120. In all the three, however, the reader must not for an instant suspect what is commonly called "hypocrisy." Their religion is no assumed mask or advanced pretense. It is in all a confirmed and intimate faith, mischievous by its error, in proportion to its sincerity (compare "Ariadne Florentina," paragraph 87), and although by his cowardice, petty larceny, and low cunning, Fairservice is absolutely separated into a different class of men from Moniplies—in his fixed religious principle and primary conception of moral conduct, he is exactly like him. Thus when, in an agony of terror, he speaks for once to his master with entire sincerity, one might for a moment think it was a lecture by Moniplies to Nigel.
"O, Maister Frank, a' your uncle's follies and your cousin's fliskies, were nothing to this! Drink clean cap-out, like Sir Hildebrand; begin the blessed morning with brandy-taps like Squire Percy; rin wud among the lasses like Squire John; gamble like Richard; win souls to the Pope and the deevil, like Rashleigh; rive, rant, break the Sabbath, and do the Pope's bidding, like them a' put thegither—but merciful Providence! tak' care o' your young bluid, and gang na near Rob Roy."
I said, one might for a moment think it was a Moniplies' lecture to Nigel. But not for two moments, if we indeed can think at all. We could not find a passage more concentrated in expression of Andrew's total character; nor more characteristic of Scott in the calculated precision and deliberate appliance of every word.
121. Observe first, Richie's rebuke, quoted above, fastens Nigel's mind instantly on the nobleness of his father. But Andrew's to Frank fastens as instantly on the follies of his uncle and cousins.
Secondly, the sum of Andrew's lesson is—"do anything that is rascally, if only you save your skin." But Richie's is summed in "the grace of God is better than gold pieces."
Thirdly, Richie takes little note of creeds, except when he is drunk, but looks to conduct always; while Andrew clinches his catalogue of wrong with "doing the Pope's bidding" and Sabbath-breaking; these definitions of the unpardonable being the worst absurdity of all Scotch wickedness to this hour—everything being forgiven to people who go to church on Sunday, and curse the Pope. Scott never loses sight of this marvelous plague-spot of Presbyterian religion, and the last words of Andrew Fairservice are:—
"The villain Laurie! to betray an auld friend that sang aff the same psalm-book wi' him every Sabbath for twenty years,"
and the tragedy of these last words of his, and of his expulsion from his former happy home—"a jargonelle pear-tree at one end of the cottage, a rivulet and flower plot of a rood in extent in front, a kitchen garden behind, and a paddock for a cow" (viii. 6, of the 1830 edition) can only be understood by the reading of the chapter he quotes on that last Sabbath evening he passes in it—the 5th of Nehemiah.
122. For—and I must again and again point out this to the modern reader, who, living in a world of affectation, suspects "hypocrisy" in every creature he sees—the very plague of this lower evangelical piety is that it is not hypocrisy; that Andrew and Laurie do both expect to get the grace of God by singing psalms on Sunday, whatever rascality they practice during the week. In the modern popular drama of "School," the only religious figure is a dirty and malicious usher who appears first reading Hervey's "Meditations," and throws away the book as soon as he is out of sight of the company. But when Andrew is found by Frank "perched up like a statue by a range of beehives in an attitude of devout contemplation, with one eye watching the motions of the little irritable citizens, and the other fixed on a book of devotion," you will please observe, suspicious reader, that the devout gardener has no expectation whatever of Frank's approach, nor has he any design upon him, nor is he reading or attitudinizing for effect of any kind on any person. He is following his own ordinary customs, and his book of devotion has been already so well used that "much attrition had deprived it of its corners, and worn it into an oval shape"; its attractiveness to Andrew being twofold—the first, that it contains doctrine to his mind; the second, that such sound doctrine is set forth under figures properly belonging to his craft. "I was e'en taking a spell o' worthy Mess John Quackleben's 'Flower of a Sweet Savour sown on the Middenstead of this World'" (note in passing Scott's easy, instant, exquisite invention of the name of author and title of book); and it is a question of very curious interest how far these sweet "spells" in Quackleben, and the like religious exercises of a nature compatible with worldly business (compare Luckie Macleary, "with eyes employed on Boston's 'Crook in the Lot,' while her ideas were engaged in summing up the reckoning"—Waverley, i. 112)—do indeed modify in Scotland the national character for the better or the worse; or, not materially altering, do at least solemnize and confirm it in what good it may be capable of. My own Scottish nurse described in "Fors Clavigera" for April, 1873, would, I doubt not, have been as faithful and affectionate without her little library of Puritan theology; nor were her minor faults, so far as I could see, abated by its exhortations; but I cannot but believe that her uncomplaining endurance of most painful disease, and steadiness of temper under not unfrequent misapprehension by those whom she best loved and served, were in great degree aided by so much of Christian faith and hope as she had succeeded in obtaining, with little talk about it.
123. I knew however in my earlier days a right old Covenanter in my Scottish aunt's house, of whom, with Mause Hedrigg and David Deans, I may be able perhaps to speak further in my next paper. But I can only now write carefully of what bears on my immediate work: and must ask the reader's indulgence for the hasty throwing together of materials intended, before my illness last spring, to have been far more thoroughly handled. The friends who are fearful for my reputation as an "ecrivain" will perhaps kindly recollect that a sentence of "Modern Painters" was often written four or five times over in my own hand, and tried in every word for perhaps an hour—perhaps a forenoon—before it was passed for the printer. I rarely now fix my mind on a sentence, or a thought, for five minutes in the quiet of morning, but a telegram comes announcing that somebody or other will do themselves the pleasure of calling at eleven o'clock, and that there's two shillings to pay.
[Footnote 98: October 1881.]
[Footnote 99: "Jean Francois Millet." Twenty Etching's and Woodcuts reproduced in Facsimile, and Biographical Notice by William Ernest Henley. London, 1881.]
[Footnote 100: I am sorry to find that my former allusion to the boating expedition in this novel has been misconstrued by a young authoress of promise into disparagement of her own work; not supposing it possible that I could only have been forced to look at George Eliot's by a friend's imperfect account of it.]
[Footnote 101: I am ashamed to exemplify the miserable work of "review" by mangling and mumbling this noble closing chapter of the "Monastery," but I cannot show the web of work without unweaving it.]
[Footnote 102: With ludicrously fatal retouch in the later edition "was deprived of" his sword.]
[Footnote 103: Again I am obliged, by review necessity, to omit half the points of the scene.]
[Footnote 104: I must deeply and earnestly express my thanks to my friend Mr. Hale White for his vindication of Goethe's real opinion of Byron from the mangled representation of it by Mr. Matthew Arnold (Contemporary Review, August, 1881).]
[Footnote 105: "Reirde, rerde, Anglo-Saxon reord, lingua, sermo, clamor, shouting" (Douglas glossary). No Scottish sentence in the Scott novels should be passed without examining every word in it, his dialect, as already noticed, being always pure and classic in the highest degree, and his meaning always the fuller, the further it is traced.]
[Footnote 106: The reader must observe that in quoting Scott for illustration of particular points I am obliged sometimes to alter the succession and omit much of the context of the pieces I want, for Scott never lets you see his hand, nor get at his points without remembering and comparing far-away pieces carefully. To collect the evidence of any one phase of character, is like pulling up the detached roots of a creeper.]
[Footnote 107: Note the "wee business of my ain," i. 213.]
[Footnote 108: Its "hero" is a tall youth with handsome calves to his legs, who shoots a bull with a fowling-piece, eats a large lunch, thinks it witty to call Othello a "nigger," and, having nothing to live on, and being capable of doing nothing for his living, establishes himself in lunches and cigars forever, by marrying a girl with a fortune. The heroine is an amiable governess, who, for the general encouragement of virtue in governesses, is rewarded by marrying a lord.]
[Footnote 109: The present paper was, however, the last.—ED.]
124. Long since, longer ago than the opening of some fairy tales, I was asked by the publisher who has been rash enough, at my request, to reprint these my favorite old stories in their earliest English form, to set down for him my reasons for preferring them to the more polished legends, moral and satiric, which are now, with rich adornment of every page by very admirable art, presented to the acceptance of the Nursery.
But it seemed to me to matter so little to the majestic independence of the child-public, who, beside themselves, liked, or who disliked, what they pronounced entertaining, that it is only on strict claims of a promise unwarily given that I venture on the impertinence of eulogy; and my reluctance is the greater, because there is in fact nothing very notable in these tales, unless it be their freedom from faults which for some time have been held to be quite the reverse of faults by the majority of readers.
125. In the best stories recently written for the young, there is a taint which it is not easy to define, but which inevitably follows on the author's addressing himself to children bred in schoolrooms and drawing-rooms, instead of fields and woods—children whose favorite amusements are premature imitations of the vanities of elder people, and whose conceptions of beauty are dependent partly on costliness of dress. The fairies who interfere in the fortunes of these little ones are apt to be resplendent chiefly in millinery and satin slippers, and appalling more by their airs than their enchantments.
The fine satire which, gleaming through every playful word, renders some of these recent stories as attractive to the old as to the young, seems to me no less to unfit them for their proper function. Children should laugh, but not mock; and when they laugh, it should not be at the weaknesses and the faults of others. They should be taught, as far as they are permitted to concern themselves with the characters of those around them, to seek faithfully for good, not to lie in wait maliciously to make themselves merry with evil: they should be too painfully sensitive to wrong to smile at it; and too modest to constitute themselves its judges.
126. With these minor errors a far graver one is involved. As the simplicity of the sense of beauty has been lost in recent tales for children, so also the simplicity of their conception of love. That word which, in the heart of a child, should represent the most constant and vital part of its being; which ought to be the sign of the most solemn thoughts that inform its awakening soul and, in one wide mystery of pure sunrise, should flood the zenith of its heaven, and gleam on the dew at its feet; this word, which should be consecrated on its lips, together with the Name which it may not take in vain, and whose meaning should soften and animate every emotion through which the inferior things and the feeble creatures, set beneath it in its narrow world, are revealed to its curiosity or companionship; this word, in modern child-story, is too often restrained and darkened into the hieroglyph of an evil mystery, troubling the sweet peace of youth with premature gleams of uncomprehended passion, and flitting shadows of unrecognized sin.
These great faults in the spirit of recent child-fiction are connected with a parallel folly of purpose. Parents who are too indolent and self-indulgent to form their children's characters by wholesome discipline, or in their own habits and principles of life are conscious of setting before them no faultless example, vainly endeavor to substitute the persuasive influence of moral precept, intruded in the guise of amusement, for the strength of moral habit compelled by righteous authority:—vainly think to inform the heart of infancy with deliberative wisdom, while they abdicate the guardianship of its unquestioning innocence; and warp into the agonies of an immature philosophy of conscience the once fearless strength of its unsullied and unhesitating virtue.
127. A child should not need to choose between right and wrong. It should not be capable of wrong; it should not conceive of wrong. Obedient, as bark to helm, not by sudden strain or effort, but in the freedom of its bright course of constant life; true, with an undistinguished, praiseless, unboastful truth, in a crystalline household world of truth; gentle, through daily entreatings of gentleness, and honorable trusts, and pretty prides of child-fellowship in offices of good; strong, not in bitter and doubtful contest with temptation, but in peace of heart, and armor of habitual right, from which temptation falls like thawing hail; self-commanding, not in sick restraint of mean appetites and covetous thoughts, but in vital joy of unluxurious life, and contentment in narrow possession, wisely esteemed.
Children so trained have no need of moral fairy tales; but they will find in the apparently vain and fitful courses of any tradition of old time, honestly delivered to them, a teaching for which no other can be substituted, and of which the power cannot be measured; animating for them the material world with inextinguishable life, fortifying them against the glacial cold of selfish science, and preparing them submissively, and with no bitterness of astonishment, to behold, in later years, the mystery—divinely appointed to remain such to all human thought—of the fates that happen alike to the evil and the good.
128. And the effect of the endeavor to make stories moral upon the literary merit of the work itself, is as harmful as the motive of the effort is false. For every fairy tale worth recording at all is the remnant of a tradition possessing true historical value;—historical, at least in so far as it has naturally arisen out of the mind of a people under special circumstances, and risen not without meaning, nor removed altogether from their sphere of religious faith. It sustains afterwards natural changes from the sincere action of the fear or fancy of successive generations; it takes new color from their manner of life, and new form from their changing moral tempers. As long as these changes are natural and effortless, accidental and inevitable, the story remains essentially true, altering its form, indeed, like a flying cloud, but remaining a sign of the sky; a shadowy image, as truly a part of the great firmament of the human mind as the light of reason which it seems to interrupt. But the fair deceit and innocent error of it cannot be interpreted nor restrained by a willful purpose, and all additions to it by act do but defile, as the shepherd disturbs the flakes of morning mist with smoke from his fire of dead leaves.
129. There is also a deeper collateral mischief in this indulgence of licentious change and retouching of stories to suit particular tastes, or inculcate favorite doctrines. It directly destroys the child's power of rendering any such belief as it would otherwise have been in his nature to give to an imaginative vision. How far it is expedient to occupy his mind with ideal forms at all may be questionable to many, though not to me; but it is quite beyond question that if we do allow of the fictitious representation, that representation should be calm and complete, possessed to the full, and read down its utmost depth. The little reader's attention should never be confused or disturbed, whether he is possessing himself of fairy tale or history. Let him know his fairy tale accurately, and have perfect joy or awe in the conception of it as if it were real; thus he will always be exercising his power of grasping realities: but a confused, careless, or discrediting tenure of the fiction will lead to as confused and careless reading of fact. Let the circumstances of both be strictly perceived and long dwelt upon, and let the child's own mind develop fruit of thought from both. It is of the greatest importance early to secure this habit of contemplation, and therefore it is a grave error, either to multiply unnecessarily, or to illustrate with extravagant richness, the incidents presented to the imagination. It should multiply and illustrate them for itself; and, if the intellect is of any real value, there will be a mystery and wonderfulness in its own dreams which would only be thwarted by external illustration. Yet I do not bring forward the text or the etchings in this volume as examples of what either ought to be in works of the kind: they are in many respects common, imperfect, vulgar; but their vulgarity is of a wholesome and harmless kind. It is not, for instance, graceful English, to say that a thought "popped into Catherine's head"; but it nevertheless is far better, as an initiation into literary style, that a child should be told this than that "a subject attracted Catherine's attention." And in genuine forms of minor tradition, a rude and more or less illiterate tone will always be discernible; for all the best fairy tales have owed their birth, and the greater part of their power, to narrowness of social circumstances; they belonged properly to districts in which walled cities are surrounded by bright and unblemished country, and in which a healthy and bustling town life, not highly refined, is relieved by, and contrasted with, the calm enchantment of pastoral and woodland scenery, either under humble cultivation by peasant masters, or left in its natural solitude. Under conditions of this kind the imagination is enough excited to invent instinctively (and rejoice in the invention of) spiritual forms of wildness and beauty, while yet it is restrained and made cheerful by the familiar accidents and relations of town life, mingling always in its fancy humorous and vulgar circumstances with pathetic ones, and never so much impressed with its supernatural fantasies as to be in danger of retaining them as any part of its religious faith. The good spirit descends gradually from an angel into a fairy, and the demon shrinks into a playful grotesque of diminutive malevolence, while yet both keep an accredited and vital influence upon the character and mind. But the language in which such ideas will be usually clothed, must necessarily partake of their narrowness; and art is systematically incognizant of them, having only strength under the conditions which awake them to express itself in an irregular and gross grotesque, fit only for external architectural decoration.
130. The illustrations of this volume are almost the only exceptions I know to the general rule. They are of quite sterling and admirable art, in a class precisely parallel in elevation to the character of the tales which they illustrate; and the original etchings, as I have before said in the Appendix to my "Elements of Drawing," were quite unrivaled in masterfulness of touch since Rembrandt (in some qualities of delineation unrivaled even by him). These copies have been so carefully executed, that at first I was deceived by them, and supposed them to be late impressions from the plates (and what is more, I believe the master himself was deceived by them, and supposed them to be his own); and although on careful comparison with the first proofs they will be found no exception to the terrible law that literal repetition of entirely fine work shall be, even to the hand that produced it,—much more to any other,—forever impossible, they still represent, with sufficient fidelity to be in the highest degree instructive, the harmonious light and shade, the manly simplicity of execution, and the easy, unincumbered fancy, of designs which belonged to the best period of Cruikshank's genius. To make somewhat enlarged copies of them, looking at them through a magnifying glass, and never putting two lines where Cruikshank has put only one, would be an exercise in decision and severe drawing which would leave afterwards little to be learnt in schools, I would gladly also say much in their praise as imaginative designs; but the power of genuine imaginative work, and its difference from that which is compounded and patched together from borrowed sources, is of all qualities of art the most difficult to explain; and I must be content with the simple assertions of it.
And so I trust the good old book, and the honest work that adorns it, to such favor as they may find with children of open hearts and lowly lives.
DENMARK HILL, Easter, 1868.
[Footnote 110: This paper forms the introduction to a volume entitled "German Popular Stories, with Illustrations after the original designs of George Cruikshank, edited by Edgar Taylor, with Introduction by John Ruskin, M.A." London: Chatto and Windus, 1868. The book is a reprint of Mr. Edgar Taylor's original (1823) selections of the "Hausmaerchen," or "German Popular Stories" of the Brothers Grimm. The original selections were in two octavo volumes; the reprint in one of smaller size, it being (the publisher states in his preface) "Mr. Ruskin's wish that the new edition should appeal to young readers rather than to adults."—ED.]
* * * * *
HOME, AND ITS ECONOMIES.
(Contemporary Review, May 1873.)
USURY. A REPLY AND A REJOINDER.
(Contemporary Review, February 1880.)
USURY. A PREFACE.
* * * * *
HOME, AND ITS ECONOMIES.
131. In the March number of the Contemporary Review appeared two papers, by writers of reputation, which I cannot but hope their authors will perceive upon reflection to have involved errors only the more grave in that they have become, of late, in the minds of nearly all public men, facile and familiar. I have, therefore, requested the editor's permission to offer some reply to both of these essays, their subjects being intimately connected.
The first of which I speak was Mr. Herbert Spencer's, which appeared under the title of "The Bias of Patriotism." But the real subject of the paper (discussed in its special extent, with singular care and equity) was only the bias of National vanity; and the debate was opened by this very curious sentence,—"Patriotism is nationally, that which Egoism is individually."
Mr. Spencer would not, I think, himself accept this statement, if put into the clear form, "What is Egoism in one man, is Patriotism in two or more, and the vice of an individual, the virtue of a multitude." But it is strange,—however strictly Mr. Spencer may of late have confined his attention to metaphysical or scientific subjects, disregarding the language of historical or imaginative literature—it is strange, I repeat, that so careful a student should be unaware that the term "patriotism" cannot, in classical usage, be extended to the action of a multitude. No writer of authority ever speaks of a nation as having felt, or acted, patriotically. Patriotism is, by definition, a virtue of individuals; and so far from being in those individuals a mode of egoism, it is precisely in the sacrifice of their egoism that it consists. It is the temper of mind which determines them to defer their own interests to those of their country.
132. Supposing it possible for any parallel sentiment to animate a nation as one body, it could have reference only to the position it held among other families of the world. The name of the emotion would then be properly "Cosmism," and would signify the resolution of such a people to sacrifice its own special interests to those of Mankind. Cosmism hitherto has indeed generally asserted itself only in the desire of the Cosmic nation that all others should adopt its theological opinions, and permit it to adopt their personal property; but Patriotism has truly existed, and even as a dominant feeling, in the minds of many persons who have been greatly influential on the fates of their races, and that one of our leading philosophers should be unconscious of the nature of this sentiment, and ignorant of its political power, is to be noted as painfully characteristic of the present state of England itself.
It does not indeed follow that a feeling of which we are unaware is necessarily extinguished in us; and the faculties of perception and analysis are always so paralyzed by the lingual ingenuities of logic that it is impossible to say, of any professed logician, whether he may not yet be acting under the real force of ideas of which he has lost both the consciousness and conception. No man who has once entangled himself in what Mr. Spencer defines, farther on, as the "science of the relations implied by the conclusions, exclusions, and overlappings of classes," can be expected during the rest of his life to perceive more of any one thing than that it is included, excluded, or overlapped by something else; which is in itself a sufficiently confused state of mind, and especially harmful in that it permits us to avoid considering whether our intellectual linen is itself clean, while we concern ourselves only to ascertain whether it is included, excluded, or overlapped by our coat collar. But it is a grave phenomenon of the time that patriotism—of all others—should be the sentiment which an English logician is not only unable to define, but attempts to define as its precise contrary. In every epoch of decline, men even of high intellectual energy have been swept down in the diluvium of public life, and the crystalline edges of their minds worn away by friction with blunted ones; but I had not believed that the whole weight of the depraved mob of modern England, though they have become incapable alike of fidelity to their own country, and alliance with any other, could so far have perplexed one of our exactest students as to make him confuse heroism with conceit, and the loves of country and of home with the iniquities of selfishness. Can it be only a quarter of a century since the Last Minstrel died—and have we already answered his "Lives there a man?" with the calm assertion that there live no other than such; and that the "wretch concentered all in self "is the "Patriot" of our generation?
133. Be it so. Let it even be admitted that egoism is the only power conceivable by a modern metaphysician to be the spring of mental energy; just as chemical excitement may be the only power traceable by the modern physician as the source of muscular energy. And still Mr. Spencer's subsequent analysis is inaccurate, and unscholarly. For egoism does not necessarily imply either misapprehension or mismeasurement. There are modes of the love of our country which are definitely selfish, as a cat's of the hearthrug, yet entirely balanced and calm in judicial faculty; passions which determine conduct, but have no influence on opinion. For instance, I have bought for my own exclusive gratification, the cottage in which I am writing, near the lake-beach on which I used to play when I was seven years old. Were I a public-spirited scientific person, or a benevolently pious one, I should doubtless, instead, be surveying the geographical relations of the Mountains of the Moon, or translating the Athanasian Creed into Tartar-Chinese. But I hate the very name of the public, and labor under no oppressive anxiety either for the advancement of science, or the salvation of mankind. I therefore prefer amusing myself with the lake-pebbles, of which I know nothing but that they are pretty; and conversing with people whom I can understand without pains, and who, so far from needing to be converted, seem to me on the whole better than myself. This is moral egoism, but it is not intellectual error. I never form, much less express, any opinion as to the relative beauties of Yewdale crag and the Mountains of the Moon; nor do I please myself by contemplating, in any exaggerated light, the spiritual advantages which I possess in my familiarity with the Thirty-nine Articles. I know the height of my neighboring mountains to a foot; and the extent of my real possessions, theological and material, to an article. Patriotic egoism attaches me to the one; personal egoism satisfies me in the other; and the calm selfishness with which Nature has blessed all her unphilosophical creatures, blinds me to the attractions—as to the faults—of things with which I have no concern, and saves me at once from the folly of contempt, and the discomfort of envy. I might have written, as accurately, "The discomfort of contempt"; for indeed the forms of petulant rivalry and self-assertion which Mr. Spencer assumes to be developments of egoism, are merely its diseases; (taking the word "disease" in its most literal meaning). A man of sense is more an egoist in modesty than a blockhead is in boasting; and it is neither pride nor self-respect, but only ignorance and ill-breeding, that either disguise the facts of life, or violate its courtesies.
134. It will not, I trust, be thought violation of courtesy to a writer of Mr. Spencer's extending influence, if I urge on his attention the danger under which metaphysicians are always placed of supposing that the investigation of the processes of thought will enable them to distinguish its forms. 'As well might the chemist, who had exhaustively examined the conditions of vitreous fusion, imagine himself therefore qualified to number or class the vases bent by the breath of Venice. Mr. Spencer has determined, I believe, to the satisfaction of his readers, in what manner thoughts and feelings are constructed; it is time for him now to observe the results of the construction, whether native to his own mind, or discoverable in other intellectual territories. Patriotism is, however, perhaps the last emotion he can now conveniently study in England, for the temper which crowns the joy of life with the sweetness and decorum of death can scarcely be manifested clearly in a country which is fast rendering herself one whose peace is pollution, and whose battle, crime; within whose confines it is loathsome to live, and in whose cause it is disgraceful to die.
135. The chief causes of her degradation were defended, with delicate apology, in the second paper to which I have above referred; the modification by Mr. W. R. Greg of a letter which he had addressed, on the subject of luxurious expenditure and its economical results, to the Pall Mall Gazette; and which Mr. Greg states to have given rise in that journal to a controversy in which four or five combatants took part, the looseness of whose notions induced him to express his own more coherent ones in the Contemporary Review.
I am sorry to find that Mr. Greg looked upon my own poor part in that correspondence as controversial. I merely asked him a question which he declared to be insidious and irrelevant (not considering that if it were the one, it could not be the other), and I stated a few facts respecting which no controversy was possible, and which Mr. Greg, in his own terms, "sedulously abstained" from noticing.
But Mr. Greg felt my question to be insidious because it made him partly conscious that he had only examined one half of the subject he was discussing, and even that half without precision.
Mr. Goldwin Smith had spoken of a rich man as consuming the means of living of the poor. Mr. Greg, in reply, pointed out how beneficially the rich man spent what he had got. Upon which I ventured to inquire "how he got it"; which is indeed precisely the first of all questions to be asked when the economical relations of any man with his neighbor are to be examined.
Dick Turpin is blamed—suppose—by some plain-minded person for consuming the means of other people's living. "Nay," says Dick to the plain-minded person, "observe how beneficently and pleasantly I spend whatever I get!"
"Yes, Dick," persists the plain-minded person; "but how do you get it?"
"The question," says Dick, "is insidious and irrelevant."
Do not let it be supposed that I mean to assert any irregularity or impropriety in Dick's profession—I merely assert the necessity for Mr. Greg's examination, if he would be master of his subject, of the manner of Gain in every case, as well as the manner of Expenditure. Such accounts must always be accurately rendered in a well-regulated society.
136. "Le lieutenant adressa la parole au capitaine, et lui dit qu'il venait d'enlever ces mannequins, remplis de sucre, de cannelle, d'amandes, et de raisins sees, a un epicier de Benavente. Apres qu'il eut rendu compte de son expedition au bureau, les depouilles de l'epicier furent portees dans l'office. Alors il ne fut plus question que de se rejouir; je debutai par le buffet, que je parai de plusieurs bouteilles de ce bon vin que le Seigneur Rolando m'avoit vante."
Mr. Greg strictly confines himself to an examination of the benefits conferred on the public by this so agreeable festivity; but he must not be surprised or indignant that some inquiry should be made as to the resulting condition of the epicier de Benavente.
And it is all the more necessary that such inquiry be instituted when the captain of the expedition is a minion, not of the moon, but of the sun; and dazzling, therefore, to all beholders. "It is heaven which dictates what I ought to do upon this occasion," says Henry of Navarre; "my retreat out of this city, before I have made myself master of it, will be the retreat of my soul out of my body." "Accordingly all the quarter which still held out, we forced," says M. de Rosny, "after which the inhabitants, finding themselves no longer able to resist, laid down their arms, and the city was given up to plunder. My good fortune threw a small iron chest in my way, in which I found about four thousand gold crowns."
I cannot doubt that the Baron's expenditure of this sum would be in the highest degree advantageous to France and to the Protestant religion. But complete economical science must study the effect of its abstraction on the immediate prosperity of the town of Cahors; and even beyond this—the mode of its former acquisition by the town itself, which perhaps, in the economies of the nether world, may have delegated some of its citizens to the seventh circle.
137. And the most curious points in the partiality of modern economical science are that while it always waives this question of ways and means with respect to rich persons, it studiously pushes it in the case of poor ones; and while it asserts the consumption of such an article of luxury as wine (to take that which Mr. Greg himself instances) to be economically expedient, when the wine is drunk by persons who are not thirsty, it asserts the same consumption to be altogether inexpedient, when the privilege is extended to those who are. Thus Mr. Greg dismisses, in one place, with compassionate disdain, the extremely vulgar notion "that a man who drinks a bottle of champagne worth five shillings, while his neighbor is in want of actual food, is in some way wronging his neighbor"; and yet Mr. Greg himself, elsewhere, evidently remains under the equally vulgar impression that the twenty-four millions of such thirstier persons who spend fifteen per cent of their incomes in drink and tobacco, are wronging their neighbors by that expenditure.
138. It cannot, surely, be the difference in degree of refinement between malt liquor and champagne which causes Mr. Greg's undefined sensation of moral delinquency and economical error in the one case, and of none in the other; if that be all, I can relieve him from his embarrassment by putting the cases in more parallel form. A clergyman writes to me, in distress of mind, because the able-bodied laborers who come begging to him in winter, drink port wine out of buckets in summer. Of course Mr. Greg's logical mind will at once admit (as a consequence of his own very just argumentum ad hominem in a previous page) that the consumption of port wine out of buckets must be as much a benefit to society in general as the consumption of champagne out of bottles; and yet, curiously enough, I am certain he will feel my question, "Where does the drinker get the means for his drinking?" more relevant in the case of the imbibers of port than in that of the imbibers of champagne. And although Mr. Greg proceeds, with that lofty contempt for the dictates of nature and Christianity which radical economists cannot but feel, to observe that "while the natural man and the Christian would have the champagne drinker forego his bottle, and give the value of it to the famishing wretch beside him, the radical economist would condemn such behavior as distinctly criminal and pernicious," he would scarcely, I think, carry out with the same triumphant confidence the conclusions of the unnatural man and the anti-christian, with respect to the laborer as well as the idler; and declare that while the extremely simple persons who still believe in the laws of nature, and the mercy of God, would have the port-drinker forego his bucket, and give the value of it to the famishing wife and child beside him, "the radical economist would condemn such behavior as distinctly criminal and pernicious."
Mr. Greg has it indeed in his power to reply that it is proper to economize for the sake of one's own wife and children, but not for the sake of anybody else's. But since, according to another exponent of the principles of Radical Economy, in the Cornhill Magazine, a well-conducted agricultural laborer must not marry till he is forty-five, his economies, if any, in early life, must be as offensive to Mr. Greg on the score of their abstract humanity, as those of the richest bachelor about town.
139. There is another short sentence in this same page, of which it is difficult to overrate the accidental significance.
"The superficial observer," says Mr. Greg, "recollects a text which he heard in his youth, but of which he never considered the precise applicability—'He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none.'"
The assumptions that no educated Englishman can ever have heard that text except in his youth, and that those who are old enough to remember having heard it, "never considered its precise applicability," are surely rash, in the treatment of a scientific subject. I can assure Mr. Greg that a few gray-headed votaries of the creed of Christendom still read—though perhaps under their breath—the words which early associations have made precious to them; and that in the bygone days, when that Sermon on the Mount was still listened to with respect by many not illiterate persons, its meaning was not only considered, but very deliberately acted upon. Even the readers of the Contemporary Review may perhaps have some pleasure in retreating from the sunshine of contemporary science, for a few quiet moments, into the shadows of that of the past, and hearing in the following extracts from two letters of Scott's (the first describing the manner of life of his mother, whose death it announces to a friend, the second, anticipating the verdict of the future on the management of his estate by a Scottish nobleman) what relations between rich and poor were possible, when philosophers had not yet even lisped in the sweet numbers of Radical Sociology.
* * * * *
140. "She was a strict economist, which she said, enabled her to be liberal; out of her little income of about L300 a year she bestowed at least a third in well-chosen charities, and with the rest, lived like a gentlewoman, and even with hospitality more general than seemed to suit her age; yet I could never prevail on her to accept of any assistance. You cannot conceive how affecting it was to me to see the little preparations of presents which she had assorted for the New Year, for she was a great observer of the old fashions of her period—and to think that the kind heart was cold which delighted in all these arts of kindly affection."
141. "The Duke is one of those retired and high-spirited men who will never be known until the world asks what became of the huge oak that grew on the brow of the hill, and sheltered such an extent of ground. During the late distress, though his own immense rents remained in arrears, and though I know he was pinched for money, as all men were, but more especially the possessors of entailed estates, he absented himself from London in order to pay, with ease to himself, the laborers employed on his various estates. These amounted (for I have often seen the roll and helped to check it) to nine hundred and fifty men, working at day wages, each of whom on a moderate average might maintain three persons, since the single men have mothers, sisters, and aged or very young relations to protect and assist. Indeed it is wonderful how much even a small sum, comparatively, will do in supporting the Scottish laborer, who in his natural state is perhaps one of the best, most intelligent, and kind-hearted of human beings; and in truth I have limited my other habits of expense very much since I fell into the habit of employing mine honest people. I wish you could have seen about a hundred children, being almost entirely supported by their fathers' or brothers' labor, come down yesterday to dance to the pipes, and get a piece of cake and bannock, and pence apiece (no very deadly largess) in honor of hogmanay. I declare to you, my dear friend, that when I thought the poor fellows, who kept these children so neat, and well taught, and well behaved, were slaving the whole day for eighteen pence or twenty pence at most, I was ashamed of their gratitude, and of their becks and bows. But after all, one does what one can, and it is better twenty families should be comfortable according to their wishes and habits, than that half that number should be raised above their situation."
* * * * *
142. I must pray Mr. Greg farther to observe, if he has condescended to glance at these remains of almost prehistoric thought, that although the modern philosopher will never have reason to blush for any man's gratitude, and has totally abandoned the romantic idea of making even so much as one family comfortable according to their wishes and habits, the alternative suggested by Scott, that half "the number should be raised above their situation" may become a very inconvenient one if the doctrines of Modern Equality and competition should render the other half desirous of parallel promotion.
143. It is now just sixteen years since Mr. Greg's present philosophy of Expenditure was expressed with great precision by the Common Councilmen of New York, in their report on the commercial crisis of 1857, in the following terms:—
"Another erroneous idea is that luxurious living, extravagant dressing, splendid turn-outs and fine houses, are the cause of distress to a nation, No more erroneous impression could exist. Every extravagance that the man of 100.000 or 1,000,000 dollars indulges in, adds to the means, the support, the wealth of ten or a hundred who had little or nothing else but their labor, their intellect, or their taste. If a man of 1,000,000 dollars spends principal and interest in ten years, and finds himself beggared at the end of that time, he has actually made a hundred who have catered to his extravagance, employers or employed, so much richer by the division of his wealth. He may be ruined, but the nation is better off and richer, for one hundred minds and hands, with 10,000 dollars apiece, are far more productive than one with the whole."
Now that is precisely the view also taken of the matter by a large number of Radical Economists in England as well as America; only they feel that the time, however short, which the rich gentleman takes to divide his property among them in his own way, is practically wasted; and even worse, because the methods which the gentleman himself is likely to adopt for the depression of his fortune will not, in all probability, be conducive to the elevation of his character. It appears, therefore, on moral as well as economical grounds, desirable that the division and distribution should at once be summarily effected; and the only point still open to discussion in the views of the Common Councilmen is to what degree of minuteness they would think it advisable to carry the subsequent subdivision.
144. I do not suppose, however, that this is the conclusion which Mr. Greg is desirous that the general Anti-Christian public should adopt; and in that case, as I see by his paper in the last number of the Contemporary, that he considers the Christian life itself virtually impossible, may I recommend his examination of the manners of the Pre-Christian? For I can certify him that this important subject, of which he has only himself imperfectly investigated one side, had been thoroughly investigated on all sides, at least seven hundred years before Christ; and from that day to this, all men of wit, sense, and feeling have held precisely the same views on the subjects of economy and charity, in all nations under the sun. It is of no consequence whether Mr. Greg chooses the experience of Boeotia, Lombardy, or Yorkshire, nor whether he studies the relation of work to-day or under Hesiod, Virgil, or Sydney Smith. But it is desirable that at least he should acquaint himself with the opinions of some such persons, as well as with those of the Common Councilmen of New York; for though a man of superior sagacity may be pardoned for thinking, with the friends of Job, that Wisdom will die with him, it can only be through neglect of the existing opportunities of general culture that he remains distinctly under the impression that she was born with him.
145. It may perhaps be well that in conclusion, I should state briefly the causes and terms of the economical crisis of our own day, which has been the subject of the debate between Mr. Goldwin Smith and Mr. Greg.
No man ever became, or can become, largely rich merely by labor and economy. All large fortunes (putting treasure-trove and gambling out of consideration) are founded either on occupation of land, usury, or taxation of labor. Whether openly or occultly, the landlord, money-lender, and capitalist employer, gather into their possession a certain quantity of the means of existence which other people produce by the labor of their hands. The effect of this impost upon the condition of life of the tenant, borrower, and workman, is the first point to be studied;—the results, that is to say, of the mode in which Captain Roland fills his purse.
Secondly, we have to study the effects of the mode in which Captain Roland empties his purse. The landlord, usurer, or labor-master, does not, and cannot, himself consume all the means of life he collects. He gives them to other persons, whom he employs for his own behoof—growers of champagne, jockeys, footmen, jewelers, builders, painters, musicians, and the like. The division of the labor of these persons from the production of food to the production of articles of luxury is very frequently, and at the present day, very grievously the cause of famine. But when the luxuries are produced, it becomes a quite separate question who is to have them, and whether the landlord and capitalist are entirely to monopolize the music, the painting, the architecture, the hand-service, the horse-service, and the sparkling champagne of the world.
146. And it is gradually, in these days, becoming manifest to the tenants, borrowers, and laborers, that instead of paying these large sums into the hands of the landlords, lenders, and employers, for them to purchase music, painting, etc., with, the tenants, borrowers, and workers had better buy a little music and painting for themselves. That, for instance, instead of the capitalist-employer paying three hundred pounds for a full-length portrait of himself, in the attitude of investing his capital, the united workmen had better themselves pay the three hundred pounds into the hands of the ingenious artist, for a painting in the antiquated manner of Leonardo or Raphael, of some subject more religiously or historically interesting to them; and placed where they can always see it. And again instead of paying three hundred pounds to the obliging landlord, for him to buy a box at the opera with, whence to study the refinements of music and dancing, the tenants are beginning to think that they may as well keep their rents to themselves, and therewith pay some Wandering Willie to fiddle at their own doors, or bid some gray-haired minstrel
"Tune, to please a peasant's ear, The harp a king had loved to hear."
And similarly the dwellers in the hut of the field and garret of the city are beginning to think that instead of paying half a crown for the loan of half a fire-place, they had better keep their half-crown in their pockets till they can buy for themselves a whole one.
147. These are the views which are gaining ground among the poor; and it is entirely vain to endeavor to repress them by equivocations. They are founded on eternal laws; and although their recognition will long be refused, and their promulgation, resisted as it will be, partly by force, partly by falsehood, can only be through incalculable confusion and misery, recognized they must be eventually; and with these three ultimate results:—that the usurer's trade will be abolished utterly,—that the employer will be paid justly for his superintendence of labor, but not for his capital, and the landlord paid for his superintendence of the cultivation of land, when he is able to direct it wisely: that both he, and the employer of mechanical labor, will be recognized as beloved masters, if they deserve love, and as noble guides when they are capable of giving discreet guidance; but neither will be permitted to establish themselves any more as senseless conduits through which the strength and riches of their native land are to be poured into the cup of the fornication of its capital.
[Footnote 111: Contemporary Review, May 1873.]
[Footnote 112: These were, first, Mr. Herbert Spencer's "Bias of Patriotism," being the ninth chapter of his "Study of Sociology," first published in the Contemporary Review; and, secondly, Mr. W. R. Greg's "What is culpable luxury?" See below, p. 303, Sec. 135.—ED.]
[Footnote 113: I take due note that Mr. Spencer partly means by his adverbial sentence that Patriotism is individual Egoism, expecting its own central benefit through the Nation's circumferent benefit, as through a funnel: but, throughout, Mr. Spencer confuses this sentiment, which he calls "reflex egoism," with the action of "corporate conscience."]
[Footnote 114: See the letters on "How the Rich Spend their Money" (reprinted from the Pall Mall) in "Arrows of the Chace," vol. ii., where the origin of the discussion is explained.—ED.]
[Footnote 115: I use the current English of Mrs. Lennox's translation, but Henry's real saying was (see the first—green leaf—edition of Sully), "It is written above what is to happen to me on every occasion." "Toute occasion" becomes "cette occasion" in the subsequent editions, and finally "what is to happen to me" (ce que doit etre fait de moi) becomes "what I ought to do" in the English.]
[Footnote 116: Cahors. See the "Memoirs of the Duke of Sully," Book 1. (Bohn's 1856 Edition, vol. i., pp. 118-9.)—ED.]
[Footnote 117: Where violence and brutality are punished. See Dante's "Inferno," Canto xii.—ED.]
[Footnote 118: See the Contemporary Review at pp. 618 and 624.—ED.]
[Footnote 119: Viz.:—That if the expenditure of an income of L30,000 a year upon luxuries is to rob the poor, so pro tanto is the expenditure of so much of an income of L300 as is spent on anything beyond "the simplest necessaries of life."—ED.]
[Footnote 120: Referring to two anonymous articles on "The Agricultural Laborer," in the Cornhill Magazine, vol. 27, Jan. and June 1873, pp. 215 and 307.—ED.]
[Footnote 121: See the Times of November 23rd of that year.]
[Footnote 122: "Is a Christian life feasible in these days?"—ED.]
[Footnote 123: See Munera Pulveris, Sec. 139: "No man can become largely rich by his personal will.... It is only by the discovery of some method of taxing the labor of others that he can become opulent." And see also Time and Tide, Sec. 81.—ED.]
A REPLY AND A REJOINDER.
148. I have been honored by the receipt of a letter from the Bishop of Manchester, which, with his Lordship's permission, I have requested the editor of the Contemporary Review to place before the large circle of his readers, with a brief accompanying statement of the circumstances by which the letter has been called forth, and such imperfect reply as it is in my power without delay to render.
MANCHESTER, December 8, 1879.
DEAR SIR,—In a letter from yourself to the Rev. F. A. Malleson, published in the Contemporary Review of the current month, I observe the following passage:—"I have never yet heard so much as one (preacher) heartily proclaiming against all those 'deceivers with vain words,' that no 'covetous person, which is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God;' and on myself personally and publicly challenging the Bishops of England generally, and by name the Bishop of Manchester, to say whether usury was, or was not, according to the will of God, I have received no answer from any one of them." I confess, for myself, that until I saw this passage in print a few days ago, I was unaware of the existence of such challenge, and therefore I could not answer it. It appears to have been delivered (A) in No. 82 of a series of letters which, under the title of Fors Clavigera, you have for some time been addressing to the working classes of England, but which, from the peculiar mode of their publication, are not easily accessible to the general reader and which I have only caught a glimpse of, on the library-table of the Athenaeum Club, on the rare occasions when I am able to use my privileges as a member of that Society. I have no idea why I had the honor of being specially mentioned by name (B); but I beg to assure you that my silence did not arise from any discourtesy towards my challenger, nor from that discretion which, some people may think, is usually the better part of episcopal valor, and which consists in ignoring inconvenient questions from a sense of inability to answer them; but simply from the fact that I was not conscious that your lance had touched my shield.
149. The question you have asked is just one of those to which Aristotle's wise caution applies: "We must distinguish and define such words, if we would know how far, and in what sense, the opposite views are true" (Eth. Nic., ix, c. viii. Sec. 3). What do you mean by "usury"? (C) Do you comprehend under it any payment of money as interest for the use of borrowed capital? or only exorbitant, inequitable, grinding interest, such as the money-lender, Fufidius, extorted?
Quinas hic capiti mercedes exsecat, atque Quanto perditior quisque est, tanto acrius urget: Nomina sectatur modo sumta veste virili Sub patribus duris tironum. Maxime, quis non, Jupiter, exclamat, simul atque audivit?
—Hor. Sat. i. 2, 14-18.
Usury, in itself, is a purely neutral word, carrying with it, in its primary meaning, neither praise nor blame; and a "usurer" is defined in our dictionaries as "a person accustomed to lend money and take interest for it"—which is the ordinary function of a banker, without whose help great commercial undertakings could not be carried out; though it is obvious how easily the word may pass into a term of reproach, so that to have been "called a usurer" was one of the bitter memories that rankled most in Shylock's catalogue of his wrongs.
150. I do not believe that anything has done more harm to the practical efficacy of religions sanctions than the extravagant attempts that are frequently made to impose them in cases which they never originally contemplated, or to read into "ordinances," evidently "imposed for a time"—[Greek: dikaiomata mechri kairou] (Heb. ix. 10)—a law of eternal and immutable obligation. Just as we are told (D) not to expect to find in the Bible a scheme of physical science, so I do not expect to find there a scheme of political economy. What I do expect to find, in relation to my duty to my neighbor, are those unalterable principles of equity, fairness, truthfulness, honesty (E), which are the indispensable bases of civil society. I am sure I have no need to remind you that, while a Jew was forbidden by his law to take usury—i.e., interest for the loan of money—from his brother, if he were waxen poor and fallen into decay with him, and this generous provision was extended even to strangers and sojourners in the land (Lev. xxv. 35-38), and the interesting story in Nehemiah (v. 1-13), tells us how this principle was recognized in the latest days of the commonwealth—still in that old law there is no denunciation of usury in general, and it was expressly permitted in the case of ordinary strangers (Deut. xxiii. 20).
It seems to me plain also that our Blessed Lord's precept about "lending, hoping for nothing again" (Luke vi. 35), has the same, or a similar, class of circumstances in view, and was intended simply to govern a Christian man's conduct to the poor and needy, and "such as have no helper," and cannot, without a violent twist (F), be construed into a general law determining forever and in all cases the legitimate use of capital. Indeed, on another occasion, and in a very memorable parable, the great Founder of Christianity recognizes, and impliedly sanctions, the practice of lending money at interest. "Thou oughtest," says the master, addressing his unprofitable servant, "thou oughtest"—[Greek: edei se]—"to have put my money to the exchangers; and then, at my coming, I should have received mine own with usury."
151. "St. Paul, no doubt, denounces the covetous." (G) But who is the [Greek: pleonektes]? Not the man who may happen to have money out on loan at a fair rate of interest; but, as Liddell and Scott give the meaning of the word, "one who has or claims more than his share; hence, greedy, grasping, selfish." Of such men, whose affections are wholly set on things of the earth, and who are not very scrupulous how they gratify them, it may, perhaps, not improperly be said (H) that they "have no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." But here, again, it would be a manifest "wresting" of the words to make them apply to a case which we have no proof that the Apostle had in contemplation when he uttered them. Rapacity, greed of gain, harsh and oppressive dealing, taking unfair advantage of our own superior knowledge and another's ignorance, shutting up the bowels of compassion towards a brother who we see has need—all these and the like things are forbidden by the very spirit of Christianity, and are manifestly "not according to the will of God," for they are all of them forms of injustice or wrong. But money may be lent at interest without one of these bad passions being brought in to play, and in these cases I confess my inability to see where, either in terms or in spirit, such use of money is condemned either by the Christian code of charity, or by that natural law of conscience which we are told (I) is written on the hearts of men.
152. Let me take two or three simple instances by way of illustration. The following has happened to myself. All my life through—from the time when my income was not a tenth part of what it is now—I have felt it a duty, while endeavoring to discharge all proper claims, to live within that income, so to adjust my expenditure to it that there should be a margin on the right side. This margin, of course, accumulated, and reached in time, say, L1000. Just then, say, the London and North-Western Railway Company proposed to issue Debenture Stock, bearing four per cent. interest, for the purpose of extending the communications, and so increasing the wealth, of the country. Whom in the world am I injuring—what conceivable wrong am I doing—where or how am I thwarting "the Will of God"—if I let the Company have my L1000, and have been receiving from them L40 a year for the use of it ever since? Unless the money had been forthcoming from some quarter or other, a work which was absolutely necessary for the prosperity of the nation, and which finds remunerative employment (K) for an immense number of Englishmen, enabling them to bring up their families in respectability and comfort, would never have been accomplished. Will you tell me that this method of carrying out great commercial enterprises, sanctioned by experience (L) as the most, if not the only, practicable one, is "not according to the Will of God"?
153. Take another instance. In Lancashire a large number of cotton mills have been erected on the joint-stock principle with limited liability. The thing has been pushed too far probably, and at one time there was a good deal of unwholesome speculation in floating companies. But that is not the question before us; and the enterprises gave working men an opportunity of investing their savings, which was a great stimulus to thrift, and, so far, an advantage to the country. In a mill, which it would perhaps cost L50,000 to build and fit with machinery, the subscribed capital, which would be entitled to a division of profits after all other demands had been satisfied, would not amount probably to more than L20,000. The rest would be borrowed at rates of interest varying according to the conditions of the market. You surely would not maintain that those who lent their money for such a purpose, and were content with 5 or 6 per cent, for the use of it, thus enabling, in good times, the shareholders to realize 20 or 25 per cent, on their subscribed capital, were doing wrong either to the shareholders or anyone else, or could in any sense be charged with acting "not according to the will of God"?
154. Take yet one case more. A farmer asks his landlord to drain his land. "Gladly," says his squire, "if you will pay me five per cent on the outlay." In other words, "if you will let me share the increased profits to this extent." The bargain is agreeable to both sides; the productiveness of the land is largely increased; who is wronged? Surely such a transaction could not fairly be described as "not according to the will of God"; surely, unless the commerce and productive industries of the country are to be destroyed, and, with the destruction, its population is to be reduced to what it was in the days of Elizabeth, these and similar transactions—which can be kept entirely clear of the sin of covetousness, and rest upon the well-understood basis of mutual advantage, each and all being gainers by them—are not only legitimate, but inevitable (M). And now that I have taken up your challenge, and, so far as my ability goes, answered it, may I, without staying to inquire how far your charge against the clergy can be substantiated, that they "generally patronize and encourage all the iniquity of the world by steadily preaching away the penalties of it" (N), be at least allowed to demur to your wholesale denunciation of the great cities of the earth, which you say "have become loathsome centers of fornication and covetousness, the smoke of their sin going up into the face of Heaven, like the furnace of Sodom, and the pollution of it rotting and raging through the bones and souls of the peasant people round them, as if they were each a volcano, whose ashes brake out in blains upon man and beast." Surely, Sir, your righteous indignation at evil has caused you to overcharge your language. No one can have lived in a great city, as I have for the last ten years, without being aware of its sins and its pollutions. But unless you can prevent the aggregation of human beings into great cities, these are evils which must necessarily exist; at any rate, which always have existed. The great cities of to-day are not worse than great cities always have been (O). In one capital respect, I believe they are better. There is an increasing number of their citizens who are aware of these evils, and who are trying their best, with the help of God, to remedy them. In Sodom there was but one righteous man who "vexed his soul" at the unlawful deeds that he witnessed day by day, on every side; and he, apparently, did no more than vex his soul. In Manchester, the men and women, of all ranks and persuasions, who are actively engaging in some Christian or philanthropic work, to battle against these gigantic evils, are to be reckoned by hundreds. Nowhere have I seen more conspicuous instances of Christian effort, and of single-hearted devotion to the highest interests of mankind. And though, no doubt, if these efforts were better organized, more might be achieved, and elements, which one could wish absent, sometimes mingle with and mar the work, still a great city, even "with the smoke of its sin going up into the face of Heaven," is the noblest field of the noblest virtues, because it gives the amplest scope for the most varied exercise of them.
If you will teach us clergy how better to discharge our office as ministers of a Kingdom of Truth and Righteousness, we shall all owe you a deep debt of gratitude; which no one will be more forward to acknowledge than, my dear Sir, yours faithfully and with much respect,
JOHN RUSKIN, Esq.
155. The foregoing letter, to which I would fain have given my undivided and unwearied attention, reached my hands, as will be seen by its date, only in the close of the year, when my general correspondence always far overpasses my powers of dealing with it, and my strength—such as now is left me—had been spent, nearly to lowest ebb, in totally unexpected business arising out of the threatened mischief at Venice. But I am content that such fragmentary reply as, under this pressure, has been possible to me, should close the debate as far as I am myself concerned. The question at issue is not one of private interpretation; and the interests concerned are too vast to allow its decision to be long delayed.
The Bishop will, I trust, not attribute to disrespect the mode of reply in the form of notes attached to special passages, indicated by inserted letters, which was adopted in Fors Clavigera in all cases of important correspondence, as more clearly defining the several points under debate.
156. (A) "The challenge appears to have been delivered." May I respectfully express my regret that your lordship should not have read the letter you have honored me by answering. The number of Fors referred to does not deliver—it only reiterates—the challenge given in the Fors for January 1st, 1875, with reference to the prayer "Have mercy upon all Jews, Turks, infidels, and heretics, and so fetch them home, blessed Lord, to Thy flock, that they may be saved among the remnant of the true Israelites," in these following terms: "Who are the true Israelites, my Lord of Manchester, on your Exchange? Do they stretch their cloth, like other people?—have they any underhand dealings with the liable-to-be-damned false Israelites—Rothschilds and the like? or are they duly solicitous about those wanderers' souls? and how often, on the average, do your Manchester clergy preach from the delicious parable, savoriest of all Scripture to rogues (at least since the eleventh century, when I find it to have been specially headed with golden title in my best Greek MS.) of the Pharisee and Publican,—and how often, on the average, from those objectionable First and Fifteenth Psalms?"
(B) "I have no idea why I had the honor of being specially mentioned by name." By diocese, my Lord; not name, please observe; and for this very simple reason: that I have already fairly accurate knowledge of the divinity of the old schools of Canterbury, York, and Oxford; but I looked to your Lordship as the authoritative exponent of the more advanced divinity of the school of Manchester, with which I am not yet familiar.
157. (C) "What do you mean by usury?" What I mean by that word, my Lord, is surely of no consequence to anyone but my few readers, and fewer disciples. What David and his Son meant by it I have prayed your Lordship to tell your flock, in the name of the Church which dictates daily to them the songs of the one, and professes to interpret to them the commands of the other.
And although I can easily conceive that a Bishop at the court of the Third Richard might have paused in reply to a too curious layman's question of what was meant by "Murder"; and can also conceive a Bishop at the court of the Second Charles hesitating as to the significance of the word "Adultery"; and farther, in the present climacteric of the British Constitution, an elder of the Church of Glasgow debating within himself whether the Commandment which was severely prohibitory of Theft might not be mildly permissive of Misappropriation;—at no time, nor under any conditions, can I conceive any question existing as to the meaning of the words [Greek: tokos], foenus; usura, or usury: and I trust that your Lordship will at once acquit me of wishing to attach any other significance to the word than that which it was to the full intended to convey on every occasion of its use by Moses, by David, by Christ, and by the Doctors of the Christian Church, down to the seventeenth century.
Nor, even since that date, although the commercial phrase "interest" has been adopted in order to distinguish an open and unoppressive rate of usury from a surreptitious and tyrannical one, has the debate of lawfulness or unlawfulness ever turned seriously on that distinction. It is neither justified by its defenders only in its mildness, nor condemned by its accusers only in its severity. Usury in any degree is asserted by the Doctors of the early Church to be sinful, just as theft and adultery are asserted to be sinful, though neither may have been accompanied with violence; and although the theft may have been on the most splendid scale, and the fornication of the most courtly refinement.
So also, in modern days, though the voice of the Bank of England in Parliament declares a loan without interest to be a monster, and a loan made below the current rate of interest, a monster in its degree, the increase of dividends above that current rate is not, as far as I am aware, shunned by shareholders with an equally religious horror.
158. But—this strange question being asked—I give its simple and broad answer in the words of Christ: "The taking up that thou layedst not down;"—or, in explained and literal terms, usury is any money paid, or other advantage given, for the loan of anything which is restored to its possessor uninjured and undiminished. For simplest instance, taking a cabman the other day on a long drive, I lent him a shilling to get his dinner. If I had kept thirteen pence out of his fare, the odd penny would have been usury.
Or again. I lent one of my servants, a few years ago, eleven hundred pounds, to build a house with, and stock its ground. After some years he paid me the eleven hundred pounds back. If I had taken eleven hundred pounds and a penny, the extra penny would have been usury.
I do not know whether by the phrase, presently after used by your Lordship, "religious sanctions," I am to understand the Law of God which David loved, and Christ fulfilled, or whether the splendor, the commercial prosperity, and the familiar acquaintance with all the secrets of science and treasures of art, which we admire in the City of Manchester, must in your Lordship's view be considered as "cases" which the intelligence of the Divine Lawgiver could not have originally contemplated. Without attempting to disguise the narrowness of the horizon grasped by the glance of the Lord from Sinai, nor the inconvenience of the commandments which Christ has directed those who love Him to keep, am I too troublesome or too exigent in asking from one of those whom the Holy Ghost has made our overseers, at least a distinct chart of the Old World as contemplated by the Almighty; and a clear definition of even the inappropriate tenor of the orders of Christ: if only that the modern scientific Churchman may triumph more securely in the circumference of his heavenly vision, and accept more gratefully the glorious liberty of the free-thinking children of God?
159. To take a definite, and not impertinent, instance, I observe in the continuing portion of your letter that your Lordship recognizes in Christ Himself, as doubtless all other human perfections, so also the perfection of an usurer; and that, confidently expecting one day to hear from His lips the convicting sentence, "Thou knewest that I was an austere man," your Lordship prepares for yourself, by the disposition of your capital no less than of your talents, a better answer than the barren, "Behold, there thou hast that is thine!" I would only observe in reply, that although the conception of the Good Shepherd, which in your Lordship's language is "implied" in this parable, may indeed be less that of one who lays down his life for his sheep, than of one who takes up his money for them, the passages of our Master's instruction, of which the meaning is not implicit, but explicit, are perhaps those which His simpler disciples will be safer in following. Of which I find, early in His teaching, this, almost, as it were, in words of one syllable: "Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away."
There is nothing more "implied" in this sentence than the probable disposition to turn away, which might be the first impulse in the mind of a Christian asked to lend for nothing, as distinguished from the disciple of the Manchester school, whose principal care is rather to find, than to avoid, the enthusiastic and enterprising "him that would borrow of thee." We of the older tradition, my Lord, think that prudence, no less than charity, forbids the provocation or temptation of others into the state of debt, which some time or other we might be called upon, not only to allow the payment of without usury, but even altogether to forgive.
160. (D) "Just as we are told." Where, my Lord, and by whom? It is possible that some of the schemers in physical science, of whom, only a few days since, I heard one of the leading doctors explain to a pleased audience that serpents once had legs, and had dropped them off in the process of development, may have advised the modern disciple of progress of a new meaning in the simple phrase, "upon thy belly shalt thou go"; and that the wisdom of the serpent may henceforth consist, for true believers of the scientific Gospel, in the providing of meats for that spiritual organ of motion. It is doubtless also true that we shall look vainly among the sayings of Solomon for any expression of the opinions of Mr. John Stuart Mill; but at least this much of Natural science, enough for our highest need, we may find in the Scriptures—that by the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth;—and this much of Political, that the Blessing of the Lord, it maketh rich—and He addeth no sorrow with it.
(E) "What I do expect to find." Has your Lordship no expectations loftier than these, from severer scrutiny of the Gospel? As for instance, of some ordinance of Love, built on the foundation of Honesty?
161. (F) "Cannot without a violent twist." I have never myself found any person sincerely desirous of obeying the Word of the Lord, who had the least wish, or occasion, to twist it; nay, even those who study it only that they may discover methods of pardonable disobedience, recognize the unturnable edge of its sword—and in the worst extremity of their need, strive not to avert, but to evade. The utmost deceivableness of unrighteousness cannot deceive itself into satisfactory misinterpretation; it is reduced always to a tremulous omission of the texts it is resolved to disobey. But a little while since, I heard an entirely well-meaning clergyman, taken by surprise in the course of family worship in the house of a wealthy friend, and finding himself under the painful necessity of reading the fifteenth Psalm, omit the first sentence of the closing verse. I chanced afterwards to have an opportunity of asking him why he had done so, and received for answer, that the lowliness of Christian attainment was not yet "up" to that verse. The harmonies of iniquity are thus curiously perfect:—the economies of spiritual nourishment approve the same methods of adulteration which are found profitable in the carnal; until the prudent pastor follows the example of the well-instructed dairyman; and provides for his new-born babes the insincere Milk of the Word, that they may not grow thereby.
162. (G) "St. Paul, no doubt, denounces the covetous." Am I to understand your Lordship as considering this undeniable denunciation an original and peculiar view taken by the least of the Apostles—perhaps, in this particular opinion, not worthy to be called an Apostle? The traditions of my earlier days were wont to refer me to an earlier source of the idea; which does not, however, appear to have occurred to your Lordship's mind—else the reference to the authority of Liddell and Scott, for the significance of the noun [Greek: pleonektes], ought to have been made also for that of the verb [Greek: epithumeo] And your Lordship's frankness in referring me to the instances of your own practice in the disposal of your income, must plead my excuse for what might have otherwise seemed impertinent—in noting that the blamelessness of episcopal character, even by that least of the Apostles, required in his first Epistle to Timothy, consists not merely in contentment with an episcopal share of Church property, but in being in no respect either [Greek: aischrokordes]—a taker of gain in a base or vulgar manner, or [Greek: philarguros]—a "lover of silver," this latter word being the common and proper word for covetous, in the Gospels and Epistles; as of the Pharisees in Luke xvi. 14; and associated with the other characters of men in perilous times, 2 Timothy iii. 2, and its relative noun [Greek: philarguria, given in sum for the root of all evil in 2 Timothy vi. 10, while even the authority of Liddell and Scott in the interpretation of [Greek: pleonexia] itself as only the desire of getting more than our share, may perhaps be bettered by the authority of the teacher, who, declining the appeal made to him as an equitable [Greek: meristes] (Luke xii. 14-46), tells his disciples to beware of coveteousness, simply as the desire of getting more than we have got. "For a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth."
163. Believe me, my Lord, it is not without some difficulty that I check my natural impulse to follow you, as a scholar, into the interesting analysis of the distinctions which may be drawn between Rapacity and Acquisitiveness; between the Avarice, or the prudent care, of possession; between the greed, and the modest expectation, of gain; between the love of money, which is the root of all evil; and the commercial spirit, which is in England held to be the fountain of all good. These delicate adjustments of the balance, by which we strive to weigh to a grain the relative quantities of devotion which we may render in the service of Mammon and of God, are wholly of recent invention and application; nor have they the slightest bearing, either on the spiritual purport of the final commandment of the Decalogue, or on the distinctness of the subsequent prohibition of practical usury.
It must be remembered, also, how difficult it has become to define the term "filthy" with precision, in the present state, moral and physical, of the English atmosphere; and still more so, to judge how far, in that healthy element, a moderate and delicately sanctified appetite for gold may be developed into livelier qualms of hunger for righteousness. It may be matter of private opinion how far the lucre derived by your Lordship from commission on the fares and refreshments of the passengers by the North-Western may be odoriferous or precious, in the same sense as the ointment on the head of Aaron; or how far that received by the Primate of England in royalties on the circulation of improving literature may enrich—as with perfumes out of broken alabaster—the empyreal air of Addington. But the higher class of laborers in the Lord's vineyard might surely, with true grace, receive, from the last unto the first, the reflected instruction so often given by the first unto the last, "Be content with your wages."
(H) "It may, perhaps, not improperly be said," The Bible Society will doubtless in future gratefully prefix this guarantee to their publications.
(I) "Which we are told." Can we then no more find for ourselves this writing on our hearts—or has it ceased to be legible?
164. (K) "Remunerative employment." I cannot easily express the astonishment with which I find a man of your Lordship's intelligence taking up the common phrase of "giving employment," as if, indeed, labor were the best gift which the rich could bestow on the poor. Of course, every idle vagabond, be he rich or poor, "gives employment" to some otherwise enough burdened wretch, to provide his dinner and clothes for him; and every vicious vagabond, in the destructive power of his vice, gives sorrowful occupation to the energies of resisting and renovating virtue. The idle child who litters its nursery and tears its frock, gives employment to the housemaid and seamstress; the idle woman, who litters her drawing-room with trinkets, and is ashamed to be seen twice in the same dress, is, in your Lordship's view, the enlightened supporter of the arts and manufactures of her country. At the close of your letter, my Lord, you, though in measured terms, indignantly dissent from my statement of the power of great cities for evil, and indeed I have perhaps been led, by my prolonged study of the causes of the Fall of Venice, into clearer recognition of some of these urban influences than may have been possible to your Lordship in the center of the virtues and proprieties which have been blessed by Providence in the rise of Manchester. But the Scriptural symbol of the power of temptation in the hand of the spiritual Babylon—"all kings have been drunk with the wine of her Fornication"—is perfectly literal in its exposition of the special influence of cities over a vicious, that is to say, a declining, people. They are the foci of its fornication, and the practical meaning is that the lords of the soil take the food and labor of the peasants, who are their slaves, and spend them especially in forms of luxury perfected by the definitely so-called "women of the town" who, whether East-cheap Doll, or West—much the reverse of cheap—Nell, are, both in the color which they give to the Arts, and in the tone which they give to the Manners, of the State, a literal plague, pestilence and burden to it, quite otherwise malignant and maleficent than the poor country lassie who loses her snood among the heather. And when, at last, real political economy shall exhibit the exact sources and consequences of the expenditure of the great capitals of civilization on their own indulgences, your Lordship will be furnished, in the statistics of their most splendid and most impious pleasure, with record of precisely the largest existing source of "remunerative employment"—(if that were all the poor had to ask for), next after the preparation and practice of war. I believe it is, indeed, probable that "facility of intercourse" gives the next largest quantity of occupation; and, as your Lordship rightly observes, to most respectable persons. And if the entire population of Manchester lost the use of its legs, your Lordship would similarly have the satisfaction of observing, and might share in the profits of providing, the needful machinery of porterage and stretchers. But observe, my Lord—and observe as a final and inevitable truth—that whether you lend your money to provide an invalided population with crutches, stretchers, hearses, or the railroad accommodation which is so often synonymous with the three, the tax on the use of these, which constitutes the shareholder's dividend, is a permanent burden upon them, exacted by avarice, and by no means an aid granted by benevolence.
165. (L) "Sanctioned by experience." The experience of twenty-three years, my Lord, and with the following result:—
"We have now had an opportunity of practically testing the theory. Not more than seventeen" (now twenty-three—I quote from a letter dated 1875) "years have passed since" (by the final abolition of the Usury laws) "all restraint was removed from the growth of what Lord Coke calls 'this pestilent weed,'" and we see Bacon's words verified—"the rich becoming richer, and the poor poorer, throughout the civilized world." Letter from Mr. R. Sillar, quoted in Fors Clavigera, No. 43.
(M) "Inevitable." Neither "impossible" nor "inevitable" were words of old Christian Faith. But see the closing paragraph of my letter.
(N) Before you call on me to substantiate this charge, my Lord, I should like to insert after the words, "steadily preaching," the phrase, "and politely explaining"—with the Pauline qualification, "whether by word, or our epistle."
166. (O) "The great cities of to-day are not worse than great cities always have been," I do not remember having said that they were, my Lord; I have never anticipated for Manchester a worse fate than that of Sardis or Sodom; nor have I yet observed any so mighty works shown forth in her by her ministers, as to make her impenitence less pardonable than that of Sidon or Tyre. But I used the particular expression which your Lordship supposes me to have overcharged in righteous indignation, "a boil breaking forth with blains on man and beast," because that particular plague was the one which Moses was ordered, in the Eternal Wisdom, to connect with the ashes of the Furnace—literally, no less than spiritually, when he brought the Israelites forth out of Egypt, from the midst of the Furnace of Iron. How literally, no less than in faith and hope, the smoke of "the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt," has poisoned the earth, the waters, and the living creatures, flocks and herds, and the babes that know not their right hand from their left—neither Memphis, Gomorrah, nor Cahors are themselves likely to recognize: but, as I pause in front of the infinitude of the evil that I cannot find so much as thought to follow—how much less words to speak!—a letter is brought to me which gives what perhaps may be more impressive in its single and historical example, than all the general evidence gathered already in the pages of Fors Clavigera.