Abbildungen der Seite

must subscribe, whose leading conven- of Voltaire. We have no mind for tions he must accept. Sainte-Beuve either. We are too conscious of intel. has no point of view save that of a lectual and moral cross-currents for the lover of good art and a mind hospitable one, too burdened with the weight and to ideas. It would be too much to say mystery of the world for the other. that truth was the goddess of the one We are in a mood to taste everything, school, beauty of the other; but it is and, like the Athenians of old, we are not untrue to say that any high æs- ever calling for something new. Our thetic could scarcely be looked for from impressionism in art has extended itself one who styled the Greeks of Homer's to the whole of life, and as we have no day "mere barbarians," nor is it unfair leisure for very deep and prolonged to say that the many-colored aspect of study, we are glad to fall back on any modern life has turned the eyes of new, or apparently new, experience many of our contemporary critics from of life. “What have you to say ?” we ask simple principles to a highly complex each new writer, and we please ourselves state of moral bewilderment. We are for the hour with his reply. This, to be now soft and pliable. There seems so sure, is not the true attitude of the much to be said for any point of view. great school to which we have referred, Even science is monthly revising some but it is the attitude of what Arnold of its most cherished dogmas, the would have called its "lighter self;" mathematicians are beginning to doubt and it is substantially the literary critisome of their accepted maxims, Herr cism of the moment. Probably each Nietzsche tells us we must have a com- school has its uses as it has its defects. plete moral revaluation. When in such Johnsonian criticism hardened into the bewilderment how can we afford to “This will never do" of the Edinburgh treat any new writer with scorn? Per- Review greeting to the “Lyrical Balchance we may have the secret, and so lads." French criticism has degenerwe put aside our lingering doubts and ated into the sloppiest phrase-mongerfind out what can be genuinely said for ing which the world has ever known. him. Life is so puzzling, the mind has But the excess of either has never, we so many facets.

think, prevented a good book from being We are all living, not under the sway known, or made of a bad writer much of positive convictions, but under the more than a nine days' wonder. The reign of analysis, in an atmosphere intellectual world rights itself after the saturated by the critical spirit. John. see-saw of literary fashions. We are son firmly believed in the spiritual effi- inclined to agree with the writer in cacy of those hot cross buns, unmilked

the Dial that, after all this syrup, some and unsweetened tea, and the pew in wholesome physic would not now be St. Clement-Danes on Good Friday. As amiss. But happily the progress of the Carlyle said, he "worshipped in the era critical spirit, spite of vagaries, is such of Voltaire." We neither find now the that no undue lowering of the patient's intense narrow conviction of Johnson constitution need be seriously apprenor the confident and sneering persiflage hended. The Spectator.


[merged small][ocr errors]

Sir is a noun substantive, masculine places where crowds are barangued and applicable, in the vocative case, to with a ceremony rarely used towards a whole sex. The first meaning of the units which compose them. elder, which in the Latin belonged to Now the reason why gentlemen canthe word (corrupted at a remote period not be the plural of Sir is not only that in the mouths of the Gaulish provin- the former word is more restricted in its cials, and brought still curtailed out of application than the latter (for, I reFrance into England), is almost obliter- peat, every one in breeches is Sir, but, ated under its modern connotations. It define the other as you will, it wants is now and has long been a title, per- something more to be that), but gentlesonal or heritable, attached to the men is not a title of address at all. It is Christian names of some fortunate sub- a qualification; it asserts a number of jects who are not yet, alas! a majority facts concerning a number of persons of the nation. But besides, it is (or may of whom it is improbable, normally, be) used to address all and sundry in that the speaker should have so much one of these two principal senses:- knowledge; but, if he had, the word

should not stand first in a sentence as Man whom I honor, knowing who you

a call, summons, greeting or ejaculaare;

tion. Man whom I honor, not knowing who

My Lords likewise implies &

fact and is of yet more restricted apyou are.

plication; but it is an appelative, not The plural of this word is, in the same a qualification; and, so far, it would be case, Sirs. It is true this is denied as

more proper to hail the whole world well by some grammarians as by many My Lords (as, indeed, several nations unlearned persons. They will have it do) than Gentlemen. this monosyllable is anomalous, and When you look into this matter you makes, pluraliter, Gentlemen. They ad- will be apt to suppose the explanation duce a vast number of examples out why gentlemen came to be made the of the best authors for this use, and plural of Sir is that it seemed to square are never tired of throwing ridicule with ladies, by which word we address upon the other as a Scotticism. For the other sex collectively. Why Madam my part I should have no trouble, if should not take on a simples in our space were given me, in rebutting an language I cannot imagine. But so it allegation that must, I confess, be is; and we have been forced to press damping if it were proved; but what into this service a word which (having I would insist on here is that, whatever lost its ancient sense of bread-keepers) the authority for this gentlemen, the was already distracted by a double use; perversity of the practice is obvious for it was both a prefix, or title of digenough to have warranted the breach nity, and a qualification. So, from the of a far more uniform tradition. Public circumstance that for the plural of speaking made it; indeed, as a manner Madam we had adopted a word correlof addressing several people at once, ative in one of its uses with gentlemen, the word is seldom heard but in drill- this latter attribute came to supply a

music-halls, assembly-rooms, want appropriately provided for by the pump-rooms, lecture-rooms and other regular plural Sirs.


As Sir is any one in breeches, so Madam is any one in petticoats. Until the end of the eighteenth century the word was fully pronounced even in casual colloquy; then it became the general practice to say Ma'am, and that prevailed I know not how long. But at present it is certain Ma'am is seldom heard, except at Court; elsewhere few persons who are civil enough to address a woman (not being their superior) by any title at all say Madam-an archaism whereby they show that this civility is something utterly artificial in them. Drapers, indeed, have a pronunciation of their own; they say Modam, and write Madame. The English, unlike most other languages, makes no difference in addressing women between the feme sole and the feme coverte. They are all equally Ma'am, at least in theory; but, for some reason, it struck every one suddenly as an absurdity that a girl should be called like a matron, and therefore, this last fifty years, the practice has been with people of condition to call her nothing at all.

But, however, the fact is (and this is where I have been coming all along) that all civil modes of address are becoming rarer and rarer in this country. It is a thing to be deplored, but a thing quite incontestable. A ceremonious vocative is, perhaps, a very little part of politeness, but it is by far the easiest and most evident of any. It is interesting to consider when and why it decayed. If novels were a safe reflexion of manners, I should say that in Thackeray's time every man among equals of a certain refinement was Sir, and every woman Ma'am. In Thackeray's? why, even in Mr. Meredith's middle age it should have been so. But these novelists archaize a little by dramatic sympathy, and it is almost a matter of style with them to embellish the manners of their contemporaries. Nevertheless, it is certain the rusticity which withholds these formulas is very mod.

ern. As for the reason why they are withheld, the definition I gave above suggests it. For when I say Sir to a man, I mean simply to be civil to him, either because I know who he is, or because I do not know who he is. It is, therefore, a title implying distance between the speaker and the person addressed; and the distance may spring from the veneration in which the speaker holds, or affects to hold him, because of his years, his eminence or his dignity; from a particular subordination (as a servant's to his employer, a school-boy's to his master, a soldier's to his officer, and the like); or else from the mere circumstance that a stranger or a casual acquaintance is the person spoken to, not an intimate. In this last implication, it is a buffer that saves you from indiscriminate familiarity, exacts just what respect it pays, and puts the two parties in their place; and it 18 on this account that Sir was, a hundred years ago, a useful word in the mouths of women; it is a protection they disdain to day. Now of these three man. ners of using the word Sir (or Ma'am, it is all one), two are become discredited, principally because the third is the most notorious; because the notion of subordination drove out the notions of proper respect and cautious courtesy; and confounded civility with servility. It became offensive to a great many people, who were by no means levellers, to address their equals by a syllable which they exacted jealously from their inferiors. Besides, that Plain Man, at whom not so far back I tilted (and shall presently have at him again), in his rage against all symbols and ceremonies and his zeal for simplifying life, was ready at once to tell the world that true politeness does not consist in a form of words, but is only in the heart. And, lastly, our travelling Englishmen, some eighty years ago, having earned abroad a reputation for surliness and summary manners, made

the thing a matter of pride, and attached incivility along with impassivity to our national character, then forming.

These are the principal reasons, as it The Speaker.

seems to me, why the civil modes of address are become more uncommon among us than in some other countries.

0. P.


If Thou wilt take my heart, O God,

And mould it to Thy will, Then through the stormy scenes of life

I shall be calm and still.

It is not great things Thou dost ask

Of Thy disciples, Lord,
But what of good they each can do
By helpful deed or word.

While some bear on the battlefield

The standard of the Cross, Some are by humbler offices

Refined of earthly dross.

The grape is trodden in the press

To yield the quickening wine, And souls by sorrow only, win

The brotherhood Divine.

There is no death save fear of death;

The soul that once is free
Shall find beyond the vell of Time

But larger liberty.

Then will I, Lord, await the end

With no unfilial dread,
And listen for Thy voice to call
The Living from the Dead.

G. Barnett Smith.

Good Words.

[blocks in formation]

Weariness, if not despair, must be the dominant feeling of the writer upon the Far East who takes up his pen once more, at this moment of latest and greatest crisis to discuss British policy in relation to the Chinese Empire. A dozen, perhaps a score of writers in this country know the Far East well, they have clearly foreseen what has been coming, they have persistently issued advice and warnings. As each fresh rebuff or crisis has confirmed their prophecies they have redoubled their appeals for something in the shape of a definite, consistent and supported policy. For all the effect they have had upon the Foreign Office they would have been more usefully employed in whitewashing its cellars.

Meanwhile, the great rival has withstood us to our face in the daylight, and sown tares in our fields in the night, and in the body we have tried to preserve, the process of decay has gone so steadily on that probably no political antiseptic will now be able to save it from dissolution. Suddenlyexcept to those who have cried from the watch-towers in vain-an appalling situation faces us;' every foreigner in Peking, including diplomatists, ladies and children, is virtually a prisoner, in imminent peril of outrage, torture

and death; a foreign relief force of 2,000 men has not been heard of for a week; the famous but old-fashioned Taku forts, having fired upon the foreign feet at midnight, obviously by order of the Chinese Government, have been bombarded, blown up and occupied at a serious loss of foreign life; the railways are destroyed and all the telegraph wires are cut-if the 250 Europeans in Peking had been massacred eight days ago we should not know it yet; and all the foreign buildings at Peking, except the legations, including the large Roman Catholic Cathedral, upon the porch of which is an Imperial inscription hitherto supposed to guarantee it under all possible circumstances from injury at Chinese hands, and the buildings of the Chinese Maritime Customs, Chinese property and the bulwark of such Chinese solvency as exists, have been burned. The Western world has never found itself in such an embarrassing position in China before, and if, as seems probable at this moment, all the organized Chinese forces join in an attempt to expel the foreigner, and the always simmering rebellions of the south break into flame, as they are almost certain to do if the situation is prolonged, it is impossible to foresee the end or to say how the West is to re-establish its prestige and authority.

1 l write on the 23rd of June.

« ZurückWeiter »