. The aggressive pug is bad enough, but the snake is a thousand times worse. When possible, all boys and girls should have pets, and they should be made to tend their charges without any adult help whatever. No indirect discipline has such a humanizing effect. The unregenerate boy deprived of pets will tie kettles to dogs’ tails, he will shoot at cats with catapults, he is merciless to small birds, and no one can convince him that frogs or young nestlings can feel. When he has pets, his mental horizon is widened and his kindlier instincts awaken. A boy or girl without a pet is maimed in sympathy.

Let me plead for discrimination in choice of pets. A gentleman–like the celebrated Mary–had a little lamb which he loved; but the little lamb developed into a very big and vicious ram which the owner could not find heart to kill. When this gentleman’s friends were holding sweet and improving converse with him, that sheep would draw up behind his master’s companion; then he would shoot out like a stone from a sling, and you would see a disconcerted guest propelled through space in a manner destructive alike to dignity and trousers. That sheep comes and butts at the front-door if he thinks his master is making too long a call; it is of no use to go and apologize for he will not take any denial, and, moreover, he will as soon ram you with his granite skull as look at you. Let the door be shut again, and the sheep seems to say, “If I don’t send a panel in, you may call me a low, common goat!” and then he butts away with an enthusiasm which arouses the street. A pet of that sort is quite embarrassing, and I must respectfully beg leave to draw the line at rams. A ram is too exciting a personage for the owner’s friends.

Every sign that tells of the growing love for dumb animals is grateful to my mind; for any one who has a true, kindly love for pets cannot be wholly bad. While I gently ridicule the people who keep useless brutes to annoy their neighbours, I would rather see even the hideous, useless pug kept to wheeze and snarl in his old age than see no pets at all. Good luck to all good folk who love animals, and may the reign of kindness spread!

_March, 1888._


When Lord Beaconsfield called the Turf a vast engine of national demoralization, he uttered a broad general truth; but, unfortunately, he did not go into particulars, and his vague grandiloquence has inspired a large number of ferocious imitators, who know as little about the essentials of the matter as Lord Beaconsfield did. These imitators abuse the wrong things and the wrong people; they mix up causes and effects; they are acrid where they should be tolerant; they know nothing about the real evils; and they do no good, for the simple reason that racing blackguards never read anything, while cultured gentlemen who happen to go racing smile quietly at the blundering of amateur moralists. Sir Wilfrid Lawson is a good man and a clever man; but to see the kind of display he makes when he gets up to talk about the Turf is very saddening. He can give you an accurate statement concerning the evils of drink, but as soon as he touches racing his innocence becomes woefully apparent, and the biggest scoundrel that ever entered the Ring can afford to make game of the harmless, well-meaning critic. The subject is an intricate one, and you cannot settle it right off by talking of “pampered nobles who pander to the worst vices of the multitude;” and you go equally wrong if you begin to shriek whenever that inevitable larcenous shopboy whimpers in the dock about the temptations of betting. We are poisoned by generalities; our reformers, who use press and platform to enlighten us, resemble a doctor who should stop by a patient’s bedside and deliver an oration on bad health in the abstract when he ought to be finding out his man’s particular ailment. Let us clear the ground a little bit, until we can see something definite. I am going to talk plainly about things that I know, and I want to put all sentimental rubbish out of the road.

In the first place, then, horse-racing, in itself, is neither degrading nor anything else that is bad; a race is a beautiful and exhilarating spectacle, and quiet men, who never bet, are taken out of themselves in a delightful fashion when the exquisite thoroughbreds thunder past. No sensible man supposes for a moment that owners and trainers have any deliberate intention of improving the breed of horses, but, nevertheless, these splendid tests of speed and endurance undoubtedly tend indirectly to produce a fine breed, and that is worth taking into account. The Survival of the Fittest is the law that governs racing studs; the thought and observation of clever men are constantly exercised with a view to preserving excellence and eliminating defects, so that, little by little, we have contrived, in the course of a century, to approach equine perfection. If a twelve-stone man were put up on Bendigo, that magnificent animal could give half a mile start to any Arab steed that ever was foaled, and run away from the Arab at the finish of a four-mile course. Weight need not be considered, for if the Eastern-bred horse only carried a postage-stamp the result would be much about the same. Minting could carry fourteen stone across a country, while, if we come to mere speed, there is really no knowing what horses like Ormonde, Energy, Prince Charlie, and others might have done had they been pressed. If the Emir of Hail were to bring over fifty of his best mares, the Newmarket trainers could pick out fifty fillies from among their second-rate animals, and the worst of the fillies could distance the best of the Arabs on any terms; while, if fifty heats were run off, over any courses from half a mile to four miles, the English horses would not lose one. The champion Arab of the world was matched against one of the worst thoroughbreds in training; the English “plater” carried about five stone more than the pride of the East, and won by a quarter of a mile.

Unconsciously, the breeders of racers have been evolving for us the swiftest, strongest, and most courageous horse known to the world, and we cannot afford to neglect that consideration, for people will not strive after perfection unless perfection brings profit.

Again, we hear occasionally a good deal of outcry about the great noblemen and gentlemen who keep up expensive studs, and the assumption is that racehorses and immorality go together; but what would the critics have the racing nobleman do? He is born into a strange artificial society; his fate is ready-made for him; he inherits luxuries