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and street—they who wear it have literally entered into partnership with Death; and dressed themselves in his spoils. l'es, if the veil could be lifted not only from your thoughts, but from your human sight, you would see—the angels do see —on those gay white dresses of yours, strange dark spots, and crimson patterns that you knew not of—spots of the inex. tinguishable red that all the seas cannot wash away; yes, and among the pleasant flowers that crown your fair heads, and glow on your wreathed hair, you would see that one weed was always twisted which no one thought of—the grass that grows on graves.
It was not, however, this last, this clearest and most appalling view of our subject, that I intended to ask you to take this evening; only it is impossible to set any part of the matter in its true light, until we go to the root of it. But the point which it is our special business to consider is, not whether. costliness of dress is contrary to charity ; but whether it is not contrary to mere worldly wisdom: whether, even supposing we knew that splendor of dress did not cost suffering or hunger, we might not put the splendor better in other things than dress. And, supposing our mode of dress were really graceful or beautiful, this might be a very doubtful question ; for I believe true nobleness of dress to be an important means of education, as it certainly is a necessity to any nation which wishes to possess living art, concerned with portraiture of human nature. No good historical painting ever yet existed, or ever can exist, where the dresses of the people of the time are not beautiful: and had it not been for the lovely and fantastic dressing of the 13th to the 16th centuries, neither French, nor Florentine, nor Venetian art could have risen to anything like the rank it reached. Still, even then, the best dressing was never the costliest; and its effect depended much more on its beautiful, and, in early times, modest, arrangement, and on the
simple and lovely masses of its color, than on gorgeousness of clasp or embroidery. Whether we can ever return to any of those more perfect types of form is questionable; but there can be no question, that all the money we spend on the forms of dress at present worn, is, so far as any good purpose is concerned, wholly lost. Mind, in saying this, I reckon among good purposes the purpose which young ladies are said sometimes to entertain—of being married; but they would be married quite as soon (and probably to wiser and better husbands) by dressing quietly as by dressing brilliantly; and I believe it would only be needed to lay fairly and largely before them the real good which might be effected by the sums they spend in toilettes, to make them trust at once only to their bright eyes and braided hair for all the mischief they have a mind to. I wish we could, for once, get the statistics of a London season. There was much complaining talk in Parliament of the vast sum the nation has given for the best Paul Veronese in Venice—£14,000: I wonder what the nation meanwhile has given for its ball-dresses! Suppose we could see the London milliners' bills, simply for unnecessary breadths of slip and flounces, from April to July; I wonder whether £14,000 would cover them. But the breadths of slip and flounces are by this time as much lost and vanished as last year's snow; only they have done less good: but the Paul Veronese will last for centuries, if we take care of it; and yet we grumble at the price given for the painting, while no one grumbles at the price of pride.
Time does not permit me to go into any farther illustration of the various modes in which we build our statue out of snow, and waste our labor on things that vanish.
Things which are a mere luxury to one person are a means of intellectual occupation to another. Flowers in a London
ball-room are a luxury; in a botanical garden, a delight of the intellect; and in their native fields, both; while the most noble works of art are continually made material of vulgar luxury or of criminal pride; but, when rightly used, property of this class is the only kind which deserves the name of real property; it is the only kind which a man can truly be said to “possess.” What a man eats, or drinks, or wears, so long as it is only what is needful for life, can no more be thought of as his possession than the air he breathes. The air is as needful to him as the food; but we do not talk of a man's wealth of air, and what food or clothing a man possesses more than he himself requires, must be for others to use (and, to him, therefore, not a real property in itself, but only a means of obtaining some real property in exchange for it). Whereas the things that give intellectual or emotional enjoyment may he accumulated and do not perish in using; but continually supply new pleasures and new powers of giving pleasures to others. And these, therefore, are the only things which can rightly be thought of as giving a wealth” or “well being." Food conduces only to “being,” but these to “ well being.” And there is not any broader general distinction between lower and higher orders of men than rests on their possession of this real property. The human race may be properly divided by zoologists into “men who have gardens, libraries, or works of art; and who have none;" and the former class will include all noble persons, except only a few who make the world their garden or museum ; while the people who have not, or, which is the same thing, do not care for gardens or libraries, but care for nothing but money or luxuries, will include none but ignoble persons: only it is necessary to understand that I mean by the term “garden” as much the Carthusian's plot of ground fifteen feet square between his monastery buttresses, as I do the grounds of Chatsworth of Kew; and I mean by the term “art” as much the old sailor's print of the Arethusa bearing up to engage the Belle Poule, as I do Raphael's “Disputa,” and even rather more; for when abundant, beautiful possessions of this kind are almost always associated with vulgar luxury, and become then anything but indicative of noble character in their possessors. The ideal of human life is a union of Spartan simplicity of manners with Athenian sensibility and imagination, but in actual results, we are continually mistaking ignorance for simplicity, and sensu. ality for refinement.
In general, pride is at the bottom of all great mistakes. All the other passions do occasional good, but wherever pride puts in its word, everything goes wrong, and what it might be desirable to do quietly and innocently, it is morally dangerous to do proudly.
To be content in utter darkness and ignorance is indeed unmanly, and therefore we think that to love light and seek knowledge must always be right. Yet wherever pride has any share in the work, even knowledge and light may be ill pursued. Knowledge is good, and light is good, yet man perished in seeking knowledge, and moths perished in seeking light; and if we, who are crushed before the moth, will not accept such mystery as is needful for us, we shall perish in like manner. But, accepted in humbleness, it instantly becomes an element of pleasure; and I think that every rightly con. stituted mind ought to rejoice, not so much in knowing anything clearly, as in feeling that there is infinitely more which it cannot know. None but proud or weak men would mourn over this, for we may always know more if we choose, by working on; but the pleasure is, I think, to humble people, in knowing that the journey is endless, the treasure inexhausti
ble,-watching the cloud still march before them with ‘its . summitless pillar, and being sure that, to the end of time and
to the length of eternity, the mysteries of its infinity will still open farther and farther, their dimness being the sign and necessary adjunct of their inexhaustibleness. I know there are an evil mystery and a deathful dimness,—the mystery of the great Babylon—the dimness of the sealed eye and soul; but do not let us confuse these with the glorious mystery of the things which the angels “ desire to look into,” or with the dimness which, even before the clear eye and open soul, still rests on sealed pages of the eternal volume.
The ardor and abstraction of the spiritual life are to be honored in themselves, though the one may be misguided and the other deceived; and the deserts of Osma, Assisi, and Monte Viso are still to be thanked for the zeal they gave, or guarded, whether we find it in St. Francis and St. Dominic, or in those whom God's hand hid from them in the clefts of the rocks.
We refine and explain ourselves into dim and distant suspicion of an inactive God, inhabiting inconceivable places, and fading into the multitudinous formalisms of the laws of Nature.
All errors of this kind—and in the present day we are in constant and grievous danger of falling into them-arise from the originally mistaken idea that man can,“ by searching, find out God-find out the Almighty to perfection;" that is to say, by help of courses of reasoning and accumulations of science, apprehend the nature of the Deity in a more exalted and more accurate manner than in a state of comparative ignorance; whereas it is clearly necessary, from the beginning to the end of time, that God's way of revealing Himself to His creatures should be a simple way, which all those creatures may under