Sanitary and Social Lectures and Essays
Charles Kingsley

Part 3 out of 4

over the docks and lowlands. Glaring through that fog I saw a
bright mass of flame--almost like a half-risen sun.

That, I was told, was the gate of the new gaol on fire. That the
prisoners in it had been set free; that-- But why speak of what
too many here recollect but too well? The fog rolled slowly
upward. Dark figures, even at that great distance, were flitting
to and fro across what seemed the mouth of the pit. The flame
increased--multiplied--at one point after another; till by ten
o'clock that night I seemed to be looking down upon Dante's
Inferno, and to hear the multitudinous moan and wail of the lost
spirits surging to and fro amid that sea of fire.

Right behind Brandon Hill--how can I ever forget it?--rose the
great central mass of fire; till the little mound seemed converted
into a volcano, from the peak of which the flame streamed up, not
red alone, but, delicately green and blue, pale rose and pearly
white, while crimson sparks leapt and fell again in the midst of
that rainbow, not of hope, but of despair; and dull explosions
down below mingled with the roar of the mob, and the infernal hiss
and crackle of the flame.

Higher and higher the fog was scorched and shrivelled upward by
the fierce heat below, glowing through and through with red
reflected glare, till it arched itself into one vast dome of red-
hot iron, fit roof for all the madness down below--and beneath it,
miles away, I could see the lonely tower of Dundie shining red;--
the symbol of the old faith, looking down in stately wonder and
sorrow upon the fearful birth-throes of a new age. Yes.--Why did
I say just now despair? I was wrong. Birth-throes, and not death
pangs, those horrors were. Else they would have no place in my
discourse; no place, indeed, in my mind. Why talk over the signs
of disease, decay, death? Let the dead bury their dead, and let
us follow Him who dieth not; by whose command

The old order changeth, giving place to the new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways.

If we will believe this,--if we will look on each convulsion of
society, however terrible for the time being, as a token, not of
decrepitude, but of youth; not as the expiring convulsions of
sinking humanity, but as upward struggles, upward toward fuller
light, freer air, a juster, simpler, and more active life;--then
we shall be able to look calmly, however sadly, on the most
appalling tragedies of humanity--even on these late Indian ones--
and take our share, faithful and hopeful, in supplying the new and
deeper wants of a new and nobler time.

But to return. It was on the Tuesday or Wednesday after, if I
recollect right, that I saw another, and a still more awful sight.
Along the north side of Queen Square, in front of ruins which had
been three days before noble buildings, lay a ghastly row, not of
corpses, but of corpse-fragments. I have no more wish than you to
dilate upon that sight. But there was one charred fragment--with
a scrap of old red petticoat adhering to it, which I never forgot-
-which I trust in God that I never shall forget. It is good for a
man to be brought once at least in his life face to face with
fact, ultimate fact, however horrible it may be; and have to
confess to himself, shuddering, what things are possible upon
God's earth, when man has forgotten that his only welfare lies in
living after the likeness of God.

Not that I learnt the lesson then. When the first excitement of
horror and wonder were past, what I had seen made me for years the
veriest aristocrat, full of hatred and contempt of these dangerous
classes, whose existence I had for the first time discovered. It
required many years--years, too, of personal intercourse with the
poor--to explain to me the true meaning of what I saw here in
October twenty-seven years ago, and to learn a part of that lesson
which God taught to others thereby. And one part at least of that
lesson was this: That the social state of a city depends directly
on its moral state, and--I fear dissenting voices, but I must say
what I believe to be truth--that the moral state of a city
depends--how far I know not, but frightfully, to an extent as yet
uncalculated, and perhaps incalculable--on the physical state of
that city; on the food, water, air, and lodging of its

But that lesson, and others connected with it, was learnt, and
learnt well, by hundreds. From the sad catastrophe I date the
rise of that interest in Social Science; that desire for some
nobler, more methodic, more permanent benevolence than that which
stops at mere almsgiving and charity-schools. The dangerous
classes began to be recognised as an awful fact which must be
faced; and faced, not by repression, but by improvement. The
"Perils of the Nation" began to occupy the attention not merely of
politicians, but of philosophers, physicians, priests; and the
admirable book which assumed that title did but re-echo the
feeling of thousands of earnest hearts.

Ever since that time, scheme on scheme of improvement has been not
only proposed but carried out. A general interest of the upper
classes in the lower, a general desire to do good, and to learn
how good can be done, has been awakened throughout England, such
as, I boldly say, never before existed in any country upon earth;
and England, her eyes opened to her neglect of these classes,
without whose strong arms her wealth and genius would be useless,
has put herself into a permanent state of confession of sin,
repentance, and amendment, which I verily trust will be accepted
by Almighty God; and will, in spite of our present shame and
sorrow, {10} in spite of shame and sorrow which may be yet in
store for us, save alive both the soul and the body of this
ancient people.

Let us then, that we may learn how to bear our part in this great
work of Social Reform, consider awhile great cities, their good
and evil; and let us start from the facts about your own city of
which I have just put you in remembrance. The universal law will
be best understood from the particular instance; and best of all,
from the instance with which you are most intimately acquainted.
And do not, I entreat you, fear that I shall be rude enough to say
anything which may give pain to you, my generous hosts; or
presumptuous enough to impute blame to anyone for events which
happened long ago, and of the exciting causes of which I know
little or nothing. Bristol was then merely in the same state in
which other cities of England were, and in which every city on the
Continent is now; and the local exciting causes of that outbreak,
the personal conduct of A or B in it, is just what we ought most
carefully to forget, if we wish to look at the real root of the
matter. If consumption, latent in the constitution, have broken
out in active mischief, the wise physician will trouble his head
little with the particular accident which woke up the sleeping
disease. The disease was there, and if one thing had not awakened
it some other would. And so, if the population of a great city
have got into a socially diseased state, it matters little what
shock may have caused it to explode. Politics may in one case,
fanaticism in another, national hatred in a third, hunger in a
fourth--perhaps even, as in Byzantium of old, no more important
matter than the jealousy between the blue and the green
charioteers in the theatre, may inflame a whole population to
madness and civil war. Our business is not with the nature of the
igniting spark, but of the powder which is ignited.

I will not, then, to begin, go as far as some who say that "A
great city is a great evil." We cannot say that Bristol was in
1830 or is now, a great evil. It represents so much realised
wealth; and that, again, so much employment for thousands. It
represents so much commerce; so much knowledge of foreign lands;
so much distribution of their products; so much science, employed
about that distribution.

And it is undeniable, that as yet we have had no means of rapid
and cheap distribution of goods, whether imports or manufactures,
save by this crowding of human beings into great cities, for the
more easy despatch of business. Whether we shall devise other
means hereafter is a question of which I shall speak presently.
Meanwhile, no man is to be blamed for the existence, hardly even
for the evils, of great cities. The process of their growth has
been very simple. They have gathered themselves round abbeys and
castles, for the sake of protection; round courts, for the sake of
law; round ports, for the sake of commerce; round coal mines, for
the sake of manufacture. Before the existence of railroads,
penny-posts, electric telegraphs, men were compelled to be as
close as possible to each other, in order to work together.

When the population was small, and commerce feeble, the cities
grew to no very great size, and the bad effects of this crowding
were not felt. The cities of England in the Middle Age were too
small to keep their inhabitants week after week, month after
month, in one deadly vapour-bath of foul gas; and though the
mortality among infants was probably excessive, yet we should have
seen among the adult survivors few or none of those stunted and
etiolated figures so common now in England, as well as on the
Continent. The green fields were close outside the walls, where
lads and lasses went a-maying, and children gathered flowers, and
sober burghers with their wives took the evening walk; there were
the butts, too, close outside, where stalwart prentice-lads ran
and wrestled, and pitched the bar, and played backsword, and
practised with the long-bow; and sometimes, in stormy times,
turned out for a few months as ready-trained soldiers, and, like
Ulysses of old,

Drank delight of battle with their peers,

and then returned again to the workshop and the loom. The very
mayor and alderman went forth, at five o'clock on the summer's
morning, with hawk and leaping-pole, after a duck and heron; or
hunted the hare in state, probably in the full glory of furred
gown and gold chain; and then returned to breakfast, and doubtless
transacted their day's business all the better for their morning's
gallop on the breezy downs.

But there was another side to this genial and healthy picture. A
hint that this was a state of society which had its conditions,
its limit; and if those were infringed, woe alike to burgher and
to prentice. Every now and then epidemic disease entered the
jolly city--and then down went strong and weak, rich and poor,
before the invisible and seemingly supernatural arrows of that
angel of death whom they had been pampering unwittingly in every

They fasted, they prayed; but in vain. They called the pestilence
a judgment of God; and they called it by a true name. But they
know not (and who are we to blame them for not knowing?) what it
was that God was judging thereby--foul air, foul water, unclean
backyards, stifling attics, houses hanging over the narrow street
till light and air were alike shut out--that there lay the sin;
and that to amend that was the repentance which God demanded.

Yet we cannot blame them. They showed that the crowded city life
can bring out human nobleness as well as human baseness; that to
be crushed into contact with their fellow-men, forced at least the
loftier and tender souls to know their fellow-men, and therefore
to care for them, to love them, to die for them. Yes--from one
temptation the city life is free, to which the country life is
sadly exposed--that isolation which, self-contented and self-
helping, forgets in its surly independence that man is his
brother's keeper. In cities, on the contrary, we find that the
stories of these old pestilences, when the first panic terror has
past, become, however tragical, still beautiful and heroic; and we
read of noble-hearted men and women palliating ruin which they
could not cure, braving dangers which seemed to them miraculous,
from which they were utterly defenceless, spending money, time,
and, after all, life itself upon sufferers from whom they might
without shame have fled.

They are very cheering, the stories of the old city pestilences;
and the nobleness which they brought out in the heart of many a
townsman who had seemed absorbed in the lust of gain--who perhaps
had been really absorbed in it--till that fearful hour awakened in
him his better self, and taught him, not self-aggrandisement, but
self-sacrifice; begetting in him, out of the very depth of
darkness, new and divine light. That nobleness, doubt it not,
exists as ever in the hearts of citizens. May God grant us to see
the day when it shall awaken to exert itself, not for the
palliation, not even for the cure, but for the prevention, yea,
the utter extermination, of pestilence.

About the middle of the sixteenth century, as far as I can
ascertain, another and even more painful phenomenon appears in our
great cities--a dangerous class. How it arose is not yet clear.
That the Reformation had something to do with the matter, we can
hardly doubt. At the dissolution of the monasteries, the more
idle, ignorant, and profligate members of the mendicant orders,
unable to live any longer on the alms of the public, sunk,
probably, into vicious penury. The frightful misgovernment of
this country during the minority of Edward the Sixth, especially
the conversion of tilled lands into pasture, had probably the
effect of driving the surplus agricultural population into the
great towns. But the social history of this whole period is as
yet obscure, and I have no right to give an opinion on it.
Another element, and a more potent one, is to be found in the
discharged soldiers who came home from foreign war, and the
sailors who returned from our voyages of discovery, and from our
raids against the Spaniards, too often crippled by scurvy, or by
Tropic fevers, with perhaps a little prize money, which was as
hastily spent as it had been hastily gained. The later years of
Elizabeth, and the whole of James the First's reign, disclose to
us an ugly state of society in the low streets of all our sea-port
towns; and Bristol, as one of the great starting-points of West
Indian adventure, was probably, during the seventeenth century, as
bad as any city in England. According to Ben Jonson, and the
playwriters of his time, the beggars become a regular fourth-
estate, with their own laws, and even their own language--of which
we may remark, that the thieves' Latin of those days is full of
German words, indicating that its inventors had been employed in
the Continental wars of the time. How that class sprung up, we
may see, I suppose, pretty plainly, from Shakespeare's "Henry the
Fifth." Whether Nym, Pistol, and Bardolph, Doll and Mrs. Quickly,
existed in the reign of Henry the Fifth, they certainly existed in
the reign of Elizabeth. They are probably sketches from life of
people whom Shakespeare had seen in Alsatia and the Mint.

To these merely rascal elements, male and female, we must add, I
fear, those whom mere penury, from sickness, failure, want of
employment drove into dwellings of the lowest order. Such people,
though not criminal themselves, are but too likely to become the
parents of criminals. I am not blaming them, poor souls; God
forbid! I am merely stating a fact. When we examine into the
ultimate cause of a dangerous class; into the one property common
to all its members, whether thieves, beggars, profligates, or the
merely pauperised--we find it to be this loss of self-respect. As
long as that remains, poor souls may struggle on heroically, pure
amid penury, filth, degradation unspeakable. But when self-
respect is lost, they are lost with it. And whatever may be the
fate of virtuous parents, children brought up in dens of physical
and moral filth cannot retrieve self-respect. They sink, they
must sink, into a life on a level with the sights, sounds, aye,
the very smells, which surround them. It is not merely that the
child's mind is contaminated, by seeing and hearing, in
overcrowded houses, what he should not hear and see: but the
whole physical circumstances of his life are destructive of self-
respect. He has no means for washing himself properly: but he
has enough of the innate sense of beauty and fitness to feel that
he ought not to be dirty; he thinks that others despise him for
being dirty, and he half despises himself for being so. In all
raged schools and reformatories, so they tell me, the first step
toward restoring self-respect is to make the poor fellows clean.
From that moment they begin to look on themselves as new men--with
a new start, new hopes, new duties. For not without the deepest
physical as well as moral meaning, was baptism chosen by the old
Easterns, and adopted by our Lord Jesus Christ, as the sign of a
new life; and outward purity made the token and symbol of that
inward purity which is the parent of self-respect, and manliness,
and a clear conscience; of the free forehead, and the eye which
meets boldly and honestly the eye of its fellow-man.

But would that mere physical dirt were all that the lad has to
contend with. There is the desire of enjoyment. Moral and
intellectual enjoyment he has none, and can have none: but not to
enjoy something is to be dead in life; and to the lowest physical
pleasures he will betake himself, and all the more fiercely
because his opportunities of enjoyment are so limited. It is a
hideous subject; I will pass it by very shortly; only asking of
you, as I have to ask daily of myself--this solemn question: We,
who have so many comforts, so many pleasures of body, soul, and
spirit, from the lowest appetite to the highest aspiration, that
we can gratify each in turn with due and wholesome moderation,
innocently and innocuously--who are we that we should judge the
poor untaught and overtempted inhabitant of Temple Street and
Lewin's Mead, if, having but one or two pleasures possible to him,
he snatches greedily, even foully, at the little which he has?

And this brings me to another, and a most fearful evil of great
cities, namely, drunkenness. I am one of those who cannot, on
scientific grounds, consider drunkenness as a cause of evil, but
as an effect. Of course it is a cause--a cause of endless crime
and misery; but I am convinced that to cure, you must inquire, not
what it causes, but what causes it? And for that we shall not
have to seek far.

The main exciting cause of drunkenness is, I believe, firmly, bad
air and bad lodging.

A man shall spend his days between a foul alley where he breathes
sulphuretted hydrogen, a close workshop where he breathes carbonic
acid, and a close and foul bedroom where he breathes both. In
neither of the three places, meanwhile, has he his fair share of
that mysterious chemical agent without which health is impossible,
the want of which betrays itself at once in the dull eye, the
sallow cheek--namely, light. Believe me, it is no mere poetic
metaphor which connects in Scripture, Light with Life. It is the
expression of a deep law, one which holds as true in the physical
as in the spiritual world; a case in which (as perhaps in all
cases) the laws of the visible world are the counterparts of those
of the invisible world, and Earth is the symbol of Heaven.

Deprive, then, the man of his fair share of fresh air and pure
light, and what follows? His blood is not properly oxygenated:
his nervous energy is depressed, his digestion impaired,
especially if his occupation be sedentary, or requires much
stooping, and the cavity of the chest thereby becomes contracted;
and for that miserable feeling of languor and craving he knows but
one remedy--the passing stimulus of alcohol;--a passing stimulus;
leaving fresh depression behind it, and requiring fresh doses of
stimulant, till it becomes a habit, a slavery, a madness. Again,
there is an intellectual side to the question. The depressed
nervous energy, the impaired digestion, depress the spirits. The
man feels low in mind as well as in body. Whence shall he seek
exhilaration? Not in that stifling home which has caused the
depression itself. He knows none other than the tavern, and the
company which the tavern brings; God help him!

Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is easy to say, God help him; but it
is not difficult for man to help him also. Drunkenness is a very
curable malady. The last fifty years has seen it all but die out
among the upper classes of this country. And what has caused the

Certainly, in the first place, the spread of education. Every man
has now a hundred means of rational occupation and amusement which
were closed to his grandfather; and among the deadliest enemies of
drunkenness, we may class the printing-press, the railroad, and
the importation of foreign art and foreign science, which we owe
to the late forty years' peace. We can find plenty of amusement
now, beside the old one of sitting round the table and talking
over wine. Why should not the poor man share in our gain? But
over and above, there are causes simply physical. Our houses are
better ventilated. The stifling old four-post bed has given place
to the airy curtainless one; and what is more than all--we wash.
That morning cold bath which foreigners consider as Young
England's strangest superstition, has done as much, believe me, to
abolish drunkenness, as any other cause whatsoever. With a clean
skin in healthy action, and nerves and muscles braced by a sudden
shock, men do not crave for artificial stimulants. I have found
that, coeteris paribus, a man's sobriety is in direct proportion
to his cleanliness. I believe it would be so in all classes had
they the means.

And they ought to have the means. Whatever other rights a man
has, or ought to have, this at least he has, if society demands of
him that he should earn his own livelihood, and not be a torment
and a burden to his neighbours. He has a right to water, to air,
to light. In demanding that, he demands no more than nature has
given to the wild beast of the forest. He is better than they.
Treat him, then, as well as God has treated them. If we require
of him to be a man, we must at least put him on a level with the

We have then, first of all, to face the existence of a dangerous
class of this kind, into which the weaker as well as the worst
members of society have a continual tendency to sink. A class
which, not respecting itself, does not respect others; which has
nothing to lose and all to gain by anarchy; in which the lowest
passions, seldom gratified, are ready to burst out and avenge
themselves by frightful methods.

For the reformation of that class, thousands of good men are now
working; hundreds of benevolent plans are being set on foot.
Honour to them all; whether they succeed or fail, each of them
does some good; each of them rescues at least a few fellow-men,
dear to God as you and I are, out of the nether pit. Honour to
them all, I say; but I should not be honest with you this night,
if I did not assert most solemnly my conviction, that
reformatories, ragged schools, even hospitals and asylums, treat
only the symptoms, not the actual causes, of the disease; and that
the causes are only to be touched by improving the simple physical
conditions of the class; by abolishing foul air, foul water, foul
lodging, overcrowded dwellings, in which morality is difficult and
common decency impossible. You may breed a pig in a sty, ladies
and gentlemen, and make a learned pig of him after all; but you
cannot breed a man in a sty, and make a learned man of him; or
indeed, in the true sense of that great word, a man at all.

And remember, that these physical influences of great cities,
physically depressing and morally degrading, influence, though to
a less extent, the classes above the lowest stratum.

The honest and skilled workman feels their effects. Compelled too
often to live where he can, in order to be near his work, he finds
himself perpetually in contact with a class utterly inferior to
himself, and his children exposed to contaminating influences from
which he would gladly remove them; but how can he? Next door to
him, even in the same house with him, may be enacted scenes of
brutality or villainy which I will not speak of here. He may shut
his own eyes and ears to them; but he cannot shut his children's.
He may vex his righteous soul daily, like Lot of old, with the
foul conversation of the wicked; but, like Lot of old, he cannot
keep his children from mixing with the inhabitants of the wicked
city, learning their works, and at last being involved in their
doom. Oh, ladies and gentlemen, if there be one class for whom
above all others I will plead, in season and out of season; if
there be one social evil which I will din into the ears of my
countrymen whenever God gives me a chance, it is this: The honest
and the virtuous workman, and his unnatural contact with the
dishonest and the foul. I know well the nobleness which exists in
the average of that class, in men and in wives--their stern
uncomplaining, valorous self-denial; and nothing more stirs my
pity than to see them struggling to bring up a family in a moral
and physical atmosphere where right education is impossible. We
lavish sympathy enough upon the criminal; for God's sake let us
keep a little of it for the honest man. We spend thousands in
carrying out the separation of classes in prison; for God's sake
let us try to separate them a little before they go to prison. We
are afraid of the dangerous classes; for God's sake let us bestir
ourselves to stop that reckless confusion and neglect which reign
in the alleys and courts of our great towns, and which recruit
those very dangerous classes from the class which ought to be, and
is still, in spite of our folly, England's strength and England's
glory. Let us no longer stand by idle, and see moral purity, in
street after street, pent in the same noisome den with moral
corruption, to be involved in one common doom, as the Latin tyrant
of old used to bind together the dead corpse and the living
victim. But let the man who would deserve well of his city, well
of his country, set his heart and brain to the great purpose of
giving the workmen dwellings fit for a virtuous and a civilised
being, and like the priest of old, stand between the living and
the dead, that the plague may be stayed.

Hardly less is the present physical state of our great cities felt
by that numerous class which is, next to the employer, the most
important in a city. I mean the shopmen, clerks, and all the men,
principally young ones, who are employed exclusively in the work
of distribution. I have a great respect, I may say affection, for
this class. In Bristol I know nothing of them; save that, from
what I hear, the clerks ought in general to have a better status
here than in most cities. I am told that it is the practice here
for merchants to take into their houses very young boys, and train
them to their business; that this connection between employer and
employed is hereditary, and that clerkships pass from father to
son in the same family. I rejoice to hear it. It is pleasant to
find anywhere a relic of the old patriarchal bond, the permanent
nexus between master and man, which formed so important and so
healthful an element of the ancient mercantile system. One would
gladly overlook a little favouritism and nepotism, a little
sticking square men into round holes, and of round men into square
holes, for the sake of having a class of young clerks and employes
who felt that their master's business was their business, his
honour theirs, his prosperity theirs.

But over and above this, whenever I have come in contact with this
clerk and shopman class, they have impressed me with considerable
respect, not merely as to what they may be hereafter, but what
they are now.

They are the class from which the ranks of our commercial men, our
emigrants, are continually recruited; therefore their right
education is a matter of national importance.

The lad who stands behind a Bristol counter may be, five-and-
twenty years hence, a large employer--an owner of houses and land
in far countries across the seas--a member of some colonial
parliament--the founder of a wealthy family. How necessary for
the honour of Britain, for the welfare of generations yet unborn,
that that young man should have, in body, soul, and spirit, the
loftiest, and yet the most practical of educations.

His education, too, such as it is, is one which makes me respect
him as one of a class. Of course, he is sometimes one of those
"gents" whom Punch so ruthlessly holds up to just ridicule. He is
sometimes a vulgar fop, sometimes fond of low profligacy--of
betting-houses and casinos. Well--I know no class in any age or
country among which a fool may not be found here and there. But
that the "gent" is the average type of this class, I should
utterly deny from such experience as I have had. The peculiar
note and mark of the average clerk and shopman, is, I think, in
these days, intellectual activity, a keen desire for self-
improvement and for independence, honourable, because self-
acquired. But as he is distinctly a creature of the city; as all
city influences bear at once on him more than on any other class,
so we see in him, I think, more than in any class, the best and
the worst effects of modern city life. The worst, of course, is
low profligacy; but of that I do not speak here. I mean that in
the same man the good and evil of a city life meet. And in this

In a countryman like me, coming up out of wild and silent
moorlands into a great city, the first effect of the change is
increased intellectual activity. The perpetual stream of human
faces, the innumerable objects of interest in every shop-window,
are enough to excite the mind to action, which is increased by the
simple fact of speaking to fifty different human beings in the day
instead of five. Now in the city-bred youth this excited state of
mind is chronic, permanent. It is denoted plainly enough by the
difference between the countryman's face and that of the townsman.
The former in its best type (and it is often very noble) composed,
silent, self-contained, often stately, often listless; the latter
mobile, eager, observant, often brilliant, often self-conscious.

Now if you keep this rapid and tense mind in a powerful and
healthy body, it would do right good work. Right good work it
does, indeed, as it is; but still it might do better.

For what are the faults of this class? What do the obscurantists
(now, thank God, fewer every day) allege as the objection to
allowing young men to educate themselves out of working hours?

They become, it is said, discontented, conceited, dogmatical.
They take up hasty notions, they condemn fiercely what they have
no means of understanding; they are too fond of fine words, of the
excitement of spouting themselves, and hearing others spout.

Well. I suppose there must be a little truth in the accusation,
or it would not have been invented. There is no smoke without
fire; and these certainly are the faults of which the cleverest
middle-class young men whom I know are most in danger.

But--one fair look at these men's faces ought to tell common sense
that the cause is rather physical than moral. Confined to
sedentary occupations, stooping over desks and counters in close
rooms, unable to obtain that fair share of bodily exercise which
nature demands, and in continual mental effort, their nerves and
brain have been excited at the expense of their lungs, their
digestion, and their whole nutritive system. Their complexions
show a general ill-health. Their mouths, too often, hint at
latent disease. What wonder if there be an irritability of brain
and nerve? I blame them no more for it than I blame a man for
being somewhat touchy while he is writhing in the gout. Indeed
less; for gout is very often a man's own fault; but these men's
ill-health is not. And, therefore, everything which can restore
to them health of body, will preserve in them health of mind.
Everything which ministers to the CORPUS SANUM, will minister also
to the MENTEM SANAM; and a walk on Durham Downs, a game of
cricket, a steamer excursion to Chepstow, shall send them home
again happier and wiser men than poring over many wise volumes or
hearing many wise lectures. How often is a worthy fellow spending
his leisure honourably in hard reading, when he had much better
have been scrambling over hedge and ditch, without a thought in
his head save what was put there by the grass and the butterflies,
and the green trees and the blue sky? And therefore I do press
earnestly, both on employers and employed, the incalculable value
of athletic sports and country walks for those whose business
compels them to pass the day in the heart of the city; I press on
you, with my whole soul, the excellency of the early-closing
movement; not so much because it enables young men to attend
mechanics' institutes, as because it enables them, if they choose,
to get a good game of leap-frog. You may smile; but try the
experiment, and see how, as the chest expands, the muscles harden,
and the cheek grows ruddy and the lips firm, and sound sleep
refreshes the lad for his next day's work, the temper will become
more patient, the spirits more genial; there will be less tendency
to brood angrily over the inequalities of fortune, and to accuse
society for evils which as yet she knows not how to cure.

There is a class, again, above all these, which is doubtless the
most important of all; and yet of which I can say little here--the
capitalist, small and great, from the shopkeeper to the merchant

Heaven forbid that I should speak of them with aught but respect.
There are few figures, indeed, in the world on which I look with
higher satisfaction than on the British merchant; the man whose
ships are on a hundred seas; who sends comfort and prosperity to
tribes whom he never saw, and honourably enriches himself by
enriching others. There is something to me chivalrous, even
kingly, in the merchant life; and there were men in Bristol of
old--as I doubt not there are now--who nobly fulfilled that ideal.
I cannot forget that Bristol was the nurse of America; that more
than two hundred years ago, the daring and genius of Bristol
converted yonder narrow stream into a mighty artery, down which
flowed the young life-blood of that great Transatlantic nation
destined to be hereafter, I believe, the greatest which the world
ever saw. Yes--were I asked to sum up in one sentence the good of
great cities, I would point first to Bristol, and then to the
United States, and say, That is what great cities can do. By
concentrating in one place, and upon one object, men, genius,
information, and wealth, they can conquer new-found lands by arts
instead of arms; they can beget new nations; and replenish and
subdue the earth from pole to pole.

Meanwhile, there is one fact about employers, in all cities which
I know, which may seem commonplace to you, but which to me is very
significant. Whatsoever business they may do in the city, they
take good care, if possible, not to live in it. As soon as a man
gets wealthy nowadays, his first act is to take to himself a villa
in the country. Do I blame him? Certainly not. It is an act of
common sense. He finds that the harder he works, the more he
needs of fresh air, free country life, innocent recreation; and he
takes it, and does his city business all the better for it, lives
all the longer for it, is the cheerfuller, more genial man for it.
One great social blessing, I think, which railroads have brought,
is the throwing open country life to men of business. I say
blessing; both to the men themselves and to the country where they
settle. The citizen takes an honest pride in rivalling the old
country gentleman, in beating him in his own sphere, as gardener,
agriculturist, sportsman, head of the village; and by his superior
business habits and his command of ready money, he very often does
so. For fifty miles round London, wherever I see progress--
improved farms, model cottages, new churches, new schools--I find,
in three cases out of four, that the author is some citizen who
fifty years ago would have known nothing but the narrow city life,
and have had probably no higher pleasures than those of the table;
whose dreams would have been, not as now, of model farms and
schools, but of turtle and port-wine.

My only regret when I see so pleasant a sight is: Oh that the
good man could have taken his workmen with him!

Taken his workmen with him?

I assure you that, after years of thought, I see no other remedy
for the worst evils of city life. "If," says the old proverb,
"the mountain will not come to Muhammed, then Muhammed must go to
the mountain." And if you cannot bring the country into the city,
the city must go into the country.

Do not fancy me a dreamer dealing with impossible ideals. I know
well what cannot be done; fair and grand as it would be, if it
were done, a model city is impossible in England. We have here no
Eastern despotism (and it is well we have not) to destroy an old
Babylon, as that mighty genius Nabuchonosor did, and build a few
miles off a new Babylon, one-half the area of which was park and
garden, fountain and water-course--a diviner work of art, to my
mind, than the finest picture or statue which the world ever saw.
We have not either (and it is well for us that we have not) a
model republic occupying a new uncleared land. We cannot, as they
do in America, plan out a vast city on some delicious and healthy
site amid the virgin forest, with streets one hundred feet in
breadth, squares and boulevards already planted by God's hand with
majestic trees; and then leave the great design to be hewn out of
the wilderness, street after street, square after square, by
generations yet unborn. That too is a magnificent ideal; but it
cannot be ours. And it is well for us, I believe, that it cannot.
The great value of land, the enormous amount of vested interests,
the necessity of keeping to ancient sites around which labour, as
in Manchester, or commerce, as in Bristol, has clustered itself on
account of natural advantages, all these things make any attempts
to rebuild in cities impossible. But they will cause us at last,
I believe, to build better things than cities. They will issue in
a complete interpenetration of city and of country, a complete
fusion of their different modes of life, and a combination of the
advantages of both, such as no country in the world has ever seen.
We shall have, I believe and trust, ere another generation has
past, model lodging-houses springing up, not in the heart of the
town, but on the hills around it; and those will be--economy, as
well as science and good government, will compel them to be--not
ill-built rows of undrained cottages, each rented for awhile, and
then left to run into squalidity and disrepair, but huge blocks of
building, each with its common eating-house, bar, baths,
washhouses, reading-room, common conveniences of every kind,
where, in free and pure country air, the workman will enjoy
comforts which our own grandfathers could not command, and at a
lower price than that which he now pays for such accommodation as
I should be ashamed to give to my own horses; while from these
great blocks of building, branch lines will convey the men to or
from their work by railroad, without loss of time, labour, or

Then the city will become what it ought to be; the workshop, and
not the dwelling-house, of a mighty and healthy people. The old
foul alleys, as they become gradually depopulated, will be
replaced by fresh warehouses, fresh public buildings; and the
city, in spite of all its smoke and dirt, will become a place on
which the workman will look down with pride and joy, because it
will be to him no longer a prison and a poison-trap, but merely a
place for honest labour.

This, gentlemen and ladies, is my ideal; and I cannot but hope and
believe that I shall live to see it realised here and there,
gradually and cautiously (as is our good and safe English habit),
but still earnestly and well. Did I see but the movement
commenced in earnest, I should be inclined to cry a "Nunc Domine
dimittis"--I have lived long enough to see a noble work begun,
which cannot but go on and prosper, so beneficial would it be
found. I tell you, that but this afternoon, as the Bath train
dashed through the last cutting, and your noble vale and noble
city opened before me, I looked round upon the overhanging crags,
the wooded glens, and said to myself: There, upon the rock in the
free air and sunlight, and not here, beneath yon pall of smoke by
the lazy pools and festering tidal muds, ought the Bristol workman
to live. Oh that I may see the time when on the blessed Sabbath
eve these hills shall swarm as thick with living men as bean-
fields with the summer bees; when the glens shall ring with the
laughter of ten thousand children, with limbs as steady, and
cheeks as ruddy, as those of my own lads and lasses at home; and
the artisan shall find his Sabbath a day of rest indeed, in which
not only soul but body may gather health and nerve for the week's
work, under the soothing and purifying influences of those common
natural sights and sounds which God has given as a heritage even
to the gipsy on the moor; and of which no man can be deprived
without making his life a burden to himself, perhaps a burden to
those around him.

But it will be asked: Will such improvements pay? I respect that
question. I do not sneer at it, and regard it, as some are too
apt to do, as a sign of the mercenary and money-loving spirit of
the present age. I look on it as a healthy sign of the English
mind; a sign that we believe, as the old Jews did, that political
and social righteousness is inseparably connected with wealth and
prosperity. The old Psalms and prophets have taught us that
lesson; and God forbid that we should forget it. The world is
right well made; and the laws of trade and of social economy, just
as much as the laws of nature, are divine facts, and only by
obeying them can we thrive. And I had far sooner hear a people
asking of every scheme of good, Will it pay? than throwing
themselves headlong into that merely sentimental charity to which
superstitious nations have always been prone--charity which
effects no permanent good, which, whether in Hindostan or in
Italy, debases, instead of raising, the suffering classes, because
it breaks the laws of social economy.

No, let us still believe that if a thing is right, it will sooner
or later pay; and in social questions, make the profitableness of
any scheme a test of its rightness. It is a rough test; not an
infallible one at all, but it is a fair one enough to work by.

And as for the improvements at which I have hinted, I will boldly
answer that they will pay.

They will pay directly and at once, in the saving of poor-rates.
They will pay by exterminating epidemics, and numberless chronic
forms of disease which now render thousands burdens on the public
purse; consumers, instead of producers of wealth. They will pay
by gradually absorbing the dangerous classes; and removing from
temptation and degradation a generation yet unborn. They will pay
in the increased content, cheerfulness, which comes with health in
increased goodwill of employed towards employers. They will pay
by putting the masses into a state fit for education. They will
pay, too, in such fearful times as these, by the increased
physical strength and hardihood of the town populations. For it
is from the city, rather than from the country, that our armies
must mainly be recruited. Not only is the townsman more ready to
enlist than the countryman, because in the town the labour market
is most likely to be overstocked; but the townsman actually makes
a better soldier than the countryman. He is a shrewder, more
active, more self-helping man; give him but the chances of
maintaining the same physical strength and health as the
countryman, and he will support the honour of the British arms as
gallantly as the Highlander or the Connaughtman, and restore the
days when the invincible prentice-boys of London carried terror
into the heart of foreign lands. In all ages, in all times,
whether for war or for peace, it will pay. The true wealth of a
nation is the health of her masses.

It may seem to some here that I have dealt too much throughout
this lecture with merely material questions; that I ought to have
spoken more of intellectual progress; perhaps, as a clergyman,
more also of spiritual and moral regeneration.

I can only answer, that if this be a fault on my part, it is a
deliberate one. I have spoken, whether rightly or wrongly,
concerning what I know--concerning matters which are to me
articles of faith altogether indubitable, irreversible, Divine.

Be it that these are merely questions of physical improvement. I
see no reason in that why they should be left to laymen, or urged
only on worldly grounds and self-interest. I do not find that
when urged on those grounds, the advice is listened to. I believe
that it will not be listened to until the consciences of men, as
well as their brains, are engaged in these questions; until they
are put on moral grounds, shown to have connection with moral
laws; and so made questions not merely of interest, but of duty,
honour, chivalry.

I cannot but see, moreover, how many phenomena, which are supposed
to be spiritual, are simply physical; how many cases which are
referred to my profession, are properly the object of the medical
man. I cannot but see, that unless there be healthy bodies, it is
impossible in the long run to have a generation of healthy souls;
I cannot but see that mankind are as prone now as ever to deny the
sacredness and perfection of God's physical universe, as an excuse
for their own ignorance and neglect thereof; to search the highest
heaven for causes which lie patent at their feet, and like the
heathen of old time, to impute to some capricious anger of the
gods calamities which spring from their own greed, haste, and

And, therefore, because I am a priest, and glory in the name of a
priest, I have tried to fulfil somewhat of that which seems to me
the true office of a priest--namely, to proclaim to man the Divine
element which exists in all, even the smallest thing, because each
thing is a thought of God himself; to make men understand that God
is indeed about their path and about their bed, spying out all
their ways; that they are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made,
and that God's hand lies for ever on them, in the form of physical
laws, sacred, irreversible, universal, reaching from one end of
the universe to the other; that whosoever persists in breaking
those laws, reaps his sure punishment of weakness and sickness,
sadness and self-reproach; that whosoever causes them to be broken
by others, reaps his sure punishment in finding that he has
transformed his fellow-men into burdens and curses, instead of
helpmates and blessings. To say this, is a priest's duty; and
then to preach the good news that the remedy is patent, easy,
close at hand; that many of the worst evils which afflict humanity
may be exterminated by simple common sense, and the justice and
mercy which does to others as it would be done by; to awaken men
to the importance of the visible world, that they may judge from
thence the higher importance of that invisible world whereof this
is but the garment and the type; and in all times and places,
instead of keeping the key of knowledge to pamper one's own power
or pride, to lay that key frankly and trustfully in the hand of
every human being who hungers after truth, and to say: Child of
God, this key is thine as well as mine. Enter boldly into thy
Father's house, and behold the wonder, the wisdom, the beauty of
its laws and its organisms, from the mightiest planet over thy
head, to the tiniest insect beneath thy feet. Look at it,
trustfully, joyfully, earnestly; for it is thy heritage. Behold
its perfect fitness for thy life here; and judge from thence its
fitness for thy nobler life hereafter.


It is an open question whether the policeman is not demoralising
us; and that in proportion as he does his duty well; whether the
perfection of justice and safety, the complete "preservation of
body and goods," may not reduce the educated and comfortable
classes into that lap-dog condition in which not conscience, but
comfort, doth make cowards of us all. Our forefathers had, on the
whole, to take care of themselves; we find it more convenient to
hire people to take care of us. So much the better for us, in
some respects; but, it may be, so much the worse in others. So
much the better; because, as usually results from the division of
labour, these people, having little or nothing to do save to take
care of us, do so far better than we could; and so prevent a vast
amount of violence and wrong, and therefore of misery, especially
to the weak; for which last reason we will acquiesce in the
existence of policemen and lawyers, as we do in the results of
arbitration, as the lesser of two evils. The odds in war are in
favour of the bigger bully, in arbitration in favour of the bigger
rogue; and it is a question whether the lion or the fox be the
safer guardian of human interests. But arbitration prevents war;
and that, in three cases out of four, is full reason for employing

On the other hand, the lap-dog condition, whether in dogs or in
men, is certainly unfavourable to the growth of the higher
virtues. Safety and comfort are good, indeed, for the good; for
the brave, the self-originating, the earnest. They give to such a
clear stage and no favour, wherein to work unhindered for their
fellow-men. But for the majority, who are neither brave, self-
originating, nor earnest, but the mere puppets of circumstance,
safety and comfort may, and actually do, merely make their lives
mean and petty, effeminate and dull. Therefore their hearts must
be awakened, as often as possible, to take exercise enough for
health; and they must be reminded, perpetually and importunately,
of what a certain great philosopher called, "whatsoever things are
true, honourable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report;" "if
there be any manhood, and any just praise, to think of such

This pettiness and dulness of our modern life is just what keeps
alive our stage, to which people go to see something a little less
petty, a little less dull, than what they see at home. It is,
too, the cause of--I had almost said the excuse for--the modern
rage for sensational novels. Those who read them so greedily are
conscious, poor souls, of capacities in themselves of passion and
action for good and evil, for which their frivolous humdrum daily
life gives no room, no vent. They know too well that human nature
can be more fertile, whether in weeds and poisons, or in flowers
and fruits, than it is usually in the streets and houses of a
well-ordered and tolerably sober city. And because the study of
human nature is, after all, that which is nearest to everyone and
most interesting to everyone, therefore they go to fiction, since
they cannot go to fact, to see what they themselves might be had
they the chance; to see what fantastic tricks before high heaven
men and women like themselves can play, and how they play them.

Well, it is not for me to judge, for me to blame. I will only say
that there are those who cannot read sensational novels, or,
indeed, any novels at all, just because they see so many
sensational novels being enacted round them in painful facts of
sinful flesh and blood. There are those, too, who have looked in
the mirror too often to wish to see their own disfigured visage in
it any more; who are too tired of themselves and ashamed of
themselves to want to hear of people like themselves; who want to
hear of people utterly unlike themselves, more noble, and able,
and just, and sweet, and pure; who long to hear of heroism and to
converse with heroes; and who, if by chance they meet with an
heroic act, bathe their spirits in that, as in May-dew, and feel
themselves thereby, if but for an hour, more fair.

If any such shall chance to see these words, let me ask them to
consider with me that one word Hero, and what it means.

Hero; Heroic; Heroism. These words point to a phase of human
nature, the capacity for which we all have in ourselves, which is
as startling and as interesting in its manifestations as any, and
which is always beautiful, always ennobling, and therefore always
attractive to those whose hearts are not yet seared by the world
or brutalised by self-indulgence.

But let us first be sure what the words mean. There is no use
talking about a word till we have got at its meaning. We may use
it as a cant phrase, as a party cry on platforms; we may even hate
and persecute our fellow-men for the sake of it: but till we have
clearly settled in our own minds what a word means, it will do for
fighting with, but not for working with. Socrates of old used to
tell the young Athenians that the ground of all sound knowledge
was--to understand the true meaning of the words which were in
their mouths all day long; and Socrates was a wiser man than we
shall ever see. So, instead of beginning an oration in praise of
heroism, I shall ask my readers to think with me what heroism is.

Now, we shall always get most surely at the meaning of a word by
getting at its etymology--that is, at what it meant at first. And
if heroism means behaving like a hero, we must find out, it seems
to me, not merely what a hero may happen to mean just now, but
what it meant in the earliest human speech in which we find it.

A hero or a heroine, then, among the old Homeric Greeks, meant a
man or woman who was like the gods; and who, from that likeness,
stood superior to his or her fellow-creatures. Gods, heroes, and
men, is a threefold division of rational beings, with which we
meet more than once or twice. Those grand old Greeks felt deeply
the truth of the poet's saying -

Unless above himself he can
Exalt himself, how poor a thing is man.

But more: the Greeks supposed these heroes to be, in some way or
other, partakers of a divine nature; akin to the gods; usually,
either they, or some ancestor of theirs, descended from a god or
goddess. Those who have read Mr. Gladstone's "Juventus Mundi"
will remember the section (cap. ix. 6) on the modes of the
approximation between the divine and the human natures; and
whether or not they agree with the author altogether, all will
agree, I think, that the first idea of a hero or a heroine was a
godlike man or godlike woman.

A godlike man. What varied, what infinite forms of nobleness that
word might include, ever increasing, as men's notions of the gods
became purer and loftier, or, alas! decreasing, as their notions
became degraded. The old Greeks, with that intense admiration of
beauty which made them, in after ages, the master-sculptors and
draughtsmen of their own, and, indeed, of any age, would, of
course, require in their hero, their god-like man, beauty and
strength, manners too, and eloquence, and all outward perfections
of humanity, and neglect his moral qualities. Neglect, I say, but
not ignore. The hero, by virtue of his kindred with the gods, was
always expected to be a better man than common men, as virtue was
then understood. And how better? Let us see.

The hero was at least expected to be more reverent than other men
to those divine beings of whose nature he partook, whose society
he might enjoy even here on earth. He might be unfaithful to his
own high lineage; he might misuse his gifts by selfishness and
self-will; he might, like Ajax, rage with mere jealousy and
wounded pride till his rage ended in shameful madness and suicide.
He might rebel against the very gods, and all laws of right and
wrong, till he perished his [Greek text] -

Smitten down, blind in his pride, for a sign and a terror to

But he ought to have, he must have, to be true to his name of
Hero, justice, self-restraint, and [Greek text]--that highest form
of modesty, for which we have, alas! no name in the English
tongue; that perfect respect for the feelings of others which
springs out of perfect self-respect. And he must have too--if he
were to be a hero of the highest type--the instinct of
helpfulness; the instinct that, if he were a kinsman of the gods,
he must fight on their side, through toil and danger, against all
that was unlike them, and therefore hateful to them. Who loves
not the old legends, unsurpassed for beauty in the literature of
any race, in which the hero stands out as the deliverer, the
destroyer of evil? Theseus ridding the land of robbers, and
delivering it from the yearly tribute of boys and maidens to be
devoured by the Minotaur; Perseus slaying the Gorgon, and rescuing
Andromeda from the sea-beast; Heracles with his twelve famous
labours against giants and monsters; and all the rest -

Who dared, in the god-given might of their manhood,
Greatly to do and to suffer, and far in the fens and the forests
Smite the devourers of men, heaven-hated brood of the giants;
Transformed, strange, without like, who obey not the golden-haired

These are figures whose divine moral beauty has sunk into the
hearts, not merely of poets or of artists, but of men and women
who suffered and who feared; the memory of them, fables though
they may have been, ennobled the old Greek heart; they ennobled
the heart of Europe in the fifteenth century, at the re-discovery
of Greek literature. So far from contradicting the Christian
ideal, they harmonised with--I had almost said they supplemented--
that more tender and saintly ideal of heroism which had sprung up
during the earlier Middle Ages. They justified, and actually gave
a new life to, the old noblenesses of chivalry, which had grown up
in the later Middle Ages as a necessary supplement of active and
manly virtue to the passive and feminine virtue of the cloister.
They inspired, mingling with these two other elements, a
literature both in England, France, and Italy, in which the three
elements, the saintly, the chivalrous, and the Greek heroic, have
become one and undistinguishable, because all three are human, and
all three divine; a literature which developed itself in Ariosto,
in Tasso, in the Hypnerotomachia, the Arcadia, the Euphues, and
other forms, sometimes fantastic, sometimes questionable, but
which reached its perfection in our own Spenser's "Fairy Queen"--
perhaps the most admirable poem which has ever been penned by
mortal man.

And why? What has made these old Greek myths live, myths though
they be, and fables, and fair dreams? What--though they have no
body, and, perhaps, never had--has given them an immortal soul,
which can speak to the immortal souls of all generations to come?

What but this, that in them--dim it may be and undeveloped, but
still there--lies the divine idea of self-sacrifice as the
perfection of heroism, of self-sacrifice, as the highest duty and
the highest joy of him who claims a kindred with the gods?

Let us say, then, that true heroism must involve self-sacrifice.
Those stories certainly involve it, whether ancient or modern,
which the hearts, not of philosophers merely, or poets, but of the
poorest and the most ignorant, have accepted instinctively as the
highest form of moral beauty--the highest form, and yet one
possible to all.

Grace Darling rowing out into the storm towards the wreck. The
"drunken private of the Buffs," who, prisoner among the Chinese,
and commanded to prostrate himself and kotoo, refused in the name
of his country's honour: "He would not bow to any China-man on
earth:" and so was knocked on the head, and died surely a hero's
death. Those soldiers of the Birkenhead, keeping their ranks to
let the women and children escape, while they watched the sharks
who in a few minutes would be tearing them limb from limb. Or, to
go across the Atlantic--for there are heroes in the Far West--Mr.
Bret Harte's "Flynn of Virginia," on the Central Pacific Railway--
the place is shown to travellers--who sacrificed his life for his
married comrade:

There, in the drift,
Back to the wall,
He held the timbers
Ready to fall.
Then in the darkness
I heard him call:
"Run for your life, Jake!
Run for your wife's sake!
Don't wait for me."

And that was all
Heard in the din -
Heard of Tom Flynn -
Flynn of Virginia.

Or the engineer, again, on the Mississippi, who, when the steamer
caught fire, held, as he had sworn he would, her bow against the
bank, till every soul save he got safe on shore:

Through the hot black breath of the burning boat
Jim Bludso's voice was heard;
And they all had trust in his cussedness,
And knew he would keep his word.
And sure's you're born, they all got off
Afore the smokestacks fell;
And Bludso's ghost went up alone
In the smoke of the Prairie Belle.

He weren't no saint--but at the judgment
I'd run my chance with Jim
'Longside of some pious gentlemen
That wouldn't shake hands with him.
He'd seen his duty--a dead sure thing -
And went for it there and then;
And Christ is not going to be too hard
On a man that died for men.

To which gallant poem of Colonel John Hay's--and he has written
many gallant and beautiful poems--I have but one demurrer: Jim
Bludso did not merely do his duty but more than his duty. He did
a voluntary deed, to which he was bound by no code or contract,
civil or moral; just as he who introduced me to that poem won his
Victoria Cross--as many a cross, Victoria and other, has been won-
-by volunteering for a deed to which he, too, was bound by no code
or contract, military or moral. And it is of the essence of self-
sacrifice, and therefore of heroism, that it should be voluntary;
a work of supererogation, at least towards society and man; an act
to which the hero or heroine is not bound by duty, but which is
above though not against duty.

Nay, on the strength of that same element of self-sacrifice, I
will not grudge the epithet "heroic," which my revered friend Mr.
Darwin justly applies to the poor little monkey, who once in his
life did that which was above his duty; who lived in continual
terror of the great baboon, and yet, when the brute had sprung
upon his friend the keeper, and was tearing out his throat,
conquered his fear by love, and, at the risk of instant death,
sprang in turn upon his dreaded enemy, and bit and shrieked till
help arrived.

Some would nowadays use that story merely to prove that the
monkey's nature and the man's nature are, after all, one and the
same. Well: I, at least, have never denied that there is a
monkey-nature in man, as there is a peacock-nature, and a swine-
nature, and a wolf-nature--of all which four I see every day too
much. The sharp and stern distinction between men and animals, as
far as their natures are concerned, is of a more modern origin
than people fancy. Of old the Assyrian took the eagle, the ox,
and the lion--and not unwisely--as the three highest types of
human capacity. The horses of Homer might be immortal, and weep
for their master's death. The animals and monsters of Greek myth-
-like the Ananzi spider of Negro fable--glide insensibly into
speech and reason. Birds--the most wonderful of all animals in
the eyes of a man of science or a poet--are sometimes looked on as
wiser, and nearer to the gods, than man. The Norseman--the
noblest and ablest human being, save the Greek, of whom history
can tell us--was not ashamed to say of the bear of his native
forests that he had "ten men's strength and eleven men's wisdom."
How could Reinecke Fuchs have gained immortality, in the Middle
Ages and since, save by the truth of its too solid and humiliating
theorem--that the actions of the world of men were, on the whole,
guided by passions but too exactly like those of the lower
animals? I have said, and say again, with good old Vaughan:

Unless above himself he can
Exalt himself, how mean a thing is man.

But I cannot forget that many an old Greek poet or sage, and many
a sixteenth and seventeenth century one, would have interpreted
the monkey's heroism from quite a different point of view; and
would have said that the poor little creature had been visited
suddenly by some "divine afflatus"--an expression quite as
philosophical and quite as intelligible as most philosophic
formulas which I read nowadays--and had been thus raised for the
moment above his abject selfish monkey-nature, just as man
requires to be raised above his. But that theory belongs to a
philosophy which is out of date and out of fashion, and which will
have to wait a century or two before it comes into fashion again.

And now, if self-sacrifice and heroism be, as I believe,
identical, I must protest against the use of the word "sacrifice"
which is growing too common in newspaper-columns, in which we are
told of an "enormous sacrifice of life;" an expression which means
merely that a great many poor wretches have been killed, quite
against their own will, and for no purpose whatsoever; no
sacrifice at all, unless it be one to the demons of ignorance,
cupidity, or mismanagement.

The stout Whig undergraduate understood better the meaning of such
words, who, when asked, "In what sense might Charles the First be
said to be a martyr?" answered, "In the same sense that a man
might be said to be a martyr to the gout."

And I must protest, in like wise, against a misuse of the words
"hero." "heroism," "heroic," which is becoming too common, namely,
applying them to mere courage. We have borrowed the misuse, I
believe, as we have more than one beside, from the French press.
I trust that we shall neither accept it, nor the temper which
inspires it. It may be convenient for those who flatter their
nation, and especially the military part of it, into a ruinous
self-conceit, to frame some such syllogism as this: "Courage is
heroism: every Frenchman is naturally courageous: therefore
every Frenchman is a hero." But we, who have been trained at once
in a sounder school of morals, and in a greater respect for facts,
and for language as the expression of facts, shall be careful, I
hope, not to trifle thus with that potent and awful engine--human
speech. We shall eschew likewise, I hope, a like abuse of the
word "moral," which has crept from the French press now and then,
not only into our own press, but into the writings of some of our
military men, who, as Englishmen, should have known better. We
were told again and again, during the late war, that the moral
effect of such a success had been great; that the MORALE of the
troops was excellent; or again, that the MORALE of the troops had
suffered, or even that they were somewhat demoralised. But when
one came to test what was really meant by these fine words, one
discovered that morals had nothing to do with the facts which they
expressed; that the troops were in the one case actuated simply by
the animal passion of hope, in the other simply by the animal
passion of fear. This abuse of the word "moral" has crossed, I am
sorry to say, the Atlantic; and a witty American, whom we must
excuse, though we must not imitate, when some one had been blazing
away at him with a revolver, he being unarmed, is said to have
described his very natural emotions on the occasion, by saying
that he felt dreadfully demoralised. We, I hope, shall confine
the word "demoralisation," as our generals of the last century
would have done, when applied to soldiers, to crime, including, of
course, the neglect of duty or of discipline; and we shall mean by
the word "heroism," in like manner, whether applied to a soldier
or to any human being, not mere courage, not the mere doing of
duty, but the doing of something beyond duty; something which is
not in the bond; some spontaneous and unexpected act of self-

I am glad, but not surprised, to see that Miss Yonge has held to
this sound distinction in her golden little book of "Golden
Deeds," and said, "Obedience, at all costs and risks, is the very
essence of a soldier's life. It has the solid material, but it
has hardly the exceptional brightness, of a golden deed."

I know that it is very difficult to draw the line between mere
obedience to duty and express heroism. I know also that it would
be both invidious and impertinent in an utterly unheroic personage
like me, to try to draw that line; and to sit at home at ease,
analysing and criticising deeds which I could not do myself; but--
to give an instance or two of what I mean:

To defend a post as long as it is tenable is not heroic. It is
simple duty. To defend it after it has become untenable, and even
to die in so doing, is not heroic, but a noble madness, unless an
advantage is to be gained thereby for one's own side. Then,
indeed, it rises towards, if not into, the heroism of self-

Who, for example, will not endorse the verdict of all ages on the
conduct of those Spartans at Thermopylae, when they sat "combing
their yellow hair for death" on the sea-shore? They devoted
themselves to hopeless destruction; but why? They felt--I must
believe that, for they behaved as if they felt--that on them the
destinies of the Western World might hang; that they were in the
forefront of the battle between civilisation and barbarism,
between freedom and despotism; and that they must teach that vast
mob of Persian slaves, whom the officers of the Great King were
driving with whips up to their lance-points, that the spirit of
the old heroes was not dead; and that the Greek, even in defeat
and death, was a mightier and a nobler man than they. And they
did their work. They produced, if you will, a "moral" effect,
which has lasted even to this very day. They struck terror into
the heart, not only of the Persian host, but of the whole Persian
empire. They made the event of that war certain, and the
victories of Salamis and Plataea comparatively easy. They made
Alexander's conquest of the East, one hundred and fifty years
afterwards, not only possible at all, but permanent when it came;
and thus helped to determine the future civilisation of the whole

They did not, of course, foresee all this. No great or inspired
man can foresee all the consequences of his deeds; but these men
were, as I hold inspired to see somewhat at least of the mighty
stake for which they played; and to count their lives worthless,
if Sparta had sent them thither to help in that great game.

Or shall we refuse the name of heroic to those three German
cavalry regiments who, in the battle of Mars-la-Tour, were bidden
to hurl themselves upon the chassepots and mitrailleuses of the
unbroken French infantry, and went to almost certain death, over
the corpses of their comrades, on and in and through, reeling man
over horse, horse over man, and clung like bull-dogs to their
work, and would hardly leave, even at the bugle-call, till in one
regiment thirteen officers out of nineteen were killed or wounded?
And why?

Because the French army must be stopped, if it were but for a
quarter of an hour. A respite must be gained for the exhausted
Third Corps. And how much might be done, even in a quarter of an
hour, by men who knew when, and where, and why to die! Who will
refuse the name of heroes to these men? And yet they, probably,
would have utterly declined the honour. They had but done that
which was in the bond. They were but obeying orders after all.
As Miss Yonge well says of all heroic persons: "'I have but done
that which it was my duty to do,' is the natural answer of those
capable of such actions. They have been constrained to them by
duty or pity; have never deemed it possible to act otherwise; and
did not once think of themselves in the matter at all."

These last true words bring us to another element in heroism: its
simplicity. Whatsoever is not simple; whatsoever is affected,
boastful, wilful, covetous, tarnishes, even destroys, the heroic
character of a deed; because all these faults spring out of self.
On the other hand, wherever you find a perfectly simple, frank,
unconscious character, there you have the possibility, at least,
of heroic action. For it is nobler far to do the most commonplace
duty in the household, or behind the counter, with a single eye to
duty, simply because it must be done--nobler far, I say, than to
go out of your way to attempt a brilliant deed, with a double
mind, and saying to yourself not only--"This will be a brilliant
deed," but also--"and it will pay me, or raise me, or set me off,
into the bargain." Heroism knows no "into the bargain." And
therefore, again, I must protest against applying the word
"heroic" to any deeds, however charitable, however toilsome,
however dangerous, performed for the sake of what certain French
ladies, I am told, call "faire son salut"--saving one's soul in
the world to come. I do not mean to judge. Other and quite
unselfish motives may be, and doubtless often are, mixed up with
that selfish one: womanly pity and tenderness; love for, and
desire to imitate, a certain Incarnate ideal of self-sacrifice,
who is at once human and divine. But that motive of saving the
soul, which is too often openly proposed and proffered, is utterly
unheroic. The desire to escape pains and penalties hereafter by
pains and penalties here; the balance of present loss against
future gain--what is this but selfishness extended out of this
world into eternity? "Not worldliness," indeed, as a satirist
once said with bitter truth, "but other-worldliness."

Moreover--and the young and the enthusiastic should also bear this
in mind--though heroism means the going beyond the limits of
strict duty, it never means the going out of the path of strict
duty. If it is your duty to go to London, go thither: you may go
as much farther as you choose after that. But you must go to
London first. Do your duty first; it will be time after that to
talk of being heroic.

And therefore one must seriously warn the young, lest they mistake
for heroism and self-sacrifice what is merely pride and self-will,
discontent with the relations by which God has bound them, and the
circumstances which God has appointed for them. I have known
girls think they were doing a fine thing by leaving uncongenial
parents or disagreeable sisters, and cutting out for themselves,
as they fancied, a more useful and elevated line of life than that
of mere home duties; while, after all, poor things, they were only
saying, with the Pharisees of old, "Corban, it is a gift, by
whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me;" and in the name of
God, neglecting the command of God to honour their father and

There are men, too, who will neglect their households and leave
their children unprovided for, and even uneducated, while they are
spending their money on philanthropic or religious hobbies of
their own. It is ill to take the children's bread and cast it to
the dogs; or even to the angels. It is ill, I say, trying to make
presents to God, before we have tried to pay our debts to God.
The first duty of every man is to the wife whom he has married,
and to the children whom she has brought into the world; and to
neglect them is not heroism, but self-conceit; the conceit that a
man is so necessary to Almighty God, that God will actually allow
him to do wrong, if He can only thereby secure the man's
invaluable services. Be sure that every motive which comes not
from the single eye, every motive which springs from self, is by
its very essence unheroic, let it look as gaudy or as beneficent
as it may.

But I cannot go so far as to say the same of the love of
approbation--the desire for the love and respect of our fellow-
men. That must not be excluded from the list of heroic motives.
I know that it is, or may be proved to be, by victorious analysis,
an emotion common to us and the lower animals. And yet no man
excludes it less than that true hero, St. Paul.

If those brave Spartans, if those brave Germans, of whom I spoke
just now, knew that their memories would be wept over and
worshipped by brave men and fair women, and that their names would
become watchwords to children in their fatherland, what is that to
us, save that it should make us rejoice, if we be truly human,
that they had that thought with them in their last moments to make
self-devotion more easy, and death more sweet?

And yet--and yet--is not the highest heroism that which is free
even from the approbation of our fellowmen, even from the
approbation of the best and wisest? The heroism which is known
only to our Father who seeth in secret? The Godlike deeds alone
in the lonely chamber? The Godlike lives lived in obscurity?--a
heroism rare among us men, who live perforce in the glare and
noise of the outer world: more common among women; women of whom
the world never hears; who, if the world discovered them, would
only draw the veil more closely over their faces and their hearts,
and entreat to be left alone with God. True, they cannot always
hide. They must not always hide; or their fellow-creatures would
lose the golden lesson. But, nevertheless, it is of the essence
of the perfect and womanly heroism, in which, as in all spiritual
forces the woman transcends the man, that it would hide if it

And it was a pleasant thought to me, when I glanced lately at the
golden deeds of women in Miss Yonge's book--it was a pleasant
thought to me, that I could say to myself--Ah! yes. These
heroines are known, and their fame flies through the mouths of
men. But if so, how many thousands of heroines there must have
been, how many thousands there may be now, of whom we shall never
know. But still they are there. They sow in secret the seed of
which we pluck the flower and eat the fruit, and know not that we
pass the sower daily in the street; perhaps some humble, ill-
dressed woman, earning painfully her own small sustenance. She
who nurses a bedridden mother, instead of sending her to the
workhouse. She who spends her heart and her money on a drunken
father, a reckless brother, on the orphans of a kinsman or a
friend. She who--But why go on with the long list of great little
heroisms, with which a clergyman at least comes in contact daily--
and it is one of the most ennobling privileges of a clergyman's
high calling that he does come in contact with them--why go on, I
say, save to commemorate one more form of great little heroism--
the commonest, and yet the least remembered of all--namely, the
heroism of an average mother? Ah, when I think of that last broad
fact, I gather hope again for poor humanity; and this dark world
looks bright, this diseased world looks wholesome to me once more-
-because, whatever else it is or is not full of, it is at least
full of mothers.

While the satirist only sneers, as at a stock butt for his
ridicule, at the managing mother trying to get her daughters
married off her hands by chicaneries and meannesses, which every
novelist knows too well how to draw--would to heaven he, or
rather, alas! she would find some more chivalrous employment for
his or her pen--for were they not, too, born of woman?--I only say
to myself--having had always a secret fondness for poor Rebecca,
though I love Esau more than Jacob--Let the poor thing alone.
With pain she brought these girls into the world. With pain she
educated them according to her light. With pain she is trying to
obtain for them the highest earthly blessing of which she can
conceive, namely, to be well married; and if in doing that last,
she manoeuvres a little, commits a few basenesses, even tells a
few untruths, what does all that come to, save this--that in the
confused intensity of her motherly self-sacrifice, she will
sacrifice for her daughters even her own conscience and her own
credit? We may sneer, if we will, at such a poor hard-driven soul
when we meet her in society; our duty, both as Christians and
ladies and gentlemen, seems to me to be--to do for her something
very different indeed.

But to return. Looking at the amount of great little heroisms,
which are being, as I assert, enacted around us every day, no one
has a right to say, what we are all tempted to say at times: "How
can I be heroic? This is no heroic age, setting me heroic
examples. We are growing more and more comfortable, frivolous,
pleasure-seeking, money-making; more and more utilitarian; more
and more mercenary in our politics, in our morals, in our
religion; thinking less and less of honour and duty, and more and
more of loss and gain. I am born into an unheroic time. You must
not ask me to become heroic in it."

I do not deny that it is more difficult to be heroic, while
circumstances are unheroic round us. We are all too apt to be the
puppets of circumstances; all too apt to follow the fashion; all
too apt, like so many minnows, to take our colour from the ground
on which we lie, in hopes, like them, of comfortable concealment,
lest the new tyrant deity, called Public Opinion, should spy us
out, and, like Nebuchadnezzar of old, cast us into a burning fiery
furnace--which public opinion can make very hot--for daring to
worship any god or man save the will of the temporary majority.

Yes, it is difficult to be anything but poor, mean, insufficient,
imperfect people, as like each other as so many sheep; and, like
so many sheep, having no will or character of our own, but rushing
altogether blindly over the same gap, in foolish fear of the same
dog, who, after all, dare not bite us; and so it always was and
always will be.

For the third time I say,

Unless above himself he can
Exalt himself, how poor a thing is man.

But, nevertheless, any man or woman who WILL, in any age and under
any circumstances, can live the heroic life and exercise heroic

If any ask proof of this, I shall ask them, in return, to read two
novels; novels, indeed, but, in their method and their moral,
partaking of that heroic and ideal element, which will make them
live, I trust, long after thousands of mere novels have returned
to their native dust. I mean Miss Muloch's "John Halifax,
Gentleman," and Mr. Thackeray's "Esmond," two books which no man
or woman ought to read without being the nobler for them.

"John Halifax, Gentleman," is simply the history of a poor young
clerk, who rises to be a wealthy mill-owner in the manufacturing
districts, in the early part of this century. But he contrives to
be an heroic and ideal clerk, and an heroic and ideal mill-owner;
and that without doing anything which the world would call heroic
or ideal, or in anywise stepping out of his sphere, minding simply
his own business, and doing the duty which lies nearest him. And
how? By getting into his head from youth the strangest notion,
that in whatever station or business he may be, he can always be
what he considers a gentleman; and that if he only behaves like a
gentleman, all must go right at last. A beautiful book. As I
said before, somewhat of an heroic and ideal book. A book which
did me good when first I read it; which ought to do any young man
good who will read it, and then try to be, like John Halifax, a
gentleman, whether in the shop, the counting-house, the bank, or
the manufactory.

The other--an even more striking instance of the possibility, at
least, of heroism anywhere and everywhere--is Mr. Thackeray's
"Esmond." On the meaning of that book I can speak with authority.
For my dear and regretted friend told me himself that my
interpretation of it was the true one; that this was the lesson
which he meant men to learn therefrom.

Esmond is a man of the first half of the eighteenth century;
living in a coarse, drunken, ignorant, profligate, and altogether
unheroic age. He is--and here the high art and the high morality
of Mr. Thackeray's genius is shown--altogether a man of his own
age. He is not a sixteenth-century or a nineteenth-century man
born out of time. His information, his politics, his religion,
are no higher than of those round him. His manners, his views of
human life, his very prejudices and faults, are those of his age.
The temptations which he conquers are just those under which the
men around him fall. But how does he conquer them? By holding
fast throughout to honour, duty, virtue. Thus, and thus alone, he
becomes an ideal eighteenth-century gentleman, an eighteenth-
century hero. This was what Mr. Thackeray meant-- for he told me
so himself, I say--that it was possible, even in England's lowest
and foulest times, to be a gentleman and a hero, if a man would
but be true to the light within him.

But I will go farther. I will go from ideal fiction to actual,
and yet ideal, fact; and say that, as I read history, the most
unheroic age which the civilised world ever saw was also the most
heroic; that the spirit of man triumphed most utterly over his
circumstances at the very moment when those circumstances were
most against him.

How and why he did so is a question for philosophy in the highest
sense of that word. The fact of his having done so is matter of
history. Shall I solve my own riddle?

Then, have we not heard of the early Christian martyrs? Is there
a doubt that they, unlettered men, slaves, weak women, even
children, did exhibit, under an infinite sense of duty, issuing in
infinite self-sacrifice, a heroism such as the world had never
seen before; did raise the ideal of human nobleness a whole stage-
-rather say, a whole heaven--higher than before; and that wherever
the tale of their great deeds spread, men accepted, even if they
did not copy, those martyrs as ideal specimens of the human race,
till they were actually worshipped by succeeding generations,
wrongly, it may be, but pardonably, as a choir of lesser deities?

But is there, on the other hand, a doubt that the age in which
they were heroic was the most unheroic of all ages; that they were
bred, lived, and died, under the most debasing of materialist
tyrannies, with art, literature, philosophy, family and national
life dying, or dead around them, and in cities the corruption of
which cannot be told for very shame--cities, compared with which
Paris is the abode of Arcadian simplicity and innocence? When I
read Petronius and Juvenal, and recollect that they were the
contemporaries of the Apostles; when--to give an instance which
scholars, and perhaps, happily, only scholars, can appreciate--I
glance once more at Trimalchio's feast, and remember that within a
mile of that feast St. Paul may have been preaching to a Christian
congregation, some of whom--for St. Paul makes no secret of that
strange fact--may have been, ere their conversion, partakers in
just such vulgar and bestial orgies as those which were going on
in the rich freedman's halls; after that, I say, I can put no
limit to the possibility of man's becoming heroic, even though he
be surrounded by a hell on earth; no limit to the capacities of
any human being to form for himself or herself a high and pure
ideal of human character; and, without "playing fantastic tricks
before high heaven," to carry out that ideal in every-day life;
and in the most commonplace circumstances, and the most menial
occupations, to live worthy of--as I conceive--our heavenly
birthright, and to imitate the heroes, who were the kinsmen of the


Let me begin by asking the ladies who are interesting themselves
in this good work, whether they have really considered what they
are about to do in carrying out their own plans? Are they aware
that if their Society really succeeds, they will produce a very
serious, some would think a very dangerous, change in the state of
this nation? Are they aware that they would probably save the
lives of some thirty or forty per cent. of the children who are
born in England, and that therefore they would cause the subjects
of Queen Victoria to increase at a very far more rapid rate than
they do now? And are they aware that some very wise men inform us
that England is already over-peopled, and that it is an
exceedingly puzzling question where we shall soon be able to find
work or food for our masses, so rapidly do they increase already,
in spite of the thirty or forty per cent. which kind Nature
carries off yearly before they are five years old? Have they
considered what they are to do with all those children whom they
are going to save alive? That has to be thought of; and if they
really do believe, with some political economists, that over-
population is a possibility to a country which has the greatest
colonial empire that the world has ever seen; then I think they
had better stop in their course, and let the children die, as they
have been in the habit of dying.

But if, on the other hand, it seems to them, as I confess it does
to me, that the most precious thing in the world is a human being;
that the lowest, and poorest, and the most degraded of human
beings is better than all the dumb animals in the world; that
there is an infinite, priceless capability in that creature,
fallen as it may be; a capability of virtue, and of social and
industrial use, which, if it is taken in time, may be developed up
to a pitch, of which at first sight the child gives no hint
whatsoever; if they believe again, that of all races upon earth
now, the English race is probably the finest, and that it gives
not the slightest sign whatever of exhaustion; that it seems to be
on the whole a young race, and to have very great capabilities in
it which have not yet been developed, and above all, the most
marvellous capability of adapting itself to every sort of climate
and every form of life, which any race, except the old Roman, ever
has had in the world; if they consider with me that it is worth
the while of political economists and social philosophers to look
at the map, and see that about four-fifths of the globe cannot be
said as yet to be in anywise inhabited or cultivated, or in the
state into which men could put it by a fair supply of population,
and industry, and human intellect: then, perhaps, they may think
with me that it is a duty, one of the noblest of duties, to help
the increase of the English race as much as possible, and to see
that every child that is born into this great nation of England be
developed to the highest pitch to which we can develop him in
physical strength and in beauty, as well as in intellect and in
virtue. And then, in that light, it does seem to me, that this
Institution--small now, but I do hope some day to become great and
to become the mother institution of many and valuable children--is
one of the noblest, most right-minded, straightforward, and
practical conceptions that I have come across for some years.

We all know the difficulties of sanitary legislation. One looks
at them at times almost with despair. I have my own reasons, with
which I will not trouble this meeting, for looking on them with
more despair than ever: not on account of the government of the
time, or any possible government that could come to England, but
on account of the peculiar class of persons in whom the ownership
of the small houses has become more and more vested, and who are
becoming more and more, I had almost said, the arbiters of the
popular opinion, and of every election of parliament. However,
that is no business of ours here; that must be settled somewhere
else; and a fearfully long time, it seems to me, it will be before
it is settled. But, in the meantime, what legislation cannot do,
I believe private help, and, above all, woman's help, can do even
better. It can do this; it can improve the condition of the
working man: and not only of him; I must speak also of the middle
classes, of the men who own the house in which the working man
lives. I must speak, too, of the wealthy tradesman; I must speak-
-it is a sad thing to have to say it--of our own class as well as
of others. Sanitary reform, as it is called, or, in plain
English, the art of health, is so very recent a discovery, as all
true physical science is, that we ourselves and our own class know
very little about it, and practise it very little. And this
society, I do hope, will bear in mind that it is not simply to
seek the working man, not only to go into the foul alley: but it
is to go to the door of the farmer, to the door of the shopkeeper,
aye, to the door of ladies and gentlemen of the same rank as
ourselves. Women can do in that work what men cannot do. The
private correspondence, private conversation, private example, of
ladies, above all of married women, of mothers of families, may do
what no legislation can do. I am struck more and more with the
amount of disease and death I see around me in all classes, which
no sanitary legislation whatsoever could touch, unless you had a
complete house-to-house visitation by some government officer,
with powers to enter every dwelling, to drain it, and ventilate
it; and not only that, but to regulate the clothes and the diet of
every inhabitant, and that among all ranks. I can conceive of
nothing short of that, which would be absurd and impossible, and
would also be most harmful morally, which would stop the present
amount of disease and death which I see around me, without some
such private exertion on the part of women, above all of mothers,
as I do hope will spring from this institution more and more.

I see this, that three persons out of every four are utterly
unaware of the general causes of their own ill-health, and of the
ill-health of their children. They talk of their "afflictions,"
and their "misfortunes;" and, if they be pious people, they talk
of "the will of God," and of "the visitation of God." I do not
like to trench upon those matters here; but when I read in my book
and in your book, "that it is not the will of our Father in Heaven
that one of these little ones should perish," it has come to my
mind sometimes with very great strength that that may have a
physical application as well as a spiritual one; and that the
Father in Heaven who does not wish the child's soul to die, may
possibly have created that child's body for the purpose of its not
dying except in a good old age. For not only in the lower class,
but in the middle and upper classes, when one sees an unhealthy
family, then in three cases out of four, if one will take time,
trouble, and care enough, one can, with the help of the doctor,
who has been attending them, run the evil home to a very different
cause than the will of God; and that is, to stupid neglect, stupid
ignorance, or what is just as bad, stupid indulgence.

Now, I do believe that if those tracts which you are publishing,
which I have read and of which I cannot speak too highly, are
spread over the length and breadth of the land, and if women--
clergymen's wives, the wives of manufacturers and of great
employers, district visitors and schoolmistresses, have these
books put into their hands, and are persuaded to spread them, and
to enforce them, by their own example and by their own counsel--
that then, in the course of a few years, this system being
thoroughly carried out, you would see a sensible and large
increase in the rate of population. When you have saved your
children alive, then you must settle what to do with them. But a
living dog is better than a dead lion; I would rather have the
living child, and let it take its chance, than let it return to
God--wasted. O! it is a distressing thing to see children die.
God gives the most beautiful and precious thing that earth can
have, and we just take it and cast it away; we toss our pearls
upon the dunghill and leave them. A dying child is to me one of
the most dreadful sights in the world. A dying man, a man dying
on the field of battle--that is a small sight; he has taken his
chance; he is doing his duty; he has had his excitement; he has
had his glory, if that will be any consolation to him; if he is a
wise man, he has the feeling that he is dying for his country and
his queen: and that is, and ought to be, enough for him. I am
not horrified or shocked at the sight of the man who dies on the
field of battle; let him die so. It does not horrify or shock me,
again, to see a man dying in a good old age, even though the last
struggle be painful, as it too often is. But it does shock me, it
does make me feel that the world is indeed out of joint, to see a
child die. I believe it to be a priceless boon to the child to
have lived for a week, or a day: but oh, what has God given to
this thankless earth, and what has the earth thrown away; and in
nine cases out of ten, from its own neglect and carelessness!
What that boy might have been, what he might have done as an
Englishman, if he could have lived and grown up healthy and
strong! And I entreat you to bear this in mind, that it is not as
if our lower or our middle classes were not worth saving: bear in
mind that the physical beauty, strength, intellectual power of the
middle classes--the shopkeeping class, the farming class, down to
the lowest working class--whenever you give them a fair chance,
whenever you give them fair food and air, and physical education
of any kind, prove them to be the finest race in Europe. Not
merely the aristocracy, splendid race as they are, but down and
down and down to the lowest labouring man, to the navigator--why,
there is not such a body of men in Europe as our navigators; and
no body of men perhaps have had a worse chance of growing to be
what they are; and yet see what they have done! See the
magnificent men they become, in spite of all that is against them,
dragging them down, tending to give them rickets and consumption,
and all the miserable diseases which children contract; see what
men they are, and then conceive what they might be! It has been
said, again and again, that there are no more beautiful race of
women in Europe than the wives and daughters of our London
shopkeepers; and yet there are few races of people who lead a life
more in opposition to all rules of hygiene. But, in spite of all
that, so wonderful is the vitality of the English race, they are
what they are; and therefore we have the finest material to work
upon that people ever had. And, therefore, again, we have the
less excuse if we do allow English people to grow up puny,
stunted, and diseased.

Let me refer again to that word that I used; death--the amount of
death. I really believe there are hundreds of good and kind
people who would take up this subject with their whole heart and
soul if they were aware of the magnitude of the evil. Lord
Shaftesbury told you just now that there were one hundred thousand
preventable deaths in England every year. So it is. We talk of
the loss of human life in war. We are the fools of smoke and
noise; because there are cannon-balls, forsooth, and swords and
red coats; and because it costs a great deal of money, and makes a
great deal of talk in the papers, we think: What so terrible as
war? I will tell you what is ten times, and ten thousand times,
more terrible than war, and that is outraged Nature. War, we are
discovering now, is the clumsiest and most expensive of all games;
we are finding that if you wish to commit an act of cruelty and
folly, the most costly one that you can commit is to contrive to
shoot your fellow-men in war. So it is; and thank God that so it
is; but Nature, insidious, inexpensive, silent, sends no roar of
cannon, no glitter of arms to do her work; she gives no warning
note of preparation; she has no protocols, nor any diplomatic
advances, whereby she warns her enemy that war is coming.
Silently, I say, and insidiously she goes forth; no! she does not
even go forth; she does not step out of her path; but quietly, by
the very same means by which she makes alive, she puts to death;
and so avenges herself of those who have rebelled against her. By
the very same laws by which every blade of grass grows, and every
insect springs to life in the sunbeam, she kills, and kills, and
kills, and is never tired of killing; till she has taught man the
terrible lesson he is so slow to learn, that, Nature is only
conquered by obeying her.

And bear in mind one thing more. Man has his courtesies of war,
and his chivalries of war; he does not strike the unarmed man; he
spares the woman and the child. But Nature is as fierce when she
is offended, as she is bounteous and kind when she is obeyed. She
spares neither woman nor child. She has no pity; for some awful,
but most good reason, she is not allowed to have any pity.
Silently she strikes the sleeping babe, with as little remorse as
she would strike the strong man, with the spade or the musket in
his hand. Ah! would to God that some man had the pictorial
eloquence to put before the mothers of England the mass of
preventable suffering, the mass of preventable agony of mind and
body, which exists in England year after year; and would that some
man had the logical eloquence to make them understand that it is
in their power, in the power of the mothers and wives of the
higher class, I will not say to stop it all--God only knows that--
but to stop, as I believe, three-fourths of it.

It is in the power, I believe, of any woman in this room to save
three or four lives--human lives--during the next six months. It
is in your power, ladies; and it is so easy. You might save
several lives apiece, if you choose, without, I believe,
interfering with your daily business, or with your daily pleasure;
or, if you choose, with your daily frivolities, in any way
whatsoever. Let me ask, then, those who are here, and who have
not yet laid these things to heart: Will you let this meeting to-
day be a mere passing matter of two or three hours' interest,
which you may go away and forget for the next book or the next
amusement? Or will you be in earnest? Will you learn--I say it
openly--from the noble chairman, how easy it is to be in earnest
in life; how every one of you, amid all the artificial
complications of English society in the nineteenth century, can
find a work to do, a noble work to do, a chivalrous work to do--
just as chivalrous as if you lived in any old magic land, such as
Spenser talked of in his "Faerie Queene;" how you can be as true a
knight-errant or lady-errant in the present century, as if you had
lived far away in the dark ages of violence and rapine? Will you,
I ask, learn this? Will you learn to be in earnest; and to use
the position, and the station, and the talent that God has given
you to save alive those who should live? And will you remember
that it is not the will of your Father that is in Heaven that one
little one that plays in the kennel outside should perish, either
in body or in soul?


The cholera, as was to be expected, has reappeared in England
again; and England, as was to be expected, has taken no sufficient
steps towards meeting it; so that if, as seems but too probable,
the plague should spread next summer, we may count with tolerable
certainty upon a loss of some ten thousand lives.

That ten thousand, or one thousand, innocent people should die, of
whom most, if not all, might be saved alive, would seem at first
sight a matter serious enough for the attention of
"philanthropists." Those who abhor the practice of hanging one
man would, one fancies, abhor equally that of poisoning many; and
would protest as earnestly against the painful capital punishment
of diarrhoea as against the painless one of hempen rope. Those
who demand mercy for the Sepoy, and immunity for the Coolie women
of Delhi, unsexed by their own brutal and shameless cruelty,
would, one fancies, demand mercy also for the British workman, and
immunity for his wife and family. One is therefore somewhat
startled at finding that the British nation reserves to itself,
though it forbids to its armies, the right of putting to death
unarmed and unoffending men, women, and children.

After further consideration, however, one finds that there are, as
usual, two sides to the question. One is bound, indeed, to
believe, even before proof, that there are two sides. It cannot
be without good and sufficient reason that the British public
remains all but indifferent to sanitary reform; that though the
science of epidemics, as a science, has been before the world for
more than twenty years, nobody believes in it enough to act upon
it, save some few dozen of fanatics, some of whom have (it cannot
be denied) a direct pecuniary interest in disturbing what they
choose to term the poison-manufactories of free and independent

Yes; we should surely respect the expressed will and conviction of
the most practical of nations, arrived at after the experience of
three choleras, stretching over a whole generation. Public
opinion has declared against the necessity of sanitary reform:
and is not public opinion known to be, in these last days, the
Ithuriel's spear which is to unmask and destroy all the follies,
superstitions, and cruelties of the universe? The immense
majority of the British nation will neither cleanse themselves nor
let others cleanse them: and are we not governed by majorities?
Are not majorities, confessedly, always in the right, even when
smallest, and a show of hands a surer test of truth than any
amount of wisdom, learning, or virtue? How much more, then, when
a whole free people is arrayed, in the calm magnificence of self-
confident conservatism, against a few innovating and perhaps
sceptical philosophasters? Then surely, if ever, vox populi is
vox coeli.

And, in fact, when we come to examine the first and commonest
objection against sanitary reformers, we find it perfectly
correct. They are said to be theorists, dreamers of the study,
who are ignorant of human nature; and who in their materialist
optimism, have forgotten the existence of moral evil till they
almost fancy at times that they can set the world right simply by
righting its lowest material arrangements. The complaint is
perfectly true. They have been ignorant of human nature; they
have forgotten the existence of moral evil; and if any religious
periodical should complain of their denying original sin, they can
only answer that they did in past years fall into that folly, but
that subsequent experience has utterly convinced them of the truth
of the doctrine.

For, misled by this ignorance of human nature, they expected help,
from time to time, from various classes of the community, from
whom no help (as they ought to have known at first) is to be
gotten. Some, as a fact, expected the assistance of the clergy,
and especially of the preachers of those denominations who believe
that every human being, by the mere fact of his birth into this
world, is destined to endless torture after death, unless the
preacher can find an opportunity to deliver him therefrom before
he dies. They supposed that to such preachers the mortal lives of
men would be inexpressibly precious; that any science which held
out a prospect of retarding death in the case of "lost millions"
would be hailed as a heavenly boon, and would be carried out with
the fervour of men who felt that for the soul's sake no exertion
was too great in behalf of the body.

A little more reflection would have quashed their vain hope. They
would have recollected that each of these preachers was already
connected with a congregation; that he had already a hold on them,
and they on him; that he was bound to provide for their spiritual
wants before going forth to seek for fresh objects of his
ministry. They would have recollected that on the old principle
(and a very sound one) of a bird in the hand being worth two in
the bush, the minister of a congregation would feel it his duty,
as well as his interest, not to defraud his flock of his labours
by spending valuable time on a secular subject like sanitary
reform, in the hope of possibly preserving a few human beings,
whose souls he might hereafter (and that again would be merely a
possibility) benefit.

They would have recollected, again, that these congregations are
almost exclusively composed of those classes who have little or
nothing to fear from epidemics, and (what is even more important)
who would have to bear the expenses of sanitary improvements. But
so sanguine, so reckless of human conditions had their theories
made them, that they actually expected that parish rectors,
already burdened with over-work and vestry quarrels--nay, even
that preachers who got their bread by pew-rents, and whose life-
long struggle was, therefore, to keep those pews filled, and those
renters in good humour--should astound the respectable house-
owners and ratepayers who sat beneath them by the appalling words:
"You, and not the 'Visitation of God,' are the cause of epidemics;
and of you, now that you are once fairly warned of your
responsibility, will your brothers' blood be required." Conceive
Sanitary Reformers expecting this of "ministers," let their
denomination be what it might--many of the poor men, too, with a
wife and seven children! Truly has it been said, that nothing is
so cruel as the unreasonableness of a fanatic.

They forgot, too, that sanitary science, like geology, must be at
first sight "suspect" in the eyes of the priests of all
denominations, at least till they shall have arrived at a much
higher degree of culture than they now possess.

Like geology, it interferes with that Deus e machina theory of
human affairs which has been in all ages the stronghold of
priestcraft. That the Deity is normally absent, and not present;
that he works on the world by interference, and not by continuous
laws; that it is the privilege of the priesthood to assign causes
for these "judgments" and "visitations" of the Almighty, and to
tell mankind why He is angry with them, and has broken the laws of
nature to punish them--this, in every age, has seemed to the
majority of priests a doctrine to be defended at all hazards; for
without it, so they hold, their occupation were gone at once. {13}
No wonder, then, if they view with jealousy a set of laymen
attributing these "judgments" to purely chemical laws, and to
misdoings and ignorance which have as yet no place in the
ecclesiastical catalogue of sins. True, it may be that the
Sanitary Reformers are right; but they had rather not think so.
And it is very easy not to think so. They only have to ignore, to
avoid examining, the facts. Their canon of utility is a peculiar
one; and with facts which do not come under that canon they have
no concern. It may be true, for instance, that the eighteenth
century, which to the clergy is a period of scepticism, darkness,
and spiritual death, is the very century which saw more done for
science, for civilisation, for agriculture, for manufacture, for
the prolongation and support of human life than any preceding one
for a thousand years and more. What matter? That is a "secular"
question, of which they need know nothing. And sanitary reform
(if true) is just such another; a matter (as slavery has been seen
to be by the preachers of the United States) for the legislator,
and not for those whose kingdom is "not of this world."

Others again expected, with equal wisdom, the assistance of the
political economist. The fact is undeniable, but at the same time
inexplicable. What they could have found in the doctrines of most
modern political economists which should lead them to suppose that
human life would be precious in their eyes, is unknown to the
writer of these pages. Those whose bugbear has been over-
population, whose motto has been an euphuistic version of


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