Abbildungen der Seite

life which is the aim of modern society: the love of wealth, the love of intelligence, the love of beauty Your middle class, we agreed, has the first; its coin. mercial legislation, accordingly, has been very good, and in advance of that of foreign countries. Not that free-trade was really brought about by your middle class : it was brought about, as important reforms always are, by two or three great men. However, let your middle class, which had the sense to accept free trade, have the credit of it. But this only brings us a certain way. The legislation of your middle class in all that goes to give human life more intelligence and beauty, is no better than was to be expected from its own want of both. It is nothing to say that its legislation in these respects is an improvement upon what you had before ; that is not the question ; you are holding up its achievements as absolutely admirable, as unrivalled, as a model to us. You may have done, — for you, — much for religious toleration, social improvement, public instruction, municipal reform, law reform; but the French Revolution and its consequences have done, upon the Continent, a great deal more. Such a spectacle as your Irish Church Establishment 1 you cannot find in France or Germany. Your Irish land-question you hardly dare to face 2—Stein settled as threatening a land-question in Prussia. Of the schools for your middle class we have already spoken; while these schools are what they are, while the

1 It is gone, thanks to Anti-State-Church-ism !—ED.
? We have faced it !- ED.

schools for your poor are maintained in the expensive, unjust, irrational way they are, England is full of endowments and foundations, capable by themselves, if properly applied, of putting your public education on a much better footing. In France and Germany all similar funds are thus employed, having been brought under public responsible management; in England they are left to private irresponsible management, and are, in nine cases out of ten, wasted. You talk of municipal reform; and cities and the manner of life in them have, for the modern business of promoting a more rational and humane life in the great body of the community, incalculable importance. Do you suppose we should tolerate in France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, your London corporation and London vestries, and London as they make it? In your provincial towns you do better; but even there, do the municipalities show a tenth part either of the intelligence or the care for the ends, as we have laid them down, of modern society, that our municipalities show? Your middle class man thinks it the highest pitch of development and civilisation when his letters are carried twelve times a day from Islington to Camberwell, and from Camberwell to Islington, and if railway-trains run to and fro between them every quarter of an hour. He thinks it is nothing that the trains only carry him from an illiberal, dismal life at Islington to an illiberal, dismal life at Camberwell; and the letters only tell him that such is the life there. A Swiss burgher takes heaven knows how many hours to go up from Berne to Geneva, and his trains are very few ; this is an extreme on the other side ; but compare the life the Swiss burgher finds or leaves at Berne or Geneva with the life of the middle class in your English towns. Or else you think to cover everything by saying: 'We are free ! we are free! Our newspapers can say what they like !' Freedom, like Industry, is a very good horse to ride ;—but to ride somewhere. You seem to think that you have only got to get on the back of your horse Freedom, or your horse Industry, and to ride away as hard as you can, to be sure of coming to the right destination. If your newspapers can say what they like, you think you are sure of being well advised. That comes of your inaptitude for ideas, and aptitude for clap-trap; you can never see the two sides of a question; never perceive that every human state of things, even a good one, has its inconveniences. We can see the conveniences of your state well enough; and the inconveniences of ours, of newspapers not free, and prefects over-busy; and there are plenty of us who proclaim them. You eagerly repeat after us all we say that redounds to your honour and glory; but you never follow our example yourselves. You are full of acuteness to perceive the ill influence of our prefects on us; but if any one says to you, in your turn : “The English system of a great landed aristocracy

1 What a contrast between this Jacobinism and the noble senti. ments of Barrow : “Men will never be heartily loyal and submissive to authority till they become really good ; nor will they ever be very good, till they see their leaders such." I remember

keeps your lower class a lower class for ever, and materialises and vulgarises your whole middle class,' — you stare vacantly at the speaker, you cannot even take in his ideas; you can only blurt forth, in reply, some clap-trap or other about a 'system of such tried and tested efficiency as no other country was ever happy enough to possess since the world was a world.''

I have observed in my travels, that most young gentlemen of our highest class go through Europe, from Calais to Constantinople, with one sentence on their lips, and one idea in their minds, which suffices, apparently, to explain all that they see to them : Foreigners don't wash. No doubt, thought I to myself, my friends have fallen in with some distinguished young Britons of this sort, and had their feelings wounded by them; hence their rancour against our aristocracy. And as to our middle class, foreigners have no notion how much this class, with us, contains; how many shades and gradations in it there are, and how little what is said of one part of it will apply to another. Something of this sort I could not help urging aloud. “You do not know," I said, “ that there is broken off, as one may say, from the top of our middle class, a large fragment, which receive the best education the country can give, the same education as our aristocracy; which is perfectly intelligent once quoting this passage to Arminius at the time when we were all full of the Mordaunt trial. Yes,” remarked Arminius, in his thoughtful manner, “that is what makes your Lord Coles so inexpressibly precious !” But was this an answer ? I say, not. —ED.

and which enjoys life perfectly. These men do the main part of our intellectual work, write all our best newspapers; and cleverer people, I assure you, are nowhere to be found.”

“ Clever enough,” was the answer, “but they show not much intelligence, in the true sense of the word, -not much intelligence of the way the world is going. Whether it is that they must try to hit your current public opinion, which is not intelligent; whether it is that, having been, as you say, brought up with your aristocracy, they have been too much influenced by it, have taken, half insensibly, an aristocracy's material standard, and do not believe in ideas ; certain it is that their intelligence has no ardour, no plan, leads them nowhere; it is ineffectual. Your intellect is at this moment, to an almost ununexampled degree, without influence on the intellect of Europe."

While this was being said, I noticed an Italian, who was one of our party, fumbling with his pocketbook, from whence he presently produced a number of gray newspaper slips, which I could see were English. “Now just listen to me for a moment,” he cried, “and I will show you what makes us say, on the Continent, that you English have no sense for logic, for ideas, and that your praise and blame, having no substantial foundation, are worth very little. You remember the famous French pamphlet before our war began in 1859 : Napoleon the Third and Italy. The pamphlet appealed, in the French way, to 'Little Pompeo Pococurante. Almost all the rest is Arminius.


« ZurückWeiter »