Library Of The World's Best Literature, Ancient And Modern, Vol 3

Part 6 out of 11

no education collegiate which is free; where such as were so disposed
mought give themselves to histories, modern languages, books of policy
and civil discourse, and other the like enablements unto service
of estate.

And because founders of colleges do plant, and founders of lectures do
water, it followeth well in order to speak of the defect which is in
public lectures; namely, in the smallness and meanness of the salary or
reward which in most places is assigned unto them; whether they be
lectures of arts, or of professions For it is necessary to the
progression of sciences that readers be of the most able and sufficient
men; as those which are ordained for generating and propagating of
sciences, and not for transitory use. This cannot be, except their
condition and endowment be such as may content the ablest man to
appropriate his whole labor and continue his whole age in that function
and attendance; and therefore must have a proportion answerable to that
mediocrity or competency of advancement, which may be expected from a
profession or the practice of a profession. So as, if you will have
sciences flourish, you must observe David's military law, which was,
"That those which staid with the carriage should have equal part with
those which were in the action"; else will the carriages be ill
attended. So readers in sciences are indeed the guardians of the stores
and provisions of sciences whence men in active courses are furnished,
and therefore ought to have equal entertainment with them; otherwise if
the fathers in sciences be of the weakest sort or be ill maintained,

"Et patrum invalidi referent jejunia nati:"

[Weakness of parents will show in feebleness of offspring.]

Another defect I note, wherein I shall need some alchemist to help me,
who call upon men to sell their books and to build furnaces; quitting
and forsaking Minerva and the Muses as barren virgins, and relying upon
Vulcan. But certain it is, that unto the deep, fruitful, and operative
study of many sciences, specially natural philosophy and physic, books
be not only the instrumentals; wherein also the beneficence of men hath
not been altogether wanting. For we see spheres, globes, astrolabes,
maps, and the like, have been provided as appurtenances to astronomy and
cosmography, as well as books. We see likewise that some places
instituted for physic have annexed the commodity of gardens for simples
of all sorts, and do likewise command the use of dead bodies for
anatomies. But these do respect but a few things. In general, there
will hardly be any main proficience in the disclosing of nature, except
there be some allowance for expenses about experiments; whether they be
experiments appertaining to Vulcanus or Daedalus, furnace or engine, or
any other kind. And therefore, as secretaries and spials of princes and
states bring in bills for intelligence, so you must allow the spials and
intelligencers of nature to bring in their bills; or else you shall be
ill advertised.

And if Alexander made such a liberal assignation to Aristotle of
treasure for the allowance of hunters, fowlers, fishers, and the like,
that he mought compile an history of nature, much better do they deserve
it that travail in arts of nature.

Another defect which I note, is an intermission or neglect in those
which are governors in universities of consultation, and in princes or
superior persons of visitation; to enter into account and consideration,
whether the readings, exercises, and other customs appertaining unto
learning, anciently begun and since continued, be well instituted or no;
and thereupon to ground an amendment or reformation in that which shall
be found inconvenient. For it is one of your Majesty's own most wise and
princely maxims, "that in all usages and precedents, the times be
considered wherein they first began; which if they were weak or
ignorant, it derogateth from the authority of the usage, and leaveth it
for suspect." And therefore inasmuch as most of the usages and orders of
the universities were derived from more obscure times, it is the more
requisite they be re-examined. In this kind I will give an instance or
two, for example's sake, of things that are the most obvious and
familiar. The one is a matter, which, though it be ancient and general,
yet I hold to be an error; which is, that scholars in universities come
too soon and too unripe to logic and rhetoric, arts fitter for graduates
than children and novices. For these two, rightly taken, are the gravest
of sciences, being the arts of arts; the one for judgment, the other for
ornament. And they be the rules and directions how to set forth and
dispose matter: and therefore for minds empty and unfraught with matter,
and which have not gathered that which Cicero calleth _sylva_ and
_supellex_, stuff and variety, to begin with those arts (as if one
should learn to weigh or to measure or to paint the wind) doth work but
this effect, that the wisdom of those arts, which is great and
universal, is almost made contemptible, and is degenerate into childish
sophistry and ridiculous affectation. And further, the untimely learning
of them hath drawn on by consequence the superficial and unprofitable
teaching and writing of them, as fitteth indeed to the capacity of
children. Another is a lack I find in the exercises used in the
universities, which do make too great a divorce between invention and
memory. For their speeches are either premeditate, in _verbis
conceptis_, where nothing is left to invention, or merely extemporal,
where little is left to memory; whereas in life and action there is
least use of either of these, but rather of intermixtures of
premeditation and invention, notes and memory. So as the exercise
fitteth not the practice, nor the image the life; and it is ever a true
rule in exercises, that they be framed as near as may be to the life of
practice; for otherwise they do pervert the motions and faculties of the
mind, and not prepare them. The truth whereof is not obscure, when
scholars come to the practices of professions, or other actions of civil
life; which when they set into, this want is soon found by themselves,
and sooner by others. But this part, touching the amendment of the
institutions and orders of universities, I will conclude with the clause
of Caesar's letter to Oppius and Balbus, "Hoc quem admodum fieri possit,
nonnulla mihi in mentem veniunt, et multa reperiri possunt: de iis rebus
rogo vos ut cogitationem suscipiatis." [How this may be done, some ways
come to my mind and many may be devised; I ask you to take these things
into consideration.]

Another defect which I note ascendeth a little higher than the
precedent. For as the proficience of learning consisteth much in the
orders and institutions of universities in the same States and kingdoms,
so it would be yet more advanced, if there were more intelligence mutual
between the universities of Europe than now there is. We see there be
many orders and foundations, which though they be divided under several
sovereignties and territories, yet they take themselves to have a kind
of contract, fraternity, and correspondence one with the other, insomuch
as they have Provincials and Generals. And surely as nature createth
brotherhood in families, and arts mechanical contract brotherhoods in
communalties, and the anointment of God superinduceth a brotherhood in
kings and bishops; so in like manner there cannot but be a fraternity in
learning and illumination, relating to that paternity which is
attributed to God, who is called the Father of illuminations or lights.

The last defect which I will note is, that there hath not been, or very
rarely been, any public designation of writers or inquirers concerning
such parts of knowledge as may appear not to have been already
sufficiently labored or undertaken; unto which point it is an inducement
to enter into a view and examination what parts of learning have been
prosecuted, and what omitted. For the opinion of plenty is amongst the
causes of want, and the great quantity of books maketh a show rather of
superfluity than lack; which surcharge nevertheless is not to be
remedied by making no more books, but by making more good books, which,
as the serpent of Moses, mought devour the serpents of the enchanters.

The removing of all the defects formerly enumerated, except the last,
and of the active part also of the last (which is the designation of
writers), are _opera basilica_ [kings' works]; towards which the
endeavors of a private man may be but as an image in a cross-way, that
may point at the way, but cannot go it. But the inducing part of the
latter (which is the survey of learning) may be set forward by private
travail. Wherefore I will now attempt to make a general and faithful
perambulation of learning, with an inquiry what parts thereof lie fresh
and waste, and not improved and converted by the industry of man; to the
end that such a plot made and recorded to memory, may both minister
light to any public designation, and also serve to excite voluntary
endeavors. Wherein nevertheless my purpose is at this time to note only
omissions and deficiencies, and not to make any redargution of errors or
incomplete prosecutions. For it is one thing to set forth what ground
lieth unmanured, and another thing to correct ill husbandry in that
which is manured.

In the handling and undertaking of which work I am not ignorant what it
is that I do now move and attempt, nor insensible of mine own weakness
to sustain my purpose. But my hope is, that if my extreme love to
learning carry me too far, I may obtain the excuse of affection; for
that "it is not granted to man to love and to be wise." But I know well
I can use no other liberty of judgment than I must leave to others; and
I, for my part, shall be indifferently glad either to perform myself, or
accept from another, that duty of humanity, "Nam qui erranti comiter
monstrat viam," etc. [To kindly show the wanderer the path.] I do
foresee likewise that of those things which I shall enter and register
as deficiencies and omissions, many will conceive and censure that some
of them are already done and extant; others to be but curiosities, and
things of no great use; and others to be of too great difficulty and
almost impossibility to be compassed and effected. But for the two
first, I refer myself to the particulars For the last, touching
impossibility, I take it those things are to be held possible which may
be done by some person, though not by every one; and which may be done
by many, though not by any one; and which may be done in the succession
of ages, though not within the hour-glass of one man's life; and which
may be done by public designation, though not by private endeavor. But
notwithstanding, if any man will take to himself rather that of Solomon,
"Dicit piger, Leo est in via" [the sluggard says there is a lion in the
path], than that of Virgil, "Possunt quia posse videntur" [they can,
because they think they can], I shall be content that my labors be
esteemed but as the better sort of wishes, for as it asketh some
knowledge to demand a question not impertinent, so it requireth some
sense to make a wish not absurd.


From 'Letters and Life,' by James Spedding

_My Lord:_

With as much confidence as mine own honest and faithful devotion unto
your service and your honorable correspondence unto me and my poor
estate can breed in a man, do I commend myself unto your Lordship. I wax
now somewhat ancient; one and thirty years is a great deal of sand in
the hour-glass. My health, I thank God, I find confirmed; and I do not
fear that action shall impair it, because I account my ordinary course
of study and meditation to be more painful than most parts of action
are. I ever bare a mind (in some middle place that I could discharge) to
serve her Majesty; not as a man born under Sol, that loveth honor; nor
under Jupiter, that loveth business (for the contemplative planet
carrieth me away wholly); but as a man born under an excellent
Sovereign, that deserveth the dedication of all men's abilities.
Besides, I do not find in myself so much self-love, but that the greater
parts of my thoughts are to deserve well (if I were able) of my friends,
and namely of your Lordship; who being the Atlas of this commonwealth,
the honor of my house, and the second founder of my poor estate, I am
tied by all duties, both of a good patriot and of an unworthy kinsman,
and of an obliged servant, to employ whatsoever I am to do you service.
Again, the meanness of my estate does somewhat move me; for though I
cannot excuse myself that I am either prodigal or slothful, yet my
health is not to spend, nor my course to get. Lastly, I confess that I
have as vast contemplative ends as I have moderate civil ends: for I
have taken all knowledge to be my province; and if I could purge it of
two sorts of rovers, whereof the one with frivolous disputations,
confutations, and verbosities, the other with blind experiments and
auricular traditions and impostures, hath committed so many spoils, I
hope I should bring in industrious observations, grounded conclusions,
and profitable inventions and discoveries; the best state of that
province. This, whether it be curiosity, or vain glory, or nature, or
(if one take it favorably) _philanthropia_, is so fixed in my mind as it
cannot be removed. And I do easily see, that place of any reasonable
countenance doth bring commandment of more wits than of a man's own;
which is the thing I greatly affect. And for your Lordship, perhaps you
shall not find more strength and less encounter in any other. And if
your Lordship shall find now, or at any time, that I do seek or affect
any place whereunto any that is nearer unto your Lordship shall be
concurrent, say then that I am a most dishonest man. And if your
Lordship will not carry me on, I will not do as Anaxagoras did, who
reduced himself with contemplation unto voluntary poverty: but this I
will do; I will sell the inheritance that I have, and purchase some
lease of quick revenue, or some office of gain that shall be executed by
deputy, and so give over all care of service, and become some sorry
book-maker, or a true pioneer in that mine of truth, which (he said) lay
so deep. This which I have writ unto your Lordship is rather thoughts
than words, being set down without all art, disguising, or reservation.
Wherein I have done honor both to your Lordship's wisdom, in judging
that that will be best believed of your Lordship which is truest, and to
your Lordship's good nature, in retaining nothing from you. And even so
I wish your Lordship all happiness, and to myself means and occasion to
be added to my faithful desire to do you service. From my lodging at
Gray's Inn.


From 'Letters and Life,' by James Spedding

Silence were the best celebration of that which I mean to commend; for
who would not use silence, where silence is not made, and what crier can
make silence in such a noise and tumult of vain and popular opinions?

My praise shall be dedicated to the mind itself. The mind is the man and
the knowledge of the mind. A man is but what he knoweth. The mind itself
is but an accident to knowledge; for knowledge is a double of that which
is; the truth of being and the truth of knowing is all one.

Are not the pleasures of the affections greater than the pleasures of
the senses? And are not the pleasures of the intellect greater than the
pleasures of the affections? Is not knowledge a true and only natural
pleasure, whereof there is no satiety? Is it not knowledge that doth
alone clear the mind of all perturbation? How many things are there
which we imagine not? How many things do we esteem and value otherwise
than they are! This ill-proportioned estimation, these vain
imaginations, these be the clouds of error that turn into the storms of
perturbation. Is there any such happiness as for a man's mind to be
raised above the confusion of things, where he may have the prospect of
the order of nature and the error of men?

But is this a vein only of delight, and not of discovery? of
contentment, and not of benefit? Shall he not as well discern the riches
of nature's warehouse, as the benefit of her shop? Is truth ever barren?
Shall he not be able thereby to produce worthy effects, and to endow the
life of man with infinite commodities?

But shall I make this garland to be put upon a wrong head? Would anybody
believe me, if I should verify this upon the knowledge that is now in
use? Are we the richer by one poor invention, by reason of all the
learning that hath been these many hundred years? The industry of
artificers maketh some small improvement of things invented; and chance
sometimes in experimenting maketh us to stumble upon somewhat which is
new; but all the disputation of the learned never brought to light one
effect of nature before unknown. When things are known and found out,
then they can descant upon them, they can knit them into certain
causes, they can reduce them to their principles. If any instance of
experience stand against them, they can range it in order by some
distinctions. But all this is but a web of the wit, it can work nothing.
I do not doubt but that common notions, which we call reason, and the
knitting of them together, which we call logic, are the art of reason
and studies. But they rather cast obscurity than gain light to the
contemplation of nature. All the philosophy of nature which is now
received, is either the philosophy of the Grecians, or that other of the
Alchemists. That of the Grecians hath the foundations in words, in
ostentation, in confutation, in sects, in schools, in disputations. The
Grecians were (as one of themselves saith), "you Grecians, ever
children." They knew little antiquity; they knew (except fables) not
much above five hundred years before themselves; they knew but a small
portion of the world. That of the Alchemists hath the foundation in
imposture, in auricular traditions and obscurity; it was catching hold
of religion, but the principle of it is, "Populus vult decipi." So that
I know no great difference between these great philosophies, but that
the one is a loud-crying folly, and the other is a whispering folly. The
one is gathered out of a few vulgar observations, and the other out of a
few experiments of a furnace. The one never faileth to multiply words,
and the other ever faileth to multiply gold. Who would not smile at
Aristotle, when he admireth the eternity and invariableness of the
heavens, as there were not the like in the bowels of the earth? Those be
the confines and borders of these two kingdoms, where the continual
alteration and incursion are. The superficies and upper parts of the
earth are full of varieties. The superficies and lower part of the
heavens (which we call the middle region of the air) is full of variety.
There is much spirit in the one part that cannot be brought into mass.
There is much massy body in the other place that cannot be refined to
spirit. The common air is as the waste ground between the borders. Who
would not smile at the astronomers? I mean not these new carmen which
drive the earth about, but the ancient astronomers, which feign the moon
to be the swiftest of all planets in motion, and the rest in order, the
higher the slower; and so are compelled to imagine a double motion;
whereas how evident is it, that that which they call a contrary motion
is but an abatement of motion. The fixed stars overgo Saturn, and so in
them and the rest all is but one motion, and the nearer the earth the
slower; a motion also whereof air and water do participate, though much

But why do I in a conference of pleasure enter into these great matters,
in sort that pretending to know much, I should forget what is
seasonable? Pardon me, it was because all [other] things may be endowed
and adorned with speeches, but knowledge itself is more beautiful than
any apparel of words that can be put upon it.

And let not me seem arrogant, without respect to these great reputed
authors. Let me so give every man his due, as I give Time his due, which
is to discover truth. Many of these men had greater wits, far above mine
own, and so are many in the universities of Europe at this day. But
alas, they learn nothing there but to believe: first to believe that
others know that which they know not; and after [that] themselves know
that which they know not. But indeed facility to believe, impatience to
doubt, temerity to answer, glory to know, doubt to contradict, end to
gain, sloth to search, seeking things in words, resting in part of
nature; these, and the like, have been the things which have forbidden
the happy match between the mind of man and the nature of things, and in
place thereof have married it to vain notions and blind experiments. And
what the posterity and issue of so honorable a match may be, it is not
hard to consider. Printing, a gross invention; artillery, a thing that
lay not far out of the way; the needle, a thing partly known before;
what a change have these three made in the world in these times; the one
in state of learning, the other in state of the war, the third in the
state of treasure, commodities, and navigation. And those, I say, were
but stumbled upon and lighted upon by chance. Therefore, no doubt the
sovereignty of man lieth hid in knowledge; wherein many things are
reserved, which kings with their treasure cannot buy, nor with their
force command; their spials and intelligencers can give no news of them,
their seamen and discoverers cannot sail where they grow. Now we govern
nature in opinions, but we are thrall unto her in necessity; but if we
would be led by her in invention, we should command her in action.


From 'Letters and Life,' by James Spedding

_It may please your good Lordship:_

Some late act of his Majesty, referred to some former speech which I
have heard from your Lordship, bred in me a great desire, and by
strength of desire a boldness to make an humble proposition to your
Lordship, such as in me can be no better than a wish: but if your
Lordship should apprehend it, may take some good and worthy effect. The
act I speak of, is the order given by his Majesty, as I understand, for
the erection of a tomb or monument for our late sovereign Lady Queen
Elizabeth: wherein I may note much, but this at this time; that as her
Majesty did always right to his Highness's hopes, so his Majesty doth in
all things right to her memory; a very just and princely retribution.
But from this occasion, by a very easy ascent, I passed furder, being
put in mind, by this Representative of her person, of the more true and
more firm Representative, which is of her life and government. For as
Statuaes and Pictures are dumb histories, so histories are speaking
Pictures. Wherein if my affection be not too great, or my reading too
small, I am of this opinion, that if Plutarch were alive to write lives
by parallels, it would trouble him for virtue and fortune both to find
for her a parallel amongst women. And though she was of the passive sex,
yet her government was so active, as, in my simple opinion, it made more
impression upon the several states of Europe, than it received from
thence. But I confess unto your Lordship I could not stay here, but went
a little furder into the consideration of the times which have passed
since King Henry the 8th; wherein I find the strangest variety that in
like number of successions of any hereditary monarchy hath ever been
known. The reign of a child; the offer of an usurpation (though it were
but as a Diary Ague); the reign of a lady married to a foreign Prince;
and the reign of a lady solitary and unmarried. So that as it cometh to
pass in massive bodies, that they have certain trepidations and
waverings before they fix and settle; so it seemeth that by the
providence of God this monarchy, before it was to settle in his Majesty
and his generations (in which I hope it is now established for ever), it
had these prelusive changes in these barren princes. Neither could I
contain myself here (as it is easier to produce than to stay a wish),
but calling to remembrance the unworthiness of the history of England
(in the main continuance thereof), and the partiality and obliquity of
that of Scotland, in the latest and largest author that I have seen: I
conceived it would be honor for his Majesty, and a work very memorable,
if this island of Great Britain, as it is now joined in Monarchy for the
ages to come, so were joined in History for the times past; and that one
just and complete History were compiled of both nations. And if any man
think it may refresh the memory of former discords, he may satisfy
himself with the verse, "olim haec meminisse juvabit:" for the case
being now altered, it is matter of comfort and gratulation to remember
former troubles.

Thus much, if it may please your Lordship, was in the optative mood. It
is true that I did look a little in the potential; wherein the hope
which I conceived was grounded upon three observations. The first, of
the times, which do flourish in learning, both of art and language;
which giveth hope not only that it may be done, but that it may be well
done. For when good things are undertaken in ill times, it turneth but
to loss; as in this very particular we have a fresh example of Polydore
Vergile, who being designed to write the English History by K. Henry the
8th (a strange choice to chuse a stranger), and for his better
instruction having obtained into his hands many registers and memorials
out of the monasteries, did indeed deface and suppress better things
than those he did collect and reduce. Secondly, I do see that which all
the world seeth in his Majesty, both a wonderful judgment in learning
and a singular affection towards learning, and the works of true honor
which are of the mind and not of the hand. For there cannot be the like
honor sought in the building of galleries, or the planting of elms along
highways, and the like manufactures, things rather of magnificence than
of magnanimity, as there is in the uniting of states, pacifying of
controversies, nourishing and augmenting of learning and arts, and the
particular actions appertaining unto these; of which kind Cicero judged
truly, when he said to Caesar, "Quantum operibus tuis detrahet vetustas,
tantum addet laudibus." And lastly, I called to mind, that your Lordship
at sometimes hath been pleased to express unto me a great desire, that
something of this nature should be performed; answerably indeed to your
other noble and worthy courses and actions, wherein your Lordship
sheweth yourself not only an excellent Chancellor and Counselor, but
also an exceeding favorer and fosterer of all good learning and virtue,
both in men and matters, persons and actions: joining and adding unto
the great services towards his Majesty, which have, in small compass of
time, been accumulated upon your Lordship, many other deservings both of
the Church and Commonwealth and particulars; so as the opinion of so
great and wise a man doth seem unto me a good warrant both of the
possibility and worth of this matter. But all this while I assure
myself, I cannot be mistaken by your Lordship, as if I sought an office
or employment for myself. For no man knoweth better than your Lordship,
that (if there were in me any faculty thereunto, as I am most unable),
yet neither my fortune nor profession would permit it. But because there
be so many good painters both for hand and colors, it needeth but
encouragement and instructions to give life and light unto it.

So in all humbleness I conclude my presenting to your good Lordship this
wish: that if it perish it is but a loss of that which is not. And thus
craving pardon that I have taken so much time from your Lordship, I
always remain

Your Lps. very humbly and much bounden


GRAY'S INN, this 2d of April, 1605.


From 'Letters and Life,' by James Spedding


I have sent you now your patent of creation of Lord Blechly of Blechly,
and of Viscount Villiers. Blechly is your own, and I like the sound of
the name better than Whaddon; but the name will be hid, for you will be
called Viscount Villiers. I have put them both in a patent, after the
manner of the patents of Earls where baronies are joined; but the chief
reason was, because I would avoid double prefaces which had not been
fit; nevertheless the ceremony of robing and otherwise must be double.

And now, because I am in the country, I will send you some of my country
fruits; which with me are good meditations; which when I am in the city
are choked with business.

After that the King shall have watered your new dignities with his
bounty of the lands which he intends you, and that some other things
concerning your means which are now likewise in intention shall be
settled upon you; I do not see but you may think your private fortunes
established; and, therefore, it is now time that you should refer your
actions chiefly to the good of your sovereign and your country. It is
the life of an ox or beast always to eat, and never to exercise; but men
are born (and especially Christian men), not to cram in their fortunes,
but to exercise their virtues; and yet the other hath been the unworthy,
and (thanks be to God) sometimes the unlucky humor of great persons in
our times. Neither will your further fortune be the further off: for
assure yourself that fortune is of a woman's nature, that will sooner
follow you by slighting than by too much wooing. And in this dedication
of yourself to the public, I recommend unto you principally that which I
think was never done since I was born; and which not done hath bred
almost a wilderness and solitude in the King's service; which is, that
you countenance, and encourage, and advance able men and virtuous men,
and meriting men in all kinds, degrees, and professions. For in the time
of the Cecils, the father and the son, able men were by design and of
purpose suppressed; and though of late choice goeth better both in
church and commonwealth, yet money, and turn-serving, and cunning
canvasses, and importunity prevail too much. And in places of moment
rather make able and honest men yours, than advance those that are
otherwise because they are yours. As for cunning and corrupt men, you
must (I know) sometimes use them; but keep them at a distance; and let
it appear that you make use of them, rather than that they lead you.
Above all, depend wholly (next to God) upon the King; and be ruled (as
hitherto you have been) by his instructions; for that is best for
yourself. For the King's care and thoughts concerning you are according
to the thoughts of a great King; whereas your thoughts concerning
yourself are and ought to be according to the thoughts of a modest man.
But let me not weary you. The sum is that you think goodness the best
part of greatness; and that you remember whence your rising comes, and
make return accordingly.

God ever keep you.

GORHAMBURY, August 12th, 1616


From 'Letters and Life,' by James Spedding

_Mr. Serjeant Hutton_:

The King's most excellent Majesty, being duly informed of your learning,
integrity, discretion, experience, means, and reputation in your
country, hath thought fit not to leave you these talents to be employed
upon yourself only, but to call you to serve himself and his people, in
the place of one of his Justices of the court of common pleas.

The court where you are to serve, is the local centre and heart of the
laws of this realm. Here the subject hath his assurance by fines and
recoveries. Here he hath his fixed and invariable remedies by
_praecipes_ and writs of right. Here Justice opens not by a by-gate of
privilege, but by the great gate of the King's original writs out of the
Chancery. Here issues process of outlawry; if men will not answer law in
this centre of law, they shall be cast out of the circle of law. And
therefore it is proper for you by all means with your wisdom and
fortitude to maintain the laws of the realm. Wherein, nevertheless, I
would not have you head-strong, but heart-strong; and to weigh and
remember with yourself, that the twelve Judges of the realm are as the
twelve lions under Solomon's throne; they must be lions, but yet lions,
under the throne; they must shew their stoutness in elevating and
bearing up the throne.

To represent unto you the lines and portraitures of a good
judge:--The first is, That you should draw your learning out
of your books, not out of your brain.

2. That you should mix well the freedom of your own opinion
with the reverence of the opinion of your fellows.

3. That you should continue the studying of your books, and
not to spend on upon the old stock.

4. That you should fear no man's face, and yet not turn
stoutness into bravery.

5. That you should be truly impartial, and not so as men may
see affection through fine carriage.

6. That you be a light to jurors to open their eyes, but not
a guide to lead them by the noses.

7. That you affect not the opinion of pregnancy and
expedition by an impatient and catching hearing of the
counselors at the bar.

8. That your speech be with gravity, as one of the sages of
the law; and not talkative, nor with impertinent flying out
to show learning.

9. That your hands, and the hands of your hands (I mean those
about you), be clean, and uncorrupt from gifts, from meddling
in titles, and from serving of turns, be they of great ones
or small ones.

10. That you contain the jurisdiction of the court within the
ancient merestones, without removing the mark.

11. Lastly, That you carry such a hand over your ministers
and clerks, as that they may rather be in awe of you, than
presume upon you.

These and the like points of the duty of a Judge, I forbear to enlarge;
for the longer I have lived with you, the shorter shall my speech be to
you; knowing that you come so furnished and prepared with these good
virtues, as whatsoever I shall say cannot be new unto you. And therefore
I will say no more unto you at this time, but deliver you your patent.


From 'Letters and Life,' by James Spedding

Most gracious Lord God, my merciful Father, from my youth up, my
Creator, my Redeemer, my Comforter. Thou (O Lord) soundest and searchest
the depths and secrets of all hearts; thou knowledgest the upright of
heart, thou judgest the hypocrite, thou ponderest men's thoughts and
doings as in a balance, thou measurest their intentions as with a line,
vanity and crooked ways cannot be hid from thee.

Remember (O Lord) how thy servant hath walked before thee: remember what
I have first sought, and what hath been principal in mine intentions. I
have loved thy assemblies, I have mourned for the divisions of thy
Church, I have delighted in the brightness of thy sanctuary. This vine
which thy right hand hath planted in this nation, I have ever prayed
unto thee that it might have the first and the latter rain; and that it
might stretch her branches to the seas and to the floods. The state and
bread of the poor and oppressed have been precious in mine eyes: I have
hated all cruelty and hardness of heart: I have (though in a despised
weed) procured the good of all men. If any have been mine enemies, I
thought not of them; neither hath the sun almost set upon my
displeasure; but I have been as a dove, free from superfluity of
maliciousness. Thy creatures have been my books, but thy Scriptures much
more. I have sought thee in the courts, fields, and gardens, but I have
found thee in thy temples.

Thousands have been my sins, and ten thousand my transgressions; but thy
sanctifications have remained with me, and my heart, through thy grace,
hath been an unquenched coal upon thy altar. O Lord, my strength, I have
since my youth met with thee in all my ways, by thy fatherly
compassions, by thy comfortable chastisements, and by thy most visible
providence. As thy favors have increased upon me, so have thy
corrections; so as thou hast been alway near me, O Lord; and ever as my
worldly blessings were exalted, so secret darts from thee have pierced
me; and when I have ascended before men, I have descended in humiliation
before thee.

And now when I thought most of peace and honor, thy hand is heavy upon
me, and hath humbled me, according to thy former loving-kindness,
keeping me still in thy fatherly school, not as a bastard, but as a
child. Just are thy judgments upon me for my sins, which are more in
number than the sands of the sea, but have no proportion to thy mercies;
for what are the sands of the sea, to the sea, earth, heavens? and all
these are nothing to thy mercies.

Besides my innumerable sins, I confess before thee, that I am debtor to
thee for the gracious talent of thy gifts and graces which I have
neither put into a napkin, nor put it (as I ought) to exchangers, where
it might have made best profit; but mis-spent it in things for which I
was least fit; so as I may truly say, my soul hath been a stranger in
the course of my pilgrimage. Be merciful into me (O Lord) for my
Saviour's sake, and receive me unto thy bosom, or guide me in thy ways.


My Lo. of Essex, at the succor of Rhoan, made twenty-four knights, which
at that time was a great matter. Divers (7.) of those gentlemen were of
weak and small means; which when Queen Elizabeth heard, she said, "My
Lo. mought have done well to have built his alms-house before he made
his knights."

21. Many men, especially such as affect gravity, have a manner after
other men's speech to shake their heads. Sir Lionel Cranfield would say,
"That it was as men shake a bottle, to see if there was any wit in their
head or no."

33. Bias was sailing, and there fell out a great tempest, and the
mariners, that were wicked and dissolute fellows, called upon the gods;
but Bias said to them, "Peace, let them not know ye are here."

42. There was a Bishop that was somewhat a delicate person, and bathed
twice a day. A friend of his said to him, "My lord, why do you bathe
twice a day?" The Bishop answered, "Because I cannot conveniently
bathe thrice."

55. Queen Elizabeth was wont to say of her instructions to great
officers, "That they were like to garments, strait at the first putting
on, but did by and by wear loose enough."

64. Sir Henry Wotton used to say, "That critics are like brushers of
noblemen's clothes."

66. Mr. Savill was asked by my lord of Essex his opinion touching poets;
who answered my lord, "He thought them the best writers, next to those
that write prose."

85. One was saying, "That his great-grandfather and grandfather and
father died at sea." Said another that heard him, "And I were as you, I
would never come at sea." "Why, (saith he) where did your
great-grandfather and grandfather and father die?" He answered, "Where
but in their beds." Saith the other, "And I were as you, I would never
come in bed."

97. Alonso of Arragon was wont to say, in commendation of age, That age
appeared to be best in four things: "Old wood best to burn; old wine to
drink; old friends to trust; and old authors to read."

119. One of the fathers saith, "That there is but this difference
between the death of old men and young men: that old men go to death,
and death comes to young men."


From 'Works,' Vol. xiv.

Whenas we sat all sad and desolate,
By Babylon upon the river's side,
Eased from the tasks which in our captive state
We were enforced daily to abide,
Our harps we had brought with us to the field,
Some solace to our heavy souls to yield.

But soon we found we failed of our account,
For when our minds some freedom did obtain,
Straightways the memory of Sion Mount
Did cause afresh our wounds to bleed again;
So that with present gifts, and future fears,
Our eyes burst forth into a stream of tears.

As for our harps, since sorrow struck them dumb,
We hanged them on the willow-trees were near;
Yet did our cruel masters to us come,
Asking of us some Hebrew songs to hear:
Taunting us rather in our misery,
Than much delighting in our melody.

Alas (said we) who can once force or frame
His grieved and oppressed heart to sing
The praises of Jehovah's glorious name,
In banishment, under a foreign king?
In Sion is his seat and dwelling-place,
Thence doth he shew the brightness of his face.

Hierusalem, where God his throne hath set,
Shall any hour absent thee from my mind?
Then let my right hand quite her skill forget,
Then let my voice and words no passage find;
Nay, if I do not thee prefer in all
That in the compass of my thoughts can fall.

Remember thou, O Lord, the cruel cry
Of Edom's children, which did ring and sound,
Inciting the Chaldean's cruelty,
"Down with it, down with it, even unto the ground."
In that good day repay it unto them,
When thou shalt visit thy Hierusalem.

And thou, O Babylon, shalt have thy turn
By just revenge, and happy shall he be,
That thy proud walls and towers shall waste and burn,
And as thou didst by us, so do by thee.
Yea, happy he that takes thy children's bones,
And dasheth them against the pavement stones.


From 'Works,' Vol. xiv.

The world's a bubble, and the life of man
less than a span;
In his conception wretched, from the womb
so to the tomb:
Curst from the cradle, and brought up to years
with cares and fears.
Who then to frail mortality shall trust,
But limns the water, or but writes in dust.

Yet since with sorrow here we live opprest,
what life is best?
Courts are but only superficial schools
to dandle fools.
The rural parts are turned into a den
of savage men.
And where's the city from all vice so free,
But may be termed the worst of all the three?

Domestic cares afflict the husband's bed,
or pains his head.
Those that live single take it for a curse,
or do things worse.
Some would have children; those that have them moan,
or wish them gone.
What is it then to have or have no wife,
But single thraldom, or a double strife?

Our own affections still at home to please
is a disease:
To cross the seas to any foreign soil
perils and toil.
Wars with their noise affright us: when they cease,
we are worse in peace.
What then remains, but that we still should cry
Not to be born, or being born to die.




Walter Bagehot was born February 3d, 1826, at Langport, Somersetshire,
England; and died there March 24th, 1877. He sprang on both sides from,
and was reared in, a nest of wealthy bankers and ardent Liberals,
steeped in political history and with London country houses where
leaders of thought and politics resorted; and his mother's
brother-in-law was Dr. Prichard the ethnologist. This heredity,
progressive by disposition and conservative by trade, and this
entourage, produced naturally enough a mind at once rapid of insight and
cautious of judgment, devoted almost equally to business action and
intellectual speculation, and on its speculative side turned toward the
fields of political history and sociology.

[Illustration: WALTER BAGEHOT]

But there were equally important elements not traceable. His freshness
of mental vision, the strikingly novel points of view from which he
looked at every subject, was marvelous even in a century so fertile of
varied independences: he complained that "the most galling of yokes is
the tyranny of your next-door neighbor," the obligation of thinking as
he thinks. He had a keen, almost reckless wit and delicious buoyant
humor, whose utterances never pall by repetition; few authors so abound
in tenaciously quotable phrases and passages of humorous
intellectuality. What is rarely found in connection with much humor, he
had a sensitive dreaminess of nature, strongly poetic in feeling, whence
resulted a large appreciation of the subtler classes of poetry; of which
he was an acute and sympathizing critic. As part of this temperament, he
had a strong bent toward mysticism,--in one essay he says flatly that
"mysticism is true,"--which gave him a rare insight into the religious
nature and some obscure problems of religious history; though he was too
cool, scientific, and humorous to be a great theologian.

Above all, he had that instinct of selective art, in felicity of words
and salience of ideas, which elevates writing into literature; which
long after a thought has merged its being and use in those of wider
scope, keeps it in separate remembrance and retains for its creator his
due of credit through the artistic charm of the shape he gave it.

The result of a mixture of traits popularly thought incompatible, and
usually so in reality,--a great relish for the driest business facts and
a creative literary gift,--was absolutely unique. Bagehot explains the
general sterility of literature as a guide to life by the fact that "so
few people who can write know anything;" and began a reform in his own
person, by applying all his highest faculties--the best not only of his
thought but of his imagination and his literary skill--to the theme of
his daily work, banking and business affairs and political economy.
There have been many men of letters who were excellent business men and
hard bargainers, sometimes indeed merchants or bankers, but they have
held their literature as far as possible off the plane of their
bread-winning; they have not used it to explain and decorate the latter
and made that the motive of art. Bagehot loved business not alone as the
born trader loves it, for its profit and its gratification of innate
likings,--"business is really pleasanter than pleasure, though it does
not look so," he says in substance,--but as an artist loves a
picturesque situation or a journalist a murder; it pleased his literary
sense as material for analysis and composition. He had in a high degree
that union of the practical and the musing faculties which in its (as
yet) highest degree made Shakespeare; but even Shakespeare did not write
dramas on how to make theatres pay, or sonnets on real-estate

Bagehot's career was determined, as usual, partly by character and
partly by circumstances. He graduated at London University in 1848, and
studied for and was called to the bar; but his father owned an interest
in a rich old provincial bank and a good shipping-business, and instead
of the law he joined in their conduct. He had just before, however,
passed a few months in France, including the time of Louis Napoleon's
_coup d'etat_ in December, 1851; and from Paris he wrote to the London
Inquirer (a Unitarian weekly) a remarkable series of letters on that
event and its immediate sequents, defending the usurpation vigorously
and outlining his political creed, from whose main lines he swerved but
little in after life. Waiving the question whether the defense was
valid,--and like all first-rate minds, Bagehot is even more instructive
when he is wrong than when he is right, because the wrong is sure to be
almost right and the truth on its side neglected,--the letters are full
of fresh, acute, and even profound ideas, sharp exposition of those
primary objects of government which demagogues and buncombe legislators
ignore, racy wit, sarcasm, and description (in one passage he rises for
a moment into really blood-stirring rhetoric), and proofs of his
capacity thus early for reducing the confused cross-currents of daily
life to the operation of great embracing laws. No other writing of a
youth of twenty-five on such subjects--or almost none--is worth
remembering at all for its matter; while this is perennially wholesome
and educative, as well as capital reading.

From this on he devoted most of his spare time to literature: that he
found so much spare time, and produced so much of a high grade while
winning respect as a business manager, proves the excellent quality of
his business brain. He was one of the editors of the National Review, a
very able and readable English quarterly, from its foundation in 1854 to
its death in 1863, and wrote for it twenty literary, biographical, and
theological papers, which are among his best titles to enduring
remembrance, and are full of his choicest flavors, his wealth of
thought, fun, poetic sensitiveness, and deep religious feeling of the
needs of human nature. Previous to this, he had written some good
articles for the Prospective Review, and he wrote some afterwards for
the Fortnightly Review (including the series afterwards gathered into
'Physics and Politics'), and other periodicals.

But his chief industry and most peculiar work was determined by his
marriage in 1858 to the daughter of James Wilson, an ex-merchant who had
founded the Economist as a journal of trade, banking, and investment,
and made it prosperous and rather influential. Mr. Wilson was engaging
in politics, where he rose to high office and would probably have ended
in the Cabinet; but being sent to India to regulate its finances, died
there in 1860. Bagehot thereupon took control of the paper, and _was_
the paper until his death in 1877; and the position he gave it was as
unique as his own. On banking, finance, taxation, and political economy
in general his utterances had such weight that Chancellors of the
Exchequer consulted him as to the revenues, and the London business
world eagerly studied the paper for guidance. But he went far beyond
this, and made it an unexampled force in politics and governmental
science, personal to himself. For the first time a great political
thinker applied his mind week by week to discussing the problems
presented by passing politics, and expounding the drift and meaning of
current events in his nation and the others which bore closest on it, as
France and America. That he gained such a hearing was due not alone to
his immense ability, and to a style carefully modeled on the
conversation of business men with each other, but to his cool moderation
and evident aloofness from party as party. He dissected each like a man
of science: party was to him a tool and not a religion. He gibed at the
Tories; but the Tories forgave him because he was half a Tory at
heart,--he utterly distrusted popular instincts and was afraid of
popular ignorance. He was rarely warm for the actual measures of the
Liberals; but the Liberals knew that he intensely despised the
pig-headed obstructiveness of the typical Tory, and had no kinship with
the blind worshipers of the _status quo_. To natives and foreigners
alike for many years the paper was single and invaluable: in it one
could find set forth acutely and dispassionately the broad facts and the
real purport of all great legislative proposals, free from the rant and
mendacity, the fury and distortion, the prejudice and counter-prejudice
of the party press.

An outgrowth of his treble position as banker, economic writer, and
general litterateur, was his charming book 'Lombard Street.' Most
writers know nothing about business, he sets forth, most business men
cannot write, therefore most writing about business is either unreadable
or untrue: he put all his literary gifts at its service, and produced a
book as instructive as a trade manual and more delightful than most
novels. Its luminous, easy, half-playful "business talk" is irresistibly
captivating. It is a description and analysis of the London money market
and its component parts,--the Bank of England, the joint-stock banks,
the private banks, and the bill-brokers. It will live, however, as
literature and as a picture, not as a banker's guide; as the vividest
outline of business London, of the "great commerce" and the fabric of
credit which is the basis of modern civilization and of which London is
the centre, that the world has ever known.

Previous to this, the most widely known of his works--'The English
Constitution,' much used as a text-book--had made a new epoch in
political analysis, and placed him among the foremost thinkers and
writers of his time. Not only did it revolutionize the accepted mode of
viewing that governmental structure, but as a treatise on government in
general its novel types of classification are now admitted commonplaces.
Besides its main themes, the book is a great store of thought and
suggestion on government, society, and human nature,--for as in all his
works, he pours on his nominal subject a flood of illumination and
analogy from the unlikeliest sources; and a piece of eminently
pleasurable reading from end to end. Its basic novelty lay in what seems
the most natural of inquiries, but which in fact was left for Bagehot's
original mind even to think of,--the actual working of the governmental
system in practice, as distinguished from legal theory. The result of
this novel analysis was startling: old powers and checks went to the
rubbish heap, and a wholly new set of machinery and even new springs of
force and life were substituted. He argued that the actual use of the
English monarchy is not to do the work of government, but through its
roots in the past to gain popular loyalty and support for the real
government, which the masses would not obey if they realized its
genuine nature; that "it raises the army though it does not win the
battle." He showed that the function of the House of Peers is not as a
co-ordinate power with the Commons (which is the real government), but
as a revising body and an index of the strength of popular feeling.
Constitutional governments he divides into Cabinet, where the people can
change the government at any time, and therefore follow its acts and
debates eagerly and instructedly; and Presidential, where they can only
change it at fixed terms, and are therefore apathetic and ill-informed
and care little for speeches which can effect nothing.

Just before 'Lombard Street' came his scientific masterpiece, 'Physics
and Politics'; a work which does for human society what the 'Origin of
Species' does for organic life, expounding its method of progress from
very low if not the lowest forms to higher ones. Indeed, one of its main
lines is only a special application of Darwin's "natural selection" to
societies, noting the survival of the strongest (which implies in the
long run the best developed in all virtues that make for social
cohesion) through conflict; but the book is so much more than that, in
spite of its heavy debt to all scientific and institutional research,
that it remains a first-rate feat of original constructive thought. It
is the more striking from its almost ludicrous brevity compared with the
novelty, variety, and pregnancy of its ideas. It is scarcely more than a
pamphlet; one can read it through in an evening: yet there is hardly any
book which is a master-key to so many historical locks, so useful a
standard for referring scattered sociological facts to, so clarifying to
the mind in the study of early history. The work is strewn with fertile
and suggestive observations from many branches of knowledge. Its leading
idea of the needs and difficulties of early societies is given in one of
the citations.

The unfinished 'Economic Studies' are partially a re-survey of the same
ground on a more limited scale, and contain in addition a mass of the
nicest and shrewdest observations on modern trade and society, full of
truth and suggestiveness. All the other books printed under his name are
collections either from the Economist or from outside publications.

As a thinker, Bagehot's leading positions may be roughly summarized
thus: in history, that reasoning from the present to the past is
generally wrong and frequently nonsense; in politics, that abstract
systems are foolish, that a government which does not benefit its
subjects has no rights against one that will, that the masses had much
better let the upper ranks do the governing than meddle with it
themselves, that all classes are too eager to act without thinking and
ought not to attempt so much; in society, that democracy is an evil
because it leaves no specially trained upper class to furnish models
for refinement. But there is vastly more besides this, and his value
lies much more in the mental clarification afforded by his details than
in the new principles of action afforded by his generalizations. He
leaves men saner, soberer, juster, with a clearer sense of perspective,
of real issues, that more than makes up for a slight diminution of zeal.

As pure literature, the most individual trait in his writings sprang
from his scorn of mere word-mongering divorced from actual life. "A man
ought to have the right of being a Philistine if he chooses," he tells
us: "there is a sickly incompleteness in men too fine for the world and
too nice to work their way through it." A great man of letters, no one
has ever mocked his craft so persistently. A great thinker, he never
tired of humorously magnifying the active and belittling the
intellectual temperament. Of course it was only half-serious: he admits
the force and utility of colossal visionaries like Shelley, constructive
scholars like Gibbon, ascetic artists like Milton, even light dreamers
like Hartley Coleridge; indeed, intellectually he appreciates all
intellectual force, and scorns feeble thought which has the effrontery
to show itself, and those who are "cross with the agony of a new idea."
But his heart goes out to the unscholarly Cavalier with his dash and his
loyalty, to the county member who "hardly reads two books per
existence," and even to the rustic who sticks to his old ideas and whom
"it takes seven weeks to comprehend an atom of a new one." A petty
surface consistency must not be exacted from the miscellaneous
utterances of a humorist: all sorts of complementary half-truths are
part of his service. His own quite just conception of humor, as meaning
merely full vision and balanced judgment, is his best defense: "when a
man has attained the deep conception that there is such a thing as
nonsense," he says, "you may be sure of him for ever after." At bottom
he is thoroughly consistent: holding that the masses should work in
contented deference to their intellectual guides, but those guides
should qualify themselves by practical experience of life, that poetry
is not an amusement for lazy sybarites but the most elevating of
spiritual influences, that religions cut the roots of their power by
trying to avoid supernaturalism and cultivate intelligibility, and that
the animal basis of human life is a screen expressly devised to shut off
direct knowledge of God and make character possible.

To make his acquaintance first is to enter upon a store of high and fine
enjoyment, and of strong and vivifying thought, which one must be either
very rich of attainment or very feeble of grasp to find unprofitable or


From 'Letters on the French Coup d'Etat'

I fear you will laugh when I tell you what I conceive to be about the
most essential mental quality for a free people whose liberty is to be
progressive, permanent, and on a large scale: it is much stupidity. Not
to begin by wounding any present susceptibilities, let me take the Roman
character; for with one great exception,--I need not say to whom I
allude,--they are the great political people of history. Now, is not a
certain dullness their most visible characteristic? What is the history
of their speculative mind? a blank; what their literature? a copy. They
have left not a single discovery in any abstract science, not a single
perfect or well-formed work of high imagination. The Greeks, the
perfection of human and accomplished genius, bequeathed to mankind the
ideal forms of self-idolizing art, the Romans imitated and admired; the
Greeks explained the laws of nature, the Romans wondered and despised;
the Greeks invented a system of numerals second only to that now in use,
the Romans counted to the end of their days with the clumsy apparatus
which we still call by their name; the Greeks made a capital and
scientific calendar, the Romans began their month when the Pontifex
Maximus happened to spy out the new moon. Throughout Latin literature,
this is the perpetual puzzle:--Why are we free and they slaves, we
praetors and they barbers? why do the stupid people always win and the
clever people always lose? I need not say that in real sound stupidity
the English are unrivaled: you'll hear more wit and better wit in an
Irish street row than would keep Westminster Hall in humor for
five weeks.

* * * * *

In fact, what we opprobriously call "stupidity," though not an
enlivening quality in common society, is nature's favorite resource for
preserving steadiness of conduct and consistency of opinion; it enforces
concentration: people who learn slowly, learn only what they must. The
best security for people's doing their duty is, that they should not
know anything else to do; the best security for fixedness of opinion is,
that people should be incapable of comprehending what is to be said on
the other side. These valuable truths are no discoveries of mine: they
are familiar enough to people whose business it is to know them. Hear
what a douce and aged attorney says of your peculiarly promising
barrister:--"Sharp? Oh, yes! he's too sharp by half. He is not _safe_,
not a minute, isn't that young man." I extend this, and advisedly
maintain that nations, just as individuals, may be too clever to be
practical and not dull enough to be free....

And what I call a proper stupidity keeps a man from all the defects of
this character: it chains the gifted possessor mainly to his old ideas,
it takes him seven weeks to comprehend an atom of a new one; it keeps
him from being led away by new theories, for there is nothing which
bores him so much; it restrains him within his old pursuits, his
well-known habits, his tried expedients, his verified conclusions, his
traditional beliefs. He is not tempted to levity or impatience, for he
does not see the joke and is thick-skinned to present evils.
Inconsistency puts him out: "What I says is this here, as I was a-saying
yesterday," is his notion of historical eloquence and habitual
discretion. He is very slow indeed to be excited,--his passions, his
feelings, and his affections are dull and tardy strong things, falling
in a certain known direction, fixed on certain known objects, and for
the most part acting in a moderate degree and at a sluggish pace. You
always know where to find his mind. Now, this is exactly what (in
politics at least) you do not know about a Frenchman.


From 'The First Edinburgh Reviewers'

Review writing exemplifies the casual character of modern literature:
everything about it is temporary and fragmentary. Look at a railway
stall: you see books of every color,--blue, yellow, crimson,
"ring-streaked, speckled, and spotted,"--on every subject, in every
style, of every opinion, with every conceivable difference, celestial or
sublunary, maleficent, beneficent--but all small. People take their
literature in morsels, as they take sandwiches on a journey....

And the change in appearance of books has been accompanied--has been
caused--by a similar change in readers. What a transition from the
student of former ages! from a grave man with grave cheeks and a
considerate eye, who spends his life in study, has no interest in the
outward world, hears nothing of its din and cares nothing for its
honors, who would gladly learn and gladly teach, whose whole soul is
taken up with a few books of 'Aristotle and his Philosophy,'--to the
merchant in the railway, with a head full of sums, an idea that tallow
is "up," a conviction that teas are "lively," and a mind reverting
perpetually from the little volume which he reads to these mundane
topics, to the railway, to the shares, to the buying and bargaining
universe. We must not wonder that the outside of books is so different,
when the inner nature of those for whom they are written is so changed.

In this transition from ancient writing to modern, the review-like essay
and the essay-like review fill a large space. Their small bulk, their
slight pretension to systematic completeness,--their avowal, it might be
said, of necessary incompleteness,--the facility of changing the
subject, of selecting points to attack, of exposing only the best corner
for defense, are great temptations. Still greater is the advantage of
"our limits." A real reviewer always spends his first and best pages on
the parts of a subject on which he wishes to write, the easy comfortable
parts which he knows. The formidable difficulties which he acknowledges,
you foresee by a strange fatality that he will only reach two pages
before the end; to his great grief, there is no opportunity for
discussing them. As a young gentleman at the India House examination
wrote "Time up" on nine unfinished papers in succession, so you may
occasionally read a whole review, in every article of which the
principal difficulty of each successive question is about to be reached
at the conclusion. Nor can any one deny that this is the suitable skill,
the judicious custom of the craft.


From 'The First Edinburgh Reviewers'

As for Lord Eldon, it is the most difficult thing in the world to
believe that there ever was such a man; it only shows how intense
historical evidence is, that no one really doubts it. He believed in
everything which it is impossible to believe in,--in the danger of
Parliamentary Reform, the danger of Catholic Emancipation, the danger of
altering the Court of Chancery, the danger of altering the courts of
law, the danger of abolishing capital punishment for trivial thefts,
the danger of making land-owners pay their debts, the danger of making
anything more, the danger of making anything less. It seems as if he
maturely thought, "Now, I know the present state of things to be
consistent with the existence of John Lord Eldon; but if we begin
altering that state, I am sure I do not know that it will be
consistent." As Sir Robert Walpole was against all committees of inquiry
on the simple ground, "If they once begin that sort of thing, who knows
who will be safe?" so that great Chancellor (still remembered in his own
scene) looked pleasantly down from the woolsack, and seemed to observe,
"Well, it _is_ a queer thing that I should be here, and here I mean
to stay."


From 'Wordsworth, Tennyson, and Browning'

There is a most formidable and estimable _insane_ taste. The will has
great though indirect power over the taste, just as it has over the
belief. There are some horrid beliefs from which human nature revolts,
from which at first it shrinks, to which at first no effort can force
it. But if we fix the mind upon them, they have a power over us, just
because of their natural offensiveness. They are like the sight of human
blood. Experienced soldiers tell us that at first, men are sickened by
the smell and newness of blood, almost to death and fainting; but that
as soon as they harden their hearts and stiffen their minds, as soon as
they _will_ bear it, then comes an appetite for slaughter, a tendency to
gloat on carnage, to love blood (at least for the moment) with a deep,
eager love. It is a principle that if we put down a healthy instinctive
aversion, nature avenges herself by creating an unhealthy insane
attraction. For this reason, the most earnest truth-seeking men fall
into the worst delusions. They will not let their mind alone; they force
it toward some ugly thing, which a crotchet of argument, a conceit of
intellect recommends: and nature punishes their disregard of her warning
by subjection to the ugly one, by belief in it. Just so, the most
industrious critics get the most admiration. They think it unjust to
rest in their instinctive natural horror; they overcome it, and angry
nature gives them over to ugly poems and marries them to
detestable stanzas.


From 'Shakespeare, the Man,' etc.

The reason why so few good books are written is, that so few people that
can write know anything. In general, an author has always lived in a
room, has read books, has cultivated science, is acquainted with the
style and sentiments of the best authors, but he is out of the way of
employing his own eyes and ears. He has nothing to hear and nothing to
see. His life is a vacuum. The mental habits of Robert Southey, which
about a year ago were so extensively praised in the public journals, are
the type of literary existence, just as the praise bestowed on them
shows the admiration excited by them among literary people. He wrote
poetry (as if anybody could) before breakfast; he read during breakfast.
He wrote history until dinner; he corrected proof-sheets between dinner
and tea; he wrote an essay for the Quarterly afterwards; and after
supper, by way of relaxation, composed 'The Doctor'--a lengthy and
elaborate jest. Now, what can any one think of such a life?--except how
clearly it shows that the habits best fitted for communicating
information, formed with the best care, and daily regulated by the best
motives, are exactly the habits which are likely to afford a man the
least information to communicate. Southey had no events, no experiences.
His wife kept house and allowed him pocket-money, just as if he had been
a German professor devoted to accents, tobacco, and the dates of
Horace's amours....

The critic in the 'Vicar of Wakefield' lays down that you should
_always_ say that the picture would have been better if the painter had
taken more pains; but in the case of the practiced literary man, you
should often enough say that the writings would have been much better if
the writer had taken less pains. He says he has devoted his life to the
subject; the reply is, "Then you have taken the best way to prevent your
making anything of it. Instead of reading studiously what Burgersdicius
and Aenesidemus said men were, you should have gone out yourself and
seen (if you can see) what they are." But there is a whole class of
minds which prefer the literary delineation of objects to the actual
eyesight of them. Such a man would naturally think literature more
instructive than life. Hazlitt said of Mackintosh, "He might like to
read an _account_ of India; but India itself, with its burning, shining
face, would be a mere blank, an endless waste to him. Persons of this
class have no more to say to a matter of fact staring them in the face,
without a label in its mouth, than they would to a hippopotamus."...

After all, the original way of writing books may turn out to be the
best. The first author, it is plain, could not have taken anything from
books, since there were no books for him to copy from; he looked at
things for himself. Anyhow the modern system fails, for where are the
amusing books from voracious students and habitual writers?

Moreover, in general, it will perhaps be found that persons devoted to
mere literature commonly become devoted to mere idleness. They wish to
produce a great work, but they find they cannot. Having relinquished
everything to devote themselves to this, they conclude on trial that
this is impossible; they wish to write, but nothing occurs to them:
therefore they write nothing and they do nothing. As has been said, they
have nothing to do; their life has no events, unless they are very poor;
with any decent means of subsistence, they have nothing to rouse them
from an indolent and musing dream. A merchant must meet his bills, or he
is civilly dead and uncivilly remembered; but a student may know nothing
of time, and be too lazy to wind lip his watch.


From 'William Cowper'

If there be any truly painful fact about the world now tolerably well
established by ample experience and ample records, it is that an
intellectual and indolent happiness is wholly denied to the children of
men. That most valuable author, Lucretius, who has supplied us and
others with an almost inexhaustible supply of metaphors on this topic,
ever dwells on the life of his gods with a sad and melancholy feeling
that no such life was possible on a crude and cumbersome earth. In
general, the two opposing agencies are marriage and lack of money;
either of these breaks the lot of literary and refined inaction at once
and forever. The first of these, as we have seen, Cowper had escaped;
his reserved and negligent reveries were still free, at least from the
invasion of affection. To this invasion, indeed, there is commonly
requisite the acquiescence or connivance of mortality; but all men are
born--not free and equal, as the Americans maintain, but, in the Old
World at least--basely subjected to the yoke of coin. It is in vain that
in this hemisphere we endeavor after impecuniary fancies. In bold and
eager youth we go out on our travels: we visit Baalbec and Paphos and
Tadmor and Cythera,--ancient shrines and ancient empires, seats of eager
love or gentle inspiration; we wander far and long; we have nothing to
do with our fellow-men,--what are we, indeed, to diggers and counters?
we wander far, we dream to wander forever--but we dream in vain. A surer
force than the subtlest fascination of fancy is in operation; the
purse-strings tie us to our kind. Our travel coin runs low, and we must
return, away from Tadmor and Baalbec, back to our steady, tedious
industry and dull work, to "la vieille Europe" (as Napoleon said), "qui
m'ennuie." It is the same in thought: in vain we seclude ourselves in
elegant chambers, in fascinating fancies, in refined reflections.


From 'Edward Gibbon'

In school work Gibbon had uncommon difficulties and unusual
deficiencies; but these were much more than counterbalanced by a habit
which often accompanies a sickly childhood, and is the commencement of a
studious life,--the habit of desultory reading. The instructiveness of
this is sometimes not comprehended. S. T. Coleridge used to say that he
felt a great superiority over those who had not read--and fondly
read--fairy tales in their childhood: he thought they wanted a sense
which he possessed, the perception, or apperception--we do not know
which he used to say it was--of the unity and wholeness of the universe.
As to fairy tales, this is a hard saying; but as to desultory reading,
it is certainly true. Some people have known a time in life when there
was no book they could not read. The fact of its being a book went
immensely in its favor. In early life there is an opinion that the
obvious thing to do with a horse is to ride it; with a cake, to eat it;
with sixpence, to spend it. A few boys carry this further, and think
the natural thing to do with a book is to read it. There is an argument
from design in the subject: if the book was not meant for that purpose,
for what purpose was it meant? Of course, of any understanding of the
works so perused there is no question or idea. There is a legend of
Bentham, in his earliest childhood, climbing to the height of a huge
stool, and sitting there evening after evening, with two candles,
engaged in the perusal of Rapin's history; it might as well have been
any other book. The doctrine of utility had not then dawned on its
immortal teacher; _cui bono_ was an idea unknown to him. He would have
been ready to read about Egypt, about Spain, about coals in Borneo, the
teak-wood in India, the current in the River Mississippi, on natural
history or human history, on theology or morals, on the state of the
Dark Ages or the state of the Light Ages, on Augustulus or Lord Chatham,
on the first century or the seventeenth, on the moon, the millennium, or
the whole duty of man. Just then, reading is an end in itself. At that
time of life you no more think of a future consequence--of the remote,
the very remote possibility of deriving knowledge from the perusal of a
book, than you expect so great a result from spinning a peg-top. You
spin the top, and you read the book; and these scenes of life are
exhausted. In such studies, of all prose, perhaps the best is history:
one page is so like another, battle No. 1 is so much on a par with
battle No. 2. Truth may be, as they say, stranger than fiction,
abstractedly; but in actual books, novels are certainly odder and more
astounding than correct history.

It will be said, What is the use of this? why not leave the reading of
great books till a great age? why plague and perplex childhood with
complex facts remote from its experience and inapprehensible by its
imagination? The reply is, that though in all great and combined facts
there is much which childhood cannot thoroughly imagine, there is also
in very many a great deal which can only be truly apprehended for the
first time at that age. Youth has a principle of consolidation; we begin
with the whole. Small sciences are the labors of our manhood; but the
round universe is the plaything of the boy. His fresh mind shoots out
vaguely and crudely into the infinite and eternal. Nothing is hid from
the depth of it; there are no boundaries to its vague and wandering
vision. Early science, it has been said, begins in utter nonsense; it
would be truer to say that it starts with boyish fancies. How absurd
seem the notions of the first Greeks! Who could believe now that air or
water was the principle, the pervading substance, the eternal material
of all things? Such affairs will never explain a thick rock. And what a
white original for a green and sky-blue world! Yet people disputed in
these ages not whether it was either of those substances, but which of
them it was. And doubtless there was a great deal, at least in quantity,
to be said on both sides. Boys are improved; but some in our own day
have asked, "Mamma, I say, what did God make the world of?" and several,
who did not venture on speech, have had an idea of some one gray
primitive thing, felt a difficulty as to how the red came, and wondered
that marble could _ever_ have been the same as moonshine. This is in
truth the picture of life. We begin with the infinite and eternal, which
we shall never apprehend; and these form a framework, a schedule, a set
of co-ordinates to which we refer all which we learn later. At first,
like the old Greek, "We look up to the whole sky, and are lost in the
one and the all;" in the end we classify and enumerate, learn each star,
calculate distances, draw cramped diagrams on the unbounded sky, write a
paper on a Cygni and a treatise on e Draconis, map special facts upon
the indefinite void, and engrave precise details on the infinite and
everlasting. So in history: somehow the whole comes in boyhood, the
details later and in manhood. The wonderful series, going far back to
the times of old patriarchs with their flocks and herds, the keen-eyed
Greek, the stately Roman, the watching Jew, the uncouth Goth, the horrid
Hun, the settled picture of the unchanging East, the restless shifting
of the rapid West, the rise of the cold and classical civilization, its
fall, the rough impetuous Middle Ages, the vague warm picture of
ourselves and home,--when did we learn these? Not yesterday nor to-day:
but long ago, in the first dawn of reason, in the original flow of
fancy. What we learn afterwards are but the accurate littlenesses of the
great topic, the dates and tedious facts. Those who begin late learn
only these; but the happy first feel the mystic associations and the
progress of the whole.

However exalted may seem the praises which we have given to loose and
unplanned reading, we are not saying that it is the sole ingredient of a
good education. Besides this sort of education, which some boys will
voluntarily and naturally give themselves, there needs, of course,
another and more rigorous kind, which must be impressed upon them from
without. The terrible difficulty of early life--the _use_ of pastors and
masters really is, that they compel boys to a distinct mastery of that
which they do not wish to learn. There is nothing to be said for a
preceptor who is not dry. Mr. Carlyle describes, with bitter satire, the
fate of one of his heroes who was obliged to acquire whole systems of
information in which he, the hero, saw no use, and which he kept, as far
as might be, in a vacant corner of his mind. And this is the very point:
dry language, tedious mathematics, a thumbed grammar, a detested slate
form gradually an interior separate intellect, exact in its information,
rigid in its requirements, disciplined in its exercises. The two grow
together; the early natural fancy touching the far extremities of the
universe, lightly playing with the scheme of all things; the precise,
compacted memory slowly accumulating special facts, exact habits, clear
and painful conceptions. At last, as it were in a moment, the cloud
breaks up, the division sweeps away; we find that in fact these
exercises which puzzled us, these languages which we hated, these
details which we despised, are the instruments of true thought; are the
very keys and openings, the exclusive access to the knowledge which
we loved.

Photogravure from a Painting by F. Vinea.



From 'Thomas Babington Macaulay'

What historian has ever estimated the Cavalier character? There is
Clarendon, the grave, rhetorical, decorous lawyer, piling words,
congealing arguments; very stately, a little grim. There is Hume, the
Scotch metaphysician, who has made out the best case for such people as
never were, for a Charles who never died, for a Strafford who would
never have been attainted; a saving, calculating North-country man, fat,
impassive, who lived on eightpence a day. What have these people to do
with an enjoying English gentleman? It is easy for a doctrinaire to bear
a post-mortem examination,--it is much the same whether he be alive or
dead; but not so with those who live during their life, whose essence is
existence, whose being is in animation. There seem to be some characters
who are not made for history, as there are some who are not made for old
age. A Cavalier is always young. The buoyant life arises before us,
rich in hope, strong in vigor, irregular in action; men young and
ardent, "framed in the prodigality of nature"; open to every enjoyment,
alive to every passion, eager, impulsive; brave without discipline,
noble without principle; prizing luxury, despising danger; capable of
high sentiment, but in each of whom the

"Addiction was to courses vain,
His companies unlettered, rude, and shallow,
His hours filled up with riots, banquets, sports,
And never noted in him any study,
Any retirement, any sequestration
From open haunts and popularity."

We see these men setting forth or assembling to defend their king or
church, and we see it without surprise; a rich daring loves danger, a
deep excitability likes excitement. If we look around us, we may see
what is analogous: some say that the battle of the Alma was won by the
"uneducated gentry"; the "uneducated gentry" would be Cavaliers now. The
political sentiment is part of the character; the essence of Toryism is
enjoyment. Talk of the ways of spreading a wholesome conservatism
throughout this country! Give painful lectures, distribute weary tracts
(and perhaps this is as well,--you may be able to give an argumentative
answer to a few objections, you may diffuse a distinct notion of the
dignified dullness of politics); but as far as communicating and
establishing your creed are concerned, try a little pleasure. The way to
keep up old customs is to enjoy old customs; the way to be satisfied
with the present state of things is to enjoy that state of things. Over
the "Cavalier" mind this world passes with a thrill of delight; there is
an exaltation in a daily event, zest in the "regular thing," joy at an
old feast.


From 'Bishop Butler'

The moral principle (whatever may be said to the contrary by complacent
thinkers) is really and to most men a principle of fear. The delights of
a good conscience may be reserved for better things, but few men who
know themselves will say that they have often felt them by vivid and
actual experience; a sensation of shame, of reproach, of remorse, of sin
(to use the word we instinctively shrink from because it expresses the
meaning), is what the moral principle really and practically thrusts on
most men. Conscience is the condemnation of ourselves; we expect a
penalty. As the Greek proverb teaches, "where there is shame there is
fear"; where there is the deep and intimate anxiety of guilt,--the
feeling which has driven murderers and other than murderers forth to
wastes and rocks and stones and tempests,--we see, as it were, in a
single complex and indivisible sensation, the pain and sense of guilt
and the painful anticipation of its punishment. How to be free from
this, is the question; how to get loose from this; how to be rid of the
secret tie which binds the strong man and cramps his pride, and makes
him angry at the beauty of the universe,--which will not let him go
forth like a great animal, like the king of the forest, in the glory of
his might, but restrains him with an inner fear and a secret foreboding
that if he do but exalt himself he shall be abased, if he do but set
forth his own dignity he will offend ONE who will deprive him of it.
This, as has often been pointed out, is the source of the bloody rites
of heathendom. You are going to battle, you are going out in the bright
sun with dancing plumes and glittering spear; your shield shines, and
your feathers wave, and your limbs are glad with the consciousness of
strength, and your mind is warm with glory and renown; with coming glory
and unobtained renown: for who are you to hope for these; who are _you_
to go forth proudly against the pride of the sun, with your secret sin
and your haunting shame and your real fear? First lie down and abase
yourself; strike your back with hard stripes; cut deep with a sharp
knife, as if you would eradicate the consciousness; cry aloud; put ashes
on your head; bruise yourself with stones,--then perhaps God may pardon
you. Or, better still (so runs the incoherent feeling), give him
something--your ox, your ass, whole hecatombs if you are rich enough;
anything, it is but a chance,--you do not know what will please him; at
any rate, what you love best yourself,--that is, most likely, your
first-born son. Then, after such gifts and such humiliation, he may be
appeased, he may let you off; he may without anger let you go forth,
Achilles-like, in the glory of your shield; he may _not_ send you home
as he would else, the victim of rout and treachery, with broken arms and
foul limbs, in weariness and humiliation. Of course, it is not this kind
of fanaticism that we impute to a prelate of the English Church; human
sacrifices are not respectable, and Achilles was not rector of Stanhope.
But though the costume and circumstances of life change, the human heart
does not; its feelings remain. The same anxiety, the same consciousness
of personal sin which led in barbarous times to what has been described,
show themselves in civilized life as well. In this quieter period, their
great manifestation is scrupulosity: a care about the ritual of life; an
attention to meats and drinks, and "cups and washings." Being so
unworthy as we are, feeling what we feel, abased as we are abased, who
shall say that those are beneath us? In ardent, imaginative youth they
may seem so; but let a few years come, let them dull the will or
contract the heart or stain the mind; then the consequent feeling will
be, as all experience shows, not that a ritual is too mean, too low, too
degrading for human nature, but that it is a mercy we have to do no
more,--that we have only to wash in Jordan, that we have not even to go
out into the unknown distance to seek for Abana and Pharpar, rivers of
Damascus. We have no right to judge; we cannot decide; we must do what
is laid down for us,--we fail daily even in this; we must never cease
for a moment in our scrupulous anxiety to omit by no tittle and to
exceed by no iota.


From 'Sir Robert Peel'

It might be said that this [necessity for newspapers and statesmen of
following the crowd] is only one of the results of that tyranny of
commonplace which seems to accompany civilization. You may talk of the
tyranny of Nero and Tiberius; but the real tyranny is the tyranny of
your next-door neighbor. What law is so cruel as the law of doing what
he does? What yoke is so galling as the necessity of being like him?
What espionage of despotism comes to your door so effectually as the eye
of the man who lives at your door? Public opinion is a permeating
influence, and it exacts obedience to itself; it requires us to think
other men's thoughts, to speak other men's words, to follow other men's
habits. Of course, if we do not, no formal ban issues; no corporeal
pain, no coarse penalty of a barbarous society is inflicted on the
offender; but we are called "eccentric"; there is a gentle murmur of
"most unfortunate ideas," "singular young man," "well-intentioned, I
dare say; but unsafe, sir, quite unsafe."

Whatever truth there may be in these splenetic observations might be
expected to show itself more particularly in the world of politics:
people dread to be thought unsafe in proportion as they get their living
by being thought to be safe. Those who desire a public career must look
to the views of the living public; an immediate exterior influence is
essential to the exertion of their faculties. The confidence of others
is your _fulcrum:_ you cannot--many people wish you could--go into
Parliament to represent yourself; you must conform to the opinions of
the electors, and they, depend on it, will not be original. In a word,
as has been most wisely observed, "under free institutions it is
necessary occasionally to defer to the opinions of other people; and as
other people are obviously in the wrong, this is a great hindrance to
the improvement of our political system and the progress of
our species."


From 'Bolingbroke'

It is very natural that brilliant and vehement men should depreciate
Harley; for he had nothing which they possess, but had everything which
they commonly do not possess. He was by nature a moderate man. In that
age they called such a man a "trimmer," but they called him ill: such a
man does not consciously shift or purposely trim his course,--he firmly
believes that he is substantially consistent. "I do not wish in this
House," he would say in our age, "to be a party to any extreme course.
Mr. Gladstone brings forward a great many things which I cannot
understand; I assure you he does. There is more in that bill of his
about tobacco than he thinks; I am confident there is. Money is a
serious thing, a _very_ serious thing. And I am sorry to say Mr.
Disraeli commits the party very much: he avows sentiments which are
injudicious; I cannot go along with him, nor can Sir John. He was not
taught the catechism; I know he was not. There is a want in him of sound
and sober religion,--and Sir John agrees with me,--which would keep him
from distressing the clergy, who are very important. Great orators are
very well; but as I said, how is the revenue? And the point is, not be
led away, and to be moderate, and not to go to an extreme. As soon as it
seems _very_ clear, then I begin to doubt. I have been many years in
Parliament, and that is my experience." We may laugh at such speeches,
but there have been plenty of them in every English Parliament. A great
English divine has been described as always leaving out the principle
upon which his arguments rested; even if it was stated to him, he
regarded it as far-fetched and extravagant. Any politician who has this
temper of mind will always have many followers; and he may be nearly
sure that all great measures will be passed more nearly as he wishes
them to be passed than as great orators wish. Nine-tenths of mankind are
more afraid of violence than of anything else; and inconsistent
moderation is always popular, because of all qualities it is most
opposite to violence,--most likely to preserve the present safe


From 'The English Constitution'

The conditions of fitness are two: first, you must get a good
legislature; and next, you must keep it good. And these are by no means
so nearly connected as might be thought at first sight. To keep a
legislature efficient, it must have a sufficient supply of substantial
business: if you employ the best set of men to do nearly nothing, they
will quarrel with each other about that nothing; where great questions
end, little parties begin. And a very happy community, with few new laws
to make, few old bad laws to repeal, and but simple foreign relations to
adjust, has great difficulty in employing a legislature,--there is
nothing for it to enact and nothing for it to settle. Accordingly, there
is great danger that the legislature, being debarred from all other
kinds of business, may take to quarreling about its elective business;
that controversies as to ministries may occupy all its time, and yet
that time be perniciously employed; that a constant succession of feeble
administrations, unable to govern and unfit to govern, may be
substituted for the proper result of cabinet government, a sufficient
body of men long enough in power to evince their sufficiency. The exact
amount of non-elective business necessary for a parliament which is to
elect the executive cannot, of course, be formally stated,--there are no
numbers and no statistics in the theory of constitutions; all we can say
is, that a parliament with little business, which is to be as efficient
as a parliament with much business, must be in all other respects much
better. An indifferent parliament may be much improved by the steadying
effect of grave affairs; but a parliament which has no such affairs must
be intrinsically excellent, or it will fail utterly.

But the difficulty of keeping a good legislature is evidently secondary
to the difficulty of first getting it. There are two kinds of nations
which can elect a good parliament. The first is a nation in which the
mass of the people are intelligent, and in which they are comfortable.
Where there is no honest poverty, where education is diffused and
political intelligence is common, it is easy for the mass of the people
to elect a fair legislature. The ideal is roughly realized in the North
American colonies of England, and in the whole free States of the Union:
in these countries there is no such thing as honest poverty,--physical
comfort, such as the poor cannot imagine here, is there easily
attainable by healthy industry; education is diffused much, and is fast
spreading,--ignorant emigrants from the Old World often prize the
intellectual advantages of which they are themselves destitute, and are
annoyed at their inferiority in a place where rudimentary culture is so
common. The greatest difficulty of such new communities is commonly
geographical: the population is mostly scattered; and where population
is sparse, discussion is difficult. But in a country very large as we
reckon in Europe, a people really intelligent, really educated, really
comfortable, would soon form a good opinion. No one can doubt that the
New England States, if they were a separate community, would have an
education, a political capacity, and an intelligence such as the
numerical majority of no people equally numerous has ever possessed: in
a State of this sort, where all the community is fit to choose a
sufficient legislature, it is possible, it is almost easy, to create
that legislature. If the New England States possessed a cabinet
government as a separate nation, they would be as renowned in the world
for political sagacity as they now are for diffused happiness.


From 'Physics and Politics'

I believe the general description in which Sir John Lubbock sums up his
estimate of the savage mind suits the patriarchal mind: "Savages," he
says, "have the character of children with the passions and strength
of men."...

And this is precisely what we should expect. "An inherited drill,"
science says, "makes modern nations what they are; their born structure
bears the trace of the laws of their fathers:" but the ancient nations
came into no such inheritance,--they were the descendants of people who
did what was right in their own eyes; they were born to no tutored
habits, no preservative bonds, and therefore they were at the mercy of
every impulse and blown by every passion....

Again, I at least cannot call up to myself the loose conceptions (as
they must have been) of morals which then existed. If we set aside all
the element derived from law and polity which runs through our current
moral notions, I hardly know what we shall have left. The residuum was
somehow and in some vague way intelligible to the ante-political man;
but it must have been uncertain, wavering, and unfit to be depended
upon. In the best cases it existed much as the vague feeling of beauty
now exists in minds sensitive but untaught,--a still small voice of
uncertain meaning, an unknown something modifying everything else and
higher than anything else, yet in form so indistinct that when you
looked for it, it was gone; or if this be thought the delicate fiction
of a later fancy, then morality was at least to be found in the wild
spasms of "wild justice," half punishment, half outrage: but anyhow,
being unfixed by steady law, it was intermittent, vague, and hard for us
to imagine....

To sum up:--_Law_--rigid, definite, concise law--is the primary want of
early mankind; that which they need above anything else, that which is
requisite before they can gain anything else. But it is their greatest
difficulty as well as their first requisite; the thing most out of their
reach as well as that most beneficial to them if they reach it. In later
ages, many races have gained much of this discipline quickly though
painfully,--a loose set of scattered clans has been often and often
forced to substantial settlement by a rigid conqueror; the Romans did
half the work for above half Europe. But where could the first ages find
Romans or a conqueror? men conquer by the power of government, and it
was exactly government which then was not. The first ascent of
civilization was at a steep gradient, though when now we look down upon
it, it seems almost nothing.

How the step from no polity to polity was made, distinct history does
not record.... But when once polities were begun, there is no difficulty
in explaining why they lasted. Whatever may be said against the
principle of "natural selection" in other departments, there is no doubt
of its predominance in early human history: the strongest killed out the
weakest as they could. And I need not pause to prove that any form of
polity is more efficient than none; that an aggregate of families owning
even a slippery allegiance to a single head would be sure to have the
better of a set of families acknowledging no obedience to any one, but
scattering loose about the world and fighting where they stood. Homer's
Cyclops would be powerless against the feeblest band; so far from its
being singular that we find no other record of that state of man, so
unstable and sure to perish was it that we should rather wonder at even
a single vestige lasting down to the age when for picturesqueness it
became valuable in poetry.

But though the origin of polity is dubious, we are upon the _terra
firma_ of actual records when we speak of the preservation of polities.
Perhaps every young Englishman who comes nowadays to Aristotle or Plato
is struck with their conservatism: fresh from the liberal doctrines of
the present age, he wonders at finding in those recognized teachers so
much contrary teaching. They both, unlike as they are, hold with
Xenophon so unlike both, that man is "the hardest of all animals to
govern." Of Plato it might indeed be plausibly said that the adherents
of an intuitive philosophy, being "the Tories of speculation," have
commonly been prone to conservatism in government; but Aristotle, the
founder of the experience philosophy, ought according to that doctrine
to have been a Liberal if any one ever was a Liberal. In fact, both of
these men lived when men "had not had time to forget" the difficulties
of government: we have forgotten them altogether. We reckon as the basis
of our culture upon an amount of order, of tacit obedience, of
prescriptive governability, which these philosophers hoped to get as a
principal result of their culture; we take without thought as a _datum_
what they hunted as a _quaesitum_.

In early times the quantity of government is much more important than
its quality. What you want is a comprehensive rule binding men together,
making them do much the same things, telling them what to expect of each
other,--fashioning them alike and keeping them so: what this rule is,
does not matter so much. A good rule is better than a bad one, but any
rule is better than none; while, for reasons which a jurist will
appreciate, none can be very good. But to gain that rule, what may be
called the "impressive" elements of a polity are incomparably more
important than its useful elements. How to get the obedience of men, is
the hard problem; what you do with that obedience is less critical.

To gain that obedience, the primary condition is the identity--not the
union, but the sameness--of what we now call "church" and "state."... No
division of power is then endurable without danger, probably without
destruction: the priest must not teach one thing and the king another;
king must be priest and prophet king,--the two must say the same because
they are the same. The idea of difference between spiritual penalties
and legal penalties must never be awakened,--indeed, early Greek thought
or early Roman thought would never have comprehended it; there was a
kind of rough public opinion, and there were rough--very rough--hands
which acted on it. We now talk of "political penalties" and
"ecclesiastical prohibition" and "the social censure"; but they were all
one then. Nothing is very like those old communities now, but perhaps a
trades-union is as near as most things: to work cheap is thought to be a
"wicked" thing, and so some Broadhead puts it down.

The object of such organizations is to create what may be called a
_cake_ of custom. All the actions of life are to be submitted to a
single rule for a single object,--that gradually created "hereditary
drill" which science teaches to be essential, and which the early
instinct of men saw to be essential too. That this _regime_ forbids free
thought is not an evil,--or rather, though an evil, it is the necessary
basis for the greatest good; it is necessary for making the mold of
civilization and hardening the soft fibre of early man.


From 'Physics and Politics'

In this manner polities of discussion broke up the old bonds of custom
which were now strangling mankind, though they had once aided and helped
it; but this is only one of the many gifts which those polities have
conferred, are conferring, and will confer on mankind. I am not going to
write a eulogium on liberty, but I wish to set down three points which
have not been sufficiently noticed.

Civilized ages inherit the human nature which was victorious in
barbarous ages, and that nature is in many respects not at all suited to
civilized circumstances. A main and principal excellence in the early
times of the human races is the impulse to action. The problems before
men are then plain and simple: the man who works hardest, the man who
kills the most deer, the man who catches the most fish--even later on,
the man who tends the largest herds or the man who tills the largest
field--is the man who succeeds; the nation which is quickest to kill its
enemies or which kills most of its enemies is the nation which succeeds.
All the inducements of early society tend to foster immediate action,
all its penalties fall on the man who pauses; the traditional wisdom of
those times was never weary of inculcating that "delays are dangerous,"
and that the sluggish man--the man "who roasteth not that which he took
in hunting"--will not prosper on the earth, and indeed will very soon
perish out of it: and in consequence an inability to stay quiet, an
irritable desire to act directly, is one of the most conspicuous
failings of mankind.

Pascal said that most of the evils of life arose from "man's being
unable to sit still in a room"; and though I do not go that length, it
is certain that we should have been a far wiser race than we are if we
had been readier to sit quiet,--we should have known much better the way
in which it was best to act when we came to act. The rise of physical
science, the first great body of practical truth provable to all men,
exemplifies this in the plainest way: if it had not been for quiet
people who sat still and studied the sections of the cone, if other
quiet people had not sat still and studied the theory of infinitesimals,
or other quiet people had not sat still and worked out the doctrine of
chances (the most "dreamy moonshine," as the purely practical mind
would consider, of all human pursuits), if "idle star-gazers" had not
watched long and carefully the motions of the heavenly bodies,--our
modern astronomy would have been impossible, and without our astronomy
"our ships, our colonies, our seamen," all which makes modern life
modern life, could not have existed. Ages of sedentary, quiet, thinking
people were required before that noisy existence began, and without
those pale preliminary students it never could have been brought into
being. And nine-tenths of modern science is in this respect the same: it
is the produce of men whom their contemporaries thought dreamers, who
were laughed at for caring for what did not concern them, who as the
proverb went "walked into a well from looking at the stars," who were
believed to be useless if any one could be such. And the conclusion is
plain that if there had been more such people, if the world had not
laughed at those there were, if rather it had encouraged them, there
would have been a great accumulation of proved science ages before there
was. It was the irritable activity, the "wish to be doing something,"
that prevented it,--most men inherited a nature too eager and too
restless to be quiet and find out things: and even worse, with their
idle clamor they "disturbed the brooding hen"; they would not let those
be quiet who wished to be so, and out of whose calm thought much good
might have come forth.

If we consider how much science has done and how much it is doing for
mankind, and if the over-activity of men is proved to be the cause why
science came so late into the world and is so small and scanty still,
that will convince most people that our over-activity is a very great
evil; but this is only part and perhaps not the greatest part, of the
harm that over-activity does. As I have said, it is inherited from times
when life was simple, objects were plain, and quick action generally led
to desirable ends: if A kills B before B kills A, then A survives, and
the human race is a race of A's. But the issues of life are plain no
longer: to act rightly in modern society requires a great deal of
previous study, a great deal of assimilated information, a great deal of
sharpened imagination; and these prerequisites of sound action require
much time, and I was going to say much "lying in the sun," a long period
of "mere passiveness."

[Argument to show that the same vice of impatience damages war,
philanthropy, commerce, and even speculation.]

But it will be said, What has government by discussion to do with these
things? will it prevent them, or even mitigate them? It can and does do
both, in the very plainest way. If you want to stop instant and
immediate action, always make it a condition that the action shall not
begin till a considerable number of persons have talked over it and have
agreed on it. If those persons be people of different temperaments,
different ideas, and different educations, you have an almost infallible
security that nothing or almost nothing will be done with excessive
rapidity. Each kind of persons will have their spokesman; each spokesman
will have his characteristic objection and each his characteristic
counter-proposition: and so in the end nothing will probably be done, or
at least only the minimum which is plainly urgent. In many cases this
delay may be dangerous, in many cases quick action will be preferable; a
campaign, as Macaulay well says, cannot be directed by a "debating
society," and many other kinds of action also require a single and
absolute general: but for the purpose now in hand--that of preventing
hasty action and insuring elaborate consideration--there is no device
like a polity of discussion.

The enemies of this object--the people who want to act quickly--see this
very distinctly: they are forever explaining that the present is "an age
of committees," that the committees do nothing, that all evaporates in
talk. Their great enemy is parliamentary government: they call it, after
Mr. Carlyle, the "national palaver"; they add up the hours that are
consumed in it and the speeches which are made in it, and they sigh for
a time when England might again be ruled, as it once was, by a
Cromwell,--that is, when an eager absolute man might do exactly what
other eager men wished, and do it immediately. All these invectives are
perpetual and many-sided; they come from philosophers each of whom wants
some new scheme tried, from philanthropists who want some evil abated,
from revolutionists who want some old institution destroyed, from
new-eraists who want their new era started forthwith: and they all are
distinct admissions that a polity of discussion is the greatest
hindrance to the inherited mistake of human nature,--to the desire to
act promptly, which in a simple age is so excellent, but which in a
later and complex time leads to so much evil.

The same accusation against our age sometimes takes a more general form:
it is alleged that our energies are diminishing, that ordinary and
average men have not the quick determination nowadays which they used to
have when the world was younger, that not only do not committees and
parliaments act with rapid decisiveness, but that no one now so acts;
and I hope that in fact this is true, for according to me it proves that
the hereditary barbaric impulse is decaying and dying out. So far from
thinking the quality attributed to us a defect, I wish that those who
complain of it were far more right than I much fear they are. Still,
certainly, eager and violent action _is_ somewhat diminished, though
only by a small fraction of what it ought to be; and I believe that this
is in great part due, in England at least, to our government by
discussion, which has fostered a general intellectual tone, a diffused
disposition to weigh evidence, a conviction that much may be said on
every side of everything which the elder and more fanatic ages of the
world wanted. This is the real reason why our energies seem so much less
than those of our fathers. When we have a definite end in view, which we
know we want and which we think we know how to obtain, we can act well
enough: the campaigns of our soldiers are as energetic as any campaigns
ever were; the speculations of our merchants have greater promptitude,
greater audacity, greater vigor than any such speculations ever had
before. In old times a few ideas got possession of men and communities,
but this is happily now possible no longer: we see how incomplete these
old ideas were; how almost by chance one seized on one nation and
another on another; how often one set of men have persecuted another set
for opinions on subjects of which neither, we now perceive, knew
anything. It might be well if a greater number of effectual
demonstrations existed among mankind: but while no such demonstrations
exist, and while the evidence which completely convinces one man seems
to another trifling and insufficient, let us recognize the plain
position of inevitable doubt; let us not be bigots with a doubt and
persecutors without a creed. We are beginning to see this, and we are
railed at for so beginning: but it is a great benefit, and it is to the
incessant prevalence of detective discussion that our doubts are due;
and much of that discussion is due to the long existence of a government
requiring constant debates, written and oral.


From 'Lombard Street'

In the last century, a favorite subject of literary ingenuity was
"conjectural history," as it was then called: upon grounds of
probability, a fictitious sketch was made of the possible origin of
things existing. If this kind of speculation were now applied to
banking, the natural and first idea would be that large systems of
deposit banking grew up in the early world just as they grow up now in
any large English colony. As soon as any such community becomes rich
enough to have much money, and compact enough to be able to lodge its
money in single banks, it at once begins so to do. English colonists do
not like the risk of keeping their money, and they wish to make an
interest on it; they carry from home the idea and the habit of banking,
and they take to it as soon as they can in their new world. Conjectural
history would be inclined to say that all banking began thus; but such
history is rarely of any value,--the basis of it is false. It assumes
that what works most easily when established is that which it would be
the most easy to establish, and that what seems simplest when familiar
would be most easily appreciated by the mind though unfamiliar; but
exactly the contrary is true,--many things which seem simple, and which
work well when firmly established, are very hard to establish among new
people and not very easy to explain to them. Deposit banking is of this
sort. Its essence is, that a very large number of persons agree to trust
a very few persons, or some one person: banking would not be a
profitable trade if bankers were not a small number, and depositors in
comparison an immense number. But to get a great number of persons to do
exactly the same thing is always very difficult, and nothing but a very
palpable necessity will make them on a sudden begin to do it; and there
is no such palpable necessity in banking.

If you take a country town in France, even now, you will not find any
such system of banking as ours: check-books are unknown, and money kept
on running account by bankers is rare: people store their money in a
_caisse_ at their houses. Steady savings, which are waiting for
investment and which are sure not to be soon wanted, may be lodged with
bankers; but the common floating cash of the community is kept by the
community themselves at home,--they prefer to keep it so, and it would
not answer a banker's purpose to make expensive arrangements for keeping
it otherwise. If a "branch," such as the National Provincial Bank opens
in an English country town, were opened in a corresponding French one,
it would not pay its expenses: you could not get any sufficient number
of Frenchmen to agree to put their money there.

And so it is in all countries not of British descent, though in various
degrees. Deposit banking is a very difficult thing to begin, because
people do not like to let their money out of their sight; especially, do
not like to let it out of sight without security; still more, cannot all
at once agree on any single person to whom they are content to trust it
unseen and unsecured. Hypothetical history, which explains the past by
what is simplest and commonest in the present, is in banking, as in most
things, quite untrue.

The real history is very different. New wants are mostly supplied by


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