페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

what I mean. Having been invited to a stag-cate, whatever may have been learned at hunt in the Côte d'Or, I sat down to déjeuner school. When Dr. Arnold travelled on the with the sportsmen in a good country-house Continent, nothing struck him more than the or château (it was an old place with four absence of gentlemen. “We see no gentletowers), and in the midst of the meal in came men anywhere," he writes from Italy. From a man smoking a cigar. After a bow to the France he writes: “Again I have been struck ladies he declined to eat anything, and took a with the total absence of all gentlemen, and chair a little apart, but just opposite me. He of all persons of the education and feelings resumed his hat and went on smoking with a of gentlemen.” Now, although Dr. Arnold ans-gêne that rather surprised me under the spoke merely from the experience of a tourcircumstances. He put one arm on the side- ist, and was perhaps not quite competent to board: the hand hung down, and I perceived judge of Frenchmen and Italians otherwise that it was dirty (so was the shirt), and that than from externals, still there was much the nails had edges of ebony. On his chin truth in his observation. It was not quite there was a black stubble of two days' growth. absolutely true. I have known two or three He talked very loudly, and his dress and man- Italian officers, and one Savoyard nobleman, ners were exactly those of a bagman just ar- and a Frenchman here and there, who were rived at his inn. Who and what could the as perfect gentlemen as any to be found in man be? I learned afterwards that he had England, but they were isolated like poets, begun life as a distinguished pupil of the Ecole and were in fact poets in behavior and selfPolytechnique, tha, since then he had distin-discipline. The plain truth is, that there is guished himself as an officer of artillery and no distinct class in France maintaining good had won the Legion of Honor on the field of manners as a tradition common to all its battle, that he belonged to one of the princi- members; and this seems to be the inevitable pal families in the neighborhood, and had defect of a democracy. It may be observed, Dearly 20001. a year from landed property. further, that language itself is defiled by the

Now, it may be a good thing for the roughs vulgarity of the popular taste; that expresat the bottom of the social scale to level up to sions are used continually, even by the upper the bagman-ideal, but it does seem rather a middle class, which it is impossible to print, pity (does it not?) that a born gentleman of and which are too grossly indecent to find a more than common bravery and ability should place even in the dictionaries; that respectalevel down to it. And it is here that lies the ble men, having become insensible to the principle objection to democracy from the meaning of these expressions from hearing point of view of culture, that its notion of life them used without intention, employ them and manners is a uniform notion, not admit-constantly from habit, as they decorate their ting much variety of classes, and not allow speech with oaths, whilst only purists refrain ing the high development of graceful and ac- from them altogether. complished humanity in any class which an An aristocracy may be very narrow and aristocracy does at least encourage in one intolerant, but it can only exclude from its class, though it may be numerically a small own pale, whereas when a democracy is inclass. I have not forgotten what Saint-Simon tolerant it excludes from all human interand La Bruyère have testified about the ig- course. Our own aristocracy, as a class, mrance of the old noblesse. Saint-Simon rejects Dissenters, and artists, and men of said that they were fit for nothing but fight- science, but they flourish quite happily outing, and only qualified for promotion even in side of it. Now try to picture to yourself a the army by seniority; that the rest of their great democracy having the same prejudices, tirpe was passed in “ the most deadly useless- who could get out of the democracy? All Iess, the consequence of their indolence and aristocracies are intolerant with reference, I distaste for all instruction.” I am sure that will not say to religion, but, more accurately, ny modern artillery captain, notwithstand with reference to the outward forms of religkis bad manners, knew more than any of ion, and yet this aristocratic intolerance has bis forefathers; but where was his "perfect not prevented the development of religious knighthood?” And we easily forget “how liberty, because the lower classes were not much talent runs into manners," as Emerson strictly bound by the customs of the nobility says. From the artistic and poetical point of and gentry. The unwritten law appears to view, behavior is an expression of knowledge be that members of an aristocracy shall conand taste and feeling in combination, as clear form either to what is actually the State and legible as literature or painting, so that Church or to what has been the State Church when the behavior is coarse and unbecoming at some former period of the national history. we know that the perceptions cannot be deli- | Although England is a Protestant country, an English gentleman does not lose caste when I spent for art and science is money thrown he joins the Roman Catholic communion; away foolishly. Such is the provincial spirit." but he loses caste when he becomes a Dis- And if this is the provincial spirit, what is the senter. The influence of this caste-law in spirit of the metropolitan democracy? Is it keeping the upper classes within the Churches not clearly known to us by its acts? It had of England and of Rome has no doubt been the opportunity, under the Commune, of very considerable, but its influence on the showing the world how tenderly it cared for nation generally has been incomparably less the monuments of national history, how anxconsiderable than that of some equally de- ious it was for the preservation of noble archicided social rule in the entire mind of a tecture, of great libraries, of pictures that can democracy. Had this rule of conformity to never be replaced. Whatever may have been the religion of the State been that of the Eng- our illusions about the character of the Pa. lish democracy, religious liberty would have risian democracy, we know it very accurately been extinguished throughout the length and now. To say that it is brutal would be an breadth of England. I say that the customs inadequate use of language, for the brutes are and convictions of a democracy are more only indifferent to history and civilization, dangerous to intellectual liberty than those not hostile to them. So far as it is possible of an aristocracy, because, in matters of cus- for us to understand the temper of that democtom, the gentry rule only within their own racy, it appears to cherish an active and park-palings, whereas the people, when power intense hatred for every conceivable kind of resides with them, rule wherever the breezes superiority, and an instinctive eagerness to blow. A democracy that dislikes refinement abolish the past; or, as that is not possible, and good manners can drive men of culture since the past will always have been in spite into solitude, and make morbid hermits of of it, then at least to efface all visible me the very persons who ought to be the lights morials and destroy the bequests of all pre and leaders of humanity. It can cut short ceding generations. If any one had affirmed, the traditions of good-breeding, the traditions before the fall of Louis Napoleon, that the of polite learning, the traditions of thoughtful democratic spirit was capable of setting fire leisure, and reduce the various national types to the Louvre and the national archives and of character to one type, that of the commis- libraries, of deliberately planning the devoyageur. All men of refined sentiment in struction of all those magnificent edifices, modern France lament the want of elevation ecclesiastical and civil, which were the glory in the bourgeoisie. They read nothing, they of France and the delight of Europe, we learn nothing, they think of nothing but should have attributed such an assertion to money and the satisfaction of their appetites. the exaggerations of reactionary fears. But There are exceptions, of course, but the tone since the year 1870 we do not speculate about of the class is mean and low, and devoid of the democratic temper in its intensest expresnatural dignity or noble aspiration. Their sion; we have seen it at work, and we know ignorance passes belief, and is accompanied it. We know that every beautiful building, by an absolute self-satisfaction. “La fin de every precious manuscript and picture, has la bourgeoisie," says an eminent French to be protected against the noxious swarm of author, “commence parcequ'elle a les senti- Communards as a sea-jetty against the Pholas ments de la populace. Je ne vois pas qu'elle and the Teredo. lise d'autres journaux, qu'elle se régale d'une compare this temper with that of a Marmusique différente, qu'elle ait des plaisirs quis of Hertford, a Duke of Devonshire, a plus élevés. Chez l'une comme chez l'autre, Duc de Luynes! True guardians of the means c'est le même amour de l'argent, le même of culture, these men have given splendid respect du fait accompli, le même besoin hospitality to the great authors and artists of d'idoles pour les détruire, la même haine de past times, by keeping their works for the futoute supériorité, le même esprit de dénigre- ture with tender and reverent care. Nor has ment, la même crasse ignorance!” M. Renan this function of high stewardship ever been also complains that during the Second Empire more nobly exercised than it is to-day by that the country sank deeper and deeper into vul- true knight and gentleman, Sir Richard Walgarity, forgetting its past history and its lace. Think of the difference between this noble enthusiasms. “Talk to the peasant, to great-hearted guardian of priceless treasures, the socialist of the International, of France, keeping them for the people, for civilization, of her past history, of her genius, he will not and a base-spirited Communard setting fire understand you. Military honor seems mad- to the library of the Louvre. ness to him; the taste for great things, the The ultra-democratic spirit is hostile to cultglory of the mind, are vain dreams; money lure, from its hatred of all delicate and ro

mantic sentiment, from its scorn of the ten-| comes in the presence of a lord. No rightderer and finer feelings of our nature, and es- minded person likes to be thought impudent, pecially from its brutish incapacity to com- and where the tone of society refers everyprehend the needs of the higher life. If it had thing to position, you are considered impuits way we should be compelled by public dent when you forget your station. But opinion to cast all the records of our ances- what has my station to do with the truths the tors, and the shields they wore in battle, into intellect perceives, that lie entirely outside of the foul waters of an eternal Lethe. The in- me? From the intellectual point of view, it tolerance of the sentiment of birth, that noble is a necessary virtue to forget your station, to sentiment which has animated so many hearts forget yourself entirely, and to think of the with heroism, and urged them to deeds of subject only, in a manner perfectly disinterhonor, associated as it is with a cynical dis- ested. Anonymous journalism was a device belief in the existence of female virtue, * is to escape from that continual reference to the one of the commonest signs of this evil spirit rank and fortune of the speaker which is an of detraction. It is closely connected with an inveterate habit in all aristocratic communiungrateful indifference towards all that our ties. A young man without title or estate forefathers have done to make civilization knows that he would not be listened to in the possible for us. Now, although the intellect-presence of his social superiors, so he holds ual spirit studies the past critically, and does his tongue in society and relieves himself by pot accept history as a legend is accepted by an article in the Times. The anonymous the credulous, still the intellectual spirit has newspapers and reviews are a necessity in an a deep respect for all that is noble in the past, aristocratic community, for they are the only and would preserve the record of it forever. means of attracting attention to facts and Can you not imagine, have you not actually opinions without attracting it to yourself, the seen, the heir of some ancient house who only way of escaping the personal question, shares to the full the culture and aspirations “Who and what are you, that you venture of the age in which we live, and who never- to speak so plainly, and where is your stake theless preserves, with pious reverence, the in the country?” towers his forefathers built on the ancestral The democratic idea, by its theoretic equalearth, and the oaks they planted, and the ity amongst men, affords an almost complete shields that were carved on the tombs where relief from this impediment to intellectual the knights and their ladies rest? Be sure conversation. The theory of equality is good, that a right understanding of the present is because it negatives the interference of rank compatible with a right and reverent under- and wealth in matters that appertain to the Sanding of the past, and that, although we intellect or to the moral sense. It may even may closely question history and tradition, no go one step farther with advantage, and iglonger with childlike faith, still the spirit of nore intellectual authority also. The perfectrue culture would never efface their vestiges. tion of the intellectual spirit is the entire forIt was not Michelet, not Renan, not Hugo, getfulness of persons, in the application of the who set fire to the Palace of Justice and im- whole power of the mind to things, and pheperilled the Sainte-Chapelle.

nomena, and ideas. Not to mind whether the And yet, notwithstanding all these vices speaker is of noble or humble birth, rich or and excesses of the democratic spirit, not- poor; this indeed is much, but we ought to atwithstanding the meanness of the middle tain a like indifference to the authority of the dasses and the violence of the mob, there is most splendid reputation. “Every great adone all-powerful reason why our best hopes vance in natural knowledge,” says Professor for the liberal culture of the intellect are cen- Huxley, “has involved the absolute rejection thed in the democratic idea. The reason is, of authority, the cherishing of the keenest that aristocracies think too much of persons scepticism, the annihilation of the spirit of and positions to weigh facts and opinions blind faith; and the most ardent votary of justly. In an aristocratic society it is thought science holds his firmest convictions, not beunbecoming to state your views in their full cause the men he most venerates hold them, force in the presence of any social superior. not because their verity is testified by porIf you state them at all you must soften them tents and wonders, but because his experience to suit the occasion, or you will be a sinner teaches him that whenever he chooses to azainst good-breeding. Observe how timid bring these convictions into contact with and acquiescent the ordinary Englishman be- their primary source, Nature-whenever he

thinks fit to test them by appealing to expo * The association between the two is this. If you believe wiment and that you are descended from a distinguished ancestor, you

riment and to observation-Nature will conare simple enough to believe in his wife's fidelity.

| firm them."

1.

PART IX.

hand that the freshness of the mind that was

new to us will rapidly wear away, that we SOCIETY AND SOLITUDE.

shall soon assimilate the fragment of it which is all that ever can be made our own, so we enjoy the freshness whilst it lasts, and are

even careful of it as a fruiterer is of the bloom LETTER I.

upon his grapes and plums. It may seem a

hard and worldly thing to say, but it appears TO A LADY WHO DOUBTED THE REALITY OF IN

to me that a wise man might limit his interTELLECTUAL FRIENDSHIPS.

course with others before there was any danThat intellectual friendships are in their nature temporary,

ger of satiety, as it is wisdom in eating to rise when there is no basis of feeling to support them-Their from table with an appetite. Certainly, if the freshness soon disappears-Danger of satiety-Temporary

friends of our intellect live near enough for acquaintances Succession in friendships-Free communication of intellectual results-Friendships between ripe us to anticipate no permanent separation by and immature men-Rembrandt and Hoogstraten-Tradi mere distance, if we may expect to meet them tion transmitted through these friendships.

frequently, to have many opportunities for a I HEARTILY agree with you so far as this, more thorough and searching exploration of that intellectual relations will not sustain their minds, it is a wise policy not to exhaust friendship for very long, unless there is also them all at once. With the chance acquaintsome basis of feeling to sustain it. And still ances we make in travelling, the case is altothere is a certain reality in the friendships of gether different; and this is, no doubt, the the intellect whilst they last, and they are re- reason why men are so astonishingly commembered gratefully for their profit when in municative when they never expect to see the course of nature they have ceased. We each other any more. You feel an intense may wisely contract them, and blamelessly curiosity about some temporary companion; dissolve them when the occasion that created you make many guesses about him; and to them has gone by. They are like business induce him to tell you as much as possible in partnerships, contracted from motives of in- the short time you are likely to be together, terest, and requiring integrity above all you win his confidence by a frankness that things, with mutual respect and consideration, would perhaps considerably surprise your yet not necessarily either affection or the sem- nearest neighbors and relations. This is due blance of it. Since the motive of the intellect- to the shortness of the opportunity; but with ual existence is the desire to ascertain and people who live in the same place, you will communicate truth, a sort of positive and proceed much more deliberately. negative electricity immediately establishes Whoever would remain regularly provided itself between those who want to know and with intellectual friends, ought to arrange a those who desire to communicate their knowl- succession of friendships, as gardeners do edge; and the connection is mutually agreea- with peas and strawberries, so that, whilst ble until these two desires are satisfied. some are fully ripe, others should be ripening When this happens, the connection naturally to replace them. This doctrine sounds like ceases; but the memory of it usually leaves a blasphemy against friendship; but it is not permanent feeling of good-will, and a perma- intended to apply to the sacred friendship of nent disposition to render services of the same the heart, which ought to be permanent like order. This, in brief, is the whole philosophy marriage, only to the friendship of the head, of the subject; but it may be observed far- which is of the utmost utility to culture, yet ther, that the purely intellectual intercourse in its nature temporary. I know a distinwhich often goes by the name of friendship guished Englishman who is quite remarkable affords excellent opportunities for the forma- for the talent with which he arranges his intion of real friendship, since it cannot be long intellectual friendships, so as never to be decontinued without revealing much of the pendent on any one, but always sure of the inwhole nature of the associates.

tercourse he needs, both now and in the fuWe do not easily exhaust the mind of an- ture. He will never be isolated, never withother, but we easily exhaust what is accessi-out some fresh and living interest in humanible to us in his mind; and when we have done ity. It may seem to you that there is a la this, the first benefit of intercourse is at an mentable want of faith in this; and I grant end. Then comes a feeling of dulness and at once that a system of this kind does predisappointment, which is full of the bitterest suppose the extinction of the boyish belief in discouragement to the inexperienced. In ma- the permanence of human relations; still, it turer life we are so well prepared for this that indicates a large-minded confidence in the it discourages us no longer. We know before value of human intercourse, an enjoyment of

the present, a hope for the future, and a right be valuable to you as a past experience, but if appreciation of the past.

the intellectual ambition you confess to me is Nothing is more beautiful in the intellectual quite serious, I would venture to suggest that life than the willingness of all cultivated people there are certain dangers in the continuation --unless they happen to be accidentally soured of your present existence if altogether uninby circumstances that have made them terrupted. Pray do not suspect me of any wretched-to communicate to others the re- narrow prejudice against human intercourse, sults of all their toil. It is true that they ap- or of any wish to make a hermit of you before parently lose nothing by the process, and that your time, but believe that the few observaa rich man who gives some portion of his ma- tions I have to make are grounded simply terial wealth exercises a greater self-denial; on the desire that your career should be enstill, when you consider that men of culture, tirely satisfactory to your own maturer judgin teaching others, abandon something of their ment, when you will look back upon it after relative superiority, and often voluntarily in- many years. cur the sacrifice of what is most precious to An intellectual man may go into general them, namely, their time, I think you will ad- society quite safely if only he can resist its mit that their readiness in this kind of gener- influence upon his serious work; but such reosity is one of the finest characteristics of sistance is difficult in maturity and impossihighly-developed humanity. Of all intellect- ble in youth. ual friendships, none are so beautiful as those The sort of influence most to be dreaded is which subsist between old and ripe men and this. Society is, and must be, based upon aptheir younger brethren in science, or litera- pearances, and not upon the deepest realities. ture, or art. It is by these private friendships, It requires some degree of reality to produce even more than by public performance, that the appearance, but not a substantial reality. the tradition of sound thinking and great do- Gilding is the perfect type of what Society ing is perpetuated from age to age. Hoog- requires. A certain quantity of gold is necesstraten, who was a pupil of Rembrandt, asked sary for the work of the gilder, but a very him many questions, which the great master small quantity, and skill in applying the answered thus:-"Try to put well in practice metal so as to cover a large surface, is of what you already know; in so doing you will, greater consequence than the weight of the in good time, discover the hidden things which metal itself. The mind of a fashionable peryou now inquire about." That answer of son is a carefully gilded mind. Rembrandt's is typical of the maturest teach- Consider fashionable education. Society ing. How truly friendly it is; how full of imperatively requires an outside knowledge encouragement; how kind in its admission of many things; not permitting the frank that the younger artist d d already know confession of ignorance, whilst it is yet satissomething worth putting into practice; and fied with a degree of knowledge differing vet, at the same time, how judicious in its re-only from avowed ignorance in permitting serve! Few of us have been so exceptionally you to be less sincere. All young ladies, unfortunate as not to find, in our own age, whether gifted by nature with any musical some experienced friend who has helped us by talent or not, are compelled to say that they precious counsel, never to be forgotten. We have learned to play upon the piano; all cannot render it in kind; but perhaps in the young gentlemen are compelled to affect to fulness of time it may become our noblest duty know Latin. In the same way the public to aid another as we have ourselves been aid- opinion of Society compels its members to ed, and to transmit to himan invaluable treas- pretend to know and appreciate the masterure, the tradition of the intellectual life. pieces of literature and art. There is, in

truth, so much compulsion of this kind that it

is not easy to ascertain what people do really LETTER II.

know and care about until they admit you

into their confidence. TO A YOUNG GENTLEMAN WHO LIVED MUCH IN The inevitable effect of these affectations is FASHIONABLE SOCIETY.

to diminish the value, in Society, of genuine Certain dangers to the intellectual life--Difficult to resist the knowledge and accomplishment of all kinds.

influences of society--Gilding-Fashionable education I know a man who is a Latin scholar; he is Afectations of knowledge-Not easy to ascertain what

one of the few moderns who have really people really know-Value of real knowledge diminished

Some good effects of affectations-Their bad effect on learned Latin; but in fashionable society this workers-Skill in amusements.

brings him no distinction, because we are all The kind of life which you have been lead-supposed to know Latin, and the true scholar, ing for the last three or four years will always when he appears, cannot be distinguished

[ocr errors]
« 이전계속 »