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way. There was no one to attend him, but | gion, where the light is colorless, and clear, he trusted, not vainly, to the humanity of and equal, like plain daylight out of doors. strangers. Just about the same time your So soon as we attain the forgetfulness of self, lordship went northwards also, with many and become absorbed in our pursuits for their friends, to enjoy the noble scenery, and the own sakes, the feeling of caste drops off from excitement of noble sport. My poor cripple us. It was not a mark of culture in Tycho got to Edinburgh, got a glimpse of Scott's Brahe, but rather of the imperfections of his monument and the Athenian pillars, and sub-culture, that he felt so strongly the difficulty mitted himself to the surgeons. They ren- of conciliating scientific pursuits with the dered him the best of services, for they ended obligations of noble birth, and began his pubhis pains forever.
| lic discourses on astronomy by telling his So I am to get no more of those wonderful- audience that the work was ill-suited to his ly brave and cheerful letters that were writ- social position-hesitating, too, even about ten from the little bed on wheels. I miss authorship from a dread of social degradathem for the lessons they quite unconsciously tion. And to take an instance from the opconveyed. He fancied that he was the learn- posite extreme of human society, Robert, er, poor lad! and I the teacher, whereas it Burns betrayed the same imperfection of was altogether the other way. He made me culture in his dedication to the members of feel what a blessing it is, even from the the Caledonian Hunt, when he spoke of his purely intellectual point of view, to be able “honest rusticity,” and told the gentlefolks to get out of bed after the night's rest, and that he was “ bred to the plough, and indego from one room to another. He made me pendent.” Both of these men had been ununderstand the value of every liberty and favorably situated for the highest culture, every power whilst at the same time he the one by the ignorance of his epoch the taught me to bear more patiently every limit, other by the ignorance of his class; hence and inconvenience, and restriction.
this uneasiness about themselves and their In comparing his letters with yours I have social position. Shelley said of Byron, “The been struck by one reflection predominantly, canker of aristocracy wants to be cut out;" which is, the entire absence of class-senti. and he did not say this from the point of ment in both of you. Nobody, not in the se- view of a democrat, for Shelley was not precret, could guess that one set of letters came cisely a democrat, but from the broadly hufrom a palace and the other set from a poor man point of view, on which the finest intelminer's cottage; and even to me, who do not lects like to take their stand. Shelley per see the habitations except by an effort of the ceived that Byron's aristocracy narrowed memory or imagination, there is nothing to him, and made his sympathies less catholic recall the immensity of the social distance than they might have been, nor can there be that separated my two friendly and welcome any doubt of the accuracy of this estimate of correspondents. It is clear, of course, that Shelley's; if a doubt existed it would be reone of them had enjoyed greater advantages moved by Byron's alternative for a poet, than the other, but neither wrote from the "solitude, or high life.” Another man of point of view which marks his caste or class. genius, whose loss we have recently deplored, It was my habit to write to you, and to him, was narrowed by his antipathy to the aristoexactly in the same tone, yet this was not felt cratic spirit, though it is necessary to add, to be unsuitable by either.
in justice, that it did not prevent him from Is it not that the love and pursuit of cult-valuing the friendship of noblemen whom he ure lead each of us out of his class, and esteemed. The works of Charles Dickens that class-views of any kind, whether of the would have been more accurate as pictures of aristocracy, or of the middle class, or of the English life, certainly more comprehensively people, inevitably narrow the mind and hin- accurate, if he could have felt for the aristocder it from receiving pure truth? Have you racy that hearty and loving sympathy which ever known any person who lived habitually he felt for the middle classes and the people. in the notions of a caste, high or low, with- But the narrowness of Dickens is more excusout incapacitating himself in a greater or less able than that of Byron, because a kindly degree for breadth and delicacy of percep- heart more easily enters into the feelings of tion? It seems to me that the largest and those whom it can often pity than of those best minds, although they have been born and who appear to be lifted above pity (though nurtured in this caste or that, and may con- this is nothing but an appearance) and also tinue to conform externally to its customs, because it is the habit of aristocracies to repel always emancipate themselves from it intel-such sympathy by their manners, which the lectually, and arrive at a sort of neutral re- poor do not.
I have often thought that a sign of aristo-success in them, without incurring the disapcratic narrowness in many English authors, probation of his friends. If this disapprobaincluding some of the most popular authors tion were visited on the breaker of caste-regof the day, is the way they speak of shop-ulations because he neglected some other keepers. This may be due to simple igno-culture, there would still be something reasonrance; but if so, it is ignorance that might be able in it; but this is not the case. The casteeasily avoided. Happily for our convenience regulation forbids the most honorable and there are a great many shopkeepers in Eng- instructive labor when it does not forbid the land, so that there is no lack of the materials most unprofitable idleness, the most utter for study; but our novelists appear to con- throwing away of valuable time and faculty. sider this important class of Englishmen as Tycho Brahe feared to lose caste in becoming unworthy of any patient and serious portrait-the most illustrious astronomer of his time; ure. You may remember Mr. Anthony Trol- but he would have had no such apprehension, lope's “Struggles of Brown, Jones, and Rob- nor any ground for such apprehension, if inson," which appeared in the Cornhill instead of being impelled to noble work by a Magazine, under Thackeray's editorship. high intellectual instinct, he had been imThat was an extreme instance of the way the pelled by meaner passions to unlimited selfclass is treated in our literature: and then in indulgence. Even, in our own day these poetry we have some disdainful verses of Mr. prejudices are still strong enough, or have Tennyson's. It may be presumed that there been until very lately, to keep our upper is material for grave and respectful treat-classes in great darkness about natural ment of this extensive class, but our poets knowledge of all kinds, and about its applicaand novelists do not seem to have discovered, tion to the arts of life. How few gentlemen or sought to discover, the secret of that treat-have been taught to draw accurately, and ment. The intensity of the prejudices of how few are accurately acquainted with the caste prevents them from seeing any possibil- great practical inventions of the agel The ity of true gentlemanhood in a draper or a caste-sentiment does not, in these days, keep grocer, and blinds them to the aesthetic them ignorant of literature, but it keeps them beauty or grandeur which may be as per- ignorant of things. A friend who had a fectly compatible with what is disdainful- strong constructive and experimental turn, ly called “counter-jumping” as it is admit- told me that, as a rule, he found gentlemen ted to be with the jumping of five-barred less capable of entering into his ideas than gates,
common joiners and blacksmiths, because The same caste prejudices have often kept these humble workmen, from their habit of the mass of the upper classes in ignorance dealing with matter, had acquired some exof most valuable and important branches of perience of its nature. For my own part, I knowledge. The poor have been ignorant, have often been amazed by the difficulty of yet never proud of their ignorance; the ig- making something clear to a classically edunorance that men are proud of belongs to cated gentleman which any intelligent mecaste always, not always to what we should chanic would have seen to the bottom, and all call an aristocratic caste, but to the caste- round, after five or six minutes of explanafeeling in one class or another. The pride of tion. There is a certain French nobleman the feudal baron in being totally illiterate whose ignorance I have frequent opportuniamounted to self-exclusion from all intellect- ties of fathoming, always with fresh astonishual culture, and we may still find living in- ment at the depths of it, and I declare that he stances of partial self-exclusion from culture, knows no more about the properties of stone, of which pride is the only motive. There are and timber, and metal, than if he were a people who pass their time in what are con- cherub in the clouds of heaven! sidered amusements (that do not amuse), be- But there is something in caste-sentiment cause it seems to them a more gentlemanly even more prejudicial to culture than igno sort of life than the devotion to some great rance itself, and that is the affectation of and worthy pursuit which would have given strong preferences for certain branches of the keenest zest and relish to their whole ex- knowledge in which people are not seriously istence (besides making them useful members interested. There is nothing which people of society, which they are not), but which will not pretend to like, if a liking for it is happens to be tabooed for them by the preju- supposed to be one of the marks and indicadices of their caste. There are many studies, tions of gentility. There has been an imin themselves noble and useful, that a man of mense amount of this kind of affectation in good family cannot follow with the earnest- regard to classical scholarship, and we know ness and the sacrifice of time necessary to for a certainty that it is affectation whenever people are loud in their praise of classical sought rather to have rejoiced in the conauthors whom they never take the trouble sciousness that he was their true and legitito read. It may have happened to you, as mate successor, as the clergy of an authentic it has happened to me from time to time, Church feel themselves to be successors and to hear men affirm the absolute necessity of representatives of saints and apostles who are classical reading to distinction of thought gathered to their everlasting rest. But poor and manner, and yet to be aware at the same Burns knew that in an age when what is time, from close observation of their habits, called scholarship gave all who had acquired that those very men entirely neglected the it a right to look down upon poets who had sources of that culture in which they pro- only genius as the illegitimate offspring of fessed such earnest faith. The explanation nature, his position had not that solidity is, that as classical accomplishments are con- which belonged to the scholarly caste, and the sidered to be one of the evidences of gentility, result was a perpetual uneasiness which broke whoever speaks loudly in their favor affirms out in frequent defiance. that he has the tastes and preferences of a gentleman. It is like professing the fashion
“There's ither poets, much your betters,
Far seen in Greek, deep men o' letters, able religion, or belonging to an aristocratic
Hae thought they had ensur'd their debtors shade of opinion in politics. I have not a
A' future ages; doubt that all affectations of this kind are in
Now moths deform in shapeless tatters,
Their unknown pages." jurious to genuine culture, for genuine culture requires sincerity of interest before And again, in another poemeverything, and the fashionable affectations,
“A set o' dull, conceited hashes so far from attracting sincere men to the de
Confuse their brains in college classes ! partments of learning which happen to be à
They gang in stirks, and come out asses, la mode, positively drive them away, just as
Plain truth to speak;
An' syne they think to climb Parnassus many have become Nonconformists because
By dint of Greek ! " the established religion was considered necessary to gentility, who might have remained It was the influence of caste that made contented with its ordinances as a simple dis- Burns write in this way, and how unjust it cipline for their souls.
was every modern reader knows. The great I dislike the interference of genteel notions majority of poets have been well-educated in our studies for another reason. They de- men, and instead of ganging into college like prive such culture as we may get from them, stirks and coming out like asses, they have, of one of the most precious results of culture, as a rule, improved their poetic faculty by an the enlargement of our sympathy for others. acquaintance with the masterpieces of their If we encourage ourselves in the pride of art. Yet Burns is not to be blamed for this inscholarly caste, so far as to imagine that we justice; he sneered at Greek because Greek who have made Latin verses are above com- was the mark of a disdainful and exclusive parison with all who have never exercised caste, but he never sneered at French or Italtheir ingenuity in that particular way, we are ian. He had no soreness against culture for not likely to give due and serious attention to its own sake; it was the pride of caste that the ideas of people whom we are pleased to galled him. consider uneducated; and yet it may happen How surely the wonderful class-instinct that these people are sometimes our intellect- guided the aristocracy to the kind of learning ual superiors, and that their ideas concern us likely to be the most effectual barrier against very closely. But this is only half the evil. fellowship with the mercantile classes and the The consciousness of our contempt embitters people! The uselessness of Greek in industry the feelings of men in other castes, and pre- and commerce was a guarantee that those vents them from accepting our guidance who had to earn their bread would never find when it might be of the greatest practical time to master it, and even the strange diffiutility to them. I may mention Robert cult look of the alphabet (though in reality Burns as an instance of a man of genius who the alphabet was a gate of gossamer), ensured would have been happier and more fortu- a degree of awful veneration for those initiatnate if he had felt no barrier of separation ed into its mysteries. Then the habit our between himself and the culture of his time. forefathers had of quoting Latin and Greek His poetry is as good rustic poetry as the best to keep the ignorant in their places, was a that has come down to us from antiquity, and strong defensive weapon of their caste, and instead of feeling towards the poets of times they used it without scruple. Every year repast the kind of soreness which a parvenu moves this passion for exclusiveness farther feels towards families of ancient descent, hel and farther into the past; every year makes learning of every kind less available as the much of what the intellectual know to be armor of a class, and less to be relied upon as truly desirable, that it seems as if only a little a means of social advancement and considera- firmness of resolution were needed to make tion. Indeed, we have already reached a con- all advantages his own. Surrounded by dition which is drawing back many members every aid, and having all gates open, he sees of the aristocracy to a state of feeling about the paths of knowledge converging towards intellectual culture resembling that of their him like railways to some rich central city. forefathers in the middle ages. The old bar- He has but to choose his route, and travel barian feeling has revived of late, a feeling along it with the least possible hindrance which (if it were self-conscious enough) might from every kind of friction, in the society of find expression in some such words as these: the best companions, and served by the most
"It is not by learning and genius that we perfectly trained attendants. Might not our can hold the highest place, but by the daz- lords be like those brilliant peers who shone zling exhibition of external splendor in those like intellectual stars around the throne of costly pleasures which are the plainest evi- Elizabeth, and our ladies like that great lady dence of our power. Let us have beautiful of whom said a learned Italian, "che non vi equipages on the land, beautiful yachts upon aveva altra dama al mondo che la pareggiasse the sea; let our recreations be public and nella cognizione delle arti e nella notizia delle expensive, that the people may not easily scienze e delle lingue," wherefore he called lose sight of us, and may know that there is her boldly, in the enthusiasm of his admiraa gulf of difference between our life and tion, “grande anfitrite, Diana nume della theirs. Why should we toil at books that terra !” the poorest students read, we who have lordly pastimes for every month in the year? To be able to revel immensely in pleasures
LETTER II. which those below us taste rarely or not at all, this is the best evidence of our superiority.
TO AN ENGLISH DEMOCRAT. 8o let us take them magnificently, like Eng
• The liberal and illiberal spirit of aristocracy-The desire to lish princes and lords."
draw a line Substitution of external limitations for realEven the invention of railways has pro ities. The high life of nature-Value of gentlemen in a duced the unforeseen result of a return in
State-Odiousness of the narrow class-spirit-Julian Fane
---Perfect knighthood --Democracies intolerant of dignity the direction of barbarism. If there is one
-Tendency of democracies to fix one uniform type of thing which distinguishes civilization it is manners-That type not a high one--A descriptive anecfixity of residence; and it is essential to the
dote--Knowledge and taste reveal themselves in man
ners. Dr. Arnold on the absence of gentlemen in France tranquil following of serious intellectual pur
and Italy-Absence of a class with traditional good manposes that the student should remain for ners--Language defiled by the vulgarity of popular taste many months of the year in his own library
-Influence of aristocratic opinion limited, that of demo
cratic opinion universal-Want of elevation in the French of laboratory, surrounded by all his imple
bourgeoisie-Spirit of the provincial democracy-Spirit of ments of culture. But there are people of the the Parisian democracy-Sentiments and acts of the Comhighest rank in the England of to-day whose
munards-Romantic feeling towards the past-Lopes for
liberal culture in the democratic idea-Aristocracies think existence is as much nomadic as that of Red
too much of persons and positions--That we ought to forIndians in the reserved territories of North get persons and apply our minds to things, and phenomAmerica. You cannot ascertain their where
ena, and ideas. abouts without consulting the most recent
consulting the most recent ALL you ay against the narrowness of the newspaper. Their life may be quite accur- aristocratic spirit is true and to the point; but stely described as a return, on a scale of un- I think that you and your party are apt to precedented splendor and comfort, to the life confound together two states of feeling which of tribes in that stage of human development are essentially distinct from each other. which is known as the period of the chase. There is an illiberal spirit of aristocracy, and They migrate from one hunting-ground to there is also a liberal one. The illiberal spirit another as the diminution of the game impels does not desire to improve itself, having a full them. Their residences, vast and substantial and firm belief in its own absolute perfection; as they are, serve only as tents and wigwams. its sole anxiety is to exclude others, to draw The existence of a monk in the cloister, of asa circular line, the smaller the better, proprisoner in a fortress, is more favorable to the vided always that it gets inside and can keep intellect than theirs.
the millions out. We see this spirit, not only And yet notwithstanding these re-appear in reference to birth, but in even fuller activances of the savage nature at the very sum-lity with regard to education and employment mit of modern civilization, the life of a great in the preference for certain schools and English nobleman of to-day commands so I colleges, for class reasons, without regard to
the quality of the teaching-in the contempt were made by Almighty God to be his lackfor all professions but two or three, without eys and their daughters to be his mistresses ; regard to the inherent baseness or nobility of it is odious also, to the full as odious, in the the work that has to be done in them: so that narrow-minded, envious democrat who canthe question asked by persons of this temper not bear to see any elegance of living, or is not whether a man has been well trained grace of manner, or culture of mind above the in his youth, but if he has been to Eton and range of his own capacity or his own purse. Oxford: not whether he is honorably laborious! Let me recommend to your consideration in his manhood, but whether he belongs to the the following words, written by one young Bar, or the Army, or the Church. This spirit nobleman about another young nobleman, is evil in its influence, because it substitutes and reminding us, as we much need to be reexternal limitations for the realities of the in- minded, that life may be not only honest tellect and the soul, and makes those realities and vigorous, but also noble and beautiful. themselves of no account wherever its tradi- Robert Lytton says of Julian Fanetions prevail. This spirit cares nothing for “He was, I think, the most graceful and culture, nothing for excellence, nothing for accomplished gentleman of the generation he the superiorities that make men truly great; adorned, and by this generation, at least, apall it cares for is to have reserved seats in the propriate place should be reserved for the great assemblage of the world. Whatever memory of a man in whose character the most you do, in fairness and honesty, against this universal sympathy with all the intellectual evil and inhuman spirit of aristocracy, the culture of his age was united to a refinement best minds of this age approve; but there is of social form, and a perfection of personal another spirit of aristocracy which does not grace, which, in spite of all its intellectual cultalways receive the fairest treatment at your ure, the age is sadly in want of. There is an hands, and which ought to be resolutely de- artistry of life as well as of literature, and the fended against you.
perfect knighthood of Sidney is no less preThere is really, in nature, such a thing as cious to the world than the genius of Spenser." high life. There is really, in nature, a differ- It is just this “ perfect knighthood” that an ence between the life of a gentleman who has envious democracy sneers at and puts down. culture, and fine bodily health, and indepen- I do not say that all democracies are necessadence, and the life of a Sheffield dry-grinder rily envious, but they often are so, especially who cannot have any one of these three when they first assert themselves, and whilst things. It is a good and not a bad sign of the in that temper they are very willing to ostra state of popular intelligence when the people cize gentlemen, or compel them to adopt bad does not wilfully shut its eyes to the differ-manners. I have some hopes that the democ ences of condition amongst men, and when racies of the future may be taught by authors those who have the opportunity of leading and artists to appreciate natural gentleman what is truly the high life accept its disci- hood; but so far as we know them hitherti pline joyfully and have a just pride in keep- they seem intolerant of dignity, and disposer ing themselves up to their ideal. A life of to attribute it (very unjustly) to individua health, of sound morality, of disinterested in- self-conceit. The personages most popular ir tellectual activity, of freedom from petty democratic countries are often remarkably cares, is higher than a life of disease, and deficient in dignity, and liked the better fo vice, and stupidity, and sordid anxiety. I the want of it, whilst if on the positive sid maintain that it is right and wise in a nation they can display occasional coarseness they to set before itself the highest attainable ideal become more popular still. Then I should of human life as the existence of the complete say, that although democratic feeling raise gentleman, and that an envious democracy, the lower classes and increases their self-re instead of rendering a service to itself, does spect, which is indeed one of the greatest im exactly the contrary when it cannot endure aginable benefits to a nation, it has a tendenc; and will not tolerate the presence of high to fix one uniform type of behavior and o spirited gentlemen in the State. There are thought as the sole type in conformity wit things in this world that it is right to hate, what is accepted for “common sense," an that we are the better for hating with all our that type can scarcely, in the nature of things hearts; and one of the things that I hate be a very elevated one. I have been mue most, and with most reason, is the narrow struck, in France, by the prevalence of wha class-spirit when it sets itself against the great may be not inaccurately defined as the con interests of mankind. It is odious in the nar- mercial traveller type, even in classes wher row-minded, pompous, selfish, pitiless aristo- you would scarcely expect to meet with i crat who thinks that the sons of the people One little descriptive anecdote will illustrat