페이지 이미지

It is because this aristocratic network is strong that human action can be free; for local and natural government being rooted throughout, like ivy, by a hundred small, ever-growing fibers, the sudden movements, violent as they are, are not capable of pulling it up altogether. In vain men speak, cry out, call meetings, hold processions, form leagues: they will not demolish the state; they have not to deal with a set of functionaries who have no real hold on the country, and who, like all external applications, can be replaced by another set: the thirty or forty gentlemen of a district, rich, influential, trusted, useful as they are, will become the leaders of the district. “As we see in the papers," says Montesquieu, speaking of England, “that they are playing the devil, we fancy that the people will revolt to-morrow.” Not at all, it is their way of speaking; they only talk loudly and rudely. Two days after I arrived in London, I saw advertising men walking with a placard on their backs and their stomachs, bearing these words: “Great usurpation ! Outrage of the Lords, in their vote on the budget, against the rights of the people.” But then the placard added, “Fellow-countrymen, petition !” Things end thus; they argue in free terms, and if the reasoning is good it will spread. Another time in Hyde Park, orators were declaiming in the open air against the Lords, who were called rogues. The audience applauded or hissed, as it pleased them. After all," said an Englishman to me, "this is how we manage our business. With us, when a man has an idea, he writes it; a dozen men think it good, and then all contribute money to publish it; this creates a little association, which grows, prints cheap pamphlets, gives lectures, then petitions, calls forth public opinion, and at last takes the matter into Parliament; Parliament refuses or delays it; yet the matter gains weight: the majority of the nation pushes, forces open the doors, and then you'll have a law passed.” It is open to every one to do this; workmen can league against their masters; in fact, their associations embrace all England; at Preston I believe there was once a strike which lasted more than six months. They will sometimes mob, but never revolt; they know political economy by this time, and understand that to do violence to capital is to suppress work. Above all, they are cool; there, as elsewhere, temperament has great influence. Anger, blood does not rise at once to their

eyes, as in the southern nations; a long interval always separates idea from action, and wise arguments, repeated calculations, occupy the interval. Go to a meeting, consider men of every condition, the ladies who come for the thirtieth time to hear the same speech, full of figures, on education, cotton, wages. They do not seem to be wearied; they can bring argument against argument, be patient, protest gravely, recommence their protest; they are the same people who wait for the train on the platform, without getting crushed, and who play cricket for a couple of hours without raising their voices or quarreling for an instant. Two coachmen, who run into one another, set themselves free without storming or scolding. Thus their political association endures; they can be free because they have natural leaders and patient nerves. After all, the state is a machine like other machines; try to have good wheels, and take care you don't break them; Englishmen have the double advantage of possessing very good ones, and of managing them coolly.

Such is our Englishman, with his provision and his administration. Now that he has provided for private comfort and public security, what will he do, and how will he govern himself in this higher, nobler domain, to which man climbs to contemplate beauty and truth? At all events, the arts do not lead him there, That vast London is monumental; but, like the castle of a man who has become rich, everything there is well preserved and costly, but nothing more. Those lofty houses of massive stone, burdened with porches, short columns, Greek decorations, are generally gloomy; the poor columns of the monuments seem washed with ink. On Sunday, in foggy weather, you would think yourself in a cemetery; the perfect readable names on the houses, in brass letters, are like sepulchral inscriptions. There is nothing beautiful: at most, the varnished middle-class houses, with their patch of green, are pleasant; we feel that they are well kept, commodious, capital for a business man who wants to amuse himself and unbend after a hard day's work. But a finer and higher sentiment could relish nothing there. As to the statues, it is difficult not to laugh at them. You should see the Duke of Wellington, with his cocked hat with iron plumes; Nelson, with a cable which serves him for a tail, planted on his column, and pierced by a lightning-conductor, like a rat impaled on

[ocr errors]

the end of a pole; or again, the half-dressed Waterloo Generals, crowned by Victory. The English, though flesh and bone, seem manufactured out of sheet-iron; how much more so will English statues look? They pride themselves on their painting; at least they study it with surprising minuteness, in the Chinese fashion; they can paint a bottle of hay so exactly that a botanist will tell the species of every stalk; one artist lived three months under canvas on a heath, so that he might thoroughly know heath. Many are excellent observers, especially of moral expression, and succeed very well in showing you the soul in the face; we are instructed by looking at them; we go through a course of psychology with them; they can illustrate a novel; you would be touched by the poetic and dreamy meaning of many of their landscapes. But in genuine painting, picturesque painting, they are revolting. I do not think there were ever laid upon canvas such crude colors, such stiff forms, stuffs so much like tin, such glaring contrasts. Fancy an opera with nothing but false notes in it. You may see landscapes painted blood-red, trees which split the canvas, turf which looks like a pot of overturned green, Christs looking as if they were baked and preserved in oil, expressive stags, sentimental dogs, undressed women, to whom we should like forthwith to offer a garment. In music, they import the Italian opera; it is an orange tree kept up at great cost in the midst of beet-roots. The arts require idle, delicate minds, not stoics, especially not puritans, easily shocked by dissonance, inclined to sensuous pleasure, employing their long periods of leisure, their free reveries, in harmoniously arranging, and with no other object but enjoyment, forms, colors, and sounds. I need not say that here the bent of mind is quite opposite; and we see clearly enough why, amidst these combative politicians, these laborious toilers, these men of energetic action, art can but produce exotic or ill-shaped fruit.

Not so in science; but in science there are two divisions. It may be treated as a business, to glean and verify observations, to combine experiences, to arrange figures, to weigh probabilities, to discover facts, partial laws, to possess laboratories, libraries; societies charged with storing and increasing positive knowledge, in all this Englishmen excel. They have even Lyells, Darwins,

Owens, able to embrace and renew a science; in the construction of the vast edifice, the industrious masons, masters of the second rank, are not lacking; it is the great architects, the thinkers, the genuine speculative minds, who fail them; philosophy, especially metaphysics, is as little indigenous here as music and painting; they import it, and yet they leave the best part on the road. Carlyle was obliged to transform it into a mystical poetry, humorous and prophetic fancies; Hamilton touched upon it only to declare it chimerical; Stuart Mill, Buckle, only seized the most palpable part, – a heavy residuum, positivism. It is not in metaphysics that the English mind can find its bent. It is on other objects that the spirit of liberal inquiry — the sublime instincts of the mind, the craving for the universal and the infinite, the desire of ideal and perfect things — will fall back. Let us take the day on which the hush of business leaves a free field for disinterested aspirations. There is no more striking spectacle for a foreigner than Sunday in London. The streets are empty, and the churches full. An act of Parliament forbids any playing to-day, public or private; the public houses are not allowed to harbor people during divine service. Moreover, all respectable people are at worship, the seats are full: it is not as in France, where there are none but servants, old women, a few sleepy people, of private means, and a sprinkling of elegant ladies; but in England we see men well dressed, or at least decently clad, and as many gentlemen as ladies in church. Religion does not remain out of the pale, and below the standard of public culture; the young, the learned, the best of the nation, all the upper and middle classes, continue attached to it. The clergyman, even in a village, is not a peasant's son, with not much polish, fresh from college, shackled in a cloistral education, separated from society by celibacy, half-buried in mediævalism. He is a man of the times, often a man of the world, often of good family, with the interests, habits, liberties of other men; keeping sometimes a carriage, several servants, having elegant manners, generally well informed, who has read and still reads. On all these grounds he is able to be in his neighborhood the leader of ideas, as his neighbor the squire is the leader of business. If he does not walk in the same path as the free-thinkers, he is not more than a step or two behind them; a modern man, a Parisian, can talk

with him on all lofty themes, and not perceive a gulf between his own mind and the clergyman's. Strictly speaking, he is a layman like you; the only difference is, that he is a superintendent of morality. Even in his externals, except for occasional bands and the perpetual white tie, he is like you: at first sight, you would take him for a professor, a magistrate, or a notary; and his sermons agree with his person. He does not anathematize the world; in this his doctrine is modern; he follows the broad path in which the Renaissance and the Reformation have impelled religion. When Christianity arose, eighteen centuries ago, it was in the East, in the land of the Essenes and Therapeutists, amid universal decay and despair, when the only deliverance seemed a renunciation of the world, an abandonment of civil life, destruction of the natural instincts, and a daily waiting for the kingdom of God. When it rose again, three centuries ago, it was in the West, amongst laborious and half-free peoples, amidst universal restoration and invention, when man, improving his condition, regained confidence in his worldly destiny, and widely expanded his faculties. No wonder if the new Protestantism differs from the ancient Christianity, if it enjoins action instead of preaching asceticism, if it authorizes comforts in place of prescribing mortification, if it honors marriage, work, patriotism, inquiry, science, all natural affections and faculties, in place of praising celibacy, retreat, scorn of the age, ecstasy, captivity of mind, and mutilation of the heart. By this infusion of the modern spirit, Christianity has received new blood, and Protestantism now constitutes, with science, the two motive organs, and, as it were, the double heart of European life. For, in accepting the rehabilitation of the world, it has not renounced the purification of man's heart; on the contrary, it is towards this that it has directed its whole effort. It has cut off from religion all the portions which are not this very purification, and, by reducing it, has strengthened it. An institution, like a machine, and like a man, is the more powerful for being more special: a work is done better because it is done singly, and because we concentrate ourselves upon it. By the suppression of legends and religious practices, human thought in its entirety has been concentrated on a single object -- moral amelioration. It is of this men speak in the churches, gravely and coldly, with a

« 이전계속 »