Part 2 out of 3
of thing, which was sound sense; but the Volunteers, the Line, and the
Cavalry he looked after himself, and when the first attack was made he
gave the order to fire from the batteries. Just as they were blazing away
Dillon, who was far off but his superior, sent word to the batteries to
cease firing. Why, nobody knows. At any rate the orderly galloped up and
told Money that those were Dillon's orders. On which Money very charmingly
"I told him to go back and tell General Dillon that I commanded there, and
that whilst the enemy fired shot and shell on me _I_ should continue
to fire back on them." A sentence that warms the heart. Having thus
delivered himself to the orderly, he began pacing up and down the parapet
"to let my men see that there was not much to be apprehended from a
You may if you will make a little picture of this to yourselves. A great
herd of volunteers, some of whom had never been under fire, the rest
of whom had bolted miserably at Verdun a few days before, men not yet
soldiers and almost without discipline: the batteries banging away in the
wood behind them, in front of them a long earthwork at which the enemy
were lobbing great round lumps of iron and exploding shells, and along
the edge of this earthwork an elderly gentleman from Norfolk, in England,
walking up and down undisturbed, occasionally giving orders to his army,
and teaching his command a proper contempt for fire.
He adds as another reason why he did not cease fire when he was ordered
that "without doubt the troops would have thought there was treason in it,
and I had probably been cut in pieces."
He did not understand what had happened at Valmy, though he was so useful
in securing the success of that day. All he noted was that after the
cannonade Kellermann had fallen back. He rode into St. Menehould, where
Dumouriez's head-quarters were, ran up to the top of the steeple and
surveyed the country around the enemy's camp with an enormous telescope,
laid a bet at dinner of five to one that the enemy would attack again
(they did not do so, and so he lost his bet, but he says nothing about
paying it), and then heard that France had been decreed a Republic.
His comment on this piece of news is strong but cryptical. "It was
surprising," he says, "to see what an effect this news had on the Army."
Every sentence betrays the personality: the keen, eccentric character
which took to balloons just after the Montgolfiers, and fell with his
balloon into the North Sea, wrote his Treatise on the use of such
instruments in War, and was never happy unless he was seeing or doing
something--preferably under arms. And in every sentence also there is that
curious directness of statement which is of such advantage to vivacity
in any memoir. Thus of Gobert, who served under him, he has a little
footnote: "This unfortunate young man lost his head at the same time
General Dillon suffered, and a very amiable young man he was, and an
He ends his book in a phrase from which I think not a word could be taken
nor to which a word could be added without spoiling it. I will quote it in
"The reader, I trust, will excuse my having so often departed from the
line of my profession in giving my opinion on subjects that are not
military" (for instance, his objections to the head-cutting business),
"but having had occasion to know the people of France I freely venture to
submit my judgments to the public and have the satisfaction to find that
they coincide with the opinion of those who know that extraordinary nation
_still better than myself_."
THE ODD PEOPLE
The people of Monomotapa, of whom I have written more than once, I have
recently revisited; and I confess to an astonishment at the success with
which they deal with the various difficulties and problems arising in
their social life.
Thus, in most countries the laws of property are complex in the extreme;
punishable acts in connexion with them are numerous and often difficult to
In Monomotapa the whole thing is settled in a very simple manner: in the
first place, instead of strict laws binding men down by written words,
they appoint a number of citizens who shall have it in their discretion to
decide whether a man's actions are worthy of punishment or no; and these
appointed citizens have also the power to assign the punishment, which may
vary from a single day's imprisonment to a lifetime. So crimeless is the
country, however, that in a population of over thirty millions less than
twenty such nominations are necessary; I must, however, admit that these
score are aided by several thousand minor judges who are appointed in a
Their method of appointment is this: it is discovered as accurately as may
be by a man's manner of dress and the hours of his labour and the size of
the house he inhabits, whether he have more than a certain yearly revenue;
any man discovered to have more than this revenue is immediately appointed
to the office of which I speak.
The power of these assessors is limited, however, for though it is left to
their discretion whether their fellow-citizens are worthy of punishment
or not, yet the total punishment they can inflict is limited to a certain
number of years of imprisonment. In old times this sort of minor judge
was not appointed in Monomotapa unless he could prove that he kept dogs
in great numbers for the purposes of hunting, and at least three horses.
But this foolish prejudice has broken down in the progress of modern
enlightenment, and, as I have said, the test is now extended to a general
consideration of clothes, the size of the house inhabited, and the amount
of leisure enjoyed, the type of tobacco smoked, and other equally
reasonable indications of judicial capacity.
The men thus chosen to consider the actions of their fellow-citizens in
courts of law are rewarded in two ways: the first small body who are the
more powerful magistrates are given a hundred times the income of an
ordinary citizen, for it is claimed that in this way not only are the best
men for the purpose obtained, but, further, so large a salary makes all
temptation to bribery impossible and secures a strict impartiality between
rich and poor.
The lesser judges, on the other hand, are paid nothing, for it is wisely
pointed out that a man who is paid nothing and who volunteers his services
to the State will not be the kind of a man who would take a bribe or who
would consider social differences in his judgments.
It is further pointed out by the Monomotapans (I think very reasonably)
that the kind of man who will give his services for nothing, even in the
arduous work of imprisoning his fellow-citizens, will probably be the best
man for the job, and does not need to be allured to it by the promise of
a great salary. In this way they obtain both kinds of judges, and, oddly
enough, each kind speaks, acts, and lives much as does the other.
I must next describe the methods by which this interesting and sensible
people secure the ends of their criminal system.
When one of their magistrates has come to the conclusion that on the whole
he will have a fellow-citizen imprisoned, that person is handed over to
the guardianship of certain officials, whose business it is to see that
the man does not die during the period for which he is entrusted to them.
When some one of the numerous forms of torture which they are permitted
to use has the effect of causing death, the official responsible is
reprimanded and may even be dismissed. The object indeed of the whole
system is to reform and amend the criminal. He is therefore forbidden to
speak or to communicate in any way with human beings, and is segregated in
a very small room devoid of all ornament, with the exception of one hour a
day, during which he is compelled to walk round and round a deep, walled
courtyard designed for the purpose of such an exercise. If (as is often
the case) after some years of this treatment the criminal shows no signs
of mental or moral improvement, he is released; and if he is a man of
property, lives unmolested on what he has, and that usually in a quiet
and retired way. But if he is devoid of property, the problem is indeed a
difficult one, for it is the business of the police to forbid him to work,
and they are rewarded if he is found committing any act which the judges
or the magistrates are likely to disapprove. In this way even those who
have failed to effect reform in their characters during their first term
of imprisonment are commonly--if they are poor--re-incarcerated within
a short time, so that the system works precisely as it was intended to,
giving the maximum amount of reformation to the worst and the hardest
characters. I should add that the Monomotapan character is such that in
proportion to wealth a man's virtues increase, and it is remarkable that
nearly all those who suffer the species of imprisonment I have described
are of the poorer classes of society.
Though they are so reasonable, and indeed afford so excellent a model to
ourselves in most of their social relations, the people of Monomotapa
have, I confess, certain customs which I have never clearly understood,
and which my increasing study of them fails to explain to me.
Thus, in matters which, with us, are thought susceptible of positive
proof (such as the taste and quality of cooking, or the mental abilities
of a fellow-citizen) the Monomotapans establish their judgment in a
transcendental or super-rational manner. The cooking in a restaurant or
hotel is with them excellent in proportion, not to the taste of the viands
subjected to it, but to the rental of the premises. And when a man desires
the most delicious food he does not consider where he has tasted such food
in the past, but rather the situation and probable rateable value of the
eating-house which will provide him with it. Nay, he is willing--if he
understands that that rateable value is high--to pay far more for the same
article than he would in a humbler hostelry.
The same super-rational method, as I have called it, applies to the
Monomotapan judgment of political ability; for here it is not what a
man has said or written, nor whether he has proved himself capable
of foreseeing certain events of moment to the State, it is not these
characters that determine his political career, but a mixture of other
indices, one of which is that his brothers shall be younger than himself,
another that when he speaks he shall strike the palm of his open left hand
with his clenched right hand in a particular manner by no means commonly
or easily acquired; another that he shall not wear at one and the same
time a coat which is bifurcated and a hat of hemispherical outline;
another that he shall keep silence upon certain types of foreigners who
frequent the markets of Monomotapa, and shall even pretend that they are
not foreigners but Monomotapans; and this index of statesmanship he must
preserve under all circumstances, even when the foreigners in question
cannot speak the Monomotapan language.
Some years ago it was required of every statesman that he should, for at
least so many times in any one year, extravagantly praise the virtues
of these foreign merchants, and particularly allude to their intensely
unforeign character; but this custom has recently fallen into abeyance,
and silence upon the subject is the most that is demanded.
A further social habit of this people which we should find very strange
and which I for my part think unaccountable is their habit of judging the
excellence of a literary production, not by the sense or even the sound of
it, but by the ink in which it is printed and the paper upon which it is
impressed. And this applies not only to their letters but also to their
foreign information, and on this account they should (one would imagine)
obtain but a very distorted view of the world. For if a good printer
prints with excellent ink at five shillings a pound, and with beautiful
clear type upon the best linen paper, the statement that the British
Islands are uninhabited, while another in bad ink and upon flimsy paper
and with worn type affirms that they contain over forty million souls, the
first impression and not the second would be conveyed to the Monomotapan,
mind. As a fact, however, they are not misinformed, for this singular
frailty of theirs (as I conceive it to be) is moderated by one very wise
countervailing mental habit of theirs, which is to believe whatever they
hear asserted more than twenty-six times, so that even if the assertion be
conveyed to them in bad print and upon poor paper, they will believe it if
they read it over and over again to the required limits of reiterations.
No people in the world are fonder of animals than this genial race, but
here again curious limits to their affection are to be discovered, for
while they will tear to pieces some abandoned wretch who beats a llama
with a hazel twig for its correction, they will see nothing remarkable in
the tearing to pieces of an alpaca goat by dogs specially trained in that
Generally speaking, the larger an animal is, the warmer is the affection
borne it by these people. Fleas and lice are crushed without pity,
blackbeetles with more hesitation, small birds are spared entirely, and
so on upwards until for calves they have a special legislation to protect
and cherish them. At the other end of the scale, microbes are pitilessly
Divorce is not common in Monomotapa. But such divorces as take place are
very rightly treated differently, according to the wealth of the persons
involved. Above a certain scale of wealth divorce is only granted after a
lengthy trial in a court of justice; but with the poor it is established
by the decree of a magistrate who usually, shortly after pronouncing his
sentence, finds an occasion to imprison the innocent party. Moreover, the
poor can be divorced in this manner, if any magistrate feels inclined to
exercise his power, while for the divorce of the rich set conditions are
I should add that the Monomotapans have no religion; but the tolerance of
their Constitution is nowhere better shown than in this particular, for
though they themselves regard religion as ridiculous, they will permit
its exercise within the State, and even occasionally give high office and
emoluments to those who practise it.
We have, indeed, much to learn in this matter of religion from the race
whose habits I have discovered and here describe. Nothing, perhaps, has
done more to warp our own story than the hide-bound prejudice that a
doctrine could not be both false and true at the same time, and the
unreasoning certitude, inherited from the bad old days of clerical
tyranny, that a thing either was or was not.
No such narrowness troubles the Monomotapan. He will prefer--and very
wisely prefer--an opinion that renders him comfortable to one that in any
way interferes with his appetites; and if two such opinions contradict
each other, he will not fall into a silly casuistry which would attempt to
reconcile them: he will quietly accept both, and serve the Higher Purpose
with a contented mind.
It is on this account that I have said that the Monomotapans regard
religion as ridiculous. For true religion, indeed (as they phrase it),
they have the highest reverence; and true religion consists in following
the inclinations of an honest man, that is, oneself; but "religion in the
sense of fixed doctrine," as one of their priests explained to me, "is
abhorrent to our free commonwealth." Thus such hair-splitting questions as
whether God really exists or no, whether it be wrong to kill or to steal,
whether we owe any duties to the State, and, if so, what duties, are
treated by the honest Monomotapans with the contempt they deserve: they
abandon such speculation for the worthy task of enjoying, each man, what
his fortune permits him to enjoy.
But, as I have said above, they do not persecute the small minority living
in their midst who cling with the tenacity of all starved minds to their
fixed ideas; and if a man who professes certitude upon doctrinal matters
is useful in other ways, they are very far from refusing his services to
the State. I have known more than one, for instance, of this old-fashioned
and bigoted lot who, when he offered a sum of money in order to be
admitted to the Senate of Monomotapa, found it accepted as readily and
cheerfully as though it had been offered by one of the broadest principles
and most liberal mind.
Let no one be surprised that I have spoken of their priests, for though
the Monomotapans regard religion with due contempt, it does not follow
that they will take away the livelihood of a very honest class of people
who in an older and barbaric state of affairs were employed to maintain
the structure of what was then a public worship. The priesthood,
therefore, is very justly and properly retained by the Monomotapans,
subject only to a few simple duties and to a sacred intonation of voice
very distressing to those not accustomed to it. If I am asked in what
occupation they are employed, I answer, the wealthier of them in such
sports and futilities as attract the wealthy, and the less wealthy in such
futilities and sports as the less wealthy customarily enjoy. Nor is it a
rigid law among them that the sons of priests should be priests, but only
the custom--so far, at least, as I have been able to discover.
LETTER OF ADVICE AND APOLOGY TO A YOUNG BURGLAR
My dear Ormond,
Nothing was further from my thoughts. I had imagined you knew me well
enough--and, for the matter of that, all your mother's family--to judge
me better. Believe me, no conception of blaming your profession entered
my mind for a moment. Whether there be such a thing as "property" in the
abstract I should leave it to metaphysicians to decide: in practical
affairs everything must be judged in its own surroundings.
It was not upon any musty theological whimsy that I wrote; the definition
of stealing or "theft"--I care not by what name you call it--is not for
practical men to discuss. Nor was I concerned with the ethical discussion
of burglary (to give the matter its old legal and technical title); it was
lack of judgment, sudden actions due to nothing but impulse, and what I
think I may call "the speculative side" of a burglar's life.
You have not, as yet, any great responsibilities. No one is dependent upon
you--you have but yourself to provide for; but you must remember that such
responsibilities will arrive in their natural course, and that if you form
habits of rashness or obstinacy now they will cling to you through life.
We are all looking forward to a certain event when Anne is free again; in
plain English, my boy, we know your loyal heart, and we shall bless the
union; but I should feel easier in my mind if I saw you settled into one
definite branch of the profession before you undertook the nurture of a
Adventure tempts you because you are brave, and something of a poet in
you leads you to unusual scenes of action. Well, Youth has a right to its
dreams, but beware of letting a dangerous Quixotism spoil your splendid
Take, for example, your breaking into Mr. Cowl's house. You may say Mr.
Cowl was not a journalist, but only a reviewer; the distinction is very
thin, but let it pass. You know and I know that the houses of _none_
in any way connected with the daily Press should ever be approached. It is
plain common sense. The journalist comes home at all hours of the night.
His servant (if he keeps one) is often up before he is abed. Do you think
to enter such houses unobserved?
Again, in one capacity or another, the journalist is dealing with our
profession all day long. Some he serves and knows as masters; others he is
employed in denouncing at about forty-two shillings the 1600 words; others
again it is his business to interview and to pacify or cajole in the
lobbies of the House--do you think he would not know what you were if he
found you in the kitchen with a dark lantern?
There is another peril--I mean that of alienating friends. Mr. Cowl is an
Imperialist--of a very unemphatic type: he wears (as you will say) gold
spectacles, and has a nervous cough, but he _is_ an Imperialist. I
never said that it was _wrong_ or even _foolish_ to alienate
such a man. I said that a great and powerful section of opinion thought it
a breach of honour in one of Ours to do it. Do not run away with the first
impression my words convey. Believe me, I weigh them all.
There has been so much misunderstanding that I hardly know what to choose.
Take those watches. I did not say that watches were "a mere distraction."
You have put the words into my mouth. What I said was that watches,
especially watches at a Tariff Reform meeting, were not worth the risk.
Of course a hatful of watches, such as your Uncle Robert would bring home
from fires, or better still, such a load as your poor cousin Charles
obtained upon Empire Day last year, has value. But how many gold watches
are there, off the platform, at a Tariff Reform meeting? And what possible
chance have you of getting _on_ the platform? Now church and purses,
that is another thing, but your mid-Devon adventure was simple folly.
Who is Lord Darrell? I never heard of him! For Heaven's sake don't get
caught by a title. Do you know any of the servants? His butler or his
secretary? The fellow who catalogues the library is useful. Do recollect
that lots of the ornaments in those Mayfair houses are fastened to the
wall. That is where your dear father failed over the large Chinese jar in
Park Street.... Your mother would never forgive me if you were to get into
another of your boyish scrapes.
There is another little matter, my dear Ormond, which I wish you to lay
to heart very seriously. Now do take an old man's advice and do not get
up upon your Quixotic hobby-horse the moment you sniff what it is--for I
suppose you have guessed it already. Yes, it is what you feared: I want to
urge you to follow your mother's ardent wish and add commission business
to your other work. I know very well that young men must dream their
dreams, but the world is what it is, and after all there is nothing so
very dreadful in the commission side of our profession. You do not come
into direct relation with the collectors of curios and church ornaments:
there is always an agent to break the crudeness of the connexion. And
it is a certain and profitable source of income with none of the risks
attached to it that the older branches of the profession unfortunately
show. Moreover, it affords excellent opportunities for foreign travel,
and gives one a special position very difficult to define, but easily
appreciable among one's colleagues.
George Burton made to my knowledge three thousand pounds last year in a
short season; he got this very large commission without the necessity of
breaking into a single public-house; he earned it entirely upon objects
taken out of churches upon the Continent, and in only three cases had he
to pick a pocket. It would have hurt him very much with his knowledge and
tastes to have had to break a stained-glass window.
Do consider this, my dear Ormond, for your mother's sake. Don't think for
a moment that I am advising you to take up any of those forms of work
which we both agree in despising, and which are quite unworthy of your
traditions, as for instance stealing pictures on commission out of the
houses of dealers and then turning detective to recover them again. It is
much too easy work for a man of your talents, much too ill-paid, and much
too dangerous. It is all very well for the picture dealer to leave the
door open, but what if the policeman is not in the know? No, you will
always find me on your side in your steady refusal to have anything to do
with this kind of business.
Ormond, my dear lad, bear me no ill-will. It is true of every profession,
of the Bar and of the City, of homicide, medicine, the Services, even
Politics--everything, that success only comes slowly, and that the
experience of older men is the key to it.
Tomorrow is Ascension Day, and I am at leisure. Come and dine with me at
the Colonial Club at eight for eight-fifteen. I will show you a
magnificent littla tanagra I picked up yesterday, and we will talk about
the new prospectus.
God bless you! (Dress.)
Your affectionate Uncle
THE MONKEY QUESTION: AN APPEAL TO COMMON SENSE
A privileged body slips so easily into regarding its privileges as common
rights that I fear the plea which the SIMIAN LEAGUE repeats in this
pamphlet will still sound strange in the ears of many, though the work of
the League has been increasingly successful and has reached yearly a wider
circle of the educated public since its foundation by Lady Wayne in 1902.
We desire to place before our fellow-citizens the claims of Monkeys, and
we hope once more that nothing we say may seem extreme or violent, for we
know full well what poor weapons violence and passion are in the debate of
a practical political matter.
Perhaps it is best to begin by pointing out how rarely even the best of us
pause in our fevered race for wealth to consider the disabilities of any
of our fellow-creatures: when that truth is grasped it will be easier to
plead the special cause of the Simian.
Were English men and women to realize the wrongs of the Race, or at any
rate the illogical and therefore unjust position in which we have placed
them; were the just and thoughtful men, the refined and golden-hearted
ladies who are ready in this country to support every good cause when it
is properly presented; were _they_ to realize the disabilities of the
Monkey, I do not say as vividly they realize the tragedies and misfortunes
of London life, they could not, I think, avoid an ill-ease, a pricking of
conscience, which would lead at last to some hearty and English effort for
the relief of the cousin and forerunner of man.
The attitude adopted towards Monkeys by the mass of those who, after all,
live in the same world, and have much the same appetites and necessities
and sufferings as they, is an attitude I am persuaded, not of
heartlessness, but of ignorance. To disturb that ignorance, and in some to
awake a consciousness which, perhaps, they fear, is not a grateful task,
but it is our duty, and we will pursue it.
Let the reader consider for one moment the aspect not only of formal law
but of the whole community, and of what is called "public opinion" towards
this section of sentient beings.
As things now are--aye! and have been for centuries in this green England
of ours--a Monkey may not marry; he may not own land; he may not fill any
salaried post under the Crown. The Papists themselves are debarred from
no honour (outside Ireland) save the Lord Chancellorship. Monkeys, who
are responsible for no persecutions in the past, whose religion presents
no insult or outrage to our common reason, and who differ little from
ourselves in their general practice of life and thought, _are debarred
A Monkey may not be a Member of Parliament, a Civil Servant, an officer
in either Service, no, not even in the Territorial Army. It is doubtful
whether he may hold a commission for the peace. True, there is no statute
upon the subject, and the rural magistracy is perhaps the freest and most
open of all our offices, and the least restricted by artificial barriers
of examination or test; nevertheless, it is the considered opinion of the
best legal authorities that no Monkey could sit upon the Bench, and in any
case the discussion is purely academic, for it is difficult to believe
that any Lord-Lieutenant, under the ridiculous anachronism of our present
Constitution, would nominate a Monkey to such a position--unless (which is
by law impossible) he should be heir to an owner of an estate in land.
Nor is this all. The mention of unpaid posts recalls the damning truth
that all honorary positions in the Diplomatic Service, including even the
purely formal stage in the Foreign Office, are closed to the Monkey; the
very Court sinecures, which admittedly require no talents, are denied to
our Simian fellow-creatures, if not by law at least by custom and in
There have been employed by the League in the British Museum the services
of two ladies who feel most keenly upon this subject. They are (to the
honour of their sex) as amply qualified as any person in this kingdom for
the task which they have undertaken, and they report to the Executive
Commission after two months of minute research that (with one doubtful
exception occurring during the reign of Her late Majesty) no Monkey has
held any position whatever at Court.
All judicial positions are equally inaccessible to them; for though,
perhaps, in theory a Monkey could be promoted to the Bench if he had
served his party sufficiently long and faithfully in the House of Commons
(to which body he is admissible--at least I can find no rule or custom,
let alone a statute, against it), yet he is cut off from such an ambition
at the very outset by his inadmissibility to a legal career. The Inns of
Court are monopolist, and, like all monopolists, hopelessly conservative.
They have admitted first one class and then another--though reluctantly--
to their privileges, but it will be twenty or thirty years at least
before they will give way in the matter of Monkeys. To be a physician,
a solicitor, an engineer, or a Commissioner for Oaths is denied them as
effectually as though they did not exist. Indeed, no occupation is left
them save that of manual labour, and on this I would say a word. It is
fashionable to jeer at the Monkey's disinclination to sustained physical
effort and to concentrated toil; but it is remarkable that those who
affect such a contempt for the Monkey's powers are the first to deny him
access to the liberal professions in which they know (though they dare not
confess it) he would be a serious rival to the European. As it is, in the
few places open to Monkeys--the somewhat parasitical domestic occupation
of "companions" and the more manly, but still humiliating, task of acting
as assistants to organ-grinders, the Monkey has won universal if grudging
Latterly, since progress cannot be indefinitely delayed, the Monkey has
indeed advanced by one poor step towards the civic equality which is his
right, and has appeared as an actor upon the boards of our music-halls. It
should surely be a sufficient rebuke for those who continue to sneer at
the Simian League and such devoted pioneers as Miss Greeley and Lady Wayne
that the Monkey has been honourably admitted and has done first-rate work
in a profession which His late Gracious Majesty and His late Majesty's
late revered mother, Queen Victoria, have seen fit to honour by the
bestowal of knighthoods, and in one case (where the recipient was
childless) of a baronetcy.
The disabilities I have enumerated are by no means exhaustive. A Monkey
may not sign or deliver a deed; he may not serve on a jury; he may be
ill-treated, forsooth, and even killed by some cruel master, and the
law will refuse to protect him or to punish his oppressor. He may be
subjected to all the by-laws of a tyrannical or fanatical administration,
but in preventing such abuses he has no voice. He may not enter our
older Universities, at least as the member of a college; that is, he can
only take a degree at Oxford or Cambridge under the implied and wholly
unmerited stigma applying to the non-collegiate student. And these
iniquities apply not only to the great anthropoids whose strength and
grossness we might legitimately fear, but to the most delicately organized
types--to the Barbary Ape, the Lemur, and the Ring-tailed Baboon.
Finally--and this is the worst feature in the whole matter--a Monkey, by
a legal fiction at least as old as the fourteenth century, is not a person
in the eye of the law.
We call England a free country, yet at the present day and as you read
these lines, _any Monkey found at large may be summarily arrested_.
He has no remedy; no action for assault will lie. He is not even allowed
to call witnesses in his own defence, or to establish an alibi.
It may be pleaded that these disabilities attach also to the Irish, but we
must remember that the Irish are allowed a certain though modified freedom
of the Press, and have extended to them the incalculable advantage of
sending representatives to Westminster. The Monkey has no such remedies.
He may be incarcerated, nay _chained_, yet he cannot sue out a writ
for habeas corpus any more than can a British subject in time of war, and
worst of all, through the connivance or impotence of the police, cases
have been brought forward _and approved_ in which Monkeys have been
openly bought and sold!
We boast our sense of delicacy, and perhaps rightly, in view of our
superiority over other nations in this particular; yet we permit the
Monkey to exhibit revolting nakedness, and we hardly heed the omission!
It is true that some Monkeys are covered from time to time with little
blue coats. A cap is occasionally disdainfully permitted them, and not
infrequently they are permitted a pair of leather breeches, through a hole
in which the tail is permitted to protrude; but no reasonable man will
deny that these garments are regarded in the light of mere ornaments, and
rarely fulfil those functions which every decent Englishman requires of
And now we come to the most important section of our appeal. _What can
We are a kindly people and we are a just people, but we are also a very
conservative people. The fate of all pioneers besets those who attempt to
move in this matter. They are jeered at, or, what is worse, neglected. One
of the most prominent of the League's workers has been certified a lunatic
by an authority whose bitter prejudice is well known, and against whom we
have as yet had no grant of a _mandamus_, and we have all noticed the
quiet contempt, the sort of organized boycott or conspiracy of silence
with which a company at dinner will receive the subject when it is brought
There are also to be met the violent prejudices with which the mass of
the population is still filled in this regard. These prejudices are, of
course, more common among the uneducated poor than in the upper classes,
who in various relations come more often in contact with Monkeys, and who
also have a wider and more tolerant, because a better cultivated, spirit.
But the prejudice is discernible in every class of society, even in the
very highest. We have also arrayed against us in our crusade for right and
justice the dying but still formidable power of clericalism. Society is
but half emancipated from its medieval trammels, and the priest, that
Eternal Enemy of Liberty, can still put in his evil word against the
rights of the Simian.
Let us not despair! We can hope for nothing, it is true, until we have
effected a profound change in public opinion, and that change cannot
be effected by laws. It can only be brought about by a slow and almost
imperceptible effort, unsleeping, tireless, and convinced: something of
the same sort as has destroyed the power of militarism upon the Continent
of Europe; something of the same sort as has scotched landlordism at home;
something of the same sort as has freed the unhappy natives of the Congo
from the misrule of depraved foreigners; something of the same sort as has
produced the great wave in favour of temperance through the length and
breadth of this land.
We must not attempt extremes or demand full justice to the exclusion of
excellent half-measures. No one condemns more strongly than do we the
militant pro-Simians who have twice assaulted and once blinded for life a
keeper in the Zoological Gardens. We do not even approve of those ardent
but in our opinion misguided spirits of the Simian Freedom Society who
publish side by side the photographs of Pongo the learned Ape from the
Gaboons and that of a certain Cabinet Minister, accompanied by the legend
"Which is Which?" It is not by actions of this kind that we shall win the
good fight; but rather by a perseverance in reason combined with courtesy
shall we attain our end, until at long last our Brother shall be free! As
for the excellent but somewhat provincial reactionaries who still object
to us that the Monkey differs fundamentally from the human race; that he
is not possessed of human speech, and so forth, we can afford to smile at
their waning authority. Modern science has sufficiently dealt with them;
and if any one bring out against the Monkey the obscurantist insult that
His Hide is Covered with Hair, we can at once point to innumerable human
beings, fully recognized and endowed with civic rights, who, were they
carefully examined, would prove in no better case. As to speech, the
Monkey communicates in his own way as well or better than do we, and for
that matter, if speech is to be the criterion, are we to deny civic rights
to the Dumb?
We have it upon the authority of all our greatest scientific men, that
there is no substantial difference between the Ape and Man. One of the
greatest has said that between himself and his poorer fellow-citizens
there was a wider difference than that which separated them from the
Monkey. Hackel has testified that while there is a _boundary_, there
is no _gulf_ between the corps of professors to which he belongs and
the Chimpanzee. The Gorilla is universally accepted, and if we have won
the battle for the Gorilla, the rest will follow.
Tolstoy is with us, Webb is with us, Gorky is with us, Zola and Ferrer
were with us and fight for us from their graves. The whole current of
modern thought is with us. WE CANNOT FAIL!
_Questions submitted at the last Election by the Simian League_
1. Are you in favour of removing the present disabilities of Monkeys?
2. Are you in favour of a short Statute which should put adult Monkeys
upon the same footing as other subjects of His Majesty as from the 1st of
January, 1912? And _would you, if necessary, vote against your party in
favour of such a measure?_
3. Are you in favour of the inclusion of Monkeys under the Wild Birds Act?
(A plain reply "Yes" or "No" was to be written by the candidate under each
of these questions and forwarded to the Secretary, Mr. Consul, 73 Purbeck
Street, W.. before the 14th January, 1910. No replies received after
that date were admitted. The Simian League, which has agents in every
constituency, acted according to the replies received, and treated
the lack of reply as a negative. Of 1375 circulars sent, 309 remained
unanswered, 264 were answered in the negative, 201 gave a qualified
affirmative, _all the rest (no less than 799) a clear and, in some
cases, an enthusiastic adherence to our principles_. It is a sufficient
proof of the power of the League and the growth of the cause of justice
that in these 799 no less than 515 are members of the present House of
THE EMPIRE BUILDER
We possess in this country a breed of men in whom we feel a pride so
loyal, so strong, and so frank that were I to give further expression to
it here I should justly be accused of insisting upon a hackneyed theme.
These are the Empire Builders, the Men Efficient, the agents whom we
cannot but feel--however reluctantly we admit it--to be less strictly
bound by the common laws of life than are we lesser ones.
But there is something about these men not hackneyed as a theme, which is
their youth. By what process is the great mind developed? Of what sort is
the Empire Builder when he is young?
The fellow commonly rises from below: What was his experience there below?
In what school was he trained? What accident of fortune, how met, or how
surmounted, or how used, produced at last the Man who Can? In _that_
inquiry there is food for very deep reflection. It is here that our
Masters, whose general motives are so open and so plain, touch upon
mystery. That secret power of determining nourishment which is at the base
of all organic life has in its own silent way built up the boyhood and the
adolescence which we only know in their maturity.
I will not pretend to a full knowledge of that strange education of the
mind which has produced so many similar men for the advancement of the
race, but I can point to one example which lately came straight across my
vision--an accident, an illumination, a revealing flash of how our time
breeds the Great Type. I was acquainted for some hours with the actions of
a youth of whose very name I am ignorant, but whose face I am very certain
will reappear twenty years hence in a setting of glory, recognized as yet
one other of those superb spirits who will do all for England.
The occasion was a pageant--no matter what pageant--a great public pageant
which passed through the Strand, and was to be witnessed by hundreds of
thousands. Let us call it "The Function."
Well, I was walking down the Strand three days before this Function was
to take place, when I saw in an empty shop window about twenty-five
wooden chairs, arranged in tiers one above the other upon a sloping
platform, and lettered from A to Y. In the window was a large notice,
very clearly printed, and it was to this effect:
WHY PAY FANCY PRICES WHICH MUST INEVITABLY FALL BEFORE THE FUNCTION?
SEATS IN THIS WINDOW, COMMANDING A FULL VIEW OF THE PROCESSION, 5S.
At a little desk in the gangway by which the chairs were approached sat
a dark, pale child--I can call him by no other name, so frail and young
did he seem--and the delicacy of his complexion led me to wonder perhaps
whether he was not one of those whom the climate of England strikes with
consumption, and who, in the mysterious providence of our race, wander
abroad in search of health and find a Realm. His alertness, however, and
the brilliance of his eye; his winning, almost obsequious address, and the
hooked clutch of his gestures betrayed an energy that no physical weakness
could conquer. He invited me to enter, and begged me to purchase a seat.
I had no need of one, for I had made arrangements to spend the Great
Day itself and the next at a small hotel in the extreme north of
Sutherlandshire, but I was arrested by the evident mental power of my new
acquaintance, and I wasted five shillings in buying the chair marked D.
It was with some difficulty that I could purchase it, so eager was he that
I should have the best place; "seeing," said he, "that they are all one
price, and that you may as well benefit by being an early bird." I noted
the strict rectitude which, for all that men ignorant of modern commerce
may say, is at the basis of commercial success.
Something so attracted me
in the whole business that I was weak enough to take a chair in a tea-shop
opposite and watch all day the actions of the Child of Fate.
In less than an hour twenty different people, mainly gentlefolk, had come
in and bought places at the sensible price at which he offered them. To
each of them he gave a ticket corresponding to the number of the chair. He
was courteous to all, and even expansive. He explained the advantage of
each particular seat.
So far so good; but, what was more astonishing, in the second hour another
twenty came and appeared to purchase; in the third (which was the busiest
time of the day) some forty, first and last, must have done business with
the Favourite of Fortune. I pondered upon these things very deeply, and
Next morning the attraction which the place had for me drew me as with
a magnet, and I went, somewhat stealthily I fear, to the same tea-shop
and noticed with the greatest astonishment that the chairs were now not
lettered, but numbered, and that the boy was sitting at his little desk
with a series of white cards bearing the figures from one to twenty-five.
It was very early--not ten o'clock--but the Child was as spruce and neat
as he had been in the afternoon of the day before. He bore already that
mark of energy combined with neatness which is the stamp of success.
I crossed the road and entered. He recognized me at once (their memory for
faces is wonderful), and said cheerfully:
"Your D corresponds to the number 4."
I thanked him very much, and asked him why he had changed his system of
notation. He told me it was because several people had explained to him
that they remembered figures more easily than letters. We then talked to
each other, agreeing upon the maxims of simplicity and directness which
are at the root of all mercantile stability. He told me he required
cash from all who bought his chairs; that there was no agreement, no
insurance--no "frills," as he wittily called them.
"It is as simple," he said, "as buying a pound of tea. I am satisfied, and
they are satisfied. As for the risk, it is covered by the low price, and
if you ask me how I can let them at so low a price, I will tell you. It is
because I have found exactly what was needed and have added nothing more.
Moreover, I did not buy the chairs, but hired them."
I went back to my tea-shop with head bent, murmuring to myself those
We founded many a mighty State,
Pray God that we may never fail
From craven fears of being great
(or words to that effect).
That day no less than 153 people did business with the Youth.
Next day I found among my morning letters a note from a politician of my
acquaintance, telling me that the Function was postponed--indefinitely.
I wasted not a moment. I went at once to my post of observation, my
tea-shop, and I proceeded to watch the Leader.
There was as yet no knowledge of the calamity in London.
My friend seemed to have noticed me; at any rate a new and somewhat
anxious look was apparent on his face. With a firm and decided step I
crossed the road to greet him, and when he saw me he was all at his ease.
He told me that my seat had been especially asked for, and that a higher
price had been offered; but a bargain, he said, was a bargain, and so we
fell to chatting. When I mentioned, among other subjects, the very great
success of his enterprise, he gave a slight start, which did honour to his
heart; but he was of too stern a mould to give way. He was of the temper
of the Pioneers.
I assured him at once that it was very far from my intention to reproach
him for the talents which he had used with so much ability and energy. I
pointed out to him that even if I desired to injure him, which I did not,
it would be impossible for me, or for any one, to trace more than half a
dozen, at the most, of his numerous clients.
It is frequently the case that men of small business capacity will
perceive some important element in a commercial problem which escapes the
eyes of Genius; and I could see that this simple observation of mine had
relieved him almost to tears.
Before he could thank me, a newsboy appeared with a very large placard,
upon which was written
In a moment his mind grasped the whole meaning of that word; but he went
out with a steady step, and paid the sixpence which the newsboy demanded.
Even in that uncomplaining action, the uncomplaining forfeiture of the
comparatively large sum which necessity demanded, one could detect the
financial grip which is the true arbiter of the fates of nations. He
needed the paper: he did not haggle about the price. He first mastered the
exact words of the announcement, and then, looking up at me with a face of
paper, he said:
"It is not only postponed, but all this preparation is thrown away."
I have said that I have no commercial aptitude; I admit that I was
"Surely," said I, "this is exactly what you needed?"
He shook his head, still restraining, by a powerful effort, the natural
expression of his grief, and showed me, for all his answer, a rail way
ticket to Boulogne which he had purchased, and which was available for the
night boat on the eve of the Function. I then understood what he meant
when he said that all his preparations had been thrown away.
I do not know whether I did right or wrong--I felt myself to be nothing
more than a blind instrument in the hands of the superior power which
governs the destinies of a people.
"How much did the ticket cost?" said I.
"Thirty shillings," said he.
I pulled out a sovereign and a half-sovereign from my pocket, and said:
"Here is the money. I have leisure, and I would as soon go to Boulogne as
He did not thank me effusively, as might one of the more excitable and
less efficient races; but he grasped my hand and blessed me silently. I
then left him.
* * * * *
In the steamer to Boulogne, as I was musing over this strange adventure, a
sturdy Anglo-Saxon man, a true son of Drake or Raleigh, came up and asked
me for my ticket. As I gave it him my eye fell idly upon the price of the
ticket. It was twenty-five shillings--but I had saved a directing and
If he should come across these lines he will remember me. He is probably
in the House of Commons by now. Perhaps he has bought his peerage.
Wherever he is I hope he will remember me.
Caedwalla, a prince out of Wales (though some deny it), wandered in the
Andredsweald. He was nineteen years of age and his heart was full of anger
for wrong that had been done him by men of his own blood. For he was
rightfully heir to the throne of the kingdom of Sussex, but he was kept
from it by the injustice of men.
A retinue went with him of that sort which will always follow adventure
and exile. These, the rich of the seacoast and of the Gwent called broken
men; but they loved their Lord. So he went hunting, feeding upon what he
slew, and proceeding from steading to steading in the sparse woods of
Andred where is sometimes an open heath, and sometimes a mile of oak, and
often a clay swamp, and, seen from little lifted knolls of sand where the
broom grows and the gorse, the Downs to the south like a wall.
As he so wandered upon one day, he came upon another man of a very
different fashion, for Caedwalla would have nothing to do with the Cross
of Christ, nor with the customs of the towns, nor with the talk of foreign
men. But this man was a bishop wandering, and his name was Wilfrid. He
also had his little retinue, and, by an accident of his office or of his
exile, he had proceeded to a steading in the heaths and woods of the
Weald where also was Caedwalla: so they met. The pride and the bearing of
Wilfrid, seeing that he was of a Roman town and an officer of the State,
and a bishop to boot, nay, a bishop above bishops, was not the pride
Caedwalla loved, and the young man bore himself with another sort of
pride, which was that of the mountains and of pagan men. Nevertheless
Wilfrid put before him, with Roman rhetoric and with uplifted hands, the
story of our Lord, and Caedwalla, keeping his face set during all that
recital, could not forbid this story to sink into the depths of his heart,
where for many years it remained, and did no more than remain.
The kingdom of Sussex, cultivated by men of various kinds, received
Wilfrid the Bishop wherever he went. He did many things that do not here
concern me, and his chief work was to make the rich towns of the sea plain
and of Chichester and of Lewes and of Arundel, and of the steadings of
the Weald, and of the wealden markets also, Christian men; for he showed
them that it was a mean thing to go about in a hairy way like pagans,
unacquainted with letters, and of imperfect ability in the making of
raiment or the getting of victuals. Indeed, as I have written in another
place, it was St. Wilfrid who taught the King of Sussex and his men how to
catch fish in nets. They revered him everywhere, and when they had given
up their shameful barbarism and decently accepted the rules of life and
the religion of it, they pressed upon St. Wilfrid that he should found a
bishopric, and that it should have a cathedral and a see (all of which
things he had explained to them), and he did this on Selsey Bill: but
to-day the sea has swallowed all.
Time passed, and the young man Caedwalla, still a very young man in the
twenties, came to his own, and he sat on the throne that was rightfully
his in Chichester and he ruled all Sussex to its utmost boundaries. And
he was king of much more, as history shows, but all the while he proudly
refused in his young man's heart the raiment and the manner of the thing
which he had hated in his exile, nor would he accept the Latin prayers,
nor bow to the name of the Christian God.
Caedwalla, still so young but now a king, thought it shameful that he
should rule no more than the empire God had given him, and he was filled
with a longing to cross the sea and to conquer new land. Wherefore,
whether well or ill advised, he set out to cross the sea and to conquer
the Isle of Wight, of which story said that Wight the hero had established
his kingdom there in the old time before writing was, and when there were
only songs. So Caedwalla and his fighting men, they landed in that island
and they fought against the many inhabitants of it, and they subdued it,
but in these battles Caedwalla was wounded.
It happened that the King of that island, whose name was Atwald, had two
heirs, youths, whom it was pitifully hoped this conqueror would spare, for
they fled up the Water to Stoneham; but a monk who served God by the ford
of reeds which is near Hampton at the head of the Water, hearing that King
Caedwalla (who was recovering of wounds he had had in the war with the men
of Wight) had heard of the youths' hiding-place and had determined to kill
them, sought the King and begged that at least they might be instructed
in the Faith before they died, saying to him: "King, though you are not
of the Faith, that is no reason that you should deprive others of such
a gift. Let me therefore see that these young men are instructed and
baptized, after which you may exercise your cruel will." And Caedwalla
assented. These lads, therefore, were taken to a holy place up on Itchen,
where they were instructed in the truths and the mysteries of religion.
And while this so went forward Caedwalla would ask from time to time
whether they were yet Christians.
At last they had received all the knowledge the holy men could give them
and they were baptized. When they were so received into the fold Caedwalla
would wait no longer but had them slain. And it is said that they went to
death joyfully, thinking it to be no more than the gate of immortality.
After such deeds Caedwalla still reigned over the kingdom of Sussex and
his other kingdoms, nor did he by speech or manner give the rich or poor
about him to understand whether anything was passing in his heart. But
while they sang Mass in the cathedral of Selsey and while still the
new-comers came (now more rarely, for nearly all were enrolled): while
the new-comers came, I say, in their last numbers from the remotest parts
of the forest ridge, and from the loneliest combes of the Downs to hear
of Christ and his cross and his resurrection and the salvation of men,
Caedwalla sat in Chichester and consulted his own heart only and was a
pagan King. No one else you may say in all the land so kept himself apart.
His youth had been thus spent and he thus ruled, when as his thirtieth
year approached he gave forth a decision to his nobles and to his earls
and to the Welsh-speaking men and to the seafaring men and to the priests
and to all his people. He said: "I will take ship and I will go over the
sea to Rome, where I may worship at the tombs of the blessed Apostles, and
there I will be baptized. But since I am a king no one but the Pope shall
baptize me. I will do penance for my sins. I will lift my eyes to things
worthy of a man. I will put behind me what was dear to me, and I will
accept that which is to come." And as they could not alter Caedwalla
in any of his previous decisions, so they could not alter him in this.
But his people gave gladly for the furnishing of his journey, and all
the sheep of the Downs and their fleece, and all the wheat in the clay
steadings of the Weald, and the little vineyards in the priests' gardens
that looked towards the sea, and the fishermen, and every sort in Sussex
that sail or plough or clip or tend sheep or reap or forge iron at the
hammer ponds, gave of what they had to King Caedwalla, so that he went
forth with a good retinue and many provisions upon his journey to the
tombs of the Apostles.
When King Caedwalla came to Rome the Pope received him and said: "I hear
that you would be instructed in the Faith." To which King Caedwalla
answered that such was his desire, and that he would crave baptism at the
hands of the said Pope. And meanwhile Caedwalla took up good lodgings in
Rome, gave money to the poor, and showed himself abroad as one who had
come from the ends of the earth, that is, from the kingdom of Sussex,
which in those days was not yet famous. Caedwalla, now being thirty years
old and having learnt what one should learn in order to receive baptism,
was baptized, and they put a white robe on him which he was to wear for
King Caedwalla, when he was thus made one with the unity of Christian men,
was very glad. But he also said that before he had lost that white robe so
given him, death would come and take him (though he was a young man and a
warrior), and that not in battle. He was certain it was so.
And so indeed it came about. For within the limit of days during which
ritual demanded that the King should wear his white garment, nay, within
that same week, he died.
So those boys who had found death at his hands had died after baptism,
up on Itchen in the Gwent, when Caedwalla the King had journeyed out of
Sussex to conquer and to hold the Wight with his spear and his sword and
his shield, and his captains and his armoured men.
Now that you have done reading this story you may think that I have made
it up or that it is a legend or that it comes out of some storyteller's
book. Learn, therefore, that it is plain history, like the battle of
Waterloo or the Licensing Bill (differing from the chronicle only in this,
that I have put living words into the mouths of men), and be assured that
the history of England is a very wonderful thing.
A UNIT OF ENGLAND
England has been lucky in its type of subdivision. All over Western
Europe the type of subdivision following in the fall of the Empire has
been of capital importance in the development of the great nations,
but while these have elsewhere been exaggerated to petty kingdoms or
diminished to mere townships in Britain, for centuries the counties have
formed true and lasting local units, and they have survived with more
vigour than the corresponding divisions of the other provinces of Roman
That accident of the county moulded and sustained local feeling during
the generations when local government and local initiative were dying
elsewhere; it has preserved a sort of aristocratic independence, the
survival of custom, and the differentiation of the State.
It is not necessarily (as many historians unacquainted with Europe as a
whole have taken for granted) a supreme advantage for any people to escape
from institution of a strong central executive. Such a power is the normal
fruit of all high civilizations. It protects the weak against the strong.
It is necessary for rapid action in war, it makes for clarity and method
during peace, it secures a minimum for all, and it forbids the illusions
and vices of the rich to taint the whole commonwealth.
But though such an escape from strong central government and the
substitution for it of a ruling class is not a supreme advantage, it
has advantages of its own which every foreign historian of England has
recognized, and it is the divisions into counties which, after the change
of religion in the sixteenth century, was mainly responsible for the
slow substitution of local and oligarchic for general, central, and
bureaucratic government in England.
Not all the counties by any means are true to type. All the Welsh
divisions, for instance, are more or less artificial and late, with the
exception of Anglesey. And as for the non-Roman parts, Ireland and the
Highlands of Scotland, it goes without saying that the county never was,
and is not to this day, a true unit. The central and much of the west of
England is the same. That is, the shires are cut as their name implies,
somewhat arbitrarily, from the general mass of territory.
When one says "arbitrarily" one does not mean that no local sentiment
bound them, or that they had not some natural basis, for they had. They
were the territory of central towns: Shrewsbury, Warwick, Derby, Chester,
Oxford, Buckingham, Bedford, Nottingham. But their life was not and has
not since been strongly individual. They have not continuous boundaries
nor an early national root. But all round these, in a sort of ring, run
the counties which have had true local life from the beginning. Cornwall
is utterly different from Devon, and with a clear historic reason for the
difference. Devon, again, is a perfectly separate unit, resulting from a
definite political act of the early ninth century. Of Dorset and Hampshire
one can say less, but with Sussex you get a unit which has been one
kingdom and one diocese, set in true natural limits and lying within
these same boundaries for much more than a thousand years. Kent, probably
an original Roman division, has been one unit for longer still. Norfolk,
Suffolk, and Essex are equally old, though not upon their land boundaries
equally denned; but perhaps the most sharply defined of all--after Sussex,
at least--was Southern and Central Lancashire.
Its topography was like one of those ideal examples which military
instructors take for their models when they wish to simplify a lesson
upon terrain. Upon one side ran the long, high, and difficult range which
is the backbone of England; upon the other the sea, and the sea and the
mountains leant one towards the other, making two sides of a triangle
that met above Morecambe Bay.
How formidable the natural barriers of this triangle were it is not easy
for the student of our time to recognize. It needs a general survey of the
past, and a knowledge of many unfamiliar conditions in the present, to
The difficulty of those Eastern moors and hills, for instance, the
resistance they offer to human passage, meets you continually throughout
English history. The engineers of the modern railways could give one a
whole romance of it; the story of every army that has had to cross them,
and of which we have record, bears the same witness. The illusion which
the modern traveller may be under that the barrier is negligible is very
soon dispelled when for his recreation he crosses it by any other methods
than the railway; and perhaps in such an experience of travel nothing more
impresses one in the character of that barrier than the _loneliness_.
There is no other corresponding contrast of men and emptiness that I know
of in Europe.
The great towns lie, enormous, pullulating, millioned in the plains on
either side; they push their limbs up far into the valleys. Between them,
utterly deserted, you have these miles and miles of bare upland, like the
roof of a house between two crowded streets.
Merely to cross the Pennines, driving or on foot, is sufficient to teach
one this. To go the length of the hills along the watershed from the
Peak to Crossfell (few people have done it!) is to get an impression of
desertion and separation which you will match nowhere else in travel,
nowhere else, at least, within touch and almost hearing of great towns.
The sea also was here more of a barrier than a bond. Ireland--not Roman,
and later an enemy--lay over against that shore. Its ports (save one)
silted. Its slope from the shore was shallow: the approach and the
beaching of a fleet not easy. Its river mouths were few and dangerous.
This triangle of Lancashire, so cut off from the west and from the east,
had for its base a barrier that completed its isolation. That barrier
was the marshy valley of the Mersey. It could be outflanked only at
its extreme eastern point, where the valley rises to the hundred-foot
contour line. From that point the valley rises so rapidly within half a
dozen miles into the eastern hills that it was dry even under primitive
conditions, and the opportunity here afforded for a passage is marked
by the topographical point of Stockport.
By that gate the main avenues of approach still enter the county. Through
this gap passed the London Road, and passes to-day the London and
North-Western Railway. It was this gate which gave its early strategic
importance to Manchester, lying just north of it and holding the whole of
Historians have noted that to hold Manchester was ultimately to hold
Lancashire itself. It was not the industrial importance of the town, for
that was hardly existent until quite modern times: it was its strategic
position which gave it such a character. The Roman fort at the junction
of the two rivers near Knott Mill represented the first good defensible
position commanding this gate upon the south-east.
To enter the county anywhere west of the hundred-foot contour and the
Mersey Valley was, for an army deprived of modern methods, impossible:
a little organized destruction would make it impossible again.
Two artificial causeways negotiated the valley. Each bears to this day (at
Stretford and at Stretton) the proof of its old character, for both words
indicate the passage of a "street," that is, of a hard-made way, over the
soft and drowned land. Stretford was but the approach to Manchester from
Chester--and Manchester thus commanded (by the way) the two south-eastern
approaches to the county, the one natural, the other artificial. The
approach by Stretton gave Warrington its strategic importance in the early
history of the county; Warrington, the central point upon the Mersey,
standing at a clear day's march from Liverpool, the port on the one
hand, and a clear day's march from Manchester on the other. It was from
Warrington that Lord Strange marched upon Manchester at the very beginning
of the Civil War, and if by some accident this stretch of territory should
again be a scene of warfare, Warrington, in spite of the close network of
modern communications, would be the strategic centre of the county
So one might take the units out of which modern England has been built
up one by one, showing that their boundaries were fixed by nature, and
that their local separation was not the product of the pirate raids, but
is something infinitely older, older than the Empire, and very probably
(did we know what the Roman divisions of Britain were) accepted under
the Empire. So one might prove or at least suggest that the strategical
character of the English county and of its chief stronghold and barriers
lay in an origin far beyond the limits of recorded history. To produce
such a study would be to add to the truth and reality of our history, for
England was not made nor even moulded by the Danish and the Saxon raids.
The framework is far, far older and so strong that it still survives.
It was upon an evening in Spain, but with nothing which that word evokes
for us in the North--for it was merely a lessening of the light without
dews, without mists, and without skies--that I came up a stony valley
and saw against the random line of the plateau at its head the dome of a
church. The road I travelled was but faintly marked, and was often lost
and mingled with the rough boulders and the sand, and in the shallow
depression of the valley there were but a few stagnant pools.
The shape of the dome was Italian, and it should have stood in an Italian
landscape, drier indeed than that to which Northerners are accustomed,
but still surrounded by trees, and with a distance that could render
things lightly blue. Instead of that this large building stood in the
complete waste which I have already described at such length, which is so
appalling and so new to an European from any other province of Europe. As
I approached the building I saw that there gathered round it a village, or
rather a group of dependent houses; for the church was so much larger than
anything in the place, and the material of which the church itself and the
habitations were built was so similar, the flat old tiled roofs all mixed
under the advance of darkness into so united a body, that one would have
said, as was perhaps historically the truth, that the church was not built
for the needs of the place, but that the borough had grown round the
shrine, and had served for little save to house its servants.
When the long ascent was ended and the crest reached, where the head of
the valley merged into the upper plain, I passed into the narrow first
lanes. It was now quite dark. The darkness had come suddenly, and, to
make all things consonant, there was no moon and there were not any
stars; clouds had risen of an even and menacing sort, and one could see no
heaven. Here and there lights began to show in the houses, but most people
were in the street, talking loudly from their doorsteps to each other.
They watched me as I came along because I was a foreigner, and I went down
till I reached the central market-place, wondering how I should tell the
best place for sleep. But long before my choice could be made my thoughts
were turned in another direction by finding myself at a turn of the
irregular paving, right in front of a vast facade, and behind it, somewhat
belittled by the great length of the church itself, the dome just showed.
I had come to the very steps of the church which had accompanied my
thoughts and had been a goal before me during all the last hours of the
In the presence of so wonderful a thing I forgot the object of my journey
and the immediate care of the moment, and I went through the great doors
that opened on the Place. These were carved, and by the little that
lingered of the light and the glimmer of the electric light on the
neighbouring wall (for there is electric light everywhere in Spain, but it
is often of a red heat) I could perceive that these doors were wonderfully
carved. Already at Saragossa, and several times during my walking south
from thence, I had noted that what the Spaniards did had a strange
affinity to the work of Flanders. The two districts differ altogether save
in the human character of those who inhabit them: the one is pastoral,
full of deep meadows and perpetual woods, of minerals and of coal for
modern energy, of harbours and good tidal rivers for the industry of the
Middle Ages; the other is a desert land, far up in the sky, with an air
like a knife, and a complete absence of the creative sense in nature about
one. Yet in both the creation of man runs riot; in both there is a sort
of endlessness of imagination; in both every detail that man achieves
in art is carefully completed and different from its neighbour; and in
both there is an exuberance of the human soul: but with this difference,
that something in the Spanish temper has killed the grotesque. Both
districts have been mingled in history, yet it is not the Spaniard who has
invigorated the Delta of the Rhine and the high country to the south of
it, nor the Walloons and the Flemings who have taught the Spaniards; but
each of these highly separated peoples resembles the other when it comes
to the outward expression of the soul: why, I cannot tell.
Within, there is not a complete darkness, but a series of lights showing
against the silence of the blackness of the nave; and in the middle of
the nave, like a great funeral thing, was the choir which these Spanish
churches have preserved, an intact tradition, from the origins of the
Christian Faith. Go to the earliest of the basilicas in Rome, and you
will see that sacred enclosure standing in the middle of the edifice and
taking up a certain proportion of the whole. We in the North, where the
Faith lived uninterruptedly and, after the ninth century, with no great
struggle, dwindled this feature and extended the open and popular space,
keeping only the rood-screen as a hint of what had once been the Secret
Mysteries and the Initiations of our origins. But here in Spain the
earliest forms of Christian externals crystallized, as it were; they
were thrust, like an insult or a challenge, against the Asiatic as the
reconquest of the desolated province proceeded; and therefore in every
Spanish church you have, side by side with the Christian riot of art, this
original hierarchic and secret thing, almost shocking to a Northerner, the
choir, the Coro, with high solemn walls shutting out the people from the
priests and from the Mysteries as they had been shut out when the whole
system was organized for defence against an inimical society around.
The silence of the place was not complete nor, as I have said, was the
darkness. At the far end of the choir, behind the high altar, was the
light of many candles, and there were people murmuring or whispering,
though not at prayers. There was a young priest passing me at that moment,
and I said to him in Latin of the common sort that I could speak no
Spanish. I asked him if he could speak to me slowly in Latin, as I was
speaking to him. He answered me with this word, "_Paucissime_," which
I easily understood. I then asked him very carefully, and speaking slowly,
whether Benediction were about to be held--an evening rite; but as I did
not know the Latin for Benediction, I called it alternately "Benedictio,"
which is English, and "Salus," which is French. He said twice, "Si, si,"
which, whether it were Italian or French or local, I understood by the
nodding of his head; but at any rate he had not caught my meaning, for
when I came behind the high altar where the candles were, and knelt there,
I clearly saw that no preparations for Benediction were toward. There was
not even an altar. All there was was a pair of cupboard doors, as it were,
of very thickly carved wood, very heavily gilded and very old; indeed, the
pattern of the carving was barbaric, and I think it must have dated from
that turn of the Dark into the Middle Ages when so much of our Christian
work resembled the work of savages: spirals and hideous heads, and
serpents and other things.
By this I was already enormously impressed, and by a little group of
people around of whom perhaps half were children, when the young priest to
whom I had spoken approached and, calling a well-dressed man of the middle
class who stood by and who had, I suppose, some local prominence, went up
the steps with him towards these wooden doors; he fitted a key into the
lock and opened them wide. The candles shone at once through thick clear
glass upon a frame of jewels which flashed wonderfully, and in their
midst was the head of a dead man, cut off from the body, leaning somewhat
sideways, and changed in a terrible manner from the expression of living
men. It was so changed, not only by incalculable age, but also, as I
presume, by the violence of his death.
To those inexperienced in the practice of such worship there might be more
excuse for the novel impression which this sight suddenly produced upon
me. Our race from its very beginning, nay, all the races of men, have
preserved the fleshly memorials of those to whom sanctity attached, and I
have seen such relics in many parts of Europe almost as commonplaces; but
for some reason my emotions upon that evening were of a different kind.
The length of the way (for I was miles and miles southwards over this
desert waste), the ignorance of the language which surrounded me, the
inhuman outline hour after hour under the glare of the sun, or in the
inhospitable darkness of this hard Iberian land, the sternness of the
faces, the violent richness and the magnitude of the architecture about
me, and my knowledge of the trials through which the province had passed,
put me in this Presence into a mood very different, I think, from that
which pilgrimage is calculated to arouse; there was in it much more of
awe, and even of terror; there seemed to re-arise in the presence of
that distorted face the memories of active pain and of the unconquerable
struggle by which this ruined land was recovered. I wondered as I looked
at that face whether he had fallen in protest against the Mohammedans, or,
as have so many, in a Spanish endurance of torture, martyred by Pagans in
the Pacific Seas. But no history of him was given to me, nor do I now know
as I write what occasion it was that made this head so great.
They said but a few prayers, all familiar to me, in the Latin tongue; then
the "Our Father" and some few others which have always been recited in the
vernacular. They next intoned the Salve Regina. But what an intonation!
Had I not heard that chant often enough in my life to catch its meaning?
I had never heard it set to such a tune! It was harsh, it was full of
battle, and the supplication in it throbbed with present and physical
agony. Had I cared less for the human beings about me, so much suffering,
so much national tradition of suffering would have revolted, as it did
indeed appal, me. The chant came to an end, and the three gracious
epithets in which it closes were full of wailing, and the children's
voices were very high.
Then the priest shut the doors and locked them, and a boy came and blew
the candles out one by one, and I went out into the market-place, fuller
than ever of Spain.
When I was in the French army we came one day with the guns in July along
a straight and dusty road and clattered into the village called Bar-le-Duc.
Of the details of such marches I have often written. I wish now to speak of
another thing, which, in long accounts of mere rumbling of guns, one might
never have time to tell, but which is really the most important of all
experiences under arms in France--I mean the older civilians, the fathers.
Who made the French army? Who determined to recover from the defeats and
to play once more that determined game which makes up half French history,
the "Thesaurization," the gradual reaccumulation of power? The general
answer to such questions is to say: "The nation being beaten had to set
to and recover its old position." That answer is insufficient. It deals
in abstractions and it tells you nothing. Plenty of political societies
throughout history have sat down under disaster and consented to sink
slowly. Many have done worse--they have maintained after sharp warnings
the pride of their blind years; they have maintained that pride on into
the great disasters, and when these came they have sullenly died. France
neither consented to sink nor died by being overweening. Some men must
have been at work to force their sons into the conscription, to consent
to heavy taxation, to be vigilant, accumulative, tenacious, and, as it
were, constantly eager. There must have been classes in which, unknown to
themselves, the stirp of the nation survived; individuals who, aiming at
twenty different things, managed, as a resultant, to carry up the army
to the pitch in which I had known it and to lay a slow foundation for
recovered vigour. Who were these men?
I had read of them in Birmingham when I was at school; I had read of them
in books when I read of the Hundred Years' War and of the Revolution.
I was to read of them again in books at Oxford. But on that Saturday
at Bar-le-Duc I _saw_ one of them, and by as much as the physical
impression is worth more than the secondary effect of history, my sight
of them is worth writing down.
A man in my battery, one Matthieu, told me he had leave to go out for the
evening, and told me also to go and get leave. He said his uncle had asked
him to dine and bring a friend. It seemed his uncle lived in a villa on
the heights above the town; he was an ironmonger who had retired. I went
to my Sergeant and asked him for leave.
My Sergeant was a noble who was working his way up through the ranks, and
when I found him he was checking off forage at a barn where some of our
men were working. He looked me hard in the eyes, and said in a drawling
"You are the Englishman?"
"Yes, Sergeant," said I a little anxiously (for I was very keen to get a
good dinner in town after all that marching).
"Well," said he, "as you are the Englishman you can go." Such is the logic
of the service.
The army is no place to argue, and I went. I suppose what he meant was,
"As we are both more or less in exile, take my blessing and be off," but
he may merely have meant to be inconsequent, for inconsequence is the wit
of schoolboys and soldiers. I went up the hill with my friend.
The long twilight was still broad over the hill and the old houses of
Bar-le-Duc, as we climbed. It was night by the clock, but one could have
seen to read. We were tired, and talked of nothing in particular, but such
things as we said were full of the old refrain of conscripts: "Dog of a
trade," "When shall we be out of it?" Even as we spoke there was pride in
our breasts at the noise of trumpets in the mist below along the river and
the Eighth making its presence known, and our uniforms and our swords.
We stopped at last before a little square house with "The Lilacs" painted
on its gate; there was a parched little lawn, a little fountain, a tripod
supporting a globular mirror, and we went in.
Matthieu's uncle met us; he was in a cotton suit walking about among his
flowers and enjoying the evening. He was a man of about fifty, short,
strong, brown, and abrupt. Though it was already evening and one could see
little, we knew well enough that his eyes were steady and dark. For he
had the attitude and carriage of those men who invigorate France. His
self-confidence was evident in his sturdy legs and his arms akimbo, his
vulgarity in his gesture, his narrowness in his forward and peering look,
his indomitable energy in every movement of his body. It did not surprise
me to learn in his later conversation that he was a Republican. He spoke
at once to us both, saying in a kind of grumbling shout:
Then he spoke roughly to his nephew, telling him we were late: to me
a little too politely saying he put no blame on me, but only on his
scapegrace of a nephew. I said that our lateness was due to having to
find the Sergeant. He answered:
"One must always put the blame on some one else," which was rank bad
He led the way into the house. The dining-room gave on to a veranda,
and beyond this was another little lawn with trees. In the dark a few
insects chirped, and, as the evening was warmish, one smelt the flowers.
The windows had been left open. Everything was clean, neat, and bare. On
the walls were two excellent old prints, a badly drawn certificate of
membership in some society or other, a still worse portrait of a local
worthy, and a water-colour painted, I suppose, by his daughter.
He introduced me to his wife, a hard-featured woman, with thin hair, full
of duty, busy and precise--fresh from the kitchen. We unhooked our swords
with the conventional clatter, and sat down to the meal.
I will confess that as we ate those excellent dishes (they were all
excellent) and drank that ordinary wine, I seemed to be living in a book
rather than among living men. Here was I, a young English boy, thrust
by accident into the French army. Fairly acquainted with its language,
though I spoke it with an accent; taken (of course) by my host for a pure
Englishman, though half my blood was French. Here was I sitting at his
side and watching things, and learning--as for him, men like him, of whom
England has some few left in forgotten villages, and who are, when they
can be found, the strength of a State, _they_ never bother about
learning anything far removed from their realities.
I noticed the one servant going in and out rapidly, bullied a good deal by
her master, deft but nervous. I noticed how everything was solid and good:
the chairs, table, clock, clothes--and especially the cooking. I saw his
local newspaper neatly folded on the mantelpiece. I saw the pet dog of his
retirement crouching at his side, and I heard the chance sayings he threw
to his nephew, the maxims granted to youth long ago. I wondered how much
that nephew would inherit. I guessed about ten thousand pounds at the
least, and twenty at the most. I was almost inclined to cross myself at
the thought of such a lot of money.
My host grew more genial: he asked me questions on England. His wife also
was interested in that country. They both knew more about it than their
class in England knows about France: and this astonished me, for, in the
gentry, English gentlemen know more about France than French gentlemen
know about England.
He asked me if agriculture were still in a bad way; why we had not more
of the people at the Universities; why we allowed only lords into our
Parliament, and whether there were more French commercial travellers in
England than English commercial travellers in France. In all these points
I admitted, supplemented, and corrected, and probably distorted his
He asked me if English gunners were good. I said I did not know, but I
thought so. He replied that the English drivers had a high reputation in
his country--his brother (the brother of an ironmonger) was a Captain of
the Horse Artillery, and had told him so. And this he said to me, who wore
a French uniform, but whose heart was away up in Arun Valley, in my own
woods, and at rest and alone.
In the last hour when we had to be getting back a certain tenderness came
into his somewhat mercenary look. He devoted himself more to his nephew;
he took him aside, and, with some ceremony, gave him money. He offered us
cigars. We took one each. His round French face became all wrinkles, like
a cracked plate. He said:
"Bah! Take them by the pocketful! We know what life is in the regiment,"
and he crammed half a dozen each into the pocket of our tunics. But when
he said "We know what the life is," he lied. For he had only been a
"mobile" in '70. He had voted, but never suffered, the conscription.
So we said good night to this man, our host, who had so regaled us. I may
be wrong, but I fancy he was an anti-clerical. He was a hard man, just,
eager, and attentive, narrow, as I have said, and unconsciously (as I have
also said) building up the nation.
There was the Ironmonger of Bar-le-Duc; and there are hundreds of
thousands of the same kind.
A FORCE IN GAUL
There is a force in Gaul which is of prime consequence to all Europe. It
has canalized European religion, fixed European law, and latterly launched
a renewed political ideal. It is very vigorous to-day.
It was this force which made the massacres of September, which overthrew
Robespierre, which elected Napoleon. In a more concentrated form, it was
this force which combined into so puissant a whole the separate men--not
men of genius--who formed the Committee of Public Safety. It is this
force which made the Commune, so that to this day no individual can quite
tell you what the Commune was driving at. And it is this force which at
the present moment so grievously misunderstands and overestimates the
strength of the armies which are the rivals of the French; indeed, in that
connexion it might truly be said that the peace of Europe is preserved
much more by the German knowledge of what the French army is, even than
by French ignorance of what the German army is.
I say the disadvantages of this force or quality in a commonwealth are
apparent, for the weakness and disadvantages of something extraneous to
ourselves are never difficult to grasp. What is of more moment for us
is to understand, with whatever difficulty, the strength which such a
quality conveys. Not to have understood that strength, nay, not to have
appreciated the existence of the force of which I speak, has made nearly
all the English histories of France worthless. French turbulence is
represented in them as anarchy, and the whole of the great story which has
been the central pivot of Western Europe appears as an incongruous series
of misfortunes. Even Carlyle, with his astonishing grasp of men and his
power of rapid integration from a few details (for he read hardly anything
of his subject), never comprehended this force. He could understand a
master ordering about a lot of servants; indeed, he would have liked
to have been a servant himself, and _was_ one to the best of his
ability; but he could not understand self-organization from below. Yet
upon the existence of that power depends the whole business of the
Revolution. Its strength, then, (and principal advantage), lies in the
fact that it makes democracy possible at critical moments, even in a large
There is no one, or hardly any one, so wicked or so stupid as to deny the
democratic ideal. There is no one, or hardly any one, so perverted that,
were he the member of a small and simple community, he would be content to
forgo his natural right to be a full member thereof. There is no one, or
hardly any one, who would not feel his exclusion from such rights, among
men of his own blood, to be intolerable. But while every one admits the
democratic ideal, most men who think and nearly all the wiser of those
who think, perceive its one great obstacle to lie in the contrast between
the idea and the action where the obstacle of complexity--whether due
to varied interests, to separate origins, or even to mere numbers--is
The psychology of the multitude is not the psychology of the individual.
Ask every man in West Sussex separately whether he would have bread made
artificially dearer by Act of Parliament, and you will get an overwhelming
majority against such economic action on the part of the State. Treat them
collectively, and they will elect--I bargain they will elect for years
to come--men pledged to such an action. Or again, look at a crowd when
it roars down a street in anger--the sight is unfortunately only too
rare to-day--you have the impression of a beast majestic in its courage,
terrible in its ferocity, but with something evil about its cruelty and
determination. Yet if you stop and consider the face of one of its members
straggling on one of its outer edges, you will probably see the bewildered
face of a poor, uncertain, weak-mouthed man whose eyes are roving from
one object to another, and who appears all the weaker because he is under
the influence of this collective domination. Or again, consider the jokes
which make a great public assembly honestly shake with laughter, and
imagine those jokes attempted in a private room! Our tricky politicians
know well this difference between the psychologies of the individual
and of the multitude. The cleverest of them often suffer in reputation
precisely because they know what hopeless arguments and what still more
hopeless jests will move collectivities, the individual units of which
would never have listened to such humour or to such reasoning.
The larger the community with which one is dealing, the truer this is; so
that, when it comes to many millions spread upon a large territory, one
may well despair of any machinery which shall give expression to that very
real thing which Rousseau called the General Will.
In the presence of such a difficulty most men who are concerned both for
the good of their country and for the general order of society incline,
especially as they grow older, to one, or other of the old traditional
organic methods by which a State may be expressed and controlled. They
incline to an oligarchy such as is here in England where a small group of
families, intermarried one with the other, dining together perpetually
and perpetually guests in each other's houses, are by a tacit agreement
with the populace permitted to direct a nation. Or they incline to the
old-fashioned and very stable device of a despotic bureaucracy such as
manages to keep Prussia upright, and did until recently support the
expansion of Russia.
The evils of such a compromise with a political idea are evident enough.
The oligarchy will be luxurious and corporately corrupt, and individually
somewhat despicable, with a sort of softness about it in morals and in
military affairs. The despot or the bureaucracy will be individually
corrupt, especially in the lower branches of the system, and hatefully
"But," (says your thinker, especially as he advances in age) "man is so
made that he _cannot_ otherwise be collectively governed. He cannot
collectively be the master, or at any rate permanently the master of his
collective destiny, whatever power his reason and free will give him over
his individual fate. The nation" (says he), "especially the large nation,
certainly has a Will, but it cannot directly express that Will. And if it
attempts to do so, whatever machinery it chooses--even the referendum--will
but create a gross mechanical parody of that subtle organic thing, the
National soul. The oligarchy or the bureaucracy" (he will maintain, and
usually maintain justly) "inherit, convey, and maintain the national
spirit more truly than would an attempted democratic system."
General history, even the general history of Western Europe, is upon the
whole on the side of such a criticism. Andorra is a perfect democracy, and
has been a perfect democracy for at least a thousand years, perhaps since
first men inhabited that isolated valley. But there is no great State
which has maintained even for three generations a democratic system
Now it is peculiar to the French among the great and independent nations,
that they are capable, by some freak in their development, of rapid
_communal_ self-expression. It is, I repeat, only in crises that
this power appears. But such as it is, it plays a part much more real and
much more expressive of the collective will than does the more ordinary
organization of other peoples.
Those who attacked the Tuileries upon the 10th of August acted in a manner
entirely spontaneous, and succeeded. The arrest of the Royal Family at
Varennes was not the action of one individual or of two; it was not Drouet
nor was it the Saulce family. It was a great number of individuals (the
King had been recognized all along the journey), each thinking the same
thing under the tension of a particular episode, each vaguely tending to
one kind of action and tending with increasing energy towards that action,
and all combining, as it were, upon that culminating point in the long
journey which was reached at the archway of the little town in Argonne.
To have expressed and portrayed this common national power has been the
saving of the principal French historians, notably of Michelet. It has
furnished them with the key by which alone the history of their country
could be made plain. Nothing is easier than to ridicule or deny so
mystical a thing. Taine, by temperament intensely anti-national, ridiculed
it as he ridiculed the mysteries of the Faith; but with this consequence,
that his denial made it impossible for him to write the history of his
country, and compelled him throughout his work, but especially in his
history of the Revolution, to perpetual, and at last to somewhat crude,
forms of falsehood.
Not to recognize this National force has, again, led men into another
error: they will have it that the great common actions of Frenchmen are
due to some occult force or to a master. They will explain the Crusades
by the cunning organization of the Papacy; the French Revolution by the
cunning organization of the Masonic lodges; the Napoleonic episode by the
individual cunning and plan of Bonaparte. Such explanations are puerile.
The blow of 1870 was perhaps the most severe which any modern nation has
endured. By some accident it did not terminate the activity of the French
nation. The Southern States of America remain under the effect of the
Civil War. All that is not Prussian in Germany remains prostrate--
especially in ideas--under the effect of the Prussian victory over it. The
French but barely escaped a similarly permanent dissolution of national
character: but they did escape it; and the national mark, the power of
spontaneous and collective action, after a few years' check, began to
Upon two occasions an attempt was made towards such action. The first was
in the time of Boulanger, the second during the Dreyfus business. In both
cases the nation instinctively saw, or rather felt, its enemy. In both
there was a moment when the cosmopolitan financier stood in physical peril
of his life. Neither, however, matured; in neither did the people finally
Latterly several partial risings have marked French life. Why none of them
should have culminated I will consider in a moment. Meanwhile, the foreign
observer will do well to note the character of these movements, abortive
though they were. It is like standing upon the edge of a crater and
watching the heave and swell of the vast energies below. There may have
been no actual eruption for some time, but the activities of the volcano
and its nature are certain to you as you gaze. The few days that passed
two years ago in Herault are an example.
No one who is concerned for the immediate future of Europe should neglect
the omen: half a million men, with leaders chosen rapidly by themselves,
converging without disaster, with ample commissariat, with precision and
rapidity upon one spot: a common action decided upon, and that action most
calculated to defeat the enemy; decided upon by men of no exceptional
power, mere mouthpieces of this vast concourse: similar and exactly
parallel decisions over the whole countryside from the great towns to the
tiny mountain villages. It is the spirit of a swarm of bees. One incident
in the affair was the most characteristic of it all: fearing they would
be ordered to fire on men of their own district the private soldiers and
corporals of the 17th of the Line mutinied. So far so good: mutinies are
common in all actively military states--the exceptional thing was what
followed. The men organized themselves without a single officer or
non-commissioned officer, equipped themselves for a full day's march to
the capital of the province, achieved it in good order, and took quarters
in the town. All that exact movement was spontaneous. It explains the
Marshals of the Empire. These were sent off as a punishment to the edge
of the African desert; the mutiny seemed to the moneydealers a proof of
military defeat. They erred: these young men, some of them of but six
months' training, none of them of much more than two years, not one of
them over twenty-five years of age, were a precise symbol of the power
which made the Revolution and its victims. The reappearance of that power
in our tranquil modern affairs seems to me of capital importance.
One should end by asking one's self, "Will these unfinished movements
breed a finished movement at last? Will Gaul move to some final purpose
in our time, and if so, against what, with what an object and in what a
Prophecy is vain, but it is entertaining, and I will prophesy that Gaul
will move in our time, and that the movement will be directed against the
pestilent humbug of the parliamentary system.
For forty years this force in the nation of which I speak, though so
frequently stirred, has not achieved its purpose. But in nearly every
case, directly or indirectly, the thing against which it moved was the
Parliament. It would be too lengthy a matter to discuss here why the
representative system has sunk to be what it is in modern Europe. It
was the glory of the Middle Ages, it was a great vital institution of
Christendom, sprung from the monastic institution that preceded it, a true
and living power first in Spain, where Christendom was at its most acute
activity in the struggle against Asia, then in the north-west, in England
and in France. And indeed, in one form or another, throughout all the old
limits of the Empire. It died, its fossil was preserved in one or two
small and obscure communities, its ancient rules and form were captured by
the English squires and merchants, and it was maintained, a curious but
vigorous survival, in this country. When the Revolution in 1789 began the
revival of democracy in the great nations the old representative scheme of
the French, a very perfect one, was artificially resurrected, based upon
the old doctrine of universal suffrage and upon a direct mandate. It was
logical, it ought to have worked, but in barely a hundred years it has
There is an instructive little anecdote upon the occupation of Rome in
When the French garrison was withdrawn and the Northern Italians had
occupied the city, representative machinery was set to work, nominally
to discover whether the change in Government were popular or no. A tiny
handful of votes was recorded in the negative, let us say forty-three.
Later, in the early winter of that same year, a great festival of the
Church was celebrated in the Basilica of St. Peter and at the tombs of the
Apostles. The huge church was crowded, many were even pressed outside the
doors. When the ceremony was over the dense mass that streamed out into
the darkness took up the cry, the irony of which filled the night air of
the Trastevere and its slums of sovereign citizens. The cry was this:
"We are the Forty-three!"
It is an anecdote that applies continually to the modern representative
system in every country which has the misfortune to support it. No one
needs to be reminded of such a truth. We know in England how the one
strong feeling in the elections of 1906 was the desire to get at the South
African Jews and sweep away their Chinese labour from under them.
The politicians and the party hacks put into power by that popular
determination went straight to the South African Jews, hat in hand, asked
them what was their good pleasure in the matter, and framed a scheme in
connivance with them, by which no vengeance should be taken and not a
penny of theirs should be imperilled.
In modern France the chances of escape from the parliamentary game, tawdry
at its best, at its worst a social peril, are much greater than in this
country. The names and forms of the thing are not of ancient institution.
There is therefore no opportunity for bamboozling people with a sham
continuity, or of mixing up the interests of the party hacks with the
instinct of patriotism. Moreover, in modern France the parliamentary
system happened to come up vitally against the domestic habits of
the people earlier and more violently than it has yet done in this
country. The little gang which had captured the machine was violently
anti-Christian; it proceeded step by step to the destruction of the
Church, until at the end of 1905 the crisis had taken this form. The
Church was disestablished, its endowments were cancelled, the housing of
its hierarchy, its churches and its cathedrals and their furniture were,
further, to be taken from it unless it adopted a Presbyterian form of
government which could not but have cankered it and which was the very
negative of its spirit. So far nothing that the Parliament had done really
touched the lives of the people. Even the proposal to put the remaining
goods of the Church under Presbyterian management was a matter for the
theologians and not for them. Not one man in a hundred knew or cared
about the business. The critical date approached (the 11th of December,
if I remember rightly). Rome was to accept the anti-Catholic scheme of
government or all the churches were to be shut. Rome refused the scheme,
and Parliament, faced for once with a reality and brought under the
necessity of really interfering with the popular life or of capitulating,
What has that example to do, you may ask, with that movement in the south
of France, which is the text of these pages? The answer is as follows:
In the south of France the one main thing actually touching the lives
of the people, after their religion (which the complete breakdown of
the anti-clerical threat had secured), was the sale of their principal
manufacture. This sale was rendered difficult from a number of reasons,
one of which, perhaps not the chief, but the most apparent and the most
easily remediable, was the adulteration and fraud existing in the trade.
Such adulteration and fraud are common to all the trade of our own time.
It was winked at by the gang in power in France, just as similar dirty
work is winked at by the gang in power in every other parliamentary
country. When the peasants who had suffered so severely by this
commercial corruption of our time asked that it should be put a stop to,
the old reply, which has done duty half a million times in every case of
corruption in France, England, or America for a generation, was given to
them: "If you desire a policy to be effected, elect men who will effect
it." As a fact, these four departments had elected a group of men, of whom
Laferre, the Grand Master of the Freemasons, is a good type, with his
absorbing interest in the destruction of Christianity, and his ignorance
and ineptitude in any other field than that of theology.
The peasants replied to this sophistry, which had done duty so often and
had been successful so often in their case as in others, by calling upon
their Deputies to resign. Laferre neglected to do so. He was too greatly
occupied with his opportunity. He went down to "address his constituents."
They chased him for miles. And in that exhilarating episode it was
apparent that the peasants of the Aude had discovered in their simple
fashion both where the representative system was at fault and by what
methods it may be remedied.
Stand on the side of a stream and consider two things: the imbecility of
your private nature and the genius of your common kind.
For you cannot cross the stream, you--Individual you; but Man (from whence
you come) has found out an art for crossing it. This art is the building
of bridges. And hence man in the general may properly be called Pontifex,
or "The Bridge Builder"; and his symbolic summits of office will carry
some such title.
Here I will confess (Individual) that I am tempted to leave you by the
side of the stream, to swim it if you can, to drown if you can't, or to
go back home and be eaten out with your desire for the ulterior shore,
while I digress upon that word Pontifex, which, note you, is not only a
name over a shop as "Henry Pontifex, Italian Warehouseman," or "Pontifex
Brothers, Barbers," but a true key-word breeding ideas and making one
consider the greatness of man, or rather the greatness of what made him.
For man builds bridges over streams, and he has built bridges more or less
stable between mind and mind (a difficult art!), having designed letters
for that purpose, which are his instrument; and man builds by prayer a
bridge between himself and God; man also builds bridges which unite him
with Beauty all about.
Thus he paints and draws and makes statues, and builds for beauty as well
as for shelter from the weather. And man builds bridges between knowledge
and knowledge, co-ordinating one thing that he knows with another thing
that he knows, and putting a bridge from each to each. And man is for ever
building--but he has never yet completed, nor ever will--that bridge they
call philosophy, which is to explain himself in relation to that whence
he came. I say, when his skeleton is put in the Museum properly labelled,
it shall be labelled not _Homo Sapiens_, but _Homo Pontifex_;
hence also the anthem, or rather the choral response, "_Pontificem
habemus_," which is sung so nobly by pontifical great choirs, when
pontifications are pontificated, as behooves the court of a Pontiff.
Nevertheless (Individual) I will not leave you there, for I have pity
on you, and I will explain to you the nature of bridges. By a bridge
was man's first worry overcome. For note you, there is no worry so
considerable as to wail by impassable streams (as Swinburne has it).
It is the proper occupation of the less fortunate dead.
Believe me, without bridges the world would be very different to you. You
take them for granted, you lollop along the road, you cross a bridge. You
may be so ungrateful as to forget all about it, but it is an awful thing!
A bridge is a violation of the will of nature and a challenge. "You
desired me not to cross," says man to the River God, "but I will." And
he does so: not easily. The god had never objected to him that he should
swim and wet himself. Nay, when he was swimming the god could drown him at
will, but to bridge the stream, nay, to insult it, to leap over it, that
was man all over; in a way he knows that the earthy gods are less than
himself and that all that he dreads is his inferior, for only that which
he reveres and loves can properly claim his allegiance. Nor does he in the
long run pay that allegiance save to holiness, or in a lesser way to
valour and to worth.
Man cannot build bridges everywhere. They are not multitudinous as are his
roads, nor universal as are his pastures and his tillage. He builds from
time to time in one rare place and another, and the bridge always remains
a sacred thing. Moreover, the bridge is always in peril. The little
bridge at Paris which carried the Roman road to the island was swept away
continually; and the bridge of Staines that carried the Roman road from
the great port to London was utterly destroyed.
Bridges have always lived with fear in their hearts; and if you think
this is only true of old bridges (Individual), have you forgotten the Tay
Bridge with the train upon it? Or the bridge that they were building over
the St. Lawrence some little time ago, or the bridge across the Loire
where those peasants went to their death on a Sunday only a few months
since? Carefully consider these things and remember that the building and
the sustaining of a bridge is always a wonderful and therefore a perilous
No bridges more testify to the soul of man than the bridges that leap
in one arch from height to height over the gorge of a torrent. Many of
these are called the Devil's Bridges with good reason, for they suggest
art beyond man's power, and there are two to be crossed and wondered at,
one in Wales in the mountains, and another in Switzerland, also in the
mountains. There is a third in the mountains at the gate of the Sahara, of
the same sort, jumping from rock to rock. But it is not called the Devil's
Bridge. It is called with Semitic simplicity "El Kantara," and that is
the name the Arabs gave to the old bridges, to the lordly bridges of the
Romans, wherever they came across them, for the Arabs were as incapable
of making bridges as they were of doing anything else except singing love
songs and riding about on horses. "Alcantara" is a name all over Spain,
and it is in the heart of the capital of Portugal, and it is fixed in the
wilds of Estremadura. You get it outside Constantine also where the bridge
spans the gulf. Never did an Arab see bridges but he wondered.
Our people also, though they were not of the sort to stand with their
mouths open in front of bridges or anything else, felt the mystery of
these things. And they put chapels in the middle of them, as you may see
at Bale, and at Bradford-upon-Avon, and especially was there one upon old
London Bridge, which was dedicated to St. Thomas a Becket, and was very
large. And speaking of old London Bridge, every one in London should
revere bridges, for a great number of reasons.
In the first place London never would have been London but for London
In the second place, bridges enable the people of London to visit the
south of the river, which is full of pleasing and extraordinary sights,
and in which may be seen, visibly present to the eye, Democracy. If any
one doubts this let him take the voyage.
Then again, but for bridges Londoners could not see the river except
from the Embankment, which is an empty sort of place, or from the windows
of hotels. Bridges also permit railways from the south to enter London.
If this seems to you a commonplace, visit New York or for ever after hold
All things have been degraded in our time and have also been multiplied,
which is perhaps a condition of degradation; and your simple thing, your
bridge, has suffered with the rest. Men have invented all manner of
bridges: tubular bridges, suspension bridges, cantilever bridges, swing
bridges, pontoon bridges, and the bridge called the Russian Bridge, which
is intolerable; but they have not been able to do with the bridge what
they have done with some other things: they have not been able to destroy
it; it is still a bridge, still perilous, and still a triumph. The bridge
still remains the thing which may go at any moment and yet the thing
which, when it remains, remains our oldest monument. There is a bridge
over the Euphrates--I forget whether it goes all the way across--which the
Romans built. And the oldest thing in the way of bridges in the town of
Paris, a thing three hundred years old, was the bridge that stood the late
floods best. The bridge will remain a symbol in spite of the engineers.
Look how differently men have treated bridges according to the passing
mood of civilization. Once they thought it reasonable to tax people who
crossed bridges. Now they think it unreasonable. Yet the one course was
as reasonable as the other. Once they built houses on bridges, clearly
perceiving that there was lack of room for houses, and that there was
a housing problem, and that the bridges gave a splendid chance. Now no
one dares to build a house upon a bridge, and the one proceeding is as
reasonable as the other.
The time has come to talk at random about bridges.
The ugliest bridge in the world runs from Lambeth to the Horseferry Road,
and takes the place of the old British trackway which here crossed the
Thames. About the middle of it, if you will grope in the mud, you may or
may not find the great Seal of England which James II there cast into
the flood. If it was fished up again, why then it is not there. The most
beautiful bridge in London is Waterloo Bridge; the most historic is London
Bridge; and far the most useful Westminster Bridge. The most famous bridge
in Italy to tourists is the old bridge at Florence, and the best known
from pictures the Bridge of Sighs in Venice. That with the best chance
of an eternal fame is the bridge which carries the road from Tizzano to
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