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  • 1892
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away good brain-power on calculations which have no sound basis whatever. Let us get to some facts, and let us all hope in the name of everything that is righteous and of good report that, when this article is read, some blind feather-brains may be induced to stop ere the inevitable final ruin descends upon them. What has happened in the doleful spring of this year? In 1887 a colt was brought out for the first time to run for the greatest of all Turf prizes. As usual, some bagatelle of a million or thereabouts had been betted on a horse which had won several races, and this animal was reckoned to be incapable of losing: but the untried animal shot out and galloped home an easy winner. So little was the successful brute distressed by his race that he began to caper out of sheer light-heartedness when he was led back to the enclosure, and he very soon cleared the place in his gambols–in fact, he could have run another race within half an hour after the first one. In the autumn this same winner strained a ligament; but in spite of the accident he ran for another important prize, and his lightning speed served him in good stead, for he came in second for the St. Leger. Well, in the spring this animal was entered in a handicap race, and the weight which he had to carry seemed so trifling that good judges thought he must romp over the course and win with ease. Hundreds of thousands of dolts rushed to wager their money on this chance, and the horse’s owner, who is anything but a fool, proceeded to back his own property lavishly. Now a certain number of the betting-rogues appeared to know something–if I may be pardoned for using their repulsive phraseology–and, so long as any one was willing to bet on the horse, they were ready to lay against him. Still the pigeons would not take warning by this ominous symptom; they had chances enough to keep clear of danger, but they flocked into the snare in their confused fashion. A grain of common sense would have made them ask, “Why do these shrewd, hard men seem so certain that our favourite must lose? Are they the kind of persons who risk thousands in hard cash unless they know particularly well what they are doing? They bet with an air of certainty, though some of them must be almost ruined if they have made a miscalculation; they defy even the owner of the animal, and they cheerfully give him the opportunity of putting down thousands if he wishes to do so. There must be some reason for this assurance which at first sight looks so very overweening. Better have a care!”

Thus would common sense have counselled the victims; but, alas, common sense is usually left out of the composition of the betting-man’s victim, and the flood of honest money rolled into the keeping of men who are certainly no more than indifferent honest. The day of the race came; the great gaping public dipped their hands in their pockets and accepted short odds about their precious certainty. When the flag fell for the start, the most wildly extravagant odds were offered against the favourite by the men who had been betting against him all along, for they saw very soon that they were safe. The poor brute on whose success so many thousands depended could not even gallop; he trailed on wearily for a little, without showing any sign of his old gallant fire and speed, and at last his hopeless rider stopped him. This story is in the mouths of all men; and now perhaps our simpletons maybe surprised to hear that the wretched animal which was the innocent cause of loss and misery was poisoned by a narcotic. In his efforts to move freely he strained himself, for the subtle drug deprived him of the power of using his limbs, and he could only sprawl and wrench his sinews. This is the fourth case of the kind which has recently occurred; and now clever judges have hit upon the cause which has disabled so many good horses, after the rascals of the Ring have succeeded in laying colossal amounts against them. Too many people know the dire effects of the morphia injections which are now so commonly used by weak individuals who fear pain and _ennui_; the same deadly drug is used to poison the horses. One touch with the sharp needle-point under the horse’s elbow, and the subtle, numbing poison speeds through the arteries and paralyzes the nerves; a beautiful creature that comes out full of fire and courage is converted in a very few minutes into a dull helpless mass that has no more conscious volition than a machine. The animal remains on its feet, but exertion is impossible, and neither rein, whip, nor spur serves to stimulate the cunning poisoner’s victim. About the facts there can now be no dispute: and this last wretched story supplies a copestone to a pile of similar tales which has been in course of building during the past three or four years. Enraged men have become outspoken, and things are now boldly printed and circulated which were mentioned only in whispers long ago. The days of clumsy poisoning have gone by; the prowling villain no longer obtains entrance to a stable for the purpose of battering a horse’s leg or driving a nail into the frog of the foot; the ancient crude devices are used no more, for science has become the handmaid of scoundrelism. When in 1811 a bad fellow squirted a solution of arsenic into a locked horse-trough, the evil trick was too clumsy to escape detection, and the cruel rogue was promptly caught and sent to the gallows; but we now have horse-poisoners who hold a secret similar to that which Palmer of Rugeley kept so long. I say “a secret,” though every skilled veterinary surgeon knows how to administer morphia, and knows its effects; but the new practitioners contrive to send in the deadly injection of the drug in spite of the ceaseless vigilance of trainers, stablemen, detectives, and all other guards. Now I ask any rational man who may have been tempted to bet, Is it worth while? Leave out the morality for the present, and tell us whether you think it business-like to risk your money when you know that neither a horse’s speed nor a trainer’s skill will avail you when once an acute crew of sharpers have settled that a race must not be won by a certain animal. The miserable creature whose case has served me for a text was tried at home during the second week of April; he carried four stone more than the very useful and fast horse which ran against him, and he merely amused himself by romping alongside of his opponent. Again, when he took a preliminary canter before the drug had time to act, he moved with great strength and with the freedom of a greyhound; yet within three minutes he was no more than an inert mass of flesh and bone. I say to the inexperienced gambler, “Draw your own conclusions, and if, after studying my words, you choose to tempt fortune any more, your fate–your evil fate–be on your own head, for nothing that I or any one else can do will save you.”

Not long before the melancholy and sordid case which I have described, and which is now gaining attention and rousing curiosity everywhere, a certain splendid steeplechaser was brought out to run for the most important of cross-country races. He was a famous horse, and, like our Derby winner, he bore the fortunes of a good many people. To the confusion and dismay of the men who made sure of his success, he was found to be stupified, and suffering from all the symptoms of morphia-poisoning! Not long ago an exquisite mare was brought out to run for the Liverpool Steeplechase, and, like the two I have already named, she was deemed to be absolutely certain of success. She came out merrily from her box; but soon she appeared to become dazed and silly; she could not move properly, and in trying to clear her first fence she staggered like a soddened drunkard and fell. The rascals had not become artistic poisoners at that date, and it was found that the poor mare had received the drug through a rather large puncture in her nostril.

The men whom I seek to cure are not worthy of much care; but they have dependants; and it is of the women and children that I think. Here is another pitfall into which the eager novice stumbles; and once more on grounds of expediency I ask the novice to consider his position. According to the decision of the peculiarly-constituted senate which rules racing affairs, I understand that, even if a horse starts in a race with health and training all in its favour, it by no means follows that he will win, or even run well. Cunning touches of the bridle, dexterous movements of body and limbs on the jockey’s part, subtle checks applied so as to cramp the animal’s stride–all these things tend to bring about surprising results. The horse that fails dismally in one race comes out soon afterwards and wins easily in more adverse circumstances. I grow tired of the unlucky catalogue of mean swindles, and I should be glad if I never heard of the Turf again; though, alas, I have little hope of that so long as betting-shops are open, and so long as miserable women have the power to address letters to me! I can only implore those who are not stricken with the gambler’s fever to come away from danger while yet there is time. A great nobleman like Lord Hartington or Lord Rodney may amuse himself by keeping racers; he gains relaxation by running out from London to see his pretty colts and fillies gallop, and he needs not to care very much whether they win or lose, for it is only the mild excitement and the change of scene that he wants. The wealthy people who go to Newmarket seek pleasant company as much as anything, and the loss of a few hundreds hardly counts in their year’s expenses. But the poor noodle who can hardly afford to pay his fare and hotel bill–why should he meddle with horses? If an animal is poisoned, the betting millionaire who backs it swallows his chagrin and thinks no more of the matter, but the wretched clerk who has risked a quarter’s salary cannot take matters so easily. Racing is the rich man’s diversion, and men of poor or moderate means cannot afford to think about it. The beautiful world is full of entertainment for those who search wisely; then why should any man vex heart and brain by meddling with a pursuit which gives him no pleasure, and which cannot by any chance bring him profit? I have no pity for a man who ascribes his ruin to betting, and I contemn those paltry weaklings whose cases I study and collect from the newspapers. Certainly there are enough of them! A man who bets wants to make money without work, and that on the face of it is a dishonourable aspiration; if he robs some one, I do not in the faintest degree try to palliate his crime–he is a responsible being, or ought to be one, and he has no excuse for pilfering. I should never aid any man who suffered through betting, and I would not advise any one else to do so. My appeal to the selfish instincts of the gudgeons who are hooked by the bookmakers is made only for the sake of the helpless creatures who suffer for the follies and blundering cupidity of the would-be sharper. I abhor the bookmakers, but I do not blame them alone; the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done, and they are doubtless tempted to roguery by the very simpletons who complain when they meet the reward of their folly. I am solely concerned with the innocents who fare hardly because of their selfish relatives’ reckless want of judgment, and for them, and them alone, my efforts are engaged.

_May, 1888_


The man of science derives suggestive knowledge from the study of mere putrefaction; he places an infusion of common hay-seeds or meat or fruit in his phials, and awaits events; presently a drop from one of the infusions is laid on the field of the microscope, and straightly the economy of a new and strange kingdom is seen by the observer. The microscopist takes any kind of garbage; he watches the bacteria and their mysterious development, and he reaches at last the most significant conclusions regarding the health and growth and diseases of the highest organizations. The student of human nature must also bestow his attention on disease of mind if he would attain to any real knowledge of the strange race to which he belongs. We develop, it is true, but there are modes and modes of development. I have often pointed out that a steady process of degeneration goes on side by side with the unfolding of new and healthy powers in the animal and vegetable kingdoms. The great South American lizards grow strong and splendid in hue amid the rank freedom of pampas or forest; but their poor relatives in the sunless caves of Transylvania grow milky white, flabby, and stone-blind. The creatures in the Kentucky caves are all aborted in some way or other; the birds in far-off islands lose the power of flight, and the shrivelled wings gradually sink under the skin, and show us only a tiny network of delicate bones when the creature is stripped to the skeleton. The condor soars magnificently in the thin air over the Andes–it can rise like a kite or drop like a thunderbolt: the weeka of New Zealand can hardly get out of the way of a stick aimed by an active man. The proud forest giant sucks up the pouring moisture from the great Brazilian river; the shoots that rise under the shadow of the monster tree are weakened and blighted by lack of light and free air. The same astounding work goes on among the beings who are so haughty in their assumption of the post of creation’s lords. The healthy child born of healthy parents grows up amid pure air and pure surroundings; his tissues are nourished by strength-giving food, he lives according to sane rules, and he becomes round-limbed, full-chested, and vigorous. The poor little victim who first sees the light in the Borough or Shadwell, or in the noxious alleys of our reeking industrial towns, receives foul air, mere atmospheric garbage, into his lungs; he becomes thin-blooded, his unwholesome pallor witnesses to his weakness of vitality, his muscles are atrophied, and even his hair is ragged, lustreless, ill-nurtured. In time he transmits his feebleness to his successors; and we have the creatures who stock our workhouses, hospitals, and our gaols–for moral degradation always accompanies radical degradation of the physique.

So, if we study the larger aspects of society, we find that in all grades we have large numbers of individuals who fall out of the line that is steadfastly progressing, and become stragglers, camp-followers–anything you will. Let a cool and an unsentimental observer bend himself to the study of degraded human types, and he will learn things that will sicken his heart if he is weak, and strengthen him in his resolve to work gallantly during his span of life if he is strong. Has any one ever fairly tried to face the problem of degradation? Has any one ever learned how it is that a distinct form of mental disease seems to lurk in all sorts of unexpected fastnesses, ready to breathe a numbing and poisonous vapour on those who are not fortified against the moral malaria? I am not without experience of the fell chances and changes of life; I venture therefore to use some portion of the knowledge that I have gathered in order to help to fortify the weak and make the strong wary.

If you wander on the roads in our country, you are almost sure to meet men whom you instinctively recognize as fallen beings. What their previous estate in life may have been you cannot tell, but you know that there has been a fall, and that you are looking on a moral wreck. The types are superficially varied, but an essential sameness, not always visible at first sight, connects them and enables you to class them as you would class the specimens in a gallery of the British Museum. As you walk along on a lonely highway, you meet a man who carries himself with a kind of jaunty air. His woeful boots show glimpses of bare feet, his clothes have a bright gloss in places, and they hang untidily; but his coat is buttoned with an attempt at smartness, and his ill-used hat is set on rakishly. You note that the man wears a moustache, and you learn in some mysterious way that he was once accustomed to be very trim and spruce in person. When he speaks, you find that you have a hint of a cultivated accent; he sounds the termination “ing” with precision, and you also notice that such words as “here,” “there,” “over,” are pronounced with a peculiar broad vowel sound at the end. He cannot look you boldly in the face, and it is hard to catch a sight of his eyes, but you may take for granted that the eyes are bad and shifty. The cheeks are probably a little pendulous, and the jaw hangs with a certain slackness. The whole visage looks as if it had been cast in a tolerably good mould and had somehow run out of shape a little. Your man is fluent and communicative; he mouths his sentences with a genteel roll in his voice, and he punctuates his talk with a stealthy, insincere laugh which hardly rises above the dignity of a snigger.

Now how does such a man come to be tramping aimlessly on a public road? He does not know that he is going to any place in particular; he is certainly not walking for the sake of health, though he needs health rather badly. Why is he in this plight? You do not need to wait long for a solution, if the book of human experience has been your study. That man is absolutely certain to begin bewailing his luck–it is always “luck.” Then he has a choice selection of abuse to bestow on large numbers of people who have trodden him down–he is always down-trodden; and he proves to you that, but for the ingratitude of A, the roguery of B, the jealousy of C, the undeserved credit obtained by the despicable D, he would be in “a far different position to-day, sir.” If he is an old officer–and a few gentlemen who once bore Her Majesty’s commission are now to be found on the roads, or in casual wards, or lounging about low skittle-alleys and bagatelle or billiard tables–he will allude to the gambling that went on in the regiment. “How could a youngster keep out of the swim?” All went well with him until he took to late hours and devilled bones; “then in the mornings we were all ready for a peg; and I should like to see the man who could get ready for parade after a hard night unless he had something in the shape of a reviver.” So he prates on. He curses the colonel, the commander-in-chief, and the Army organization in general; he gives leering reminiscences of garrison belles–reminiscences that make a pure minded man long to inflict some sort of chastisement on him; and thus, while he thinks he is impressing you with an overpowering sense of his bygone rank and fashion, he really unfolds the history of a feeble unworthy fellow who carries a strong tinge of rascality about him. He is always a victim, and he illustrates the unvarying truth of the maxim that a dupe is a rogue minus cleverness. The final crash which overwhelmed him was of course a horse-racing blunder. He would have recovered his winter’s losses had not a gang of thieves tampered with the favourite for the City and Suburban. “Do you think, sir, that Highflyer could not have given Stonemason three stone and a beating?” You modestly own your want of acquaintance with the powers of the famous quadrupeds, and the infatuated dupe goes on, “I saw how Bill Whipcord was riding; he eased at the corner, when I wouldn’t have taken two thousand for my bets, and you could see that he let Stonemason up. I had taken seven to four eight times in hundreds, and that broke me.” The ragged raffish man never thinks that he was quite ready to plunder other people; he grows inarticulate with rage only when he remembers how he was bitten instead of being the biter. His watery eyes slant as you near a roadside inn, and he is certain to issue an invitation. Then you see what really brought him low. It may be a lovely warm day, when the acrid reek of alcohol is more than usually abhorrent; but he must take something strong that will presently inflame the flabby bulge of his cheeks and set his evil eyes watering more freely than ever. Gin is his favourite refreshment, because it is cheap, and produces stupefaction more rapidly than any other liquid. Very probably he will mix gin and ale in one horrid draught–and in that case you know that he is very far gone indeed on the downward road. If he can possibly coax the change out of you when the waiter puts it down he will do so, for he cannot resist the gleam of the coins, and he will improvise the most courageous lies with an ease which inspires awe. He thanks you for nothing; he hovers between cringing familiarity and patronage; and, when you gladly part with him, he probably solaces himself by muttering curses on your meanness or your insolence. Once more–how does the faded military person come to be on the roads? We shall come to that presently.

Observe the temporary lord of the tap-room when you halt on the dusty roads and search for tea or lunch. He is in black, and a soiled handkerchief is wound round his throat like an eel. He wears a soft felt hat which has evidently done duty as a night-cap many times, and he tries to bear himself as though the linen beneath his pinned-up coat were of priceless quality. You know well enough that he has no shirt on, for he would sell one within half an hour if any Samaritan fitted him out. His boots are carefully tucked away under the bench, and his sharp knees seem likely to start through their greasy casing. As soon as he sees you he determines to create an impression, and he at once draws you into the conversation. “Now, sir, you and I are scholars–I am an old Balliol man myself–and I was explaining to these good lads the meaning of the phrase which had puzzled them, as it has puzzled many more. _Casus belli_, sir–that is what we find in this local rag of a journal; and _status quo ante bellum_. Now, sir, these ignorant souls couldn’t tell what was meant, so I have been enlightening them. I relax my mind in this way, though you would hardly think it the proper place for a Balliol man, while that overfed brute up at the Hall can drive out with a pair of two-hundred-guinea bays, sir. Fancy a gentleman and a scholar being in this company, sir! Now Jones, the landlord there, is a good man in his way–oh, no thanks Jones; it is not a compliment!–and I’d like to see the man who dared say that I’m not speaking the truth, for I used to put my hands up like a good one when we were boys at the old ‘varsity, sir. Jones, this gentleman would like something; and I don’t mind taking a double dose of Glenlivat with a brother-scholar and a gentleman like myself.” So the mawkish creature maunders on until one’s gorge rises; but the stolid carters, the idle labourers, the shoemaker from the shop round the corner, admire his eloquence, and enjoy the luxury of pitying a parson and an aristocrat. How very numerous are the representatives of this type, and how unspeakably odious they are! This foul weed in dirty clothing assumes the pose of a bishop; he swears at the landlord, he patronizes the shoemaker–who is his superior in all ways–he airs the feeble remnants of his Latin grammar and his stock quotations. He will curse you if you refuse him drink, and he will describe you as an impostor or a cad; while, if you are weak enough to gratify his taste for spirits, he will glower at you over his glass, and sicken you with fulsome flattery or clumsy attempts at festive wit. Enough of this ugly creature, whose baseness insults the light of God’s day! We know how he will end; we know how he has been a fraud throughout his evil life, and we can hardly spare even pity for him. It is well if the fellow has no lady-wife in some remote quarter–wife whom he can rob or beg from, or even thrash, when he searches her out after one of his rambles from casual ward to casual ward.

In the wastes of the great cities the army of the degraded swarm. Here is the loose-lipped rakish wit, who tells stories in the common lodging-house kitchen. He has a certain brilliancy about him which lasts until the glassy gleam comes over his eyes, and then he becomes merely blasphemous and offensive. He might be an influential writer or politician, but he never gets beyond spouting in a pot-house debating club, and even that chance of distinction does not come unless he has written an unusually successful begging-letter. Here too is the broken professional man. His horrid face is pustuled, his hands are like unclean dough, he is like a creature falling to pieces; yet he can show you pretty specimens of handwriting, and, if you will steady him by giving him a drink of ale, he will write your name on the edge of a newspaper in copper-plate characters or perform some analogous feat. All the degraded like to show off the remains of their accomplishments, and you may hear some odious being warbling. “_Ah, che la morte!_” with quite the air of a leading tenor. In the dreadful purlieus lurk the poor submissive ne’er-do-well, the clerk who has been imprisoned for embezzlement, the City merchant’s son who is reduced to being the tout of a low bookmaker, the preacher who began as a youthful phenomenon and ended by embezzling the Christmas dinner fund, the forlorn brute whose wife and children have fled from him, and who spends his time between the police-cells and the resorts of the vilest. If you could know the names of the tramps who yell and make merry over their supper in the murky kitchen, you would find that people of high consideration would be touched very painfully could they be reminded of the existence of certain relatives. Degraded, degraded are they all! And why?

The answer is brief, and I have left it until last, for no particular elaboration is needed. From most painful study I have come to the conclusion that nearly all of our degraded men come to ruin through idleness in the first instance; drink, gambling, and other forms of debauch follow, but idleness is the root-evil. The man who begins by saying, “It’s a poor heart that never rejoices,” or who refers to the danger of making Jack a dull boy, is on a bad road. Who ever heard of a worker–a real toiler–becoming degraded? Worn he may be, and perhaps dull to the influence of beauty and refinement; but there is always some nobleness about him. The man who gives way to idleness at once prepares his mind as a soil for evil seeds; the universe grows tiresome to him; the life-weariness of the old Romans attacks him in an ignoble form, and he begins to look about for distractions. Then his idleness, from being perhaps merely amusing, becomes offensive and suspicious; drink takes hold upon him; his moral sense perishes; only the husks of his refinement remain; and by and by you have the slouching wanderer who is good for nothing on earth. He is despised of men, and, were it not that we know the inexhaustible bounty of the Everlasting Pity, we might almost think that he was forgotten of Heaven. Stand against idleness. Anything that age, aches, penury, hard trial may inflict on the soul is trifling. Idleness is the great evil which leads to all others. Therefore work while it is day.

_September, 1888._


I firmly believe in the sound manhood of the English people, and I know that in any great emergency they would rise and prove themselves true and gallant of soul; but we happen for the time to have amongst us a very large class of idlers, and these idlers are steadily introducing habits and customs which no wise observer can regard without solemn apprehensions. The simple Southampton poet has told us what “idle hands” are apt to do under certain guidance, and his saying–truism as it appears–should be studied with more regard to its vital meaning. The idlers crave for novelties; they seek for new forms of distraction; they seem really to live only when they are in the midst of delirious excitement. Unhappily their feverish unrest is apt to communicate itself to men who are not naturally idlers, and thus their influence moves outwards like some vast hurtful wind blown from a pestilent region. During the past few years the idlers have invented a form of amusement which for sheer atrocity and wanton cruelty is unparalleled in the history of England. I shall say some words about this remarkable amusement, and I trust that gentle women who have in them the heart of compassion, mothers who have sons to be ruined, fathers who have purses to bleed, may aid in putting down an evil that gathers strength every day.

Most of my readers know what the “sport” of coursing is; but, for the benefit of strictly town-bred folk, I may roughly indicate the nature of the pursuit as it was practised in bygone times. A brace of greyhounds were placed together in the slips–that is, in collars which fly open when the man who holds the dogs releases a knot; and then a line of men moved slowly over the fields. When a hare rose and ran for her life, the slipper allowed her a fair start, and then he released the dogs. The mode of reckoning the merits of the hounds is perhaps a little too complicated for the understanding of non-“sporting” people; but I may broadly put it that the dog which gives the hare most trouble, the dog that causes her to dodge and turn the oftenest in order to save her life, is reckoned the winner. Thus the greyhound which reaches the hare first receives two points; poor pussy then makes an agonized rush to right or left, and, if the second dog succeeds in passing his opponent and turning the hare again, he receives a point, and so on. The old-fashioned open-air sport was cruel enough, for it often happened that the hare ran for two or three miles with her ferocious pursuers hard on her track, and every muscle of her body was strained with poignant agony; but there is this to be said–the men had healthy, matchless exercise on breezy plains and joyous uplands, they tramped all day until their limbs were thoroughly exercised, and they earned sound repose by their wholesome exertions. Moreover, the element of fair-play enters into coursing when pursued in the open spaces. Pussy knows every foot of the ground; nightly she steals gently to the fields where her succulent food is found, and in the morning she steals back again to her tiny nest, or form, amid the soft grass. All day she lies chewing the cud in her fashion, and moving her delicate ears hither and thither, lest fox or stoat or dog should come upon her unawares; and at nightfall she steals away once more. Every run, every tuft of grass, every rising of the ground is known to her; and, when at last the tramp of the approaching beaters rouses her, she rushes away with a distinct advantage over the dogs. She knows exactly whither to go; the other animals do not, and usually, on open ground, the quarry escapes. I do not think that any greyhound living could catch one of the hares now left on the Suffolk marshes; and there are many on the great Wiltshire plains which are quite capable of rushing at top speed for three miles and more. The chase in the open is cruel–there is no denying it–for poor puss dies many deaths ere she bids her enemies good-bye; but still she has a chance for life, and thus the sport, inhuman as it is, has a praiseworthy element of fairness in it.

But the betting-man, the foul product of civilization’s depravity, cast his eye on the old-fashioned sport and invaded the field. He found the process of walking up the game not much to his taste, for he cares only to exercise his leathern lungs; moreover, the courses were few and far between and the chances of making wagers were scanty. He set himself to meditate, and it struck him that, if a good big collection of hares could be got together, it would be possible to turn them out one by one, so that betting might go on as fast and as merrily on the coursing-ground as at the roulette-table. Thus arose a “sport” which is educating many, many thousands in callousness and brutality. Here and there over England are dotted great enclosed parks, and the visitor is shown wide and mazy coverts where hares swarm. Plenty of food is strewn over the grass, and in the wildest of winters pussy has nothing to fear–until the date of her execution arrives. The animals are not natives of those enclosures; they are netted in droves on the Wiltshire plains or on the Lancashire moors, and packed off like poultry to the coursing-ground. There their life is calm for a long time; no poachers or lurchers or vermin molest them; stillness is maintained, and the hares live in peace. But one day there comes a roaring crowd to the park, and, though pussy does not know it, her good days are passed. Look at the mob that surges and bellows on the stands and in the enclosures. They are well dressed and comfortable, but a more unpleasant gang could not be seen. Try to distinguish a single face that shows kindness or goodness–you fail; this rank roaring crowd is made up of betting-men and dupes, and it is hard to say which are the worse. There is no horse-racing in the winter, and so these people have come out to see a succession of innocent creatures die, and to bet on the event. The slow coursing of the old style would not do for the fiery betting-man; but we shall have fun fast and furious presently. The assembly seems frantic; flashy men with eccentric coats and gaudy hats of various patterns stand about and bellow their offers to bet; feverish dupes move hither and thither, waiting for chances; the rustle of notes, the chink of money, sound here and there, and the immense clamour swells and swells, till a stunning roar dulls the senses, and to an imaginative gazer it seems as though a horde of fiends had been let loose to make day hideous. A broad smooth stretch of grass lies opposite to the stands, and at one end of this half-mile stretch there runs a barrier, the bottom of which is fringed with straw and furze. If you examined that barrier, you would find that it really opens into a wide dense copse, and that a hare or rabbit which whisks under it is safe on the far side. At the other side of this field a long fenced lane opens, and seems to be closed at the blind end by a wide door. To the right of the blind lane is a tiny hut surrounded by bushes, and by the side of the hut a few scattered men loaf in a purposeless way. Presently a red-coated man canters across the smooth green, and then the diabolical tumult of the stands reaches ear-splitting intensity. Your betting-man is cool enough in reality; but he likes to simulate mad eagerness until it appears as though the swollen veins of face or throat would burst. And what is going on at the closed end of that blind lane? On the strip of turf around the wide field the demure trainers lead their melancholy-looking dogs. Each greyhound is swathed in warm clothing, but they all look wretched; and, as they pick their way along with dainty steps, no one would guess that the sight of a certain poor little animal would convert each doleful hound into an incarnate fury. Two dogs are led across to the little hut–the bellow of the Ring sounds hoarsely on–and the chosen pair of dogs disappear behind the shrubs. And now what is passing on the farther side of that door which closes the lane? A hare is comfortably nestling under a clump of furze when a soft step sounds near her. A man! Pussy would like to move to right or left; but, lo, here are other men! Decidedly she must move forward. Oh, joy! A swinging door rises softly, and shows her a delightful long lane that seems to open on to a pleasant open country. She hops gaily onward, and then a little uneasiness overtakes her; she looks back, but that treacherous door has swung down again, and there is only one road for her now. Softly she steals onward to the mouth of the lane, and then she finds a slanting line of men who wave their arms at her when she tries to shoot aside. A loud roar bursts from the human animals on the stand, and then a hush falls. Now or never, pussy! The far-off barrier must be gained, or all is over. The hare lowers her ears and dashes off; then from the hut comes a staggering man, who hangs back with all his strength as a pair of ferocious dogs writhe and strain in the leash; the hounds rise on their haunches, and paw wildly with their fore-feet, and they struggle forward until puss has gone a fair distance, while the slipper encourages them with low guttural sounds. Crack! The tense collars fly, and the arrowy rush of the snaky dogs follows. Puss flicks her ears–she hears a thud, thud, wallop, wallop; and she knows the supreme moment has come. Her sinews tighten like bowstrings, and she darts on with the lightning speed of despair. The grim pursuers near her; she almost feels the breath of the foremost. Twitch!–and with a quick convulsive effort she sheers aside, and her enemy sprawls on. But the second dog is ready to meet her, and she must swirl round again. The two serpentine savages gather themselves together and launch out in wild efforts to reach her; they are upon her–she must dart round again, and does so under the very feet of the baffled dogs. Her eyes are starting with overmastering terror; again and again she sweeps from right to left, and again and again the staunch hounds dash along in her track. Pussy fails fast; one dog reaches her, and she shrieks as she feels his ferocious jaws touch her; but he snatches only a mouthful of fur, and there is another respite. Then at last one of the pursuers balances himself carefully, his wicked head is raised, he strikes, and the long tremulous shriek of despair is drowned in the hoarse crash of cheering from the mob. Brave sport, my masters! Gallant Britons ye are! Ah, how I should like to let one of you career over that field of death with a brace of business-like boarhounds behind you!

There is no slackening of the fun, for the betting-men must be kept busy. Men grow frantic with excitement; young fools who should be at their business risk their money heedlessly, and generally go wrong. If the hares could only know, they might derive some consolation from the certainty that, if they are going to death, scores of their gallant sporting persecutors are going to ruin. Time after time, in monotonous succession, the same thing goes on through the day–the agonized hares twirl and strain; the fierce dogs employ their superb speed and strength; the unmanly gang of men howl like beasts of prey; and the sweet sun looks upon all!

Women, what do you think of that for Englishmen’s pastime? Recollect that the mania for this form of excitement is growing more intense daily; as much as one hundred thousand pounds may depend on a single course–for not only the mob in the stands are betting, but thousands are awaiting each result that is flashed off over the wires; and, although you may be far away in remote country towns, your sons, your husbands, your brothers, may be watching the clicking machine that records the results in club and hotel–they may be risking their substance in a lottery which is at once childish and cruel.

There is not one word to be said in favour of this vile game. The old-fashioned courser at least got exercise and air; but the modern betting-man wants neither; he wants only to make wagers and add to his pile of money. For him the coursing meetings cannot come too often; the swarming gudgeons flock to his net; he arranges the odds almost as he chooses–with the help of his friends; and simpletons who do not know a greyhound from a deerhound bet wildly–not on dogs, but on names. The “sport” has all the uncertainty of roulette, and it is villainously cruel into the bargain. Amid all those thousands you never hear one word of pity for the stricken little creature that is driven out, as I have said, for execution; they watch her agonies, and calculate the chances of pouching their sovereigns. That is all.

Here then is another vast engine of demoralization set going, just as if the Turf were not a blight of sufficient intensity! A young man ventures into one of those cruel rings, buys a card, and resolves to risk pounds or shillings. If he is unfortunate, he may be saved; but, curiously enough, it often happens that a greenhorn who does not know one greyhound from another blunders into a series of winning bets. If he wins, he is lost, for the fever seizes him; he does not know what odds are against him, and he goes on from deep to deep of failure and disaster. Well for him if he escapes entire ruin! I have drawn attention to this new evil because I have peculiar opportunities of studying the inner life of our society, and I find that the gambling epidemic is spreading among the middle-classes. To my mind these coursing massacres should be made every whit as illegal as dog-fighting or bull-baiting, for I can assure our legislators that the temptation offered by the chances of rapid gambling is eating like a corrosive poison into the young generation. Surely Englishmen, even if they want to bet, need not invent a medium for betting which combines every description of noxious cruelty! I ask the aid of women. Let them set their faces against tin’s horrid sport, and it will soon be known no more.

If the silly bettors themselves could only understand their own position, they might be rescued. Let it be distinctly understood that the bookmaker cannot lose, no matter how events may go. On the other hand, the man who makes wagers on what he is pleased to term his “fancies” has everything against him. The chances of his choosing a winner in the odious new sport are hardly to be mathematically stated, and it may be mathematically proved that he must lose. Then, apart from the money loss, what an utterly ignoble and unholy pursuit this trapped-hare coursing is for a manly man! Surely the heart of compassion in any one not wholly brutalized should be moved at the thought of those cabined, cribbed, confined little creatures that yield up their innocent lives amid the remorseless cries of a callous multitude. Poor innocents! Is it not possible to gamble without making God’s creatures undergo torture? If a man were to turn a cat into a close yard and set dogs upon it, he would be imprisoned, and his name would be held up to scorn. What is the difference between cat and hare?

_March, 1887._


“What things are done in thy name!” The lady who spoke thus of Liberty had lived a high and pure life; all good souls were attracted to her; and it seems strange that so sweet and pure and beautiful a creature could have grown up in the vile France of the days before the Revolution. She kept up the traditions of gentle and seemly courtesy even at times when Sardanapalus Danton was perforce admitted to her _salon_; and in an age of suspicion and vile scandal she kept a stainless name, for even the most degraded pamphleteer in Paris dared do no more than hint a fault and hesitate dislike. But this lady went to the scaffold with many and many of the young, the beautiful, the brave; and her sombre satire, “What things are done in thy name!” was remembered long afterwards when the despots and the invading alien had in turn placed their feet on the neck of devoted France. “What things are done in thy name!” Yes; and we, in this modern world, might vary the saying a little and exclaim, “What things are said in thy name!”–for we have indeed arrived at the era of liberty, and the gospel of Rousseau is being preached with fantastic variations by people who think that any speech which apes the forms of logic is reasonable and that any desire which is expressed in a sufficiently loud howl should be at once gratified. We pride ourselves on our knowledge and our reasoning power; but to judicious observers it often seems that those who talk loudest have a very thin vein of knowledge, and no reasoning faculty that is not imitative.

By all means let us have “freedom,” but let us also consider our terms, and fix the meaning of the things that we say. Perhaps I should write “the things that we think we say,” because so many of those who make themselves heard do not weigh words at all, and they imagine themselves to be uttering cogent truths when they are really giving us the babble of Bedlam. If ladies and gentlemen who rant about freedom would try to emancipate themselves from the dominion of meaningless words, we should all fare better; but we find a large number of public personages using perfectly grammatical series of phrases without dreaming for a moment that their grave sentences are pure gibberish. A few simple questions addressed in the Socratic manner to certain lights of thought might do much good. For instance, we might say, “Do you ever speak of being free from good health, or free from a good character, or free from prosperity?” I fancy not; and yet copiously talkative individuals employ terms quite as hazy and silly as those which I have indicated.

We have gone very far in the direction of scientific discovery, and we have a large number of facts at our disposal; but some of us have quite forgotten that true liberty comes only from submitting to wise guidance. Old Sandy Mackay, in Alton Locke, declared that he would never bow down to a bit of brains: and this highly-independent attitude is copied by persons who fail to see that bowing to the bit of brains is the only mode of securing genuine freedom. If our daring logicians would grant that every man should have liberty to lead his life as he chooses, so long as he hurts neither himself nor any other individual nor the State, then one might follow their argument; but a plain homespun proposal like that of mine is not enough for your advanced thinker. In England he says, “Let us have deliverance from all restrictions;” in Russia he says, “Anarchy is the only cure for existing evils.” For centuries past the earth has been deluged with blood and the children of men have been scourged by miseries unspeakable, merely because powerful men and powerful bodies of men have not chosen to learn the meaning of the word “liberty.” “How miserable you make the world for one another, O feeble race of men!” So said our own melancholy English cynic; and he had singularly good reason for his plaint. Rapid generalization is nearly always mischievous; unless we learn to form correct and swift judgments on every faculty of life as it comes before us, we merely stumble from error to error. No cut-and-dried maxim ever yet was fit to guide men through their mysterious existence; the formalist always ends by becoming a bungler, and the most highly-developed man, if he is content to be no more than a thinking-machine, is harmful to himself and harmful to the community which has the ill-luck to harbour him. If we take cases from history, we ought to find it easy enough to distinguish between the men who sought liberty wisely and those who were restive and turbulent. A wise man or a wise nation knows the kind of restraint which is good; the fool, with his feather-brained theories, never knows what is good for him–he mistakes eternal justice for tyranny, he rebels against facts that are too solid for him–and we know what kind of an end he meets. Some peculiarly daring personages carry their spirit of resistance beyond the bounds of our poor little earth. Only lately many of us read with a shock of surprise the passionate asseveration of a gifted woman who declared that it was a monstrous wrong and wickedness that ever she had been born. Job said much the same thing in his delirium; but our great novelist put forth her complaint as the net outcome of all her thought and culture. We only need to open an ordinary newspaper to find that the famous writer’s folly is shared by many weaker souls; and the effect on the mind of a shrewd and contented man is so startling that it resembles the emotion roused by grotesque wit. The whole story of the ages tells us dismally what happens when unwise people choose to claim the measure of liberty which they think good; but somehow, though knowledge has come, wisdom lingers, and the grim old follies rear themselves rankly among us in the age of reason.

When we remember the Swiss mountaineers who took their deaths joyously in defence of their homes, when we read of the devoted brave one who received the sheaf of spears in his breast and broke the oppressor’s array, none of us can think of mere vulgar rebellion. The Swiss were fighting to free themselves from wrongs untold; and we should hold them less than men if they had tamely submitted to be caged like poultry. Again, we feel a thrill when we read the epitaph which says, “Gladly we would have rested had we won freedom. We have lost, and very gladly rest.” The very air of bravery, of steady self-abnegation seems to exhale from the sombre, triumphant words. Russia is the chosen home of tyranny now, but her day of brightness will come again. It is safe to prophesy so much, for I remember what happened at one time of supreme peril. Prussia and Austria and Italy lay crushed and bleeding under the awful power of Napoleon, and it seemed as though Russia must be wiped out from the list of nations when the great army of invaders poured in relentless multitudes over the stricken land. The conqueror appeared to have the very forces of nature in his favour, and his hosts moved on without a check and without a failure of organization. So perfectly had he planned the minutest details that, although his stations were scattered from the Beresina to the Seine, not so much as a letter was lost during the onward movement. How could the doomed country resist? So thought all Europe. But the splendid old Russian, the immortal Koutousoff, had felt the pulse of his nation, and he was confident, while all the other chiefs felt as though the earth were rocking under them. The time for the extinction of Russia had not come; a throb of fierce emotion passed over the country; the people rose like one man, and the despot found himself held in check by rude masses of men for whom death had scant terrors. Koutousoff had a mighty people to support him, and he would have swept back the horde of spoilers, even if the winter had not come to his aid. Russia was but a dark country then, as now, but the conduct of the myriads who dared to die gave a bright presage for the future. Who can blame the multitudes of Muscovites who sealed their wild protest with their blood? The common soldiers were but slaves, yet they would have suffered a degradation worse than slavery had they succumbed, while, as to the immense body of people–that nation within a nation–which answered to our upper and middle classes, they would have tasted the same woes which at length drove Germany to frenzy and made simple burghers prefer bitter death to the tyranny of the French. The rulers of Russia have stained her records foully since the days of 1812, but their worst sins cannot blot out the memory of the national uprising. Years are but trivial; seventy-six of them seem a long time; but those who study history broadly know that the dawn of a better future for Russia showed its first gleam when the aroused and indignant race rose and went forward to die before the French cannon. When next Russia rises, it will be against a tyranny only second to Napoleon’s in virulence–it will be against the terror that rules her now from within; and her success will be applauded by the world.

The Italians, who first waited and plotted, and then fought desperately under Garibaldi, had every reason to cry out for freedom. If they had remained merely whimpering under the Bourbon and Austrian whips, they would have deserved to be spurned by all who bear the hearts of men. They were denied the meanest privileges of humanity; they lived in a fashion which was rather like the violent, oppressed, hideous existence which men imagine in evil dreams, and at length they struck, and declared for liberty or annihilation. Perhaps they did not gain much in the way of immediate material good, but that only makes their splendid movement the more admirable. They fought for a magnificent idea, and even now, though the populace have to bear a taxation three times as great as any known before in their history, the ordinary Italian will say, “Yes, signor–the taxes are very heavy; we toil very hard and pay much money; but who counts money? We are a nation now–a real nation; Italy is united and free.” That is the gist of the matter. The people were bitterly ground down, and they are content to suffer privation in the present so long as they can ensure freedom from alien rule in the future. Nothing that the most hardly-entreated Briton suffers in any circumstances could equal the agonies of degradation borne by the people of the Peninsula, and their emancipation was hailed as if it had been a personal benefaction by all that was wisest and best in European society. The millions who turned out to welcome Garibaldi as if he had been an adored sovereign all had a true appreciation of real liberty; the masses were right in their instinct, and it was left for hysterical “thinkers” to shriek their deluded ideas in these later days.

“But surely the Irish rose for freedom in 1641?” I can almost imagine some clever correspondent asking me that question with a view to taking me in a neat trap. It is true enough that the Irish rose; but here again we must learn to discriminate between cases. How did the wild folk rise? Did they go out like the Thousand of Marsala and pit themselves against odds of five and six to one? Did they show any chivalry? Alas for the wicked story! The rebels behaved like cruel wild beasts; they were worse than polecats in an aviary, and they met with about the same resistance as the polecats would meet. They stripped the Ulster farmers and their families naked, and sent them out in the bitter weather; they hung on the skirts of the agonized crowd; the men cut down the refugees wholesale, and even the little boys of the insurgent party were taught to torture and kill the unhappy children of the flying farmers. Poor little infants fell in the rear of the doomed host, but no mother was allowed to succour her dying offspring, and the innocents expired in unimaginable suffering. The stripped fugitives crowded into Dublin, and there the plague carried them off wholesale. The rebels had gained liberty with a vengeance, and they had their way for ten years and more. Their liberty was degraded by savagery; they ruled Ireland at their own sweet will; they dwelt in anarchy until the burden of their iniquity grew too grievous for the earth to bear. Then their villainous freedom was suddenly ended by no less a person than Oliver Cromwell, and the curses, the murders, the unspeakable vileness of ten bad years all were atoned for in wild wrath and ruin. Now is it not marvellous that, while the murderers were free, they were poverty-stricken and most wretched? As soon as Cromwell’s voice had ceased to pronounce the doom on the unworthy, the great man began his work of regeneration; and under his iron hand the country which had been miserable in freedom became prosperous, happy, and contented. There is no mistaking the facts, for men of all parties swore that the six years which followed the storm of Drogheda were the best in all Ireland’s history. Had Cromwell only lived longer, or had there been a man fit to follow him, then England and Ireland would be happier this day.

In our social life the same conditions hold for the individual as hold for nations in the assembly of the world’s peoples. Freedom–true freedom–means liberty to live a beneficent and innocent life. As soon as an individual chooses to set up as a law to himself, then we have a right–nay, it is our bounden duty–to examine his pretensions. If the sense of the wisest in our community declares him unfit to issue dicta for the guidance of men, then we must promptly suppress him; if we do not, our misfortunes are on our own heads. The “independent” man may cry out about liberty and the rest as much as he likes, but we cannot afford to heed him. We simply say, “You foolish person, liberty, as you are pleased to call it, would be poison to you. The best medicines for your uneasy mind are reproof and restraint; if those fail to act on you, then we must try what the lash will do for you.”

Let us have liberty for the wise and the good–we know them well enough when we see them; and no sophist dare in his heart declare that any charlatan ever mastered men permanently. Liberty for the wise and good–yes, and wholesome discipline for the foolish and froward–sagacious guidance for all. Of course, if a man or a community is unable to choose a guide of the right sort, then that man or community is doomed, and we need say no more of either. I keep warily out of the muddy conflict of politics; but I will say that the cries of certain apostles of liberty seem woful and foolish. Unhappy shriekers, whither do they fancy they are bound? Is it to some Land of Beulah, where they may gambol unrestrained on pleasant hills? The shriekers are all wrong, and the best friend of theirs, the best friend of humanity, is he who will teach them–sternly if need be–that liberty and license are two widely different things.

_August, 1888._


One of the strangest shocks which the British traveller can experience occurs to him when he makes his first acquaintance with the American servant–especially the male servant. The quiet domineering European is stung out of his impassivity by a sort of moral stab which disturbs every faculty, unless he is absolutely stunned and left gasping. In England, the quiet club servant waits with dignity and reserve, but he is obedient to the last degree, and his civility reaches the point of absolute polish. When he performs a service his air is impassive, but if he is addressed his face assumes a quietly good-humoured expression, and he contrives to make his temporary employer feel as though it was a pleasure to attend upon him. All over our country we find that politeness between employer and servant is mutual. Here and there we find a well-dressed ruffian who thinks he is doing a clever thing when he bullies a servant; but a gentleman is always considerate, quiet, respectful; and he expects consideration, quietness, and respect from those who wait upon him. The light-footed, cheerful young women who serve in hotels and private houses are nearly always charmingly kind and obliging without ever descending to familiarity; in fact, I believe that, if England be taken all round, it will be found that female post-office clerks are the only servants who are positively offensive. They are spoiled by the hurried, captious, tiresome persons who haunt post-offices at all hours, and in self-defence they are apt to convert themselves into moral analogues of the fretful porcupine. Perhaps the queenly dames in railway refreshment-rooms are almost equal to the post-office damsels; but both classes are growing more good-natured–thanks to Charles Dickens, Mr. Sullivan, and Mr. _Punch_.

But the American servant exhibits no such weakness as civility; he is resolved to let you know that you are in the country of equality, and, in order to do that effectually, he treats you as a grovelling inferior. You ask a civil question, and he flings his answer at you as he would fling a bone at a dog. Every act of service which he performs comes most ungraciously from him, and he usually contrives to let you plainly see two things–first, he is ashamed of his position; secondly, he means to take a sort of indirect revenge on you in order to salve his lacerated dignity. A young English peer happened to ask a Chicago servant to clean a pair of boots, and his tone of command was rather pronounced and definite. That young patrician began to doubt his own identity when he was thus addressed–“Ketch on and do them yourself!” There was no redress, no possible remedy, and finally our compatriot humbled himself to a negro, and paid an exorbitant price for his polish.

Here we have an absurdity quite fairly exposed. The young American student who acts as a reporter or waiter during his college vacation is nearly always a respectful gentleman who neither takes nor allows a liberty; but the underbred boor, keen as he is about his gratuities, will take even your gifts as though he were an Asiatic potentate, and the traveller a passing slave whose tribute is condescendingly received. In a word, the servant goes out of his way to prove that, in his own idea, he is quite fit to be anybody’s master. The Declaration of Independence informs us that all men are born equal; the transatlantic servant takes that with a certain reservation, for he implies that, though men may be equal in a general way, yet, so far as he is concerned, he prefers to reckon himself the superior of anybody with whom business brings him into contact.

It was in America that I first began to meditate on the problem of equality, and I have given it much thought at intervals during several years. The great difficulty is to avoid repeating stale commonplaces on the matter. The robust Briton bellows, “Equality! Divide up all the property in the world equally among the inhabitants, and there would be rich and poor, just as before, within a week!” The robust man thinks that settles the whole matter at once. Then we have the stock story of the three practical communists who forced themselves upon the society of Baron Rothschild, and explained their views at some length. The Baron said: “Gentlemen, I have made a little calculation, and I find that, if I divided my property equally among my fellow-citizens, your share would be one florin each. Oblige me by accepting that sum at once, and permit me to wish you good-morning.” This was very neat in its way, but I want to talk just a little more seriously of a problem which concerns the daily life of us all, and affects our mental health, our placidity, and our self-respect very intimately. In the first place, we have to consider the deplorable exhibitions made by poor humanity whenever equality has been fairly insisted on in any community. The Frenchmen of 1792 thought that a great principle had been asserted when the President of the Convention said to the king, “You may sit down, Louis.” It seemed fine to the gallery when the queenly Marie Antoinette was addressed as the widow Capet; but what a poor business it was after all! The howling familiarity of the mob never touched the real dignity of the royal woman, and their brutality was only a murderous form of Yankee servant’s mean “independence.” I cannot treat the subject at all without going into necessary subtleties which never occurred to an enraged mob or a bloodthirsty and insolent official; I cannot accept the bald jeers of a comfortable, purse-proud citizen as being of any weight, and I am just as loath to heed the wire-drawn platitudes of the average philosopher. If we accept the very first maxim of biology, and agree that no two individuals of any living species are exactly alike, we have a starting-point from which we can proceed to argue sensibly. We may pass over the countless millions of inequalities which we observe in the lower orders of living things: and there is no need to emphasize distinctions which are plain to every child. When we come to speak of the race of men we reach the only concern which has a passionate and vital interest for us; even the amazing researches and conclusions of the naturalists have no attraction for us unless they throw a light, no matter how oblique, on our mysterious being and our mysterious fate. The law which regulates the differentiation of species applies with especial significance when we consider the birth of human individuals; the law which ordains that out of countless millions of animalculae which once shed their remains on the floor of the deep sea, or that now swarm in any pond, there shall be no two alike, holds accurately for the myriads of men who are born and pass away. The type is the same; there are fixed resemblances, but exact similarity never. The struggle for existence, no matter what direction it may take, always ends in the singling out of individuals who, in some respect or other, are worthy to survive, while the weak perish and the elements of their bodies go to form new individuals. It soon becomes plain that the crazy cry for equality is really only a weak protest against the hardships of the battle for existence. The brutes have not attained to our complexity of brain; ideas are only rudimentary with them, and they decide the question of superiority by rude methods. Two lions fight until one is laid low; the lioness looks calmly on until the little problem of superiority is settled, and then she goes off with the victor. The horses on the Pampas have their set battles until one has asserted his mastery over the herd, and then the defeated ones cower away abjectly, and submit themselves meekly to their lord. All the male animals are given to issuing challenges in a very self-assertive manner, and the object is the same in every case. But we are far above the brutes; we have that mysterious, immaterial ally of the body, and our struggles are settled amid bewildering refinements and subtleties and restrictions. In one quarter, power of the soul gives its possessor dominion; in another, only the force of the body is of any avail. If we observe the struggles of savages, we see that the idea of equality never occurs to half-developed men; the chief is the strong man, and his authority can be maintained only by strength or by the influence that strength gives. As the brute dies out of man, the conditions of life’s warfare become so complex that no one living could frame a generalization without finding himself at once faced by a million of exceptions that seem to negative his rule. Who was the most powerful man in England in Queen Anne’s day? Marlborough was an unmatched fighter; Bolingbroke was an imaginative and masterful statesman; there were thousands of able and strong warriors; but the one who was the most respected and feared was that tiny cripple whose life was a long disease. Alexander Pope was as frail a creature as ever managed to support existence; he rarely had a moment free from pain; he was so crooked and aborted that a good-hearted woman like Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was surprised into a sudden fit of laughter when he proposed marriage to her. Yet how he was feared! The only one who could match him was that raging giant who wrote “Gulliver,” and the two men wielded an essential power greater than that of the First Minister. The terrible Atossa, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, shrank from contact with Pope, while for a long time the ablest men of the political sets approached Swift like lackeys. One power was made manifest by the waspish verse-maker and the powerful satirist, and each was acknowledged as a sort of monarch.

It would be like playing at paradoxes if I went on to adduce many mysteries and contradictions that strike us when we consider man’s dominion over man. We can only come to the same conclusion if we bring forward a million of instances; we can only see that the whole human race, individual by individual, are separated one from the other by differences more or less minute, and wherever two human beings are placed together one must inevitably begin to assert mastery over the other. The method of self-assertion may be that of the athlete, or that of the intriguer, or that of the clear-sighted over the purblind, or that of the subtle over the simple; it matters not, the effort for mastery may be made either roughly or gently, or subtly, or even clownishly, but made it will be.

Would it not be better to cease babbling of equality altogether, and to try to accept the laws of life with some submission? The mistake of rabid theorists lies in their supposition that the assertion of superiority by one person necessarily inflicts wrong on another, whereas it is only the mastery obtained by certain men over others that makes the life of the civilized human creature bearable. The very servant who is insolent while performing his duty only dares to exhibit rudeness because he is sure of protection by law. All men are equal before the law. Yes–but how was the recognition of equality enforced? Simply by the power of the strong. No monarch in the world would venture to deal out such measure to our rude servitor as was dealt by Clovis to one of his men. The king regarded himself as being affronted by his soldier, and he wiped out the affront to his own satisfaction by splitting his follower’s head in twain. But the civilized man is secured by a bulwark of legality built up by strong hands, and manned, like the great Roman walls, by powerful legionaries of the law. In this law of England, if a peer and a peasant fight out a cause the peer has the advantage of the strength given by accumulated wealth–that is one example of our multifarious complexities; but the judge is stronger than either litigant, and it is the inequality personified by the judge that makes the safety of the peasant. In our ordered state, the strong have forced themselves into positions of power; they have decided that the coarseness of brutish conflict is not to be permitted, and one ruling agency is established which rests on force, and force alone, but which uses or permits the use of force only in cases of extremity. We know that the foundation of all law is martial law, or pure force; we know that when a judge says, “You shall be hanged,” the convict feels resistance useless, for behind the ushers and warders and turnkeys there are the steel and bullet of the soldier. Thus it appears that even in the sanctuary of equality–in the law court–the life and efficiency of the place depend on the assertion of one superior strength–that is, on the assertion of inequality.

If we choose to address each other as “Citizen,” or play any fooleries of that kind, we make no difference. Citizen Jourdain may go out equipped in complete _carmagnole_, and he may refuse to doff his red cap to any dignitary breathing; but all the while Citizen Barras is wielding the real power, and Citizen Buonaparte is awaiting his turn in the background. All the swagger of equality will avail nothing when Citizen Buonaparte gets his chance; and the very men who talked loudest about the reign of equality are the most ready to bow down and worship the strong. Instead of ostentatiously proclaiming that one man is as good as another–and better, we should devote ourselves to finding out who are our real superiors. When the true man is found he will not stand upon petty forms; and no one will demand such punctilios of him. He will treat his brethren as beings to be aided and directed, he will use his strength and his wisdom as gifts for which he must render an account, and the trivialities of etiquette will count as nothing. When the street orator yells, “Who is our ruler? Is he not flesh and blood like us? Are not many of us above him?” he may possibly be stating truth. It would have been hard to find any street-lounger more despicable than Bomba or more foolish than poor Louis XVI; but the method of oratory is purely destructive, and it will be much more to the purpose if the street firebrand gives his audience some definite ideas as to the man who ought to be chosen as leader. If we have the faculty for recognizing our best man, all chatter about equalities and inequalities must soon drop into silence. When the ragged Suwarrow went about among his men and talked bluffly with the raw recruits, there was no question of equality in any squad, for the tattered, begrimed man had approved himself the wisest, most audacious, and most king-like of all the host; and he could afford to despise appearances. No soldier ventured to think of taking a liberty; every man reverenced the rough leader who could think and plan and dare. Frederick wandered among the camp-fires at night, and sat down with one group after another of his men. He never dreamed of equality, nor did the rude soldiers. The king was greatest; the men were his comrades, and all were bound to serve the Fatherland–the sovereign by offering sage guidance, the men by following to the death. No company of men ever yet did worthy work in the world when the notion of equality was tried in practice; and no kind of effort, for evil or for good, ever came to anything so long as those who tried did not recognize the rule of the strongest or wisest. Even the scoundrel buccaneers of the Spanish Main could not carry on their fiendish trade without sinking the notion of equality, and the simple Quakers, the Society of Friends, with all their straitened ideas, have been constantly compelled to recognize one head of their body, even though they gave him no distinctive title. Our business is to see that every man has his due as far as possible, and not more than his due. The superior must perceive what is the degree of deference which must be rendered to the inferior; the inferior must put away envy and covetousness, and must learn to bestow, without servility, reverence and obedience where reverence and obedience may be rightfully offered.

_August, 1888._


So far as we can see it appears plain that the wish for brotherhood was on the whole reasonable, and its fulfilment easier than the wild desire for liberty and equality. No doubt Omar and Cromwell and Hoche and Dumouriez have chosen in their respective times an odd mode of spreading the blessings of fraternity. It is a little harsh to say to a man, “Be my brother or I will cut your head off;” but we fear that men of the stamp of Mahomet, Cromwell, and the French Jacobins were given to offering a choice of the alternatives named. Perhaps we may be safe if we take the roughness of the mere proselytizers as an evidence of defective education; they had a dim perception of a beautiful principle, but they knew of no instrument with which they could carry conviction save the sword. We, with our better light, can well understand that brotherhood should be fostered among men; we are all children of one Father, and it is fitting that we should reverently acknowledge the universal family tie. The Founder of our religion was the earliest preacher of the divine gospel of pity, and it is to Him that we owe the loveliest and purest conception of brotherhood. He claimed to be the Brother of us all; He showed how we should treat our brethren, and He carried His teaching on to the very close of His life.

So far from talking puerilities about equality, we should all see that there are degrees in our vast family; the elder and stronger brethren are bound to succour the younger and weaker; the young must look up to their elders; and the Father of all will perhaps preserve peace among us if we only forget our petty selves and look to Him. Alas, it is so hard to forget self! The dullest of us can see how excellent and divine is brotherhood, if we do assuredly carry out the conception of fraternity thoroughly; but again I say, How hard it is to banish self and follow the teaching of our divine Brother! If we cast our eyes over the world now, we may see–perhaps indistinctly–things that might make us weep, were it not that we must needs smile at the childish ways of men. In the very nation that first chose to put forward the word “fraternity” as one of the symbols for which men might die we see a strange spectacle. Half that nation is brooding incessantly on revenge; half the nation is bent only on slaying certain brother human beings who happen to live on the north and east of a certain river instead of on the south and west. The home of the solacing doctrine of fraternity is also the home of incessant preparations for murder, rapine, bitter and brutal vengeance. About a million of men rise every morning and spend the whole day in practising so that they may learn to kill people cleverly; hideous instruments, which must cause devastation, torture, bereavement, and wreck, should they ever be used in earnest, are lovingly handled by men who hope to see blood flow before long. The Frenchman cannot yet venture to smite his Teutonic brother, but he will do so when he has the chance; and thus two bands of brethren, who might have dwelt together amicably, may shortly end by inflicting untold agonies on each other. Both nations which so savagely await the beginning of a mad struggle are supposed to be followers of the Brother whose sweet message is read and repeated by nearly all the men who live on our continent, yet they only utter bitter words and think sullen thoughts, while the more acrid of the two adversaries is the country which once inscribed “Brotherhood” on its very banners. All round the arena wherein the two great peoples defy each other the nations wait anxiously for the delivery of the first stroke that shall give the signal for wrath and woe; and, strangely, no one can tell which of the onlookers is the more fervent professor of our Master’s faith. “Let brotherly love continue!”–that was the behest laid on us all; and we manifest our brotherly love by invoking the spirit of murder.

We know what exquisite visions floated around the twelve who first founded the Church on the principle of fraternity. No brother was to be left poor; all were to hold goods in common; every man should work for what he could, and receive what he needed; but evil crept in, and dissension and heart-burning, and ever since then the best of our poor besotted human race have been groping blindly after fraternity and finding it never. I always deprecate bitter or despondent views, or exaggerating the importance of our feeble race–for, after all, the whole time during which man has existed on earth is but as a brief swallow-flight compared with the abysmal stretches of eternity; but I confess that, when I see the flower of our race trained to become killers of men and awaiting the opportunity to exercise their murderous arts I feel a little sick at heart. Even they are compelled to hear the commands of the lovely gospel of fraternity, and, unless they die quickly in the fury of combat, their last moments are spent in listening to the same blessed words. It seems so mad and dreamlike that I have found myself thinking that, despite all our confidence, the world may be but a phantasmagoria, and ourselves, with our flesh that seems so solid, may be no more than fleeting wraiths. There is no one to rush between the scowling nations, as the poor hermit did between the gladiators in wicked Rome; there is no one to say, “Poor, silly peasant from pleasant France, why should you care to stab and torment that other poor flaxen-haired simpleton from Silesia? Your fields await you; if you were left to yourselves, then you and the Silesian would be brothers, worshipping like trusting children before the common Father of us all. And now you can find nothing better to do than to do each other to death!” Like the sanguine creatures who carried out the revolutionary movements of 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1860, the weak among us are apt to cry out–“Surely the time of fraternity has come at last!” Then, when the murderous Empire, or the equally murderous Republic, or the grim military despotism arrives instead of fraternity, the weak ones are smitten with confusion. I pity them, for a bitterness almost as of death must be lived through before one learns that God indeed doeth all things well. The poor Revolutionists thought that they must have rapid changes, and their hysterical visions appeared to them like perfectly wise and accurate glances into the future. They were in a hurry, forgetting that we cannot change our marvellous society on a sudden, any more than we can change a single tissue of our bodies on a sudden–hence their frantic hopes and frantic despair. If we gaze coolly round, we see that, in spite of a muttering, threatening France and a watchful Germany, in spite of the huge Russian storm-cloud that lowers heavily over Europe, in spite of the venomous intrigues with which Austria is accredited, there are still cheerful symptoms to be seen, and it may happen that the very horror of war may at last drive all men to reject it, and declare for fraternity. Look at that very France which is now so electric with passion and suspicion, and compare it with the France of long ago. The Gaul now thinks of killing the Teuton; but in the time of the good King Henry IV. he delighted in slaying his brother Gaul. The race who now only care to turn their hands against a rival nation once fought among themselves like starving rats in a pit. Even in the most polished society the men used to pick quarrels to fight to the death. In one year of King Henry’s reign nine thousand French gentlemen were killed in duels! Bad as we are, we are not likely to return to such a state of things as then was seen. The men belonged to one nation, and they ought to have banded together so that no foreign foe might take advantage of them; and yet they chose rather to slaughter each other at the rate of nearly one hundred and ninety per week. Certainly, so far as France is concerned, we can see some improvement; for, although the cowardly and abominable practice of duelling is still kept up, only one man was killed during the past twelve months, instead of nine thousand. In England we have had nearly two hundred years of truce from civil wars; in Germany the sections of the populace have at any rate stopped fighting among themselves; in Italy there are no longer the shameful feuds of Guelf and Ghibelline. It would seem, then, that civil strife is passing away, and that countries which were once the prey of bloodthirsty contending factions are now at least peaceful within their own borders.

If we reason from small things to great, we see that the squabbling nests of murderers, or would-be murderers, who peopled France, England, Germany, Austria, and Italy have given way to compact nations which enjoy unbroken internal peace. The struggles of business go on; the weak are trampled under foot in the mad rush of the cities of men, but the actual infliction of pain and death is not now dreamed of by Frenchman against Frenchman or German against German. We must remember that there never was so deadly and murderous a spirit displayed as during the Thirty Years’ War, and yet the peoples who then wrestled and throttled each other are now peaceful under the same yoke. May we not trust that a time will come when nations will see on a sudden the blank folly of making war? Day by day the pressure of armaments is growing greater, and we may almost hope that the very fiendish nature of modern weapons may bring about a blessed _reductio ad absurdum_, and leave war as a thing ludicrous, and not to be contemplated by sane men! I find one gun specially advertised in our Christian country, and warranted to kill as many men in one minute as two companies of infantry could in five! What will be the effect of the general introduction of this delightful weapon? No force can possibly stand before it; no armour or works can keep out the hail of its bullets. Supposing, then, that benevolent science goes on improving the means of slaughter, must there not come a time when people will utterly refuse to continue the mad and miserable folly of war? Over the whole of Britain we may find even now the marks of cannon-shot discharged by Englishmen against the castles of other Englishmen. Is there one man in Britain who can at this present moment bring his imagination to conceive such an occurrence as an artillery fight between bodies of Englishmen? It is almost too absurd to be named even as a casual supposition. So far has fraternity spread. Now, if we go on perfecting dynamite shells which can destroy one thousand men by one explosion; if we increase the range of our guns from twelve miles to twenty, and fight our pieces according to directions signalled from a balloon, we shall be going the very best way to make all men rise with one spasm of disgust, and say, “No more of this!”

We cannot hope to do away with evil speaking, with verbal quarrelling, with mean grasping of benefits from less fortunate brethren. Alas, the reign of brotherhood will be long in eradicating the primeval combative instinct; but, when we compare the quiet urbanity of a modern gathering with the loud and senseless brawling which so often resulted from social assemblies even at the beginning of this century we may take some heart and hope on for the best. Our Lord had a clear vision of a time when bitterness and evil-doing should cease, and His words are more than a shadowy prediction. The fact is that, in striving gradually to introduce the third of the conditions of life craved by the poor feather-witted Frenchmen, the nations have a comparatively easy task. We cannot have equality, physical conditions having too much to do with giving the powers and accomplishments of men; we can only claim liberty under the supreme guidance of our Creator; but fraternity is quite a possible consummation. Our greatest hero held it as the Englishman’s first duty to hate a Frenchman as he hated the Devil; now that mad and cankered feeling has passed away, and why should not the spread of common sense, common honesty, bring us at last to see that our fellow-man is better when regarded as a brother than as a possible assassin or thief?

Our corporate life and progress as nations, or even as a race of God’s creatures, is much like the life and progress of the individual. The children of men stumble often, fall often, despair often, and yet the great universal movement goes on, and even the degeneracy which must always go on side by side with progress does not appreciably stay our advance. The individual man cannot walk even twenty steps without actually saving himself by a balancing movement from twenty falls. Every step tends to become an ignominious tumble, and yet our poor body may very easily move at the rate of four miles per hour, and we gain our destinations daily. The human race, in spite of many slips, will go on progressing towards good–that is, towards kindness–that is, towards fraternity–that is, towards the gospel, which at present seems so wildly and criminally neglected. The mild and innocent Anarcharsis Clootz, who made his way over the continent of Europe, and who came to our little island, in his day always believed that the time for the federation of mankind would come. Poor fellow–he died under the murderous knife of the guillotine and did little to further his beautiful project! He was esteemed a harmless lunatic; yet, notwithstanding the twelve millions of armed men who trample Europe, I do not think that Clootz was quite a lunatic after all. Moreover, all men know that right must prevail, and they know also that there is not a human being on earth who does not believe by intuition that the gospel of brotherhood is right, even as the life of its propounder was holy. The way is weary toward the quarter where the rays of dawn will first break over the shoulder of the earth. We walk on hoping, and, even if we fall by the way, and all our hopes seem to be tardy of fruition, yet others will hail the slow dawn of brotherhood when all now living are dead and still.

_September, 1888._


Just at this present our troops are engaged in fighting various savage tribes in various parts of the world, and the humorous journalist speaks of the affairs as “little wars.” There is something rather gruesome in this airy flippancy proceeding from comfortable gentlemen who are in nice studies at home. The Burmese force fights, marches, toils in an atmosphere which would cause some of the airy critics to faint; the Thibetan force must do as much climbing as would satisfy the average Alpine performer; and all the soldiers carry their lives in their hands. What is a little war? Is any war little to a man who loses his life in it? I imagine that when a wounded fighter comes to face his last hour he regards the particular war in which he is engaged as quite the most momentous affair in the world so far as he is concerned. To me the whole spectacle of the little wars is most grave, both as regards the nation and as regards the individual Britons who must suffer and fall. Our destiny is heavy upon us; we must “dree our weirde,” for we have begun walking on the road of conquest, and we must go forward or die. The man who has the wolf by the ears cannot let go his hold; we cannot slacken our grip on anything that once we have clutched. But it is terrible to see how we are bleeding at the extremities. I cannot give the figures detailing our losses in little wars during the past forty years, but they are far worse than we incurred in the world-shaking fight of Waterloo. Incessantly the drip, drip of national blood-shedding goes on, and no end seems to be gained, save the grim consciousness that we must suffer and never flinch. The graves of our best and dearest–our hardy loved ones–are scattered over the ends of the earth, and the little wars are answerable for all. England, in her blundering, half-articulate fashion, answers, “Yes, they had to die; their mother asked for their blood, and they gave it.” So then from scores of punctures the life-blood of the mother of nations drops, and each new bloodshed leads to yet further bloodshed, until the deadly series looks endless. We sent Burnes to Cabul, and we betrayed him in the most dastardly way by the mouth of a Minister. England, the great mother, was not answerable for that most unholy of crimes; it was the talking men, the glib Parliament cowards. Burnes was cut to pieces and an army lost. Crime brings forth crime, and thus we had to butcher more Afghans. Every inch of India has been bought in the same way; one war wins territory which must be secured by another war, and thus the inexorable game is played on. In Africa we have fared in the same way, and thus from many veins the red stream is drained, and yet the proud heart of the mother continues to beat strongly. It is so hard for men to die; it is as hard for the Zulu and the Afghan and the Ghoorka as it is for the civilized man, and that is why I wish it were Britain’s fortune to be allowed to cease from the shedding of blood. If the corpses of the barbarians whom we have destroyed within the past ten years could only be laid out in any open space and shown to our populace, there would be a shudder of horror felt through the country; yet, while the sweet bells chime to us about peace and goodwill, we go on sending myriads of men out of life, and the nation pays no more heed to that steady ruthless killing than it does to the slaughter of oxen. Alas!

Then, if we think of the lot of those who fight for us and slaughter our hapless enemies by deputy as it were, their luck seems very hard. When the steady lines moved up the Alma slope and the men were dropping so fast, the soldiers knew that they were performing their parts as in a vast theatre; their country would learn the story of their deed, and the feats of individuals would be amply recorded. But, when a man spends months in a far-off rocky country, fighting day after day, watching night after night, and knowing that at any moment the bullet of a prowling Ghilzai or Afridi may strike him, he has very little consolation indeed. When one comes to think of the matter from the humorous point of view–though there is more grim fact than fun in it–it does seem odd that we should be compelled to spend two thousand pounds on an officer’s education, and then send him where he may be wiped out of the world in an instant by a savage little above the level of the Bushman. I pity the poor savages, but I certainly pity the refined and highly-trained English soldier more. The latest and most delightful of our Anglo-Indians has put the matter admirably in verse which carries a sting even amidst its pathos. He calls his verses “Arithmetic on the Frontier.”

A great and glorious thing it is
To learn for seven years or so
The Lord knows what of that or this, Ere reckoned fit to face the foe,
The flying bullet down the pass, That whistles clear, “All flesh is grass.”

Three hundred pounds per annum spent On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in villainous saltpetre! And after–ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our ‘ologies.

A scrimmage in a border station,
A canter down some dark defile– Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail!
The crammer’s boast, the squadron’s pride Shot like a rabbit in a ride.

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-book know, Will turn the bullet from your coat
Or ward the tulwar’s downward blow; Strike hard who cares–shoot straight who can– The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp Will pay for all the school expenses Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses, But, being blessed with perfect sight, Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem; The troop-ships bring us one by one, At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run. The captives of our bow and spear
Are cheap, alas, as we are dear!

There is a world of meaning in those half-sad, half-smiling lines, and many an hour-long discourse might fail to throw more lurid light on one of the strangest historical problems in the world. The flower of England’s manhood must needs go; and our most brilliant scholars, our boldest riders, our most perfect specimens of physical humanity drop like rabbits to the fire of half-naked savages! The bright boy, the hero of school and college, the brisk, active officer, passes away into obscurity. The mother weeps–perhaps some one nearer and dearer than all is stricken: but the dead Englishman’s name vanishes from memory like a fleck of haze on the side of the valley where he sleeps. England–cold, inexorable, indifferent–has other sons to take the dead man’s place and perhaps share his obscurity; and the doomed host of fair gallant youths moves forward ever in serried, fearless lines towards the shadows. That is what it costs to be a mighty nation. It is sorrowful to think of the sacrificed men–sacrificed to fulfil England’s imposing destiny; it is sorrowful to think of the mourners who cannot even see their darling’s grave; yet there is something grandiose and almost morbidly impressive in the attitude of Britain. She waves her imperial hand and says, “See what my place in the world is! My bravest, my most skilful, may die in a fight that is no more than a scuffling brawl; they go down to the dust of death unknown, but the others come on unflinching. It is hard that I should part with my precious sons in mean warfare, but the fates will have it so, and I am equal to the call of fate.” Thus the sovereign nation. Those who have no very pompous notions are willing to recognize the savage grandeur of our advance; but I cannot help thinking of the lonely graves, the rich lives squandered, the reckless casting away of human life, which are involved in carrying out our mysterious mission in the great peninsula. Our graves are spread thickly over the deadly plains; our brightest and best toil and suffer and die, and they have hardly so much as a stone to mark their sleeping-place; our blood has watered those awful stretches from the Himalayas to Comorin, and we may call Hindostan the graveyard of Britain’s noblest. People who see only the grizzled veterans who lounge away their days at Cheltenham or Brighton think that the fighting trade must be a very nice one after all. To retire at fifty with a thousand a year is very pleasant no doubt; but then every one of those war-worn gentlemen who returns to take his ease represents a score who have perished in fights as undignified as a street brawl. “More legions!” said Varus; “More legions!” says England; and our regiments depart without any man thinking of _Morituri te salittant!_ Yes; that phrase might well be in the mind of every British man who fares down the Red Sea and enters the Indian furnace. Those about to die, salute thee, O England, our mother! Is it worth while? Sometimes I have my doubts. Moreover, I never talk with one of our impassive, masterful Anglo-Indians without feeling sorry that their splendid capacities should be so often cast into darkness, and their fame confined to the gossip of a clump of bungalows. Verily our little wars use up an immense quantity of raw material in the shape of intellect and power. A man whose culture is far beyond that of the mouthing politicians at home and whose statesmanship is not to be compared to the ignorant crudities of the pigmies who strut and fret on the English party stage–this man spends great part of a lifetime in ruling and fighting; he gives every force of a great intellect and will to his labours, and he achieves definite and beneficent practical results; yet his name is never mentioned in England, and any vulgar vestryman would probably outweigh him in the eyes of the populace. Carlyle says that we should despise fame. “Do your work,” observes the sage, “and never mind the rest. When your duty is done, no further concern rests with you.” And then the aged thinker goes on to snarl at puny creatures who are not content to be unknown. Well, that is all very stoical and very grand, and so forth; but Carlyle forgot human nature. He himself raged and gnashed his teeth because the world neglected him, and I must with every humility ask forgiveness of his _manes_ if I express some commiseration for the unknown braves who perish in our little wars. Our callousness as individuals can hardly be called lordly, though the results are majestic; we accept supreme services, and we accept the supreme sacrifice (Skin for skin: all that a man hath will he give for his life), and we very rarely think fit to growl forth a chance word of thanks. Luckily our splendid men are not very importunate, and most of them accept with silent humour the neglect which befalls them. An old fighting general once remarked, “These fellows are in luck since the telegraph and the correspondents have been at work. We weren’t so fortunate in my day. I went through the Crimea and the Mutiny, and there was yet another affair in 1863 that was hotter than either, so far as close fighting and proportional losses of troops were concerned. A force of three thousand was sent against the Afghans, and they never gave us much rest night or day. They seemed determined to give their lives away, and they wouldn’t be denied. I’ve seen them come on and grab at the muzzles of the rifles. We did a lot of fighting behind rough breastworks, but sometimes they would rush us then. We lost thirty officers out of thirty-four before we were finished. Well, when I came home and went about among the clubs, the fellows used to say to me, ‘What was this affair of yours up in the hills? We had no particulars except the fact that you were fighting.’ And that expedition cost ten times as many men as your Egyptian one, besides causing six weeks of almost constant fighting; yet not a newspaper had a word to say about it! We never grumbled much–it was all in the day’s work; but it shows how men’s luck varies.”

There spoke the old fighter, “Duty first, and take your chance of the rest.” True; but could not one almost wish that those forlorn heroes who saved our frontier from savage hordes might have gained just a little of that praise so dear to the frivolous mind of man? It was not to be; the dead men’s bones have long ago sunk into the kindly earth, the wind flows down the valleys, and the fighters sleep in the unknown glens and on far-distant hillsides with no record save the curt clerk’s mark in the regimental list–“Dead.”

When I hear the merry pressman chatting about little wars and proudly looking down on “mere skirmishes,” I cannot restrain a movement of impatience. Are our few dead not to be considered because they were few? Supposing they had swarmed forward in some great battle of the West and died with thousands of others amid the hurricane music of hundreds of guns, would the magnitude of the battle make any difference?

Honour to those who risk life and limb for England; honour to them, whether they die amid loud battle or in the far-away dimness of a little war!

_September, 1888._


Again and again I have talked about the delights of leisure, and I always advise worn worldlings to renew their youth and gain fresh ideas amid the blessed calm of the fields and the trees. But I lately watched an immense procession of holiday-makers travelling mile after mile in long-drawn sequence–and the study caused me to have many thoughts. There was no mistake about the intentions of the vast mob. They started with a steadfast resolution to be jolly–and they kept to their resolution so long as they were coherent of mind. It was a strange sight–a population probably equal to half that of Scotland all plunged into a sort of delirium and nearly all forgetting the serious side of life. As I gazed on the frantic assembly, I wondered how the English ever came to be considered a grave solid nation; I wondered, moreover, how a great percentage of men representing a nation of conquerors, explorers, administrators, inventors, should on a sudden decide to go mad for a day. Perhaps, after all, the catchword “Merry England” meant really “Mad England”; perhaps the good days which men mourned for after the grim shade of Puritanism came over the country were neither more nor less than periods of wild orgies; perhaps we have reason to be thankful that the national carnivals do not now occur very often. Our ancestors had a very peculiar idea of what constituted a merry-making, and there are many things in ancient art and literature which tempt us to fancy that a certain crudity distinguished the festivals of ancient days; but still the latter-day frolic in all its monstrous proportions is not to be studied by a philosophic observer without profoundly moving thoughts arising. As I gazed on the endless flow of travellers, I could hardly help wondering how the mob would conduct themselves during any great social convulsion. Some gushing persons talk about the good humour and orderliness of the British crowd. Well, I allow that the better class of holiday-makers exhibit a kind of rough good nature; but, whenever “sport” is in question, we find that a certain class come to the front–a class who are not genial or merry, but purely lawless. While the huge carnival is in progress during one delirious day, we have a chance of seeing in a mild form what would happen if a complete national disaster caused society to become fundamentally disordered. The beasts of prey come forth from their lairs, the most elementary rules of conduct are forgotten or bluntly disregarded, and the law-abiding citizen may see robbery and violence carried on in broad daylight. In some cases it happens that organized bands of thieves rob one man after another with a brutal effrontery which quite shames the minor abilities of Macedonian or Calabrian brigands. Forty or fifty consummate scoundrels work in concert; and it often happens that even the betting-men are seized, raised from the ground, and shaken until their money falls and is scrambled for by eager rascaldom. Wherever there Is sport the predatory animals flock together; and I thought, when last I saw the crew, “If a foreign army were in movement against England and a panic arose, there would be little mercy for quiet citizens.” On a hasty computation, I should say that an ordinary Derby Day brings together an army of wastrels and criminals strong enough to sack London if once the initial impetus were given; and who can say what blind chance may supply that impetus even in our day? There is not so much sheer foulness nowadays as there used to be; the Yahoo element–male and female–is not obtrusive; and it is even possible for a lady to remain in certain quarters of the mighty Downs without being offended in any way. Our grandfathers–and our fathers, for that matter–had a somewhat acrid conception of humour, and the offscourings of the city ministered to this peculiar humorous sense in a singular way. But a leaven of propriety has now crept in, and the evil beings who were wont to pollute the sweet air preserve some moderate measure of seemliness. I am willing to welcome every sign of improving manners; and yet I must say that the great British Festival is a sorry and even horrible spectacle. What is the net result or purpose of the whole display? Cheery scribes babble about “Isthmian games” and the glorious air of the Surrey hills, and they try to put on a sort of jollity and semblance of well-being; but the sham is a poor one, and the laughing hypocrites know in their hearts that the vast gathering of people means merely waste, idleness, thievery, villainy, vice of all kinds–and there is next to no compensation for the horrors which are crowded together. I would fain pick out anything good from the whole wild spectacle; but I cannot, and so give up the attempt with a sort of sick despair. There is something rather pleasant in the sight of a merry lad who attends his first Derby, for he sees only the vivid rush and movement of crowds; but to a seasoned observer and thinker the tremendous panorama gives suggestions only of evil. I hardly have patience to consider the fulsome talk of the writers who print insincerities by the column year by year. They know that the business is evil, and yet they persist in speaking as if there were some magic influence in the reeking crowd which, they declare, gives health and tone to body and mind. The dawdling parties who lunch on the Hill derive no particular harm; but then how they waste money and time! Plunderers of all sorts flourish in a species of blind whirl of knavery; but no worthy person derives any good from the cruel waste of money and strength and energy. The writers know all this, and yet they go on turning out their sham cordiality, sham congratulations, sham justifications; while any of us who know thoroughly the misery and mental death and ruin of souls brought on by racing and gambling are labelled as un-English or churlish or something of the kind. Why should we be called churlish? Is it not true that a million of men and women waste a day on a pursuit which brings them into contact with filthy intemperance, stupid debauch, unspeakable coarseness? The eruptive sportsman tells us that the sight of a good man on a good horse should stir every manly impulse in a Briton. What rubbish! What manliness can there be in watching a poor baby-colt flogged along by a dwarf? If one is placed at some distance from the course, then one may find the glitter of the pretty silk jackets pleasing; but, should one chance to be near enough to see what is termed “an exciting finish,” one’s general conception of the manliness of racing may be modified. From afar off the movement of the jockeys’ whip-hands is no more suggestive than the movement of a windmill’s sails; but, when one hears the “flack, flack” of the whalebone and sees the wales rise on the dainty skin of the immature horse, one does not feel quite joyous or manly. I have seen a long lean creature reach back with his right leg and keep on jobbing with the spur for nearly four hundred yards of a swift finish; I saw another manikin lash a good horse until the animal fairly curved its back in agony and writhed its head on one side so violently that the manly sporting-men called it an ungenerous brute. Where does the fun come in for the onlookers? There is one good old thoroughbred which remembers a fearful flogging that he received twenty-two years ago; if he hears the voice of the man who lashed him, he sweats profusely, and trembles so much that he is like to fall down. How is the breed of horses directly improved by that kind of sport? No; the thousands of wastrels who squander the day and render themselves unsettled and idle for a week are not thinking of horses or of taking a healthy outing; they are obeying an unhealthy gregarious instinct which in certain circumstances makes men show clear signs of acute mania. If we look at the unadulterated absurdity of the affair, we may almost be tempted to rage like Carlyle or Swift. For weeks there are millions of people who talk of little else save the doings of useless dumb animals which can perform no work in the world and which at best are beautiful toys. When the thoroughbreds actually engage in their contest, there is no man of all the imposing multitude who can see them gallop for more than about thirty seconds; the last rush home is seen only by the interesting mortals who are on the great stand; and the entire performance which interests some persons for a year is all over in less than three minutes. This is the game on which Englishmen lavish wild hopes, keen attention, and good money–this is the sport of kings which gluts the pockets of greedy knaves! A vast city–nay, a vast empire–is partially disorganized for a day in order that some dwarfish boys may be seen flogging immature horses during a certain number of seconds, and we learn that there is something “English,” and even chivalrous, in the foolish wastrel proceedings.

My conceptions of English virtues are probably rudimentary; but I quite fail to discover where the “nobility” of horse-racing and racecourse picnicing appears. My notion of “nobility” belongs to a bygone time; and I was gratified by hearing of one very noble deed at the moment when the flashy howling mob were trooping forward to that great debauch which takes place around the Derby racecourse. A great steamer was flying over a Southern sea, and the sharks were showing their fins and prowling around with evil eyes. The _Rimutaka_ spun on her way, and all the ship’s company were cheerful and careless. Suddenly a poor crazy woman sprang over the side and was drifted away by a surface-current; while the irresistible rush of the steamer could not of course be easily stayed. A good Englishman–honour for ever to his name!–jumped into the water, swam a quarter of a mile, and, by heaven’s grace, escaped the wicked sea-tigers and saved the unhappy distraught woman. That man’s name is Cavell: and I think of “nobility” in connection with him, and not in connection with the manikins who rush over Epsom Downs.

I like to give a thought to the nobility of those men who guard and rule a mighty empire; but I think very little of the creatures who merely consume food and remain at home in rascally security. What a farce to talk of encouraging “athletics”! The poor manikin who gets up on a racer is not an athlete in any rational sense of the term. He is a wiry emaciated being whose little muscles are strung like whipcord; but it is strange to dignify him as an athlete. If he once rises above nine stone in weight, his life becomes a sort of martyrdom; but, abstemious and self-contained as he is, we can hardly give him the name which means so much to all healthy Englishmen. For some time each day the wondrous specimen of manhood must stew in a Turkish bath or between blankets; he tramps for miles daily if his feet keep sound; he starts at five in the morning and perhaps rides a trial or two; then he takes his weak tea and toast, then exercise or sweating; then comes his stinted meal; and then he starves until night. To call such a famished lean fellow a follower of “noble” sport is too much. Other British men deny themselves; but then think of the circumstances! Far away among the sea of mountains on our Indian frontier a gallant Englishman remains in charge of his lonely station; his Pathans or Ghoorkas are fine fellows, and perhaps some brave old warrior will use the privilege of age and stroll in to chat respectfully to the Sahib. But it is all lonely–drearily lonely. The mountain partridge may churr at sunrise and sundown; the wily crows may play out their odd life-drama daily; the mountain winds may rush roaring through the gullies until the village women say they can hear the hoofs of the brigadier’s horse. But what are these desert sounds and sights for the laboriously-cultured officer? His nearest comrade is miles off; his spirit must dwell alone. And yet such men hang on at their dreary toil; and who can ever hear them complain, save in their semi-humorous letters to friends at home? They often carry their lives in their hands; but they can only hope to rest unknown if the chance goes against them. I call those men noble. There are no excited thousands for them to figure before; they scarcely have the honour of mention in a despatch; but they go on in grim silence, working out their own destiny and the destiny of this colossal empire. When I compare them with the bold sportsmen, I feel something like disgust. The real high-hearted heroes do not crave rewards–if they did, they would reap very little. The bold man who risked everything to save the _Calliope_ will never earn as much in a year as a horse-riding manikin can in two months. That is the way we encourage our finest merit. And meantime at the “Isthmian games” the hordes of scoundreldom who dwell at ease can enjoy themselves to their hearts’ content in their own dreadful way; they break out in their usual riot of foulness; they degrade the shape of man; and the burly moralists look on robustly, and say that it is good.

I never think of the great British carnival without feeling that the dregs of that ugly crowd will one day make history in a fashion which will set the world shuddering. I have no pity for ruined gamblers; but I am indignant when we see the worst of human kind luxuriating in abominable idleness and luxury on the foul fringe of the hateful racecourse. No sumptuary law will ever make any inroad on the cruel evil; and my feeling is one of sombre hopelessness.

_July, 1889._


The most hard-hearted of cynics must pity the poor daily journalist who is calmly requested nowadays to produce a Christmas article. For my own part I decline to meddle with holly and jollity and general goodwill, and I have again and again protested against the insane Beggars’ Carnival which breaks out yearly towards the beginning of December. A man may be pleased enough to hear his neighbour express goodwill, but he does not want his neighbour’s hand held forth to grasp our Western equivalent for “backsheesh.” In Egypt the screeching Arabs make life miserable with their ceaseless dismal yell, “_Backsheesh, Howaji!_” The average British citizen is also hailed with importunate cries which are none the less piercing and annoying from the fact that they are translated into black and white. The ignoble frivolity of the swarming circulars, the obvious insincerity of the newspaper appeals, the house-to-house calls, tend steadily to vulgarize an ancient and a beautiful institution, and alienate the hearts of kindly people who do not happen to be abject simpletons. The outbreak of kindness is sometimes genuine on the part of the donors; but it is often merely surface-kindness, and the gifts are bestowed in a bitter and grudging spirit. Let me ask, What are the real feelings of a householder who is requested to hand out a present to a turncock or dustman whom he has never seen? The functionaries receive fair wages for unskilled labour, yet they come smirking cheerfully forward and prefer a claim which has no shadow of justification. If a flower-seller is rather too importunate in offering her wares, she is promptly imprisoned for seven days or fined; if a costermonger halts for a few minutes in a thoroughfare and cries his goods, his stock maybe confiscated; yet the privileged Christmas mendicant may actually proceed to insolence if his claims are ignored; and the meek Briton submits to the insult. I cannot sufficiently deplore the progress of this spirit of beggardom, for it is acting and reacting in every direction all over the country. Long ago we lamented the decay of manly independence among the fishermen of those East Coast ports which have become watering-places. Big bearded fellows whose fathers would have stared indignantly at the offer of a gratuity are ready to hold out their hands and touch their caps to the most vulgar dandy that ever swaggered. To any one who knew and loved the whole breed of seamen and fishermen, a walk along Yarmouth sands in September is among the most purely depressing experiences in life. But the demoralization of the seaside population is not so distressing as that of the general population in great cities. We all know Adam Bede–the very finest portrait of the old-fashioned workman ever done. If George Eliot had represented Adam as touching his cap for a sixpence, we should have gasped with surprise at the incongruity. Can we imagine an old-world stonemason like Hugh Miller begging coppers from a farmer on whose steading he happened to be employed? The thing is preposterous! But now a strong London artizan will coolly ask for his gratuity just as if he were a mere link-boy!

It is pleasant to turn to kindlier themes; it is pleasant to think of the legitimate rejoicings and kindnesses in which the most staid of us may indulge. Far be it from me to emulate the crabbed person who proposed to form a “Society for the Abolition of Christmas.” The event to be commemorated is by far the greatest in the history of our planet; all others become hardly worthy of mention when we think of it; and nothing more momentous can happen until the last catastrophe, when a chilled and tideless earth shall roll through space, and when no memory shall remain of the petty creatures who for a brief moment disturbed its surface. The might of the Empire of Rome brooded over the fairest portions of the known world, and it seemed as though nothing could shake that colossal power; the pettiest officer of the Imperial staff was of more importance than all the natives of Syria; and yet we see that the fabric of Roman rule has passed away like a vision, while the faith taught by a band of poor Syrian men has mastered the minds of the strongest nations in the world. The poor disciples whom the Master left became apostles; footsore and weary they wandered–they were scorned and imprisoned and tortured until the last man of them had passed away. Their work has subdued princes and empires, and the bells that ring out on Christmas Eve remind us not only of the most tremendous occurrence in history, but of the deeds of a few humble souls who conquered the fear of death and who resigned the world in order that the children of the world might be made better. A tremendous Event truly! We are far, far away from the ideal, it is true; and some of us may feel a thrill of sick despair when we think of what the sects have done and what they have not done–it all seems so slow, so hopeless, and the powers of evil assert themselves ever and again with such hideous force. Some withdraw themselves to fierce isolation; some remain in the world, mocking the ways of men and treating all life as an ugly jest; some refuse to think at all, and drag themselves into oblivion; while some take one frantic sudden step and leave the world altogether by help of bullet or bare bodkin. A man of light mind who endeavoured to reconcile all the things suggested to him by the coming of Christmas would probably become demented if he bent his entire intellect to solve the puzzles. Thousands–millions–of books have been written about the Christian theology, and half of European mankind cannot claim to have any fixed and certain belief which leads to right conduct. Some of the noblest and sweetest souls on earth have given way to chill hopelessness, and only a very bold or a very thick-sighted man could blame them; we must be tender towards all who are perplexed, especially when we see how terrible are the reasons for perplexity. Nevertheless, dark as the outlook may be in many directions, men are slowly coming to see that the service of God is the destruction of enmity, and that the religion of tenderness and pity alone can give happiness during our dark pilgrimage.

Far back in last winter a man was forcing his way across a dreary marsh in the very teeth of a wind that seemed to catch his throat in an icy grip, stopping the breath at intervals and chilling the very heart. Coldly the grey breakers rolled under the hard lowering sky; coldly the western light flickered on the iron slopes of far-off hills; coldly the last beams struck on the water and made chance wavelets flash with a terrible glitter. The night rushed down, and the snow descended fiercely; the terrified cattle tried to find shelter from the scourge of the storm; a hollow roar rang sullenly amid the darkness; stray sea-birds far overhead called weirdly, and it seemed as if the spirit of evil were abroad in the night. In darkness the man fought onward, thinking of the unhappy wretches who sometimes lie down on the snow and let the final numbness seize their hearts. Then came a friendly shout–then lights–and then the glow of warmth that filled a broad room with pleasantness. All the night long the mad gusts tore at the walls and made them vibrate; all night the terrible music rose into shrieks and died away in low moaning, and ever the savage boom of the waves made a vast under-song. Then came visions of the mournful sea that we all know so well, and the traveller thought of the honest fellows who must spend their Christmas-time amid warring forces that make the works of man seem puny. What a picture that is–The Toilers of the Sea in Winter! Christmas Eve comes with no joyous jangling of bells; the sun stoops to the sea, glaring lividly through whirls of snow, and the vessel roars through the water; black billows rush on until their crests topple into ruin, and then the boiling white water shines fitfully like some strange lambent flame; the breeze sings hoarsely among the cordage; the whole surface flood plunges on as if some immense cataract must soon appear after the rapids are passed. Every sea that the vessel shatters sends up a flying waterspout; and the frost acts with amazing suddenness, so that the spars, the rigging, and the deck gather layer after layer of ice. Supposing the vessel is employed in fishing, then the men in the forecastle crouch round the little fire, or shiver on their soaked beds, and perhaps growl out a few words of more or less cheerful talk. Stay with the helmsman, and you may know what the mystery and horror of utter gloom are really like. There is danger everywhere–a sudden wave may burst the deck or heave the vessel down on her side; a huge dim cloud may start shapelessly from the murk, and, before a word of warning can be uttered, a great ship may crash into the labouring craft. In that case hope is gone, for the boat is bedded in a mass of ice and all the doomed seamen must take the deadly plunge to eternity. Ah, think of this, you who rest in the glow of beautiful homes! Then the morning–the grey desolation! No words can fairly picture the utter cheerlessness of a wintry dawn at sea. The bravest of men feel something like depression or are pursued by cruel apprehensions. The solid masses of ice have gripped every block, and the ropes will not run; the gaunt masts stand up like pallid ghosts in the grey light, and still the volleys of snow descend at intervals. All the ships seem to be cowering away, scared and beaten; even the staunch sea-gulls have taken refuge in fields and quiet rivers; and only the seamen have no escape. The mournful red stretches of the Asiatic deserts are wild enough, but there are warmth and marvellous light, and those who well know the moaning wastes say that their fascination sinks on the soul. The wintry sea has no fascination–no consolation; it is hungry, inhospitable–sometimes horrible. But even there Christ walks the waters in spirit. In an ordinary vessel the rudest seaman is made to think of the great day, and, even if he goes on grumbling and swearing on the morrow, he is apt to be softened and slightly subdued for one day at least. The fishermen on the wild North Sea are cared for, and merry scenes are to be witnessed even when landsmen might shudder in terror. Certain gallant craft, like strong yachts, glide about among the plunging smacks; each of the yachts has a brave blue flag at the masthead, and the vessels are laden with kindly tokens from thousands of gentle souls on shore. Surely there is no irreverence in saying that the Master walks the waters to this day?

We Britons must of course express some of our emotions by eating and drinking freely. No political party can pretend to adjust the affairs of the Empire until the best-advertised members have met together at a dinner-table; no prominent man can be regarded as having achieved the highest work in politics, or art, or literature, or histrionics, until he has been delicately fed in company with a large number of brother mortals; and no anniversary can possibly be celebrated without an immense consumption of eatables and drinkables. The rough men of the North Sea have the national instinct, and their mode of recognizing the festive season is quite up to the national standard. The North Sea fisherman would not nowadays approve of the punch-bowls and ancient ale which Dickens loved so much to praise, for he is given to the most severe forms of abstinence; but it is a noble sight when he proceeds to show what he can do in the way of Christmas dining. If he is one of the sharers in a parcel from on shore, he is fortunate, for he may possibly partake of a pudding which might be thrown over the masthead without remaining whole after its fall on deck; but it matters little if he has no daintily-prepared provender. Jack Fisherman seats himself on a box or on the floor of the cabin; he produces his clasp-knife and prepares for action. When his huge tin dish is piled with a miscellaneous assortment of edibles, it presents a spectacle which might make all Bath and Matlock and Royat and Homburg shudder; but the seaman, despising the miserable luxuries of fork and spoon, attacks the amazing conglomeration with enthusiasm. His Christmas pudding may resemble any geological formation that you like to name, and it may be unaccountably allied with a perplexing maze of cabbage and potatoes–nothing matters. Christmas must be kept up, and the vast lurches of the vessel from sea to sea do not at all disturb the fine equanimity of the fellows who are bent on solemnly testifying, by gastronomic evidence, to the loyalty with which Christmas is celebrated among orthodox Englishmen. The poor lads toil hard, live hard, and they certainly feed hard; but, with all due respect, it must be said also that they mostly pray hard; and, if any one of the cynical division had been among the seamen during that awful time five years ago, he would have seen that among the sea-toilers at least the “glad” season is glad in something more than name–for the gladness is serious. Sights of the same kind may be seen on great ships that are careering over the myriad waterways that net the surface of the globe; the smart man-of-war, the great liner, the slow deep-laden barque toiling wearily round the Horn, are all manned by crews that keep up the aged tradition more or less merrily; and woe betide the cook that fails in his duty! That lost man’s fate may be left to the eye of imagination. Under the Southern Cross the fair summer weather glows; but the good Colonists have their little rejoicings without the orthodox adjuncts of snow and frozen fingers and iron roads. Far up in the bush the men remember to make some kind of rude attempt at improvising Christmas rites, and memories of the old country are present with many a good fellow who is facing his first hard luck. But the climate makes no difference; and, apart from all religious considerations, there is no social event that so draws together the sympathies of the whole English race all over the world.

At Nainee Tal, or any other of our stations in our wondrous Indian