Culture and Anarchy
Matthew Arnold

Part 2 out of 4

few must be imperfect until the raw and unkindled masses of humanity
are touched with sweetness and light. If I have not shrunk from
saying that we must work for sweetness and light, so neither have I
shrunk from saying that we must have a broad basis, must have
sweetness and light [48] for as many as possible. Again and again I
have insisted how those are the happy moments of humanity, how those
are the marking epochs of a people's life, how those are the
flowering times for literature and art and all the creative power of
genius, when there is a national glow of life and thought, when the
whole of society is in the fullest measure permeated by thought,
sensible to beauty, intelligent and alive. Only it must be real
thought and real beauty; real sweetness and real light. Plenty of
people will try to give the masses, as they call them, an
intellectual food prepared and adapted in the way they think proper
for the actual condition of the masses. The ordinary popular
literature is an example of this way of working on the masses.
Plenty of people will try to indoctrinate the masses with the set of
ideas and judgments constituting the creed of their own profession or
party. Our religious and political organisations give an example of
this way of working on the masses. I condemn neither way; but
culture works differently. It does not try to teach down to the
level of inferior classes; it does not try to win them for this or
that sect of its own, with ready-made judgments and watchwords. [49]
It seeks to do away with classes; to make all live in an atmosphere
of sweetness and light, and use ideas, as it uses them itself,
freely,--to be nourished and not bound by them.

This is the social idea; and the men of culture are the true apostles
of equality. The great men of culture are those who have had a
passion for diffusing, for making prevail, for carrying from one end
of society to the other, the best knowledge, the best ideas of their
time; who have laboured to divest knowledge of all that was harsh,
uncouth, difficult, abstract, professional, exclusive; to humanise
it, to make it efficient outside the clique of the cultivated and
learned, yet still remaining the best knowledge and thought of the
time, and a true source, therefore, of sweetness and light. Such a
man was Abelard in the Middle Ages, in spite of all his
imperfections; and thence the boundless emotion and enthusiasm which
Abelard excited. Such were Lessing and Herder in Germany, at the end
of the last century; and their services to Germany were in this way
inestimably precious. Generations will pass, and literary monuments
will accumulate, and works far more perfect than the [50] works of
Lessing and Herder will be produced in Germany; and yet the names of
these two men will fill a German with a reverence and enthusiasm such
as the names of the most gifted masters will hardly awaken. Because
they humanised knowledge; because they broadened the basis of life
and intelligence; because they worked powerfully to diffuse sweetness
and light, to make reason and the will of God prevail. With Saint
Augustine they said: "Let us not leave Thee alone to make in the
secret of thy knowledge, as thou didst before the creation of the
firmament, the division of light from darkness; let the children of
thy spirit, placed in their firmament, make their light shine upon
the earth, mark the division of night and day, and announce the
revolution of the times; for the old order is passed, and the new
arises; the night is spent, the day is come forth; and thou shalt
crown the year with thy blessing, when thou shalt send forth
labourers into thy harvest sown by other hands than theirs; when thou
shalt send forth new labourers to new seed-times, whereof the harvest
shall be not yet."


22. +aphuia.

22. +aphuia, euphuia. See notes below for these words separately,
page 23.

23. +euphyês. Liddell and Scott definition: "well-grown, shapely,
goodly: graceful. II. of good natural parts: clever, witty; also 'of
good disposition.'"

23. +aphyês. Liddell and Scott definition: "without natural talent,
dull." GIF image:

31. +publicé egestas, privatim opulentia. E-text editor's
translation: public penury and private opulence.

36. +Quae regio in terris nostri non plena laboris? E-text editor's
translation: Which part of the world is not filled with our sorrows?
P. Vergilius Maro (Virgil), Aeneid, Book 1, Line 459.


[51] I have been trying to show that culture is, or ought to be, the
study and pursuit of perfection; and that of perfection as pursued by
culture, beauty and intelligence, or, in other words, sweetness and
light, are the main characters. But hitherto I have been insisting
chiefly on beauty, or sweetness, as a character of perfection. To
complete rightly my design, it evidently remains to speak also of
intelligence, or light, as a character of perfection. First,
however, I ought perhaps to notice that, both here and on the other
side of the Atlantic, all sorts of objections are raised against the
"religion of culture," as the objectors mockingly call it, which I am
supposed to be promulgating. It is said to be a religion proposing
parmaceti, or some scented salve or other, as a cure for human
miseries; a religion breathing a spirit of cultivated inaction,
making its believer refuse to lend a hand at uprooting the definite
evils on all sides of us, and filling him with antipathy against the
reforms and reformers which try to [52] extirpate them. In general,
it is summed up as being not practical, or,--as some critics more
familiarly put it,--all moonshine. That Alcibiades, the editor of
the Morning Star, taunts me, as its promulgator, with living out of
the world and knowing nothing of life and men. That great austere
toiler, the editor of the Daily Telegraph, upbraids me,--but kindly,
and more in sorrow than in anger,--for trifling with aesthetics and
poetical fancies, while he himself, in that arsenal of his in Fleet
Street, is bearing the burden and heat of the day. An intelligent
American newspaper, the Nation, says that it is very easy to sit in
one's study and find fault with the course of modern society, but the
thing is to propose practical improvements for it. While, finally,
Mr. Frederic Harrison, in a very good-tempered and witty satire,
which makes me quite understand his having apparently achieved such a
conquest of my young Prussian friend, Arminius, at last gets moved to
an almost stern moral impatience, to behold, as he says, "Death, sin,
cruelty stalk among us, filling their maws with innocence and youth,"
and me, in the midst of the general tribulation, handing out my

[53] It is impossible that all these remonstrances and reproofs
should not affect me, and I shall try my very best, in completing my
design and in speaking of light as one of the characters of
perfection, and of culture as giving us light, to profit by the
objections I have heard and read, and to drive at practice as much as
I can, by showing the communications and passages into practical life
from the doctrine which I am inculcating.

It is said that a man with my theories of sweetness and light is full
of antipathy against the rougher or coarser movements going on around
him, that he will not lend a hand to the humble operation of
uprooting evil by their means, and that therefore the believers in
action grow impatient with them. But what if rough and coarse
action, ill-calculated action, action with insufficient light, is,
and has for a long time been, our bane? What if our urgent want now
is, not to act at any price, but rather to lay in a stock of light
for our difficulties? In that case, to refuse to lend a hand to the
rougher and coarser movements going on round us, to make the primary
need, both for oneself and others, to consist in enlightening
ourselves and qualifying ourselves [54] to act less at random, is
surely the best, and in real truth the most practical line, our
endeavours can take. So that if I can show what my opponents call
rough or coarse action, but what I would rather call random and ill-
regulated action,--action with insufficient light, action pursued
because we like to be doing something and doing it as we please, and
do not like the trouble of thinking, and the severe constraint of any
kind of rule,--if I can show this to be, at the present moment, a
practical mischief and danger to us, then I have found a practical
use for light in correcting this state of things, and have only to
exemplify how, in cases which fall under everybody's observation, it
may deal with it.

When I began to speak of culture, I insisted on our bondage to
machinery, on our proneness to value machinery as an end in itself,
without looking beyond it to the end for which alone, in truth, it is
valuable. Freedom, I said, was one of those things which we thus
worshipped in itself, without enough regarding the ends for which
freedom is to be desired. In our common notions and talk about
freedom, we eminently show our idolatry of machinery. Our prevalent
notion is,--and I quoted a [55] number of instances to prove it,--
that it is a most happy and important thing for a man merely to be
able to do as he likes. On what he is to do when he is thus free to
do as he likes, we do not lay so much stress. Our familiar praise of
the British Constitution under which we live, is that it is a system
of checks,--a system which stops and paralyses any power in
interfering with the free action of individuals. To this effect Mr.
Bright, who loves to walk in the old ways of the Constitution, said
forcibly in one of his great speeches, what many other people are
every day saying less forcibly, that the central idea of English life
and politics is the assertion of personal liberty. Evidently this is
so; but evidently, also, as feudalism, which with its ideas and
habits of subordination was for many centuries silently behind the
British Constitution, dies out, and we are left with nothing but our
system of checks, and our notion of its being the great right and
happiness of an Englishman to do as far as possible what he likes, we
are in danger of drifting towards anarchy. We have not the notion,
so familiar on the Continent and to antiquity, of the State--the
nation, in its collective [56] and corporate character, entrusted
with stringent powers for the general advantage, and controlling
individual wills in the name of an interest wider than that of
individuals. We say, what is very true, that this notion is often
made instrumental to tyranny; we say that a State is in reality made
up of the individuals who compose it, and that every individual is
the best judge of his own interests. Our leading class is an
aristocracy, and no aristocracy likes the notion of a State-authority
greater than itself, with a stringent administrative machinery
superseding the decorative inutilities of lord-lieutenancy, deputy-
lieutenancy, and the posse comitatûs,+ which are all in its own
hands. Our middle-class, the great representative of trade and
Dissent, with its maxims of every man for himself in business, every
man for himself in religion, dreads a powerful administration which
might somehow interfere with it; and besides, it has its own
decorative inutilities of vestrymanship and guardianship, which are
to this class what lord-lieutenancy and the county magistracy are to
the aristocratic class, and a stringent administration might either
take these functions out of its hands, [57] or prevent its exercising
them in its own comfortable, independent manner, as at present.

Then as to our working-class. This class, pressed constantly by the
hard daily compulsion of material wants, is naturally the very centre
and stronghold of our national idea, that it is man's ideal right and
felicity to do as he likes. I think I have somewhere related how
Monsieur Michelet said to me of the people of France, that it was "a
nation of barbarians civilised by the conscription." He meant that
through their military service the idea of public duty and of
discipline was brought to the mind of these masses, in other respects
so raw and uncultivated. Our masses are quite as raw and
uncultivated as the French; and, so far from their having the idea of
public duty and of discipline, superior to the individual's self-
will, brought to their mind by a universal obligation of military
service, such as that of the conscription,--so far from their having
this, the very idea of a conscription is so at variance with our
English notion of the prime right and blessedness of doing as one
likes, that I remember the manager of the Clay Cross works in
Derbyshire told me during the Crimean [58] war, when our want of
soldiers was much felt and some people were talking of a
conscription, that sooner than submit to a conscription the
population of that district would flee to the mines, and lead a sort
of Robin Hood life under ground.

For a long time, as I have said, the strong feudal habits of
subordination and deference continued to tell upon the working-class.
The modern spirit has now almost entirely dissolved those habits, and
the anarchical tendency of our worship of freedom in and for itself,
of our superstitious faith, as I say, in machinery, is becoming very
manifest. More and more, because of this our blind faith in
machinery, because of our want of light to enable us to look beyond
machinery to the end for which machinery is valuable, this and that
man, and this and that body of men, all over the country, are
beginning to assert and put in practice an Englishman's right to do
what he likes; his right to march where he likes, meet where he
likes, enter where he likes, hoot as he likes, threaten as he likes,
smash as he likes. All this, I say, tends to anarchy; and though a
number of excellent people, and particularly my friends of the
liberal or progressive party, as they [59] call themselves, are kind
enough to reassure us by saying that these are trifles, that a few
transient outbreaks of rowdyism signify nothing, that our system of
liberty is one which itself cures all the evils which it works, that
the educated and intelligent classes stand in overwhelming strength
and majestic repose, ready, like our military force in riots, to act
at a moment's notice,--yet one finds that one's liberal friends
generally say this because they have such faith in themselves and
their nostrums, when they shall return, as the public welfare
requires, to place and power. But this faith of theirs one cannot
exactly share, when one has so long had them and their nostrums at
work, and sees that they have not prevented our coming to our present
embarrassed condition; and one finds, also, that the outbreaks of
rowdyism tend to become less and less of trifles, to become more
frequent rather than less frequent; and that meanwhile our educated
and intelligent classes remain in their majestic repose, and somehow
or other, whatever happens, their overwhelming strength, like our
military force in riots, never does act.

How, indeed, should their overwhelming strength [60] act, when the
man who gives an inflammatory lecture, or breaks down the Park
railings, or invades a Secretary of State's office, is only following
an Englishman's impulse to do as he likes; and our own conscience
tells us that we ourselves have always regarded this impulse as
something primary and sacred? Mr. Murphy lectures at Birmingham, and
showers on the Catholic population of that town "words," says Mr.
Hardy, "only fit to be addressed to thieves or murderers." What
then? Mr. Murphy has his own reasons of several kinds. He suspects
the Roman Catholic Church of designs upon Mrs. Murphy; and he says,
if mayors and magistrates do not care for their wives and daughters,
he does. But, above all, he is doing as he likes, or, in worthier
language, asserting his personal liberty. "I will carry out my
lectures if they walk over my body as a dead corpse; and I say to the
Mayor of Birmingham that he is my servant while I am in Birmingham,
and as my servant he must do his duty and protect me." Touching and
beautiful words, which find a sympathetic chord in every British
bosom! The moment it is plainly put before us that a man is
asserting his personal liberty, we are half disarmed; [61] because we
are believers in freedom, and not in some dream of a right reason to
which the assertion of our freedom is to be subordinated.
Accordingly, the Secretary of State had to say that although the
lecturer's language was "only fit to be addressed to thieves or
murderers," yet, "I do not think he is to be deprived, I do not think
that anything I have said could justify the inference that he is to
be deprived, of the right of protection in a place built by him for
the purpose of these lectures; because the language was not language
which afforded grounds for a criminal prosecution." No, nor to be
silenced by Mayor, or Home Secretary, or any administrative authority
on earth, simply on their notion of what is discreet and reasonable!
This is in perfect consonance with our public opinion, and with our
national love for the assertion of personal liberty.

In quite another department of affairs, an experienced and
distinguished Chancery Judge relates an incident which is just to the
same effect as this of Mr. Murphy. A testator bequeathed 300£. a
year, to be for ever applied as a pension to some person who had been
unsuccessful in literature, and whose duty [62] should be to support
and diffuse, by his writings, the testator's own views, as enforced
in the testator's publications. This bequest was appealed against in
the Court of Chancery, on the ground of its absurdity; but, being
only absurd, it was upheld, and the so-called charity was
established. Having, I say, at the bottom of our English hearts a
very strong belief in freedom, and a very weak belief in right
reason, we are soon silenced when a man pleads the prime right to do
as he likes, because this is the prime right for ourselves too; and
even if we attempt now and then to mumble something about reason, yet
we have ourselves thought so little about this and so much about
liberty, that we are in conscience forced, when our brother
Philistine with whom we are meddling turns boldly round upon us and
asks: Have you any light?--to shake our heads ruefully, and to let
him go his own way after all.

There are many things to be said on behalf of this exclusive
attention of ours to liberty, and of the relaxed habits of government
which it has engendered. It is very easy to mistake or to exaggerate
the sort of anarchy from which we are in danger through them. We are
not in danger from [63] Fenianism, fierce and turbulent as it may
show itself; for against this our conscience is free enough to let us
act resolutely and put forth our overwhelming strength the moment
there is any real need for it. In the first place, it never was any
part of our creed that the great right and blessedness of an
Irishman, or, indeed, of anybody on earth except an Englishman, is to
do as he likes; and we can have no scruple at all about abridging, if
necessary, a non-Englishman's assertion of personal liberty. The
British Constitution, its checks, and its prime virtues, are for
Englishmen. We may extend them to others out of love and kindness;
but we find no real divine law written on our hearts constraining us
so to extend them. And then the difference between an Irish Fenian
and an English rough is so immense, and the case, in dealing with the
Fenian, so much more clear! He is so evidently desperate and
dangerous, a man of a conquered race, a Papist, with centuries of
ill-usage to inflame him against us, with an alien religion
established in his country by us at his expense, with no admiration
of our institutions, no love of our virtues, no talents for our
business, no turn for our comfort! Show him our symbolical [64]
Truss Manufactory on the finest site in Europe, and tell him that
British industrialism and individualism can bring a man to that, and
he remains cold! Evidently, if we deal tenderly with a
sentimentalist like this, it is out of pure philanthropy. But with
the Hyde Park rioter how different!+ He is our own flesh and blood;
he is a Protestant; he is framed by nature to do as we do, hate what
we hate, love what we love; he is capable of feeling the symbolical
force of the Truss Manufactory; the question of questions, for him,
is a wages' question. That beautiful sentence Sir Daniel Gooch
quoted to the Swindon workmen, and which I treasure as Mrs. Gooch's
Golden Rule, or the Divine Injunction "Be ye Perfect" done into
British,--the sentence Sir Daniel Gooch's mother repeated to him
every morning when he was a boy going to work: "Ever remember, my
dear Dan, that you should look forward to being some day manager of
that concern!"--this fruitful maxim is perfectly fitted to shine
forth in the heart of the Hyde Park rough also, and to be his
guiding-star through life. He has no visionary schemes of revolution
and transformation, though of course he would like his class to rule,
as the aristocratic [65] class like their class to rule, and the
middle-class theirs. Meanwhile, our social machine is a little out
of order; there are a good many people in our paradisiacal centres of
industrialism and individualism taking the bread out of one another's
mouths; the rioter has not yet quite found his groove and settled
down to his work, and so he is just asserting his personal liberty a
little, going where he likes, assembling where he likes, bawling as
he likes, hustling as he likes. Just as the rest of us,--as the
country squires in the aristocratic class, as the political
dissenters in the middle-class,--he has no idea of a State, of the
nation in its collective and corporate character controlling, as
government, the free swing of this or that one of its members in the
name of the higher reason of all of them, his own as well as that of
others. He sees the rich, the aristocratic class, in occupation of
the executive government, and so if he is stopped from making Hyde
Park a bear-garden or the streets impassable, he says he is being
butchered by the aristocracy.

His apparition is somewhat embarrassing, because too many cooks spoil
the broth; because, while the aristocratic and middle classes have
long been doing [66] as they like with great vigour, he has been too
undeveloped and submissive hitherto to join in the game; and now,
when he does come, he comes in immense numbers, and is rather raw and
rough. But he does not break many laws, or not many at one time;
and, as our laws were made for very different circumstances from our
present (but always with an eye to Englishmen doing as they like),
and as the clear letter of the law must be against our Englishman who
does as he likes and not only the spirit of the law and public
policy, and as Government must neither have any discretionary power
nor act resolutely on its own interpretation of the law if any one
disputes it, it is evident our laws give our playful giant, in doing
as he likes, considerable advantage. Besides, even if he can be
clearly proved to commit an illegality in doing as he likes, there is
always the resource of not putting the law in force, or of abolishing
it. So he has his way, and if he has his way he is soon satisfied
for the time; however, he falls into the habit of taking it oftener
and oftener, and at last begins to create by his operations a
confusion of which mischievous people can take advantage, and which
at any rate, by troubling the common course [67] of business
throughout the country, tends to cause distress, and so to increase
the sort of anarchy and social disintegration which had previously
commenced. And thus that profound sense of settled order and
security, without which a society like ours cannot live and grow at
all, is beginning to threaten us with taking its departure.

Now, if culture, which simply means trying to perfect oneself, and
one's mind as part of oneself, brings us light, and if light shows us
that there is nothing so very blessed in merely doing as one likes,
that the worship of the mere freedom to do as one likes is worship of
machinery, that the really blessed thing is to like what right reason
ordains, and to follow her authority, then we have got a practical
benefit out of culture. We have got a much wanted principle, a
principle of authority, to counteract the tendency to anarchy which
seems to be threatening us.

But how to organise this authority, or to what hands to entrust the
wielding of it? How to get your State, summing up the right reason
of the community, and giving effect to it, as circumstances may
require, with vigour? And here I think I see [68] my enemies waiting
for me with a hungry joy in their eyes. But I shall elude them.

The State, the power most representing the right reason of the
nation, and most worthy, therefore, of ruling,--of exercising, when
circumstances require it, authority over us all,--is for Mr. Carlyle
the aristocracy. For Mr. Lowe, it is the middle-class with its
incomparable Parliament. For the Reform League, it is the working-
class, with its "brightest powers of sympathy and readiest powers of
action." Now, culture, with its disinterested pursuit of perfection,
culture, simply trying to see things as they are, in order to seize
on the best and to make it prevail, is surely well fitted to help us
to judge rightly, by all the aids of observing, reading, and
thinking, the qualifications and titles to our confidence of these
three candidates for authority, and can thus render us a practical
service of no mean value.

So when Mr. Carlyle, a man of genius to whom we have all at one time
or other been indebted for refreshment and stimulus, says we should
give rule to the aristocracy, mainly because of its dignity and
politeness, surely culture is useful in reminding us, [69] that in
our idea of perfection the characters of beauty and intelligence are
both of them present, and sweetness and light, the two noblest of
things, are united. Allowing, therefore, with Mr. Carlyle, the
aristocratic class to possess sweetness, culture insists on the
necessity of light also, and shows us that aristocracies, being by
the very nature of things inaccessible to ideas, unapt to see how the
world is going, must be somewhat wanting in light, and must therefore
be, at a moment when light is our great requisite, inadequate to our
needs. Aristocracies, those children of the established fact, are
for epochs of concentration. In epochs of expansion, epochs such as
that in which we now live, epochs when always the warning voice is
again heard: Now is the judgment of this world--in such epochs
aristocracies, with their natural clinging to the established fact,
their want of sense for the flux of things, for the inevitable
transitoriness of all human institutions, are bewildered and
helpless. Their serenity, their high spirit, their power of haughty
resistance,--the great qualities of an aristocracy, and the secret of
its distinguished manners and dignity,--these very qualities, in an
epoch of [70] expansion, turn against their possessors. Again and
again I have said how the refinement of an aristocracy may be
precious and educative to a raw nation as a kind of shadow of true
refinement; how its serenity and dignified freedom from petty cares
may serve as a useful foil to set off the vulgarity and hideousness
of that type of life which a hard middle-class tends to establish,
and to help people to see this vulgarity and hideousness in their
true colours. From such an ignoble spectacle as that of poor Mrs.
Lincoln,--a spectacle to vulgarise a whole nation,--aristocracies
undoubtedly preserve us. But the true grace and serenity is that of
which Greece and Greek art suggest the admirable ideals of
perfection,--a serenity which comes from having made order among
ideas and harmonised them; whereas the serenity of aristocracies, at
least the peculiar serenity of aristocracies of Teutonic origin,
appears to come from their never having had any ideas to trouble
them. And so, in a time of expansion like the present, a time for
ideas, one gets, perhaps, in regarding an aristocracy, even more than
the idea of serenity, the idea of futility and sterility. One has
often wondered whether upon the whole [71] earth there is anything so
unintelligent, so unapt to perceive how the world is really going, as
an ordinary young Englishman of our upper class. Ideas he has not,
and neither has he that seriousness of our middle-class, which is, as
I have often said, the great strength of this class, and may become
its salvation. Why, a man may hear a young Dives of the aristocratic
class, when the whim takes him to sing the praises of wealth and
material comfort, sing them with a cynicism from which the conscience
of the veriest Philistine of our industrial middle-class would recoil
in affright. And when, with the natural sympathy of aristocracies
for firm dealing with the multitude, and his uneasiness at our feeble
dealing with it at home, an unvarnished young Englishman of our
aristocratic class applauds the absolute rulers on the Continent, he
in general manages completely to miss the grounds of reason and
intelligence which alone can give any colour of justification, any
possibility of existence, to those rulers, and applauds them on
grounds which it would make their own hair stand on end to listen to.

And all this time, we are in an epoch of expansion; [72] and the
essence of an epoch of expansion is a movement of ideas, and the one
salvation of an epoch of expansion is a harmony of ideas. The very
principle of the authority which we are seeking as a defence against
anarchy is right reason, ideas, light. The more, therefore, an
aristocracy calls to its aid its innate forces,--its impenetrability,
its high spirit, its power of haughty resistance,--to deal with an
epoch of expansion, the graver is the danger, the greater the
certainty of explosion, the surer the aristocracy's defeat; for it is
trying to do violence to nature instead of working along with it.
The best powers shown by the best men of an aristocracy at such an
epoch are, it will be observed, non-aristocratical powers, powers of
industry, powers of intelligence; and these powers, thus exhibited,
tend really not to strengthen the aristocracy, but to take their
owners out of it, to expose them to the dissolving agencies of
thought and change, to make them men of the modern spirit and of the
future. If, as sometimes happens, they add to their non-
aristocratical qualities of labour and thought, a strong dose of
aristocratical qualities also,--of pride, defiance, turn for
resistance--this truly aristocratical [73] side of them, so far from
adding any strength to them really neutralises their force and makes
them impracticable and ineffective.

Knowing myself to be indeed sadly to seek, as one of my many critics
says, in "a philosophy with coherent, interdependent, subordinate and
derivative principles," I continually have recourse to a plain man's
expedient of trying to make what few simple notions I have, clearer,
and more intelligible to myself, by means of example and
illustration. And having been brought up at Oxford in the bad old
times, when we were stuffed with Greek and Aristotle, and thought
nothing of preparing ourselves,--as after Mr. Lowe's great speech at
Edinburgh we shall do,--to fight the battle of life with the German
waiters, my head is still full of a lumber of phrases we learnt at
Oxford from Aristotle, about virtue being in a mean, and about excess
and defect, and so on. Once when I had had the advantage of
listening to the Reform debates in the House of Commons, having heard
a number of interesting speakers, and among them Lord Elcho and Sir
Thomas Bateson, I remember it struck me, applying Aristotle's
machinery of the [74] mean to my ideas about our aristocracy, that
Lord Elcho was exactly the perfection, or happy mean, or virtue, of
aristocracy, and Sir Thomas Bateson the excess; and I fancied that by
observing these two we might see both the inadequacy of aristocracy
to supply the principle of authority needful for our present wants,
and the danger of its trying to supply it when it was not really
competent for the business. On the one hand, in Lord Elcho, showing
plenty of high spirit, but remarkable, far above and beyond his gift
of high spirit, for the fine tempering of his high spirit, for ease,
serenity, politeness,--the great virtues, as Mr. Carlyle says, of
aristocracy,--in this beautiful and virtuous mean, there seemed
evidently some insufficiency of light; while, on the other hand, Sir
Thomas Bateson, in whom the high spirit of aristocracy, its
impenetrability, defiant courage, and pride of resistance, were
developed even in excess, was manifestly capable, if he had his way
given him, of causing us great danger, and, indeed, of throwing the
whole commonwealth into confusion. Then I reverted to that old
fundamental notion of mine about the grand merit of our race being
really our honesty; and the [75] very helplessness of our
aristocratic or governing class in dealing with our perturbed social
state gave me a sort of pride and satisfaction, because I saw they
were, as a whole, too honest to try and manage a business for which
they did not feel themselves capable.

Surely, now, it is no inconsiderable boon culture confers upon us, if
in embarrassed times like the present it enables us to look at the
ins and the outs of things in this way, without hatred and without
partiality, and with a disposition to see the good in everybody all
round. And I try to follow just the same course with our middle-
class as with our aristocracy. Mr. Lowe talks to us of this strong
middle part of the nation, of the unrivalled deeds of our liberal
middle-class Parliament, of the noble, the heroic work it has
performed in the last thirty years; and I begin to ask myself if we
shall not, then, find in our middle-class the principle of authority
we want, and if we had not better take administration as well as
legislation away from the weak extreme which now administers for us,
and commit both to the strong middle part. I observe, too, that the
heroes of middle-class liberalism, such as we have [76] hitherto
known it, speak with a kind of prophetic anticipation of the great
destiny which awaits them, and as if the future was clearly theirs.
The advanced party, the progressive party, the party in alliance with
the future, are the names they like to give themselves. "The
principles which will obtain recognition in the future," says Mr.
Miall, a personage of deserved eminence among the political
Dissenters, as they are called, who have been the backbone of middle-
class liberalism--"the principles which will obtain recognition in
the future are the principles for which I have long and zealously
laboured. I qualified myself for joining in the work of harvest by
doing to the best of my ability the duties of seed-time." These
duties, if one is to gather them from the works of the great liberal
party in the last thirty years, are, as I have elsewhere summed them
up, the advocacy of free-trade, of parliamentary reform, of abolition
of church-rates, of voluntaryism in religion and education, of non-
interference of the State between employers and employed, and of
marriage with one's deceased wife's sister.

Now I know, when I object that all this is machinery, the great
liberal middle-class has by this [77] time grown cunning enough to
answer, that it always meant more by these things than meets the eye;
that it has had that within which passes show, and that we are soon
going to see, in a Free Church and all manner of good things, what it
was. But I have learned from Bishop Wilson (if Mr. Frederic Harrison
will forgive my again quoting that poor old hierophant of a decayed
superstition): "If we would really know our heart let us impartially
view our actions;" and I cannot help thinking that if our liberals
had had so much sweetness and light in their inner minds as they
allege, more of it must have come out in their sayings and doings.
An American friend of the English liberals says, indeed, that their
Dissidence of Dissent has been a mere instrument of the political
Dissenters for making reason and the will of God prevail (and no
doubt he would say the same of marriage with one's deceased wife's
sister); and that the abolition of a State Church is merely the
Dissenter's means to this end, just as culture is mine. Another
American defender of theirs says just the same of their industrialism
and free-trade; indeed, this gentleman, taking the bull by the horns,
proposes that we should for the [78] future call industrialism
culture, and the industrialists the men of culture, and then of
course there can be no longer any misapprehension about their true
character; and besides the pleasure of being wealthy and comfortable,
they will have authentic recognition as vessels of sweetness and
light. All this is undoubtedly specious; but I must remark that the
culture of which I talked was an endeavour to come at reason and the
will of God by means of reading, observing, and thinking; and that
whoever calls anything else culture, may, indeed, call it so if he
likes, but then he talks of something quite different from what I
talked of. And, again, as culture's way of working for reason and
the will of God is by directly trying to know more about them, while
the Dissidence of Dissent is evidently in itself no effort of this
kind, nor is its Free Church, in fact, a church with worthier
conceptions of God and the ordering of the world than the State
Church professes, but with mainly the same conceptions of these as
the State Church has, only that every man is to comport himself as he
likes in professing them,--this being so, I cannot at once accept the
Nonconformity any more than the industrialism and the other great
[79] works of our liberal middle-class as proof positive that this
class is in possession of light, and that here is the true seat of
authority for which we are in search; but I must try a little
further, and seek for other indications which may enable me to make
up my mind.

Why should we not do with the middle-class as we have done with the
aristocratic class,--find in it some representative men who may stand
for the virtuous mean of this class, for the perfection of its
present qualities and mode of being, and also for the excess of them.
Such men must clearly not be men of genius like Mr. Bright; for, as I
have formerly said, so far as a man has genius he tends to take
himself out of the category of class altogether, and to become simply
a man. Mr. Bright's brother, Mr. Jacob Bright, would, perhaps, be
more to the purpose; he seems to sum up very well in himself, without
disturbing influences, the general liberal force of the middle-class,
the force by which it has done its great works of free-trade,
parliamentary reform, voluntaryism, and so on, and the spirit in
which it has done them. Now it is clear, from what has been already
said, that there has been at least [80] an apparent want of light in
the force and spirit through which these great works have been done,
and that the works have worn in consequence too much a look of
machinery. But this will be clearer still if we take, as the happy
mean of the middle-class, not Mr. Jacob Bright, but his colleague in
the representation of Manchester, Mr. Bazley. Mr. Bazley sums up for
us, in general, the middle-class, its spirit and its works, at least
as well as Mr. Jacob Bright; and he has given us, moreover, a famous
sentence, which bears directly on the resolution of our present
question,--whether there is light enough in our middle-class to make
it the proper seat of the authority we wish to establish. When there
was a talk some little while ago about the state of middle-class
education, Mr. Bazley, as the representative of that class, spoke
some memorable words:--"There had been a cry that middle-class
education ought to receive more attention. He confessed himself very
much surprised by the clamour that was raised. He did not think that
class need excite the sympathy either of the legislature or the
public." Now this satisfaction of Mr. Bazley with the mental state
of the middle-class [81] was truly representative, and enhances his
claim (if that were necessary) to stand as the beautiful and virtuous
mean of that class. But it is obviously at variance with our
definition of culture, or the pursuit of light and perfection, which
made light and perfection consist, not in resting and being, but in
growing and becoming, in a perpetual advance in beauty and wisdom.
So the middle-class is by its essence, as one may say, by its
incomparable self-satisfaction decisively expressed through its
beautiful and virtuous mean, self-excluded from wielding an authority
of which light is to be the very soul.

Clear as this is, it will be made clearer still if we take some
representative man as the excess of the middle-class, and remember
that the middle-class, in general, is to be conceived as a body
swaying between the qualities of its mean and of its excess, and on
the whole, of course, as human nature is constituted, inclining
rather towards the excess than the mean. Of its excess no better
representative can possibly be imagined than the Rev. W. Cattle, a
Dissenting minister from Walsall, who came before the public in
connection with the proceedings at [82] Birmingham of Mr. Murphy,
already mentioned. Speaking in the midst of an irritated population
of Catholics, the Rev. W. Cattle exclaimed:--"I say, then, away with
the mass! It is from the bottomless pit; and in the bottomless pit
shall all liars have their part, in the lake that burneth with fire
and brimstone." And again: "When all the praties were black in
Ireland, why didn't the priests say the hocus-pocus over them, and
make them all good again?" He shared, too, Mr. Murphy's fears of
some invasion of his domestic happiness: "What I wish to say to you
as Protestant husbands is, Take care of your wives!" And, finally,
in the true vein of an Englishman doing as he likes, a vein of which
I have at some length pointed out the present dangers, he recommended
for imitation the example of some churchwardens at Dublin, among
whom, said he, "there was a Luther and also a Melancthon," who had
made very short work with some ritualist or other, handed him down
from his pulpit, and kicked him out of church. Now it is manifest,
as I said in the case of Sir Thomas Bateson, that if we let this
excess of the sturdy English middle-class, this conscientious
Protestant Dissenter, so strong, so self- [83] reliant, so fully
persuaded in his own mind, have his way, he would be capable, with
his want of light--or, to use the language of the religious world,
with his zeal without knowledge--of stirring up strife which neither
he nor any one else could easily compose.

And then comes in, as it did also with the aristocracy, the honesty
of our race, and by the voice of another middle-class man, Alderman
Wilson, Alderman of the City of London and Colonel of the City of
London Militia, proclaims that it has twinges of conscience, and that
it will not attempt to cope with our social disorders, and to deal
with a business which it feels to be too high for it. Every one
remembers how this virtuous Alderman-Colonel, or Colonel-Alderman,
led his militia through the London streets; how the bystanders
gathered to see him pass; how the London roughs, asserting an
Englishman's best and most blissful right of doing what he likes,
robbed and beat the bystanders; and how the blameless warrior-
magistrate refused to let his troops interfere. "The crowd," he
touchingly said afterwards, "was mostly composed of fine healthy
strong men, bent on mischief; if he had [84] allowed his soldiers to
interfere they might have been overpowered, their rifles taken from
them and used against them by the mob; a riot, in fact, might have
ensued, and been attended with bloodshed, compared with which the
assaults and loss of property that actually occurred would have been
as nothing." Honest and affecting testimony of the English middle-
class to its own inadequacy for the authoritative part one's
admiration would sometimes incline one to assign to it! "Who are
we," they say by the voice of their Alderman-Colonel, "that we should
not be overpowered if we attempt to cope with social anarchy, our
rifles taken from us and used against us by the mob, and we, perhaps,
robbed and beaten ourselves? Or what light have we, beyond a free-
born Englishman's impulse to do as he likes, which could justify us
in preventing, at the cost of bloodshed, other free-born Englishmen
from doing as they like, and robbing and beating us as much as they

This distrust of themselves as an adequate centre of authority does
not mark the working-class, as was shown by their readiness the other
day in Hyde Park to take upon themselves all the functions of [85]
government. But this comes from the working-class being, as I have
often said, still an embryo, of which no one can yet quite foresee
the final development; and from its not having the same experience
and self-knowledge as the aristocratic and middle classes. Honesty
it no doubt has, just like the other classes of Englishmen, but
honesty in an inchoate and untrained state; and meanwhile its powers
of action, which are, as Mr. Frederic Harrison says, exceedingly
ready, easily run away with it. That it cannot at present have a
sufficiency of light which comes by culture,--that is, by reading,
observing, and thinking,--is clear from the very nature of its
condition; and, indeed, we saw that Mr. Frederic Harrison, in seeking
to make a free stage for its bright powers of sympathy and ready
powers of action, had to begin by throwing overboard culture, and
flouting it as only fit for a professor of belles lettres. Still, to
make it perfectly manifest that no more in the working-class than in
the aristocratic and middle classes can one find an adequate centre
of authority,--that is, as culture teaches us to conceive our
required authority, of light,--let us again follow, with this class,
the method we have [86] followed with the aristocratic and middle
classes, and try to bring before our minds representative men, who
may figure to us its virtue and its excess. We must not take, of
course, Colonel Dickson or Mr. Beales; because Colonel Dickson, by
his martial profession and dashing exterior, seems to belong
properly, like Julius Caesar and Mirabeau and other great popular
leaders, to the aristocratic class, and to be carried into the
popular ranks only by his ambition or his genius; while Mr. Beales
belongs to our solid middle-class, and, perhaps, if he had not been a
great popular leader, would have been a Philistine. But Mr. Odger,
whose speeches we have all read, and of whom his friends relate,
besides, much that is favourable, may very well stand for the
beautiful and virtuous mean of our present working-class; and I think
everybody will admit that in Mr. Odger, as in Lord Elcho, there is
manifestly, with all his good points, some insufficiency of light.
The excess of the working-class, in its present state of development,
is perhaps best shown in Mr. Bradlaugh, the iconoclast, who seems to
be almost for baptizing us all in blood and fire into his new social
dispensation, and to whose [87] reflections, now that I have once
been set going on Bishop Wilson's track, I cannot forbear commending
this maxim of the good old man: "Intemperance in talk makes a
dreadful havoc in the heart." Mr. Bradlaugh, like Sir Thomas Bateson
and the Rev. W. Cattle, is evidently capable, if he had his head
given him, of running us all into great dangers and confusion. I
conclude, therefore,--what, indeed, few of those who do me the honour
to read this disquisition are likely to dispute,--that we can as
little find in the working-class as in the aristocratic or in the
middle class our much-wanted source of authority, as culture suggests
it to us.

Well, then, what if we tried to rise above the idea of class to the
idea of the whole community, the State, and to find our centre of
light and authority there? Every one of us has the idea of country,
as a sentiment; hardly any one of us has the idea of the State, as a
working power. And why? Because we habitually live in our ordinary
selves, which do not carry us beyond the ideas and wishes of the
class to which we happen to belong. And we are all afraid of giving
to the State too much power, because we only conceive of the State
[88] as something equivalent to the class in occupation of the
executive government, and are afraid of that class abusing power to
its own purposes. If we strengthen the State with the aristocratic
class in occupation of the executive government, we imagine we are
delivering ourselves up captive to the ideas and wishes of Sir Thomas
Bateson; if with the middle-class in occupation of the executive
government, to those of the Rev. W. Cattle; if with the working-
class, to those of Mr. Bradlaugh. And with much justice; owing to
the exaggerated notion which we English, as I have said, entertain of
the right and blessedness of the mere doing as one likes, of the
affirming oneself, and oneself just as it is. People of the
aristocratic class want to affirm their ordinary selves, their
likings and dislikings; people of the middle-class the same, people
of the working-class the same. By our everyday selves, however, we
are separate, personal, at war; we are only safe from one another's
tyranny when no one has any power; and this safety, in its turn,
cannot save us from anarchy. And when, therefore, anarchy presents
itself as a danger to us, we know not where to turn.

[89] But by our best self we are united, impersonal, at harmony. We
are in no peril from giving authority to this, because it is the
truest friend we all of us can have; and when anarchy is a danger to
us, to this authority we may turn with sure trust. Well, and this is
the very self which culture, or the study of perfection, seeks to
develop in us; at the expense of our old untransformed self, taking
pleasure only in doing what it likes or is used to do, and exposing
us to the risk of clashing with every one else who is doing the same!
So that our poor culture, which is flouted as so unpractical, leads
us to the very ideas capable of meeting the great want of our present
embarrassed times! We want an authority, and we find nothing but
jealous classes, checks, and a dead-lock; culture suggests the idea
of the State. We find no basis for a firm State-power in our
ordinary selves; culture suggests one to us in our best self.

It cannot but acutely try a tender conscience to be accused, in a
practical country like ours, of keeping aloof from the work and hope
of a multitude of earnest-hearted men, and of merely toying with
poetry and aesthetics. So it is with no little [90] sense of relief
that I find myself thus in the position of one who makes a
contribution in aid of the practical necessities of our times. The
great thing, it will be observed, is to find our best self, and to
seek to affirm nothing but that; not,--as we English with our over-
value for merely being free and busy have been so accustomed to do,--
resting satisfied with a self which comes uppermost long before our
best self, and affirming that with blind energy. In short,--to go
back yet once more to Bishop Wilson,--of these two excellent rules of
Bishop Wilson's for a man's guidance: "Firstly, never go against the
best light you have; secondly, take care that your light be not
darkness," we English have followed with praiseworthy zeal the first
rule, but we have not given so much heed to the second. We have gone
manfully, the Rev. W. Cattle and the rest of us, according to the
best light we have; but we have not taken enough care that this
should be really the best light possible for us, that it should not
be darkness. And, our honesty being very great, conscience has
whispered to us that the light we were following, our ordinary self,
was, indeed, perhaps, only an inferior self, only darkness; and [91]
that it would not do to impose this seriously on all the world.

But our best self inspires faith, and is capable of affording a
serious principle of authority. For example. We are on our way to
what the late Duke of Wellington, with his strong sagacity, foresaw
and admirably described as "a revolution by due course of law." This
is undoubtedly,--if we are still to live and grow, and this famous
nation is not to stagnate and dwindle away on the one hand, or, on
the other, to perish miserably in mere anarchy and confusion,--what
we are on the way to. Great changes there must be, for a revolution
cannot accomplish itself without great changes; yet order there must
be, for without order a revolution cannot accomplish itself by due
course of law. So whatever brings risk of tumult and disorder,
multitudinous processions in the streets of our crowded towns,
multitudinous meetings in their public places and parks,--
demonstrations perfectly unnecessary in the present course of our
affairs,--our best self, or right reason, plainly enjoins us to set
our faces against. It enjoins us to encourage and uphold the
occupants of the executive power, whoever they [92] may be, in firmly
prohibiting them. But it does this clearly and resolutely, and is
thus a real principle of authority, because it does it with a free
conscience; because in thus provisionally strengthening the executive
power, it knows that it is not doing this merely to enable Sir Thomas
Bateson to affirm himself as against Mr. Bradlaugh, or the Rev. W.
Cattle to affirm himself as against both. It knows that it is
stablishing the State, or organ of our collective best self, of our
national right reason; and it has the testimony of conscience that it
is stablishing the State on behalf of whatever great changes are
needed, just as much as on behalf of order; stablishing it to deal
just as stringently, when the time comes, with Sir Thomas Bateson's
Protestant ascendency, or with the Rev. W. Cattle's sorry education
of his children, as it deals with Mr. Bradlaugh's street-processions.


56. +posse comitatûs. Arnold's phrase refers to the medieval
institution of the "power of the county." It originally consisted of
a county's able-bodied males over fifteen, and the local authorities
might call upon it to preserve order. Later, the posse became an
instrument of the church parish.

64. +London's Hyde Park riots occurred in 1866. Reform Leaguers bent
on assembling to promote universal suffrage broke through the iron
rails encompassing the Park.


[93] From a man without a philosophy no one can expect philosophical
completeness. Therefore I may observe without shame, that in trying
to get a distinct notion of our aristocratic, our middle, and our
working class, with a view of testing the claims of each of these
classes to become a centre of authority, I have omitted, I find, to
complete the old-fashioned analysis which I had the fancy of
applying, and have not shown in these classes, as well as the
virtuous mean and the excess, the defect also. I do not know that
the omission very much matters; still as clearness is the one merit
which a plain, unsystematic writer, without a philosophy, can hope to
have, and as our notion of the three great English classes may
perhaps be made clearer if we see their distinctive qualities in the
defect, as well as in the excess and in the mean, let us try, before
proceeding further, to remedy this omission.

It is manifest, if the perfect and virtuous mean of that fine spirit
which is the distinctive quality [94] of aristocracies, is to be
found in Lord Elcho's chivalrous style, and its excess in Sir Thomas
Bateson's turn for resistance, that its defect must lie in a spirit
not bold and high enough, and in an excessive and pusillanimous
unaptness for resistance. If, again, the perfect and virtuous mean
of that force by which our middle-class has done its great works, and
of that self-reliance with which it contemplates itself and them, is
to be seen in the performances and speeches of Mr. Bazley, and the
excess of that force and that self-reliance in the performances and
speeches of the Rev. W. Cattle, then it is manifest that their defect
must lie in a helpless inaptitude for the great works of the middle-
class, and in a poor and despicable lack of its self-satisfaction.
To be chosen to exemplify the happy mean of a good quality, or set of
good qualities, is evidently a praise to a man; nay, to be chosen to
exemplify even their excess, is a kind of praise. Therefore I could
have no hesitation in taking Lord Elcho and Mr. Bazley, the Rev. W.
Cattle and Sir Thomas Bateson, to exemplify, respectively, the mean
and the excess of aristocratic and middle-class qualities. But
perhaps there might [95] be a want of urbanity in singling out this
or that personage as the representative of defect. Therefore I shall
leave the defect of aristocracy unillustrated by any representative
man. But with oneself one may always, without impropriety, deal
quite freely; and, indeed, this sort of plain-dealing with oneself
has in it, as all the moralists tell us, something very wholesome.
So I will venture to humbly offer myself as an illustration of defect
in those forces and qualities which make our middle-class what it is.
The too well-founded reproaches of my opponents declare how little I
have lent a hand to the great works of the middle-class; for it is
evidently these works, and my slackness at them, which are meant,
when I am said to "refuse to lend a hand to the humble operation of
uprooting certain definite evils" (such as church-rates and others),
and that therefore "the believers in action grow impatient" with me.
The line, again, of a still unsatisfied seeker which I have followed,
the idea of self-transformation, of growing towards some measure of
sweetness and light not yet reached, is evidently at clean variance
with the perfect self-satisfaction current in my class, the middle-
class, [96] and may serve to indicate in me, therefore, the extreme
defect of this feeling. But these confessions, though salutary, are
bitter and unpleasant.

To pass, then, to the working-class. The defect of this class would
be the falling short in what Mr. Frederic Harrison calls those
"bright powers of sympathy and ready powers of action," of which we
saw in Mr. Odger the virtuous mean, and in Mr. Bradlaugh the excess.
The working-class is so fast growing and rising at the present time,
that instances of this defect cannot well be now very common.
Perhaps Canning's "Needy Knife-grinder" (who is dead, and therefore
cannot be pained at my taking him for an illustration) may serve to
give us the notion of defect in the essential quality of a working-
class; or I might even cite (since, though he is alive in the flesh,
he is dead to all heed of criticism) my poor old poaching friend,
Zephaniah Diggs, who, between his hare-snaring and his gin-drinking,
has got his powers of sympathy quite dulled and his powers of action
in any great movement of his class hopelessly impaired. But examples
of this defect belong, as I have said, to a bygone age rather than to
the present.

[97] The same desire for clearness, which has led me thus to extend a
little my first analysis of the three great classes of English
society, prompts me also to make my nomenclature for them a little
fuller, with a view to making it thereby more clear and manageable.
It is awkward and tiresome to be always saying the aristocratic
class, the middle-class, the working-class. For the middle-class,
for that great body which, as we know, "has done all the great things
that have been done in all departments," and which is to be conceived
as chiefly moving between its two cardinal points of Mr. Bazley and
the Rev. W. Cattle, but inclining, in the mass, rather towards the
latter than the former--for this class we have a designation which
now has become pretty well known, and which we may as well still keep
for them, the designation of Philistines. What this term means I
have so often explained that I need not repeat it here. For the
aristocratic class, conceived mainly as a body moving between the two
cardinal points of Lord Elcho and Sir Thomas Bateson, but as a whole
nearer to the latter than the former, we have as yet got no special
designation. Almost [98] all my attention has naturally been
concentrated on my own class, the middle-class, with which I am in
closest sympathy, and which has been, besides, the great power of our
day, and has had its praises sung by all speakers and newspapers.
Still the aristocratic class is so important in itself, and the
weighty functions which Mr. Carlyle proposes at the present critical
time to commit to it must add so much to its importance, that it
seems neglectful, and a strong instance of that want of coherent
philosophic method for which Mr. Frederic Harrison blames me, to
leave the aristocratic class so much without notice and denomination.
It may be thought that the characteristic which I have occasionally
mentioned as proper to aristocracies,--their natural inaccessibility,
as children of the established fact, to ideas,--points to our
extending to this class also the designation of Philistines; the
Philistine being, as is well known, the enemy of the children of
light, or servants of the idea. Nevertheless, there seems to be an
inconvenience in thus giving one and the same designation to two very
different classes; and besides, if we look into the thing closely, we
shall find that the term Philistine conveys a sense which [99] makes
it more peculiarly appropriate to our middle class than to our
aristocratic. For Philistine gives the notion of something
particularly stiff-necked and perverse in the resistance to light and
its children, and therein it specially suits our middle-class, who
not only do not pursue sweetness and light, but who prefer to them
that sort of machinery of business, chapels, tea meetings, and
addresses from Mr. Murphy and the Rev. W. Cattle, which makes up the
dismal and illiberal life on which I have so often touched. But the
aristocratic class has actually, as we have seen, in its well-known
politeness, a kind of image or shadow of sweetness; and as for light,
if it does not pursue light, it is not that it perversely cherishes
some dismal and illiberal existence in preference to light, but it is
seduced from following light by those mighty and eternal seducers of
our race which weave for this class their most irresistible charms,--
by worldly splendour, security, power and pleasure. These seducers
are exterior goods, but they are goods; and he who is hindered by
them from caring for light and ideas, is not so much doing what is
perverse as what is natural.

Keeping this in view, I have in my own mind [100] often indulged
myself with the fancy of putting side by side with the idea of our
aristocratic class, the idea of the Barbarians. The Barbarians, to
whom we all owe so much, and who reinvigorated and renewed our worn-
out Europe, had, as is well-known, eminent merits; and in this
country, where we are for the most part sprung from the Barbarians,
we have never had the prejudice against them which prevails among the
races of Latin origin. The Barbarians brought with them that staunch
individualism, as the modern phrase is, and that passion for doing as
one likes, for the assertion of personal liberty, which appears to
Mr. Bright the central idea of English life, and of which we have, at
any rate, a very rich supply. The stronghold and natural seat of
this passion was in the nobles of whom our aristocratic class are the
inheritors; and this class, accordingly, have signally manifested it,
and have done much by their example to recommend it to the body of
the nation, who already, indeed, had it in their blood. The
Barbarians, again, had the passion for field-sports; and they have
handed it on to our aristocratic class, who of this passion too, as
of the passion for asserting one's personal liberty, are the [101]
great natural stronghold. The care of the Barbarians for the body,
and for all manly exercises; the vigour, good looks, and fine
complexion which they acquired and perpetuated in their families by
these means,--all this may be observed still in our aristocratic
class. The chivalry of the Barbarians, with its characteristics of
high spirit, choice manners, and distinguished bearing,--what is this
but the beautiful commencement of the politeness of our aristocratic
class? In some Barbarian noble, no doubt, one would have admired, if
one could have been then alive to see it, the rudiments of Lord
Elcho. Only, all this culture (to call it by that name) of the
Barbarians was an exterior culture mainly: it consisted principally
in outward gifts and graces, in looks, manners, accomplishments,
prowess; the chief inward gifts which had part in it were the most
exterior, so to speak, of inward gifts, those which come nearest to
outward ones: they were courage, a high spirit, self-confidence. Far
within, and unawakened, lay a whole range of powers of thought and
feeling, to which these interesting productions of nature had, from
the circumstances of their life, no access. Making allowances for
the [102] difference of the times, surely we can observe precisely
the same thing now in our aristocratic class. In general its culture
is exterior chiefly; all the exterior graces and accomplishments, and
the more external of the inward virtues, seem to be principally its
portion. It now, of course, cannot but be often in contact with
those studies by which, from the world of thought and feeling, true
culture teaches us to fetch sweetness and light; but its hold upon
these very studies appears remarkably external, and unable to exert
any deep power upon its spirit. Therefore the one insufficiency
which we noted in the perfect mean of this class, Lord Elcho, was an
insufficiency of light. And owing to the same causes, does not a
subtle criticism lead us to make, even on the good looks and
politeness of our aristocratic class, the one qualifying remark, that
in these charming gifts there should perhaps be, for ideal
perfection, a shade more soul?

I often, therefore, when I want to distinguish clearly the
aristocratic class from the Philistines proper, or middle-class, name
the former, in my own mind, the Barbarians: and when I go through the
country, and see this and that beautiful and [103] imposing seat of
theirs crowning the landscape, "There," I say to myself, "is a great
fortified post of the Barbarians."

It is obvious that that part of the working-class which, working
diligently by the light of Mrs. Gooch's Golden Rule, looks forward to
the happy day when it will sit on thrones with Mr. Bazley and other
middle-class potentates, to survey, as Mr. Bright beautifully says,
"the cities it has built, the railroads it has made, the manufactures
it has produced, the cargoes which freight the ships of the greatest
mercantile navy the world has ever seen,"--it is obvious, I say, that
this part of the working-class is, or is in a fair way to be, one in
spirit with the industrial middle-class. It is notorious that our
middle-class liberals have long looked forward to this consummation,
when the working-class shall join forces with them, aid them heartily
to carry forward their great works, go in a body to their tea-
meetings, and, in short, enable them to bring about their millennium.
That part of the working-class, therefore, which does really seem to
lend itself to these great aims, may, with propriety, be numbered by
us among the Philistines. That part of it, again, which [104] so
much occupies the attention of philanthropists at present,--the part
which gives all its energies to organising itself, through trades'
unions and other means, so as to constitute, first, a great working-
class power, independent of the middle and aristocratic classes, and
then, by dint of numbers, give the law to them, and itself reign
absolutely,--this lively and interesting part must also, according to
our definition, go with the Philistines; because it is its class and
its class-instinct which it seeks to affirm, its ordinary self not
its best self; and it is a machinery, an industrial machinery, and
power and pre-eminence and other external goods which fill its
thoughts, and not an inward perfection. It is wholly occupied,
according to Plato's subtle expression, with the things of itself and
not its real self, with the things of the State and not the real
State. But that vast portion, lastly, of the working-class which,
raw and half-developed, has long lain half-hidden amidst its poverty
and squalor, and is now issuing from its hiding-place to assert an
Englishman's heaven-born privilege of doing as he likes, and is
beginning to perplex us by marching where it likes, meeting where it
likes, bawling what it likes, [105] breaking what it likes,--to this
vast residuum we may with great propriety give the name of Populace.

Thus we have got three distinct terms, Barbarians, Philistines,
Populace, to denote roughly the three great classes into which our
society is divided; and though this humble attempt at a scientific
nomenclature falls, no doubt, very far short in precision of what
might be required from a writer equipped with a complete and coherent
philosophy, yet, from a notoriously unsystematic and unpretending
writer, it will, I trust, be accepted as sufficient.

But in using this new, and, I hope, convenient division of English
society, two things are to be borne in mind. The first is, that
since, under all our class divisions, there is a common basis of
human nature, therefore, in every one of us, whether we be properly
Barbarians, Philistines, or Populace, there exists, sometimes only in
germ and potentially, sometimes more or less developed, the same
tendencies and passions which have made our fellow-citizens of other
classes what they are. This consideration is very important, because
it has great influence in begetting that spirit of indulgence which
[106] is a necessary part of sweetness, and which, indeed, when our
culture is complete, is, as I have said, inexhaustible. Thus, an
English Barbarian who examines himself, will, in general, find
himself to be not so entirely a Barbarian but that he has in him,
also, something of the Philistine, and even something of the Populace
as well. And the same with Englishmen of the two other classes.
This is an experience which we may all verify every day. For
instance, I myself (I again take myself as a sort of corpus vile to
serve for illustration in a matter where serving for illustration may
not by every one be thought agreeable), I myself am properly a
Philistine,--Mr. Swinburne would add, the son of a Philistine,--and
though, through circumstances which will perhaps one day be known, if
ever the affecting history of my conversion comes to be written, I
have, for the most part, broken with the ideas and the tea-meetings
of my own class, yet I have not, on that account, been brought much
the nearer to the ideas and works of the Barbarians or of the
Populace. Nevertheless, I never take a gun or a fishing-rod in my
hands without feeling that I have in the ground of my nature the
self-same seeds which, fostered by [107] circumstances, do so much to
make the Barbarian; and that, with the Barbarian's advantages, I
might have rivalled him. Place me in one of his great fortified
posts, with these seeds of a love for field-sports sown in my nature,
With all the means of developing them, with all pleasures at my
command, with most whom I met deferring to me, every one I met
smiling on me, and with every appearance of permanence and security
before me and behind me,--then I too might have grown, I feel, into a
very passable child of the established fact, of commendable spirit
and politeness, and, at the same time, a little inaccessible to ideas
and light; not, of course, with either the eminent fine spirit of
Lord Elcho, or the eminent power of resistance of Sir Thomas Bateson,
but, according to the measure of the common run of mankind, something
between the two. And as to the Populace, who, whether he be
Barbarian or Philistine, can look at them without sympathy, when he
remembers how often,--every time that we snatch up a vehement opinion
in ignorance and passion, every time that we long to crush an
adversary by sheer violence, every time that we are envious, every
time that we are brutal, [108] every time that we adore mere power or
success, every time that we add our voice to swell a blind clamour
against some unpopular personage, every time that we trample savagely
on the fallen,--he has found in his own bosom the eternal spirit of
the Populace, and that there needs only a little help from
circumstances to make it triumph in him untameably?

The second thing to be borne in mind I have indicated several times
already. It is this. All of us, so far as we are Barbarians,
Philistines, or Populace, imagine happiness to consist in doing what
one's ordinary self likes. What one's ordinary self likes differs
according to the class to which one belongs, and has its severer and
its lighter side; always, however, remaining machinery, and nothing
more. The graver self of the Barbarian likes honours and
consideration; his more relaxed self, field-sports and pleasure. The
graver self of one kind of Philistine likes business and money-
making; his more relaxed self, comfort and tea-meetings. Of another
kind of Philistine, the graver self likes trades' unions; the relaxed
self, deputations, or hearing Mr. Odger speak. The sterner self of
the [109] Populace likes bawling, hustling, and smashing; the lighter
self, beer. But in each class there are born a certain number of
natures with a curiosity about their best self, with a bent for
seeing things as they are, for disentangling themselves from
machinery, for simply concerning themselves with reason and the will
of God, and doing their best to make these prevail;--for the pursuit,
in a word, of perfection. To certain manifestations of this love for
perfection mankind have accustomed themselves to give the name of
genius; implying, by this name, something original and heaven-
bestowed in the passion. But the passion is to be found far beyond
those manifestations of it to which the world usually gives the name
of genius, and in which there is, for the most part, a talent of some
kind or other, a special and striking faculty of execution, informed
by the heaven-bestowed ardour, or genius. It is to be found in many
manifestations besides these, and may best be called, as we have
called it, the love and pursuit of perfection; culture being the true
nurse of the pursuing love, and sweetness and light the true
character of the pursued perfection. Natures with this bent emerge
in all classes,--among the Barbarians, among the Philistines, [110]
among the Populace. And this bent always tends, as I have said, to
take them out of their class, and to make their distinguishing
characteristic not their Barbarianism or their Philistinism, but
their humanity. They have, in general, a rough time of it in their
lives; but they are sown more abundantly than one might think, they
appear where and when one least expects it, they set up a fire which
enfilades, so to speak, the class with which they are ranked; and, in
general, by the extrication of their best self as the self to
develope, and by the simplicity of the ends fixed by them as
paramount, they hinder the unchecked predominance of that class-life
which is the affirmation of our ordinary self, and seasonably
disconcert mankind in their worship of machinery.

Therefore, when we speak of ourselves as divided into Barbarians,
Philistines, and Populace, we must be understood always to imply that
within each of these classes there are a certain number of aliens, if
we may so call them,--persons who are mainly led, not by their class
spirit, but by a general humane spirit, by the love of human
perfection; and that this number is capable of being diminished or
augmented. I mean, the number of those who will succeed in [111]
developing this happy instinct will be greater or smaller, in
proportion both to the force of the original instinct within them,
and to the hindrance or encouragement which it meets with from
without. In almost all who have it, it is mixed with some infusion
of the spirit of an ordinary self, some quantity of class-instinct,
and even, as has been shown, of more than one class-instinct at the
same time; so that, in general, the extrication of the best self, the
predominance of the humane instinct, will very much depend upon its
meeting, or not, with what is fitted to help and elicit it. At a
moment, therefore, when it is agreed that we want a source of
authority, and when it seems probable that the right source is our
best self, it becomes of vast importance to see whether or not the
things around us are, in general, such as to help and elicit our best
self, and if they are not, to see why they are not, and the most
promising way of mending them.

Now, it is clear that the very absence of any powerful authority
amongst us, and the prevalent doctrine of the duty and happiness of
doing as one likes, and asserting our personal liberty, must tend to
prevent the erection of any very strict standard of [112] excellence,
the belief in any very paramount authority of right reason, the
recognition of our best self as anything very recondite and hard to
come at. It may be, as I have said, a proof of our honesty that we
do not attempt to give to our ordinary self, as we have it in action,
predominant authority, and to impose its rule upon other people; but
it is evident, also, that it is not easy, with our style of
proceeding, to get beyond the notion of an ordinary self at all, or
to get the paramount authority of a commanding best self, or right
reason, recognised. The learned Martinus Scriblerus well says:--"The
taste of the bathos is implanted by nature itself in the soul of man;
till, perverted by custom or example, he is taught, or rather
compelled, to relish the sublime." But with us everything seems
directed to prevent any such perversion of us by custom or example as
might compel us to relish the sublime; by all means we are encouraged
to keep our natural taste for the bathos unimpaired. I have formerly
pointed out how in literature the absence of any authoritative
centre, like an Academy, tends to do this; each section of the public
has its own literary organ, and the mass of the public is without any
suspicion that [113] the value of these organs is relative to their
being nearer a certain ideal centre of correct information, taste,
and intelligence, or farther away from it. I have said that within
certain limits, which any one who is likely to read this will have no
difficulty in drawing for himself, my old adversary, the Saturday
Review, may, on matters of literature and taste, be fairly enough
regarded, relatively to a great number of newspapers which treat
these matters, as a kind of organ of reason. But I remember once
conversing with a company of Nonconformist admirers of some lecturer
who had let off a great fire-work, which the Saturday Review said was
all noise and false lights, and feeling my way as tenderly as I could
about the effect of this unfavourable judgment upon those with whom I
was conversing. "Oh," said one who was their spokesman, with the
most tranquil air of conviction, "it is true the Saturday Review
abuses the lecture, but the British Banner" (I am not quite sure it
was the British Banner, but it was some newspaper of that stamp)
"says that the Saturday Review is quite wrong." The speaker had
evidently no notion that there was a scale of value for judgments on
these topics, and that the judgments of the [114] Saturday Review
ranked high on this scale, and those of the British Banner low; the
taste of the bathos implanted by nature in the literary judgments of
man had never, in my friend's case, encountered any let or hindrance.

Just the same in religion as in literature. We have most of us
little idea of a high standard to choose our guides by, of a great
and profound spirit, which is an authority, while inferior spirits
are none; it is enough to give importance to things that this or that
person says them decisively, and has a large following of some strong
kind when he says them. This habit of ours is very well shown in
that able and interesting work of Mr. Hepworth Dixon's, which we were
all reading lately, The Mormons, by One of Themselves. Here, again,
I am not quite sure that my memory serves me as to the exact title,
but I mean the well-known book in which Mr. Hepworth Dixon described
the Mormons, and other similar religious bodies in America, with so
much detail and such warm sympathy. In this work it seems enough for
Mr. Dixon that this or that doctrine has its Rabbi, who talks big to
him, has a staunch body of disciples, and, above all, has plenty
[115] of rifles. That there are any further stricter tests to be
applied to a doctrine, before it is pronounced important, never seems
to occur to him. "It is easy to say," he writes of the Mormons,
"that these saints are dupes and fanatics, to laugh at Joe Smith and
his church, but what then? The great facts remain. Young and his
people are at Utah; a church of 200,000 souls; an army of 20,000
rifles." But if the followers of a doctrine are really dupes, or
worse, and its promulgators are really fanatics, or worse, it gives
the doctrine no seriousness or authority the more that there should
be found 200,000 souls,--200,000 of the innumerable multitude with a
natural taste for the bathos,--to hold it, and 20,000 rifles to
defend it. And again, of another religious organisation in America:
"A fair and open field is not to be refused when hosts so mighty
throw down wager of battle on behalf of what they hold to be true,
however strange their faith may seem." A fair and open field is not
to be refused to any speaker; but this solemn way of heralding him is
quite out of place unless he has, for the best reason and spirit of
man, some significance. "Well, but," says Mr. Hepworth Dixon, [116]
"a theory which has been accepted by men like Judge Edmonds, Dr.
Hare, Elder Frederick, and Professor Bush!" And again: "Such are, in
brief, the bases of what Newman Weeks, Sarah Horton, Deborah Butler,
and the associated brethren, proclaimed in Rolt's Hall as the new
covenant!" If he was summing up an account of the teaching of Plato
or St. Paul, Mr. Hepworth Dixon could not be more earnestly
reverential. But the question is, have personages like Judge
Edmonds, and Newman Weeks, and Elderess Polly, and Elderess
Antoinette, and the rest of Mr. Hepworth Dixon's heroes and heroines,
anything of the weight and significance for the best reason and
spirit of man that Plato and St. Paul have? Evidently they, at
present, have not; and a very small taste of them and their doctrines
ought to have convinced Mr. Hepworth Dixon that they never could
have. "But," says he, "the magnetic power which Shakerism is
exercising on American thought would of itself compel us,"--and so
on. Now as far as real thought is concerned,--thought which affects
the best reason and spirit of man, the scientific thought of the
world, the only thought which deserves [117] speaking of in this
solemn way,--America has up to the present time been hardly more than
a province of England, and even now would not herself claim to be
more than abreast of England; and of this only real human thought,
English thought itself is not just now, as we must all admit, one of
the most significant factors. Neither, then, can American thought
be; and the magnetic power which Shakerism exercises on American
thought is about as important, for the best reason and spirit of man,
as the magnetic power which Mr. Murphy exercises on Birmingham
Protestantism. And as we shall never get rid of our natural taste
for the bathos in religion,--never get access to a best self and
right reason which may stand as a serious authority,--by treating Mr.
Murphy as his own disciples treat him, seriously, and as if he was as
much an authority as any one else: so we shall never get rid of it
while our able and popular writers treat their Joe Smiths and Deborah
Butlers, with their so many thousand souls and so many thousand
rifles, in the like exaggerated and misleading manner, and so do
their best to confirm us in a bad mental habit to which we are
already too prone.

[118] If our habits make it hard for us to come at the idea of a high
best self, of a paramount authority, in literature or religion, how
much more do they make this hard in the sphere of politics! In other
countries, the governors, not depending so immediately on the favour
of the governed, have everything to urge them, if they know anything
of right reason (and it is at least supposed that governors should
know more of this than the mass of the governed), to set it
authoritatively before the community. But our whole scheme of
government being representative, every one of our governors has all
possible temptation, instead of setting up before the governed who
elect him, and on whose favour he depends, a high standard of right
reason, to accommodate himself as much as possible to their natural
taste for the bathos; and even if he tries to go counter to it, to
proceed in this with so much flattering and coaxing, that they shall
not suspect their ignorance and prejudices to be anything very unlike
right reason, or their natural taste for the bathos to differ much
from a relish for the sublime. Every one is thus in every possible
way encouraged to trust in his own heart; but "he that trusteth in
his [119] own heart," says the Wise Man, "is a fool;"+ and at any
rate this, which Bishop Wilson says, is undeniably true: "The number
of those who need to be awakened is far greater than that of those
who need comfort." But in our political system everybody is
comforted. Our guides and governors who have to be elected by the
influence of the Barbarians, and who depend on their favour, sing the
praises of the Barbarians, and say all the smooth things that can be
said of them. With Mr. Tennyson, they celebrate "the great broad-
shouldered genial Englishman," with his "sense of duty," his
"reverence for the laws," and his "patient force," who saves us from
the "revolts, republics, revolutions, most no graver than a
schoolboy's barring out," which upset other and less broad-shouldered
nations. Our guides who are chosen by the Philistines and who have
to look to their favour, tell the Philistines how "all the world
knows that the great middle-class of this country supplies the mind,
the will, and the power requisite for all the great and good things
that have to be done," and congratulate them on their "earnest good
sense, which penetrates through sophisms, ignores commonplaces, and
gives to conventional illusions their [120] true value." Our guides
who look to the favour of the Populace, tell them that "theirs are
the brightest powers of sympathy, and the readiest powers of action."
Harsh things are said too, no doubt, against all the great classes of
the community; but these things so evidently come from a hostile
class, and are so manifestly dictated by the passions and
prepossessions of a hostile class, and not by right reason, that they
make no serious impression on those at whom they are launched, but
slide easily off their minds. For instance, when the Reform League
orators inveigh against our cruel and bloated aristocracy, these
invectives so evidently show the passions and point of view of the
Populace, that they do not sink into the minds of those at whom they
are addressed, or awaken any thought or self-examination in them.
Again, when Sir Thomas Bateson describes the Philistines and the
Populace as influenced with a kind of hideous mania for emasculating
the aristocracy, that reproach so clearly comes from the wrath and
excited imagination of the Barbarians, that it does not much set the
Philistines and the Populace thinking. Or when Mr. Lowe calls the
Populace drunken and venal, he [121] so evidently calls them this in
an agony of apprehension for his Philistine or middle-class
Parliament, which has done so many great and heroic works, and is now
threatened with mixture and debasement, that the Populace do not lay
his words seriously to heart. So the voice which makes a permanent
impression on each of our classes is the voice of its friends, and
this is from the nature of things, as I have said, a comforting
voice. The Barbarians remain in the belief that the great broad-
shouldered genial Englishman may be well satisfied with himself; the
Philistines remain in the belief that the great middle-class of this
country, with its earnest common-sense penetrating through sophisms
and ignoring commonplaces, may be well satisfied with itself: the
Populace, that the working-man with his bright powers of sympathy and
ready powers of action, may be well satisfied with himself. What
hope, at this rate, of extinguishing the taste of the bathos
implanted by nature itself in the soul of man, or of inculcating the
belief that excellence dwells among high and steep rocks, and can
only be reached by those who sweat blood to reach her? But it will
be said, perhaps, that candidates for [122] political influence and
leadership, who thus caress the self-love of those whose suffrages
they desire, know quite well that they are not saying the sheer truth
as reason sees it, but that they are using a sort of conventional
language, or what we call clap-trap, which is essential to the
working of representative institutions. And therefore, I suppose, we
ought rather to say with Figaro: Qui est-ce qu'on trompe ici?+ Now,
I admit that often, but not always, when our governors say smooth
things to the self-love of the class whose political support they
want, they know very well that they are overstepping, by a long
stride, the bounds of truth and soberness; and while they talk, they
in a manner, no doubt, put their tongue in their cheek. Not always;
because, when a Barbarian appeals to his own class to make him their
representative and give him political power, he, when he pleases
their self-love by extolling broad-shouldered genial Englishmen with
their sense of duty, reverence for the laws, and patient force,
pleases his own self-love and extols himself, and is, therefore,
himself ensnared by his own smooth words. And so, too, when a
Philistine wants to represent his brother Philistines, and [123]
extols the earnest good sense which characterises Manchester, and
supplies the mind, the will, and the power, as the Daily News
eloquently says, requisite for all the great and good things that
have to be done, he intoxicates and deludes himself as well as his
brother Philistines who hear him. But it is true that a Barbarian
often wants the political support of the Philistines; and he
unquestionably, when he flatters the self-love of Philistinism, and
extols, in the approved fashion, its energy, enterprise, and self-
reliance, knows that he is talking clap-trap, and, so to say, puts
his tongue in his cheek. On all matters where Nonconformity and its
catchwords are concerned, this insincerity of Barbarians needing
Nonconformist support, and, therefore, flattering the self-love of
Nonconformity and repeating its catchwords without the least real
belief in them, is very noticeable. When the Nonconformists, in a
transport of blind zeal, threw out Sir James Graham's useful
Education Clauses in 1843, one-half of their parliamentary
representatives, no doubt, who cried aloud against "trampling on the
religious liberty of the Dissenters by taking the money of Dissenters
to teach the tenets of the [124] Church of England," put their tongue
in their cheek while they so cried out. And perhaps there is even a
sort of motion of Mr. Frederic Harrison's tongue towards his cheek
when he talks of the "shriek of superstition," and tells the working-
class that theirs are the brightest powers of sympathy and the
readiest powers of action. But the point on which I would insist is,
that this involuntary tribute to truth and soberness on the part of
certain of our governors and guides never reaches at all the mass of
us governed, to serve as a lesson to us, to abate our self-love, and
to awaken in us a suspicion that our favourite prejudices may be, to
a higher reason, all nonsense. Whatever by-play goes on among the
more intelligent of our leaders, we do not see it; and we are left to
believe that, not only in our own eyes, but in the eyes of our
representative and ruling men, there is nothing more admirable than
our ordinary self, whatever our ordinary self happens to be,--
Barbarian, Philistine, or Populace.

Thus everything in our political life tends to hide from us that
there is anything wiser than our ordinary selves, and to prevent our
getting the notion of a paramount right reason. Royalty itself,
[125] in its idea the expression of the collective nation, and a sort
of constituted witness to its best mind, we try to turn into a kind
of grand advertising van, to give publicity and credit to the
inventions, sound or unsound, of the ordinary self of individuals. I
remember, when I was in North Germany, having this very strongly
brought to my mind in the matter of schools and their institution.
In Prussia, the best schools are Crown patronage schools, as they are
called; schools which have been established and endowed (and new ones
are to this day being established and endowed) by the Sovereign
himself out of his own revenues, to be under the direct control and
management of him or of those representing him, and to serve as types
of what schools should be. The Sovereign, as his position raises him
above many prejudices and littlenesses, and as he can always have at
his disposal the best advice, has evident advantages over private
founders in well planning and directing a school; while at the same
time his great means and his great influence secure, to a well-
planned school of his, credit and authority. This is what, in North
Germany, the governors do, in the matter of education, for the [126]
governed; and one may say that they thus give the governed a lesson,
and draw out in them the idea of a right reason higher than the
suggestions of an ordinary man's ordinary self. But in England how
different is the part which in this matter our governors are
accustomed to play! The Licensed Victuallers or the Commercial
Travellers propose to make a school for their children; and I
suppose, in the matter of schools, one may call the Licensed
Victuallers or the Commercial Travellers ordinary men, with their
natural taste for the bathos still strong; and a Sovereign with the
advice of men like Wilhelm von Humboldt or Schleiermacher may, in
this matter, be a better judge, and nearer to right reason. And it
will be allowed, probably, that right reason would suggest that, to
have a sheer school of Licensed Victuallers' children, or a sheer
school of Commercial Travellers' children, and to bring them all up,
not only at home but at school too, in a kind of odour of licensed
victualism or of bagmanism, is not a wise training to give to these
children. And in Germany, I have said, the action of the national
guides or governors is to suggest and provide a better. But, in
England, the action of the national [127] guides or governors is, for
a Royal Prince or a great Minister to go down to the opening of the
Licensed Victuallers' or of the Commercial Travellers' school, to
take the chair, to extol the energy and self-reliance of the Licensed
Victuallers or the Commercial Travellers, to be all of their way of
thinking, to predict full success to their schools, and never so much
as to hint to them that they are doing a very foolish thing, and that
the right way to go to work with their children's education is quite
different. And it is the same in almost every department of affairs.
While, on the Continent, the idea prevails that it is the business of
the heads and representatives of the nation, by virtue of their
superior means, power, and information, to set an example and to
provide suggestions of right reason, among us the idea is that the
business of the heads and representatives of the nation is to do
nothing of the kind, but to applaud the natural taste for the bathos
showing itself vigorously in any part of the community, and to
encourage its works.

Now I do not say that the political system of foreign countries has
not inconveniences which may outweigh the inconveniences of our own
political [128] system; nor am I the least proposing to get rid of
our own political system and to adopt theirs. But a sound centre of
authority being what, in this disquisition, we have been led to seek,
and right reason, or our best self, appearing alone to offer such a
sound centre of authority, it is necessary to take note of the chief
impediments which hinder, in this country, the extrication or
recognition of this right reason as a paramount authority, with a
view to afterwards trying in what way they can best be removed.

This being borne in mind, I proceed to remark how not only do we get
no suggestions of right reason, and no rebukes of our ordinary self,
from our governors, but a kind of philosophical theory is widely
spread among us to the effect that there is no such thing at all as a
best self and a right reason having claim to paramount authority, or,
at any rate, no such thing ascertainable and capable of being made
use of; and that there is nothing but an infinite number of ideas and
works of our ordinary selves, and suggestions of our natural taste
for the bathos, pretty equal in value, which are doomed either to an
irreconcileable conflict, or else to a [129] perpetual give and take;
and that wisdom consists in choosing the give and take rather than
the conflict, and in sticking to our choice with patience and good
humour. And, on the other hand, we have another philosophical theory
rife among us, to the effect that without the labour of perverting
ourselves by custom or example to relish right reason, but by
continuing all of us to follow freely our natural taste for the
bathos, we shall, by the mercy of Providence, and by a kind of
natural tendency of things, come in due time to relish and follow
right reason. The great promoters of these philosophical theories
are our newspapers, which, no less than our parliamentary
representatives, may be said to act the part of guides and governors
to us; and these favourite doctrines of theirs I call,--or should
call, if the doctrines were not preached by authorities I so much
respect,--the first, a peculiarly British form of Atheism, the
second, a peculiarly British form of Quietism. The first-named
melancholy doctrine is preached in The Times with great clearness and
force of style; indeed, it is well known, from the example of the
poet Lucretius and others, what great masters of style the atheistic
[130] doctrine has always counted among its promulgators. "It is of
no use," says The Times, "for us to attempt to force upon our
neighbours our several likings and dislikings. We must take things
as they are. Everybody has his own little vision of religious or
civil perfection. Under the evident impossibility of satisfying
everybody, we agree to take our stand on equal laws and on a system
as open and liberal as is possible. The result is that everybody has
more liberty of action and of speaking here than anywhere else in the
Old World." We come again here upon Mr. Roebuck's celebrated
definition of happiness, on which I have so often commented: "I look
around me and ask what is the state of England? Is not every man
able to say what he likes? I ask you whether the world over, or in
past history, there is anything like it? Nothing. I pray that our
unrivalled happiness may last." This is the old story of our system
of checks and every Englishman doing as he likes, which we have
already seen to have been convenient enough so long as there were
only the Barbarians and the Philistines to do what they liked, but to
be getting inconvenient, and productive of anarchy, [131] now that
the Populace wants to do what it likes too. But for all that, I will
not at once dismiss this famous doctrine, but will first quote
another passage from The Times, applying the doctrine to a matter of
which we have just been speaking,--education. "The difficulty here"
(in providing a national system of education), says The Times, "does
not reside in any removeable arrangements. It is inherent and native
in the actual and inveterate state of things in this country. All
these powers and personages, all these conflicting influences and
varieties of character, exist, and have long existed among us; they
are fighting it out, and will long continue to fight it out, without
coming to that happy consummation when some one element of the
British character is to destroy or to absorb all the rest." There it
is; the various promptings of the natural taste for the bathos in
this man and that amongst us are fighting it out; and the day will
never come (and, indeed, why should we wish it to come?) when one
man's particular sort of taste for the bathos shall tyrannise over
another man's; nor when right reason (if that may be called an
element of the British character) shall absorb and [132] rule them
all. "The whole system of this country, like the constitution we
boast to inherit, and are glad to uphold, is made up of established
facts, prescriptive authorities, existing usages, powers that be,
persons in possession, and communities or classes that have won
dominion for themselves, and will hold it against all comers." Every
force in the world, evidently, except the one reconciling force,
right reason! Sir Thomas Bateson here, the Rev. W. Cattle on this
side, Mr. Bradlaugh on that!--pull devil, pull baker! Really,
presented with the mastery of style of our leading journal, the sad
picture, as one gazes upon it, assumes the iron and inexorable
solemnity of tragic Destiny.

After this, the milder doctrine of our other philosophical teacher,
the Daily News, has, at first, something very attractive and
assuaging. The Daily News begins, indeed, in appearance, to weave
the iron web of necessity round us like The Times. "The alternative
is between a man's doing what he likes and his doing what some one
else, probably not one whit wiser than himself, likes." This points
to the tacit compact, mentioned [133] in my last paper, between the
Barbarians and the Philistines, and into which it is hoped that the
Populace will one day enter; the compact, so creditable to English
honesty, that no class, if it exercise power, having only the ideas
and aims of its ordinary self to give effect to, shall treat its
ordinary self too seriously, or attempt to impose it on others; but
shall let these others,--the Rev. W. Cattle, for instance, in his
Papist-baiting, and Mr. Bradlaugh in his Hyde Park anarchy-
mongering,--have their fling. But then the Daily News suddenly
lights up the gloom of necessitarianism with bright beams of hope.
"No doubt," it says, "the common reason of society ought to check the
aberrations of individual eccentricity." This common reason of
society looks very like our best self or right reason, to which we
want to give authority, by making the action of the State, or nation
in its collective character, the expression of it. But of this
project of ours, the Daily News, with its subtle dialectics, makes
havoc. "Make the State the organ of the common reason?"--it says.
"You may make it the organ of something or other, but how can you be
certain that [134] reason will be the quality which will be embodied
in it?" You cannot be certain of it, undoubtedly, if you never try
to bring the thing about; but the question is, the action of the
State being the action of the collective nation, and the action of
the collective nation carrying naturally great publicity, weight, and
force of example with it, whether we should not try to put into the
action of the State as much as possible of right reason, or our best
self, which may, in this manner, come back to us with new force and
authority, may have visibility, form, and influence, and help to
confirm us, in the many moments when we are tempted to be our
ordinary selves merely, in resisting our natural taste of the bathos
rather than in giving way to it?

But no! says our teacher: "it is better there should be an infinite
variety of experiments in human action, because, as the explorers
multiply, the true track is more likely to be discovered. The common
reason of society can check the aberrations of individual
eccentricity only by acting on the individual reason; and it will do
so in the main sufficiently, if left to this natural operation."
This is what I call the specially British form of [135] Quietism, or
a devout, but excessive, reliance on an over-ruling Providence.
Providence, as the moralists are careful to tell us, generally works
in human affairs by human means; so when we want to make right reason
act on individual reason, our best self on our ordinary self, we seek
to give it more power of doing so by giving it public recognition and
authority, and embodying it, so far as we can, in the State. It
seems too much to ask of Providence, that while we, on our part,
leave our congenital taste for the bathos to its natural operation
and its infinite variety of experiments, Providence should
mysteriously guide it into the true track, and compel it to relish
the sublime. At any rate, great men and great institutions have
hitherto seemed necessary for producing any considerable effect of
this kind. No doubt we have an infinite variety of experiments, and
an ever-multiplying multitude of explorers; even in this short paper
I have enumerated many: the British Banner, Judge Edmonds, Newman
Weeks, Deborah Butler, Elderess Polly, Brother Noyes, the Rev. W.
Cattle, the Licensed Victuallers, the Commercial Travellers, and I
know not how [136] many more; and the numbers of this noble army are
swelling every day. But what a depth of Quietism, or rather, what an
over-bold call on the direct interposition of Providence, to believe
that these interesting explorers will discover the true track, or at
any rate, "will do so in the main sufficiently" (whatever that may
mean) if left to their natural operation; that is, by going on as
they are! Philosophers say, indeed, that we learn virtue by
performing acts of virtue; but to say that we shall learn virtue by
performing any acts to which our natural taste for the bathos carries
us, that the Rev. W. Cattle comes at his best self by Papist-baiting,
or Newman Weeks and Deborah Butler at right reason by following their
noses, this certainly does appear over-sanguine.

It is true, what we want is to make right reason act on individual
reason, the reason of individuals; all our search for authority has
that for its end and aim. The Daily News says, I observe, that all
my argument for authority "has a non-intellectual root;" and from
what I know of my own mind and its inertness, I think this so
probable, that I should be inclined easily to admit it, if it were
not that, in [137] the first place, nothing of this kind, perhaps,
should be admitted without examination; and, in the second, a way of
accounting for this charge being made, in this particular instance,
without full grounds, appears to present itself. What seems to me to
account here, perhaps, for the charge, is the want of flexibility of
our race, on which I have so often remarked. I mean, it being
admitted that the conformity of the individual reason of the Rev. W.
Cattle or Mr. Bradlaugh with right reason is our true object, and not
the mere restraining them, by the strong arm of the State, from
Papist-baiting or railing-breaking,--admitting this, we have so
little flexibility that we cannot readily perceive that the State's
restraining them from these indulgences may yet fix clearly in their
minds that, to the collective nation, these indulgences appear
irrational and unallowable, may make them pause and reflect, and may
contribute to bringing, with time, their individual reason into
harmony with right reason. But in no country, owing to the want of
intellectual flexibility above mentioned, is the leaning which is our
natural one, and, therefore, needs no recommending to us, so
sedulously recommended, and the leaning which is [138] not our
natural one, and, therefore, does not-need dispraising to us, so
sedulously dispraised, as in ours. To rely on the individual being,
with us, the natural leaning, we will hear of nothing but the good of
relying on the individual; to act through the collective nation on
the individual being not our natural leaning, we will hear nothing in
recommendation of it. But the wise know that we often need to hear
most of that to which we are least inclined, and even to learn to
employ, in certain circumstances, that which is capable, if employed
amiss, of being a danger to us.

Elsewhere this is certainly better understood than here. In a recent
number of the Westminster Review, an able writer, but with precisely
our national want of flexibility of which I have been speaking, has
unearthed, I see, for our present needs, an English translation,
published some years ago, of Wilhelm von Humboldt's book, The Sphere
and Duties of Government. Humboldt's object in this book is to show
that the operation of government ought to be severely limited to what
directly and immediately relates to the security of person and
property. Wilhelm von Humboldt, one of the [139] most beautiful and
perfect souls that have ever existed, used to say that one's business
in life was, first, to perfect oneself by all the means in one's
power, and, secondly, to try and create in the world around one an
aristocracy, the most numerous that one possibly could, of talents
and characters. He saw, of course, that, in the end, everything
comes to this,--that the individual must act for himself, and must be
perfect in himself; and he lived in a country, Germany, where people
were disposed to act too little for themselves, and to rely too much
on the Government. But even thus, such was his flexibility, so
little was he in bondage to a mere abstract maxim, that he saw very
well that for his purpose itself, of enabling the individual to stand
perfect on his own foundations and to do without the State, the
action of the State would for long, long years be necessary; and soon
after he wrote his book on The Sphere and Duties of Government,
Wilhelm von Humboldt became Minister of Education in Prussia, and
from his ministry all the great reforms which give the control of
Prussian education to the State,--the transference of the management
of public schools from their old boards of trustees to the [140]
State, the obligatory State-examination for schools, the obligatory
State-examination for schoolmasters, and the foundation of the great
State University of Berlin,--take their origin. This his English
reviewer says not a word of. But, writing for a people whose dangers
lie, as we have seen, on the side of their unchecked and unguided
individual action, whose dangers none of them lie on the side of an
over-reliance on the State, he quotes just so much of Wilhelm von
Humboldt's example as can flatter them in their propensities, and do
them no good; and just what might make them think, and be of use to
them, he leaves on one side. This precisely recalls the manner, it
will be observed, in which we have seen that our royal and noble
personages proceed with the Licensed Victuallers.

In France the action of the State on individuals is yet more
preponderant than in Germany; and the need which friends of human
perfection feel to enable the individual to stand perfect on his own
foundations is all the stronger. But what says one of the staunchest
of these friends, Monsieur Renan, on State action, and even State
action in that very sphere where in France it is most excessive, the
sphere [141] of education? Here are his words:--"A liberal believes
in liberty, and liberty signifies the non-intervention of the State.
But such an ideal is still a long way off from us, and the very means
to remove it to an indefinite distance would be precisely the State's
withdrawing its action too soon." And this, he adds, is even truer
of education than of any other department of public affairs.

We see, then, how indispensable to that human perfection which we
seek is, in the opinion of good judges, some public recognition and
establishment of our best self, or right reason. We see how our
habits and practice oppose themselves to such a recognition, and the
many inconveniences which we therefore suffer. But now let us try to
go a little deeper, and to find, beneath our actual habits and
practice, the very ground and cause out of which they spring.


119. +Proverbs 28:26. "He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool:
but whoso walketh wisely, he shall be delivered." The King James

122. +"Qui est-ce qu'on trompe ici?" E-text editor's translation:
"Who is the one getting fooled here?"


[142] This fundamental ground is our preference of doing to thinking.
Now this preference is a main element in our nature, and as we study
it we find ourselves opening up a number of large questions on every

Let me go back for a moment to what I have already quoted from Bishop
Wilson:--"First, never go against the best light you have; secondly,
take care that your light be not darkness." I said we show, as a
nation, laudable energy and persistence in walking according to the
best light we have, but are not quite careful enough, perhaps, to see
that our light be not darkness. This is only another version of the
old story that energy is our strong point and favourable
characteristic, rather than intelligence. But we may give to this
idea a more general form still, in which it will have a yet larger
range of application. We may regard this energy driving at practice,
this paramount sense of the obligation of duty, self-control, and
work, this earnestness in going manfully with the best light we [143]
have, as one force. And we may regard the intelligence driving at
those ideas which are, after all, the basis of right practice, the
ardent sense for all the new and changing combinations of them which
man's development brings with it, the indomitable impulse to know and
adjust them perfectly, as another force. And these two forces we may
regard as in some sense rivals,--rivals not by the necessity of their
own nature, but as exhibited in man and his history,--and rivals
dividing the empire of the world between them. And to give these
forces names from the two races of men who have supplied the most
signal and splendid manifestations of them, we may call them
respectively the forces of Hebraism and Hellenism. Hebraism and
Hellenism,--between these two points of influence moves our world.
At one time it feels more powerfully the attraction of one of them,
at another time of the other; and it ought to be, though it never is,
evenly and happily balanced between them.

The final aim of both Hellenism and Hebraism, as of all great
spiritual disciplines, is no doubt the same: man's perfection or
salvation. The very language which they both of them use in
schooling [144] us to reach this aim is often identical. Even when
their language indicates by variation,--sometimes a broad variation,
often a but slight and subtle variation,--the different courses of
thought which are uppermost in each discipline, even then the unity
of the final end and aim is still apparent. To employ the actual
words of that discipline with which we ourselves are all of us most
familiar, and the words of which, therefore, come most home to us,
that final end and aim is "that we might be partakers of the divine
nature." These are the words of a Hebrew apostle, but of Hellenism
and Hebraism alike this is, I say, the aim. When the two are
confronted, as they very often are confronted, it is nearly always
with what I may call a rhetorical purpose; the speaker's whole design
is to exalt and enthrone one of the two, and he uses the other only
as a foil and to enable him the better to give effect to his purpose.
Obviously, with us, it is usually Hellenism which is thus reduced to
minister to the triumph of Hebraism. There is a sermon on Greece and
the Greek spirit by a man never to be mentioned without interest and
respect, Frederick Robertson, in which this rhetorical use of Greece
and the Greek [145] spirit, and the inadequate exhibition of them
necessarily consequent upon this, is almost ludicrous, and would be
censurable if it were not to be explained by the exigences of a
sermon. On the other hand, Heinrich Heine, and other writers of his
sort, give us the spectacle of the tables completely turned, and of
Hebraism brought in just as a foil and contrast to Hellenism, and to
make the superiority of Hellenism more manifest. In both these cases
there is injustice and misrepresentation. The aim and end of both
Hebraism and Hellenism is, as I have said, one and the same, and this
aim and end is august and admirable.

Still, they pursue this aim by very different courses. The uppermost
idea with Hellenism is to see things as they really are; the
uppermost idea with Hebraism is conduct and obedience. Nothing can
do away with this ineffaceable difference; the Greek quarrel with the
body and its desires is, that they hinder right thinking, the Hebrew
quarrel with them is, that they hinder right acting. "He that
keepeth the law, happy is he;" "There is nothing sweeter than to take
heed unto the commandments of the Lord;"+--that is the Hebrew [146]
notion of felicity; and, pursued with passion and tenacity, this
notion would not let the Hebrew rest till, as is well known, he had,
at last, got out of the law a network of prescriptions to enwrap his
whole life, to govern every moment of it, every impulse, every
action. The Greek notion of felicity, on the other hand, is
perfectly conveyed in these words of a great French moralist: "C'est
le bonheur des hommes"--when? when they abhor that which is evil?--
no; when they exercise themselves in the law of the Lord day and
night?--no; when they die daily?--no; when they walk about the New
Jerusalem with palms in their hands?--no; but when they think aright,
when their thought hits,--"quand ils pensent juste." At the bottom
of both the Greek and the Hebrew notion is the desire, native in man,
for reason and the will of God, the feeling after the universal
order,--in a word, the love of God. But, while Hebraism seizes upon
certain plain, capital intimations of the universal order, and rivets
itself, one may say, with unequalled grandeur of earnestness and
intensity on the study and observance of them, the bent of Hellenism
is to follow, with flexible activity, the whole play of the universal
order, to be [147] apprehensive of missing any part of it, of
sacrificing one part to another, to slip away from resting in this or
that intimation of it, however capital. An unclouded clearness of
mind, an unimpeded play of thought, is what this bent drives at. The
governing idea of Hellenism is spontaneity of consciousness; that of
Hebraism, strictness of conscience.

Christianity changed nothing in this essential bent of Hebraism to
set doing above knowing. Self-conquest, self-devotion, the following
not our own individual will, but the will of God, obedience, is the
fundamental idea of this form, also, of the discipline to which we
have attached the general name of Hebraism. Only, as the old law and
the network of prescriptions with which it enveloped human life were
evidently a motive power not driving and searching enough to produce
the result aimed at,--patient continuance in well doing, self-
conquest,--Christianity substituted for them boundless devotion to
that inspiring and affecting pattern of self-conquest offered by
Christ; and by the new motive power, of which the essence was this,
though the love and admiration of Christian churches have for
centuries been employed in varying, amplifying, [148] and adorning
the plain description of it, Christianity, as St. Paul truly says,
"establishes the law,"+ and in the strength of the ampler power which
she has thus supplied to fulfil it, has accomplished the miracles,
which we all see, of her history.

So long as we do not forget that both Hellenism and Hebraism are
profound and admirable manifestations of man's life, tendencies, and
powers, and that both of them aim at a like final result, we can
hardly insist too strongly on the divergence of line and of operation
with which they proceed. It is a divergence so great that it most
truly, as the prophet Zechariah says, "has raised up thy sons, O
Zion, against thy sons, O Greece!"+ The difference whether it is by
doing or by knowing that we set most store, and the practical
consequences which follow from this difference, leave their mark on
all the history of our race and of its development. Language may be
abundantly quoted from both Hellenism and Hebraism to make it seem
that one follows the same current as the other towards the same goal.
They are, truly, borne towards the same goal; but the currents which
bear them are infinitely different. It is true, Solomon will praise
[149] knowing: "Understanding is a well-spring of life unto him that
hath it."+ And in the New Testament, again, Christ is a "light,"+ and
"truth makes us free."+ It is true, Aristotle will undervalue
knowing: "In what concerns virtue," says he, "three things are
necessary,--knowledge, deliberate will, and perseverance; but,
whereas the two last are all important, the first is a matter of
little importance." It is true that with the same impatience with
which St. James enjoins a man to be not a forgetful hearer, but a
doer of the work,+ Epictetus exhorts us to do what we have
demonstrated to ourselves we ought to do; or he taunts us with
futility, for being armed at all points to prove that lying is wrong,
yet all the time continuing to lie. It is true, Plato, in words
which are almost the words of the New Testament or the Imitation,
calls life a learning to die. But underneath the superficial
agreement the fundamental divergence still subsists. The
understanding of Solomon is "the walking in the way of the
commandments;" this is "the way of peace,"+ and it is of this that
blessedness comes. In the New Testament, the truth which gives us
the peace of God and makes us free, is the love of Christ
constraining [150] us to crucify, as he did, and with a like purpose
of moral regeneration, the flesh with its affections and lusts, and
thus establishing, as we have seen, the law. To St. Paul it appears
possible to "hold the truth in unrighteousness,"+ which is just what
Socrates judged impossible. The moral virtues, on the other hand,
are with Aristotle but the porch and access to the intellectual, and
with these last is blessedness. That partaking of the divine life,
which both Hellenism and Hebraism, as we have said, fix as their
crowning aim, Plato expressly denies to the man of practical virtue
merely, of self-conquest with any other motive than that of perfect
intellectual vision; he reserves it for the lover of pure knowledge,
of seeing things as they really are,--the philomathês.+

Both Hellenism and Hebraism arise out of the wants of human nature,
and address themselves to satisfying those wants. But their methods
are so different, they lay stress on such different points, and call
into being by their respective disciplines such different activities,
that the face which human nature presents when it passes from the
hands of one of them to those of the other, is no longer the [151]
same. To get rid of one's ignorance, to see things as they are, and
by seeing them as they are to see them in their beauty, is the simple
and attractive ideal which Hellenism holds out before human nature;
and from the simplicity and charm of this ideal, Hellenism, and human
life in the hands of Hellenism, is invested with a kind of aërial
ease, clearness, and radiancy; they are full of what we call
sweetness and light. Difficulties are kept out of view, and the
beauty and rationalness of the ideal have all our thoughts. "The
best man is he who most tries to perfect himself, and the happiest
man is he who most feels that he is perfecting himself,"--this
account of the matter by Socrates, the true Socrates of the
Memorabilia, has something so simple, spontaneous, and
unsophisticated about it, that it seems to fill us with clearness and
hope when we hear it. But there is a saying which I have heard
attributed to Mr. Carlyle about Socrates,--a very happy saying,
whether it is really Mr. Carlyle's or not,--which excellently marks
the essential point in which Hebraism differs from Hellenism.
"Socrates," this saying goes, "is terribly at ease in Zion"
Hebraism,--and here is the source of its [152] wonderful strength,--
has always been severely preoccupied with an awful sense of the
impossibility of being at ease in Zion; of the difficulties which
oppose themselves to man's pursuit or attainment of that perfection
of which Socrates talks so hopefully, and, as from this point of view
one might almost say, so glibly. It is all very well to talk of
getting rid of one's ignorance, of seeing things in their reality,
seeing them in their beauty; but how is this to be done when there is
something which thwarts and spoils all our efforts? This something


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