Графични страници
PDF файл

warn ourselves. It is Humanity in the confessional. He, too, understood, what Victor Hugo so eloquently describes, the sensitiveness of a multitude-the readiness of untutored or unscholarly mobs to entertain the sublime and the beautiful.

"Have you ever gone," says Victor Hugo, who must have known well what he was here describing, "on a fête-day to a theatre open gratuitously to all? What do you think of that auditory? Do you know of any other more spontaneous and intelligent? The court of Versailles admires like a well-drilled regiment; the people throw themselves passionately into the beautiful. They pack together, crowd, amalgamate, combine, and knead themselves in the theatre; a living paste that the poet is about to mould. The powerful thumb of Molière will presently make its mark upon it. . . . The house is crowded; the vast multitude lurks, listens, loves; all consciences, deeply moved, throw off their inner fire; all eyes glisten; the huge beast with a thousand heads is there, the Mob of Burke, the Plebs of Titus Livius, the Fex urbis of Cicero; it caresses the beautiful; it smiles at it with the grace of a woman; it is literary in the most refined sense of the word; nothing equals the delicacy of this monster. All at once the sublime passes, and the sombre electricity of the abyss heaves up suddenly all this pile of hearts."

Victor Hugo is great upon this mob. We must find room for another quotation. There are many from this part of the book we should like to fill our pages with; it being understood that we should take the liberty of abridging our quotations where and how we pleased -a liberty we have already taken.

"Sacrifice to the mob,' O poet! Sacrifice to that unfortunate, disinherited, vanquished, vagabond, shoeless, famished, repudiated, despairing mob; sacrifice to it, if it must be and when it must be, thy repose, thy fortune, thy joy, thy country, thy liberty, thy life. The mob is the human race in misery. The mob is the mournful commencement of the people. The mob is the great victim of darkness. Sacrifice to it! Sacrifice thyself! Let thyself be hunted; let thyself be exiled as Voltaire to Ferney, as D'Aubigné to Geneva, as Dante to Verona, as Juvenal to Syene, as Eschylus to Gela, as John to Patmos, as Elias to Horeb, as Thucydides to Thrace. Sacrifice to the mob. Sacrifice to it thy gold, and thy blood, which is more than thy gold, and thy thought, which is more than thy blood, and thy love, which is more than thy thought; sacrifice to it everything except justice. Receive its complaint; listen to its faults and the faults of others. Listen to what it has to confess and to denounce to thee. Stretch forth to it the ear, the hand, the arm, the heart. Do everything for it, excepting evil. Alas! it suffers so much and it knows nothing. Correct it, warn it, instruct it, guide it. Put it to the school of honesty. Make it spell truth; teach it to read virtue, probity, generosity, mercy. Hold thy book wide open. there, attentive, vigilant, kind, faithful, humble. Light up the brain, inflame the mind, extinguish egotism, show good example. Poverty is privation ; be thou abnegation. Teach! Irradiate ! They need thee; thou art their great thirst. To learn is the first necessity; to live is but the second."


In sentiments of this kind we shall all sympathise. Here perhaps is the best of all opportunities for gracefully closing this marvellously strange book of Victor Hugo's.





I was just preparing for a day's fly-fishing, had sent off rods and nets and tackle to my boat, when my friend arrived, as breathless as a man might after some hundred miles' railroading, to tell me he had heard a great part of the debate on Disraeli's motion, and to impart to me his impressions of the various speakers.


'Corny," said he, "I wish you had been there. These fellows are too long-winded, and they are marvellously given to saying what has just been said by some one else on their own side a short time before." I agreed with him perfectly. The summary in the 'Times' is as good as the whole debate. We all of us knew, besides, pretty much what each speaker would say, and how he would say it; still it was a little strange to see Gladstone, at the very moment that he is bidding, and bidding high, for popular favour, assail those organs of public opinion -the newspapers-so universally regarded as the especial defence of democracy.

For my own part I liked Seymour Fitzgerald best; he came nearer to the true issue than any one else.

As to the challenge, What is your own policy? it was too grossly absurd to be listened to. What would be said of the doctor who had destroyed his patient's chance of recovery, saying to the newly-called-in physician, "What is it that you advise? let us see if you can save him" ?

This was all that the Ministry were able to say: Don't talk of our blunders, but tell us how will you cure the patient? Give him to me, as he was given to you. Call me in at the first seizure-not at his agony - and I will answer you.

First of all, I would never have either ignored at first, or subsequently insulted, the public opinion. of a great nation, even though that great nation was in a passion, and not talking the soundest good sense; secondly, I would never have suggested to a weak but proud people, that the price of any assistance to them must be certain concessions, which, when made, were left totally unrecognised and unrewarded; and, lastly, I would no more have gone to France for aid, than I would ask a man to back my bill, who knew, by refusing his name, he could smash my credit, and whose manifest interest it was to impugn my solvency and elevate his own. But certainly, above all things, and to my amazement, no speaker on the Opposition side alluded to this. I never would have so mystified the whole British nation-exciting a sympathy for Denmark, subscriptions for her wounded, and aid for her destitute-with abuse of an ancient ally; and a cowering, craven, helpless dread of what France might and could, and possibly would, do; till, in the conflict of our feelings-some of them honourable enough, others just the opposite-we have presented ourselves before Europe in a light, that only by remembering what we once were rescues us from being despicable.

It is not very easy to say how the Danes would have fared if, instead of depending on England, they had addressed themselves originally to France. From a variety of causes -some creditable enough to her, others less meritorious-France is fond of these "missions." They redound usually to her influence in Europe; they raise her prestige as a great military power, and occa

sionally too they pay in a more commercial and palpable manner; so that, like the Irishman who "married for love and a trifle of money," she has the pleasure of feeling that even her generosity has not been bad as a speculation.

I really do not see why the Danes did not think of this. They knew -all the world knows-that of the two sorts of aid one is patented by France, and is called "material aid," being an efficient, active, and able support, to distinguish it from the English article, called "moral aid," which it is perfectly immaterial to any one whether he has it or not.

Now there is no doubt the Danes were perfectly well aware which of these two they wanted; but the misfortune was, they did not hit upon the right road. They wanted a strong "pick-me-up," but they turned the wrong corner, and got into the Temperance Hotel! Had they had the time and the temper for it, it would have done them good to have heard our praises of our own tap, and how superior in all invigorating properties the fresh, sparkling fluid from our pump was, to the hot, stimulating, exciting liquor of the 'man over the way.'

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

They would have heard, too, how, though we once were licensed for strong drink, and had a roaring trade, yet we gradually had gone on diluting and diluting, till we arrived at last at the pure element, which, strange to say, a few old customers of the house still continued to believe to be spirit; though, whenever a new-comer dropped in, he left it there untasted, and went over to the other establishment.

The mistake of the poor Danes was irreparable. They drank such gallons of our well, that they had no stomach for anything after it.

But, in all sober seriousness, when shall we have heard the last of this rotten cant, "moral aid"— own brother, I believe, of that other humbug, "masterly inactivity" Moral aid is the bread-pill of the quack doctor efficacious only

[ocr errors]

when there's nothing the matter with you.

Had the good Samaritan been one of the moral-aid disciples, he would have given the sick man an eloquent lecture on wounds, punctured and incised. He would have explained the dangers of hæmorrhage, primary and secondary; he would have expatiated on reparation by first intention and by granulation; and, lastly, he would have assured the sufferer that it was by a special Providence that he himself had come by, otherwise the other would have died without ever hearing one of these valuable truths. Not a drop of wine and oil, no bandaging, no mere "material aid," would he have descended to: these are the appliances of a very inferior philanthropy.


Will nobody give us a tabular view of the working results of the two systems? Perhaps, indeed, they would tell us that it was moral aid drove the French out of the Peninsula, and moral aid was the support we lent to Europe on the field of Waterloo. Do not for a moment mistake me. I neither disparage sympathy nor despise advice. have seen far too much of life not to prize both highly; but give them to me for what they are, and not as substitutes for something with no affinity to them. I can be very grateful for a drink of butter-milk when I am thirsty; but don't say to me, "Isn't that better and more wholesome than all the claret that ever was bottled? Thank your stars that you came in here, for my neighbour yonder would have plied you with La Rose and Margaux, and they ruin a man's stomach."

I know of no national practice so universal in England as "advicegiving." It is a mania of our people, growing out of the combined result of parliamentary government and immense national prosperity. Every one in Great Britain who is richer than his neighbour has a prescriptive right to advise him. I never knew the man who dared to dispute that privilege; hence, as we

regard ourselves so much wealthier than the "beggarly foreigner," we have caught the habit of imposing our opinion at all times and places, and for the life of us we cannot see how any should oppose it. The self-conceit engendered by this process has made us something little short of detestable abroad! What lectures have I not heard Brown and Jones administer to foreigners of real distinction ! What sage suggestions to imitate this or that custom of England! totally ignorant, as they might be, of some insuperable obstacle to their suggested improvement.

In the old days of the Peninsular war, we were pretty much like our neighbours. What we could not do by men, we did by money. Now, however, we have grown wiser, and will not spend either. This universal medicine, "moral aid,” moral co-operation, or whatever it be called, is the cheap panacea for all troubles. Not but it has met a rather rough experience lately. The Germans wouldn't taste it at all; and I doubt greatly if the Danes will ask for another dose of it.

We may try to laugh at it, but it's too sore to be a joke. One would like, if he could, to take the jest in good part, and show no illtemper; but it pushes patience too hard to see the hard-won glories of Old England so frittered away and dissipated, that every trait by which our fathers stamped manhood on the nation is now insolently denied us, and we are told to go back to our cotton-mills and coal-mines, and leave the game of war and its ambitions to others.

They have a saying in Italy, that there are two things no man ever asks for in vain there-light for his cigar, or the Cross of St Maurice and St Lazaro. So in England we are splendidly lavish of our good advice. Would that we could practise a little parsimony!

For many reasons we ought not to have taken the German vapour

and bluster so ill. It is very rarely these dull folk indulge themselves with the luxury of being angry. And as for the various modes in which they were to wreak a vengeance on England, they were simply laughable. Perhaps it may proceed from our very affinity--but strange it is, there are few nations have commercially less need of each other than Germany and England.

That Prussian threat t'other day, that if England moved hand or foot, they'd march down and take Hanover! By what confusion of even Berlin brains they imagined this could affect England, is hard to say. They evidently never heard of the remark of the absentee Irish landlord, when he was told that the people had shot his agent. Strange nation the Irish! What an extraordinary notion it was to imagine that by shooting my agent they could possibly intimidate me!"


To conclude, if we are never to deal in any other ware than "moral aid," let us be frank and open about it. Let us dress the army in drab, and put broadbrims on the navy. Above all, let not our newspapers be filled with target - practice, and the relative merits of Armstrong and Whitworth.

The neatest duelling-pistols in the world would never get the owner a character for courage after he refused to fight. I say over and over again, we ought not to go to war. Some hundreds of savages at the end of the earth are giving us quite as much war as we want; and to face armies raised by conscription, with an army supplied by voluntary enlistment, is as rank nonsense as to assert that the financial burdens of a nation could be as easily met by voluntary contributions as by enforced taxation. And let any one imagine Mr Gladstone standing with a plate at Whitehall, and, even with all the courteous persuasiveness for which he is known, saying to the passersby, "You are requested to leave something for the support of the institution," and is it likely that

the results would bear comparison with the income-tax? Conceive the impatient anxiety with which we should await the financial statement! Picture to your mind how eagerly we should look out for a captivating manner and a seductive address in our Chancellor of the Exchequer! Ay, and imagine the scores of letters in the 'Times' from indignant citizens, who "were really anxious to contribute their mite towards relieving the burdens of the State, but who were deterred by the stern aspect and forbidding exterior of this or

that Right Hon. Gentleman, and who now ask, Can nothing be devised less offensive to public feeling than this? Is it not possible, in this great nation of thirty millions, to assess the revenue in some mode less insulting to the sympathies of Englishmen ?"

Whatever is voluntary will very seldom be general, and never will be universal. We want soldiers pretty much as we want money; and if it should happen that we need either in large quantities, I am pretty certain we must not depend on Volition for the supply.


I like what in our modern slang are called serial stories. The writers understand one requirement at least of their trade-they do not give too much at a time; and in so far they resemble the heads of the profession, the old Eastern story-tellers, who only told the Calif each evening enough to set him asleep. Now this alone is a great point.

Another advantage is this-they cannot cram into their limited space any of those long-winded descriptions, especially of scenery, which the three-volume people are so prone to inflict; neither have they so much of the page open to emotional expatiation. They are bound by their very limits to be more short, sharp, and decisive.

Lastly, they must endeavour to interest by something else than story—that is, they must try what can be done to amuse by humoristic views of life, shrewd touches of character, quaint pictures of people not the less recognisable that they are not met with every day, and occasionally—which Three Volume probably thinks beneath him-they must make us laugh.

In the very fact that the reader is not bound to them beyond the monthly part before him, lies their heaviest obligation to interest him. It is like a shilling stage, and if

you dislike the conveyance, or feel tired of the company, you can get out and walk home. For all these reasons I incline much to the serial.

If I be

I do not know how it may be with others, but for myself I am not over-grateful to the man who invests his story with that amount of interest that engrosses my attention too far, and in this way turns me from the real business of life to involve me in cares and sorrows that have no reality. I want to be amused by the novel pretty much as I feel amused by the play-that is, I want what will present a certain number of pictures to my mind without the cost of being obliged to retain them thereafter. obliged to do this, the novel becomes a burthen, not a relaxation. I want, besides, the writer to let me so far into his mind that I may know what he thinks is droll, what strange, what picturesque, what attractive, what ridiculous. When I have arrived at that understanding-any one number will suffice for so much-I am able to guess if I should care for more of his company. The three-volume man affords me no such clue as this. All he is thinking of is his wind-up in the last volume. It is for the grand finish alone he cares; his heart, like the Irish postilion's, is

« ПредишнаНапред »