A POINT OF CRITICISM

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A few pages back, I ventured to remark that in Utopia or the Millennium the women of the community would probably be supported in common by the labour of the men, and so be secured complete independence of choice and action. When these essays first appeared in a daily newspaper, a Leader among Women wrote to me in reply, "What a paradise you open up to us! Alas for the reality! The question is—could women ever be really independent if men supplied the means of existence? They would always feel they had the right to control us. The difference of the position of a woman in marriage when she has got a little fortune of her own is something miraculous. Men adore money, and the possession of it inspires them with an involuntary respect for the happy possessor."

Now I got a great many letters in answer to these Post-Prandials as they originally came out—some of them, strange to say, not wholly complimentary. As a rule, I am too busy a man to answer letters: and I take this opportunity of apologising to correspondents who write to tell me I am a knave or a fool, for not having acknowledged direct their courteous communications. But this friendly criticism seems to call for a reply, because it involves a question of principle which I have often noted in all discussions of Utopias and Millennia.

For my generous critic seems to take it for granted that women are not now dependent on the labour of men for their support—that some, or even most of them, are in a position of freedom. The plain truth of it is—almost all women depend for everything upon one man, who is or may be an absolute despot. A very small number of women have "money of their own," as we quaintly phrase it—that is to say, are supported by the labour of many among us, either in the form of rent or in the form of interest on capital bequeathed to them. A woman with five thousand a year from Consols, for example, is in the strictest sense supported by the united labour of all of us—she has a first mortgage to that amount upon the earnings of the community. You and I are taxed to pay her. But is she therefore more dependent than the woman who lives upon what she can get out of the scanty earnings of a drunken husband? Does the community therefore think it has a right to control her? Not a bit of it. She is in point of fact the only free woman among us. My dream was to see all women equally free—inheritors from the community of so much of its earnings; holders, as it were, of sufficient world-consols to secure their independence.

That, however, is not the main point to which I desire just now to direct attention. I want rather to suggest an underlying fallacy of all so-called individualists in dealing with schemes of so-called Socialism—for to me your Socialist is the true and only individualist. My correspondent's argument is written from the standpoint of the class in which women have or may have money. But most women have none; and schemes of reconstruction must be for the benefit of the many. So-called individualists seem to think that under a more organised social state they would not be so able to buy pictures as at present, not so free to run across to California or Kamschatka. I doubt their premiss, for I believe we should all of us be better off than we are to-day; but let that pass; 'tis a detail. The main thing is this: they forget that most of us are narrowly tied and circumscribed at present by endless monopolies and endless restrictions of land or capital. I should like to buy pictures; but I can't afford them. I long to see Japan; but I shall never get there. The man in the street may desire to till the ground: every acre is appropriated. He may wish to dig coal: Lord Masham prevents him. He may have a pretty taste in Venetian glass: the flints on the shore are private property; the furnace and the implements belong to a capitalist. Under the existing régime, the vast mass of us are hampered at every step in order that a few may enjoy huge monopolies. Most men have no land, so that one man may own a county. And they call this Individualism!

In considering any proposed change, whether imminent or distant, in practice or in day-dream, it is not fair to take as your standard of reference the most highly-favoured individuals under existing conditions. Nor is it fair to take the most unfortunate only. You should look at the average.

Now the average man, in the world as it wags, is a farm-labourer, an artisan, a mill-hand, a navvy. He has untrammelled freedom of contract to follow the plough on another man's land, or to work twelve hours a day in another man's factory, for that other man's benefit—provided always he can only induce the other man to employ him. If he can't, he is at perfect liberty to tramp the high road till he drops with fatigue, or to starve, unhindered, on the Thames Embankment. He may live where he likes, as far as his means permit; for example, in a convenient court off Seven Dials. He may make his own free bargain with grasping landlord or exacting sweater. He may walk over every inch of English soil, with the trifling exception of the millions of acres where trespassers will be prosecuted. Even travel is not denied him: Florence and Venice are out of his beat, it is true; but if he saves up his loose cash for a couple of months, he may revel in the Oriental luxury of a third-class excursion train to Brighton and back for three shillings. Such advantages does the régime of landlord-made individualism afford to the average run of British citizen. If he fails in the race, he may retire at seventy to the ease and comfort of the Union workhouse, and be buried inexpensively at the cost of his parish.

The average woman in turn is the wife of such a man, dependent upon him for what fraction of his earnings she can save from the public-house. Or she is a shop-girl, free to stand all day from eight in the morning till ten at night behind a counter, and to throw up her situation if it doesn't suit her. Or she is a domestic servant, enjoying the glorious liberty of a Sunday out every second week, and a walk with her young man every alternate Wednesday after eight in the evening. She has full leave to do her love-making in the open street, and to get as wet as she chooses in Regent's Park on rainy nights in November. Look the question in the face, and you will see for yourself that the mass of mothers in every community are dependent for support, not upon men in general, but upon a single man, their husband, against whose caprices and despotism they have no sort of protection. Even the few women who are, as we say, "independent," how are they supported, save by the labour of many men who work to keep them in comfort or luxury? They are landowners, let us put it; and then they are supported by the labour of their farmers and ploughmen. Or they hold North-Western shares; and then they are supported by the labour of colliers, and stokers, and guards, and engine-drivers. And so on throughout. The plain fact is, either a woman must earn her own livelihood by work, which, in the case of the mothers in a community, is bad public policy; or else she must be supported by a man or men, her husband, or her labourers.

My day-dream was, then, to make every woman independent, in precisely the same sense that women of property are independent at present. Would it give them a consciousness of being unduly controlled if they derived their support from the general funds of the body politic, of which they would be free and equal members and voters? Well, look at similar cases in our own England. The Dukes of Marlborough derive a heavy pension from the taxes of the country; but I have never observed that any Duke of Marlborough of my time felt himself a slave to the imperious taxpayer. Mr. Alfred Russel Wallace is justly the recipient of a Civil List annuity; but that hasn't prevented his active and essentially individualist brain from inventing Land Nationalisation. Mr. Robert Buchanan very rightly draws another such annuity for good work done; but Mr. Buchanan's name is not quite the first that rises naturally to my lips as an example of cowed and cringing sycophancy to the ideas and ideals of his fellow-citizens. No, no; be sure of it, this terror is a phantom. One master is real, realisable, instant; but to be dependent upon ten million is just what we always describe as independence.

 

A GLIMPSE INTO UTOPIA.

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You ask me what would be the position of women in an ideal community. Well, after dinner, imagination may take free flight. Suppose, till the coffee comes, we discuss that question.

Woman, I take it, differs from man in being the sex sacrificed to reproductive necessities.

Whenever I say this, I notice my good friends, the women's-rights women, with whom I am generally in pretty close accord, look annoyed and hurt. I can never imagine why. I regard this point as an original inequality of nature, which it should be the duty of human society to redress as far as possible, like all other inequalities. Women are not on the average as tall as men; nor can they lift as heavy weights, or undergo, as a rule, so much physical labour. Yet civilised society recognises their equal right to the protection of our policemen, and endeavours to neutralise their physical inequality by the collective guarantee of all the citizens. In the same way I hold that women in the lump have a certain disadvantage laid upon them by nature, in the necessity that some or most among them should bear children; and this disadvantage I think the men in a well-ordered State would do their best to compensate by corresponding privileges. If women endure on our behalf the great public burden of providing future citizens for the community, the least we can do for them in return is to render that burden as honourable and as little onerous as possible. I can never see that there is anything unchivalrous in frankly admitting these facts of nature; on the contrary, it seems to me the highest possible chivalry to recognise in woman, as woman, high or low, rich or poor, the potential mother, who has infinite claims on that ground alone to our respect and sympathy.

Nor do I mean to deny, either, that the right to be a mother is a sacred and peculiar privilege of women. In a well-ordered community, I believe, that privilege will be valued high, and will be denied to no fitting mother by any man. While maternity is from one point of view a painful duty, a burden imposed upon a single sex for the good of the whole, it is from another point of view a privilege and a joy, and from a third point of view the natural fulfilment of a woman's own instincts, the complement of her personality, the healthy exercise of her normal functions. Just as in turn the man's part in providing physically for the support of the woman and the children is from one point of view a burden imposed upon him, but from another point of view a precious privilege of fatherhood, and from a third point of view the proper outlet for his own energy and his own faculties.

In an ideal State, then, I take it, almost every woman would be a mother, and almost every woman a mother of not more than about four children. An average of something like four is necessary, we know, to keep up population, and to allow for infant mortality, inevitable celibates, and so forth. Few women in such a State would abstain from maternity, save those who felt themselves physically or morally unfitted for the task; for in proportion as they abstained, either the State must lack citizens to carry on its life, or an extra and undue burden would have to be cast upon some other woman. And it may well be doubted whether in a well-ordered and civilised State any one woman could adequately bear, bring up, and superintend the education of more than four young citizens. Hence we may conclude that while no woman save the unfit would voluntarily shirk the duties and privileges of maternity, few (if any) women would make themselves mothers of more than four children. Four would doubtless grow to be regarded in such a community as the moral maximum; while it is even possible that improved sanitation, by diminishing infant mortality and adult ineffectiveness, might make a maximum of three sufficient to keep up the normal strength of the population.

In an ideal community, again, the woman who looked forward to this great task on behalf of the race would strenuously prepare herself for it beforehand from childhood upward. She would not be ashamed of such preparation; on the contrary, she would be proud of it. Her duty would be no longer "to suckle fools and chronicle small beer," but to produce and bring up strong, vigorous, free, able, and intelligent citizens. Therefore, she must be nobly educated for her great and important function—educated physically, intellectually, morally. Let us forecast her future. She will be well clad in clothes that allow of lithe and even development of the body; she will be taught to run, to play games, to dance, to swim; she will be supple and healthy, finely moulded and knit in limb and organ, beautiful in face and features, splendid and graceful in the native curves of her lissom figure. No cramping conventions will be allowed to cage her; no worn-out moralities will be tied round her neck like a mill-stone to hamper her. Intellectually she will be developed to the highest pitch of which in each individual case she proves herself capable—educated, not in the futile linguistic studies which have already been tried and found wanting for men, but in realities and existences, in the truths of life, in recognition of her own and our place among immensities. She will know something worth knowing of the world she lives in, its past and its present, the material of which it is made, the forces that inform it, the energies that thrill through it. Something, too, of the orbs that surround it, of the sun that lights it, of the stars that gleam upon it, of the seasons that govern it. Something of the plants and herbs that clothe it, of the infinite tribes of beast and bird that dwell upon it. Something of the human body, its structure and functions, the human soul, its origin and meaning. Something of human societies in the past, of institutions and laws, of creeds and ideas, of the birth of civilisation, of progress and evolution. Something, too, of the triumphs of art, of sculpture and painting, of the literature and the poetry of all races and ages. Her mind will be stored with the best thoughts of the thinkers. Morally, she will be free; her emotional development, instead of being narrowly checked and curbed, will have been fostered and directed. She will have a heart to love, and be neither ashamed nor afraid of it. Thus nurtured and trained, she will be a fit mate for a free man, a fit mother for free children, a fit citizen for a free and equal community.

Her life, too, will be her own. She will know no law but her higher instincts. No man will be able to buy or to cajole her. And in order that she may possess this freedom to perfection, that she may be no husband's slave, no father's obedient and trembling daughter, I can see but one way: the whole body of men in common must support in perfect liberty the whole body of women. The collective guarantee must protect them against individual tyranny. Thus only can women be safe from the bribery of the rich husband, from the dictation of the father from whom there are "expectations." In the ideal State, I take it, every woman will be absolutely at liberty to dispose of herself as she will, and no man will be able to command or to purchase her, to influence her in any way, save by pure inclination.

In such a State, most women would naturally desire to be mothers. Being healthy, strong, and free, they would wish to realise the utmost potentialities of their own organisms. And when they had done their duty as mothers, they would not care much, I imagine, for any further outlets for their superfluous energy. I don't doubt they would gratify to the full their artistic sensibilities and their thirst for knowledge. They would also perform their duties to the State as citizens, no less than the men. But having done these things I fancy they would have done enough; the margin of their life would be devoted to dignified and cultivated leisure. They would leave to men the tilling of the soil, the building and navigation of marine or aerial ships, the working of mines and metals, the erection of houses, the construction of roads, railways, and communications, perhaps even the entire manufacturing work of the community. Medicine and the care of the sick might still be a charge to some; education to most; art, in one form or another, to almost all. But the hard work of the world might well be left to men, upon whom it more naturally and fitly devolves. No hateful drudgery of "earning a livelihood." Women might rest content with being free and beautiful, cultivated and artistic, good citizens to the State, the mothers and guardians of the coming generations. If any woman asks more than this, she is really asking less—for she is asking that a heavier burden should be cast on some or most of her sex, in order to relieve the minority of a duty which to well-organised women ought to be a privilege.

"But all this has no practical bearing!" I beg your pardon. An ideal has often two practical uses. In the first place, it gives us a pattern towards which we may approximate. In the second place, it gives us a standard by which we may judge whether any step we propose to take is a step forward or a step backward.

 

ANENT ART PRODUCTION.

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Yesterday, at Bordighera, I strolled up the hills behind the town to Sasso. It is a queer little cluster of gleaming white-washed houses that top the crest of a steep ridge; and, like many other Italian villages, it makes a brave show from a distance, though within it is full of evil smells and all uncleanness. But I found it had a church—a picturesquely ugly and dilapidated church; and without and within, this church was decorated by inglorious hands with very naïve and rudimentary frescoes. The Four Evangelists were there, in flowing blue robes; and the Four Greater Prophets, with long white beards; and the Madonna, appearing in most wooden clouds; and the Patron Saint tricked out for his Festa in gorgeous holiday episcopal vestments. That was all—just the common everyday Italian country church that everybody has seen turned out to pattern with manufacturing regularity a hundred times over! Yet, as I sat among the olive-terraces looking down the steep slope into the Borghetto valley, and across the gorge to the green pines on the Cima, it set me thinking. 'Tis a bad habit one falls into when one has nothing better to turn one's mind to.

We English, coming to Italy with our ideas fully formed about everything on heaven and earth, naturally say to ourselves, "Great heart alive, what sadly degraded frescoes! To think the art of Raphael and Andrea del Sarto should degenerate even here, in their own land, to such a childish level!" But we are wrong, for all that. It is Raphael and Andrea who rose, not my poor nameless Sasso artists who sank and degenerated. Italy was capable of producing her great painters in her own great day, just because in thousands of such Italian villages there were work-a-day artisans in form and colour capable of turning out such ridiculous daubs as those that decorate this tawdry church on the Ligurian hilltop.

We English, in short, think of it all the wrong way uppermost. We think of it topsy-turvy, beginning at the end, while evolution invariably begins at the beginning. The Raphaels and Andreas, to put it in brief, were the final flower and fullest outcome of whole races of church decorators in infantile fresco.

Everywhere you go in Italy, this truth is forced upon your attention even to the present day. Art here is no exotic. It smacks of the soil; it springs spontaneous, like a weed; it burgeons of itself out of the heart of the people. Not high art, understand well; not the art of Burne-Jones and Whistler and Puvis de Chavannes and Sar Peladan. Commonplace everyday art, that is a trade and a handicraft, like the joiner's or the shoemaker's. Look up at your ceiling; it's overrun with festoons of crude red and blue flowers, or it's covered with cupids and graces, or it bristles with arabesques and unmeaning phantasies. Every wall is painted; every grotto decorated. Sham landscapes, sham loggias, sham parapets are everywhere. The sham windows themselves are provided, not only with sham blinds and sham curtains, but even with sham coquettes making sham eyes or waving sham handkerchiefs at passers-by below them. Open-air fresco painting is still a living art, an art practised by hundreds and thousands of craftsmen, an art as alive as cookery or weaving. The Italian decorates everything; his pottery, his house, his church, his walls, his palaces. And the only difference he feels between the various cases is, that in some of them a higher type of art is demanded by wealth and skill than in the others. No wonder, therefore, he blossomed out at last into Michael Angelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel!

To us English, on the contrary, high art is something exotic, separate, alone, sui generis. We never think of the plaster star in the middle of our ceiling as belonging even to the same range of ideas as, say, the frescoes in the Houses of Parliament.

A nation in such a condition as that is never truly artistic. The artist with us, even now, is an exceptional product. Art for a long time in England had nothing at all to do with the life of the people. It was a luxury for the rich, a curious thing for ladies' and gentlemen's consumption, as purely artificial as the stuccoed Italian villa in which they insisted on shivering in our chilly climate. And the pictures it produced were wholly alien to the popular wants and the popular feelings; they were part of an imported French, Italian, and Flemish tradition. English art has only slowly outgrown this stage, just in proportion as truly artistic handicrafts have sprung up here and there, and developed themselves among us. Go into the Cantagalli or the Ginori potteries at Florence, and you will see mere boys and girls, untrained children of the people, positively disporting themselves, with childish glee, in painting plates and vases. You will see them, not slavishly copying a given design of the master's, but letting their fancy run riot in lithe curves and lines, in griffons and dragons and floral twists-and-twirls of playful extravagance. They revel in ornament. Now, it is out of the loins of people like these that great artists spring by nature—not State-taught, artificial, made-up artists, but the real spontaneous product, the Lippi and Botticelli, the hereditary craftsmen, the born painters. And in England nowadays it is a significant fact that a large proportion of the truest artists—the innovators, the men who are working out a new style of English art for themselves, in accordance with the underlying genius of the British temperament, have sprung from the great industrial towns—Birmingham, Manchester, Leicester—where artistic handicrafts are now once more renascent. I won't expose myself to further ridicule by repeating here (what I nevertheless would firmly believe, were it not for the scoffers) that a large proportion of them are of Celtic descent—belong, in other words, to that section of the complex British nationality in which the noble traditions of decorative art never wholly died out—that section which was never altogether enslaved and degraded by the levelling and cramping and soul-destroying influences of manufacturing industrialism.

In Italy, art is endemic. In England, in spite of all we have done to stimulate it of late years with guano and other artificial manures, it is still sporadic.

The case of music affords us an apt parallel. Till very lately, I believe, our musical talent in Britain came almost entirely from the cathedral towns. And why? Because there, and there alone, till quite a recent date, there existed a hereditary school of music, a training of musicians from generation to generation among the mass of the people. Not only were the cathedral services themselves a constant school of taste in music, but successive generations of choristers and organists gave rise to something like a musical caste in our episcopal centres. It is true, our vocalists have always come mainly from Wales, from the Scotch Highlands, from Yorkshire, from Ireland. But for that there is, I believe, a sufficient physical reason. For these are clearly the most mountainous parts of the United Kingdom; and the clear mountain air seems to produce on the average a better type of human larynx than the mists of the level. The men of the lowland, say the Tyrolese, croak like frogs in their marshes; but the men of the upland sing like nightingales on their tree-tops. And indeed, it would seem as if the mountain people were always calling to one another across intervening valleys, always singing and whistling and shouting over their work in a way that gives tone to the whole vocal mechanism. Witness Welsh penillion singing. And wherever this fine physical endowment goes hand in hand with a delicate ear and a poetic temperament, you get your great vocalist, your Sims Reeves or your Patti. But in England proper it was only in the cathedral towns that music was a living reality to the people; and it was in the cathedral towns, accordingly, during the dark ages of art, that exceptional musical ability was most likely to show itself. More particularly was this so on the Welsh border, where the two favouring influences of race and practice coincided—at Gloucester, Worcester, Hereford, long known for the most musical towns in England.

Cause and effect act and react. Art is a product of the artistic temperament. The artistic temperament is a product of the long hereditary cultivation of art. And where a broad basis of this temperament exists among the people, owing to intermixture of artistically-minded stocks, one is liable to get from time to time that peculiar combination of characteristics—sensuous, intellectual, spiritual—which results in the highest and truest artist.

 

WHY ENGLAND IS BEAUTIFUL.

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As I strolled across the moor this afternoon towards Waverley, I saw Jones was planting out that bare hillside of his with Douglas pines and Scotch firs and new strains of silver birches. They will improve the landscape. And I thought as I scanned them, "How curious that most people entirely overlook this constant betterment and beautifying of England! You hear them talk much of the way bricks and mortar are invading the country; you never hear anything of this slow and silent process of planting and developing which has made England into the prettiest and one of the most beautiful countries in Europe."

What's that you say? "Astonished to find I have a good word of any sort to put in for England!" Why, dear me, how irrational you are! I just love England. Can any man with eyes in his head and a soul for beauty do otherwise? England and Italy—there you have the two great glories of Europe. Italy for towns, for art, for man's handicraft; England for country, for nature, for green lanes and lush copses. Was it not one that loved Italy well who sighed in Italy—

"Oh, to be in England now that April's there?"

And who that loves Italy, and knows England, too, does not echo Browning's wish when April comes round again on dusty Tuscan hilltops? At Perugia, last spring, through weeks of tramontana, how one yearned for the sight of yellow English primroses! Not love England, indeed! Milton's England, Shelley's England; the England of the skylark, the dog-rose, the honeysuckle! Not love England, forsooth! Why, I love every flower, every blade of grass in it. Devonshire lane, close-cropped down, rich water-meadow, bickering brooklet: ah me, how they tug at one's heartstrings in Africa! No son of the soil can love England as those love her very stones who have come from newer lands over sea to her ivy-clad church-towers, her mouldering castles, her immemorial elms, the berries on her holly, the may in her hedgerows. Are not all these bound up in our souls with each cherished line of Shakespeare and Wordsworth? do they not rouse faint echoes of Gray and Goldsmith? Even before I ever set foot in England, how I longed to behold my first cowslip, my first foxglove! And now, I have wandered through the footpaths that run obliquely across English pastures, picking meadowsweet and fritillaries, for half a lifetime, till I have learned by heart every leaf and every petal. You think because I dislike one squalid village—"The Wen," stout English William Cobbett delighted to call it—I don't love England. You think because I see some spots on the sun of the English character, I don't love Englishmen. Why, how can any man who speaks the English tongue, and boasts one drop of English blood in his veins, not be proud of England? England, the mother of poets and thinkers; England, that gave us Newton, Darwin, Spencer; England, that holds in her lap Oxford, Salisbury, Durham; England of daisy and heather and pine-wood! Are we hewn out of granite, to be cold before England?

Upon my soul, your unseasonable interruption has almost made me forget what I was going to say; it has made me grow warm, and drop into poetry.

England, I take it, is certainly the prettiest country in Europe. It is almost the most beautiful. I say "almost," because I bethink me of Norway and Switzerland. I say "country," because I bethink me of Rome, Venice, Florence. But, taking it as country, and as country alone, nothing else approaches it. Have you ever thought why? Man made the town, says the proverb, and God made the country. Not so in England. There, man made the country, and beautified it exceedingly. In itself, the land of south-eastern England is absolutely the same as the land of Northern France—that hideous tract about Boulogne and Amiens which we traverse in silence every time we run across by Calais to Paris. Chalk and clay and sandstone stretch continuously under sea from Kent and Sussex to Flanders and Picardy. The Channel burst through, and made the Straits of Dover; but the land on either side was and still is geologically and physically identical. What has made the difference? Man, the planter and gardener. England is beautiful by copse and hedgerow, by pine-clad ridge and willow-covered hollow, by meadows interspersed with great spreading oaks, by pastures where drowsy sheep, deep-fleeced and ruddy-stained, huddle under the shade of ancestral beech-trees. Its loveliness is human. In itself, I believe, the actual contour of England cannot once have been much better than the contour of northern France—though nowadays it is hard indeed to realise it. Judicious planting, and a constant eye to picturesque effect in scenery, have made England what she is—the garden of Europe.

Of course there are parts of the country which owed, and still owe, their beauty to their wildness—Dartmoor, Exmoor, the West Riding of Yorkshire, the Surrey hills, the Peak in Derbyshire. Yet even these depend more than you would believe, when you take them in detail, on the art of the forester. The view from Leith Hill embraces John Evelyn's woods at Wotton: the larches that cover one Jura-like gorge were set there well within your and my memory. But elsewhere in England the hand of man has done absolutely everything. The American, when he first visits England, is charmed on his way up from Liverpool to London by the exquisite air of antique cultivation and soft rural beauty. The very sward is moss-like. Thoroughly wild country, indeed, unless bold and mountainous, does not often please one. It is apt to be bare, unattractive, and desolate. Witness the Veldt, the Steppes, the prairies. You may go through miles and miles of the States and Canada, where the wildness for the most part rather repels than delights you. I do not say everywhere; in places the wilderness will blossom like a rose; boggy margins of lakes, fallen trunks in the forest overgrown with wild flowers, make scenes unattainable in our civilised England. Even our roughest scenery is comparatively man-made: our heaths are game preserves; our woodlands are thinned of superfluous underbrush; our moors are relieved by deliberate plantations. But England in her own way is unique and unrivalled. Such parks, such greensward, such grassy lawns, such wooded tilth, are wholly unknown elsewhere. Compare the blank fields and long poplar-fringed high roads of central France with our Devon or our Warwickshire, and you get at once a just measure of the vast, the unspeakable difference.

And man has done it all. Alone he did it. Often as I take my walks abroad—and when I say abroad I mean in England—I see men at work dotting about exotics of variegated foliage on some barren hillside, and I say to myself, "There, before my eyes, goes on the beautifying of England." Thirty years ago, the North Downs near Dorking were one bare stretch of white chalky sheep-walk; half of them still remain so; the other half has been planted irregularly with copses and spinneys, which serve to throw up and enhance the beauty of the unaltered intervals. Beech and larch in autumn tints set off smooth patches of grass and juniper. Within the last few years, the downs about Leatherhead have been similarly diversified. Much of the loveliness of rural England is due, one must frankly confess, to the big landlords. Though the great houses love us not, we must allow at least that the great houses have cared for the trees in the hedge-rows, and for the timber in the meadows, as well as for the covert that sheltered their pheasants, their foxes, and their gamekeepers. But almost as much of England's charm is due to individual small owners or occupiers. 'Tis they who have planted the grounds about villa or cottage; they who have stocked the sweet old gardens of yew and box, of hollyhock and peony; they who have given us the careless rustic grace of the English village. Still, one way or another, man has done it all, whether in grange or in manor-house, in palatial estate or in labourer's holding. Look at the French or Belgian hamlet by the side of the English one; look at the French or Belgian farm by the side of our English wealth in wooded glen or sheltered homestead. Bricks and mortar are not covering the whole of England. That is only true of the squalid purlieus and outliers of London, whither Londoners gravitate by mutual attraction. If you will go and live in a dingy suburb, you can't reasonably complain that all the world's suburban. Being the most cheerful of pessimists, a dweller in the country all the days of my life, I have no hesitation in expressing my profound conviction that within my memory more has been done to beautify than to uglify England. Only, the beautification has been quiet and unobtrusive, while the uglification has been obvious and concentrated. It takes half a year to jerry-build a dingy street, but it takes a decade for newly-planted trees to give the woodland air by imperceptible stages to a stretch of country.

 

ABOUT ABROAD.

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The place known as Abroad is not nearly so nice a country to live in as England. The people who inhabit Abroad are called Foreigners. They are in every way and at all times inferior to Englishmen.

These Post-Prandials used once to be provided with a sting in their tail, like the common scorpion. By way of change, I turn them out now with a sting in their head, like the common mosquito. Mosquitoes are much less dangerous than scorpions, but they're a deal more irritating.

Not that I am sanguine enough to expect I shall irritate Englishmen. Your Englishman is far too cock-sure of the natural superiority of Britons to Foreigners, the natural superiority of England to Abroad, ever to be irritated by even the gentlest criticism. He accepts it all with lordly indifference. He brushes it aside as the elephant might brush aside the ineffective gadfly. No proboscis can pierce that pachydermatous hide of his. If you praise him to his face, he accepts your praise as his obvious due, with perfect composure and without the slightest elation. If you blame him in aught, he sets it down to your ignorance and mental inferiority. You say to him, "Oh, Englishman, you are great; you are wise; you are rich beyond comparison. You are noble; you are generous; you are the prince among nations." He smiles a calm smile, and thinks you a very sensible fellow. But you add, "Oh, my lord, if I may venture to say so, there is a smudge on your nose, which I make bold to attribute to the settlement of a black on your intelligent countenance." He is not angry. He is not even contemptuously amused. He responds, "My friend, you are wrong. There is never a smudge on my immaculate face. No blacks fly in London. The sky is as clear there in November as in August. All is pure and serene and beautiful." You answer, "Oh, my lord, I admit the force of your profound reasoning. You light the gas at ten in the morning only to show all the world you can afford to burn it." At that, he gropes his way along Pall Mall to his club, and tells the men he meets there how completely he silenced you.

And yet, My Lord Elephant, there is use in mosquitoes. Mr. Mattieu Williams once discovered the final cause of fleas. Certain people, said he, cannot be induced to employ the harmless necessary tub. For them, Providence designed the lively flea. He compels them to scratch themselves. By so doing they rouse the skin to action and get rid of impurities. Now, this British use of the word Abroad is a smudge on the face of the otherwise perfect Englishman. Perchance a mosquito-bite may induce him to remove it with a little warm water and a cambric pocket-handkerchief.

To most Englishmen, the world divides itself naturally into two unequal and non-equivalent portions—Abroad and England. Of these two, Abroad is much the larger country; but England, though smaller, is vastly more important. Abroad is inhabited by Frenchmen and Germans, who speak their own foolish and chattering languages. Part of it is likewise pervaded by Chinamen, who wear pigtails; and the outlying districts belong to the poor heathen, chiefly interesting as a field of missionary enterprise, and a possible market for Manchester piece-goods. We sometimes invest our money abroad, but then we are likely to get it swallowed up in Mexicans or Egyptian Unified. If you ask most people what has become of Tom, they will answer at once with the specific information, "Oh, Tom has gone Abroad." I have one stereotyped rejoinder to an answer like that. "What part of Abroad, please?" That usually stumps them. Abroad is Abroad; and like the gentleman who was asked in examination to "name the minor prophets," they decline to make invidious distinctions. It is nothing to them whether he is tea-planting in the Himalayas, or sheep-farming in Australia, or orange-growing in Florida, or ranching in Colorado. If he is not in England, why then he is elsewhere; and elsewhere is Abroad, one and indivisible.

In short, Abroad answers in space to that well-known and definite date, the Olden Time, in chronology.

People will tell you, "Foreigners do this"; "Foreigners do that"; "Foreigners smoke so much"; "Foreigners always take coffee for breakfast." "Indeed," I love to answer; "I've never observed it myself in Central Asia." 'Tis Parson Adams and the Christian religion. Nine English people out of ten, when they talk of Abroad, mean what they call the Continent; and when they talk of the Continent, they mean France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy; in short, the places most visited by Englishmen when they consent now and again to go Abroad for a holiday. "I don't like Abroad," a lady once said to me on her return from Calais. Foreigners, in like manner, means Frenchmen, Germans, Swiss, Italians. In the country called Abroad, the most important parts are the parts nearest England; of the people called Foreigners, the most important are those who dress like Englishmen. The dim black lands that lie below the horizon are hardly worth noticing.

Would it surprise you to learn that most people live in Asia? Would it surprise you to learn that most people are poor benighted heathen, and that, of the remainder, most people are Mahommedans, and that of the Christians, who come next, most people are Roman Catholics, and that, of the other Christian sects, most people belong to the Greek Church, and that, last of all, we get Protestants, more particularly Anglicans, Wesleyans, Baptists? Have you ever really realised the startling fact that England is an island off the coast of Europe? that Europe is a peninsula at the end of Asia? that France, Germany, Italy, are the fringe of Russia? Have you ever really realised that the English-speaking race lives mostly in America? that the country is vastly more populous than London? that our class is the froth and the scum of society? Think these things out, and try to measure them on the globe. And when you speak of Abroad, do please specify what part of it.

Abroad is not all alike. There are differences between Poland, Peru, and Palestine. What is true of France is not true of Fiji. Distinguish carefully between Timbuctoo, Tobolsk, and Toledo.

It is not our insularity that makes us so insular. 'Tis a gift of the gods, peculiar to Englishmen. The other inhabitants of these Isles of Britain are comparatively cosmopolitan. The Scotchman goes everywhere; the world is his oyster. Ireland is an island still more remote than Great Britain; but the Irishman has never been so insular as the English. I put that down in part to his Catholicism: his priests have been wheels in a world-wide system; his relations have been with Douai, St. Omer, and Rome; his bishops have gone pilgrimages and sat on Vatican Councils; his kinsmen are the MacMahons in France, the O'Donnels in Spain, the Taafes in Austria. Even in the days of the Regency this was so: look at Lever and his heroes! When England drank port, County Clare drank claret. But ever since the famine, Ireland has expanded. Every Irishman has cousins in Canada, in Australia, in New York, in San Francisco. The Empire is Irish, with the exception of India; and India, of course, is a Scotch dependency. Irishmen and Scotchmen have no such feelings about Abroad and its Foreigners as Londoners entertain. But Englishmen never quite get over the sense that everybody must needs divide the world into England and Elsewhere. To the end no Englishman really grasps the fact that to Frenchmen and Germans he himself is a foreigner. I have met John Bulls who had passed years in Italy, but who spoke of the countrymen of Cæsar and Dante and Leonardo and Garibaldi with the contemptuous toleration one might feel towards a child or an Andaman Islander. These Italians could build Giotto's campanile; could paint the Transfiguration; could carve the living marble on the tombs of the Medici; could produce the Vita Nuova; could beget Galileo, Galvani, Beccaria; but still—they were Foreigners. Providence in its wisdom has decreed that they must live Abroad—just as it has decreed that a comprehension of the decimal system and its own place in the world should be limitations eternally imposed upon the English intellect.

 

IMAGINATION AND RADICALS.

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Conservatism, I believe, is mainly due to want of imagination.

In saying this, I do not for a moment mean to deny the other and equally obvious truth that Conservatism, in the lump, is a euphemism for selfishness. But the two ideas have much in common. Selfish people are apt to be unimaginative: unimaginative people are apt to be selfish. Clearly to realise the condition of the unfortunate is the beginning of philanthropy. Clearly to realise the rights of others is the beginning of justice. "Put yourself in his place" strikes the keynote of ethics. Stupid people can only see their own side of a question: they cannot even imagine any other side possible. So, as a rule, stupid people are Conservative. They cling to what they have; they dread revision, redistribution, justice. Also, if a man has imagination he is likely to be Radical, even though selfish; while if he has no imagination he is likely to be Conservative, even though otherwise good and kind-hearted. Some men are Conservative from defects of heart, while some are Conservative from defects of head. Conversely, most imaginative people are Radical; for even a bad man may sometimes uphold the side of right because he has intelligence enough to understand that things might be better managed in the future for all than they are in the present.

But when I say that Conservatism is mainly due to want of imagination, I mean more than that. Most people are wholly unable to conceive in their own minds any state of things very different from the one they have been born and brought up in. The picturing power is lacking. They can conceive the past, it is true, more or less vaguely—because they have always heard things once were so, and because the past is generally realisable still by the light of the relics it has bequeathed to the present. But they can't at all conceive the future. Imagination fails them. Innumerable difficulties crop up for them in the way of every proposed improvement. Before there was any County Council for London, such people thought municipal government for the metropolis an insoluble problem. Now that Home Rule quivers trembling in the balance, they think it would pass the wit of man to devise in the future a federal league for the component elements of the United Kingdom; in spite of the fact that the wit of man has already devised one for the States of the Union, for the Provinces of the Dominion, for the component Cantons of the Swiss Republic. To the unimaginative mind difficulties everywhere seem almost insuperable. It shrinks before trifles. "Impossible!" said Napoleon. "There is no such word in my dictionary!" He had been trained in the school of the French Revolution—which was not carried out by unimaginative pettifoggers.

To people without imagination any change you propose seems at once impracticable. They are ready to bring up endless objections to the mode of working it. There would be this difficulty in the way, and that difficulty, and the other one. You would think, to hear them talk, the world as it stands was absolutely perfect, and moved without a hitch in all its bearings. They don't see that every existing institution just bristles with difficulties—and that the difficulties are met or got over somehow. Often enough while they swallow the camel of existing abuses they strain at some gnat which they fancy they see flying in at the window of Utopia or of the Millennium. "If your reform were carried," they say in effect, "we should, doubtless, get rid of such and such flagrant evils; but the streets in November would be just as muddy as ever, and slight inconvenience might be caused in certain improbable contingencies to the duke or the cotton-spinner, the squire or the mine-owner." They omit to note that much graver inconvenience is caused at present to the millions who are shut out from the fields and the sunshine, who are sweated all day for a miserable wage, or who are forced to pay fancy prices for fuel to gratify the rapacity of a handful of coal-grabbers.

Lack of imagination makes people fail to see the evils that are; makes them fail to realise the good that might be.

I often fancy to myself what such people would say if land had always been communal property, and some one now proposed to hand it over absolutely to the dukes, the squires, the game-preservers, and the coal-owners. "'Tis impossible," they would exclaim; "the thing wouldn't be workable. Why, a single landlord might own half Westminster! A single landlord might own all Sutherlandshire! The hypothetical Duke of Westminster might put bars to the streets; he might impede locomotion; he might refuse to let certain people to whom he objected take up their residence in any part of his territory; he might prevent them from following their own trades or professions; he might even descend to such petty tyranny as tabooing brass plates on the doors of houses. And what would you do then? The thing isn't possible. The Duke of Sutherland, again, might shut up all Sutherlandshire; might turn whole vast tracts into grouse-moor or deer-forest; might prevent harmless tourists from walking up the mountains. And surely free Britons would never submit to that. The bare idea is ridiculous. The squire of a rural parish might turn out the Dissenters; might refuse to let land for the erection of chapels; might behave like a petty King Augustus of Scilly. Indeed, there would be nothing to prevent an American alien from buying up square miles of purple heather in Scotland, and shutting the inhabitants of these British Isles out of their own inheritance. Sites might be refused for needful public purposes; fancy prices might be asked for pure cupidity. Speculators would job land for the sake of unearned increment; towns would have to grow as landlords willed, irrespective of the wants or convenience of the community. Theoretically, I don't even see that Lord Rothschild mightn't buy up the whole area of Middlesex, and turn London into a Golden House of Nero. Your scheme can't be worked. The anomalies are too obvious."

They are indeed. Yet I doubt whether the unimaginative would quite have foreseen them: the things they foresee are less real and possible. But they urge against every reform such objections as I have parodied; and they urge them about matters of far less vital importance. The existing system exists; they know its abuses, its checks and its counter-checks. The system of the future does not yet exist; and they can't imagine how its far slighter difficulties could ever be smoothed over. They are not the least staggered by the appalling reality of the Duke of Westminster or the Duke of Sutherland; not the least staggered by the sinister power of a conspiracy of coal-owners to paralyse a great nation with the horrors of a fuel famine. But they are staggered by their bogey that State ownership of land might give rise to a certain amount of jobbery and corruption on the part of officials. They think it better that the dukes and the squires should get all the rent than that the State should get most of it, with the possibility of a percentage being corruptly embezzled by the functionaries who manage it. This shows want of imagination. It is as though one should say to one's clerk, "All your income shall be paid in future to the Duke of Westminster, and not to yourself, for his sole use and benefit; because we, your employers, are afraid that if we give you your salary in person, you may let some of it be stolen from you or badly invested." How transparently absurd! We want our income ourselves, to spend as we please. We would rather risk losing one per cent. of it in bad investments than let all be swallowed up by the dukes and the landlords.

It is the same throughout. Want of imagination makes people exaggerate the difficulties and dangers of every new scheme, because they can't picture constructively to themselves the details of its working. Men with great picturing power, like Shelley or Robespierre, are always very advanced Radicals, and potentially revolutionists. The difficulty they see is not the difficulty of making the thing work, but the difficulty of convincing less clear-headed people of its desirability and practicability. A great many Conservatives, who are Conservative from selfishness, would be Radicals if only they could feel for themselves that even their own petty interests and pleasures are not really menaced. The squires and the dukes can't realise how much happier even they would be in a free, a beautiful, and a well-organised community. Imaginative minds can picture a world where everything is so ordered that life comes as a constant æsthetic delight to everybody. They know that that world could be realised to-morrow—if only all others could picture it to themselves as vividly as they do. But they also know that it can only be attained in the end by long ages of struggle, and by slow evolution of the essentially imaginative ethical faculty. For right action depends most of all, in the last resort, upon a graphic conception of the feelings of others.

 

THE CELTIC FRINGE.

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We Celts henceforth will rule the roost in Britain.

What is that you mutter? "A very inopportune moment to proclaim the fact." Well, no, I don't think so. And I'm sorry to hear you say it, for if there is a quality on which I plume myself, it's the delicate tact that makes me refrain from irritating the susceptibilities of the sensitive Saxon. See how polite I am to him! I call him sensitive. But, opportune or inopportune, Lord Salisbury says we are a Celtic fringe. I beg to retort, we are the British people.

"Conquered races," say my friends. Well, grant it for a moment. But in civilised societies, conquerors have, sooner or later, to amalgamate with the conquered. And where the vanquished are more numerous, they absorb the victors instead of being absorbed by them. That is the Nemesis of conquest. Rome annexed Etruria; and Etruscan Mæcenas, Etruscan Sejanus organised and consolidated the Roman Empire. Rome annexed Italy; and the Jus Italicum grew at last to be the full Roman franchise. Rome annexed the civilised world; and the provinces under Cæsar blotted out the Senate. Britain is passing now through the self-same stage. One inevitable result of the widening of the electorate has been the transfer of power from the Teutonic to the Celtic half of Britain. I repeat, we are no longer a Celtic fringe: at the polls, in Parliament, we are the British people. Lord Salisbury may fail to perceive that fact, or, as I hold more probable, may affect to ignore it. What will such tactics avail? The ostrich is not usually counted among men as a perfect model of political wisdom.

And are we, after all, the conquered peoples? Meseems, I doubt it. They say we Celts dearly love a paradox—which is perhaps only the sensible Saxon way of envisaging the fact that we catch at new truths somewhat quicker than other people. At any rate, 'tis a pet little paradox of my own that we have never been conquered, and that to our unconquered state we owe in the main our Radicalism, our Socialism, our ingrained love of political freedom. We are tribal not feudal; we think the folk more important than his lordship. The Saxon of the south-east is the conquered man: he has felt on his neck for generations the heel of feudalism. He is slavish; he is snobbish; he dearly loves a lord. He shouts himself hoarse for his Beaconsfield or his Salisbury. Till lately, in his rural avatar, he sang but one song—

"God bless the squire and his relations, And keep us in our proper stations."

Trite, isn't it? but so is the Saxon intelligence.

Seriously—for at times it is well to be serious—South-Eastern England, the England of the plains, has been conquered and enslaved in a dozen ages by each fresh invader. Before the dawn of history, Heaven knows what shadowy Belgæ and Iceni enslaved it. But historical time will serve our purpose. The Roman enslaved it, but left Caledonia and Hibernia free, the Cambrian, the Silurian, the Cornishman half-subjugated. The Saxon and Anglian enslaved the east, but scarcely crossed over the watershed of the western ocean. The Dane, in turn, enslaved the Saxon in East Anglia and Yorkshire. The Norman ground all down to a common servitude between the upper and nether millstones of the feudal system—the king and the nobleman. At the end of it all, Teutonic England was reduced to a patient condition of contented serfdom: it had accommodated itself to its environment: no wish was left in it for the assertion of its freedom. To this day, the south-east, save where leavened and permeated by Celtic influences, hugs its chains and loves them. It produces the strange portent of the Conservative working-man, who yearns to be led by Lord Randolph Churchill.

With the North and the West, things go wholly otherwise. Even Cornwall, the earliest Celtic kingdom to be absorbed, was rather absorbed than conquered. I won't go into the history of the West Welsh of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall at full length, because it would take ten pages to explain it; and I know that readers are too profoundly interested in the Shocking Murder in the Borough Road to devote half-an-hour to the origin and evolution of their own community. It must suffice to say that the Devonian and Cornubian Welsh coalesced with the West Saxon for resistance to their common enemy the Dane, and that the West Saxon kingdom was made supreme in Britain by the founder of the English monarchy—one Dunstan, a monk from the West Welsh Abbey of Glastonbury. Wales proper, overrun piecemeal by Norman filibusterers, was roughly annexed by the Plantagenet kings; but it was only pacified under the Welsh Tudors, and was never at any time thoroughly feudalised. Glendower's rebellion, Richmond's rebellion, the Wesleyan revolt, the Rebecca riots, the tithe war, are all continuous parts of the ceaseless reaction of gallant little Wales against Teutonic aggression. "An alien Church" still disturbs the Principality. The Lake District and Ayrshire—Celtic Cumbria and Strathclyde—only accepted by degrees the supremacy of the Kings of England and Scotland. The brother of a Scotch King was Prince of Cumbria, as the elder son of an English King was Prince of Wales. Indeed, David of Cumbria, who became David I. of Scotland, was the real consolidator of the Scotch kingdom. Cumbria was no more conquered by the Saxon Lothians than Scotland was conquered by the accession of James I. or by the Act of Union. That means absorption, conciliation, a certain degree of tribal independence. For Ireland, we know that the "mere Irish" were never subjugated at all till the days of Henry VII.; that they had to be reconquered by Cromwell and by William of Orange; that they rebelled more or less throughout the eighteenth century; and that they have been thorns in the side of Tory England through the whole of the nineteenth. As for the Highlands, they held out against the Stuarts till England had rejected that impossible dynasty; and then they rallied round the Stuarts as the enemies of the Saxon. General Wade's roads and the forts in the Great Glen, aided by a few trifles of Glencoe massacres, kept them quiet for a moment. But it was only for a moment. The North is once more in open revolt. Dr. Clark and the crofters are its mode of expressing itself.

Nor is that all. The Celtic ideas have remained unaltered. Of course, I am not silly enough to believe there is any such thing as a Celtic race. I use the word merely as a convenient label for the league of the unconquered peoples in Britain. Ireland alone contains half-a-dozen races; and none of them appear to have anything in common with the Pict of Aberdeenshire or the West-Welsh of Cornwall. All I mean when I speak of Celtic ideas and Celtic ideals is the ideas and ideals proper and common to unconquered races. As compared with the feudalised and contented serf of South-Eastern England, are not the Irish peasant, the Scotch clansman, the "statesman" of the dales, the Cornish miner, free men every soul of them? English landlordism, imposed from without upon the crofter of Skye or the rack-rented tenant of a Connemara hillside, has never crushed out the native feeling of a right to the soil, the native resistance to an alien system. The south-east, I assert, has been brutalised into acquiescent serfdom by a long course of feudalism; the west and north still retain the instincts of freemen.

As long as South-Eastern England and the Normanised or feudalised Saxon lowlands of Scotland contained all the wealth, all the power, and most of the population of Britain, the Celtic ideals had no chance of realising themselves. But the industrial revolution of the present century has turned us right-about-face, has transferred the balance of power from the secondary strata to the primary strata in Britain; from the agricultural lowlands to the uplands of coal and iron, the cotton factories, the woollen trade. Great industrial cities have grown up in the Celtic or semi-Celtic area—Glasgow, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Belfast, Aberdeen, Cardiff. The Celt—that is to say, the mountaineer and the man of the untouched country—reproduces his kind much more rapidly than the Teuton. The Highlander and the Irishman swarm into Glasgow; the Irishman and the Welshman swarm into Liverpool; the west-countryman into Bristol; Celts of all types into London, Southampton, Newport, Birmingham, Sheffield. This eastward return-wave of Celts upon the Teuton has leavened the whole mass; if you look at the leaders of Radicalism in England you will find they bear, almost without exception, true Celtic surnames. Chartists and Socialists of the first generation were marshalled by men of Cymric descent, like Ernest Jones and Robert Owen, or by pure-blooded Irishmen like Fergus O'Connor. It is not a mere accident that the London Socialists of the present day should be led by Welshmen like William Morris, or by the eloquent brogue of Bernard Shaw's audacious oratory. We Celts now lurk in every corner of Britain; we have permeated it with our ideas; we have inspired it with our aspirations; we have roused the Celtic remnant in the south-east itself to a sense of their wrongs; and we are marching to-day, all abreast, to the overthrow of feudalism. If Lord Salisbury thinks we are a Celtic fringe he is vastly mistaken. But he doesn't really think so: 'tis a piece of his ponderous Saxon humour. Talk of "Batavian grace," indeed! Well, the Cecils came first from the fens of Lincolnshire.