« ПредишнаНапред »
lapse of the balloon as we gained the great altitude of" a hundred thousand miles, let us say. Of course the Queen's health is drunk here, and "my companion essayedwith not very remarkable success, I own a verse of our national anthem."
Then you bob about for an hour and a half, realising the old nursery rhyme, "Here we go up, up, up," and at last you come down, down, but not downy, but into a tree; and the grapnel drags, and one jumps out, and the other is pitched after him; the balloon is secured by the country people, and all return to town, to go over the selfsame weary exploit some weeks later; the worthlessness of the whole being but
poorly concealed under the mockery of a scientific report, that might for every possible purpose have been as well composed at the "Star and Garter" as at a height of five thousand feet above the earth.
Modern medicine has a grand imaginative vein through it, and who knows but the time may come when an asthmatic patient will be sent up to respire above the clouds, or bronchitis will be treated by an atmospheric pressure of so much to the inch? Till then, however, these gentlemen's experiences have no interest for us; and when we hear of Mr Glaisher "in nubibus," we are tempted to cry out, like the man in the play, "Que diable allait-il faire dans cette galère ?"
THE LUXURY OF LIBERTY.
It would form a very strange and a very instructive subject of inquiry, to investigate how far the great law of compensations-that give-and-take principle which really seems the essential condition of all organised nature-enters into all the acts and events of our daily life; showing us not merely that there is no such thing in existence as unalloyed good or evil, but that for every benefit we receive a certain sacrifice is exacted; and that the good things of life are ticketed with their price, like the objects in a bazaar.
A proper understanding of this would take away a great deal of that discontent and grumbling one sees around us; and men would learn that within certain limits happiness was pretty equally distributed, and that even those who appear to have won the great prizes, have somehow or other paid for them more heavily than we wot of. What particularly led me to reflect on this matter was the state of excitement, amounting to irritation, that is now witnessed in certain parts of Southern Italy at the sudden increase of all taxation. Hitherto, all that they have known of a
"United Italy" has been rosecoloured. New schemes of industry developed, railroad activity, public works, private enterprises, national festivals, royal receptions, crosses, pensions, and promotions, have all had their day; but at last has come the hour when the ' whistle must be paid for. To enable the State to be generous, must be rich, and this is precisely the thing it is not. In the maintenance of a great army and a very costly fleet Italy has spent enormous sums, and is pretty much in the condition of a man who has laid out so much money in bars and padlocks, that there is nothing left inside the house to guard. The State, however, wants money, and having taken all the loose cash of the convents and church-lands, has at last to come down on the laity.
"This, then, is liberty!" cries the labouring man in the street. Liberty means dear bread, dear beans, dear oil and wine and maccaroni. In the old days of bad government all these were cheap. If I only worked five days a-week, and gave two others to the saints and my own pleasures, I had enough! This new Freedom, however, has put an end
to all this. To make this United Italy, it would seem that I must work more and eat less than heretofore." And this is perfectly true. I have not a word to say against Liberty. I only premise that it is a thing to be paid for. Occasionally it is well worth the money. As we deem it in England, and occasionally as America shows us, it is one of the veriest shams and humbugs that has ever misled humanity.
of them whose due appreciation does not exact either a certain amount of reflection, or of information; whereas the humblest and the most narrow-minded can comprehend the hardship of increased taxation, and there is no intelligence so limited but can take in the fact, that it is less pleasant to pay ten centimes than five.
Now, the assertion is not perhaps pleasant to make or to listen to, but it is a fact, that corrupt governments are generally cheap ones -that is to say, that oppressive rulers are often disposed to conciliate their subjects by the diffusion of material benefits, while they grind them down by restrictive laws and tyrannical edicts. The duchy of Modena, for instance, was more arbitrary in its sway-more insolently irresponsible in the exercise of its wayward rule-than any country of modern Europe, and yet no people ever paid less taxes than the Modenese.
How lightly were the Neapolitans taxed under the Bourbons! and so we might proceed upwards and show that for every concession to freedom there came a price, till we reached Tuscany, where enlightenment and civilisation stood certainly highest in the peninsula, and where, at the same time, taxation was heaviest, and men saw that liberty was just as much a luxury as plate-glass, or jewels, or champagne: that is to say, it was a charming thing if you could afford it, but was by no means a positive necessity; and, like all luxuries, it had only charms for those who had tasted of it, and felt its attractions.
Liberty has very fine things in her gift, it is true. Personal freedom, immunity from arrest without sufficient cause shown and legal authority invoked, free discussion, free speech, religious toleration, untrammelled education, -are no small boons; but there is not one
Liberty, besides, was always represented to be as much a man's birthright as the air he breathed. Our reformers told us that we are only, in asking for it, demanding our own: how came it then that it was so costly? Why, if it were the inalienable possession of humanity, should it be paid for? This certainly is capable of explanation, but we are not to be surprised if the masses have not hit on the solution as readily as we might wish.
The organised pressure which we call Liberty requires policemen, and magistrates, and jails, and penitentiaries, and courts of law to punish libel and repress slander, not to speak of all the appliances to prevent religious freedom from degenerating into blasphemy, and free speech becoming a scandal and a shame; and these are all parts of a very costly machinery.
Irresponsible governments work cheap, just because they can dispense with all this mechanism. The Pacha who says, "Cut off his head," does not cost the State he serves one-fiftieth part of a ChiefJustice, before whom the culprit comes after five months' imprisonment, to be arraigned by an Attorney-General with four thousand ayear, and a corps of witnesses like an army. I don't say I prefer Ottoman justice to English; but if I want the latter, I must be content to pay for it. Now the Italians at this moment are in that crisis which all people must pass through, and they want all the benefits of good government and all the cheapness of the bad.
2 D 2
The misfortune is, there are nations that would positively prefer tyranny, oppression, and cruelty, if they only came accompanied by cheapness and an easily-provided existence, to all the benefits of the highest civilisation, if linked with a high tariff; just as the Irish peasant liked his old lawless, reckless, devilmay-care landlord, that sometimes took a shot at him, sometimes forgave him his rent, better than the modern agriculturist with his Scotch steward, who will neither overlook
arrears nor weeds, and who, if he is never cruel, is equally far from any impulsive generosity in his behalf.
Naples, like Ireland, is just in this state of awakement. They have each of them emerged from barbarism, but it was a barbarism so congenial and so cheap withal, that they'd almost rather have it back again, than all this newfangled Freedom, that makes bread so dear and saints' days so seldom.
"TAKE CARE OF THE PENCE, AND THE POUNDS WILL," ETC. ETC. ETC.
What should we say if an order came forth from the Master of the Mint, or some such competent authority, “That all the copper coinage of the country should be submitted to a most searching test to ascertain its purity that pennypieces and halfpennies were no longer to pass current without a new certificate of their genuineness, while gold and silver were to circulate as usual-all warranty of their unadulterated value being deemed needless"?
I ask, would not the commonsense reading of such an edict be, that it was exceedingly absurd and ridiculous?
Would not men of ordinary intelligence say, "It is not of very great moment to me that I am now and then imposed on by a 'rap halfpenny:' I can sustain the loss with composure, and bear it without fretting; but if I constantly find a number of bad shillings in my change, and if occasionally I detect some spurious sovereigns in my purse, the affair is more serious, and I am certainly disposed to resent it"?
This is precisely what our Government is at this moment enacting in England with respect to CivilService employment. The men who are to fill all the inferior offices of the State are to be rigidly and
severely examined, while all those who succeed to the higher employments are to enter upon them untried, untested, and unproven. To be a Gauger, you must be a historian, a geographer, an arithmetician, and a naturalist. To be the Governor of a colony, you may be a "Cretin"! To convey a despatch across Europe, you must prove your efficiency in French and decimal fractions, and such other knowledge: to be the writer of that same despatch, no such test is asked of you. The bearer of the message is put through his parts of speech. The writer may-and very often does, too-revel in all the unrestrained freedom of bad gram
Perhaps you will say that the system is progressive, and that, these initial tests once submitted to, the man proves his fitness for the highest office. To this I simply say, When did you ever hear of a penny-piece growing into a crown; or have you any experience of a farthing that became a sovereign? No; the whole system is based on this great principle, Take care of the pence, the pounds will take care of themselves; and certainly so they have done. This legislation is all theirs. It is they who have decreed it. They have declared aloud that shocking abuses are
abroad. The poor are hourly defrauded. "No one can tell the number of base penny-pieces that are in circulation. This must be looked to at once." It is thus the pounds have spoken, and God help the pennies! Gold and silver legislate for bronze and copper, and of course bronze and copper have nothing to say to it. Now, if I know anything about myself, I am not a Radical— not, perhaps, so much because these people have not occasionally a show of reason in what they ask, as from the dislike I have ever felt for their company. They are an overbearing, dogmatical, obtrusive class, loud of speech, coarse of manner, and insolent in bearing; but, without any Radicalism whatever, I would in all humility ask, Why keep all your tests for the coppers? Why not now and then analyse a sixpence? If I could screw up courage enough, I would add, Why not put a halfsovereign in the crucible? Surely it is of more moment that these be genuine than the others. Would not the nation have more patience for a penny-postman that missent a letter, than for a governor who lost a colony and yet it is for the pennypostman's education we are so vitally concerned; and the governor may be anything, only a shade above the requirements for Bedlam.
Have able and efficient public servants by all means; even in the lower walks of office take care that you are not served stupidly or ill. Let the penny-pieces be genuine copper; but, in heaven's name, don't ask them to be more, and do not submit them to the test applicable to bullion, while you let the same bullion go free unquestioned.
But this is not all. The pennies are not merely required to be good pennies, worth four farthings, but they are asked to be useful in various other ways foreign to their original intention as ounce weights, letter-pressers, and heaven knows what besides; that is, the Tidewaiter is examined in acoustics, and
the War-Office clerk probed in comparative anatomy and numismatics. Like the Irishman's pig, you want him to go to Cork, and you turn his head to Fermoy.
In the name of all that is Chinese, what is this for? Why must a man bring to one pursuit in life forty acquirements that would adapt him for another? If you go to a dentist to relieve you from the pangs of a toothache, is your first inquiry whether he has ever operated for cataract, or how often he has tied the subclavian artery? And yet this is not all; for if the dentist, being a bungler, should smash your jaw, and then tell you it is a satisfaction to you to know that the man who makes his artificial teeth is thoroughly up in osteology, and a deep proficient in animal chemistry, he would be exactly carrying out the present system. Are we, I ask once more, to take all the gold and silver on trust, and only scrutinise the brass ?
What amount of shamefacedness could promulgate such a plan, is hard to conceive. I have heard from a Secretary of State, French so execrable that it would reject the veriest unpaid attaché. I have read despatches from similar hands that would have "plucked" an exciseman; and are these to enjoy high place and station and salary, and yet some poor - devil clerk go out a beggar and houseless because at the age of forty he cannot render Bonnycastle's Algebra,
❝mention all the one-eyed men of distinction since the days of William Rufus." I implore most eagerly that there should be some test for the bullion. Let us have a Secretary for the Colonies put through his physical sciences. I'd like to examine the Senior Lord of the Admiralty on the best mode of
footing turf" in a wet bog; and with all his varied acquirements, I'd like to take the Chancellor of the Exchequer on the merits and demerits of the Bauchet system of horse-training. The "Pounds,"
however, will not have this, for they are resolved to "take care of themselves." Perhaps the theory is that they are too elevated for observation that if the base of the pyramid be ornamented, it is no matter what is at the top.
At all events, the abuse is now unbearable. If the crown - piece shirk the crucible, you have no right to throw the penny into it. If we must become Prussian or Pekinite-for they are about the same-make a free trade in office
life, open the Indian Viceroyalty to competitive examination, and let the First Lord of the Treasury go up to Burlington House, and be put through his Colenso like the rest of us. But, above all, let us not keep all the scrutiny for the small people-all the prizes for the big ones. Do not stamp education, in fact, as you do "cheap broth" a very good thing for the poor; and do not be, as the adage says, " Penny wise and pound foolish."
CENTENARIES AND COMMEMORATIONS.
I fervently hope that no indiscreet but enthusiastic admirers of mine in some future age will ever think of honouring me by a centenary. I know the temptation will be strong. I feel that a grateful posterity will be eager to repay what contemporaries have been so lax in acknowledging. I can imagine, too, how the words "O'Dowd COMMEMORATION" would read on a placard; and I can fancy the snobs" of another century running about with "original portraits" and "curious manuscriptal remains" of what they will doubtless call "Our Immortal Humorist." Now I hereby desire to place on record my formal protest against the whole proceeding. It is not that the great Shakespeare sham has given me a hearty disgust to such celebrations, but that I feel that they are false in logic as in taste; and there never was, and probably never will be, a reputation high enough to stand above the ridicule that attaches to such vulgar and low-lived adulation.
Had the great Bard's bust been anything but plaster-of-Paris, it would have blushed at the company by which it was surrounded. In the first place, these people start with something very like a vote of on their ancestors, who, having had a great man amongst
them, were stupid enough not to recognise his genius or admit his greatness. Now, for my own part, I suspect that the ordinary vice of every age is in over-estimating itself, and consequently thinking far too highly of its own products, whether the same be enormous gooseberries or great generals. I am strongly disposed to believe that our present-day gods and goddesses will be thought very little of by our next-century successors, and we our selves held proportionately cheap, for the intense admiration we have accorded them. There is this, however, to be said for the judgments of contemporaries, that they could recognise and appreciate the fitness of the man to his time; and this, of course, no opinions of a remote posterity could pretend to vie with.
I remember hearing how congregations used to cry at Dean Curwen's sermons. I bought the book, and I vow I almost cried too over the ten-and-sixpence I paid for it; and yet there is no denying the power this man wielded. The scenes his churches wit nessed of enthusiastic feeling-of benevolence, exaggerated to a perfect hysterical passion-are not transcended by the records of Mrs Siddons in Lady Macbeth. The offertory-plate was filled with brooches, rings, bracelets: what