Gateway seems a bit long-winded this month, (or in a positive spin, there's so much to read!!!) so our public domain article takes you away from it all... to the Public Domain Review site. Just click the link
to be whisked away to a really interesting article on Utopias.
Enjoy. But don't forget to come back to Gateway and explore what else we've got on offer this month!
Wake up and smell the rise of rampant, unfettered capitalism.
There’s an all too clichéd expression which hails from America. ‘Wake up and smell the coffee.’ Have you ever tasted American coffee? It’s a travesty. Come to that, have you tasted a Hershey Bar? America’s sweetheart confection makes me eternally glad for the Quaker Cadburys and Frys. When it comes to coffee and chocolate (the good things in life) America can’t touch us. But when it comes to capitalism… well, another expression ‘follow the money’ tells you all you need to know.
So Donald Trump is to be president. Go figure, as they say. Well yes, why don’t we ‘go figure.’ While everyone is wringing their hands and wondering how it can be that the final part of the tales of the unexpected: Better Together, Brexit and Make America Great has actually happened, I suggest that it’s time we ALL woke up and smelled the obvious.
It used to be that everyone wondered how Hitler could have come to power. I think we have the answer to that now. In simple terms it’s because people don’t always tell the truth about their intentions.
I don’t know how to state it any more clearly, the thing no one wants to admit. Scotland is still part of the UK because MORE people in Scotland want to be shackled to it than want to be independent and self determining. The UK is about to leave Europe because MORE of the English want Brexit (and what Scotland thinks doesn’t count because, hey, we voted to stay too wee, too poor and too stupid to make our own decisions). And America is about to be ‘Made Great Again’ in the image of Donald J.Trump because WHATEVER people say they’d rather a billionaire business man with high celebrity status ran the country than a politician – especially if that president is either black or female. That’s the stark reality folks. We have got the results we wanted. And even if you or I didn’t get what we wanted out of them – we didn’t vote for them, right? – even so, the reality we have to face is that we are not in the majority.
This is the way the world is.
The Labour Party has recently been given a bloody nose because they didn’t wake up to the fact that more people in England (or the UK, who knows, given the parlous state of Labour in Scotland?) want Jeremy Corbyn as a leader. The Movement and the Party are at odds and the Parliamentarians need to wake up and smell their own reality. The will of the people when you let them out of their representative democracy box and put them into a participatory democracy box, or give them a pencil so that they can put an x in a box, will be to do what they want to do, or what they’ve been ‘bread and circused’ into thinking is the right thing –that’s the right thing for them as individuals, not the ‘right’ thing for all – to do.
The People have spoken.
But what about us? The right thinking minority. What do we do about it? This is where I suggest that we shouldn’t compare apples with oranges (or coffee with chocolate). While I think it is right and proper that the Labour Party should accept the will of the Labour Movement, I am a lot less happy about being told as an individual citizen to accept the political realities we are currently being sold.
Bandying the ‘d’ word around is intended to frighten us. You can’t be seen to be ‘undemocratic’ if you want to be a good ‘citizen.’ But what if the so-called democracy is corrupt in and of itself? What if that is the reality we should be looking to? Acceptance of the will of the majority is all very well – but do we all just become soldiers following orders? At what point do we stand up for something we believe in – like social justice, or self-determination – instead of kowtowing to some constructed version of a politics we can clearly see is corrupt to the core.
Where Donald J.Trump can sell himself as the champion of the working people, and they accept that, I suggest we have come a long way from having an intelligent electorate, or a fair and well balanced system (democratic or otherwise). And before we sneer at the Americans – Gordon Brown anyone? Plenty of people fell for that one. Nigel Farage? A pattern emerges.
In America where the right of free speech means exactly that – anyone can say literally anything to anyone else, however inflammatory - everyone also has the right to ‘bear arms,’ aka shoot to kill to defend themselves against another person who might piss them off. This is surely a completely warped moral code. It works fine where individuals are expendable and unimportant. Where people are valued only as human resources and human capital.
And here at home, surely we need to stop being so gutless and start standing up and being counted. Not in my name. Fair words but have we all become such social media fodder that we think that signing petitions and liking, or sneering, or trolling or meme-ing our way through life is a practical and positive way of protesting against a society that is going fast in a very dangerous direction? As a man who gave his life in the cause of social justice and freedom, not far away from ‘the wall’ Trump intends Mexicans to build with their own beaten and bloodied hands, (or the financial equivalent) Che Guevara said: ‘words that do not match deeds are unimportant.’ Whatever your view of ‘el Che’ I suggest this is a quotation we should all take to heart. Stop being soldiers following orders. Stop accepting things that you know are completely unacceptable. Stop being afraid that a morally bankrupt version of democracy will call you undemocratic. And stop talking the talk of social justice while walking the walk of individual consumer capitalism. In short – let’s all take a long hard look at ourselves and consider what part WE TOO have played in all this.
As Lenin, and Tolstoy before him both said ‘What then can we do?’
Of course there are those who are proud to think that racism, sexism, anti-environmentalism and for whom big boy bully tactics are something to be proud of, being the thing that will ‘make America Great’. All I can say is that like those who endorsed Brexit, it seems increasingly easy to get the turkeys to vote for Christmas in the modern world. I think the phrase ‘bread and circuses’ was invented for just such a situation as this.
The American Dream was sold on the ‘anyone can be president’ and these days it’s really true – with one caveat – anyone with enough money (and Donald J Trump has a LOT of money) can be President. So. The American Dream is alive and well, eh? It’s the best damned democracy money can buy. Believe.
In today’s celebrity, brand endorsed world it seems that any dream will do. As long as everyone keeps well clear of facing up to reality.
It used to be that the answer to ‘what can I do?’ was ‘add your light to the sum of light’ but the light seems to have dimmed so far now I’m not sure that’s feasible. The lights are about to go out folks, and not just on the future of the planet environmentally. The moral light is all but extinct.
One thing we can try to do is learn from the past. He who does not learn from his mistakes is, after all, condemned to repeat them. And that brings me to my own contribution. Gateway is a small, but I suggest valuable part in a battle being played out on social media which is a world away from TwitBook World. It may well be that Big Brother has walked away with the day. We maybe cannot win. Utopia is a dream after all. Social Justice looks to be going the same way. Democracy means Democracy but what does that mean? For me, all that is left is to declare ‘I will not love Big Brother.’ If I’m going down, I’m going down fighting. With words that are my daily deeds. I deal, after all, in words for a living.
I’m not into the words ‘good’ and ‘evil’ but I leave you with the thought that ‘all that it takes for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.’ How much longer, my friends, are we going to do nothing? Please. Give generously. Do what little you can. Whatever that may be. Walk the walk, however crippled it makes you. Because words that do not match deeds are unimportant. And the future of humanity, currently on soma while the life-support is being disconnected, may just depend on YOU.
This month’s Gateway looks at Utopias. From which stemmed Dystopias. I don’t know what the word is for a post-dystopic world but I suspect if the world isn’t blown to bits in the next 50 years someone will find a good label for the world we live in. And it won’t be paradise.
THREE UTOPIA’S FOR THE PRICE OF ONE…
Here’s a chance to choose the utopia you desire…
First chapters of :
A TRAVELER FROM ALTRURIA – W.D.Howells
NEWS FROM NOWHERE – William Morris
LOOKING BACKWARD – Edward Bellamy
Complete with links to find the whole work for free on the internet.
A TRAVELER FROM ALTRURIA – W.D.HOWELLS
I confess that with all my curiosity to meet an Altrurian, I was in no hospitable mood toward the traveler when he finally presented himself, pursuant to the letter of advice sent me by the friend who introduced him.
It would be easy enough to take care of him in the hotel; I had merely to engage a room for him, and have the clerk tell him his money was not good if he tried to pay for anything. But I had swung fairly into my story; its people were about me all the time; I dwelt amid its events and places, and I did not see how I could welcome my guest among them, or abandon them for him. Still, when he actually arrived, and I took his hand as he stepped from the train, I found it less difficult to say that I was glad to see him than I expected. In fact, I was glad, for I could not look upon his face without feeling a glow of kindness for him. I had not the least trouble in identifying him, for he was so unlike all the Americans who dismounted from the train with him, and who all looked hot, worried, and anxious. He was a man no longer young, but in what we call the heyday of life, when our own people are so absorbed in making provision for the future that they may be said not to live in the present at all. This Altrurian’s whole countenance, and especially his quiet, gentle eyes, expressed a vast contemporaneity, with bounds of leisure removed to the end of time; or, at least, this was the effect of something in them which I am obliged to report in rather fantastic terms. He was above the middle height, and he carried himself vigorously. His face was sunburned, or sea-burned, where it was not bearded; and, although I knew from my friend’s letter that he was a man of learning and distinction in his own country, I should never have supposed him a person of scholarly life, he was so far from sicklied over with anything like the pale cast of thought. When he took the hand I offered him in my half-hearted welcome he gave it a grasp that decided me to confine our daily greetings to something much less muscular.
“Let me have your bag,” I said, as we do when we meet people at the train, and he instantly bestowed a rather heavy valise upon me, with a smile in his benignant eyes, as if it had been the greatest favor. “Have you got any checks?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said, in very good English, but with an accent new to me, “I bought two.” He gave them to me, and I passed them to our hotel porter, who was waiting there with the baggage-cart. Then I proposed that we should walk across the meadow to the house, which is a quarter of a mile or so from the station. We started, but he stopped suddenly and looked back over his shoulder. “Oh, you needn’t be troubled about your trunks,” I said. “The porter will get them to the house all right. They’ll be in your room by the time we get there.”
“But he’s putting them into the wagon himself,” said the Altrurian.
“Yes; he always does that. He’s a strong young fellow. He’ll manage it. You needn’t--” I could not finish saying he need not mind the porter; he was rushing back to the station, and I had the mortification of seeing him take an end of each trunk and help the porter toss it into the wagon; some lighter pieces he put in himself, and he did not stop till all the baggagethe train had left was disposed of.
I stood holding his valise, unable to put it down in my embarrassment at this eccentric performance, which had been evident not to me alone, but to all the people who arrived by the train, and all their friends who came from the hotel to meet them. A number of these passed me on the tally-ho coach; and a lady, who had got her husband with her for over Sunday, and was in very good spirits, called gayly down to me: “Your friend seems fondof exercise!”
“Yes,” I answered, dryly; the sparkling repartee which ought to have come to my help failed to show up. But it was impossible to be vexed with the Altrurian when he returned to me, unruffled by his bout with the baggage and serenely smiling.
“Do you know,” he said, “I fancied that good fellow was ashamed of my helping him. I hope it didn’t seem a reflection upon him in any way before your people? I ought to have thought of that.”
“I guess we can make it right with him. I dare say he felt more surprised than disgraced. But we must make haste a little now; your train was half an hour late, and we shall not stand so good a chance for supper if we are not there pretty promptly.”
“No?” said the Altrurian. “Why?”
“Well,” I said, with evasive lightness, “first come, first served, you know. That’s human nature.”
“Is it?” he returned, and he looked at me as one does who suspects another of joking.
“Well, isn’t it?” I retorted; but I hurried to add: “Besides, I want to have time after supper to show you a bit of our landscape. I think you’ll enjoy it.” I knew he had arrived in Boston that morning by steamer, and I now thought it high time to ask him: “Well, what do you think of America, anyway?” I ought really to have asked him this the moment he stepped from the train.
“Oh,” he said, “I’m intensely interested,” and I perceived that he spoke with a certain reservation. “As the most advanced country of its time, I’ve always been very curious to see it.”
The last sentence raised my dashed spirits again, and I said, confidently: “You must find our system of baggage-checks delightful.” I said this because it is one of the first things we brag of to foreigners, and I had the habit of it. “By-the-way,” I ventured to add, “I suppose you meant to say you _brought_ two checks when I asked you for them at the train just now? But you really said you _bought_ them.
“Yes,” the Altrurian replied, “I gave half a dollar apiece for them at the station in Boston. I saw other people doing it,” he explained, noting my surprise. “Isn’t it the custom?”
“I’m happy to say it isn’t yet, on most of our roads. They were tipping the baggage-man, to make sure that he checked their baggage in time and put it on the train. I had to do that myself when I came up; otherwise it might have got along here some time next day. But the system is perfect.”
“The poor man looked quite worn out,” said the Altrurian, “and I am glad I gave him something. He seemed to have several hundred pieces of baggage to look after, and he wasn’t embarrassed like your porter by my helping him put my trunks into the car. May I confess that the meanness of the station, its insufficient facilities, its shabby waiting-rooms, and its whole crowded and confused appearance gave me rather a bad impression?”
“I know,” I had to own, “it’s shameful; but you wouldn’t have found another station in the city so bad.”
“Ah, then,” said the Altrurian, “I suppose this particular road is too poor to employ more baggage-men or build new stations; they seemed rather shabby all the way up.”
“Well, no,” I was obliged to confess, “it’s one of the richest roads in the country. The stock stands at about 180. But I’m really afraid we shall be late to supper if we don’t get on,” I broke off; though I was not altogether sorry to arrive after the porter had disposed of the baggage. I dreaded another display of active sympathy on the part of my strange companion; I have often felt sorry myself for the porters of hotels, but I have never thought of offering to help them handle the heavy trunks that they manage.
The Altrurian was delighted with the hotel; and in fact it did look extremely pretty, with its branching piazzas full of well-dressed people, and its green lawns where the children were playing. I led the way to the room which I had taken for him next my own; it was simply furnished, but it was sweet with matting, fresh linen, and pure whitewashed walls. I flung open the window-blinds and let him get a glimpse of the mountains purpling under the sunset, the lake beneath, and the deeply foliaged shores.
“Glorious! glorious!” he sighed.
“Yes,” I modestly assented. “We think that’s rather fine.” He stood tranced before the window, and I thought I had better say: “Well, now I can’t give you much time to get the dust of travel off; the dining-room doors close at eight, and we must hurry down.”
“I’ll be with you in a moment,” he said, pulling off his coat.
I waited impatiently at the foot of the stairs, avoiding the question I met on the lips and in the eyes of my acquaintance. The fame of my friend’s behavior at the station must have spread through the whole place; and everybody wished to know who he was. I answered simply he was a traveler from Altruria; and in some cases I went further and explained that the Altrurians were peculiar.
In much less time than it seemed my friend found me; and then I had a little compensation for my suffering in his behalf. I could see that, whatever people said of him, they felt the same mysterious liking at sight of him that I had felt. He had made a little change in his dress, and I perceived that the women thought him not only good-looking but well-dressed. They followed him with their eyes as we went into the dining-room, and I was rather proud of being with him, as if I somehow shared the credit of his clothes and good looks. The Altrurian himself seemed most struck with the head-waiter, who showed us to our places, and while we were waiting for our supper I found a chance to explain that he was a divinity student from one of the fresh-water colleges, and was serving here during his summer vacation. This seemed to interest my friend so much that I went on to tell him that many of the waitresses, whom he saw standing there subject to the order of the guests, were country school-mistresses in the winter.
“Ah, that is as it should be,” he said; “that is the kind of thing I expected to meet with in America.”
“Yes,” I responded, in my flattered national vanity, “if America means anything at all it means the honor of work and the recognition of personal worth everywhere. I hope you are going to make a long stay with us. We like to have travelers visit us who can interpret the spirit of our institutions as well as read their letter. As a rule Europeans never quite get our point of view. Now a great many of these waitresses are ladies, in the true sense of the word--selfrespectful, intelligent, refined, and fit to grace--”
I was interrupted by the noise my friend made in suddenly pushing back his chair and getting to his feet. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “You’re not ill, I hope?”
But he did not hear me. He had run half down the dining-hall toward the slender young girl who was bringing us our supper. I had ordered rather generously, for my friend had owned to a good appetite, and I was hungry myself with waiting for him, so that the tray the girl carried was piled up with heavy dishes. To my dismay I saw, rather than heard at that distance, the Altrurian enter into a polite controversy with her, and then, as if overcoming all her scruples by sheer strength of will, possess himself of the tray and make off with it toward our table. The poor child followed him, blushing to her hair; the head-waiter stood looking helplessly on; the guests, who at that late hour were fortunately few, were simply aghast at the scandal; the Altrurian alone seemed to think his conduct the most natural thing in the world. He put the tray on the side-table near us, and in spite of our waitress’s protests insisted upon arranging the little bird-bath dishes before our plates. Then at last he sat down, and the girl, flushed and tremulous, left the room, as I could not help suspecting, to have a good cry in the kitchen. She did not come back, and the head-waiter, who was perhaps afraid to send another in her place, looked after our few wants himself. He kept a sharp eye on my friend, as if he were not quite sure he was safe, but the Altrurian resumed the conversation with all that lightness of spirits which I noticed in him after he helped the porter with the baggage. I did not think it the moment to take him to task for what he had just done; I was not even sure that it was the part of a host to do so at all, and between the one doubt and the other I left the burden of talk to him.
“What a charming young creature!” he began. “I never saw anything prettier than the way she had of refusing my help, absolutely without coquetry or affectation of any kind. She is, as you said, a perfect lady, and she graces her work, as I am sure she would grace any exigency of life. She quite realizes my ideal of an American girl, and I see now what the spirit of your country must be from such an expression of it.”
I wished to tell him that while a country school-teacher who waits at table in a summer hotel is very much to be respected in her sphere, she is not regarded with that high honor which some other women command among us; but I did not find this very easy, after what I had said of our esteem for labor; and while I was thinking how I could hedge, my friend went on.
“I liked England greatly, and I liked the English, but I could not like the theory of their civilization or the aristocratic structure of their society. It seemed to me iniquitous, for we believe that inequality and iniquity are the same in the last analysis.”
At this I found myself able to say: “Yes, there is something terrible, something shocking, in the frank brutality with which Englishmen affirm the essential inequality of men. The affirmation of the essential equality of men was the first point of departure with us when we separated from them.”
“I know,” said the Altrurian. “How grandly it is expressed in your glorious Declaration!”
“Ah, you have read our Declaration of Independence, then?”
“Every Altrurian has read that,” answered my friend.
“Well,” I went on smoothly, and I hoped to render what I was going to say the means of enlightening him without offence concerning the little mistake he had just made with the waitress, “of course we don’t take that in its closest literality.”
“I don’t understand you,” he said.
“Why, you know it was rather the political than the social traditions of England that we broke with, in the Revolution.”
“How is that?” he returned. “Didn’t you break with monarchy and nobility, and ranks and classes?”
“Yes, we broke with all those things.”
“But I found them a part of the social as well as the political structure in England. You have no kings or nobles here. Have you any ranks or classes?”
“Well, not exactly in the English sense. Our ranks and classes, such as we have, are what I may call voluntary.”
“Oh, I understand. I suppose that from time to time certain ones among you feel the need of serving, and ask leave of the commonwealth to subordinate themselves to the rest of the state and perform all the lowlier offices in it. Such persons must be held in peculiar honor. Is it something like that?”
“Well, no, I can’t say it’s quite like that. In fact I think I’d better let you trust to your own observation of our life.”
“But I’m sure,” said the Altrurian, with a simplicity so fine that it was a long time before I could believe it quite real, “that I shall approach it so much more intelligently with a little instruction from you. You say that your social divisions are voluntary. But do I understand that those who serve among you do not wish to do so?”
“Well, I don’t suppose they would serve if they could help it,” I replied.
“Surely,” said the Altrurian, with a look of horror, “you don’t mean that they are slaves.”
“Oh no! oh no!” I said; “the war put an end to that. We are all free now, black and white.”
“But if they do not wish to serve, and are not held in peculiar honor for serving--”
“I see that my word ‘voluntary’ has misled you,” I put in. “It isn’t the word exactly. The divisions among us are rather a process of natural selection. You will see, as you get better acquainted with the workings of our institutions, that there are no arbitrary distinctions here but the fitness of the work for the man and the man for the work determines the social rank that each one holds.”
“Ah, that is fine!” cried the Altrurian, with a glow of enthusiasm. “Then I suppose that these intelligent young people who teach school in winter and serve at table in the summer are in a sort of provisional state, waiting for the process of natural selection to determine whether they shall finally be teachers or waiters.”
“Yes, it might be stated in some such terms,” I assented, though I was not altogether easy in my mind. It seemed to me that I was not quite candid with this most candid spirit. I added: “You know we are a sort of fatalists here in America. We are great believers in the doctrine that it will all come out right in the end.”
“Ah, I don’t wonder at that,” said the Altrurian, “if the process of natural selection works so perfectly among you as you say. But I am afraid I don’t understand this matter of your domestic service yet. I believe you said that all honest work is honored in America. Then no social slight attaches to service, I suppose?”
“Well, I can’t say that, exactly. The fact is, a certain social slight does attach to service, and that is one reason why I don’t quite like to have students wait at table. It won’t be pleasant for them to remember it in after-life, and it won’t be pleasant for their children to remember it.”
“Then the slight would descend?”
“I think it would. One wouldn’t like to think one’s father or mother had been at service.”
The Altrurian said nothing for a moment. Then he remarked: “So it seems that while all honest work is honored among you, there are some kinds of honest work that are not honored so much as others.”
“Because some occupations are more degrading than others.”
“But why?” he persisted, as I thought, a little unreasonably.
“Really,” I said, “I think I must leave you to imagine.”
“I am afraid I can’t,” he said, sadly. “Then, if domestic service is degrading in your eyes, and people are not willing servants among you, may I ask why any are servants?”
“It is a question of bread-and-butter. They are obliged to be.”
“That is, they are forced to do work that is hateful and disgraceful to them because they cannot live without?”
“Excuse me,” I said, not at all liking this sort of pursuit, and feeling it fair to turn even upon a guest who kept it up. “Isn’t it so with you in Altruria?”
“It was so once,” he admitted, “but not now. In fact, it is like a waking dream to find one’s self in the presence of conditions here that we outlived so long ago.”
There was an unconscious superiority in this speech that nettled me, and stung me to retort: “We do not expect to outlive them. We regard them as final, and as indestructibly based in human nature itself.”
“Ah,” said the Altrurian, with a delicate and caressing courtesy, “have I said something offensive?”
“Not at all,” I hastened to answer. “It is not surprising that you did not get our point of view exactly. You will by-and-by, and then, I think, you will see that it is the true one. We have found that the logic of our convictions could not be applied to the problem of domestic service. It is everywhere a very curious and perplexing problem. The simple old solution of the problem was to own your servants; but we found that this was not consistent with the spirit of our free institutions. As soon as it was abandoned the anomaly began. We had outlived the primitive period when the housekeeper worked with her domestics and they were her help, and were called so; and we had begun to have servants to do all the household work, and to call them so. This state of things never seemed right to some of our purest and best people. They fancied, as you seem to have done, that to compel people through their necessities to do your hateful drudgery, and to wound and shame them with a name which every American instinctively resents, was neither republican nor Christian. Some of our thinkers tried to mend matters by making their domestics a part of their families; and in the life of Emerson you’ll find an amusing account of his attempt to have his servant eat at the same table with himself and his wife. It wouldn’t work. He and his wife could stand it, but the servant couldn’t.”
I paused, for this was where the laugh ought to have come in. The Altrurian did not laugh, he merely asked, “Why?”
“Well, because the servant knew, if they didn’t, that they were a whole world apart in their traditions, and were no more fit to associate than New-Englanders and New-Zealanders. In the mere matter of education--”
“But I thought you said that these young girls who wait at table here were teachers.”
“Oh, I beg your pardon; I ought to have explained. By this time it had become impossible, as it now is, to get American girls to take service except on some such unusual terms as we have in a summer hotel; and the domestics were already ignorant foreigners, fit for nothing else. In such a place as this it isn’t so bad. It is more as if the girls worked in a shop or a factory. They command their own time, in a measure, their hours are tolerably fixed, and they have one another’s society. In a private family they would be subject to order at all times, and they would have no social life. They would be in the family, out not of it. American girls understand this, and so they won’t go out to service in the usual way.
Even in a summer hotel the relation has its odious aspects. The system of giving fees seems to me degrading to those who have to take them. To offer a student or a teacher a dollar for personal service--it isn’t right, or I can’t make it so. In fact, the whole thing is rather anomalous with us.
The best that you can say of it is that it works, and we don’t know what else to do.”
“But I don’t see yet,” said the Altrurian, “just why domestic service is degrading in a country where all kinds of work are honored.”
“Well, my dear fellow, I have done my best to explain. As I intimated before, we distinguish; and in the different kinds of labor we distinguish against domestic service. I dare say it is partly because of the loss of independence which it involves. People naturally despise a dependant.”
“Why?” asked the Altrurian, with that innocence of his which I was beginning to find rather trying.
“Why?” I retorted. “Because it implies weakness.”
“And is weakness considered despicable among you?” he pursued.
“In every community it is despised practically, if not theoretically,” I tried to explain. “The great thing that America has done is to offer the race an opportunity--the opportunity for any man to rise above the rest and to take the highest place, if he is able.” I had always been proud of this fact, and I thought I had put it very well, but the Altrurian did not seem much impressed by it.
He said: “I do not see how it differs from any country of the past in that. But perhaps you mean that to rise carries with it an obligation to those below ‘If any is first among you, let him be your servant.’ Is it something like that?”
“Well, it is not quite like that,” I answered, remembering how very little our self-made men as a class had done for others. “Every one is expected to look out for himself here. I fancy that there would be very little rising if men were expected to rise for the sake of others, in America.
How is it with you in Altruria?” I demanded, hoping to get out of a certain discomfort I felt in that way. “Do your risen men generally devote themselves to the good of the community after they get to the top?”
“There is no rising among us,” he said, with what seemed a perception of the harsh spirit of my question; and he paused a moment before he asked in his turn: “How do men rise among you?”
“That would be rather a long story,” I replied. “But, putting it in the rough, I should say that they rose by their talents, their shrewdness, their ability to seize an advantage and turn it to their own account.”
“And is that considered noble?”
“It is considered smart. It is considered at the worst far better than a dead level of equality. Are all men equal in Altruria? Are they all alike gifted or beautiful, or short or tall?”
“No, they are only equal in duties and in rights. But, as you said just now, that is a very long story. Are they equal in nothing here?”
“They are equal in opportunities.”
“Ah!” breathed the Altrurian, “I am glad to hear that.”
I began to feel a little uneasy, and I was not quite sure that this last assertion of mine would hold water. Everybody but ourselves had now left the dining-room, and I saw the head-waiter eying us impatiently. I pushed back my chair and said: “I’m sorry to seem to hurry you, but I should like to show you a very pretty sunset effect we have here before it is too dark. When we get back, I want to introduce you to a few of my friends. Of course, I needn’t tell you that there is a good deal of curiosity about you, especially among the ladies.”
“Yes, I found that the case in England, largely. It was the women who cared most to meet me. I understand that in America society is managed even more by women than it is in England.”
“It’s entirely in their hands,” I said, with the satisfaction we all feel in the fact. “We have no other leisure class. The richest men among us are generally hard workers; devotion to business is the rule; but, as soon as a man reaches the point where he can afford to pay for domestic service, his wife and daughters expect to be released from it to the cultivation of their minds and the enjoyment of social pleasures. It’s quite right.
That is what makes them so delightful to foreigners. You must have heard their praises chanted in England. The English find our men rather stupid,I believe; but they think our women are charming.”
“Yes, I was told that the wives of their nobility were sometimes Americans,” said the Altrurian. “The English think that you regard such marriages as a great honor, and that they are very gratifying to your national pride.”
“Well, I suppose that is so in a measure,” I confessed. “I imagine that it will not be long before the English aristocracy derives as largely from American millionaires as from kings’ mistresses. Not,” I added, virtuously, “that we approve of aristocracy.”
“No, I understand that,” said the Altrurian. “I shall hope to get your point of view in this matter more distinctly by-and-by. As yet, I’m a little vague about it.”
“I think I can gradually make it clear to you,” I returned.
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NEWS FROM NOWHERE
CHAPTER I: DISCUSSION AND BED
Up at the League, says a friend, there had been one night a brisk conversational discussion, as to what would happen on the Morrow of the Revolution, finally shading off into a vigorous statement by various friends of their views on the future of the fully-developed new society.
Says our friend: Considering the subject, the discussion was good-tempered; for those present being used to public meetings and after- lecture debates, if they did not listen to each others' opinions (which could scarcely be expected of them), at all events did not always attempt to speak all together, as is the custom of people in ordinary polite society when conversing on a subject which interests them. For the rest, there were six persons present, and consequently six sections of the party were represented, four of which had strong but divergent Anarchist
opinions. One of the sections, says our friend, a man whom he knows very well indeed, sat almost silent at the beginning of the discussion, but at last got drawn into it, and finished by roaring out very loud, and damning all the rest for fools; after which befel a period of noise, and then a lull, during which the aforesaid section, having said good-night very amicably, took his way home by himself to a western suburb, using the means of travelling which civilisation has forced upon us like a habit. As he sat in that vapour-bath of hurried and discontented humanity, a carriage of the underground railway, he, like others, stewed discontentedly, while in self-reproachful mood he turned over the many excellent and conclusive arguments which, though they lay at his fingers' ends, he had forgotten in the just past discussion. But this frame of mind he was so used to, that it didn't last him long, and after a brief discomfort, caused by disgust with himself for having lost his temper (which he was also well used to), he found himself musing on the subject- matter of discussion, but still discontentedly and unhappily. "If I could but see a day of it," he said to himself; "if I could but see it!"
As he formed the words, the train stopped at his station, five minutes' walk from his own house, which stood on the banks of the Thames, a little way above an ugly suspension bridge. He went out of the station, still discontented and unhappy, muttering "If I could but see it! if I could but see it!" but had not gone many steps towards the river before (says our friend who tells the story) all that discontent and trouble seemed to slip off him.
It was a beautiful night of early winter, the air just sharp enough to be refreshing after the hot room and the stinking railway carriage. The wind, which had lately turned a point or two north of west, had blown the sky clear of all cloud save a light fleck or two which went swiftly down the heavens. There was a young moon halfway up the sky, and as the home-
farer caught sight of it, tangled in the branches of a tall old elm, he could scarce bring to his mind the shabby London suburb where he was, and he felt as if he were in a pleasant country place--pleasanter, indeed, than the deep country was as he had known it.
He came right down to the river-side, and lingered a little, looking over the low wall to note the moonlit river, near upon high water, go swirling and glittering up to Chiswick Eyot: as for the ugly bridge below, he did not notice it or think of it, except when for a moment (says our friend) it struck him that he missed the row of lights down stream. Then he turned to his house door and let himself in; and even as he shut the door to, disappeared all remembrance of that brilliant logic and foresight which had so illuminated the recent discussion; and of the discussion itself there remained no trace, save a vague hope, that was now become a pleasure, for days of peace and rest, and cleanness and smiling goodwill.
In this mood he tumbled into bed, and fell asleep after his wont, in two minutes' time; but (contrary to his wont) woke up again not long after in that curiously wide-awake condition which sometimes surprises even good sleepers; a condition under which we feel all our wits preternaturally sharpened, while all the miserable muddles we have ever got into, all the
disgraces and losses of our lives, will insist on thrusting themselves forward for the consideration of those sharpened wits.
In this state he lay (says our friend) till he had almost begun to enjoy it: till the tale of his stupidities amused him, and the entanglements before him, which he saw so clearly, began to shape themselves into an amusing story for him.
He heard one o'clock strike, then two and then three; after which he fell asleep again. Our friend says that from that sleep he awoke once more, and afterwards went through such surprising adventures that he thinks that they should be told to our comrades, and indeed the public in general, and therefore proposes to tell them now. But, says he, I think it would be better if I told them in the first person, as if it were myself who had gone through them; which, indeed, will be the easier and more natural to me, since I understand the feelings and desires of the comrade of whom I am telling better than any one else in the world does.
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From 2000 to 1887
Historical Section Shawmut College, Boston,
December 26, 2000
Living as we do in the closing year of the twentieth century, enjoying the blessings of a social order at once so simple and logical that it seems but the triumph of common sense, it is no doubt difficult for those whose studies have not been largely historical to realize that the present organization of society is, in its completeness, less than a century old. No historical fact is, however, better established than that till nearly the end of the nineteenth century it was the general belief that the ancient industrial system, with all its shocking social consequences, was destined to last, with possibly a little patching, to the end of time. How strange and wellnigh incredible does it seem that so prodigious a moral and material transformation as has taken place since then could have been accomplished in so brief an interval! The readiness with which men accustom themselves, as matters of course, to
improvements in their condition, which, when anticipated, seemed to leave nothing more to be desired, could not be more strikingly illustrated. What reflection could be better calculated to moderate the enthusiasm of reformers who count for their reward on the lively gratitude of future ages!
The object of this volume is to assist persons who, while desiring to gain a more definite idea of the social contrasts between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, are daunted by the formal aspect of the histories which treat the subject. Warned by a teacher's experience that learning is accounted a weariness to the flesh, the author has sought to alleviate the instructive quality of the book by casting it in the form of a romantic narrative, which he would be glad to fancy not wholly devoid of interest on its own account.
The reader, to whom modern social institutions and their underlying principles are matters of course, may at times find Dr. Leete's explanations of them rather trite--but it must be remembered that to Dr. Leete's guest they were not matters of course, and that this book is written for the express purpose of inducing the reader to forget for the nonce that they are so to him. One word more. The almost universal theme of the writers and orators who have celebrated this bimillennial epoch has been the future rather than the past, not the advance that has been made, but the progress that shall be made, ever onward and upward, till the race shall achieve its ineffable destiny. This is well, wholly well, but it seems to me that nowhere can we find more solid ground for daring anticipations of human development during the next one thousand years, than by "Looking Backward" upon the progress of the last one hundred.
That this volume may be so fortunate as to find readers whose interest in the subject shall incline them to overlook the deficiencies of the treatment is the hope in which the author steps aside and leaves Mr. Julian West to speak for himself.
I first saw the light in the city of Boston in the year 1857. "What!" you say, "eighteen fifty-seven? That is an odd slip. He means nineteen fifty-seven, of course." I beg pardon, but there is no mistake. It was about four in the afternoon of December the 26th, one day after Christmas, in the year 1857, not 1957, that I first breathed the east wind of Boston, which, I assure the reader, was at that remote period marked by the same penetrating quality characterizing it in the present year of grace, 2000.
These statements seem so absurd on their face, especially when I add that I am a young man apparently of about thirty years of age, that no person can be blamed for refusing to read another word of what promises to be a mere imposition upon his credulity. Nevertheless I earnestly assure the reader that no imposition is intended, and will undertake, if he shall follow me a few pages, to entirely convince him of this. If I may, then, provisionally assume, with the pledge of justifying the assumption, that I know better than the reader when I was born, I will go on with my narrative. As every schoolboy knows, in the latter part of the nineteenth century the civilization of to-day, or anything like it, did not exist, although the elements which were to develop it were already in ferment. Nothing had, however, occurred to modify the immemorial division of society into the four classes, or nations, as they may be more fitly called, since the differences between them were far greater than those between any nations nowadays, of the rich and the poor, the educated and the ignorant. I myself was rich and also educated, and possessed, therefore, all the elements of happiness enjoyed by the most fortunate in that age. Living in luxury, and occupied only with the pursuit of the pleasures and refinements of life, I derived the means of my support from the labor of others,
rendering no sort of service in return. My parents and grand-parents had lived in the same way, and I expected that my descendants, if I had any, would enjoy a like easy existence.
But how could I live without service to the world? you ask. Why should the world have supported in utter idleness one who was able to render service? The answer is that my great-grandfather had accumulated a sum of money on which his descendants had ever since lived. The sum, you will naturally infer, must have been very large not to have been exhausted in supporting three generations in idleness. This, however, was not the fact. The sum had been originally by no means large. It was, in fact, much larger now that three generations had been supported upon it in idleness, than it was at first. This mystery of use without consumption, of warmth without combustion, seems like magic, but was merely an ingenious application of the art now happily lost but carried to great perfection by your ancestors, of shifting the burden of one's support on the shoulders of others. The man who had accomplished this, and it was the end all sought, was said to live on the income of his investments. To explain at this point how the ancient methods of industry made this possible would delay us too much. I shall only stop now to say that interest on investments was a species of tax in perpetuity upon the product of those engaged in industry which a person possessing or inheriting money was able to levy. It must not be supposed that an arrangement which seems so unnatural and preposterous according to modern notions was never criticized by your ancestors. It had been the effort of lawgivers and prophets from the earliest ages to abolish interest, or at least to limit it to the smallest possible rate. All these efforts had, however, failed, as they necessarily must so long as the ancient social organizations prevailed. At the time of which I write, the latter part of the nineteenth century, governments had generally given up trying to regulate the subject at all.
By way of attempting to give the reader some general impression of the way people lived together in those days, and especially of the relations of the rich and poor to one another, perhaps I cannot do better than to compare society as it then was to a prodigious coach which the masses of humanity were harnessed to and dragged toilsomely along a very hilly and sandy road. The driver was hunger, and permitted no lagging, though the pace was necessarily very slow. Despite the difficulty of drawing the coach at all along so hard a road, the top was covered with passengers who never got down, even at the steepest
ascents. These seats on top were very breezy and comfortable. Well up out of the dust, their occupants could enjoy the scenery at their leisure, or critically discuss the merits of the straining team.
Naturally such places were in great demand and the competition for them was keen, every one seeking as the first end in life to secure a seat on the coach for himself and to leave it to his child after him. By the rule of the coach a man could leave his seat to whom he wished, but on the other hand there were many accidents by which it might at any time be wholly lost. For all that they were so easy, the seats were very insecure, and at every sudden jolt of the coach persons were slipping out of them and falling to the ground, where they were instantly
compelled to take hold of the rope and help to drag the coach on which they had before ridden so pleasantly. It was naturally regarded as a terrible misfortune to lose one's seat, and the apprehension that this might happen to them or their friends was a constant cloud upon the happiness of those who rode.
But did they think only of themselves? you ask. Was not their very luxury rendered intolerable to them by comparison with the lot of their brothers and sisters in the harness, and the knowledge that their own weight added to their toil? Had they no compassion for fellow beings from whom fortune only distinguished them? Oh, yes; commiseration was frequently expressed by those who rode for those who had to pull the coach, especially when the vehicle came to a bad place in the road, as it was constantly doing, or to a particularly steep hill. At such times, the desperate straining of the team, their agonized leaping and plunging under the pitiless lashing of hunger, the many who fainted at the rope and were trampled in the mire, made a very distressing spectacle, which often called forth highly creditable displays of
feeling on the top of the coach. At such times the passengers would call down encouragingly to the toilers of the rope, exhorting them to patience, and holding out hopes of possible compensation in another world for the hardness of their lot, while others contributed to buy
salves and liniments for the crippled and injured. It was agreed that it was a great pity that the coach should be so hard to pull, and there was a sense of general relief when the specially bad piece of road was gotten over. This relief was not, indeed, wholly on account of the team, for there was always some danger at these bad places of a general overturn in which all would lose their seats.
It must in truth be admitted that the main effect of the spectacle of the misery of the toilers at the rope was to enhance the passengers' sense of the value of their seats upon the coach, and to cause them to hold on to them more desperately than before. If the passengers could only have felt assured that neither they nor their friends would ever fall from the top, it is probable that, beyond contributing to the funds for liniments and bandages, they would have troubled themselves extremely little about those who dragged the coach.
I am well aware that this will appear to the men and women of the twentieth century an incredible inhumanity, but there are two facts, both very curious, which partly explain it. In the first place, it was firmly and sincerely believed that there was no other way in which Society could get along, except the many pulled at the rope and the few rode, and not only this, but that no very radical improvement even was possible, either in the harness, the coach, the roadway, or the distribution of the toil. It had always been as it was, and it always would be so. It was a pity, but it could not be helped, and philosophy forbade wasting compassion on what was beyond remedy.
The other fact is yet more curious, consisting in a singular hallucination which those on the top of the coach generally shared, that they were not exactly like their brothers and sisters who pulled at the rope, but of finer clay, in some way belonging to a higher order of beings who might justly expect to be drawn. This seems unaccountable, but, as I once rode on this very coach and shared that very hallucination, I ought to be believed. The strangest thing about the hallucination was that those who had but just climbed up from the ground, before they had outgrown the marks of the rope upon their hands, began to fall under its influence. As for those whose parents and grand-parents before them had been so fortunate as to keep their seats on the top, the conviction they cherished of the essential difference between their sort of humanity and the common article was absolute. The effect of such a delusion in moderating fellow feeling for the sufferings of the mass of men into a distant and philosophical compassion is obvious. To it I refer as the only extenuation I can offer for the indifference which, at the period I write of, marked my own attitude toward the misery of my brothers.
In 1887 I came to my thirtieth year. Although still unmarried, I was engaged to wed Edith Bartlett. She, like myself, rode on the top of the coach. That is to say, not to encumber ourselves further with an illustration which has, I hope, served its purpose of giving the reader some general impression of how we lived then, her family was wealthy. In that age, when money alone commanded all that was agreeable and refined in life, it was enough for a woman to be rich to have suitors; but Edith Bartlett was beautiful and graceful also.
My lady readers, I am aware, will protest at this. "Handsome she might have been," I hear them saying, "but graceful never, in the costumes which were the fashion at that period, when the head covering was a dizzy structure a foot tall, and the almost incredible extension of the
skirt behind by means of artificial contrivances more thoroughly dehumanized the form than any former device of dressmakers. Fancy any one graceful in such a costume!" The point is certainly well taken, and I can only reply that while the ladies of the twentieth century are lovely demonstrations of the effect of appropriate drapery in accenting feminine graces, my recollection of their great-grandmothers enables me to maintain that no deformity of costume can wholly disguise them.
Our marriage only waited on the completion of the house which I was building for our occupancy in one of the most desirable parts of the city, that is to say, a part chiefly inhabited by the rich. For it must be understood that the comparative desirability of different parts of
Boston for residence depended then, not on natural features, but on the character of the neighboring population. Each class or nation lived by itself, in quarters of its own. A rich man living among the poor, an educated man among the uneducated, was like one living in isolation among a jealous and alien race. When the house had been begun, its completion by the winter of 1886 had been expected. The spring of the following year found it, however, yet incomplete, and my marriage still a thing of the future. The cause of a delay calculated to be
particularly exasperating to an ardent lover was a series of strikes, that is to say, concerted refusals to work on the part of the brick-layers, masons, carpenters, painters, plumbers, and other trades concerned in house building. What the specific causes of these strikes were I do not remember. Strikes had become so common at that period that people had ceased to inquire into their particular grounds. In one department of industry or another, they had been nearly incessant ever since the great business crisis of 1873. In fact it had come to be the exceptional thing to see any class of laborers pursue their avocation
steadily for more than a few months at a time.
The reader who observes the dates alluded to will of course recognize in these disturbances of industry the first and incoherent phase of the great movement which ended in the establishment of the modern industrial system with all its social consequences. This is all so
plain in the retrospect that a child can understand it, but not being prophets, we of that day had no clear idea what was happening to us. What we did see was that industrially the country was in a very queer way. The relation between the workingman and the employer, between labor and capital, appeared in some unaccountable manner to have become dislocated. The working classes had quite suddenly and very generally become infected with a profound discontent with their condition, and an idea that it could be greatly bettered if they only knew how to go about it. On every side, with one accord, they preferred demands for
higher pay, shorter hours, better dwellings, better educational advantages, and a share in the refinements and luxuries of life, demands which it was impossible to see the way to granting unless the world were to become a great deal richer than it then was. Though they knew something of what they wanted, they knew nothing of how to accomplish it, and the eager enthusiasm with which they thronged about any one who seemed likely to give them any light on the subject lent sudden reputation to many would-be leaders, some of whom had little
enough light to give. However chimerical the aspirations of the laboring classes might be deemed, the devotion with which they supported one another in the strikes, which were their chief weapon, and the sacrifices which they underwent to carry them out left no doubt
of their dead earnestness.
As to the final outcome of the labor troubles, which was the phrase by which the movement I have described was most commonly referred to, the opinions of the people of my class differed according to individual temperament. The sanguine argued very forcibly that it was in the very nature of things impossible that the new hopes of the workingmen could be satisfied, simply because the world had not the wherewithal to satisfy them. It was only because the masses worked very hard and lived on short commons that the race did not starve outright, and no considerable improvement in their condition was possible while the
world, as a whole, remained so poor. It was not the capitalists whom the laboring men were contending with, these maintained, but the iron-bound environment of humanity, and it was merely a question of the thickness of their skulls when they would discover the fact and make up their minds to endure what they could not cure.
The less sanguine admitted all this. Of course the workingmen's aspirations were impossible of fulfillment for natural reasons, but there were grounds to fear that they would not discover this fact until they had made a sad mess of society. They had the votes and the power to do so if they pleased, and their leaders meant they should. Some of these desponding observers went so far as to predict an impending social cataclysm. Humanity, they argued, having climbed to the top round of the ladder of civilization, was about to take a header into chaos, after which it would doubtless pick itself up, turn round, and begin to climb again. Repeated experiences of this sort in historic and prehistoric times possibly accounted for the puzzling bumps on the human cranium. Human history, like all great movements, was cyclical, and returned to the point of beginning. The idea of indefinite progress in a right line was a chimera of the imagination, with no analogue in nature. The parabola of a comet was perhaps a yet better illustration of the career of humanity. Tending upward and sunward from the aphelion of barbarism, the race attained the perihelion of civilization only to
plunge downward once more to its nether goal in the regions of chaos.
This, of course, was an extreme opinion, but I remember serious men among my acquaintances who, in discussing the signs of the times, adopted a very similar tone. It was no doubt the common opinion of thoughtful men that society was approaching a critical period which might result in great changes. The labor troubles, their causes, course, and cure, took lead of all other topics in the public prints, and in serious conversation.
The nervous tension of the public mind could not have been more strikingly illustrated than it was by the alarm resulting from the talk of a small band of men who called themselves anarchists, and proposed to terrify the American people into adopting their ideas by threats of
violence, as if a mighty nation which had but just put down a rebellion of half its own numbers, in order to maintain its political system, were likely to adopt a new social system out of fear.
As one of the wealthy, with a large stake in the existing order of things, I naturally shared the apprehensions of my class. The particular grievance I had against the working classes at the time of which I write, on account of the effect of their strikes in postponing my wedded bliss, no doubt lent a special animosity to my feeling toward them.
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Memorials and Websites –what do they say about our view of writers?
The Memorials we erect to writers surely tell us something about our opinions of them. This month I’d like to consider both the physical memorials to our Edinburgh Boys and the modern equivalent, which I suggest, is the website.
Who does not know of the Scott Monument in Edinburgh? Scott’s memorial is domineering, all-encompassing- something to be ‘proud’ of on a vast scale. And it stands close to Waverley Station. Scott really ‘bosses’ this part of the Capital. But how many people read the Waverley novels, despite the size of the memorial. I wonder whether the rule is the memorial is large in inverse proportion to how much the writer is read? You can build it, and they may come, but you can’t make them read!
By contrast Robert Louis Stevenson is having something of a resurgence in popularity. He is certainly more read than Scott these days. He even has a ‘day’ in Edinburgh which is this week lasting for a whole week. (November 13th so you may just have missed it). He even has a hashtag! #rlsday. This is all because he has been taken to the heart of Edinburgh City of Literature and is being heavily promoted. Which is all as it should be, but does tend to confirm that suspicion that post mortem, the perceived value of a writer lies in things other than the actuality of his writing – how much capital can be made out of him seems to be vital. Now I’ve been a lifelong lover of Stevenson – I am familiar with his house at Heriot Row having even slept there on a couple of occasions as a child. I used to dine out that I slept in his bed, but I suspect this isn’t true since the bed I slept in was at the back of the house so how could he have seen Leary light the lamp? Still, my point is that I have every cause to praise Stevenson, but that doesn’t stop me from suggesting that his recent rise is not only to do with a sudden awakening to the greatness of his work but to other more commercial forces. As far as actual memorials go, Stevenson isn’t that well represented. There has been a bronze memorial plaque in St Giles Cathedral since 1904 but more recently a small stone memorial in West Princes Street Garden commissioned by the Stevenson Society in 1987. Stevenson stated in his letters that he didn't want a statue of himself and so this modest stone is appropriate to a modest man. However, some have greatness thrust upon them and in 2013 a Bronze sculpture was unveiled in Colinton village. Whatever the ins and outs of Stevenson Resurgit in the literary canon, I just hope it leads to more people reading his work widely (and beyond the best-sellers)
There’s an interesting memorial connection between Robert Louis Stevenson and Samuel Rutherford Crockett. While the two men never met, they became friends through letters and literature. Stevenson suggested Crockett ditch poetry in favour of fiction. He wrote a forward to Crockett’s early work ‘The Stickit Minister and Other Common Men’ (1893) and he wrote a poem to Crockett part of which forms the plaque on the Crockett Memorial in Laurieston. Built by public subscription in 1932 it is quite an impressive memorial, though in an out of the way place and until recently had fallen into something of dis-repair. However, on the anniversary of Crockett’s birthday this year the Memorial has seen a renovation including an inscription board, a wooden bench and much needed parking space. The Crockett memorial is the sort of structure he would have climbed as a youngster and the view would have been amazing from the top: a view of all the places he loved in childhood and wrote about throughout his adult life. The Scott monument it certainly isn’t. Crockett never was and never will be a Walter Scott – the two men are diametrically opposed in almost every way. And yet Crockett was chosen to write abridged versions of Scott novels for children of the early 20th century – who ‘would not read Scott.’ The irony is that in these works ‘Red Cap Adventures’ and ‘Red Cap Tales’ it is Crockett’s writing (and his fictionalised children) who steal the show from Scott.
So Crockett has connections to both Scott and Stevenson – beyond literary style. J.M.Barrie was also a pen friend of Stevenson and a friend of Crockett. Both men planned a trip to Samoa for 1894 but sadly never made it and the opportunity for ‘Jimmy and Sam’s excellent adventure’ was lost when the news came that Stevenson had died. I can’t help but wonder what would have happened to all three men had they met up in Samoa early in 1894. Crockett might never have become famous (1894 was the year he burst onto the literary scene with no fewer than four novels published) and Barrie might never have got married. (Instead of going to Samoa he got sick and was nursed by Mary Anstell whom he subsequently married – out of gratitude?)
Barrie’s memorials in Kirriemuir and Kensington Gardens are not of the man himself but of his character Peter Pan. He shares this commonality with Arthur Conan Doyle. He has a memorial at his birthplace in Picardy Place, Edinburgh but it is of Sherlock Holmes. There is a Conan Doyle statue in in Crowborough, East Sussex, however. Like Barrie, Buchan is under-represented in statuary in this country. You have to go to Haenertsburg, in the North-eastern Transvaal to find a memorial to him.
Never mind the statues, there are places associated with our Edinburgh Boys. Scott once again top trumps the pack with Abbotsford. Stevenson has 17 Heriot Row, home of the Stevenson Society and an up market bed and breakfast these days. Crockett is perhaps worse remembered. His birthplace Little Duchrae is up for sale right now. His other childhood home in Cotton Street gives no recognition (but then nor does the entire town of Castle Douglas see fit to honour one of their most famous sons) and his houses at Bank House, Penicuik and Torwood, Peebles are both private homes neither of which evince any interest in their former famous inhabitant.
As for Conan Doyle? There is a Sherlock Holmes museum at 221b Baker Street and in Edinburgh he features in the Writers Museum in the High Street, but all attempts (online) to find out about the Arthur Conan Doyle Centre were met with server errors. Not so elementary my dear Watson! Barrie has a birthplace museum in a cottage in Kirriemuir – it’s a great place to visit and perhaps the best Barrie memorial that exists. And Dumfries is in the process of capitalising on the Barrie/Peter Pan connection with a massive project to renovate Moat Brae, where Barrie lived for a while as a child and allegedly first came up with the idea of Peter Pan (I have my doubts, but it makes a nice story!) And Barrie is so overlooked that any publicity should surely be good – although again I do wish those promoting Barrie would look beyond Peter Pan.
John Buchan has a new home in Peebles. Until some years ago there was a centre in Broughton but it ‘upgraded’ to Peebles where it exists as ‘The John Buchan Story.’
But hey, we live in a virtual world right? So let’s perhaps pit our Edinburgh Boys head to head in the only venues that count – websites. These are generally maintained by literary societies and I leave you to make your own minds up about the varied prices for membership. For those who love competitions and rankings, let’s just say that I’d place the Stevenson society website top of the pile. The Buchan Society and the Galloway Raiders (the Crockett Society) give a good account of their ‘man’ and offer an insight into both the writer and his works. All three of the aforementioned seem to have an investment in keeping the memory alive and encouraging folk to read the work.
Scott has a ‘digital archive’ for the hardcore and a ‘tourist’ attraction for others which as you’d expect, pisses higher up the wall than any other in terms of money but not necessarily in terms of content – it seems to be selling the place rather than the writing. Conan Doyle has both a literary Society (which is actually the Sherlock Holmes Society) and a site which appears to be directed at preserving his literary estate in terms of commercial opportunities.
And poor Peter Pan. Poor J.M.Barrie. He is atrociously served. I defy anyone to make sense of the Barrie website. I don’t think it’s even remotely up to date and trying to connect to it is well nigh impossible, I’ve tried several times over the years. The man is as neglected in this respect as every other. For Barrie the only thing to do is go to Kirriemuir. Until someone sees sense and sets up a proper website. I am frequently tempted to do so myself. But shouldn’t it be something the Mote Brae Trust look into – if they can prise themselves away from Peter Pan for just a minute. I for one think it’s time to grow up about J.M.Barrie.
But enough from me. Go on a wee journey of discovery yourselves:
RLS website http://robert-louis-stevenson.org
S.R.Crockett Galloway Raiders website www.gallowayraiders.co.uk
John Buchan website http://www.johnbuchansociety.co.uk/
Walter Scott Websites http://www.walterscott.lib.ed.ac.uk/
Arthur Conan Doyle Website http://www.arthurconandoyle.com/
And http://www.sherlock-holmes.org.uk/conan-doyle/ for the literary society
Last, and very definite least:
J.M.Barrie Websites http://www.jmbarrie.co.uk/ and if possible the even more appalling http://www.jmbarrie.net/
Dickens part two (of three)
What makes the style of Charles Dickens so individual and recognisable? Shortly stated, it is surely its academic yet whimsical intensity, is it not? Absurdity set forth in graceful language is irresistible. Even his little boys are under all circumstances polite. David Copperfield taken in by the greedy waiter, and little Pip tilted upside down upon a table tombstone till he sees the church steeple under his feet, never forgot their company manners. Pip addresses as ‘Sir,’ the terrible convict who threatens him so fiercely and handles him so unceremoniously, and David is abashed in the presence of the cormorant waiter, and answers him with propitiatory courtesy. The contrast of their innocent helplessness, put upon as it is, with the unscrupulousness which abuses it, is enhance in its pathos by the gentle politeness of the little men. This urbanity is a distinguishing note of Dickens’s style.
Dickens himself attributed the basis of his powers to Attention. He had, much in the manner of his own little Paul Dombey, observed closely an thought long analytical thoughts about everything that interested him. It is claimed for him, on the strength of a statement of his own, that his memory went back to things he had noticed in his cradle. One has heard this statement called in question: but to doubt it seems gratuitous scepticism. It would be interesting to compare notes with individuals as to when their conscious observation or observant consciousness began. Such an inquiry would be quite in keeping with the celebrated investigations into human faculty conducted by Francis Galton.
It would be a pity to spoil such an inquiry by self-complacent exaggeration and there would be a tendency to do that; but, speaking for myself , I have a great many definite recollections of infantile activities, adventures, and speculations that must have begun not later than the age of three. My people removed from the house in which I was born when I was at the age of 4 ½ ; and I went to school very tearfully and rebelliously just after the removal; but vivid memories of summers, winters, exploits, and day-dreaming ante-date this period by what seem so long a stretch that it does not appear at all to be difficult to believe that so exceptional an observer as Dickens might begin his critical, speculative, analytical stocktaking even in his cradle.
Baldly stated, attention as a recipe for mental achievement may not seem to take us far; but let us not rest satisfied with the bald statement of it; let us see in some detail what it means. The admonition of the French preceptor, Attendez vous – pay attention – is the most fruitful good advice that an instructor can give. One of the best technical pupils I have had was the daughter of a poor labourer who sometimes said, ‘Will you do that again, please?’ when she had not quite followed the manual trick of an operation. She seldom needed a third repetition, and the very look of her quiet grey eyes bespoke special attentiveness.
A Hopeful Theory.
That we may do more or less what we wish to do if we are only sufficiently in earnest to attend to the means of success if obviously a hopeful theory; and the more it is examined the more feasible it does seem. It appears to place achievement within the compass of all who can attain to the moral quality of sincerity, in art as in any other branch of human service. When we use the word ‘genius’ in ad captandum fashion as covering something not to be accounted for , something to be set apart as beyond explanation, we may be ignoring or ruling out a whole process of preparation in the mind, studies, and pursuits of a person whom we suppose to have achieved a certain result by some inexplicable tour de force, without preparation, and without the concentration which is itself a preparation. It is common to find men who excel in music, poetry, eloquence, painting , or sculpture defective to the extent of disorderliness on the side of business, figures, and general attention to the requisites of personal material prosperity. What does this mean except that the genius is so pre-occupied with his art that he has no thought for the small change of general social commerce?
The artist can reproduce scenes or figures by the closeness with which he observes them. Attempts at drawing reveal in line and perspective the degree of notice which the draughtsman has taken of appearances. As the artist has an attentive eye for appearances, for form and colour, so has the actor for the sound of spoken words, the tone, gesture, and facial expression of the speaker. The musician has a closely-related attention for tune, time, and musical enunciation. But to reproduce form and colour by line and pain, to imitate sounds by other sounds, whether spoken words or notes of music – these are comparatively simple processes as contrasted with the reproduction of sounds, scenery, speeches, atmosphere by means of the totally different medium of words. Yet this last is what the author does. And as such art at its best is the most difficult of all, a corresponding degree of attentiveness is required for mastery in it.
To say that musical, scenic or verbal artists produce their effects by having given specially close attention to the thing to be produced may not seem much of an explanation. The artist must, of course, feel that the thing to which he gives attention is supremely worthy of his attention, or he may just have a turn that way without having consciously theorised in justification of his state.
Genius is the capacity and the will to give attention to trifles, an infinite patience for taking pains, and the more or less conscious belief that the trifles are worth taking pains with. This it is which marks him off from the average man, who is apt to let a job go with ‘It will do well enough.’ Simple people, savages, and children take the most marvellous work of the human hand and brain as a matter of course. They have little curiosity. Perhaps they despair of being able to understand. Those who know nothing of machinery give it up: in the case of women they have little attention for it. But a boy, and still more a man who already knows something of mechanics, is interested at once, and will try to master the principle of a machine. The man who reads is more or less interested in all books, and will glance over the titles of a row of volumes even if he has no time to look inside them. But the illiterate give books no thought. they are as incapable of giving them attention as the woman is with the machinery for which she has no use. I was surprised to find that a clever teacher, herself something of a draughtswoman, had never noticed that the stones or bricks out of which a wall was composed were not laid exactly on top of one another, but were set so that the middle of one stone fell on top of the joining of the two stones below it, one course thus locking another.
People who tell a joke, but leave out the point of it, simply have not attended to the story properly. People who cannot tell one tune from another, have not listened properly, are perhaps incapable of listening properly, to musical sounds. That such people can nevertheless reproduce subtle shades of pronunciation would seem to show that they are not so much destitute of ‘ear’ as that they do not consider music worth listening to. We can note that in which we are interested. Dull men who forget important facts the moment after they have heard or read them can nevertheless remember small sums that are due to them, and men can often give a prolix account of all the minor circumstances in connection with a matter while forgetting the essential features of what happened.
There is ordinary photographic perception, and there is the selective, didactic perception which we call art. Zola takes down everything. Dickens, or any other true artist, selects, transposes, shortens, heightens, and rejects. Zola was a literary photographer; Dickens a literary artist.
But farcical humour is a thing by itself – one of the rarest human gifts. The comedian is always popular, irrespective of the precise value of his talent, because his talent has what economists call a ‘scarcity value.’ That we take the humourist to our hearts, is because, for every thousand writers who can make us shudder, weep, or just follow a plain tale with mild interest, there is but one who can make us laugh. Mark Twain in America, Dickens and Shaw in England are not merely writers among thousands: there is no arithmetic to express uniqueness.
In many readers and hearers the faculty of laughter is so much a minus quality that unless they are warned beforehand that they are expected to laugh, they fail to do so, in this reminding us of deaf people who laugh too soon or in the wrong place, because they have been told that So-and-so is ‘a funny man.’ The white face and red nose of the clown are part of the warning, a sign that jokes may be expected. A perception of the grotesque is so little to be counted upon with all individuals that if one wishes a jest to be taken it is safest to put the saying in the mouth of a some character, real or invented, with a change of voice to indicate that the remark is intended to amuse. Many worthy people need to know a joker for years ere they realise that his every remark is not to be taken seriously, and one has heard the drollest sayings accepted by those to whom they were addressed as if they were ordinary matters of fact.
Attention to trifles makes the genius: but must one be a genius in order to consider the trifles worth attending to and working out? Often one has heard a laugh raised by the saying of something that had occurred to oneself and probably to others present, but that the joker alone had thought worth giving expression to. Even then, there are trifles that are essential and trifles that are not, and genius is required to distinguish the one from the other. Much of the success of Dickens as a humourist lies in the patience, born of keen personal enjoyment, with which he elaborates an absurdity some features of which had occurred to ourselves, though we had not dwelt on it long enough to get the full flavour of its farcical suggestion. This is not to say that Dickens’s humour has not mostly the charm of the perfectly unexpected.
The Charm of the Unexpected.
The following passage from ‘Great Expectations’ (which happens to be the latest of these novels I have re-read) takes one quite suddenly. It is not introduced by Dickens merely for the sake of fun, but is a necessary part of the narrative. Pip has to hide a portion of his bread for the benefit of the escaped convict, and this is how the humourist turn the necessity to account: -
The effort of resolution necessary to the achievement of this purpose, I found to be quite awful. It was as if I had to make up my mind to leap from the top of a high house, or plunge into a great depth of water. And it was made the more difficult by the unconscious Joe. In our already-mentioned freemasonry as fell0w-sufferers, and in his good-natured companionship with me, it was our evening habit to compare the way we bit through our slices, by silently holding them up to each other’s admiration now and then – which stimulated us to new exertions. Tonight Joe several times invited me by the display of his fast-diminishing slice, to enter upon our usual friendly competition; but he found me, each time, with my yellow mug of tea on one knee, and my untouched bread-and-butter on the other. At last I desperately considered that the thing I contemplated must be done, and that it had best be done in the least improbable manner consistent with the circumstances. I took advantage of a moment when Joe had just looked at me, and got my bread-and-butter down my leg.
Joe was evidently made uncomfortable by what he supposed to be my loss of appetite, and took a thoughtful bite out of his slice, which he didn’t seem to enjoy. He turned it about in his mouth much longer than usual, pondering over it a good deal, and after all gulped it down like a pill. He was about to take another bite, and had just got his head on one side for a good purchase on it, when his eye fell on me, and he saw that my bread-and-butter was gone.
The wonder and consternation with which Joe stopped on the threshold of his bite and stared at me, were to evident to escape my sister’s observation.
‘What’s the matter now?’ said she, smartly, as she put down her cup.
‘I say, you know!’ muttered Joe, shaking his head at me in a very serious remonstrance. ‘Pip, old chap! You’ll do yourself a mischief. It’ll stick somewhere. You can’t have chewed it, Pip.’
‘What’s the matter now?’ repeated my sister , more sharply than before.
‘If you can cough any trifle on it up, Pip, I’d recommend you to do it,’ said Joe, all aghast. ‘Manners is manners, but still your ’elth’s your ’elth.’
By this time my sister was quite desperate so she pounced on Joe, and, taking him by the two whiskers, knocked his head for a little while against the wall behind him; while I sat in the corner, looking guiltily on.
‘Now perhaps you’ll mention what’s the matter,’ said my sister, out of breath, ‘you staring great stuck pig.’
Joe looked at her in a helpless way; then took a helpless bite, and looked at me again. ‘You know Pip,’ said Joe, solemnly, with his last bite in his cheek, and speaking in a confidential voice, as if we two were quite alone, ‘you and me is always friends, and I’d be the last one to tell upon you, any time. But such a’ – he moved his chair, and looked about the floor between us and then again at me – ‘such an uncommon bolt as that!’
‘Been bolting his food, has he?’ cried my sister.
‘You know old chap,’ said Joe, looking at me, and not at Mrs Joe, with his bite still in his cheek, ‘I Bolted, myself, when I was your age – frequent – and as a boy I’ve been among many a Bolter; but I never see your bolting equal yet, Pip, and it’s a mercy you ain’t Bolted dead.’
My sister made a dive at me, and fished me up by the hair; saying nothing more than the awful words, ‘You come along and be dosed.’
Some medical beast has revived Tar-water in those days as a fine medicine, and Mrs Joe always kept a supply of it in the cupboard; having a belief in its virtues correspondent to its nastiness. At the best of times, so much of this elixir was administered to me as a choice restorative, that I was conscious of going about, smelling like a new fence. On this particular evening, the urgency of my case demanded a pint of this mixture, which was poured down my throat, for my greater comfort, while Mrs Joe held my head under her arm, as a boot would be held in a boot-jack. Joe got off with half-a-pint; but was made to swallow that (much to his disturbance, as he sat slowly munching and meditating before the fire), ‘because he had had a turn.’ Judging from myself, I should say he certainly had a turn afterwards, if he had none before.
It was no wonder if Mrs Gargery was exasperated at her husband; and Pip had a grievance against him too.
If we speak of the charm of the unexpected, what could be less expected than the suggestion in the conclusion of this passage?
‘You look very well, Mr Barkiss,’ I said, thinking he would like to know it. Mr Barkiss rubbed his cheek with his cuff, and then looked at his cuff as if he expected to find some of the bloom upon it.
There is a remark that lingers in my mind from the first boyish reading of ‘Nicholas Nickelby’: these things will never hit us again with the original laughter-raising impact. Round the area door of Arthur Gride, notorious miser, there gathers the human flotsam of a city street, attracted by loud knocking to which there is no response. Some held that old Gride’s housekeeper had fallen asleep, some that she had burnt herself to death, some that she had got drunk. The atmosphere would be ominous of tragedy except that the life of the street relieves the gloom. At any rate, tragedy is effectually turned to comedy when a very fat man in the little crowd suggests that Peg Sliderskew, the miser’s old housekeeper, has seen something to eat, which has frightened here so much (not being used to it) that she has fallen into a fit!
A General Characteristic.
Dickens’s style is not simple. It is, for one thing, a Latinised style. We could not fancy him writing ‘cheap’ – he writes ‘inexpensive.’ When the ironmaster is announced to Sir Leicester Deadlock he asks that ‘the ferruginous gentleman’ be shown in. Mr Pumblechook’s shop is described as ‘peppercorny and farinaceous.’ The humourous effect is heightened by some of these rather stately locutions. Thus Joe Gargery’s reference to a certain sum as ‘a cool four thousand,’ gives rise to the comment : - ‘I never discovered from whom Joe derived the conventional temperature of the four thousand pounds, but it appeared to make the sum of money more to him, and he had a manifest relish in insisting on its being cool.’
The slight stateliness there – and it is but slight - was inseparable from the thought, and these reflective interludes, which are frequent in Dickens’s books, are the more effective when they follow the broad illiterate speech of humble characters out of whom the novelist secures his best comic effects.
In this banter about the transferred epithet ‘cool’ as applied to money he reminds us of how he makes Mr Dick puncture a similar expression about there being no room to swing a cat in his apartment. ‘But I don’t want to swing a cat,’ says Mr Dick, with the wisdom of folly, which refuses to accept more or less inappropriate tags which pass current with the more sophisticated. ‘How old would you be?’ asked the lady. And the half-wit answered: ‘It’s not how old I would be, but how old am I?’ Perhaps someone will yet give a really effective flick to such overworked clichés as ‘exploring every avenue’ and ‘leaving no stone unturned.’
These whimsical analyses belong to a leisurely style which has gone out. The old-fashioned novel was much longer than the stories of today. There was more writing up, and less concern for getting ahead with the story. The fairly long-drawn preliminaries of ‘David Copperfield,’ in which the caul with which he was born, and the views of the old lady who bought it for five shillings, of which she was twopence-halfpenny short, are given at length, probably represented rhetorical sparring for an opening; though there, as always with Dickens, the rhetoric is not wasted, but sparkles and coruscates and gets charmingly and definitely somewhere. William de Morgan is the only latter-day writer of fiction who gambles with his pen in the same leisurely and sportive way.
Even in the relatively short ‘Christmas Carol’ Dickens opens with a characteristic whimsical aside:
Old Marley was dead as a door-nail. Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know of my own knowledge what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile, and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it… You will therefore permit me to repeat emphatically that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
The Rhetoric of High Spirits.
Besides illustrating his turn for whimsical reflective asides, the passage is also an example of that quickness of observation which lets nothing be taken for granted or held as read. In its continuation it also reflects that rhetoric of high spirits which is one of the chief marks of Dickens’s style.
Scrooge knew he was dead. Of course he did. How could it be otherwise? Scrooge and he were partners for I don’t know how many years. Scrooge was his sole executor, his sole administrator, his sole residuary legatee, his sole friend and mourner.
This is the garrulous circumstantiality of one who is happy at his desk, who thoroughly enjoyed playing verbally with his theme. He is in no hurry to get on with the story. The preparation, the creation of the atmosphere, had to be complete.
The mention of Marley’s funeral brings me back to the point I started from. There is no doubt that Marley was dead. This must be distinctly understood, or nothing wonderful can come from the story I am going to relate. If we were not perfectly convinced that Hamlet’s father died before the play began, there would be nothing more remarkable in his taking a stroll at night, in an easterly wind, upon his own ramparts, than there would be in any other middle-aged gentleman rashly turning out after dark in a breezy spot – say Saint Paul’s Churchyard for instance – literally to astonish his son’s weak mind.
The best styles are always Latinised, if regard be had, not merely to the music of language, but still more to its content. The English Bible is not at all Latin in style, and it is very beautiful, but not at all subtle. The Biblical writers did not argue, did not discuss. They announced. Shakespeare as a stylist is beautifully balanced and copious, and still, after fourscore years, the most delightfully humorous writer in English, both in sudden suggestion and sustained comic analysis. This would hardly seem worth mentioning if so many people did not find that they ‘can’t read him.’
Personifying the Impersonal.
He has this in common with Shakespeare, that he is much given to personifying the impersonal. Indeed, he carries this further than the dramatist did. When Shakespeare makes the reeds ‘lackey the dull stream’ he is giving a human attribute to the mere rushes. But he does it in one word. Whereas Dickens resorts to personification of things more freely than Shakespeare does, and he stretches the personification to greater lengths. Thus of a dirty newspaper he says ‘It had taken the measles in a highly irregular form.’ And he says: ‘Occasionally the smoke came rolling down the chimney as though it could not bear to go out on such a cold night.’ And again; ‘The day came creeping on, halting and whimpering and shivering, and wrapped in patches of cloud and rags of mist like a beggar.’
These examples are taken more or less at random from the nearest novel to hand. They will at once be recognised as examples of Dickens’s habitual trick, sometimes pursued at great length and with powerful imaginative ingenuity, of giving human attributes to insensate things. It is this breaking into sudden passionate soliloquy that caused Dickens to be classed as of the ‘spasmodic’ school. It is quite likely that matter-of-fact, donnish people will not follow him in fanciful speculations say over a dull and gusty morning. But such fancies are in the true line of imaginative writing if we are to accept as exemplars the Psalmist who makes the mountains dance, and the Dramatist who causes the sun to ‘flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye,’ and that later poet who figured the torrents of Mont Blanc as ‘fiercely glad.’ These devices of personification are with Dickens dramatic pauses which immensely enhance the effectiveness of the situation that follows.
FROM THE PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION;
The substance of the following pages was originally delivered as a lecture in Glasgow and Aberdeen as long ago as 1891; but the successive reprints called for seem to show that it still meets a need.
In view of the number of middle-class men who have all along been associated with the Socialist movement - which, in fact, was everywhere initiated by middle-class men - there is specious warrant for the view that Socialism is not at all necessarily a proletarian cause. But the proletariat does not mean merely the manual-labour class. It means all who get their living by labour - the work of their heads or hands or both. The middle-class men who have helped in the propaganda of Socialism mostly belong to the intellectual proletariat. They live on salaries rather than on rent, profit, or interest. They are wage-earners differing from the manual-labourer only in respect that their wages are better. Macaulay’s famous cheque for £20,000 from Longmans & Co. for his History of England, represented wages. It was the reward of many years’ work upon that particular job, plus, of course, exceptional ability and the reading and experience of a lifetime.
But while we gladly receive the help of professional men, the presence of these in our movement does not appreciably affect its class character. Socialism is an attack upon the only means whereby millions of men and women in the upper and middle classes live, and the whole lesson of history is that they will fight savagely for the retention of their rents, their interest, and their dividends.
It is true that men of the classes have helped to carry schemes of socialization whereby public enterprise has supplanted private enterprise. But it is the shareholder in a company rather than the man who has built up a business for himself who is supplanted. The mere investor, barred out in one direction, knows that as yet there are other fields for his capital, and he does not resent municipalization as the man will do who is driven to the wall by it in his own personal calling. Let the Socialists in Parliament and the local bodies introduce any clear general attack upon private enterprise, as they must sooner or later do when they are strong enough, and then we shall see war. If men fight for territory, the flag, or ‘patriotism,’ will they not fight with tenfold more tenacity for their living, even if that living be as ill gotten as the territory?
PREFACE TO THE EIGHTH EDITION.
In issuing an eighth edition of ‘The Class War’ so long after the date of its original publication, one might expect to find many changes on the face of the problem as here stated. But in essentials the more the position changes the more it remains the same.
The handful of Haves have more than ever; the vast multitude of Havenots have less; for prices have risen and wages at their highest during the war never kept pace with the cost of living. At the same time British Capital ‘does so well’ that it cannot find safe and profitable investment for the surplus. All ‘new issues’ are ‘over-subscribed within a few hours. In one year (1924) no less than £6o,000,000 of British capital was invested abroad, mostly on precarious security, and Mr. Keynes said that in 1923 we invested abroad about two-thirds of what passed through the investment markets, and probably between a half and a third of our total savings. Yet the investors talk of ‘foreign competition’! The national income of Britain in 1800 is put at £174,000,000. This had risen by 1920 to £4,000,000 - a twenty-four-fold increase. But the income per head of population had increased only five times - from £16 14s. per head in 1800 to £85 per head in 1920. Two and a half million breadgetters secure more than half of the national income. Seventeen and a quarter million breadwinners get less than half.
With the trade unionism of the inconclusive demand - the dog chasing his tail - too many workers are still content. Yet the unrest is permanent. Nothing is done to remove the fundamental causes of it. The strike remedy only increases the dis-ease, which is poverty; for it means an immediate loss of wages, and, if successful, a rise in the cost of living.
The strike method is destructive, and destruction may be the work of an instant. Socialism is constructive, and by its very nature the process is slow even if the human agents were willing. And they are not willing. Socialism is long and life is short. On the other hand, the workers strike with pleasure. The mine is a place of darksome misery and danger. The stokehold is a hell of torture. The noisy mill, the icy rigging, the stifling retort-house, the stuffy printing shop, the clanging shipyard, the fume-laden foundry are all places from which the workers are glad to escape, especially if there be the hope of better wages at the end of a brief holiday. The workers gladly respond to the call of the strike-leader to come out. That is where the dangerous power of Syndicalism lies.
But Socialism involves reading. It involves attendance at meetings. It involves committee work, electioneering, speech-making, canvassing. And when the Socialist representative is returned, he is only, after all, at the beginning of his work.
The one thing the working class has not tried on any scale is definite Socialist representation on all the assemblies its votes control, with a view to the steady socialization of industry. In State or Municipal employ alone are wages increased and price lowered.
This new edition is issued in the hope that the pamphlet will help towards a more general and fruitful realization of the irreconcilable antagonism that must exist between Capitalism and Labour, and the adoption of the idea and practice of Public ownership and Socialistic administration as the only possible basis of industrial ‘peace with honour.’
The Class War.
The wit of man can devise no scheme by which the poor can become less poor without the rich becoming less rich, - The Star.
The more there is allotted to labour the less there will remain to be appropriated as rent. - FAWCETT; Manual of Political Economy.
What agreement is there between the hyena and a dog? and what peace between the rich and the poor? As the wild ass is the lion’s prey in the wilderness, so the rich eat up the poor. As the proud hate humility, so doth the rich abhor the poor. – The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach, xiii. 18-20.
A state in which classes exist is not one but two. The poor constitute one state and the rich another, and both, living in the closest proximity, are constantly on the watch against each other. The ruling class is finally unable to go to war, because to do so it requires the services of the mass, which, when armed, inspires it with terror than the enemy.- PLATO; The Republic.
Disguise it as we may by feudal benevolence or the kindly attempts of philanthropists, the material interests of the small nation privileged to exact rent for its monopolies, and of the great nation thereby driven to receive only the remainder of the product, are permanently opposed. – FABIAN TRACT; Facts for Socialists.
No man profiteth but by the losse of others; by which reason a man should condemne all manner of gaine. The Merchant thrives not but by the licentiousnesse of youth; the husbandman by dearth of corne; the Architect but by the ruine of houses; the Lawyer by suits and controversies between men; Honour it selfe, and practice of religious ministers, is drawne from our death and vices. ‘No physitian delighteth in the health of his owne friend, saith the ancient Greeke Comike; ‘nor no Soldier is pleased with the peace of his citie, and so of the rest.’ - MONTAIGNE; Essay XXI. (Florio’s Translation).
It was a safe thing for Jesus to say; ‘I come not to bring peace, but a sword.’ He that comes to the world with a message bearing in it the promise and potency of great and far-reaching changes is a revolutionist; and the methods of revolution are and ever must be of the nature of war. The war may not and should not be one of balls and bayonets; but the feelings evoked will not be less vengeful, and the efforts put forth not less strenuous, than in the case of actual physical conflict. The glory of victory will be there, the deep chagrin of defeat, the patient determination, the generalship, the heroisms of men in the ranks, the surprises, the invincible hopefulness of the opposing legions, the headlong partisanship, the impetuous devotion to leaders - nothing of all this will be awanting in the war which pioneers and prophets bring into the world,
The Victories of Peace.
‘Peace hath her victories not less renowned than those of war’ we are told; but the word ‘war’ is used there in the limited lethal sense. The so-called victories of peace have actually been won in battle with the hosts of ignorance, prejudice, and selfishness - the soldier of rationalism against the mercenary of superstition, the friends of freedom and justice against the trained bands of privilege, despotism, and hoary use-and-wont. The victories of peace are the increase of knowledge, the development of the arts, the application of the sciences the growth of liberty, the diffusion of happiness; and every step in the onward march has been hotly contested. The army of invasion has been met at every point; and the deeds done in the many fields of battle fill the brightest pages in history, and are the glory and the stimulus of every fighting, forward-looking spirit in the world to-day.
The greatness of a man’s message to the world is determined by the amount of good it is capable of doing to mankind; and the more it promises to better the lot of mankind in general the more it will threaten to disturb the interests of favoured classes in particular. The theory of Socialism is that the division of society into classes renders social warfare inevitable while the class divisions continue to exist. Socialism contends that the poverty of the poor is caused by robbery on the part of the rich. The mansion explains the hovel; Belgravia has its counterpart in Shoreditch. The factory, the foundry, the shipbuilding yard account for the shooting-lodge, the yacht, and the tours in foreign lands. The long day’s toil of one class renders possible the lifelong play of the other. The withdrawal from school at any early age of the worker’s son enables the gilded youth to put in years at college. If there were no antagonism between the classes, all members of the community ought to suffer by the loss of any one among them. As it is, one man’s loss is another man’s gain. If there were community of interests throughout society, fire, flood, or shipwreck ought to be disastrous to every member of society. But because the interests of the classes are not identical, the destruction of buildings by fire, the inundation of the wealthy quarter of a town, the loss of ships at sea, give employment to the artizan who repairs the loss and damage, and transform the hoard of the capitalist into the wage of the labourer.
Commonplaces of demagogues, you may say. No! For does not the political economist, and all who are of his way of thinking, contend that the class interests can be reconciled? Are there not millions of men - working men even - who accept the political economist’s view? Are there not scores of men in this hall at the present moment who believe that there is no necessary antagonism between landlord and tenant, between capitalist and labourer, between rich and poor? Who believe that the prevailing want of harmony between the classes arises from the individuals rather than the institutions? You are not all of you want to put an end to capitalism. Many of you believe that it would be stealing to take back your own country from the men whose ancestors stole it long ago. If the air were stored in tanks, or the sunshine bottled up, you would many of you accept the situation as a matter of course. You would pay for the air at so much per 1000 cubic feet - for the sunshine at so much per dozen beams in bottle.
And you will come out on strike again, many of you. You can’t get along with the capitalist; but you still think you couldn’t get along without him. When, in good times, your strike secures you an increase of a shilling or two in your week’s wages you imagine that you have acquitted yourselves nobly, and that the social problem is so much nearer solution. You leave out of account the fact that if good times bring you an extra shilling they bring your employer an extra sovereign; that, while you are absolutely getting more, you are relatively getting less. You will forget that if you get more wages while in employment, yet that employment is more insecure – that you or some of your comrades will be oftener among the unemployed – and that every year your labour becomes more and more intensified. You are content to mark time with Trades Unionism, instead of marching forward with Socialism. You vote for the nominee of the whisky ring. You work like little giants to secure the return to the Town Council or to Parliament of the man who has made his fortune by sending coffin ships to sea, and pocketing the insurance money. You prefer the man with money to the man with brains and good intentions. You snub your political friends, and send them away sick at heart, and despairing of you and your cause. It is little wonder if at times we get sick of you, get sick of talking to you, get sick of our own comrades-in-arms even, and take to ‘slating’ one another. Yet you pretend that you do not need us to preach the Class War to you! But we will preach, and you will hear us, and ultimately you will be forced to recognise that the Class War exists.
You say you recognise that already! Why, then, are so many of you there and not here? Socialists stand along among social reformers in recognising the existence of the Class War. Political Economists, mere Trades Unionists, and Liberals believe that the best way to bring good times to working men is to bring good times to their masters. They want to see Britain able to keep her markets. They believe in technical education as a thing that will enable them to beat the foreigner. When an employer voluntarily grants a reduction of hours, his Trades Unionist employees hasten to pass a vote of thanks to him for the concession; and if a Socialist reminds them that, after all, the employer is only neglecting an opportunity of taking that last ounce of his pound of flesh, with which he is already pretty well gorged at their expense, they turn on that Socialist and rend him. His alleged churlishness is the subject of talk with them for months, and they recriminated with dogged malice on the party to which he belongs.
When you start a trade union what do you take as your motto? Do you go to the Communist Manifesto for some of its barbed and glancing epigrams, or to Kropotkin’s ‘Appeal to the Young,’ or to some of the many revolutionary passages in Isaiah, James, or Paul’s Epistles? No. You print on your stationery an antiquated piece of bunkum which sets forth that you are ‘United to protect, but not combined to injure.’ As if the aim and end of the Labour movement were not to inaugurate a system of society in which the occupation and emoluments of the landlord and the capitalist would no longer exist! I have heard a titled person state that Trade Unionism, so far from being inimical to the interests of capitalists, was a good thing for them. And the working men present applauded the statements as though it were quite right and comforting that it should be so. When I pointed out, as I took occasion to do, that the only way to help the worker to the full reward of his labour was to make an end of capitalistic profits and of landlordial rents, the more Socialistic ones among them rode off on the plea that even that would be a good thing for the capitalists and landlords.
The Successful Business Man.
I advise you not to wait till you convince them of that! I meet capitalists in the cars, at public dining tables, and in their own homes sometimes, and I find that their faces are not set in the direction of ‘the cities of the Commune.’ They do not, like Falstaff, ‘babble of green fields,’ nor pine and sigh for liberty, equality, and fraternity. They have a good deal to say, though, about Copper and Rubber and Imperial Tobacco. At election time they manifest a bashful interest in municipal politics, as if they were ashamed to be detected taking any interest in such vanities; and it is easy to see that anything outside of business is outside their beat. They have a good-humoured contempt for politicians of all sorts; and for the enthusiastic politician their contempt is undisguised. A business man may drink and fornicate, may play billiards, shoot pigeons, bet on racehorses, spend his time and money on a hundred and one useless or positively hurtful things, and these will be regarded as the legitimate recreations, or, at worst, the excusable failings of a busy man. But let him dabble in politics, and immediately his business friends will begin to sneer and indulge in scornful head-tossings; and there will be a general agreement that it would become him better to attend to his business. Old Middlewick, in the play of ‘Our Boys,’ is a typical capitalist; and when old Middlewick was consulted on any question in art, science, or literature, you remember his answer always was – ‘Well, I don’t know anything about that; but you must allow that I’m an authority on butter!’ The leopard cannot change his spots, and even if the typical capitalist saw that capitalism were doomed, as it is, he must needs resist us.
I have known men retire from a distasteful business in which they had made enough money to enable them to spend the rest of their lives in comfort, even affluence. But so completely were they wedded to the ignoble excitement of money-getting that they had to return, like the sow that was washed, to their wallowing in the mire, Russell Sage, the mean millionaire who pushed another man in front of him to save him from the flying projectiles of a bomb, shortly afterwards closed his own magpie life of gathering, and left his millions to be fought over. What is said by these lunatics on behalf of their craze is that if those who come after them have as much pleasure in spending the money as they have had in making it, they are quite welcome. What an inversion of healthy sentiment is this! Many a jolly bagman who is pleased to book your order hates to collect the account on his next journey. He wants to give you discount, wants to make abatements if you grumble, offers to stand you your dinner or at least a drink, in return for favours conferred. But the typical successful man grabs your cash with an eager eye and a greedy, nervous hand; he grudges to give discounts; his ‘Thank you’ is cool and perfunctory; and he passes as promptly to the next deal as if he had conferred a favour on you instead of having enriched himself. And so soon as he has got his order or completed his bargain he is off for the next victim, hardly waiting to shake hands. What idea can such men have of the truth there is in the saying that it is more blessed to give than to receive? Yet so perversely are we constituted that some of us, worshipping success, can actually find in our hearts to admire this incarnation of calculating selfishness, recognising that if we could be equally bloodless and inhuman we also should ‘succeed’ as he does.
Take these men away from their stocks, their shares, their ledgers, and their economics, and you take the life interests away from them. Take them out of the harness of commercialism, and they will, as the tramp said, ‘be eternally blasted and knocked out of shape.’ The chances are that, as servants of a Socialistic Municipality which did not cheat anybody, they would pine and die under what would seem to them such degenerate conditions. So that on any understanding these men must suffer before we can secure the greatest good of the greatest number. Let us clear our minds of cant, then, and preach the Class war without holding any cards up our sleeve, and without bringing upon ourselves the necessity of ‘winking the other eye.’ Peasants and mechanics write immortal poems, and lead the people to great democratic victories. Though now
They toil in penury and grief,
Unknown, if not maligned,
Forlorn, forlorn, hearing the scorn
Of the meanest of mankind –
they will be remembered by posterity as men who did something to leave the world better that they found it. But the swag-bellied money lords, who have spent their lives in getting and hoarding, will go down voiceless to ignoble graves, and history will be read as if they had not been, and succeeding generations will know them not.
The Moralisation of Capital.
You probably have not heard the phrase, ‘moralisation of capital’ – used by the Positivists – but you believe in the thing which the phrase denotes. We hold that ‘moralised capital’ is of a piece with ‘honest stealing,’ ‘virtuous vice,’ ‘truthful mendacity,’ or ‘beautiful ugliness.’ The only way in which the capitalist can ‘moralise’ himself is by ceasing to be a capitalist altogether.
Capitalism is a fraud in its inception, and still more fraudulent in its subsequent workings. A man, by starving his mind and body, is able to save money. He borrows books instead of buying them. He starves his emotional nature by neglecting to go to the theatre, because to go to the theatre costs money. He doesn’t go to concerts because concerts cost money. He is a teetotaller, not so much because he wishes to keep his stomach clean and his head clear, but because his ideal men are teetotallers, gradgrinds who mortify the flesh in order to save. He doesn’t marry: he can’t afford it – yet. He either suppresses his natural desires – desires as healthy as the craving for food - or else, like a tom-cat, he prowls around at night. When he goes to the races or to some fête or fair he leaves his purse at home for he should be tempted to spend. When a subscription is being taken for a public purpose he does not approve of the object; or if it is for some unfortunate fellow-worker he thinks So-and-so has been careless, and doesn’t deserve help. While the flowers and the birds are arrayed more gloriously a Solomon, the saving man dons the ancient, verdant overcoat for another winter, sends his summer suit to the washtub, and continues to sport the hat that was in fashion, so to say, when George the Fourth was king. Thus stultifying his life, and by refusing to do his duty to himself and his fellows, he is able to save money. And the money is saved with a bad intention. The aim is either to start independently in business, or else to secure shares in the undertaking paying the highest dividends compatible with security. The object of this man is to leave his class behind him, and to live upon labour rather than by it.
But the working man can never save very much, let him be never so stingy. If he start in business he must necessarily do so in a humble way, and should he die rich his riches will represent, not his own savings, but surplus value of other people’s labour. We do not ask you to have an over-abundant respect for wealth so accumulated. The best men are not able to save money. The best men are not seldom in debt. The man who has store of money with a banker while men, women, and children are starving, and while great movements languish for want of money, is in need being of being experimented upon by Acts of Parliament taking the form of something different from an Income Tax.
The War in Operation.
‘The wit of man can devise no scheme by which the poor can become less poor without the rich becoming less rich.’ Men who tell you that you can be well off without hurting anybody’s pecuniary interests are either insincere or don’t understand the Social Question. Proper State Insurance would ‘rob’ the insurance societies. Temperance would ‘rob’ the publicans, pawnbrokers, distillers, and brewers. Saving would ‘rob’ the shopkeeping class in general. Vegetarianism would ‘rob’ the butcher in particular. Successful Co-operation in production and distribution would ‘rob’ the capitalist; partially successful Co-operation is already ‘robbing’ him. Shopkeepers and commercial travellers complain bitterly of how the ‘Co-op.’ ruins trade, which means that they are not able to get the profits they once could. Our objection to all these schemes is that they don’t ‘rob’ the ‘robbers’ enough. Socialism takes up the work where they leave it, and would ‘rob’ the monopolists of all power to take from the community rent, profit, interest, and ‘fancy’ salaries.
The Genus Flunkey.
There are those who deny the existence of a Class War, and claim that the antagonism is as keen between individuals within one class as between one class and another. As an example they cite the footman or valet, who has more contempt for Socialism and the useful worker, and stronger prejudices against both, than even his master has. But the lackey is perhaps the only case of a man belonging to the proletariat whose class feeling is thus perverted. All other men of the working class may feel that they could get on with the rich. Soldiers, men-of-war sailors, prison warders, policemen, often sympathise with Socialism. The flunkey never. Ignorant, gluttonous, unwholesome from confinement and the keeping of bad hours, the pasty-faced ‘buttons’ becomes in time the bottle-nosed butler. Taught no useful calling, repressed, drum-majored, segregated from the ordinary folk of their class, the gentry’s gentry must feel that with the rich they stand or fall. The flunkey’s position industrially - if his work can be called industry - is unique. He is the one exception to the rule of the Class War. The selection of this one declassed class calls attention to the fact that there is none other such. Other people work for the rich only because the poor cannot buy their products. The seamstress who makes court dresses could make frocks for our wives and daughters. The tailors who make clothes for ‘the nobility and gentry’ could make coats and breeches for us. The painters, gilders, and tile-fixers, the upholsterers, and workers in marquetry who put in so much time in the homes of the rich could be working in our homes. Let the rich take their hands out of our pockets, let our labour be properly organised instead of being wasted, and we should be able to employ, in work for ourselves, those who at present minister only or chiefly to the well-to-do. But there is no place for the flunkey at his work. No sensible man wants a valet to put on his clothes. No sensible man wants a boy in buttons to run his errands or a big man in silk stockings to open the door. A man of sense wants to be served at table by a deft-handed woman, not by a man in a swallow-tailed coat. The flunkey is usually neither strong enough nor game enough to act as waiter and chucker-out in a public house. Heaven knows what is to become of him unless he die out gradually as the expropriators are bit by bit expropriated.
The men of the first French Revolution saw that the lackey was a useless and mischievous creature, and they tried to abolish him by forbidding the wearing of liveries.
What the flunkey may think about Socialism, or how he may feel towards the workman, makes no difference to the existence of a Class War.
The Hatred that is based on Love.
There is no way in which the Class War can be avoided. You can’t have the reward of your labour and the idler have it too. There is just so much wealth produced every day. It may be more, it may be less; but there always is just so much; and the more the capitalist gets the less you will get, and vice versa. We preach the Gospel of Hatred, because in the circumstances it seems the only righteous thing we can preach. The talk about the ‘Gospel of Love’ is solemn rubbish. The hatred of stealing, lying, meanness and uncleanness, hypocrisy, greed, and tyranny means the love of the obverse of these. Those who talk about the Gospel of Love, with landlordism and capitalism for its objects, want us to make our peace with iniquity.
We don’t preach hatred of men, but hatred of systems and those features men’s characters which are the outcome of the false and bad in the systems. The rich are amiable; they have little call to be cross when all goes so well with them. They are good-natured because comfortable and not over-anxious for the morrow. They are pleasant companions because they are educated beyond the measure of letters accorded to workers. They have been accustomed to the society of men who are informed by reading, by travel, and by association with others like themselves. They have been fined by their intellectual, æsthetic, and generally pleasant social surroundings, and can afford to think well of the world since it has been so good to them. We don’t hate them. Indeed, we like and admire them often. We welcome one of their number when he comes among us, because we feel that he has had advantages not extended to us.
But unless we hate the system which prevents us from being what we otherwise might have been, we shall not be able to strive against it with the patient, never-flagging zeal which our work, to be well done, requires. And to keep alive and undimmed this flame of hatred, divine not diabolical, we require not only to look around us, but especially to look back upon the world as it has been, and to the example of those who have fought the good fight. To Socrates dying for the right to speak and reason on any subject under heaven or heaven itself. To him whose great career and tragedy the Christian world would render meaningless by calling them by the career and tragedy of a god. To Savonarola, brooking the power of gold in stately Florence, heedless of the consequences which might come to himself. To John Ball, Wat Tyler, and John Cade, in our land the first forerunners of Socialism. To Bruno and Vanini, holding aloft the light of reason in a land and an age of darkness and cruelty, and suffering the death agony with unexampled fortitude before an utterly hostile world. Then again, coming nearer to our own day, to Cromwell, Milton, Hampden, and Pym, to John Eliot, Harry Vane, and the many other doughty ones who defied and worsted the kingly power of the first Charles. Nearer still, to More and Baird and Andrew Hardie, to Ernest Jones, Bronterre O’Brien, and Robert Owen. Yet again - for the list is long, the company a goodly one - to Wolfe Tone and Robert Emmet, to Allen, Larkin, and O’Brien, the ‘noble three’ of the Irish song and story; to Vera Sassoulitch, Marie Spiridonova, Sophia Perovsky; to Karl Marx, intellectually rigorous, morally incorruptible, living for the Revolution in days when the Revolution both seemed and was distant. To Henry Hyndman, who by the work of a lifetime, with voice and pen, has made the Revolution possible in Britain. To William Morris, the poet and artist-prophet of the new society. To Keir Hardie who engineered first great electoral victory of the Fourth Estate. To Robert Blatchford and Edward Bellamy who made Socialists by the million. How great is our inheritance! how illustrious those who have preceded us on this path!
You think we claim too much when we call some of these men our lineal predecessors? Hearken to what one of them, the so-called ‘mad’ priest of Kent, said more than five hundred years ago;-
Good people, things will never go well in England as long as goods be not in common, and so long as there be villeins and gentlemen. By what right are they whom we call lords greater than we? On what grounds have they deserved it? Why do they hold us in serfage? If we all came of the same father and mother, of Adam and Eve, how can they say or prove that they must needs be better than we, if it be not that they make us gain for them by our toil what they spend in their pride? They are clothed in velvet, and warm in their furs and ermines, while we are covered with rags. They have wine and spices and fair bread, and we oatcakes and straw, and water to drink. They have leisure and fine houses; we have pain and labour, the rain and the wind in the fields. And yet it is of us and our toil that these men hold their state.
An Opportunity Lost.
They ought to have settled the Class War in those days so far as England was concerned. The reason why they did not do so was because they did not cherish the class hatred as John Ball cherished it, and did not see as clearly as he saw what required to be done. They had 120.000 men in the field, London and all the southern and midland counties were at their mercy. But they trusted to a king to settle the problem which they could only settle themselves. They believed in Richard and neglected their own leaders, just as the working class reads and believes the Daily Mail and votes Tory to-day. The trouble is the same to-day. You are too humble, too easily satisfied. You don’t know what you are entitled to, even under the present system; and you haven’t settled in your mind what you want in a future system.
‘Man, Know Thyself!’
You must be more envious, more jealous; you must develop more needs, more tastes. You must read and listen, and then you know how ignorant you are. You must consort with your betters in education and refinement (and I can suggest no better company than the poets, historians, scientists, economists, and philosophers). Then you will realise the extent to which society has robbed you. You will feel what you might have been; and the iron will enter into your soul.
You must try to account for the vices and the failings of your comrades in this movement, and then you will be able to forgive almost everything except treason to the cause. You must seek your own good, not in saving, Friendly Societies, or the ‘main chance’ in any way, but in the general good - knowing that if all rise you must rise with the rest.
‘Born to be a Man.’
I want you to ‘realise’ yourself. You want to be happy; but it is not enough to be happy. A pig may be happy in its sty. You ought to want to be happy in the best possible way. The end before us is perfection of being, both physical and mental. What a wretched lot we are in this hall to-night! How many of us could ride a horse, row a boat without ‘catching crabs,’ swim across a river, rescue a drowning woman, fight a stalwart footpad who offered violence, deliver a coherent speech in public, or even write a correct and intelligible letter? You have read the epitaph – ‘Born to be a man, but died a grocer,’ and you have smiled at the expense of the man of cheese. But the rough epitaph might, with variation, go the round of the trades and professions. For there are many male children born into the world who never have an opportunity of becoming more than printers or carpenters, lawyers or pedagogues, parsons or touts. Unless man’s estate be something short of what I take it to be we are most of us minors - we are still in our pupilage.
When you realise this you will set your teeth for the Class War. You will go in for politics, become agitators more or less, and probably get an ill name. The things you will be working for, the jargon of which your speech will be full, will be something like this:- Shorter hours is the first thing I want, that the workless may get a hand in, and that the workers may have time to read and think and watch their children grow. Then a tax on landlords, by which we may recover as much as possible of what passes us as rent. Then abolition of the House of Lords and the monarchy. Then more Home Rule and more local Government, that town and county councils may cope with the greatly increased work devolved upon them. Then extension of municipal operations; the socialization of coal stores, dairy farms, bakeries, laundries, public-houses, the slaughter of cattle and the sale of butcher meat, the building and letting of houses - in short, the taking-over, by the local bodies, of as many departments of production and distribution as need be. By this time the Class War will be shaping for the last great engagement. So you will say.
How to Make Life Worth Living.
If you go in for this work the days will pass swiftly with you. Your lives will be full of interest. You won’t be at a loss to know how to spend your time. Your party will be defeated, and your hopes dashed again and again. The finger of scorn will he pointed at you. Newspaper editors will crow over your failures, and lay down the law in the oracular style we know so well. The boys will cry at you in the streets. The ignorant will laugh, the brutal will sometimes beat down your arguments by sheer vociferation; and often you will be plunged in momentary despair. But if you are of the right stuff you cannot let your hopes and your desires go. To leave Socialism would be to part with a portion of your being. Reverses, failures, desertions from the ranks, the indifference of your fellows - all this, if you are of the right sort, will only strengthen your determination to persist in the good fight whose termination in the triumph of your class has been the hope of the ages.
Let fate or insufficiency provide
Mean ends for men who are what they would be;
Penned in their narrow day no change they see
Save one which strikes the blow to brutes and pride.
Our faith is ours, and comes not on a tide;
And whether earth’s great offspring by decree
Must rot if they abjure rapacity,
Not argument, but effort shall decide.
They number many heads in that hard flock;
Trim swordsmen they push forth; yet try thy steel,
Thou fighting for poor humankind wilt feel
The strength of Roland in thy wrist to hew
A chasm sheer into the barrier rock,
And bring the army of the faithful through.
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