The Ethics of Drink and Other Social Questions
James Runciman

Part 4 out of 5

away good brain-power on calculations which have no sound basis
whatever. Let us get to some facts, and let us all hope in the name of
everything that is righteous and of good report that, when this article
is read, some blind feather-brains may be induced to stop ere the
inevitable final ruin descends upon them. What has happened in the
doleful spring of this year? In 1887 a colt was brought out for the
first time to run for the greatest of all Turf prizes. As usual, some
bagatelle of a million or thereabouts had been betted on a horse which
had won several races, and this animal was reckoned to be incapable of
losing: but the untried animal shot out and galloped home an easy
winner. So little was the successful brute distressed by his race that
he began to caper out of sheer light-heartedness when he was led back to
the enclosure, and he very soon cleared the place in his gambols--in
fact, he could have run another race within half an hour after the first
one. In the autumn this same winner strained a ligament; but in spite of
the accident he ran for another important prize, and his lightning speed
served him in good stead, for he came in second for the St. Leger. Well,
in the spring this animal was entered in a handicap race, and the weight
which he had to carry seemed so trifling that good judges thought he
must romp over the course and win with ease. Hundreds of thousands of
dolts rushed to wager their money on this chance, and the horse's owner,
who is anything but a fool, proceeded to back his own property lavishly.
Now a certain number of the betting-rogues appeared to know
something--if I may be pardoned for using their repulsive
phraseology--and, so long as any one was willing to bet on the horse,
they were ready to lay against him. Still the pigeons would not take
warning by this ominous symptom; they had chances enough to keep clear
of danger, but they flocked into the snare in their confused fashion. A
grain of common sense would have made them ask, "Why do these shrewd,
hard men seem so certain that our favourite must lose? Are they the kind
of persons who risk thousands in hard cash unless they know particularly
well what they are doing? They bet with an air of certainty, though some
of them must be almost ruined if they have made a miscalculation; they
defy even the owner of the animal, and they cheerfully give him the
opportunity of putting down thousands if he wishes to do so. There must
be some reason for this assurance which at first sight looks so very
overweening. Better have a care!"

Thus would common sense have counselled the victims; but, alas, common
sense is usually left out of the composition of the betting-man's
victim, and the flood of honest money rolled into the keeping of men who
are certainly no more than indifferent honest. The day of the race came;
the great gaping public dipped their hands in their pockets and accepted
short odds about their precious certainty. When the flag fell for the
start, the most wildly extravagant odds were offered against the
favourite by the men who had been betting against him all along, for
they saw very soon that they were safe. The poor brute on whose success
so many thousands depended could not even gallop; he trailed on wearily
for a little, without showing any sign of his old gallant fire and
speed, and at last his hopeless rider stopped him. This story is in the
mouths of all men; and now perhaps our simpletons maybe surprised to
hear that the wretched animal which was the innocent cause of loss and
misery was poisoned by a narcotic. In his efforts to move freely he
strained himself, for the subtle drug deprived him of the power of using
his limbs, and he could only sprawl and wrench his sinews. This is the
fourth case of the kind which has recently occurred; and now clever
judges have hit upon the cause which has disabled so many good horses,
after the rascals of the Ring have succeeded in laying colossal amounts
against them. Too many people know the dire effects of the morphia
injections which are now so commonly used by weak individuals who fear
pain and _ennui_; the same deadly drug is used to poison the horses. One
touch with the sharp needle-point under the horse's elbow, and the
subtle, numbing poison speeds through the arteries and paralyzes the
nerves; a beautiful creature that comes out full of fire and courage is
converted in a very few minutes into a dull helpless mass that has no
more conscious volition than a machine. The animal remains on its feet,
but exertion is impossible, and neither rein, whip, nor spur serves to
stimulate the cunning poisoner's victim. About the facts there can now
be no dispute: and this last wretched story supplies a copestone to a
pile of similar tales which has been in course of building during the
past three or four years. Enraged men have become outspoken, and things
are now boldly printed and circulated which were mentioned only in
whispers long ago. The days of clumsy poisoning have gone by; the
prowling villain no longer obtains entrance to a stable for the purpose
of battering a horse's leg or driving a nail into the frog of the foot;
the ancient crude devices are used no more, for science has become the
handmaid of scoundrelism. When in 1811 a bad fellow squirted a solution
of arsenic into a locked horse-trough, the evil trick was too clumsy to
escape detection, and the cruel rogue was promptly caught and sent to
the gallows; but we now have horse-poisoners who hold a secret similar
to that which Palmer of Rugeley kept so long. I say "a secret," though
every skilled veterinary surgeon knows how to administer morphia, and
knows its effects; but the new practitioners contrive to send in the
deadly injection of the drug in spite of the ceaseless vigilance of
trainers, stablemen, detectives, and all other guards. Now I ask any
rational man who may have been tempted to bet, Is it worth while? Leave
out the morality for the present, and tell us whether you think it
business-like to risk your money when you know that neither a horse's
speed nor a trainer's skill will avail you when once an acute crew of
sharpers have settled that a race must not be won by a certain animal.
The miserable creature whose case has served me for a text was tried at
home during the second week of April; he carried four stone more than
the very useful and fast horse which ran against him, and he merely
amused himself by romping alongside of his opponent. Again, when he took
a preliminary canter before the drug had time to act, he moved with
great strength and with the freedom of a greyhound; yet within three
minutes he was no more than an inert mass of flesh and bone. I say to
the inexperienced gambler, "Draw your own conclusions, and if, after
studying my words, you choose to tempt fortune any more, your fate--your
evil fate--be on your own head, for nothing that I or any one else can
do will save you."

Not long before the melancholy and sordid case which I have described,
and which is now gaining attention and rousing curiosity everywhere, a
certain splendid steeplechaser was brought out to run for the most
important of cross-country races. He was a famous horse, and, like our
Derby winner, he bore the fortunes of a good many people. To the
confusion and dismay of the men who made sure of his success, he was
found to be stupified, and suffering from all the symptoms of
morphia-poisoning! Not long ago an exquisite mare was brought out to run
for the Liverpool Steeplechase, and, like the two I have already named,
she was deemed to be absolutely certain of success. She came out merrily
from her box; but soon she appeared to become dazed and silly; she
could not move properly, and in trying to clear her first fence she
staggered like a soddened drunkard and fell. The rascals had not become
artistic poisoners at that date, and it was found that the poor mare had
received the drug through a rather large puncture in her nostril.

The men whom I seek to cure are not worthy of much care; but they have
dependants; and it is of the women and children that I think. Here is
another pitfall into which the eager novice stumbles; and once more on
grounds of expediency I ask the novice to consider his position.
According to the decision of the peculiarly-constituted senate which
rules racing affairs, I understand that, even if a horse starts in a
race with health and training all in its favour, it by no means follows
that he will win, or even run well. Cunning touches of the bridle,
dexterous movements of body and limbs on the jockey's part, subtle
checks applied so as to cramp the animal's stride--all these things tend
to bring about surprising results. The horse that fails dismally in one
race comes out soon afterwards and wins easily in more adverse
circumstances. I grow tired of the unlucky catalogue of mean swindles,
and I should be glad if I never heard of the Turf again; though, alas, I
have little hope of that so long as betting-shops are open, and so long
as miserable women have the power to address letters to me! I can only
implore those who are not stricken with the gambler's fever to come away
from danger while yet there is time. A great nobleman like Lord
Hartington or Lord Rodney may amuse himself by keeping racers; he gains
relaxation by running out from London to see his pretty colts and
fillies gallop, and he needs not to care very much whether they win or
lose, for it is only the mild excitement and the change of scene that he
wants. The wealthy people who go to Newmarket seek pleasant company as
much as anything, and the loss of a few hundreds hardly counts in their
year's expenses. But the poor noodle who can hardly afford to pay his
fare and hotel bill--why should he meddle with horses? If an animal is
poisoned, the betting millionaire who backs it swallows his chagrin and
thinks no more of the matter, but the wretched clerk who has risked a
quarter's salary cannot take matters so easily. Racing is the rich man's
diversion, and men of poor or moderate means cannot afford to think
about it. The beautiful world is full of entertainment for those who
search wisely; then why should any man vex heart and brain by meddling
with a pursuit which gives him no pleasure, and which cannot by any
chance bring him profit? I have no pity for a man who ascribes his ruin
to betting, and I contemn those paltry weaklings whose cases I study and
collect from the newspapers. Certainly there are enough of them! A man
who bets wants to make money without work, and that on the face of it is
a dishonourable aspiration; if he robs some one, I do not in the
faintest degree try to palliate his crime--he is a responsible being, or
ought to be one, and he has no excuse for pilfering. I should never aid
any man who suffered through betting, and I would not advise any one
else to do so. My appeal to the selfish instincts of the gudgeons who
are hooked by the bookmakers is made only for the sake of the helpless
creatures who suffer for the follies and blundering cupidity of the
would-be sharper. I abhor the bookmakers, but I do not blame them
alone; the sight of means to do ill deeds makes ill deeds done, and they
are doubtless tempted to roguery by the very simpletons who complain
when they meet the reward of their folly. I am solely concerned with the
innocents who fare hardly because of their selfish relatives' reckless
want of judgment, and for them, and them alone, my efforts are engaged.

_May, 1888_


The man of science derives suggestive knowledge from the study of mere
putrefaction; he places an infusion of common hay-seeds or meat or fruit
in his phials, and awaits events; presently a drop from one of the
infusions is laid on the field of the microscope, and straightly the
economy of a new and strange kingdom is seen by the observer. The
microscopist takes any kind of garbage; he watches the bacteria and
their mysterious development, and he reaches at last the most
significant conclusions regarding the health and growth and diseases of
the highest organizations. The student of human nature must also bestow
his attention on disease of mind if he would attain to any real
knowledge of the strange race to which he belongs. We develop, it is
true, but there are modes and modes of development. I have often pointed
out that a steady process of degeneration goes on side by side with the
unfolding of new and healthy powers in the animal and vegetable
kingdoms. The great South American lizards grow strong and splendid in
hue amid the rank freedom of pampas or forest; but their poor relatives
in the sunless caves of Transylvania grow milky white, flabby, and
stone-blind. The creatures in the Kentucky caves are all aborted in some
way or other; the birds in far-off islands lose the power of flight, and
the shrivelled wings gradually sink under the skin, and show us only a
tiny network of delicate bones when the creature is stripped to the
skeleton. The condor soars magnificently in the thin air over the
Andes--it can rise like a kite or drop like a thunderbolt: the weeka of
New Zealand can hardly get out of the way of a stick aimed by an active
man. The proud forest giant sucks up the pouring moisture from the great
Brazilian river; the shoots that rise under the shadow of the monster
tree are weakened and blighted by lack of light and free air. The same
astounding work goes on among the beings who are so haughty in their
assumption of the post of creation's lords. The healthy child born of
healthy parents grows up amid pure air and pure surroundings; his
tissues are nourished by strength-giving food, he lives according to
sane rules, and he becomes round-limbed, full-chested, and vigorous. The
poor little victim who first sees the light in the Borough or Shadwell,
or in the noxious alleys of our reeking industrial towns, receives foul
air, mere atmospheric garbage, into his lungs; he becomes thin-blooded,
his unwholesome pallor witnesses to his weakness of vitality, his
muscles are atrophied, and even his hair is ragged, lustreless,
ill-nurtured. In time he transmits his feebleness to his successors; and
we have the creatures who stock our workhouses, hospitals, and our
gaols--for moral degradation always accompanies radical degradation of
the physique.

So, if we study the larger aspects of society, we find that in all
grades we have large numbers of individuals who fall out of the line
that is steadfastly progressing, and become stragglers,
camp-followers--anything you will. Let a cool and an unsentimental
observer bend himself to the study of degraded human types, and he will
learn things that will sicken his heart if he is weak, and strengthen
him in his resolve to work gallantly during his span of life if he is
strong. Has any one ever fairly tried to face the problem of
degradation? Has any one ever learned how it is that a distinct form of
mental disease seems to lurk in all sorts of unexpected fastnesses,
ready to breathe a numbing and poisonous vapour on those who are not
fortified against the moral malaria? I am not without experience of the
fell chances and changes of life; I venture therefore to use some
portion of the knowledge that I have gathered in order to help to
fortify the weak and make the strong wary.

If you wander on the roads in our country, you are almost sure to meet
men whom you instinctively recognize as fallen beings. What their
previous estate in life may have been you cannot tell, but you know that
there has been a fall, and that you are looking on a moral wreck. The
types are superficially varied, but an essential sameness, not always
visible at first sight, connects them and enables you to class them as
you would class the specimens in a gallery of the British Museum. As you
walk along on a lonely highway, you meet a man who carries himself with
a kind of jaunty air. His woeful boots show glimpses of bare feet, his
clothes have a bright gloss in places, and they hang untidily; but his
coat is buttoned with an attempt at smartness, and his ill-used hat is
set on rakishly. You note that the man wears a moustache, and you learn
in some mysterious way that he was once accustomed to be very trim and
spruce in person. When he speaks, you find that you have a hint of a
cultivated accent; he sounds the termination "ing" with precision, and
you also notice that such words as "here," "there," "over," are
pronounced with a peculiar broad vowel sound at the end. He cannot look
you boldly in the face, and it is hard to catch a sight of his eyes, but
you may take for granted that the eyes are bad and shifty. The cheeks
are probably a little pendulous, and the jaw hangs with a certain
slackness. The whole visage looks as if it had been cast in a tolerably
good mould and had somehow run out of shape a little. Your man is fluent
and communicative; he mouths his sentences with a genteel roll in his
voice, and he punctuates his talk with a stealthy, insincere laugh which
hardly rises above the dignity of a snigger.

Now how does such a man come to be tramping aimlessly on a public road?
He does not know that he is going to any place in particular; he is
certainly not walking for the sake of health, though he needs health
rather badly. Why is he in this plight? You do not need to wait long for
a solution, if the book of human experience has been your study. That
man is absolutely certain to begin bewailing his luck--it is always
"luck." Then he has a choice selection of abuse to bestow on large
numbers of people who have trodden him down--he is always down-trodden;
and he proves to you that, but for the ingratitude of A, the roguery of
B, the jealousy of C, the undeserved credit obtained by the despicable
D, he would be in "a far different position to-day, sir." If he is an
old officer--and a few gentlemen who once bore Her Majesty's commission
are now to be found on the roads, or in casual wards, or lounging about
low skittle-alleys and bagatelle or billiard tables--he will allude to
the gambling that went on in the regiment. "How could a youngster keep
out of the swim?" All went well with him until he took to late hours and
devilled bones; "then in the mornings we were all ready for a peg; and I
should like to see the man who could get ready for parade after a hard
night unless he had something in the shape of a reviver." So he prates
on. He curses the colonel, the commander-in-chief, and the Army
organization in general; he gives leering reminiscences of garrison
belles--reminiscences that make a pure minded man long to inflict some
sort of chastisement on him; and thus, while he thinks he is impressing
you with an overpowering sense of his bygone rank and fashion, he really
unfolds the history of a feeble unworthy fellow who carries a strong
tinge of rascality about him. He is always a victim, and he illustrates
the unvarying truth of the maxim that a dupe is a rogue minus
cleverness. The final crash which overwhelmed him was of course a
horse-racing blunder. He would have recovered his winter's losses had
not a gang of thieves tampered with the favourite for the City and
Suburban. "Do you think, sir, that Highflyer could not have given
Stonemason three stone and a beating?" You modestly own your want of
acquaintance with the powers of the famous quadrupeds, and the
infatuated dupe goes on, "I saw how Bill Whipcord was riding; he eased
at the corner, when I wouldn't have taken two thousand for my bets, and
you could see that he let Stonemason up. I had taken seven to four eight
times in hundreds, and that broke me." The ragged raffish man never
thinks that he was quite ready to plunder other people; he grows
inarticulate with rage only when he remembers how he was bitten instead
of being the biter. His watery eyes slant as you near a roadside inn,
and he is certain to issue an invitation. Then you see what really
brought him low. It may be a lovely warm day, when the acrid reek of
alcohol is more than usually abhorrent; but he must take something
strong that will presently inflame the flabby bulge of his cheeks and
set his evil eyes watering more freely than ever. Gin is his favourite
refreshment, because it is cheap, and produces stupefaction more rapidly
than any other liquid. Very probably he will mix gin and ale in one
horrid draught--and in that case you know that he is very far gone
indeed on the downward road. If he can possibly coax the change out of
you when the waiter puts it down he will do so, for he cannot resist the
gleam of the coins, and he will improvise the most courageous lies with
an ease which inspires awe. He thanks you for nothing; he hovers between
cringing familiarity and patronage; and, when you gladly part with him,
he probably solaces himself by muttering curses on your meanness or your
insolence. Once more--how does the faded military person come to be on
the roads? We shall come to that presently.

Observe the temporary lord of the tap-room when you halt on the dusty
roads and search for tea or lunch. He is in black, and a soiled
handkerchief is wound round his throat like an eel. He wears a soft felt
hat which has evidently done duty as a night-cap many times, and he
tries to bear himself as though the linen beneath his pinned-up coat
were of priceless quality. You know well enough that he has no shirt on,
for he would sell one within half an hour if any Samaritan fitted him
out. His boots are carefully tucked away under the bench, and his sharp
knees seem likely to start through their greasy casing. As soon as he
sees you he determines to create an impression, and he at once draws you
into the conversation. "Now, sir, you and I are scholars--I am an old
Balliol man myself--and I was explaining to these good lads the meaning
of the phrase which had puzzled them, as it has puzzled many more.
_Casus belli_, sir--that is what we find in this local rag of a journal;
and _status quo ante bellum_. Now, sir, these ignorant souls couldn't
tell what was meant, so I have been enlightening them. I relax my mind
in this way, though you would hardly think it the proper place for a
Balliol man, while that overfed brute up at the Hall can drive out with
a pair of two-hundred-guinea bays, sir. Fancy a gentleman and a scholar
being in this company, sir! Now Jones, the landlord there, is a good man
in his way--oh, no thanks Jones; it is not a compliment!--and I'd like
to see the man who dared say that I'm not speaking the truth, for I used
to put my hands up like a good one when we were boys at the old
'varsity, sir. Jones, this gentleman would like something; and I don't
mind taking a double dose of Glenlivat with a brother-scholar and a
gentleman like myself." So the mawkish creature maunders on until one's
gorge rises; but the stolid carters, the idle labourers, the shoemaker
from the shop round the corner, admire his eloquence, and enjoy the
luxury of pitying a parson and an aristocrat. How very numerous are the
representatives of this type, and how unspeakably odious they are! This
foul weed in dirty clothing assumes the pose of a bishop; he swears at
the landlord, he patronizes the shoemaker--who is his superior in all
ways--he airs the feeble remnants of his Latin grammar and his stock
quotations. He will curse you if you refuse him drink, and he will
describe you as an impostor or a cad; while, if you are weak enough to
gratify his taste for spirits, he will glower at you over his glass, and
sicken you with fulsome flattery or clumsy attempts at festive wit.
Enough of this ugly creature, whose baseness insults the light of God's
day! We know how he will end; we know how he has been a fraud throughout
his evil life, and we can hardly spare even pity for him. It is well if
the fellow has no lady-wife in some remote quarter--wife whom he can rob
or beg from, or even thrash, when he searches her out after one of his
rambles from casual ward to casual ward.

In the wastes of the great cities the army of the degraded swarm. Here
is the loose-lipped rakish wit, who tells stories in the common
lodging-house kitchen. He has a certain brilliancy about him which lasts
until the glassy gleam comes over his eyes, and then he becomes merely
blasphemous and offensive. He might be an influential writer or
politician, but he never gets beyond spouting in a pot-house debating
club, and even that chance of distinction does not come unless he has
written an unusually successful begging-letter. Here too is the broken
professional man. His horrid face is pustuled, his hands are like
unclean dough, he is like a creature falling to pieces; yet he can show
you pretty specimens of handwriting, and, if you will steady him by
giving him a drink of ale, he will write your name on the edge of a
newspaper in copper-plate characters or perform some analogous feat. All
the degraded like to show off the remains of their accomplishments, and
you may hear some odious being warbling. "_Ah, che la morte!_" with
quite the air of a leading tenor. In the dreadful purlieus lurk the poor
submissive ne'er-do-well, the clerk who has been imprisoned for
embezzlement, the City merchant's son who is reduced to being the tout
of a low bookmaker, the preacher who began as a youthful phenomenon and
ended by embezzling the Christmas dinner fund, the forlorn brute whose
wife and children have fled from him, and who spends his time between
the police-cells and the resorts of the vilest. If you could know the
names of the tramps who yell and make merry over their supper in the
murky kitchen, you would find that people of high consideration would be
touched very painfully could they be reminded of the existence of
certain relatives. Degraded, degraded are they all! And why?

The answer is brief, and I have left it until last, for no particular
elaboration is needed. From most painful study I have come to the
conclusion that nearly all of our degraded men come to ruin through
idleness in the first instance; drink, gambling, and other forms of
debauch follow, but idleness is the root-evil. The man who begins by
saying, "It's a poor heart that never rejoices," or who refers to the
danger of making Jack a dull boy, is on a bad road. Who ever heard of a
worker--a real toiler--becoming degraded? Worn he may be, and perhaps
dull to the influence of beauty and refinement; but there is always some
nobleness about him. The man who gives way to idleness at once prepares
his mind as a soil for evil seeds; the universe grows tiresome to him;
the life-weariness of the old Romans attacks him in an ignoble form,
and he begins to look about for distractions. Then his idleness, from
being perhaps merely amusing, becomes offensive and suspicious; drink
takes hold upon him; his moral sense perishes; only the husks of his
refinement remain; and by and by you have the slouching wanderer who is
good for nothing on earth. He is despised of men, and, were it not that
we know the inexhaustible bounty of the Everlasting Pity, we might
almost think that he was forgotten of Heaven. Stand against idleness.
Anything that age, aches, penury, hard trial may inflict on the soul is
trifling. Idleness is the great evil which leads to all others.
Therefore work while it is day.

_September, 1888._


I firmly believe in the sound manhood of the English people, and I know
that in any great emergency they would rise and prove themselves true
and gallant of soul; but we happen for the time to have amongst us a
very large class of idlers, and these idlers are steadily introducing
habits and customs which no wise observer can regard without solemn
apprehensions. The simple Southampton poet has told us what "idle hands"
are apt to do under certain guidance, and his saying--truism as it
appears--should be studied with more regard to its vital meaning. The
idlers crave for novelties; they seek for new forms of distraction; they
seem really to live only when they are in the midst of delirious
excitement. Unhappily their feverish unrest is apt to communicate itself
to men who are not naturally idlers, and thus their influence moves
outwards like some vast hurtful wind blown from a pestilent region.
During the past few years the idlers have invented a form of amusement
which for sheer atrocity and wanton cruelty is unparalleled in the
history of England. I shall say some words about this remarkable
amusement, and I trust that gentle women who have in them the heart of
compassion, mothers who have sons to be ruined, fathers who have purses
to bleed, may aid in putting down an evil that gathers strength every

Most of my readers know what the "sport" of coursing is; but, for the
benefit of strictly town-bred folk, I may roughly indicate the nature of
the pursuit as it was practised in bygone times. A brace of greyhounds
were placed together in the slips--that is, in collars which fly open
when the man who holds the dogs releases a knot; and then a line of men
moved slowly over the fields. When a hare rose and ran for her life, the
slipper allowed her a fair start, and then he released the dogs. The
mode of reckoning the merits of the hounds is perhaps a little too
complicated for the understanding of non-"sporting" people; but I may
broadly put it that the dog which gives the hare most trouble, the dog
that causes her to dodge and turn the oftenest in order to save her
life, is reckoned the winner. Thus the greyhound which reaches the hare
first receives two points; poor pussy then makes an agonized rush to
right or left, and, if the second dog succeeds in passing his opponent
and turning the hare again, he receives a point, and so on. The
old-fashioned open-air sport was cruel enough, for it often happened
that the hare ran for two or three miles with her ferocious pursuers
hard on her track, and every muscle of her body was strained with
poignant agony; but there is this to be said--the men had healthy,
matchless exercise on breezy plains and joyous uplands, they tramped all
day until their limbs were thoroughly exercised, and they earned sound
repose by their wholesome exertions. Moreover, the element of fair-play
enters into coursing when pursued in the open spaces. Pussy knows every
foot of the ground; nightly she steals gently to the fields where her
succulent food is found, and in the morning she steals back again to her
tiny nest, or form, amid the soft grass. All day she lies chewing the
cud in her fashion, and moving her delicate ears hither and thither,
lest fox or stoat or dog should come upon her unawares; and at nightfall
she steals away once more. Every run, every tuft of grass, every rising
of the ground is known to her; and, when at last the tramp of the
approaching beaters rouses her, she rushes away with a distinct
advantage over the dogs. She knows exactly whither to go; the other
animals do not, and usually, on open ground, the quarry escapes. I do
not think that any greyhound living could catch one of the hares now
left on the Suffolk marshes; and there are many on the great Wiltshire
plains which are quite capable of rushing at top speed for three miles
and more. The chase in the open is cruel--there is no denying it--for
poor puss dies many deaths ere she bids her enemies good-bye; but still
she has a chance for life, and thus the sport, inhuman as it is, has a
praiseworthy element of fairness in it.

But the betting-man, the foul product of civilization's depravity, cast
his eye on the old-fashioned sport and invaded the field. He found the
process of walking up the game not much to his taste, for he cares only
to exercise his leathern lungs; moreover, the courses were few and far
between and the chances of making wagers were scanty. He set himself to
meditate, and it struck him that, if a good big collection of hares
could be got together, it would be possible to turn them out one by one,
so that betting might go on as fast and as merrily on the
coursing-ground as at the roulette-table. Thus arose a "sport" which is
educating many, many thousands in callousness and brutality. Here and
there over England are dotted great enclosed parks, and the visitor is
shown wide and mazy coverts where hares swarm. Plenty of food is strewn
over the grass, and in the wildest of winters pussy has nothing to
fear--until the date of her execution arrives. The animals are not
natives of those enclosures; they are netted in droves on the Wiltshire
plains or on the Lancashire moors, and packed off like poultry to the
coursing-ground. There their life is calm for a long time; no poachers
or lurchers or vermin molest them; stillness is maintained, and the
hares live in peace. But one day there comes a roaring crowd to the
park, and, though pussy does not know it, her good days are passed. Look
at the mob that surges and bellows on the stands and in the enclosures.
They are well dressed and comfortable, but a more unpleasant gang could
not be seen. Try to distinguish a single face that shows kindness or
goodness--you fail; this rank roaring crowd is made up of betting-men
and dupes, and it is hard to say which are the worse. There is no
horse-racing in the winter, and so these people have come out to see a
succession of innocent creatures die, and to bet on the event. The slow
coursing of the old style would not do for the fiery betting-man; but we
shall have fun fast and furious presently. The assembly seems frantic;
flashy men with eccentric coats and gaudy hats of various patterns stand
about and bellow their offers to bet; feverish dupes move hither and
thither, waiting for chances; the rustle of notes, the chink of money,
sound here and there, and the immense clamour swells and swells, till a
stunning roar dulls the senses, and to an imaginative gazer it seems as
though a horde of fiends had been let loose to make day hideous. A
broad smooth stretch of grass lies opposite to the stands, and at one
end of this half-mile stretch there runs a barrier, the bottom of which
is fringed with straw and furze. If you examined that barrier, you would
find that it really opens into a wide dense copse, and that a hare or
rabbit which whisks under it is safe on the far side. At the other side
of this field a long fenced lane opens, and seems to be closed at the
blind end by a wide door. To the right of the blind lane is a tiny hut
surrounded by bushes, and by the side of the hut a few scattered men
loaf in a purposeless way. Presently a red-coated man canters across the
smooth green, and then the diabolical tumult of the stands reaches
ear-splitting intensity. Your betting-man is cool enough in reality; but
he likes to simulate mad eagerness until it appears as though the
swollen veins of face or throat would burst. And what is going on at the
closed end of that blind lane? On the strip of turf around the wide
field the demure trainers lead their melancholy-looking dogs. Each
greyhound is swathed in warm clothing, but they all look wretched; and,
as they pick their way along with dainty steps, no one would guess that
the sight of a certain poor little animal would convert each doleful
hound into an incarnate fury. Two dogs are led across to the little
hut--the bellow of the Ring sounds hoarsely on--and the chosen pair of
dogs disappear behind the shrubs. And now what is passing on the farther
side of that door which closes the lane? A hare is comfortably nestling
under a clump of furze when a soft step sounds near her. A man! Pussy
would like to move to right or left; but, lo, here are other men!
Decidedly she must move forward. Oh, joy! A swinging door rises softly,
and shows her a delightful long lane that seems to open on to a pleasant
open country. She hops gaily onward, and then a little uneasiness
overtakes her; she looks back, but that treacherous door has swung down
again, and there is only one road for her now. Softly she steals onward
to the mouth of the lane, and then she finds a slanting line of men who
wave their arms at her when she tries to shoot aside. A loud roar bursts
from the human animals on the stand, and then a hush falls. Now or
never, pussy! The far-off barrier must be gained, or all is over. The
hare lowers her ears and dashes off; then from the hut comes a
staggering man, who hangs back with all his strength as a pair of
ferocious dogs writhe and strain in the leash; the hounds rise on their
haunches, and paw wildly with their fore-feet, and they struggle forward
until puss has gone a fair distance, while the slipper encourages them
with low guttural sounds. Crack! The tense collars fly, and the arrowy
rush of the snaky dogs follows. Puss flicks her ears--she hears a thud,
thud, wallop, wallop; and she knows the supreme moment has come. Her
sinews tighten like bowstrings, and she darts on with the lightning
speed of despair. The grim pursuers near her; she almost feels the
breath of the foremost. Twitch!--and with a quick convulsive effort she
sheers aside, and her enemy sprawls on. But the second dog is ready to
meet her, and she must swirl round again. The two serpentine savages
gather themselves together and launch out in wild efforts to reach her;
they are upon her--she must dart round again, and does so under the very
feet of the baffled dogs. Her eyes are starting with overmastering
terror; again and again she sweeps from right to left, and again and
again the staunch hounds dash along in her track. Pussy fails fast; one
dog reaches her, and she shrieks as she feels his ferocious jaws touch
her; but he snatches only a mouthful of fur, and there is another
respite. Then at last one of the pursuers balances himself carefully,
his wicked head is raised, he strikes, and the long tremulous shriek of
despair is drowned in the hoarse crash of cheering from the mob. Brave
sport, my masters! Gallant Britons ye are! Ah, how I should like to let
one of you career over that field of death with a brace of business-like
boarhounds behind you!

There is no slackening of the fun, for the betting-men must be kept
busy. Men grow frantic with excitement; young fools who should be at
their business risk their money heedlessly, and generally go wrong. If
the hares could only know, they might derive some consolation from the
certainty that, if they are going to death, scores of their gallant
sporting persecutors are going to ruin. Time after time, in monotonous
succession, the same thing goes on through the day--the agonized hares
twirl and strain; the fierce dogs employ their superb speed and
strength; the unmanly gang of men howl like beasts of prey; and the
sweet sun looks upon all!

Women, what do you think of that for Englishmen's pastime? Recollect
that the mania for this form of excitement is growing more intense
daily; as much as one hundred thousand pounds may depend on a single
course--for not only the mob in the stands are betting, but thousands
are awaiting each result that is flashed off over the wires; and,
although you may be far away in remote country towns, your sons, your
husbands, your brothers, may be watching the clicking machine that
records the results in club and hotel--they may be risking their
substance in a lottery which is at once childish and cruel.

There is not one word to be said in favour of this vile game. The
old-fashioned courser at least got exercise and air; but the modern
betting-man wants neither; he wants only to make wagers and add to his
pile of money. For him the coursing meetings cannot come too often; the
swarming gudgeons flock to his net; he arranges the odds almost as he
chooses--with the help of his friends; and simpletons who do not know a
greyhound from a deerhound bet wildly--not on dogs, but on names. The
"sport" has all the uncertainty of roulette, and it is villainously
cruel into the bargain. Amid all those thousands you never hear one word
of pity for the stricken little creature that is driven out, as I have
said, for execution; they watch her agonies, and calculate the chances
of pouching their sovereigns. That is all.

Here then is another vast engine of demoralization set going, just as if
the Turf were not a blight of sufficient intensity! A young man ventures
into one of those cruel rings, buys a card, and resolves to risk pounds
or shillings. If he is unfortunate, he may be saved; but, curiously
enough, it often happens that a greenhorn who does not know one
greyhound from another blunders into a series of winning bets. If he
wins, he is lost, for the fever seizes him; he does not know what odds
are against him, and he goes on from deep to deep of failure and
disaster. Well for him if he escapes entire ruin! I have drawn attention
to this new evil because I have peculiar opportunities of studying the
inner life of our society, and I find that the gambling epidemic is
spreading among the middle-classes. To my mind these coursing massacres
should be made every whit as illegal as dog-fighting or bull-baiting,
for I can assure our legislators that the temptation offered by the
chances of rapid gambling is eating like a corrosive poison into the
young generation. Surely Englishmen, even if they want to bet, need not
invent a medium for betting which combines every description of noxious
cruelty! I ask the aid of women. Let them set their faces against tin's
horrid sport, and it will soon be known no more.

If the silly bettors themselves could only understand their own
position, they might be rescued. Let it be distinctly understood that
the bookmaker cannot lose, no matter how events may go. On the other
hand, the man who makes wagers on what he is pleased to term his
"fancies" has everything against him. The chances of his choosing a
winner in the odious new sport are hardly to be mathematically stated,
and it may be mathematically proved that he must lose. Then, apart from
the money loss, what an utterly ignoble and unholy pursuit this
trapped-hare coursing is for a manly man! Surely the heart of compassion
in any one not wholly brutalized should be moved at the thought of those
cabined, cribbed, confined little creatures that yield up their innocent
lives amid the remorseless cries of a callous multitude. Poor innocents!
Is it not possible to gamble without making God's creatures undergo
torture? If a man were to turn a cat into a close yard and set dogs upon
it, he would be imprisoned, and his name would be held up to scorn. What
is the difference between cat and hare?

_March, 1887._


"What things are done in thy name!" The lady who spoke thus of Liberty
had lived a high and pure life; all good souls were attracted to her;
and it seems strange that so sweet and pure and beautiful a creature
could have grown up in the vile France of the days before the
Revolution. She kept up the traditions of gentle and seemly courtesy
even at times when Sardanapalus Danton was perforce admitted to her
_salon_; and in an age of suspicion and vile scandal she kept a
stainless name, for even the most degraded pamphleteer in Paris dared do
no more than hint a fault and hesitate dislike. But this lady went to
the scaffold with many and many of the young, the beautiful, the brave;
and her sombre satire, "What things are done in thy name!" was
remembered long afterwards when the despots and the invading alien had
in turn placed their feet on the neck of devoted France. "What things
are done in thy name!" Yes; and we, in this modern world, might vary the
saying a little and exclaim, "What things are said in thy name!"--for we
have indeed arrived at the era of liberty, and the gospel of Rousseau is
being preached with fantastic variations by people who think that any
speech which apes the forms of logic is reasonable and that any desire
which is expressed in a sufficiently loud howl should be at once
gratified. We pride ourselves on our knowledge and our reasoning power;
but to judicious observers it often seems that those who talk loudest
have a very thin vein of knowledge, and no reasoning faculty that is not

By all means let us have "freedom," but let us also consider our terms,
and fix the meaning of the things that we say. Perhaps I should write
"the things that we think we say," because so many of those who make
themselves heard do not weigh words at all, and they imagine themselves
to be uttering cogent truths when they are really giving us the babble
of Bedlam. If ladies and gentlemen who rant about freedom would try to
emancipate themselves from the dominion of meaningless words, we should
all fare better; but we find a large number of public personages using
perfectly grammatical series of phrases without dreaming for a moment
that their grave sentences are pure gibberish. A few simple questions
addressed in the Socratic manner to certain lights of thought might do
much good. For instance, we might say, "Do you ever speak of being free
from good health, or free from a good character, or free from
prosperity?" I fancy not; and yet copiously talkative individuals employ
terms quite as hazy and silly as those which I have indicated.

We have gone very far in the direction of scientific discovery, and we
have a large number of facts at our disposal; but some of us have quite
forgotten that true liberty comes only from submitting to wise guidance.
Old Sandy Mackay, in Alton Locke, declared that he would never bow down
to a bit of brains: and this highly-independent attitude is copied by
persons who fail to see that bowing to the bit of brains is the only
mode of securing genuine freedom. If our daring logicians would grant
that every man should have liberty to lead his life as he chooses, so
long as he hurts neither himself nor any other individual nor the State,
then one might follow their argument; but a plain homespun proposal like
that of mine is not enough for your advanced thinker. In England he
says, "Let us have deliverance from all restrictions;" in Russia he
says, "Anarchy is the only cure for existing evils." For centuries past
the earth has been deluged with blood and the children of men have been
scourged by miseries unspeakable, merely because powerful men and
powerful bodies of men have not chosen to learn the meaning of the word
"liberty." "How miserable you make the world for one another, O feeble
race of men!" So said our own melancholy English cynic; and he had
singularly good reason for his plaint. Rapid generalization is nearly
always mischievous; unless we learn to form correct and swift judgments
on every faculty of life as it comes before us, we merely stumble from
error to error. No cut-and-dried maxim ever yet was fit to guide men
through their mysterious existence; the formalist always ends by
becoming a bungler, and the most highly-developed man, if he is content
to be no more than a thinking-machine, is harmful to himself and harmful
to the community which has the ill-luck to harbour him. If we take cases
from history, we ought to find it easy enough to distinguish between the
men who sought liberty wisely and those who were restive and turbulent.
A wise man or a wise nation knows the kind of restraint which is good;
the fool, with his feather-brained theories, never knows what is good
for him--he mistakes eternal justice for tyranny, he rebels against
facts that are too solid for him--and we know what kind of an end he
meets. Some peculiarly daring personages carry their spirit of
resistance beyond the bounds of our poor little earth. Only lately many
of us read with a shock of surprise the passionate asseveration of a
gifted woman who declared that it was a monstrous wrong and wickedness
that ever she had been born. Job said much the same thing in his
delirium; but our great novelist put forth her complaint as the net
outcome of all her thought and culture. We only need to open an ordinary
newspaper to find that the famous writer's folly is shared by many
weaker souls; and the effect on the mind of a shrewd and contented man
is so startling that it resembles the emotion roused by grotesque wit.
The whole story of the ages tells us dismally what happens when unwise
people choose to claim the measure of liberty which they think good; but
somehow, though knowledge has come, wisdom lingers, and the grim old
follies rear themselves rankly among us in the age of reason.

When we remember the Swiss mountaineers who took their deaths joyously
in defence of their homes, when we read of the devoted brave one who
received the sheaf of spears in his breast and broke the oppressor's
array, none of us can think of mere vulgar rebellion. The Swiss were
fighting to free themselves from wrongs untold; and we should hold them
less than men if they had tamely submitted to be caged like poultry.
Again, we feel a thrill when we read the epitaph which says, "Gladly we
would have rested had we won freedom. We have lost, and very gladly
rest." The very air of bravery, of steady self-abnegation seems to
exhale from the sombre, triumphant words. Russia is the chosen home of
tyranny now, but her day of brightness will come again. It is safe to
prophesy so much, for I remember what happened at one time of supreme
peril. Prussia and Austria and Italy lay crushed and bleeding under the
awful power of Napoleon, and it seemed as though Russia must be wiped
out from the list of nations when the great army of invaders poured in
relentless multitudes over the stricken land. The conqueror appeared to
have the very forces of nature in his favour, and his hosts moved on
without a check and without a failure of organization. So perfectly had
he planned the minutest details that, although his stations were
scattered from the Beresina to the Seine, not so much as a letter was
lost during the onward movement. How could the doomed country resist? So
thought all Europe. But the splendid old Russian, the immortal
Koutousoff, had felt the pulse of his nation, and he was confident,
while all the other chiefs felt as though the earth were rocking under
them. The time for the extinction of Russia had not come; a throb of
fierce emotion passed over the country; the people rose like one man,
and the despot found himself held in check by rude masses of men for
whom death had scant terrors. Koutousoff had a mighty people to support
him, and he would have swept back the horde of spoilers, even if the
winter had not come to his aid. Russia was but a dark country then, as
now, but the conduct of the myriads who dared to die gave a bright
presage for the future. Who can blame the multitudes of Muscovites who
sealed their wild protest with their blood? The common soldiers were
but slaves, yet they would have suffered a degradation worse than
slavery had they succumbed, while, as to the immense body of
people--that nation within a nation--which answered to our upper and
middle classes, they would have tasted the same woes which at length
drove Germany to frenzy and made simple burghers prefer bitter death to
the tyranny of the French. The rulers of Russia have stained her records
foully since the days of 1812, but their worst sins cannot blot out the
memory of the national uprising. Years are but trivial; seventy-six of
them seem a long time; but those who study history broadly know that the
dawn of a better future for Russia showed its first gleam when the
aroused and indignant race rose and went forward to die before the
French cannon. When next Russia rises, it will be against a tyranny only
second to Napoleon's in virulence--it will be against the terror that
rules her now from within; and her success will be applauded by the

The Italians, who first waited and plotted, and then fought desperately
under Garibaldi, had every reason to cry out for freedom. If they had
remained merely whimpering under the Bourbon and Austrian whips, they
would have deserved to be spurned by all who bear the hearts of men.
They were denied the meanest privileges of humanity; they lived in a
fashion which was rather like the violent, oppressed, hideous existence
which men imagine in evil dreams, and at length they struck, and
declared for liberty or annihilation. Perhaps they did not gain much in
the way of immediate material good, but that only makes their splendid
movement the more admirable. They fought for a magnificent idea, and
even now, though the populace have to bear a taxation three times as
great as any known before in their history, the ordinary Italian will
say, "Yes, signor--the taxes are very heavy; we toil very hard and pay
much money; but who counts money? We are a nation now--a real nation;
Italy is united and free." That is the gist of the matter. The people
were bitterly ground down, and they are content to suffer privation in
the present so long as they can ensure freedom from alien rule in the
future. Nothing that the most hardly-entreated Briton suffers in any
circumstances could equal the agonies of degradation borne by the people
of the Peninsula, and their emancipation was hailed as if it had been a
personal benefaction by all that was wisest and best in European
society. The millions who turned out to welcome Garibaldi as if he had
been an adored sovereign all had a true appreciation of real liberty;
the masses were right in their instinct, and it was left for hysterical
"thinkers" to shriek their deluded ideas in these later days.

"But surely the Irish rose for freedom in 1641?" I can almost imagine
some clever correspondent asking me that question with a view to taking
me in a neat trap. It is true enough that the Irish rose; but here again
we must learn to discriminate between cases. How did the wild folk rise?
Did they go out like the Thousand of Marsala and pit themselves against
odds of five and six to one? Did they show any chivalry? Alas for the
wicked story! The rebels behaved like cruel wild beasts; they were worse
than polecats in an aviary, and they met with about the same resistance
as the polecats would meet. They stripped the Ulster farmers and their
families naked, and sent them out in the bitter weather; they hung on
the skirts of the agonized crowd; the men cut down the refugees
wholesale, and even the little boys of the insurgent party were taught
to torture and kill the unhappy children of the flying farmers. Poor
little infants fell in the rear of the doomed host, but no mother was
allowed to succour her dying offspring, and the innocents expired in
unimaginable suffering. The stripped fugitives crowded into Dublin, and
there the plague carried them off wholesale. The rebels had gained
liberty with a vengeance, and they had their way for ten years and more.
Their liberty was degraded by savagery; they ruled Ireland at their own
sweet will; they dwelt in anarchy until the burden of their iniquity
grew too grievous for the earth to bear. Then their villainous freedom
was suddenly ended by no less a person than Oliver Cromwell, and the
curses, the murders, the unspeakable vileness of ten bad years all were
atoned for in wild wrath and ruin. Now is it not marvellous that, while
the murderers were free, they were poverty-stricken and most wretched?
As soon as Cromwell's voice had ceased to pronounce the doom on the
unworthy, the great man began his work of regeneration; and under his
iron hand the country which had been miserable in freedom became
prosperous, happy, and contented. There is no mistaking the facts, for
men of all parties swore that the six years which followed the storm of
Drogheda were the best in all Ireland's history. Had Cromwell only lived
longer, or had there been a man fit to follow him, then England and
Ireland would be happier this day.

In our social life the same conditions hold for the individual as hold
for nations in the assembly of the world's peoples. Freedom--true
freedom--means liberty to live a beneficent and innocent life. As soon
as an individual chooses to set up as a law to himself, then we have a
right--nay, it is our bounden duty--to examine his pretensions. If the
sense of the wisest in our community declares him unfit to issue dicta
for the guidance of men, then we must promptly suppress him; if we do
not, our misfortunes are on our own heads. The "independent" man may cry
out about liberty and the rest as much as he likes, but we cannot afford
to heed him. We simply say, "You foolish person, liberty, as you are
pleased to call it, would be poison to you. The best medicines for your
uneasy mind are reproof and restraint; if those fail to act on you, then
we must try what the lash will do for you."

Let us have liberty for the wise and the good--we know them well enough
when we see them; and no sophist dare in his heart declare that any
charlatan ever mastered men permanently. Liberty for the wise and
good--yes, and wholesome discipline for the foolish and
froward--sagacious guidance for all. Of course, if a man or a community
is unable to choose a guide of the right sort, then that man or
community is doomed, and we need say no more of either. I keep warily
out of the muddy conflict of politics; but I will say that the cries of
certain apostles of liberty seem woful and foolish. Unhappy shriekers,
whither do they fancy they are bound? Is it to some Land of Beulah,
where they may gambol unrestrained on pleasant hills? The shriekers are
all wrong, and the best friend of theirs, the best friend of humanity,
is he who will teach them--sternly if need be--that liberty and license
are two widely different things.

_August, 1888._


One of the strangest shocks which the British traveller can experience
occurs to him when he makes his first acquaintance with the American
servant--especially the male servant. The quiet domineering European is
stung out of his impassivity by a sort of moral stab which disturbs
every faculty, unless he is absolutely stunned and left gasping. In
England, the quiet club servant waits with dignity and reserve, but he
is obedient to the last degree, and his civility reaches the point of
absolute polish. When he performs a service his air is impassive, but if
he is addressed his face assumes a quietly good-humoured expression, and
he contrives to make his temporary employer feel as though it was a
pleasure to attend upon him. All over our country we find that
politeness between employer and servant is mutual. Here and there we
find a well-dressed ruffian who thinks he is doing a clever thing when
he bullies a servant; but a gentleman is always considerate, quiet,
respectful; and he expects consideration, quietness, and respect from
those who wait upon him. The light-footed, cheerful young women who
serve in hotels and private houses are nearly always charmingly kind and
obliging without ever descending to familiarity; in fact, I believe
that, if England be taken all round, it will be found that female
post-office clerks are the only servants who are positively offensive.
They are spoiled by the hurried, captious, tiresome persons who haunt
post-offices at all hours, and in self-defence they are apt to convert
themselves into moral analogues of the fretful porcupine. Perhaps the
queenly dames in railway refreshment-rooms are almost equal
to the post-office damsels; but both classes are growing more
good-natured--thanks to Charles Dickens, Mr. Sullivan, and Mr. _Punch_.

But the American servant exhibits no such weakness as civility; he is
resolved to let you know that you are in the country of equality, and,
in order to do that effectually, he treats you as a grovelling inferior.
You ask a civil question, and he flings his answer at you as he would
fling a bone at a dog. Every act of service which he performs comes most
ungraciously from him, and he usually contrives to let you plainly see
two things--first, he is ashamed of his position; secondly, he means to
take a sort of indirect revenge on you in order to salve his lacerated
dignity. A young English peer happened to ask a Chicago servant to clean
a pair of boots, and his tone of command was rather pronounced and
definite. That young patrician began to doubt his own identity when he
was thus addressed--"Ketch on and do them yourself!" There was no
redress, no possible remedy, and finally our compatriot humbled himself
to a negro, and paid an exorbitant price for his polish.

Here we have an absurdity quite fairly exposed. The young American
student who acts as a reporter or waiter during his college vacation is
nearly always a respectful gentleman who neither takes nor allows a
liberty; but the underbred boor, keen as he is about his gratuities,
will take even your gifts as though he were an Asiatic potentate, and
the traveller a passing slave whose tribute is condescendingly received.
In a word, the servant goes out of his way to prove that, in his own
idea, he is quite fit to be anybody's master. The Declaration of
Independence informs us that all men are born equal; the transatlantic
servant takes that with a certain reservation, for he implies that,
though men may be equal in a general way, yet, so far as he is
concerned, he prefers to reckon himself the superior of anybody with
whom business brings him into contact.

It was in America that I first began to meditate on the problem of
equality, and I have given it much thought at intervals during several
years. The great difficulty is to avoid repeating stale commonplaces on
the matter. The robust Briton bellows, "Equality! Divide up all the
property in the world equally among the inhabitants, and there would be
rich and poor, just as before, within a week!" The robust man thinks
that settles the whole matter at once. Then we have the stock story of
the three practical communists who forced themselves upon the society of
Baron Rothschild, and explained their views at some length. The Baron
said: "Gentlemen, I have made a little calculation, and I find that, if
I divided my property equally among my fellow-citizens, your share would
be one florin each. Oblige me by accepting that sum at once, and permit
me to wish you good-morning." This was very neat in its way, but I want
to talk just a little more seriously of a problem which concerns the
daily life of us all, and affects our mental health, our placidity, and
our self-respect very intimately. In the first place, we have to
consider the deplorable exhibitions made by poor humanity whenever
equality has been fairly insisted on in any community. The Frenchmen of
1792 thought that a great principle had been asserted when the President
of the Convention said to the king, "You may sit down, Louis." It seemed
fine to the gallery when the queenly Marie Antoinette was addressed as
the widow Capet; but what a poor business it was after all! The howling
familiarity of the mob never touched the real dignity of the royal
woman, and their brutality was only a murderous form of Yankee servant's
mean "independence." I cannot treat the subject at all without going
into necessary subtleties which never occurred to an enraged mob or a
bloodthirsty and insolent official; I cannot accept the bald jeers of a
comfortable, purse-proud citizen as being of any weight, and I am just
as loath to heed the wire-drawn platitudes of the average philosopher.
If we accept the very first maxim of biology, and agree that no two
individuals of any living species are exactly alike, we have a
starting-point from which we can proceed to argue sensibly. We may pass
over the countless millions of inequalities which we observe in the
lower orders of living things: and there is no need to emphasize
distinctions which are plain to every child. When we come to speak of
the race of men we reach the only concern which has a passionate and
vital interest for us; even the amazing researches and conclusions of
the naturalists have no attraction for us unless they throw a light, no
matter how oblique, on our mysterious being and our mysterious fate. The
law which regulates the differentiation of species applies with
especial significance when we consider the birth of human individuals;
the law which ordains that out of countless millions of animalculae
which once shed their remains on the floor of the deep sea, or that now
swarm in any pond, there shall be no two alike, holds accurately for the
myriads of men who are born and pass away. The type is the same; there
are fixed resemblances, but exact similarity never. The struggle for
existence, no matter what direction it may take, always ends in the
singling out of individuals who, in some respect or other, are worthy to
survive, while the weak perish and the elements of their bodies go to
form new individuals. It soon becomes plain that the crazy cry for
equality is really only a weak protest against the hardships of the
battle for existence. The brutes have not attained to our complexity of
brain; ideas are only rudimentary with them, and they decide the
question of superiority by rude methods. Two lions fight until one is
laid low; the lioness looks calmly on until the little problem of
superiority is settled, and then she goes off with the victor. The
horses on the Pampas have their set battles until one has asserted his
mastery over the herd, and then the defeated ones cower away abjectly,
and submit themselves meekly to their lord. All the male animals are
given to issuing challenges in a very self-assertive manner, and the
object is the same in every case. But we are far above the brutes; we
have that mysterious, immaterial ally of the body, and our struggles are
settled amid bewildering refinements and subtleties and restrictions. In
one quarter, power of the soul gives its possessor dominion; in another,
only the force of the body is of any avail. If we observe the struggles
of savages, we see that the idea of equality never occurs to
half-developed men; the chief is the strong man, and his authority can
be maintained only by strength or by the influence that strength gives.
As the brute dies out of man, the conditions of life's warfare become so
complex that no one living could frame a generalization without finding
himself at once faced by a million of exceptions that seem to negative
his rule. Who was the most powerful man in England in Queen Anne's day?
Marlborough was an unmatched fighter; Bolingbroke was an imaginative and
masterful statesman; there were thousands of able and strong warriors;
but the one who was the most respected and feared was that tiny cripple
whose life was a long disease. Alexander Pope was as frail a creature as
ever managed to support existence; he rarely had a moment free from
pain; he was so crooked and aborted that a good-hearted woman like Lady
Mary Wortley Montagu was surprised into a sudden fit of laughter when he
proposed marriage to her. Yet how he was feared! The only one who could
match him was that raging giant who wrote "Gulliver," and the two men
wielded an essential power greater than that of the First Minister. The
terrible Atossa, Sarah, Duchess of Marlborough, shrank from contact with
Pope, while for a long time the ablest men of the political sets
approached Swift like lackeys. One power was made manifest by the
waspish verse-maker and the powerful satirist, and each was acknowledged
as a sort of monarch.

It would be like playing at paradoxes if I went on to adduce many
mysteries and contradictions that strike us when we consider man's
dominion over man. We can only come to the same conclusion if we bring
forward a million of instances; we can only see that the whole human
race, individual by individual, are separated one from the other by
differences more or less minute, and wherever two human beings are
placed together one must inevitably begin to assert mastery over the
other. The method of self-assertion may be that of the athlete, or that
of the intriguer, or that of the clear-sighted over the purblind, or
that of the subtle over the simple; it matters not, the effort for
mastery may be made either roughly or gently, or subtly, or even
clownishly, but made it will be.

Would it not be better to cease babbling of equality altogether, and to
try to accept the laws of life with some submission? The mistake of
rabid theorists lies in their supposition that the assertion of
superiority by one person necessarily inflicts wrong on another, whereas
it is only the mastery obtained by certain men over others that makes
the life of the civilized human creature bearable. The very servant who
is insolent while performing his duty only dares to exhibit rudeness
because he is sure of protection by law. All men are equal before the
law. Yes--but how was the recognition of equality enforced? Simply by
the power of the strong. No monarch in the world would venture to deal
out such measure to our rude servitor as was dealt by Clovis to one of
his men. The king regarded himself as being affronted by his soldier,
and he wiped out the affront to his own satisfaction by splitting his
follower's head in twain. But the civilized man is secured by a bulwark
of legality built up by strong hands, and manned, like the great Roman
walls, by powerful legionaries of the law. In this law of England, if a
peer and a peasant fight out a cause the peer has the advantage of the
strength given by accumulated wealth--that is one example of our
multifarious complexities; but the judge is stronger than either
litigant, and it is the inequality personified by the judge that makes
the safety of the peasant. In our ordered state, the strong have forced
themselves into positions of power; they have decided that the
coarseness of brutish conflict is not to be permitted, and one ruling
agency is established which rests on force, and force alone, but which
uses or permits the use of force only in cases of extremity. We know
that the foundation of all law is martial law, or pure force; we know
that when a judge says, "You shall be hanged," the convict feels
resistance useless, for behind the ushers and warders and turnkeys there
are the steel and bullet of the soldier. Thus it appears that even in
the sanctuary of equality--in the law court--the life and efficiency of
the place depend on the assertion of one superior strength--that is, on
the assertion of inequality.

If we choose to address each other as "Citizen," or play any fooleries
of that kind, we make no difference. Citizen Jourdain may go out
equipped in complete _carmagnole_, and he may refuse to doff his red cap
to any dignitary breathing; but all the while Citizen Barras is wielding
the real power, and Citizen Buonaparte is awaiting his turn in the
background. All the swagger of equality will avail nothing when Citizen
Buonaparte gets his chance; and the very men who talked loudest about
the reign of equality are the most ready to bow down and worship the
strong. Instead of ostentatiously proclaiming that one man is as good
as another--and better, we should devote ourselves to finding out who
are our real superiors. When the true man is found he will not stand
upon petty forms; and no one will demand such punctilios of him. He will
treat his brethren as beings to be aided and directed, he will use his
strength and his wisdom as gifts for which he must render an account,
and the trivialities of etiquette will count as nothing. When the street
orator yells, "Who is our ruler? Is he not flesh and blood like us? Are
not many of us above him?" he may possibly be stating truth. It would
have been hard to find any street-lounger more despicable than Bomba or
more foolish than poor Louis XVI; but the method of oratory is purely
destructive, and it will be much more to the purpose if the street
firebrand gives his audience some definite ideas as to the man who ought
to be chosen as leader. If we have the faculty for recognizing our best
man, all chatter about equalities and inequalities must soon drop into
silence. When the ragged Suwarrow went about among his men and talked
bluffly with the raw recruits, there was no question of equality in any
squad, for the tattered, begrimed man had approved himself the wisest,
most audacious, and most king-like of all the host; and he could afford
to despise appearances. No soldier ventured to think of taking a
liberty; every man reverenced the rough leader who could think and plan
and dare. Frederick wandered among the camp-fires at night, and sat down
with one group after another of his men. He never dreamed of equality,
nor did the rude soldiers. The king was greatest; the men were his
comrades, and all were bound to serve the Fatherland--the sovereign by
offering sage guidance, the men by following to the death. No company of
men ever yet did worthy work in the world when the notion of equality
was tried in practice; and no kind of effort, for evil or for good, ever
came to anything so long as those who tried did not recognize the rule
of the strongest or wisest. Even the scoundrel buccaneers of the Spanish
Main could not carry on their fiendish trade without sinking the notion
of equality, and the simple Quakers, the Society of Friends, with all
their straitened ideas, have been constantly compelled to recognize one
head of their body, even though they gave him no distinctive title. Our
business is to see that every man has his due as far as possible, and
not more than his due. The superior must perceive what is the degree of
deference which must be rendered to the inferior; the inferior must put
away envy and covetousness, and must learn to bestow, without servility,
reverence and obedience where reverence and obedience may be rightfully

_August, 1888._


So far as we can see it appears plain that the wish for brotherhood was
on the whole reasonable, and its fulfilment easier than the wild desire
for liberty and equality. No doubt Omar and Cromwell and Hoche and
Dumouriez have chosen in their respective times an odd mode of spreading
the blessings of fraternity. It is a little harsh to say to a man, "Be
my brother or I will cut your head off;" but we fear that men of the
stamp of Mahomet, Cromwell, and the French Jacobins were given to
offering a choice of the alternatives named. Perhaps we may be safe if
we take the roughness of the mere proselytizers as an evidence of
defective education; they had a dim perception of a beautiful principle,
but they knew of no instrument with which they could carry conviction
save the sword. We, with our better light, can well understand that
brotherhood should be fostered among men; we are all children of one
Father, and it is fitting that we should reverently acknowledge the
universal family tie. The Founder of our religion was the earliest
preacher of the divine gospel of pity, and it is to Him that we owe the
loveliest and purest conception of brotherhood. He claimed to be the
Brother of us all; He showed how we should treat our brethren, and He
carried His teaching on to the very close of His life.

So far from talking puerilities about equality, we should all see that
there are degrees in our vast family; the elder and stronger brethren
are bound to succour the younger and weaker; the young must look up to
their elders; and the Father of all will perhaps preserve peace among us
if we only forget our petty selves and look to Him. Alas, it is so hard
to forget self! The dullest of us can see how excellent and divine is
brotherhood, if we do assuredly carry out the conception of fraternity
thoroughly; but again I say, How hard it is to banish self and follow
the teaching of our divine Brother! If we cast our eyes over the world
now, we may see--perhaps indistinctly--things that might make us weep,
were it not that we must needs smile at the childish ways of men. In the
very nation that first chose to put forward the word "fraternity" as one
of the symbols for which men might die we see a strange spectacle. Half
that nation is brooding incessantly on revenge; half the nation is bent
only on slaying certain brother human beings who happen to live on the
north and east of a certain river instead of on the south and west. The
home of the solacing doctrine of fraternity is also the home of
incessant preparations for murder, rapine, bitter and brutal vengeance.
About a million of men rise every morning and spend the whole day in
practising so that they may learn to kill people cleverly; hideous
instruments, which must cause devastation, torture, bereavement, and
wreck, should they ever be used in earnest, are lovingly handled by men
who hope to see blood flow before long. The Frenchman cannot yet venture
to smite his Teutonic brother, but he will do so when he has the chance;
and thus two bands of brethren, who might have dwelt together amicably,
may shortly end by inflicting untold agonies on each other. Both nations
which so savagely await the beginning of a mad struggle are supposed to
be followers of the Brother whose sweet message is read and repeated by
nearly all the men who live on our continent, yet they only utter bitter
words and think sullen thoughts, while the more acrid of the two
adversaries is the country which once inscribed "Brotherhood" on its
very banners. All round the arena wherein the two great peoples defy
each other the nations wait anxiously for the delivery of the first
stroke that shall give the signal for wrath and woe; and, strangely, no
one can tell which of the onlookers is the more fervent professor of our
Master's faith. "Let brotherly love continue!"--that was the behest laid
on us all; and we manifest our brotherly love by invoking the spirit of

We know what exquisite visions floated around the twelve who first
founded the Church on the principle of fraternity. No brother was to be
left poor; all were to hold goods in common; every man should work for
what he could, and receive what he needed; but evil crept in, and
dissension and heart-burning, and ever since then the best of our poor
besotted human race have been groping blindly after fraternity and
finding it never. I always deprecate bitter or despondent views, or
exaggerating the importance of our feeble race--for, after all, the
whole time during which man has existed on earth is but as a brief
swallow-flight compared with the abysmal stretches of eternity; but I
confess that, when I see the flower of our race trained to become
killers of men and awaiting the opportunity to exercise their murderous
arts I feel a little sick at heart. Even they are compelled to hear the
commands of the lovely gospel of fraternity, and, unless they die
quickly in the fury of combat, their last moments are spent in listening
to the same blessed words. It seems so mad and dreamlike that I have
found myself thinking that, despite all our confidence, the world may be
but a phantasmagoria, and ourselves, with our flesh that seems so solid,
may be no more than fleeting wraiths. There is no one to rush between
the scowling nations, as the poor hermit did between the gladiators in
wicked Rome; there is no one to say, "Poor, silly peasant from pleasant
France, why should you care to stab and torment that other poor
flaxen-haired simpleton from Silesia? Your fields await you; if you were
left to yourselves, then you and the Silesian would be brothers,
worshipping like trusting children before the common Father of us all.
And now you can find nothing better to do than to do each other to
death!" Like the sanguine creatures who carried out the revolutionary
movements of 1789, 1830, 1848, and 1860, the weak among us are apt to
cry out--"Surely the time of fraternity has come at last!" Then, when
the murderous Empire, or the equally murderous Republic, or the grim
military despotism arrives instead of fraternity, the weak ones are
smitten with confusion. I pity them, for a bitterness almost as of death
must be lived through before one learns that God indeed doeth all things
well. The poor Revolutionists thought that they must have rapid changes,
and their hysterical visions appeared to them like perfectly wise and
accurate glances into the future. They were in a hurry, forgetting that
we cannot change our marvellous society on a sudden, any more than we
can change a single tissue of our bodies on a sudden--hence their
frantic hopes and frantic despair. If we gaze coolly round, we see that,
in spite of a muttering, threatening France and a watchful Germany, in
spite of the huge Russian storm-cloud that lowers heavily over Europe,
in spite of the venomous intrigues with which Austria is accredited,
there are still cheerful symptoms to be seen, and it may happen that the
very horror of war may at last drive all men to reject it, and declare
for fraternity. Look at that very France which is now so electric with
passion and suspicion, and compare it with the France of long ago. The
Gaul now thinks of killing the Teuton; but in the time of the good King
Henry IV. he delighted in slaying his brother Gaul. The race who now
only care to turn their hands against a rival nation once fought among
themselves like starving rats in a pit. Even in the most polished
society the men used to pick quarrels to fight to the death. In one year
of King Henry's reign nine thousand French gentlemen were killed in
duels! Bad as we are, we are not likely to return to such a state of
things as then was seen. The men belonged to one nation, and they ought
to have banded together so that no foreign foe might take advantage of
them; and yet they chose rather to slaughter each other at the rate of
nearly one hundred and ninety per week. Certainly, so far as France is
concerned, we can see some improvement; for, although the cowardly and
abominable practice of duelling is still kept up, only one man was
killed during the past twelve months, instead of nine thousand. In
England we have had nearly two hundred years of truce from civil wars;
in Germany the sections of the populace have at any rate stopped
fighting among themselves; in Italy there are no longer the shameful
feuds of Guelf and Ghibelline. It would seem, then, that civil strife is
passing away, and that countries which were once the prey of
bloodthirsty contending factions are now at least peaceful within their
own borders.

If we reason from small things to great, we see that the squabbling
nests of murderers, or would-be murderers, who peopled France, England,
Germany, Austria, and Italy have given way to compact nations which
enjoy unbroken internal peace. The struggles of business go on; the weak
are trampled under foot in the mad rush of the cities of men, but the
actual infliction of pain and death is not now dreamed of by Frenchman
against Frenchman or German against German. We must remember that there
never was so deadly and murderous a spirit displayed as during the
Thirty Years' War, and yet the peoples who then wrestled and throttled
each other are now peaceful under the same yoke. May we not trust that a
time will come when nations will see on a sudden the blank folly of
making war? Day by day the pressure of armaments is growing greater, and
we may almost hope that the very fiendish nature of modern weapons may
bring about a blessed _reductio ad absurdum_, and leave war as a thing
ludicrous, and not to be contemplated by sane men! I find one gun
specially advertised in our Christian country, and warranted to kill as
many men in one minute as two companies of infantry could in five! What
will be the effect of the general introduction of this delightful
weapon? No force can possibly stand before it; no armour or works can
keep out the hail of its bullets. Supposing, then, that benevolent
science goes on improving the means of slaughter, must there not come a
time when people will utterly refuse to continue the mad and miserable
folly of war? Over the whole of Britain we may find even now the marks
of cannon-shot discharged by Englishmen against the castles of other
Englishmen. Is there one man in Britain who can at this present moment
bring his imagination to conceive such an occurrence as an artillery
fight between bodies of Englishmen? It is almost too absurd to be named
even as a casual supposition. So far has fraternity spread. Now, if we
go on perfecting dynamite shells which can destroy one thousand men by
one explosion; if we increase the range of our guns from twelve miles to
twenty, and fight our pieces according to directions signalled from a
balloon, we shall be going the very best way to make all men rise with
one spasm of disgust, and say, "No more of this!"

We cannot hope to do away with evil speaking, with verbal quarrelling,
with mean grasping of benefits from less fortunate brethren. Alas, the
reign of brotherhood will be long in eradicating the primeval combative
instinct; but, when we compare the quiet urbanity of a modern gathering
with the loud and senseless brawling which so often resulted from social
assemblies even at the beginning of this century we may take some heart
and hope on for the best. Our Lord had a clear vision of a time when
bitterness and evil-doing should cease, and His words are more than a
shadowy prediction. The fact is that, in striving gradually to introduce
the third of the conditions of life craved by the poor feather-witted
Frenchmen, the nations have a comparatively easy task. We cannot have
equality, physical conditions having too much to do with giving the
powers and accomplishments of men; we can only claim liberty under the
supreme guidance of our Creator; but fraternity is quite a possible
consummation. Our greatest hero held it as the Englishman's first duty
to hate a Frenchman as he hated the Devil; now that mad and cankered
feeling has passed away, and why should not the spread of common sense,
common honesty, bring us at last to see that our fellow-man is better
when regarded as a brother than as a possible assassin or thief?

Our corporate life and progress as nations, or even as a race of God's
creatures, is much like the life and progress of the individual. The
children of men stumble often, fall often, despair often, and yet the
great universal movement goes on, and even the degeneracy which must
always go on side by side with progress does not appreciably stay our
advance. The individual man cannot walk even twenty steps without
actually saving himself by a balancing movement from twenty falls. Every
step tends to become an ignominious tumble, and yet our poor body may
very easily move at the rate of four miles per hour, and we gain our
destinations daily. The human race, in spite of many slips, will go on
progressing towards good--that is, towards kindness--that is, towards
fraternity--that is, towards the gospel, which at present seems so
wildly and criminally neglected. The mild and innocent Anarcharsis
Clootz, who made his way over the continent of Europe, and who came to
our little island, in his day always believed that the time for the
federation of mankind would come. Poor fellow--he died under the
murderous knife of the guillotine and did little to further his
beautiful project! He was esteemed a harmless lunatic; yet,
notwithstanding the twelve millions of armed men who trample Europe, I
do not think that Clootz was quite a lunatic after all. Moreover, all
men know that right must prevail, and they know also that there is not a
human being on earth who does not believe by intuition that the gospel
of brotherhood is right, even as the life of its propounder was holy.
The way is weary toward the quarter where the rays of dawn will first
break over the shoulder of the earth. We walk on hoping, and, even if we
fall by the way, and all our hopes seem to be tardy of fruition, yet
others will hail the slow dawn of brotherhood when all now living are
dead and still.

_September, 1888._


Just at this present our troops are engaged in fighting various savage
tribes in various parts of the world, and the humorous journalist speaks
of the affairs as "little wars." There is something rather gruesome in
this airy flippancy proceeding from comfortable gentlemen who are in
nice studies at home. The Burmese force fights, marches, toils in an
atmosphere which would cause some of the airy critics to faint; the
Thibetan force must do as much climbing as would satisfy the average
Alpine performer; and all the soldiers carry their lives in their hands.
What is a little war? Is any war little to a man who loses his life in
it? I imagine that when a wounded fighter comes to face his last hour he
regards the particular war in which he is engaged as quite the most
momentous affair in the world so far as he is concerned. To me the whole
spectacle of the little wars is most grave, both as regards the nation
and as regards the individual Britons who must suffer and fall. Our
destiny is heavy upon us; we must "dree our weirde," for we have begun
walking on the road of conquest, and we must go forward or die. The man
who has the wolf by the ears cannot let go his hold; we cannot slacken
our grip on anything that once we have clutched. But it is terrible to
see how we are bleeding at the extremities. I cannot give the figures
detailing our losses in little wars during the past forty years, but
they are far worse than we incurred in the world-shaking fight of
Waterloo. Incessantly the drip, drip of national blood-shedding goes on,
and no end seems to be gained, save the grim consciousness that we must
suffer and never flinch. The graves of our best and dearest--our hardy
loved ones--are scattered over the ends of the earth, and the little
wars are answerable for all. England, in her blundering, half-articulate
fashion, answers, "Yes, they had to die; their mother asked for their
blood, and they gave it." So then from scores of punctures the
life-blood of the mother of nations drops, and each new bloodshed leads
to yet further bloodshed, until the deadly series looks endless. We sent
Burnes to Cabul, and we betrayed him in the most dastardly way by the
mouth of a Minister. England, the great mother, was not answerable for
that most unholy of crimes; it was the talking men, the glib Parliament
cowards. Burnes was cut to pieces and an army lost. Crime brings forth
crime, and thus we had to butcher more Afghans. Every inch of India has
been bought in the same way; one war wins territory which must be
secured by another war, and thus the inexorable game is played on. In
Africa we have fared in the same way, and thus from many veins the red
stream is drained, and yet the proud heart of the mother continues to
beat strongly. It is so hard for men to die; it is as hard for the Zulu
and the Afghan and the Ghoorka as it is for the civilized man, and that
is why I wish it were Britain's fortune to be allowed to cease from the
shedding of blood. If the corpses of the barbarians whom we have
destroyed within the past ten years could only be laid out in any open
space and shown to our populace, there would be a shudder of horror felt
through the country; yet, while the sweet bells chime to us about peace
and goodwill, we go on sending myriads of men out of life, and the
nation pays no more heed to that steady ruthless killing than it does to
the slaughter of oxen. Alas!

Then, if we think of the lot of those who fight for us and slaughter our
hapless enemies by deputy as it were, their luck seems very hard. When
the steady lines moved up the Alma slope and the men were dropping so
fast, the soldiers knew that they were performing their parts as in a
vast theatre; their country would learn the story of their deed, and the
feats of individuals would be amply recorded. But, when a man spends
months in a far-off rocky country, fighting day after day, watching
night after night, and knowing that at any moment the bullet of a
prowling Ghilzai or Afridi may strike him, he has very little
consolation indeed. When one comes to think of the matter from the
humorous point of view--though there is more grim fact than fun in
it--it does seem odd that we should be compelled to spend two thousand
pounds on an officer's education, and then send him where he may be
wiped out of the world in an instant by a savage little above the level
of the Bushman. I pity the poor savages, but I certainly pity the
refined and highly-trained English soldier more. The latest and most
delightful of our Anglo-Indians has put the matter admirably in verse
which carries a sting even amidst its pathos. He calls his verses
"Arithmetic on the Frontier."

A great and glorious thing it is
To learn for seven years or so
The Lord knows what of that or this,
Ere reckoned fit to face the foe,
The flying bullet down the pass,
That whistles clear, "All flesh is grass."

Three hundred pounds per annum spent
On making brain and body meeter
For all the murderous intent
Comprised in villainous saltpetre!
And after--ask the Yusufzaies
What comes of all our 'ologies.

A scrimmage in a border station,
A canter down some dark defile--
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail!
The crammer's boast, the squadron's pride
Shot like a rabbit in a ride.

No proposition Euclid wrote,
No formulae the text-book know,
Will turn the bullet from your coat
Or ward the tulwar's downward blow;
Strike hard who cares--shoot straight who can--
The odds are on the cheaper man.

One sword-knot stolen from the camp
Will pay for all the school expenses
Of any Kurrum Valley scamp
Who knows no word of moods and tenses,
But, being blessed with perfect sight,
Picks off our messmates left and right.

With home-bred hordes the hillsides teem;
The troop-ships bring us one by one,
At vast expense of time and steam,
To slay Afridis where they run.
The captives of our bow and spear
Are cheap, alas, as we are dear!

There is a world of meaning in those half-sad, half-smiling lines, and
many an hour-long discourse might fail to throw more lurid light on one
of the strangest historical problems in the world. The flower of
England's manhood must needs go; and our most brilliant scholars, our
boldest riders, our most perfect specimens of physical humanity drop
like rabbits to the fire of half-naked savages! The bright boy, the hero
of school and college, the brisk, active officer, passes away into
obscurity. The mother weeps--perhaps some one nearer and dearer than all
is stricken: but the dead Englishman's name vanishes from memory like a
fleck of haze on the side of the valley where he sleeps. England--cold,
inexorable, indifferent--has other sons to take the dead man's place and
perhaps share his obscurity; and the doomed host of fair gallant youths
moves forward ever in serried, fearless lines towards the shadows. That
is what it costs to be a mighty nation. It is sorrowful to think of the
sacrificed men--sacrificed to fulfil England's imposing destiny; it is
sorrowful to think of the mourners who cannot even see their darling's
grave; yet there is something grandiose and almost morbidly impressive
in the attitude of Britain. She waves her imperial hand and says, "See
what my place in the world is! My bravest, my most skilful, may die in a
fight that is no more than a scuffling brawl; they go down to the dust
of death unknown, but the others come on unflinching. It is hard that I
should part with my precious sons in mean warfare, but the fates will
have it so, and I am equal to the call of fate." Thus the sovereign
nation. Those who have no very pompous notions are willing to recognize
the savage grandeur of our advance; but I cannot help thinking of the
lonely graves, the rich lives squandered, the reckless casting away of
human life, which are involved in carrying out our mysterious mission in
the great peninsula. Our graves are spread thickly over the deadly
plains; our brightest and best toil and suffer and die, and they have
hardly so much as a stone to mark their sleeping-place; our blood has
watered those awful stretches from the Himalayas to Comorin, and we may
call Hindostan the graveyard of Britain's noblest. People who see only
the grizzled veterans who lounge away their days at Cheltenham or
Brighton think that the fighting trade must be a very nice one after
all. To retire at fifty with a thousand a year is very pleasant no
doubt; but then every one of those war-worn gentlemen who returns to
take his ease represents a score who have perished in fights as
undignified as a street brawl. "More legions!" said Varus; "More
legions!" says England; and our regiments depart without any man
thinking of _Morituri te salittant!_ Yes; that phrase might well be in
the mind of every British man who fares down the Red Sea and enters the
Indian furnace. Those about to die, salute thee, O England, our mother!
Is it worth while? Sometimes I have my doubts. Moreover, I never talk
with one of our impassive, masterful Anglo-Indians without feeling sorry
that their splendid capacities should be so often cast into darkness,
and their fame confined to the gossip of a clump of bungalows. Verily
our little wars use up an immense quantity of raw material in the shape
of intellect and power. A man whose culture is far beyond that of the
mouthing politicians at home and whose statesmanship is not to be
compared to the ignorant crudities of the pigmies who strut and fret on
the English party stage--this man spends great part of a lifetime in
ruling and fighting; he gives every force of a great intellect and will
to his labours, and he achieves definite and beneficent practical
results; yet his name is never mentioned in England, and any vulgar
vestryman would probably outweigh him in the eyes of the populace.
Carlyle says that we should despise fame. "Do your work," observes the
sage, "and never mind the rest. When your duty is done, no further
concern rests with you." And then the aged thinker goes on to snarl at
puny creatures who are not content to be unknown. Well, that is all very
stoical and very grand, and so forth; but Carlyle forgot human nature.
He himself raged and gnashed his teeth because the world neglected him,
and I must with every humility ask forgiveness of his _manes_ if I
express some commiseration for the unknown braves who perish in our
little wars. Our callousness as individuals can hardly be called lordly,
though the results are majestic; we accept supreme services, and we
accept the supreme sacrifice (Skin for skin: all that a man hath will he
give for his life), and we very rarely think fit to growl forth a chance
word of thanks. Luckily our splendid men are not very importunate, and
most of them accept with silent humour the neglect which befalls them.
An old fighting general once remarked, "These fellows are in luck since
the telegraph and the correspondents have been at work. We weren't so
fortunate in my day. I went through the Crimea and the Mutiny, and there
was yet another affair in 1863 that was hotter than either, so far as
close fighting and proportional losses of troops were concerned. A
force of three thousand was sent against the Afghans, and they never
gave us much rest night or day. They seemed determined to give their
lives away, and they wouldn't be denied. I've seen them come on and grab
at the muzzles of the rifles. We did a lot of fighting behind rough
breastworks, but sometimes they would rush us then. We lost thirty
officers out of thirty-four before we were finished. Well, when I came
home and went about among the clubs, the fellows used to say to me,
'What was this affair of yours up in the hills? We had no particulars
except the fact that you were fighting.' And that expedition cost ten
times as many men as your Egyptian one, besides causing six weeks of
almost constant fighting; yet not a newspaper had a word to say about
it! We never grumbled much--it was all in the day's work; but it shows
how men's luck varies."

There spoke the old fighter, "Duty first, and take your chance of the
rest." True; but could not one almost wish that those forlorn heroes who
saved our frontier from savage hordes might have gained just a little of
that praise so dear to the frivolous mind of man? It was not to be; the
dead men's bones have long ago sunk into the kindly earth, the wind
flows down the valleys, and the fighters sleep in the unknown glens and
on far-distant hillsides with no record save the curt clerk's mark in
the regimental list--"Dead."

When I hear the merry pressman chatting about little wars and proudly
looking down on "mere skirmishes," I cannot restrain a movement of
impatience. Are our few dead not to be considered because they were few?
Supposing they had swarmed forward in some great battle of the West and
died with thousands of others amid the hurricane music of hundreds of
guns, would the magnitude of the battle make any difference?

Honour to those who risk life and limb for England; honour to them,
whether they die amid loud battle or in the far-away dimness of a little

_September, 1888._


Again and again I have talked about the delights of leisure, and I
always advise worn worldlings to renew their youth and gain fresh ideas
amid the blessed calm of the fields and the trees. But I lately watched
an immense procession of holiday-makers travelling mile after mile in
long-drawn sequence--and the study caused me to have many thoughts.
There was no mistake about the intentions of the vast mob. They started
with a steadfast resolution to be jolly--and they kept to their
resolution so long as they were coherent of mind. It was a strange
sight--a population probably equal to half that of Scotland all plunged
into a sort of delirium and nearly all forgetting the serious side of
life. As I gazed on the frantic assembly, I wondered how the English
ever came to be considered a grave solid nation; I wondered, moreover,
how a great percentage of men representing a nation of conquerors,
explorers, administrators, inventors, should on a sudden decide to go
mad for a day. Perhaps, after all, the catchword "Merry England" meant
really "Mad England"; perhaps the good days which men mourned for after
the grim shade of Puritanism came over the country were neither more nor
less than periods of wild orgies; perhaps we have reason to be thankful
that the national carnivals do not now occur very often. Our ancestors
had a very peculiar idea of what constituted a merry-making, and there
are many things in ancient art and literature which tempt us to fancy
that a certain crudity distinguished the festivals of ancient days; but
still the latter-day frolic in all its monstrous proportions is not to
be studied by a philosophic observer without profoundly moving thoughts
arising. As I gazed on the endless flow of travellers, I could hardly
help wondering how the mob would conduct themselves during any great
social convulsion. Some gushing persons talk about the good humour and
orderliness of the British crowd. Well, I allow that the better class of
holiday-makers exhibit a kind of rough good nature; but, whenever
"sport" is in question, we find that a certain class come to the
front--a class who are not genial or merry, but purely lawless. While
the huge carnival is in progress during one delirious day, we have a
chance of seeing in a mild form what would happen if a complete national
disaster caused society to become fundamentally disordered. The beasts
of prey come forth from their lairs, the most elementary rules of
conduct are forgotten or bluntly disregarded, and the law-abiding
citizen may see robbery and violence carried on in broad daylight. In
some cases it happens that organized bands of thieves rob one man after
another with a brutal effrontery which quite shames the minor abilities
of Macedonian or Calabrian brigands. Forty or fifty consummate
scoundrels work in concert; and it often happens that even the
betting-men are seized, raised from the ground, and shaken until their
money falls and is scrambled for by eager rascaldom. Wherever there Is
sport the predatory animals flock together; and I thought, when last I
saw the crew, "If a foreign army were in movement against England and a
panic arose, there would be little mercy for quiet citizens." On a hasty
computation, I should say that an ordinary Derby Day brings together an
army of wastrels and criminals strong enough to sack London if once the
initial impetus were given; and who can say what blind chance may supply
that impetus even in our day? There is not so much sheer foulness
nowadays as there used to be; the Yahoo element--male and female--is not
obtrusive; and it is even possible for a lady to remain in certain
quarters of the mighty Downs without being offended in any way. Our
grandfathers--and our fathers, for that matter--had a somewhat acrid
conception of humour, and the offscourings of the city ministered to
this peculiar humorous sense in a singular way. But a leaven of
propriety has now crept in, and the evil beings who were wont to pollute
the sweet air preserve some moderate measure of seemliness. I am willing
to welcome every sign of improving manners; and yet I must say that the
great British Festival is a sorry and even horrible spectacle. What is
the net result or purpose of the whole display? Cheery scribes babble
about "Isthmian games" and the glorious air of the Surrey hills, and
they try to put on a sort of jollity and semblance of well-being; but
the sham is a poor one, and the laughing hypocrites know in their hearts
that the vast gathering of people means merely waste, idleness,
thievery, villainy, vice of all kinds--and there is next to no
compensation for the horrors which are crowded together. I would fain
pick out anything good from the whole wild spectacle; but I cannot, and
so give up the attempt with a sort of sick despair. There is something
rather pleasant in the sight of a merry lad who attends his first Derby,
for he sees only the vivid rush and movement of crowds; but to a
seasoned observer and thinker the tremendous panorama gives suggestions
only of evil. I hardly have patience to consider the fulsome talk of the
writers who print insincerities by the column year by year. They know
that the business is evil, and yet they persist in speaking as if there
were some magic influence in the reeking crowd which, they declare,
gives health and tone to body and mind. The dawdling parties who lunch
on the Hill derive no particular harm; but then how they waste money and
time! Plunderers of all sorts flourish in a species of blind whirl of
knavery; but no worthy person derives any good from the cruel waste of
money and strength and energy. The writers know all this, and yet they
go on turning out their sham cordiality, sham congratulations, sham
justifications; while any of us who know thoroughly the misery and
mental death and ruin of souls brought on by racing and gambling are
labelled as un-English or churlish or something of the kind. Why should
we be called churlish? Is it not true that a million of men and women
waste a day on a pursuit which brings them into contact with filthy
intemperance, stupid debauch, unspeakable coarseness? The eruptive
sportsman tells us that the sight of a good man on a good horse should
stir every manly impulse in a Briton. What rubbish! What manliness can
there be in watching a poor baby-colt flogged along by a dwarf? If one
is placed at some distance from the course, then one may find the
glitter of the pretty silk jackets pleasing; but, should one chance to
be near enough to see what is termed "an exciting finish," one's
general conception of the manliness of racing may be modified. From afar
off the movement of the jockeys' whip-hands is no more suggestive than
the movement of a windmill's sails; but, when one hears the "flack,
flack" of the whalebone and sees the wales rise on the dainty skin of
the immature horse, one does not feel quite joyous or manly. I have seen
a long lean creature reach back with his right leg and keep on jobbing
with the spur for nearly four hundred yards of a swift finish; I saw
another manikin lash a good horse until the animal fairly curved its
back in agony and writhed its head on one side so violently that the
manly sporting-men called it an ungenerous brute. Where does the fun
come in for the onlookers? There is one good old thoroughbred which
remembers a fearful flogging that he received twenty-two years ago; if
he hears the voice of the man who lashed him, he sweats profusely, and
trembles so much that he is like to fall down. How is the breed of
horses directly improved by that kind of sport? No; the thousands of
wastrels who squander the day and render themselves unsettled and idle
for a week are not thinking of horses or of taking a healthy outing;
they are obeying an unhealthy gregarious instinct which in certain
circumstances makes men show clear signs of acute mania. If we look at
the unadulterated absurdity of the affair, we may almost be tempted to
rage like Carlyle or Swift. For weeks there are millions of people who
talk of little else save the doings of useless dumb animals which can
perform no work in the world and which at best are beautiful toys. When
the thoroughbreds actually engage in their contest, there is no man of
all the imposing multitude who can see them gallop for more than about
thirty seconds; the last rush home is seen only by the interesting
mortals who are on the great stand; and the entire performance which
interests some persons for a year is all over in less than three
minutes. This is the game on which Englishmen lavish wild hopes, keen
attention, and good money--this is the sport of kings which gluts the
pockets of greedy knaves! A vast city--nay, a vast empire--is partially
disorganized for a day in order that some dwarfish boys may be seen
flogging immature horses during a certain number of seconds, and we
learn that there is something "English," and even chivalrous, in the
foolish wastrel proceedings.

My conceptions of English virtues are probably rudimentary; but I quite
fail to discover where the "nobility" of horse-racing and racecourse
picnicing appears. My notion of "nobility" belongs to a bygone time; and
I was gratified by hearing of one very noble deed at the moment when the
flashy howling mob were trooping forward to that great debauch which
takes place around the Derby racecourse. A great steamer was flying over
a Southern sea, and the sharks were showing their fins and prowling
around with evil eyes. The _Rimutaka_ spun on her way, and all the
ship's company were cheerful and careless. Suddenly a poor crazy woman
sprang over the side and was drifted away by a surface-current; while
the irresistible rush of the steamer could not of course be easily
stayed. A good Englishman--honour for ever to his name!--jumped into the
water, swam a quarter of a mile, and, by heaven's grace, escaped the
wicked sea-tigers and saved the unhappy distraught woman. That man's
name is Cavell: and I think of "nobility" in connection with him, and
not in connection with the manikins who rush over Epsom Downs.

I like to give a thought to the nobility of those men who guard and rule
a mighty empire; but I think very little of the creatures who merely
consume food and remain at home in rascally security. What a farce to
talk of encouraging "athletics"! The poor manikin who gets up on a racer
is not an athlete in any rational sense of the term. He is a wiry
emaciated being whose little muscles are strung like whipcord; but it is
strange to dignify him as an athlete. If he once rises above nine stone
in weight, his life becomes a sort of martyrdom; but, abstemious and
self-contained as he is, we can hardly give him the name which means so
much to all healthy Englishmen. For some time each day the wondrous
specimen of manhood must stew in a Turkish bath or between blankets; he
tramps for miles daily if his feet keep sound; he starts at five in the
morning and perhaps rides a trial or two; then he takes his weak tea and
toast, then exercise or sweating; then comes his stinted meal; and then
he starves until night. To call such a famished lean fellow a follower
of "noble" sport is too much. Other British men deny themselves; but
then think of the circumstances! Far away among the sea of mountains on
our Indian frontier a gallant Englishman remains in charge of his lonely
station; his Pathans or Ghoorkas are fine fellows, and perhaps some
brave old warrior will use the privilege of age and stroll in to chat
respectfully to the Sahib. But it is all lonely--drearily lonely. The
mountain partridge may churr at sunrise and sundown; the wily crows may
play out their odd life-drama daily; the mountain winds may rush
roaring through the gullies until the village women say they can hear
the hoofs of the brigadier's horse. But what are these desert sounds and
sights for the laboriously-cultured officer? His nearest comrade is
miles off; his spirit must dwell alone. And yet such men hang on at
their dreary toil; and who can ever hear them complain, save in their
semi-humorous letters to friends at home? They often carry their lives
in their hands; but they can only hope to rest unknown if the chance
goes against them. I call those men noble. There are no excited
thousands for them to figure before; they scarcely have the honour of
mention in a despatch; but they go on in grim silence, working out their
own destiny and the destiny of this colossal empire. When I compare them
with the bold sportsmen, I feel something like disgust. The real
high-hearted heroes do not crave rewards--if they did, they would reap
very little. The bold man who risked everything to save the _Calliope_
will never earn as much in a year as a horse-riding manikin can in two
months. That is the way we encourage our finest merit. And meantime at
the "Isthmian games" the hordes of scoundreldom who dwell at ease can
enjoy themselves to their hearts' content in their own dreadful way;
they break out in their usual riot of foulness; they degrade the shape
of man; and the burly moralists look on robustly, and say that it is

I never think of the great British carnival without feeling that the
dregs of that ugly crowd will one day make history in a fashion which
will set the world shuddering. I have no pity for ruined gamblers; but I
am indignant when we see the worst of human kind luxuriating in
abominable idleness and luxury on the foul fringe of the hateful
racecourse. No sumptuary law will ever make any inroad on the cruel
evil; and my feeling is one of sombre hopelessness.

_July, 1889._


The most hard-hearted of cynics must pity the poor daily journalist who
is calmly requested nowadays to produce a Christmas article. For my own
part I decline to meddle with holly and jollity and general goodwill,
and I have again and again protested against the insane Beggars'
Carnival which breaks out yearly towards the beginning of December. A
man may be pleased enough to hear his neighbour express goodwill, but he
does not want his neighbour's hand held forth to grasp our Western
equivalent for "backsheesh." In Egypt the screeching Arabs make life
miserable with their ceaseless dismal yell, "_Backsheesh, Howaji!_" The
average British citizen is also hailed with importunate cries which are
none the less piercing and annoying from the fact that they are
translated into black and white. The ignoble frivolity of the swarming
circulars, the obvious insincerity of the newspaper appeals, the
house-to-house calls, tend steadily to vulgarize an ancient and a
beautiful institution, and alienate the hearts of kindly people who do
not happen to be abject simpletons. The outbreak of kindness is
sometimes genuine on the part of the donors; but it is often merely
surface-kindness, and the gifts are bestowed in a bitter and grudging
spirit. Let me ask, What are the real feelings of a householder who is
requested to hand out a present to a turncock or dustman whom he has
never seen? The functionaries receive fair wages for unskilled labour,
yet they come smirking cheerfully forward and prefer a claim which has
no shadow of justification. If a flower-seller is rather too importunate
in offering her wares, she is promptly imprisoned for seven days or
fined; if a costermonger halts for a few minutes in a thoroughfare and
cries his goods, his stock maybe confiscated; yet the privileged
Christmas mendicant may actually proceed to insolence if his claims are
ignored; and the meek Briton submits to the insult. I cannot
sufficiently deplore the progress of this spirit of beggardom, for it is
acting and reacting in every direction all over the country. Long ago we
lamented the decay of manly independence among the fishermen of those
East Coast ports which have become watering-places. Big bearded fellows
whose fathers would have stared indignantly at the offer of a gratuity
are ready to hold out their hands and touch their caps to the most
vulgar dandy that ever swaggered. To any one who knew and loved the
whole breed of seamen and fishermen, a walk along Yarmouth sands in
September is among the most purely depressing experiences in life. But
the demoralization of the seaside population is not so distressing as
that of the general population in great cities. We all know Adam
Bede--the very finest portrait of the old-fashioned workman ever done.
If George Eliot had represented Adam as touching his cap for a sixpence,
we should have gasped with surprise at the incongruity. Can we imagine
an old-world stonemason like Hugh Miller begging coppers from a farmer
on whose steading he happened to be employed? The thing is
preposterous! But now a strong London artizan will coolly ask for his
gratuity just as if he were a mere link-boy!

It is pleasant to turn to kindlier themes; it is pleasant to think of
the legitimate rejoicings and kindnesses in which the most staid of us
may indulge. Far be it from me to emulate the crabbed person who
proposed to form a "Society for the Abolition of Christmas." The event
to be commemorated is by far the greatest in the history of our planet;
all others become hardly worthy of mention when we think of it; and
nothing more momentous can happen until the last catastrophe, when a
chilled and tideless earth shall roll through space, and when no memory
shall remain of the petty creatures who for a brief moment disturbed its
surface. The might of the Empire of Rome brooded over the fairest
portions of the known world, and it seemed as though nothing could shake
that colossal power; the pettiest officer of the Imperial staff was of
more importance than all the natives of Syria; and yet we see that the
fabric of Roman rule has passed away like a vision, while the faith
taught by a band of poor Syrian men has mastered the minds of the
strongest nations in the world. The poor disciples whom the Master left
became apostles; footsore and weary they wandered--they were scorned and
imprisoned and tortured until the last man of them had passed away.
Their work has subdued princes and empires, and the bells that ring out
on Christmas Eve remind us not only of the most tremendous occurrence in
history, but of the deeds of a few humble souls who conquered the fear
of death and who resigned the world in order that the children of the
world might be made better. A tremendous Event truly! We are far, far
away from the ideal, it is true; and some of us may feel a thrill of
sick despair when we think of what the sects have done and what they
have not done--it all seems so slow, so hopeless, and the powers of evil
assert themselves ever and again with such hideous force. Some withdraw
themselves to fierce isolation; some remain in the world, mocking the
ways of men and treating all life as an ugly jest; some refuse to think
at all, and drag themselves into oblivion; while some take one frantic
sudden step and leave the world altogether by help of bullet or bare
bodkin. A man of light mind who endeavoured to reconcile all the things
suggested to him by the coming of Christmas would probably become
demented if he bent his entire intellect to solve the puzzles.
Thousands--millions--of books have been written about the Christian
theology, and half of European mankind cannot claim to have any fixed
and certain belief which leads to right conduct. Some of the noblest and
sweetest souls on earth have given way to chill hopelessness, and only a
very bold or a very thick-sighted man could blame them; we must be
tender towards all who are perplexed, especially when we see how
terrible are the reasons for perplexity. Nevertheless, dark as the
outlook may be in many directions, men are slowly coming to see that the
service of God is the destruction of enmity, and that the religion of
tenderness and pity alone can give happiness during our dark pilgrimage.

Far back in last winter a man was forcing his way across a dreary marsh
in the very teeth of a wind that seemed to catch his throat in an icy
grip, stopping the breath at intervals and chilling the very heart.
Coldly the grey breakers rolled under the hard lowering sky; coldly the
western light flickered on the iron slopes of far-off hills; coldly the
last beams struck on the water and made chance wavelets flash with a
terrible glitter. The night rushed down, and the snow descended
fiercely; the terrified cattle tried to find shelter from the scourge of
the storm; a hollow roar rang sullenly amid the darkness; stray
sea-birds far overhead called weirdly, and it seemed as if the spirit of
evil were abroad in the night. In darkness the man fought onward,
thinking of the unhappy wretches who sometimes lie down on the snow and
let the final numbness seize their hearts. Then came a friendly
shout--then lights--and then the glow of warmth that filled a broad room
with pleasantness. All the night long the mad gusts tore at the walls
and made them vibrate; all night the terrible music rose into shrieks
and died away in low moaning, and ever the savage boom of the waves made
a vast under-song. Then came visions of the mournful sea that we all
know so well, and the traveller thought of the honest fellows who must
spend their Christmas-time amid warring forces that make the works of
man seem puny. What a picture that is--The Toilers of the Sea in Winter!
Christmas Eve comes with no joyous jangling of bells; the sun stoops to
the sea, glaring lividly through whirls of snow, and the vessel roars
through the water; black billows rush on until their crests topple into
ruin, and then the boiling white water shines fitfully like some strange
lambent flame; the breeze sings hoarsely among the cordage; the whole
surface flood plunges on as if some immense cataract must soon appear
after the rapids are passed. Every sea that the vessel shatters sends
up a flying waterspout; and the frost acts with amazing suddenness, so
that the spars, the rigging, and the deck gather layer after layer of
ice. Supposing the vessel is employed in fishing, then the men in the
forecastle crouch round the little fire, or shiver on their soaked beds,
and perhaps growl out a few words of more or less cheerful talk. Stay
with the helmsman, and you may know what the mystery and horror of utter
gloom are really like. There is danger everywhere--a sudden wave may
burst the deck or heave the vessel down on her side; a huge dim cloud
may start shapelessly from the murk, and, before a word of warning can
be uttered, a great ship may crash into the labouring craft. In that
case hope is gone, for the boat is bedded in a mass of ice and all the
doomed seamen must take the deadly plunge to eternity. Ah, think of
this, you who rest in the glow of beautiful homes! Then the morning--the
grey desolation! No words can fairly picture the utter cheerlessness of
a wintry dawn at sea. The bravest of men feel something like depression
or are pursued by cruel apprehensions. The solid masses of ice have
gripped every block, and the ropes will not run; the gaunt masts stand
up like pallid ghosts in the grey light, and still the volleys of snow
descend at intervals. All the ships seem to be cowering away, scared and
beaten; even the staunch sea-gulls have taken refuge in fields and quiet
rivers; and only the seamen have no escape. The mournful red stretches
of the Asiatic deserts are wild enough, but there are warmth and
marvellous light, and those who well know the moaning wastes say that
their fascination sinks on the soul. The wintry sea has no
fascination--no consolation; it is hungry, inhospitable--sometimes
horrible. But even there Christ walks the waters in spirit. In an
ordinary vessel the rudest seaman is made to think of the great day,
and, even if he goes on grumbling and swearing on the morrow, he is apt
to be softened and slightly subdued for one day at least. The fishermen
on the wild North Sea are cared for, and merry scenes are to be
witnessed even when landsmen might shudder in terror. Certain gallant
craft, like strong yachts, glide about among the plunging smacks; each
of the yachts has a brave blue flag at the masthead, and the vessels are
laden with kindly tokens from thousands of gentle souls on shore. Surely
there is no irreverence in saying that the Master walks the waters to
this day?

We Britons must of course express some of our emotions by eating and
drinking freely. No political party can pretend to adjust the affairs of
the Empire until the best-advertised members have met together at a
dinner-table; no prominent man can be regarded as having achieved the
highest work in politics, or art, or literature, or histrionics, until
he has been delicately fed in company with a large number of brother
mortals; and no anniversary can possibly be celebrated without an
immense consumption of eatables and drinkables. The rough men of the
North Sea have the national instinct, and their mode of recognizing the
festive season is quite up to the national standard. The North Sea
fisherman would not nowadays approve of the punch-bowls and ancient ale
which Dickens loved so much to praise, for he is given to the most
severe forms of abstinence; but it is a noble sight when he proceeds to
show what he can do in the way of Christmas dining. If he is one of the
sharers in a parcel from on shore, he is fortunate, for he may possibly
partake of a pudding which might be thrown over the masthead without
remaining whole after its fall on deck; but it matters little if he has
no daintily-prepared provender. Jack Fisherman seats himself on a box or
on the floor of the cabin; he produces his clasp-knife and prepares for
action. When his huge tin dish is piled with a miscellaneous assortment
of edibles, it presents a spectacle which might make all Bath and
Matlock and Royat and Homburg shudder; but the seaman, despising the
miserable luxuries of fork and spoon, attacks the amazing conglomeration
with enthusiasm. His Christmas pudding may resemble any geological
formation that you like to name, and it may be unaccountably allied with
a perplexing maze of cabbage and potatoes--nothing matters. Christmas
must be kept up, and the vast lurches of the vessel from sea to sea do
not at all disturb the fine equanimity of the fellows who are bent on
solemnly testifying, by gastronomic evidence, to the loyalty with which
Christmas is celebrated among orthodox Englishmen. The poor lads toil
hard, live hard, and they certainly feed hard; but, with all due
respect, it must be said also that they mostly pray hard; and, if any
one of the cynical division had been among the seamen during that awful
time five years ago, he would have seen that among the sea-toilers at
least the "glad" season is glad in something more than name--for the
gladness is serious. Sights of the same kind may be seen on great ships
that are careering over the myriad waterways that net the surface of the
globe; the smart man-of-war, the great liner, the slow deep-laden
barque toiling wearily round the Horn, are all manned by crews that keep
up the aged tradition more or less merrily; and woe betide the cook that
fails in his duty! That lost man's fate may be left to the eye of
imagination. Under the Southern Cross the fair summer weather glows; but
the good Colonists have their little rejoicings without the orthodox
adjuncts of snow and frozen fingers and iron roads. Far up in the bush
the men remember to make some kind of rude attempt at improvising
Christmas rites, and memories of the old country are present with many a
good fellow who is facing his first hard luck. But the climate makes no
difference; and, apart from all religious considerations, there is no
social event that so draws together the sympathies of the whole English
race all over the world.

At Nainee Tal, or any other of our stations in our wondrous Indian


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