Monday, July 31, 2017
A DEFENCE OF PENNY DREADFULS by Gilbert Keith Chesterton 1911
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ONE of the strangest examples of the degree to which ordinary life is undervalued is the example of popular literature, the vast mass of which we contentedly describe as vulgar. The boy's novelette may be ignorant in a literary sense, which is only like saying that a modern novel is ignorant in the chemical sense, or the economic sense, or the astronomical sense; but it is not vulgar intrinsically — it is the actual centre of a million flaming imaginations.
In former centuries the educated class ignored the ruck of vulgar literature. They ignored, and therefore did not, properly speaking, despise it. Simple ignorance and indifference does not inflate the character with pride. A man does not walk down the street giving a haughty twirl to his moustaches at the thought of his superiority to some variety of deep-sea fishes. The old scholars left the whole underworld of popular compositions in a similar darkness.
To-day, however, we have reversed this principle. We do despise vulgar compositions, and we do not ignore them. We are in some danger of becoming petty in our study of pettiness; there is a terrible Circean law in the background that if the soul stoops too ostentatiously to examine anything it never gets up again. There is no class of vulgar publications about which there is, to my mind, more utterly ridiculous exaggeration and misconception than the current boys' literature of the lowest stratum. This class of composition has presumably always existed, and must exist. It has no more claim to be good literature than the daily conversation of its readers to be fine oratory, or the lodging-houses and tenements they inhabit to be sublime architecture. But people must have conversation, they must have houses, and they must have stories. The simple need for some kind of ideal world in which fictitious persons play an unhampered part is infinitely deeper and older than the rules of good art, and much more important. Every one of us in childhood has constructed such an invisible dramatis persona;, but it never occurred to our nurses to correct the composition by careful comparison with Balzac. In the East the professional story-teller goes from village to village with a small carpet; and I wish sincerely that any one had the moral courage to spread that carpet and sit on it in Ludgate Circus. But it is not probable that all the tales of the carpetbearer are little gems of original artistic workmanship. Literature and fiction are two entirely different things. Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity. A work of art can hardly be too short, for its climax is its merit. A story can never be too long, for its conclusion is merely to be deplored, like the last halfpenny or the last pipelight. And so, while the increase of the artistic conscience tends in more ambitious works to brevity and impressionism, voluminous industry still marks the producer of the true romantic trash. There was no end to the ballads of Robin Hood; there is no end to the volumes about Dick Deadshot and the Avenging Nine. These two heroes are deliberately conceived as immortal.
But instead of basing all discussion of the problem upon the common-sense recognition of this fact—that the youth of the lower orders always has had and always must have formless and endless romantic reading of some kind, and then going on to make provision for its wholesomeness— we begin, generally speaking, by fantastic abuse of this reading as a whole and indignant surprise that the errand-boys under discussion do not read "The Egoist," and "The Master Builder." It is the custom, particularly among magistrates, to attribute half the crimes of the Metropolis to cheap novelettes. If some grimy urchin runs away with an apple, the magistrate shrewdly points out that the child's knowledge that apples appease hunger is traceable to some curious literary researches. The boys themselves, when penitent, frequently accuse the novelettes with great bitterness, which is only to be expected from young people possessed of no little native humour. If I had forged a will, and could obtain sympathy by tracing the incident to the influence of Mr. George Moore's novels, I should find the greatest entertainment in the diversion. At any rate, it is firmly fixed in the minds of most people that gutter-boys, unlike everybody else in the community, find their principal motives for conduct in printed books.
Now it is quite clear that this objection, the objection brought by magistrates, has nothing to do with literary merit. Bad story writing is not a crime. Mr. Hall Caine walks the streets openly, and cannot be put in prison for an anticlimax. The objection rests upon the theory that the tone of the mass of boys' novelettes is criminal and degraded, appealing to low cupidity and low cruelty. This is the magisterial theory, and this is rubbish.
So far as I have seen them, in connection with the dirtiest book-stalls in the poorest districts, the facts are simply these: The whole bewildering mass of vulgar juvenile literature is concerned with adventures, rambling, disconnected and endless. It does not express any passion of any sort, for there is no human character of any sort. It runs eternally in certain grooves of local and historical type: the medieval knight, the eighteenth-century duellist, and the modern cowboy, recur with the same stiff simplicity as the conventional human figures in an Oriental pattern. I can quite as easily imagine a human being kindling wild appetites by the contemplation of his Turkey carpet as by such dehumanized and naked narrative as this.
Among these stories there are a certain number which deal sympathetically with the adventures of robbers, outlaws and pirates, which present in a dignified and romantic light thieves and murderers like Dick Turpin and Claude Duval. That is to say, they do precisely the same thing as Scott's "Ivanhoe," Scott's "Rob Roy," Scott's "Lady of the Lake," Byron's "Corsair," Wordsworth's "Rob Roy's Grave," Stevenson's "Macaire," Mr. Max Pemberton's "Iron Pirate," and a thousand more works distributed systematically as prizes and Christmas presents. Nobody imagines that an admiration of Locksley in "Ivanhoe" will lead a boy to shoot Japanese arrows at the deer in Richmond Park; no one thinks that the incautious opening of Wordsworth at the poem on Rob Roy will set him up for life as a blackmailer. In the case of our own class, we recognize that this wild life is contemplated with pleasure by the young, not because it is like their own life, but because it is different from it. It might at least cross our minds that, for whatever other reason the errand-boy reads "The Red Revenge," it really is not because he is dripping with the gore of his own friends and relatives.
In this matter, as in all such matters, we lose our bearings entirely by speaking of the "lower classes" when we mean humanity minus ourselves. This trivial romantic literature is not especially plebeian: it is simply human. The philanthropist can never forget classes and callings. He says, with a modest swagger, "I have invited twenty-five factory hands to tea." If he said, "I have invited twenty-five chartered accountants to tea," every one would see the humour of so simple a classification. But this is what we have done with this lumberland of foolish writing: we have probed, as if it were some monstrous new disease, what is, in fact, nothing but the foolish and valiant heart of man. Ordinary men will always be sentimentalists: for a sentimentalist is simply a man who has feelings and does not trouble to invent a new way of expressing them. These common and current publications have nothing essentially evil about them. They express the sanguine and heroic truisms on which civilization is built; for it is clear that unless civilization is built on truisms, it is not built at all. Clearly, there could be no safety for a society in which the remark by the Chief Justice that murder was wrong was regarded as an original and dazzling epigram.
If the authors and publishers of "Dick Deadshot," and such remarkable works were suddenly to make a raid upon the educated class, were to take down the names of every man, however distinguished, who was caught at a University Extension Lecture, were to confiscate all our novels and warn us all to correct our lives, we should be seriously annoyed. Yet they have far more right to do so than we; for they, with all their idiotcy, are normal and we are abnormal. It is the modern literature of the educated, not of the uneducated, which is avowedly and aggressively criminal. Books recommending profligacy and pessimism, at which the high-souled errand-boy would shudder, lie upon all our drawing-room tables. If the dirtiest old owner of the dirtiest old book-stall in Whitechapel dared to display works really recommending polygamy or suicide, his stock would be seized by the police. These things are our luxuries. And with a hypocrisy so ludicrous as to be almost unparalleled in history, we rate the gutter-boys for their immorality at the very time that we are discussing (with equivocal German Professors) whether morality is valid at all. At the very instant that we curse the Penny Dreadful for encouraging thefts upon property, we canvass the proposition that all property is theft. At the very instant we accuse it (quite unjustly) of lubricity and indecency, we are cheerfully reading philosophies which glory in lubricity and indecency. At the very instant that we charge it with encouraging the young to destroy life, we are placidly discussing whether life is worth preserving.
But it is we who are the morbid exceptions; it is we who are the criminal class. This should be our great comfort. The vast mass of humanity, with their vast mass of idle books and idle words, have never doubted and never will doubt that courage is splendid, that fidelity is noble, that distressed ladies should be rescued, and vanquished enemies spared. There are a large number of cultivated persons who doubt these maxims of daily life, just as there are a large number of persons who believe they are the Prince of Wales; and I am told that both classes of people are entertaining conversationalists. But the average man or boy writes daily in these great gaudy diaries of his soul, which we call Penny Dreadfuls, a plainer and better gospel than any of those iridescent ethical paradoxes that the fashionable change as often as their bonnets. It may be a very limited aim in morality to shoot a "many-faced and fickle traitor," but at least it is a better aim than to be a many-faced and fickle traitor, which is a simple summary of a good many modern systems from Mr. d'Annunzio's downwards. So long as the coarse and thin texture of mere current popular romance is not touched by a paltry culture it will never be vitally immoral. It is always on the side of life. The poor—the slaves who really stoop under the burden of life—have often been mad, scatter-brained and cruel, but never hopeless. That is a class privilege, like cigars. Their drivelling literature will always be a "blood and thunder" literature, as simple as the thunder of heaven and the blood of men.
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CHICAGO, ILLINOIS. Read before the Chicago Academy of Medicine, September 29, 1921.
To speak of circumcision folklore may seem to imply an irreverent view of a practice which has acquired great theologic, ethnic and prophylactic significance. Although popularly identified with the Jewish ritual the procedure obtains among Moslem and even Christian sects, noticeably the Abyssinian. It is found among many primitive races like those at the culture level of New Guinea and Australia. The Moslem and Abyssinian sects seemingly derived the practice from the Jewish, but their procedure has much folklore about it of older date than the Hebrew. Even in the paleolithic age races existed which did not circumcise. That race of high art culture, the Magdalenian, as shown by the sculptures on the walls of caves where they dwelt, did not practice circumcision.
The Jewish race did not originate circumcision. They were reproached by the Egyptians, whose priests and kings were circumcised, as being uncircumcised. In Joshua 5:9, all Israel is described as being circumcised at Gilgal on the hill of the foreskins, “to remove the reproach of the Egyptians.” In Moses' time circumcision was not practiced and was learned from the Midianites. Jehovah seeks the life of Moses' son, but spares him when Zipporah (Moses' Midianite wife) takes a "sharp stone," cuts off her son's foreskin and touches Moses' genitals with it. The influence of the stone age shown in “sharp stone” appears in later circumcision rituals.
The Exodus account hardly agrees with the Medrash tradition that Moses was born circumcised. To be born circumcised was evidence of great sanctity according to the Medrash. There were two Hebrew schools who differed as to the treatment of cases where children were born circumcised. The Beth Shammai (school of Shammai) maintains that if a child be born circumcised it is still necessary to draw from him the drop of covenant blood. The Beth Hillel (school of Hillel) maintains that this is not necessary.
The act of Zipporah bears out the opinion of many anthropologists that circumcision was a substitute for an original phallic sacrifice. Zipporah's deed was clearly a vicarious sacrifice or atonement such as occurs in certain circumcision rituals where offerings of foreskins are made. Among these rituals the Fijian offers to the ancestral spirits the foreskin of lads circumcised at initiation, for the recovery of a sick relative. The bloody foreskins stuck into a cleft reed are offered to the chief ancestral spirit by the chief priest. The evolution of circumcision according to certain anthropologists is as follows: Among many races the system of cutting off the phallus of their enemies has prevailed. Among the Egyptians this mutilation was only done in the cases of those uncircumcised. The phallus cut off must be clean, i.e., fit to be offered. Just as the life of the firstborn was sometimes offered to secure the life of those born later, so the phallus was offered. Finally circumcision took the place of removal of the entire penis. These procedures were to secure fertility. Modification of phallus excision was gelding. In some cases as in Arabia an incision was made on the upper side of the penis extending the whole length of the organ. A later substitute was probably the “Miko” of the Australians which consists of a sub-incision of the penis so that the penile urethra is laid open from the meatus back to the junction with the scrotum. Finally removal of the prepuce was all that was required.
The rite retained somewhat of its sacrificial character even after it had been transferred to infancy. “In circumcision,” remarks Ernest Crawley, “there is to be traced the idea that by removing a part of the organism, dangerous and in danger as it is, these dangers are neutralized. This passes later into the notion that its impurity is removed and the sexual act is rendered less gross.” Circumcision among certain African peoples, according to A. B. Ellis, is a sacrifice of part of the organ which a god requires to secure the wellbeing of the rest of the body. In certain peoples as Ploss remarks, circumcision is regarded as a "cleansing” or purification. From this sacrificial idea circumcision arose among the Arabs long ere the time of Mohammed. It is not mentioned in the Koran. It is found among many African tribes where it had a sacrificial origin and cannot be traced to a Moslem origin. Among the Aztecs a similar sacrificial mutilation was practiced. The
rite is common on the Amazon among the Amerinds. In Abyssinia certain tribes make an exchange of children who come back as circumcised after a supposed death. This “cleansing” dominates critical periods like birth, early childhood, puberty, etc. These periods of stress are recognized more among primitive races than among civilized by formal ceremonies “religious” in intent. They are, therefore, sometimes connected with circumcision rites through which lads must pass before they attain the status of adults.”
Certain New Guinea races require every male of the tribe to be circumcised before he ranks as a man. The tribal initiation of which circumcision is the central feature is regarded as a process of being swallowed by a mythical monster whose voice is the humming of the bull-roarer. This belief is impressed on women, children and uninitiated persons. It is enacted in a dramatic form of initiation at which no woman or uniniated person may be present. A hut one hundred feet long is erected either in the village or in a lonely forest. This is modelled in the shape of the mythical monster. The end representing the head is high. The other end tapers away. A betel palm with its roots stands for the backbone. Its clustering fibres for the hair of the monster. The butt end of the building is adorned with goggle eyes and gaping mouth.
When, after a tearful parting from their mothers or women folk, who believe or pretend to believe in the monster that swallows up their dear ones, the awe-struck novices are brought face to face with this imposing structure, the monster emits a sullen growl (humming of bull roarers swung by men hidden in the monster's belly). They pass under a scaffolding where a man stands who takes a gulp of water as each novice passes beneath him. The man accepts for the monster a pig offered for the redemption of the youth; to make the monster disgorge his victim. A gurgling is heard and the water swallowed descends in a jet on the novice. This signifies he has been released from the monster's belly. He has now to undergo circumcision. The cut of the operator's knife is alleged to be a bite or scratch which the monster inflicted on the novice when spewing him out of his maw. When the operation is being done, a prodigious noise is made by bull roarers to represent the roar of the monster who is swallowing the novices. When a youth dies from circumcision, he is secretly buried. His mother is told that the monster has a pig stomach as well as a human and the youth slipped into the wrong stomach from which he could not be extricated.
When circumcised the lads must remain for some months in seclusion, shunning contact with women and even the sight of them. They live in the long hut that represents the monster's belly. Among certain tribes they beguile the tedium by weaving baskets and playing on sacred flutes. These are never used except on such occasions. They are male and female and supposed to be married. No woman can see these flutes; if she did she would die. When the period of seclusion is over the circumcised lads are brought back with great pomp to the village. They are received with sobs by the women as if the grave had given up its dead. At first the lads keep their eyes rigidly closed or even sealed with plaster. They seem not to understand commands given by the elders. Gradually they come to themselves, as if awaking from a stupor. The next day they bathe and wash off the chalk crust with which their bodies have been coated. The being who swallows and disgorges the novices at initiation is believed to be a powerful ancestral spirit. The bull roarer is his material representative. This is why that sacred implement is kept from the sight of women and uninitiated persons. In the Fijis a similar drama was enacted before the eyes of lads at initiation.
At certain festivals in the Island of Rook near New Guinea, disguised masked men go dancing through the village. They demand that all circumcised boys who have not been swallowed by the “evil spirit” be given up to them. The boys must then creep between the legs of the disguised men. Then the procession proceeds through the village. The “evil spirit,” it is announced, has swallowed up the boys and will not disgorge them unless an offering of provisions be made him. So provisions are offered and the boys released. In the Arunta tribe of Central Australia at the moment the lads are circumcised the bull roarer sounds in the darkness. It is believed to be the voice of a spirit who enters the body of a youth just circumcised and carries him into the bush, keeping him there until his wound is healed. While the youth is secluded in the wilds he constantly sounds the bull roarer.
Nearly all these ceremonies have an element of death and resurrection about them. Circumcision among certain tribes, like the Damaras, marks the great period of life. The previous years are not reckoned at all. Among other African races new names are taken after initiation and the previous life is alleged to have been forgotten. The taboo of women seeing initiates is very general. These precautions against women have another phase, as Crawley remarks, which is in its simpler form the introduction of the initiate to the opposite sex. In its complete form there is sexual intercourse. Now that the individual is prepared to meet the complementary sex, he must do so; for however strong sexual taboo may be, men and women must meet, in marriage at least! Thus the two sexes make “trial” of each other as if the preparation necessitated putting it to the test, and thereby each sex is practically “inoculated” against the other by being “inoculated” with each other, in view of the more permanent alliance of wedlock. Immediately after circumcision a Ceramese boy must have intercourse with a girl by way of curing the wound. This is continued until the blood ceases to flow. In certain tribes of Central Africa boys and girls must as soon as possible after initiation have intercourse, the belief being that if they do not they will die. Narinyerri boys after the preliminary rites of initiation had complete license with unmarried women even of their own clan and totem. Kaffir boys after being circumcised are allowed to cohabit with any unmarried woman they please. A similar custom is found on the Congo.
The initiation ceremonies of girls consist not only in hymen perforation but also in incisions of the clitoris. It is practiced in Arabia, Egypt, Abyssinia, West Africa and elsewhere. It is found pretty generally where male circumcision obtains. It is part of some church rituals in Abyssinia. Much the same customs and beliefs obtain in relation to female circumcision procedures including hymen perforation.
Circumcision arose from an attempt to prevent evil fortune by a sacrifice. It does not stand alone as a mutilation for this purpose. The mouth and lips, teeth, nose, eyes, ears and genital organs are subjected to processes whose object is to secure their safety by what is practically a permanent amulet or charm.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Works of Imagination in the Old Testament by C.A. Briggs 1897
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The Bible approaches all classes of people in the way in which they can best be reached. Accordingly, the Bible has been given to men in the varied forms of the world's literature. A great division of Hebrew literature is the poetical. This embraces a collection of lyric poetry,—the Psalter; a collection of sentences and poems of wisdom,—the book of Proverbs; a collection of dirges,—the book of Lamentations; and three elaborate pieces,—the book of Job, the Song of Songs, and Ecclesiastes. The three last named are not collections, but rather pieces of composite poetry of a more artistic kind than anything found in the three great collections. Job is a gnomic, didactic drama, presenting a combination of poetic skill that is unique in the world’s literature, only approached in modern times by Goethe's Faust, which indeed was modeled after it. The older writers thought that Job was prose and the story historical, but it is now conceded that the book is a masterpiece of poetry, and it is commonly recognized that the story of Job in whole, or in part, is a work of the imagination. It is a drama of human experience under divine discipline, human persecution, and Satanic temptation, which is a masterpiece of literature as well as a marvel of grace. The Song of Songs has been the most abused of all the writings of the Old Testament. Its divisions in the authorized version and the revised version are bad. The arrangements of chapters are wrong. The headings of the chapters are misleading. It was for centuries interpreted as allegorical and Messianic, and in later times as typical. No wonder that many discarded it from the canon, and regarded the reading of it as unprofitable. As the climax of the sins against the book, it was rendered, in many verses. in indelicate and immodest language. There is not an immodest or impure word or thought in the book from beginning to end. Modern scholarship finds in this book a drama of love, five acts of an operatta. each act having its refrain. In it are solos, duets, trios, responsive choruses, and a dance. The Song of Songs is the drama for women as the book of Job is for men. The Shulemite, a rustic maiden of northern Palestine, of wonderful beauty, affianced to a shepherd whom she dearly loves, has been enticed to the pavilion of Solomon, in northern Palestine. She is taken to Jerusalem. and every effort is put forth at the court of the great monarch by sensuous temptation, by enticing flattery, by brilliant promises, and even by love philters, to win her love for Solomon. But all this extraordinary temptation fails; she is faithful to her lover and conquers by the simple and irresistible energy of her own purity and virtue. She is permitted to return at last to her mountain home, leaning on the arm of her beloved. The drama closes with her song of the triumph of love and with the marriage feast. If love is holy and Christian—and who can doubt it?—no piece of poetry has a better claim to be in the canon of Holy Scripture than the Song of Songs. The book of Ecclesiastes is the most difficult book in the Old Testament. The traditional theory that it was written by Solomon in his old age is scarcely worthy of mention at the present time. The book has the latest form of the Hebrew language known in Holy Scripture, and if there is any such thing as a history of the Hebrew language, the book was one of the last in composition in the Old Testament. Ecclesiastes gives us the victory of the sage who triumphs over internal soul-conflicts and trials. There are two sides of the soul’s experience, the dark side of doubt, and the bright side of piety. These come in regular succession in the book until the victory is gained. The difficulty in interpreting the book is in distributing the material between these two sides. No one can use the book with profit who does not possess the key to its interpretation.
This rich development of the poetic imagination among the Hebrews raises the question whether there may not also be in the Bible prose works of the imagination. Works of the imagination play a very important part in Hebrew literature outside the Old Testament. The Haggadistic literature of the Hebrews, used chiefly for the instruction of the people in the synagogues and in the schools, was largely composed of such writings. The apocryphal literature has many such stories, which have been the favorite themes of art in all ages. These writings are all regarded as canonical in the Roman Catholic Church. There are no a priori reasons therefore why we should not find such prose works of the imagination in the Old Testament. We should not stumble at such literature even if the idea be new to us or repugnant to us. A careful study of the literature of the Old Testament shows that we have at least three prose works of the imagination in the Old Testament, all written in the times of the restoration. These are Jonah, Esther, and Ruth. The reasons for regarding the book of Jonah as essentially an inspired work of the imagination are these: It was not the aim of the writer to write history; the story is given only so far as it is important to set forth the prophetic lessons of the book. The prophet Jonah is mentioned in the history of the book of Kings, and a prediction of minor importance is mentioned as given by him. It seems very remarkable that the book of Jonah, on the one hand, should omit this ministry in the land of Israel, and on the other hand that the author of the book of Kings should give such comparatively unimportant ministry and yet pass over such important prophetic ministry as that given in the book of Jonah. The two miracles reported in Jonah are marvels rather than miracles. They are more like the wonders of the Arabian Nights than the miracles of Moses, of Elijah and Elisha, of Jesus and the apostles. We have such a faith in God’s grace and holiness and majesty that we find it difficult to believe that he could work such a grotesque and extravagant miracle as that described in the story of the great fish. The repentance of Nineveh, from the king on his throne to the humblest citizen, the extent of it, the sincerity of it, the depth of it, are still more marvelous. Nineveh was at that time the capital of the greatest empire of the world. The history of the times is quite well known, and the history makes such an event incredible. The prayer given in the book is not suited to it, if the story be historical, but it is entirely appropriate if it be regarded as ideal and symbolical. The prayer is a piece of poetry of two complete strophes concluding each with a refrain, and then half a strophe without a refrain. It is a mosaic from several more ancient psalms and prophecies. It is objected that Jesus in his use of Jonah gives his sanction to the historicity of the story. But this objection has little weight; for his method of instruction was in the use of stories of his own composition. We ought not to be surprised therefore that he should use such stories from the Old Testament likewise. He does not make a more realistic use of Jonah than he does of the story of Dives and Lazarus. Paul makes just as realistic a use of the story [from the Jewish Haggada] of Jannes and Jambres withstanding Moses; and compares them with the foes of Jesus in his times (2 Tim. iii., 8). Jonah represents only too well the Jew of Nehemiah's time. the Jew of the New Testament times, and also the Christian Church in its prevailing attitude to the heathen world. If the church had learned the lesson of Jonah, its theologians would not so generally have consigned the unbaptized heathen world to hell fire. The present century, brought face to face with the heathen world, is beginning to learn the lesson of Jonah.
The book of Ruth in our Bible is placed between Judges and Samuel, among the historical books. That was the arrangement in the Hellenistic canon, which mingled the apocryphal books with the books of the Palestinian canon. But in the Rabbinical canon, which is based on an earlier arrangement, Ruth is placed in the third division, among the miscellaneous and later writings, chiefly poetical. The language of the book is tinged with Aramaic, making it probable that it was not written until after the exile. The scene is put in the times of the Judges, but there is nothing to remind us of that time except certain antique customs which the author thinks it necessary to explain to his readers. The book is an ideal picture of primitive simplicity and agricultural life in Bethlehem, separated from all that was gross and rude and rough in the real life of those times. This story of Ruth and Boaz, the ancestors of David, is all the more striking that it comes into conflict with a law of Deuteronomy and its enforcement by Nehemiah. The book of Ruth sees that the grace of God to Moabites overrides legal precepts, and their zealous enforcement by painstaking magistrates. It was written probably soon after the return from exile under Joshua and Zerubbabel, to encourage Israelites to take advantage of the imperial decree and return to the Holy Land; and with the special purpose of encouraging those who had married foreign wives, and also the foreign widows of Israelites, to return with their children and seek refuge under the wings of the Lord in rebuilt Jerusalem. It is an Old Testament parallel to the Syro-Phoenician woman of the New Testament. Although we regard the book of Ruth as a work of the imagination, we do not deny that Ruth and Boaz were historical characters. The historic persons Ruth and Boaz and the events of their courtship and marriage were embellished by the imagination in order to set forth the great lessons of prophecy. The book of Esther is one of the miscellaneous writings of the Rabbinical canon. Esther is not used in the New Testament, and has been regarded in all the centuries as the most doubtful of the biblical books. The language is one of the latest specimens of biblical Hebrew. The style is dramatic, and rapid in its development of incident. Scene after scene springs into place until the climax of difficulty is reached and the knot is tied so that it seems impossible to escape. Then it is untied with wondrous dexterity. All this is the art of the story-teller and not the method of the historian. The things which interest the historian are not in the book. The book is connected with the Purim festival, and is supposed to give the historical account of its origin. This is denied by many modern scholars. It is held that Esther is a piece of historical fiction designed to set forth the importance of the Purim festival, as a national feast, and to teach the great lesson of patriotism. The feast of Purim, in all probability, had another origin than that reported in the story of Esther. But if patriotism is a virtue, and belongs to good morals in the Jewish and Christian systems, then the book has its place in the Bible, as teaching this virtue, even if everything else be absent.
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It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late,
With long arrears to make good,
When the Saxon began to hate.
They were not easily moved,
They were icy -- willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the Saxon began to hate.
Their voices were even and low.
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show
When the Saxon began to hate.
It was not preached to the crowd.
It was not taught by the state.
No man spoke it aloud
When the Saxon began to hate.
It was not suddenly bred.
It will not swiftly abate.
Through the chilled years ahead,
When Time shall count from the date
That the Saxon began to hate.
Saturday, July 29, 2017
Stephen Crane and the Red Badge of Courage, article in the Saturday Review 1896
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The want finds the book as the opportunity finds the man: Mr. Stephen Crane’s Red Badge of Courage really supplies the want more completely, and, therefore, more satisfactorily, than any other book with which we are acquainted. Tolstoi, in his War and Peace, and his sketches of Sebastopol, has given, with extraordinary depth of insight and extraordinary artistic skill, the effect of battle on the ordinary man, whether cultured officer or simple and rough soldier; but he takes no one man through the long series of experiences and impressions which Mr. Crane describes in its effects on young Henry Fleming, a raw recruit who first saw service in the last American Civil War. While the impressions of fighting, and especially of wounds and death, on an individual soldier, have been painted with marvelously vivid touches by Tolstoi, the impressions of battle on a body of men, a regiment, have been also realized and represented with characteristic vigor by Mr. Rudyard Kipling in such admirable work as The Drums of the Fore and Aft. With less imagination, but with an accumulated mass of studied knowledge altogether too labored, M. Zola in La Debacle has done some excellent literary work, but work not so convincing as Kipling’s, and work certainly far inferior to Mr. Stephen Crane’s, whose picture of the effect of actual fighting on a raw regiment is simply unapproached in intimate knowledge and sustained imaginative strength. This we say without forgetting Merimee's celebrated account of the taking of the redoubt. The writing of the French stylist is, no doubt, much superior in its uniform excellence; but Mr. Crane, in the supreme moments of the fight, is possessed by the fiery breath of battle, as a Pythian priestess by the breath of the god, and finds an inspired utterance that will reach the universal heart of man. Courage in facing wounds and death is the special characteristic of man among the animals, of man who sees into the future, and has therefore much to deter him that affects him alone. Indeed, man, looking at the past, might almost be described as the fighting animal; and Mr. Crane’s extraordinary book will appeal strongly to the insatiable desire, latent or developed, to know the psychology of war—how the sights and sounds, the terrible details of the drama of battle, affect the senses and the soul of man. Whether Mr. Crane has had personal experience of the scenes he depicts we cannot say from external evidence; but the extremely vivid touches of detail convince us that he has. Certainly, if his book were altogether a work of the imagination, unbased on personal experience, his realism would be nothing short of a miracle. Unquestionably his knowledge, as we believe acquired in war, has been assimilated and has become a part of himself. At the heated crises of the battle he has the war fever—the Berserk fury in his veins; he lives in the scenes he depicts, he drinks to the dregs the bitter cup of defeat and the bitter cup of fear and shame with his characters no less completely than he thrills with their frantic rage, when repulsed by the enemy, and their frantic joy when they charge home.
The Red Badge of Courage—a name which means, we may perhaps explain, a wound received in open fight with the enemy—is the narrative of two processes: the process by which a raw youth develops into a tried and trustworthy soldier, and the process by which a regiment that has never been under fire develops into a finished and formidable fighting machine. Henry Fleming, the youth who is the protagonist of this thrillingly realistic drama of war, has for deuteragonist Wilson, the loud young boaster. Wilson, however, comes only occasionally into the series of pictures of fighting, and of the impressions that fighting produces on the hypersensitive nerves of the chief character. Fleming, a neurotic lad, Constitutionally weak and intensely egotistic, fanciful and easily excited, enlists in the Northern Army, and finds himself a raw recruit in a new regiment, derisively greeted by veteran regiments as "fresh fish." Nights of morbid introspection afflict the youth with the intolerable question, Will he funk when the fighting comes? Thus he continues to question and torture himself till his feelings are raised to the nth power of sensitiveness. At last, after many false alarms and fruitless preparations, the real battle approaches, and whatever confidence in himself remained oozes away from the lonely lad. “He lay down in the grass. The blades pressed tenderly against his cheek. The liquid stillness of the night enveloping him made him feel vast pity for himself. . . . He wished without reserve that he was at home again.” He talked with his comrades, but found no sign of similar weakness. He felt himself inferior to them: an outcast. Then, in the gray dawn, after such a night of fear, they start hastily for the front. "He felt carried along by a mob. The sun spread disclosing rays, and one by one regiments burst into view like armed men just born from the earth. The youth perceived that the time had come. He was about to be measured. For a moment he felt in the face of his great trial like a babe, and the flesh over his heart seemed very thin." He looked round him, but there was no escape from the regiment. "He was in a moving box." The experiences of the battle are led up to with masterly skill. First he is fascinated by the skirmishers, whom he sees running hither and thither, “firing at the landscape.”
The new regiment took its ground in a fringe of wood. Shells came screaming over. "Bullets began to whistle among the branches and hiss at the trees. Twigs and leaves came sailing down. It was as if a thousand axes, wee and invisible, were being wielded." Then the tide of battle moved toward them, and out of the gray smoke came the yells of the combatants, and then a mob of beaten men rushed past, careless of the grim jokes hurled at them. "The battle reflection that shone for an instant on their faces on the mad current made the youth feel" that he would have gladly escaped if he could. “The sight of this stampede exercised a flood-like force that seemed able to drag sticks and stones and men from the ground.” At last, “Here they come! Here they come! Gun-locks clicked. Across the smoke-infested fields came a brown swarm of running men who were giving shrill yells. A flag tilted forward sped near to the front.” .
The man at the youth's elbow was mumbling, as if to himself: “Oh! we’re in for it now; oh! we’re in for it now.” The youth fired a wild first shot, and immediately began to work at his weapon automatically. He lost concern for himself, and felt that something of which he was a part was in a crisis. “He felt the subtle battle-brotherhood more potent even than the cause for which they were fighting.” "Following this came a red rage. He had a mad feeling against his rifle, which could only be used against one life at a time." The description goes on, full of vivid realistic touches, of which we can only give a fragment or two. "The steel ramrods clanked and clanged with incessant din, as the men pounded them furiously into the hot rifle barrels." The “men dropped here and there like bundles.” One man “grunted suddenly as if he had been struck by a club in the stomach. He sat down and gazed ruefully. In his eyes there was mute indefinite reproach.” The first attack was repulsed. The youth had stood his ground and was in an ecstasy of self-satisfaction. The supreme trial, he thought, was over. Suddenly from the ranks rose the astonished cry, "Here they come again!" and a fresh attack developed. The men groaned and began to grumble. On came the rebel attack. “Reeling with exhaustion, the youth began to overestimate the strength of the assailants. They must be machines of steel.” “He seemed to shut his eyes and wait to be gobbled.” Then “a man near him ran with howls—a lad whose face had borne an expression of exalted courage was in an instant smitten abject. He, too, threw down his gun and fled. There was no shame in his face. He ran like a rabbit.” The youth saw their flight —-yelled—swung about—and sped to the rear in great leaps. "He ran like a blind man. Two or three times he fell down. Once he knocked his shoulder so heavily against a tree that he went headlong."
The fugitive, after a time, comes upon a procession of wounded men, limping and staggering to the rear. The wounded men fraternize with him, supposing him to be wounded also. The growth of shame that begins with a brotherly question, “ Where yeh hit, ol' boy?” is as good as any part of this long psychological study. “At times be regarded the wounded soldiers in an envious way. He wished he too had a wound, a red badge of courage.” There was a spectral soldier at his side, whose eyes were fixed in a stare into the unknown; he suddenly recognized his old comrade, Jan Conklin, the tall soldier. The gradual dying on his legs of the tall soldier is described with extraordinary vividness. The soldier, with the instinct of the animal wounded unto death, wishes to creep off and be alone. His comrades, anxious to help him, insist on following him. He suddenly slips away and leaves them. "Leave me be, can’t ye? Leave me be for a moment," is his entreaty, and they follow at a distance. They watch his death, as wonderfully described as a death in Tolstoi. "Well, he was reg’lar jim-dandy fer nerve, wasn’t he?" says the tattered soldier in a little awe-struck voice. “I never seen a man do like that before.” Presently, the incoherent talk of the wounded man is made to reflect with a Sophoclean irony on the runaway youth. The night bivouac in the forest after the battle is finely described. The weary men lying round the fires, under the forest roof; the break in the trees, through which a space of starry sky is seen. At dawn the motionless mass of bodies, thick spread on the ground, look in the gray light as if the place were a charnel-house.
The fighting of the new regiment, a forlorn hope, proceeds with a breathless speed of narrative that emulates the actual rush of the battle-worn and desperate men, among whom there is no flinching or fear now, any more than there is in the sensitive youth, who, having had his battle baptism, is soon to bear the colors, wrenched from the iron grip of the dead color-sergeant. “As the regiment swung from its position out into a cleared space, the woods and thickets before it awakened. Yellow flames leaped towards it from many directions. . . . The song of the bullets was in the air, and shells snarled in the tree-tops. One tumbled directly in the middle of a hurrying group and exploded in crimson fury. There was an instant's spectacle of a man, almost over it, throwing up his hands to shield his eyes. Other men, punctured by bullets, fell in grotesque agonies." The regiment stopped for breath, and as it saw the gaps the bullets were making in the ranks, faltered and hesitated. The lieutenant worked them forward painfully with volleys of oaths. They halted behind some trees. Then the lieutenant, with the two young soldiers, made a last effort. They led the regiment, bawling "Come on! come on!" “The flag, obedient to these appeals, bended its glittering form and swept toward them. The men wavered in indecision for a moment, and then, with a long wailful cry, the dilapidated regiment surged forward and began its new journey. Over the field went the scurrying mass. It was a handful of men splattered into the faces of the enemy. Towards it instantly sprang the yellow tongues. A vast quantity of blue smoke hung before them. A mighty banging made ears valueless. The youth ran like a madman to reach the woods before a bullet could discover him. He ducked his head low like a foot-ball player. In his haste his eyes almost closed, and the scene was a wild blur. Pulsating saliva stood at the corners of his mouth." At last the men began to trickle back. In vain the youth carrying the colors aided the lieutenant to rally them. The battered and bruised regiment slowly makes its way back, only to be condemned by the general who had ordered the charge.
The book is crowded with vivid passages and striking descriptions, often expressed in picturesque diction.
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Friday, July 28, 2017
THE LEGEND of the VAMPIRE by ALFRED FELLOWS 1908
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THOSE who investigate the occult may do so for many reasons, and may come to diverse conclusions, but on one point they are likely to be in entire agreement. On the one hand, beneficent spirits may appear, messages of peace be given, and the sorrowful be comforted; but on the other manifestations of evil may take place, and those who wish to control or check these without injury to themselves may require stout hearts, good nerves, strong wills, and, probably, consciences which will not betray them in the face of the encounter. In fact, taking an average of ghost stories and legends of apparitions, it is hardly too much to say that evil seems to preponderate. Now and then a messenger may come with tidings of value to the living; but more often the reverse is the case, and perhaps it might be possible to make a scale from messages or apparitions which are of real service, through others which are uncertain, ambiguous, or merely futile (which might form the large majority of those obtained at amateur séances, where there are any results at all) to those which are actually harmful. These might range from deliberately misleading communications, through mischief of shattered crockery and overturned furniture of the poltergeist order, and such manifestations of evil spirits as occurred in the case of Mr. Stainton Moses (as recorded in the proceedings of the Psychical Research Society) to grave injury to the living either through terror, or even physical violence. For the whole literature of the subject abounds with such instances, and there are many stories of evil entities which, either resenting the presence of man, or desirous for their own purposes to injure or kill him, have added to the list of human victims. But at the bottom of the scale of horror, below the tales of black magic, witchcraft, even of the great Spirit of Evil itself, may be placed the legend of the vampire.
Broadly speaking, it is almost universal. The ghouls of Asia, vampires of Servia, vroncolaces of Greece, oupires, revenans, in different names, and with local variations of details, as described in old books and legends, and to this day believed by the peasantry of many lands (especially in the east of Europe) bear a broad general resemblance. The legend may thus be typified: after the death of some known bad character, usually by suicide or violence, an apparition of the dead is seen, and as it draws near the watcher, the latter is paralysed much in the same way that a bird is paralysed at the approach of a snake. The vampire then draws the blood from the victim, as a rule by biting or fastening on the neck, the victim sometimes being killed outright by its loss, in other cases grievoust injured. After this has occurred once or more, and when those round about realize what is happening, the body of the criminal or suicide is disinterred, and is found to be like that of a living person—the skin smooth, the cheeks ruddy, without decay, and the limbs supple and pliable—and in one gruesome account the coffin was stated to be an inch deep in blood. On finding these signs, either the head is cut off, or a stake is driven through the heart, or the body is placed upon faggots and burnt outright —sometimes, by various accounts, shrilly screaming as it is mutilated or consumed by fire. But when this has been done the vampire is laid, and the living have rest from its visits.
There are vampire legends in England; there are vampire legends in Ireland; there are many legends in Germany, Russia, Bohemia, Moravia, Greece, and Servia, and perhaps most of all in Hungary. Indeed, though the word appears to be of Servian origin, all researches seem to lead back to the Carpathians, and the most circumstantial stories, with perhaps one exception, relate to the Hungarian instances in the early part of the eighteenth century.
In this hideous legend of the vampire there are two remarkable features. Its ubiquity—for a belief found amongst the common people in India and Ireland can hardly have had the same origin, unless it is primeval—and the agreement of the main incidents. The details of a story of Irish witchcraft, for example, might not be recognized by a Russian or Hungarian peasant, but he would at once understand those of an Irish vampire legend.
In the panic which, if there is any truth at all in the Hungarian legends, seems to have pervaded several villages at about the same time (and no one who disbelieves in vampires need disbelieve in a panic arising from faith in them), another characteristic was firmly regarded as true—that the victims were likely themselves to become vampires, and that from a single example numbers were thus likely to multiply and to afflict whole communities. For instance, one Arnald Paul, of the village of Madreiga in Transylvania, died in 1727, after having been bitten by a Turkish vampire. He in turn bit and killed the son of one Heyducq Millo, and the last victim, after having been buried for nine weeks, attacked a girl called Stanoska, who was almost strangled, and died three days afterwards. In another case a man who had been dead over thirty years killed his brother, his son, and a servant, each dying instantly; and on a general disinterment of those recently dead in one village, seventeen out of forty were discovered to have the signs of vampirism.
Again, in another case, after nine people had died, the Emperor of Austria sent an officer, who, together with a local curé, deposes to the facts. The result of inquiry was the exhumation and cremation of one Peter Plogojovitz, and after this the village was left in peace.
These circumstantial stories are all related by the learned Abbé Calrnet, who tells them with comments and observations and quaint theories almost worthy of Herodotus. One may be quoted. After remarking on some difficulties arising from identifying the vampire when its ravages have been discovered, he relates a method he had heard for this purpose. A boy of great purity and innocence is placed on a young horse, hitherto unridden, and led about the cemetery. The horse will proceed freely until he comes to the grave of the vampire, which he will refuse to cross. This having thus been identified, it can be opened and the body burnt.
Madame Blavatsky, in Isis Unveiled, tells an even profuser tale of the vampire of a governor of a Russian province, which, on the stroke of midnight, crossed a bridge over a river in Russia in a coach and four, the sentries being numbed or paralysed, and fastened itself on the widow, whom it was slowly killing until the corpse was exhumed and burnt, when the widow recovered.
Those who have been to Waterford in Ireland will recollect the little graveyard under the ruined church near Strongbow's tower. Legend has it that underneath there lies a beautiful female vampire, still ready to kill those she can lure thither by her beauty.
A vampire story is also told about an old Cumberland farmhouse, the victim being a girl, whose screams were heard as she was bitten, and who thus escaped with her life. In this case the monster was tracked to a vault in the churchyard, forty or fifty coffins being found open, and their contents mutilated and scattered. But one coffin was untouched, and on the lid being opened, the apparition was recognized, and the body was burnt.
Even for those who are disposed to be credulous in the matter of ghost-stories, the material here is certainly tough. The Abbé Calmet relates that one sign of a vampire was the muddy feet, and found himself terribly puzzled to know how the corpse could leave its grave. No doubt, if all vampires came from vaults like “Dracula" or that in Cumberland, it might be supposed that they knew of some outlet; but most are related to have been placed in coffins buried in the earth in the usual way. Now, a ghost which can pierce the skin and transfuse blood from the body of a victim to its own, must be at least partially materialized; and since by no known process can either a solid body or a fluid pass without alteration through yards of earth and the walls of a coffin, the evil spirit must have the power to materialize above ground and the power to de-materialize and re-materialize its ghastly provender above and below ground respectively. Also, it must be assumed from the beginning that it has power to return to its dead body; that the stolen blood can give it the vitality it desires; and that it deliberately elects to lead this horrible existence, even though it involves the murder of the living.
Turning to those who have entertained such beliefs, it may be remarked that they were held no more incompatible with Christianity than belief in witchcraft (for St. Dunstan remains a saint, though he states that he tweaked the devil's nose; and it is just possible that, in the province of the powers of darkness, St. Dunstan’s testimony may be worth as much as the ignorance of Professors Tyndall and Huxley).
Thus devout Christians have believed in this possibility; and, of course, in modern days the Theosophists accept it without question, identifying the vampire as one who by a wicked life has so become entangled in his lower nature that his immortal soul is lost, and he seeks to postpone his terrible fate of the “second death” in this way.
For those who are not prepared to accept the teachings of Madame Blavatsky and Mr. Leadbeater, very great difficulties remain. Thus, though we no longer bury suicides with a stake through them, not a shred of evidence of vampirism appears to exist to-day; and in addition to suicides, many thousands of people a year die suddenly, by violence or otherwise, and at least some of these must be sunk enough in evil to qualify. Yet no one becomes mysteriously anaemic during the night, with curious little blue punctures near the veins of the neck (in passing, it might have been thought that arterial rather than venous blood would have conferred most vitality)?
Two answers have been given; the first, that the combination of circumstances which creates a vampire have always been rare, and must become rarer, and, secondly, that some occult knowledge of materialization and de-materialization is necessary for the evil spirit, and if this is not acquired during life, it is not likely to be learnt after death. Thus in the days when men tampered with black magic, the possibility existed; but now, in the west of Europe, it has virtually disappeared.
These maybe received for what they are worth; but perhaps the most profitable line the speculation can take will be towards our own extreme ignorance of the great problems of life and death. For example, let a doctor be asked if, when he is watching on a death-bed, he can state the exact moment of death. He may answer that he can; but, probably, the older and more experienced he is, the less confident will be the reply. Again, let the resuscitatation of the apparently drowned be considered: a body which has no breath in it, and all the signs of death, is brought from the water; but, perhaps hours afterwards, by the steady patience of those practising the artificial respiration (and, it may be, the strength of their wills also—we know very little), the life returns, very painfully, and the rescue is complete.
For another research, some of the literature of the “Association for the Prevention of Premature Burial“ might be found suggestive. Tales of catalepsy and stirrings in cofiins being lowered into the ground; tales, even more gruesome, of bodies which have been buried, and have apparently moved in their coffins—stories which, when they come home, seem almost to touch the limits of horror.
But these, it might be argued, record mistakes only, of the burial or attempted burial of those really living. This, however, is mere juggling with words. The point is that the body may be apparently dead, even to a skilled observer (there are many walking about with their own death certificates, signed by a doctor), and yet the soul may return; and it has been said that the only absolute criterion of death is the decomposition of the larger organs—which, of course, would plainly render the body uninhabitable. [A case—authentic or otherwise was recorded in the papers recently of a lady in Paris who became a vampire as the result of being buried alive.]
In the restoration of the apparently drowned the compelling force is known; but is any one wise enough to know with certainty that other and vastly different forces cannot act to the same end? And in particular, artificial breathing is an impulse from this side—but what do our orthodox teachers know, of the forces on the other? Is it so past belief, for example, that the discarnate spirit of a suicide, appalled at the frightful conditions he has created for himself, should seek refuge from them, desperately, by an ineffectual attempt to retrieve his step?
Those who have studied the occult will have less difficulty than others in regarding the body as the clothes or shell, and the soul as the inhabitant—the "dweller in the innermost." Every case of possession may thus be regarded as the ejectment of the rightful owner by an intruder. But whereas for spirits anxious for life in the body it might be next to impossible to seize one occupied by an ordinary and healthy man, an empty tenement would clearly be very different. And if it was only just vacated, its former owner would most easily re-enter it.
But such a tenement would have no life in it; if then it could be vivified by the “blood which is the life” it might just be habitable. There is no magic in transfusion of blood; cases of wounds and accidents where the body has almost been drained of blood and has been restored by transfusion are numerous.
Now, if the possibility of "black magic" is postulated; if an utterly unscrupulous man could learn the secrets of materialization and dematerialization in his lifetime; if he suffered a violent death without mutilation; and if, rather than experience the horrors he had brought upon himself, he preferred a life-in-death in his dead body—all the elements for the vampire legend are completed. The evil spirit could enter its tenement, vacate it by night and roam about, materializing sufficiently for its terrible purpose (the known phenomenon of "repercussion" would, of course, account for the muddy feet of the body), dematerialize itself and its burden to go through the ground, and dwell in the grave during the daytime. Of course, if the body was burnt or the head severed this would be impossible, and thus the explanation suggested above would be consistent with the one underlying feature of every vampire legend—that the living, to rid themselves of the monster attacking them above ground, must disinter and destroy the body buried below.
But with every probability, it is of no importance at all, whether the inhabitants of England or America believe in vampires or not. If their existence was ever possible a combination was required of extraordinary baseness with certain occult powers, and though there might still be men base enough, and others with sufficient knowledge, yet in our own days strong-willed men of utter depravity do not study magic, and those who do so sincerely, though they may have plenty of faults, must have such a genuine desire for knowledge for its own sake that it is to be hoped they would not be sufficiently evil in nature to choose such a course.
But the legend suggests one quality of evil spirits which modern investigators might readily corroborate—their desire for vitality. For this, as they have none or next to none themselves, they must rob the living. And if the dreadful method of the vampire is the most effective, it is not the only way; and the consequences to those who have attended séances without proper precautions, in the loss of vitality, of health, of sanity, sometimes even of life itself are well known. For the lesson of caution in dealing with the supernormal cannot be too often repeated; and if the legend of the vampire helps to point it, it need not be wasted.
And again, in studying the transfer of vitality from one living being to another it is not sufficient to confine the attention to the actual vampire animals. These exist, and are numerous; for in addition to the one noxious species of bat, there are active water-beetles and larvae, and the weasel tribe may be mentioned. But vitality may be transferred consciously or unconsciously, from one human being to another, and probably the process is always going on to a greater or less degree. Old people are said to absorb it from the young, and some people seem to have the special faculty of gathering it in, just as others radiate it. No doubt a healthy person with an abundance would gladly part with some to an invalid wife or child or parent, and it is probable that a strong presence has done good in many a sick chamber; but a voluntary offering is different from robbery by a person with a special faculty for this sort of theft, and if any one continually finds himself or herself languid or enervated after being in a particular presence it may be better to avoid that individual’s society.
If there are good arguments against giving up vital energy to a living being who absorbs it, there are tenfold better against yielding it to a discarnate spirit, and thus those who find themselves utterly wearied and used up after séances should either discontinue their researches or change their circle, and that without delay.
Finally, so far as the dead can injure the living, and wish to do so, modern evidence corroborates the ancient and widely held beliefs of other centuries, both from Christian and non-Christian sources—that those who die violent deaths, and especially suicides, are far more likely to haunt particular places or persons than others, and, if any of the stories of sleepers hurled from their beds and violently beaten are true, are occasionally, capable of real mischief. In these circumstances sometimes a religious ceremony is used (within the last twenty years, to the writer's knowledge, a ghost has been laid by an eminent dignitary of the Church of England) or again the troubled spirit has been able to communicate a particular wish and has disappeared after it has been obeyed.
And thus it is just possible—for those who keep open minds, and who do not believe that the agnostic knows everything (though he seems ready to teach everybody)—to credit priest and peasant in the Middle Ages with a greater knowledge of their own affairs and their own afflictions, and the appropriate remedies, than we ourselves possess in the twentieth century. And in such wise the legend of the vampire may be left to those who care to study it, with the heritage of knowledge that they possess, and the open mind, of which the gift nowadays is perhaps less evident.
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What do you understand by Individualism?
It is the opposite of Socialism.
Why do you give this negative definition?
Because Individualism is the natural system, and would never have got a distinctive name, or have had to search for its principles, and the reasons on which they are founded, but for the rise of the artificial system of Socialism.
Am I to understand, then, that Individualism is the earlier of the two systems?
No. Modern Socialism is an attempt to give a scientific justification for a barbarous stage through which men passed in their upward struggle to their present happier state.
Why do you call Socialism artificial?
Because man always, if left free, passes from Socialism to Individualism, at least in the more advanced races. His happiness and prosperity are in proportion to the completeness of the change. Socialism is an attempt to set back the clock, and forcibly to re-introduce barbarism.
What, then, are these two opposite systems?
They are systems for the arrangement of society wholly in the field of economics.
Why do you lay stress on the word "economics"?
Because there is a very common error among inaccurate thinkers, seen even in so eminent a writer as Ruskin, that these systems have something to do with ethics. Mr. Bax, in his "Catechism of Socialism," devotes a chapter to the Ethics of Socialism. But Socialism has no ethics. A Socialist may have—he may be an Intuitionist or a Utilitarian, just as he might be an Allopathist or a Homeopathist, but he might as well talk of the ethics of astronomy or chemistry as of the ethics of socialism.
What, then, is the distinction between ethics on the one hand and economics, chemistry, physics, etc., on the other?
Ethics gives orders, the other sciences state facts.
How has the confusion arisen in the case of ethics and economics?
Probably in this way. They both deal with human motives and actions.
What is the difference in their treatment?
Ethics tells me what ought to be my motives and my actions. Economics tells me what are other men's motives, and what will be their actions.
Can you give an example of this confusion from a well-known writer?
Ruskin quotes a saying of Adam Smith, that the real check on a tradesman is his customer. He characterises this as the most bestial utterance he ever heard. It is plain, then, that when Adam Smith made the economic statement, that a tradesman was induced to sell good wares for fear of losing customers, Ruskin took him to make the ethical statement, that his sole reason for being honest ought to be the fear of losing customers. And when Ruskin goes on to say that in his ideal state every baker should belong to a guild, which should sternly punish him if he sold short weight, he furnishes a delightful instance of inconsistency.
Then ethics cannot move till these other sciences have had their say?
Exactly. When chemistry has told me that nitric acid thrown in a person's face will cause great agony; when physics has told me that throwing a person out of a window will tend to cause broken bones or death; when economics has told me that promising to keep a person in old age will make him idle and improvident, then, and not till then, can ethics step in and forbid me to commit those actions.
Can you give a definition of Socialism?
This is the definition given by Mr. Belfort Bax in his "Catechism of Socialism": "The system of society the material basis of which is social production for social use."
Have you any objection to make to this definition?
The coat I wear and the beefsteak I eat are used by me individually, not socially.
Supposing the definition were altered to "Social production for individual use," would you still object?
Yes. Men have produced socially for individual use ever since civilisation began. In fact, that is civilisation. If twenty men agree to form a society, community, or tribe, Brown agrees to make all the shoes for the community, Jones all the coats, and so on. That, if a voluntary arrangement, is individualistic.
Where, then, does the difference between Socialism and Individualism come in?
Chiefly in the distribution. Though I believe Socialism would control the number of shoes Brown produces, instead of leaving it to Brown to estimate the demand.
Then are there two questions involved?
There are—production and distribution. First, how many shoes and coats Brown and Jones shall make; and, secondly, how many shoes Brown the shoemaker shall give Jones the tailor for a coat.
How is this settled under the system of Individualism?
By leaving Brown and Jones to gauge the demand for their respective goods, under the stimulus of self-interest, their living depending on a right estimate; and by assuming that every man is the best judge of what he wants and its value to him, and leaving the matter to be settled by bargaining.
What are the advantages of this system?
The question is settled automatically and without expense. Both parties gain, and both are satisfied.
Are there any drawbacks?
No human institution is perfect. Brown or Jones may overestimate or underestimate the demand, so that there will be some loss to one of the parties.
How is it settled under the system of Socialism?
It could only be settled by appointing some central authority to tell Brown, first, how many shoes he is to make, and, secondly, how many he is to give Jones for a coat.
What are the drawbacks to this plan?
It shifts the duty of estimating the needs of the community from a responsible person, who would suffer if he judged wrongly, to an irresponsible person, who would not suffer. Also this person would have to be paid, which burden would fall on all the other members. Also, as he could not possibly gauge the value of anything, he would certainly not satisfy one of the exchangers, and probably would satisfy neither. Moreover, as production would be limited to supposed needs, the power of choice would be much curtailed for the consumer.
Would the system have any advantages?
It is claimed for it that it would save the expenses of advertising, commercial travellers, and such like. Also that things would be produced which are not now, because they afford no profit—that is, are so little desired that people will not give enough for them to afford a profit.
You used the word "value." What meaning do you attach to that word?
The power of satisfying man's desires.
Is this a quality inherent in things and constant?
Certainly not. It varies with each individual man, with the same man from year to year and from hour to hour. A man of sixty does not value a top as he did when he was six, nor does a man who has just dined value a loaf of bread as much as one does who has fasted twelve hours.
How is value measured?
By the pain or annoyance that would be caused by the absence of the last increment of the thing in question.
Give an example.
A man at dinner values a morsel of food by the annoyance he would feel if he had not got it, not by his wish for the next morsel, for if he has had enough he attaches no value to the next morsel.
What is this called?
The marginal value of a thing—that is a man's estimate of its marginal utility.
But is not this difficult to express definitely?
It is. In practice we estimate the value of a thing by the amount of something else which a man has and will give up rather than forego the thing in question.
Would not this amount vary with the nature of the something else he gives up?
It would. Men usually fix on some one thing in which to estimate the value of all others. This one thing is called a medium of exchange, and value as expressed in it is called price.
Do not some writers, like Ruskin, say that value is inherent in a thing?
They do. Ruskin says that a picture by Botticelli has inherent value, while a cask of whisky has not only no value, but has, so to speak, a minus value.
What is your comment on this?
On analysing this statement I find that value is still a matter of opinion, only it is Ruskin's opinion of what satisfies his desires, instead of the opinion of those concerned of what satisfies their desires.
Then it is not an economic utterance?
No. It confuses economics, which investigates what men do like, with Ruskin's sociology which lays down what he thinks they ought to like.
Had Ruskin an amusing proof of this in his own experience?
He had. He wrote a number of works, eloquently laying down what he thought right conduct, which works he thought valuable. But twice the editor of a magazine had to refuse his articles, for fear of their ruining the magazine.
Then what would have been Ruskin's position under the system of State regulation which he advocated?
He would have been utterly refused a hearing.
Is, then, the value of anything never constant?
If the demand for anything is very great, and it is either very durable or can be produced in great quantities, its value tends to be constant.
Can you give examples?
Gold is an instance of the first, and bread of the second. Bread is perishable; but the ratio between the number of loaves on sale and the number of men who want to buy remains without change over considerable periods.
Then there seems to be a connection between the number and frequency of exchanges of a thing and the steadiness of its value?
A direct connection as Mr. Cree has shown. A loaf of bread, in which thousands of exchanges take place every day, remains very constant in value. A picture by an old master changes hands once in twenty years, and its price cannot be guessed by many thousand pounds.
To what do Socialists attribute value?
To the amount of labour a thing has cost.
Does this agree with facts?
A thing that is valuable has generally cost labour, which is the result of value, not the cause of it.
How do you know that?
A thing men do not wish for has no value, however much labour it has cost. A thing men desire intensely has much value, however little labour it has cost.
Give an example.
Two men shall spend the same number of years learning to paint, and then spend the same number of hours in painting a picture. One picture is worth $5 the other $5000.
Do not people speak of different kinds of value?
Economists have sometimes spoken of value in use as different from value in exchange, speaking of iron as being useful, and gold as being useless.
Is this an error?
It springs from two errors. One is confusing, like Ruskin, what you think people ought to value with what they do value. Men all the world over are prone to value things which minister to show (like gold) more than things that minister to bodily needs (like iron). Again, much confusion arises from speaking of the value of gold or iron. Gold, iron, and bread have no value in the abstract. A particular piece of one of them may have value, according to the circumstances. In the Sahara a loaf of bread might be worth many times its weight in gold, and Robinson Crusoe might have been glad to give a large lump of gold for an iron knife.
How do you sum up the difference between the two systems of Individualism and Socialism?
Individualism throws on each man the responsibility of choosing a calling, fixing on the number of hours he shall work, the price of his goods, and the provision he shall make for the future of himself and his family. Socialism has all these fixed by Government.
Is a socialistic State possible?
In a community like a monastery, where food and clothing are coarse and uniform—above all, where all are unmarried, Socialism may be successfully practised.
The difference, then, between the two systems seems to turn on the amount of Government interference with individuals?
It does. Individualism limits the action of Government to repressing violence and fraud, and doing those things which, being everybody's business, are nobody's business.
How, then, are all social wants provided for under this system?
By making the doer of a service earn his living by what the receiver gives him freely. It is each man's interest to find out who wants a service, and to supply it well.
This system, then, throws the maximum of responsibility on individuals?
It appears, then, to be the same thing as freedom?
Socialism, then, must be the same thing as slavery?
Just so. The essence of slavery is absence of responsibility.
But do Socialists acknowledge this?
Clear-headed ones, like Ruskin, do. A Socialist writer, Mr. J. A. Hobson, remarks that Ruskin often turns aside to praise slavery.
Would not Government acting like a providence have a tendency to make men thoughtless, and leave everything to it?
It would, as we had a striking example in Paris not long ago. A fire broke out in a crowded bazaar, and many persons were burnt to death. One of the managers publicly repudiated all responsibility, and said that it was the fault of Government for not compelling them to provide means of rapid and orderly exit.
Is the system called Socialism well named?
Quite the contrary. It is a system of anti-social conduct; and Individualism contributes just as much to the welfare of society as to that of the individual.
But ought not the majority to rule the minority?
Only with regard to conduct hurtful to the majority. If two men are in a boat, it cannot sail both east and west at once. It must do one or the other. Now, if one of the two wants to put out to sea in a storm, the other, whose life would be endangered, has a right to resist. But that does not give him a right to interfere with the first man's religion, or dress, or the way he spends his time, so long as it is not spent in hindering the second. Then, if ninety-nine others, like minded with the second, enter the boat, that gives them no right to interfere with the first man that the second did not possess when alone. That is the A B C of liberty.
But do not Socialists complain that society now is unorganised?
They do, but it is a pure delusion. "Organised" means arranged like an organism. The human body is an organism. In it digestion, assimilation, nutrition, and expulsion of waste—processes which correspond to the feeding, clothing, travelling, and other activities of society—go on normally not only without the interference of the brain, which is the government, but without its knowledge. If, then, the five millions in London get without fail daily their milk, bread, papers, and everything they want without the interference of government, society in London is organised. Also in a free society government is carried on by certain units elected by the others for a definite and limited purpose. The cells of the brain are not elected by the cells of the bones and muscles. In a society the life of the units is higher and more varied than that of the whole, in an organism it is just the reverse.
But Socialists say that production is now carried on in the interest and for the profit of the class that owns the means of production.
Anyone can see the falsity of that statement. There are producers in my village who own neither land, house, nor factory, nor anything but such tools as they have bought with their savings as wage earners. The mightiest businesses have all had a similar origin.
Then there is no such class as the Socialists speak of, bound together by a common interest against the rest of society?
Certainly not. Every member of the supposed class produces one thing, but consumes a thousand. Even if his interest in the one thing were opposed to that of the rest of society, his interest in the other thousand is at one with that of the rest of society.
What is the Socialist definition of capital?
This is a summary of Mr. Bax's definition—a good example of the way in which Socialists mix morals with economics: A "considerable concentration of the means of production in the hands of one or a few persons, who employ others to produce and keep the product, paying only a small proportion to the producers."
What strikes you in this definition?
The appeals to prejudice. Capital is not recognised as such unless it is large, and in the hands of few, who treat their workmen unjustly.
What is capital really?
Produce saved, whether little or much, and used to produce more wealth, whether by the owner or by others. What is wealth? Anything that has value.
You said value was the power of satisfying human desire.
I did. That implies that a valuable thing is limited in quantity, for no one would desire a particular mouthful of air if he could get another as good for nothing.
Can air ever have value?
Yes, in the Black Hole of Calcutta, as a draught of water is valuable in the desert or in a large town.
Socialists attribute value to the average labour which a thing has cost, do they not?
Yes, following an unfortunate mistake of Adam Smith and Ricardo. They deify labour and think, like Charles Lamb's friend, that they could write as good plays as Shakespeare's if they had a mind.
What example does Mr. Bax give?
He supposes a man wishing to exchange a pair of boots for a quarter of wheat, and assumes that his anxiety is to get the same amount of labour in return that the boots cost him.
Why is this not so?
The wheat would cost the bootmaker much more labour than the boots have, and he has no means of knowing how much it cost the farmer. A great many things derive their excellence from inborn qualities, without labour, which no labour can give, like a singer's voice.
So it is not even true that, as Mr. Bax says, the labour spent on each side, take all bargains together, balances?
No; and even if it were, the labour would be the result of the value, not the cause of it. But the voice and ear of a singer, the touch of a player, the eye of a painter, the imagination of a poet, even the taste of a tailor or milliner, are not, and cannot be, the result of labour.
Does not Mr. Bax complain that things are made now for exchange, not for use?
He does; but that is only the result of the division of labour, whereby men get many more satisfactions, by each making one thing and exchanging.
How would Socialists manage it?
They would have everything sent into a Government warehouse, and served out in return for tickets or orders. That would only shift the estimate of value from the parties concerned to a Government official. How much bread would he value Mr. Bax's catechism at?
How does Mr. Bax explain profit?
In the queerest way. He says profit cannot be made on the market, for as the sum of satisfactions or profits on each side must, in the long run, balance, there can be no profit. Now, as profit is what every producer for exchange lives on, everyone must be dead.
That sounds singular reasoning.
It is quite normal Socialist reasoning. A bootmaker, having provided for his own wear, exchanges the other boots he makes for wheat, mutton, coats, and everything necessary to support life, and the farmer does the same with his spare wheat, and this goes on for seventy years. Yet, according to Mr. Bax, they are dead all the time.
How has the error arisen?
Mr. Bax says that it is impossible to make a profit by exchange, for to do that you must sell above the cost of production, and that is impossible if the accounts balance. He does not see that we measure our profits, not in sovereigns, but in the satisfaction of our desires. If I get a pound of tea from a Chinaman in return for a yard of cotton, the tea which I had not gives me more pleasure than the cotton of which I had enough already. So I sell at a profit. In the same way the Chinaman values the cotton more than the tea, of which he had enough and to spare. So he sells at a profit. The accounts balance, and yet we are alive!
How do Socialists say profit is made?
By a curious and fantastic thing called surplus value. This is very important, for, as Mr. Bax says, in this is "the kernel of the whole capitalist system of production for profit, with its exploitation and impoverishment of the proletariat." (Socialists are very fond of these question-begging words.) I should say in this is the kernel of the whole socialist system of error.
What is this surplus value?
It is "the difference between the cost of labour-power to the capitalist and the amount of labour-power he is able to extract from his workpeople."
Give an example.
Mr. Bax would say that, if John Smith works in a boot factory eight hours a day, with the produce of four hours' work he provides his own sustenance, the other four hours he is working for his employer. That second four hours' work is surplus value, which is "wrung" from him; or, in other words, he is "exploited" by the employer, who gets all that for nothing.
Have you anything to say to that?
I have several things to say. First, no account is taken of rent of factory, interest on cost of machinery, repairs, risk, and so on. Secondly, if Smith did not work some time for his employer, how is the employer to live? As his whole time is taken up in superintending his men, how could he live if all the produce goes to those men?
Can you give an "argumentum ad hominem"?
I can. Mr. Bax every day buys a loaf of bread for fourpence. But the value of it to him is more than that—say, fivepence.
How can you prove that?
When flour rises in price, the loaf goes up to fivepence, and Mr. Bax gives that rather than go without bread. So he "wrings" from the baker a pennyworth of bread which he has not paid for, for nothing—that is, he "exploits" the baker, which, as he knows better, is very naughty of Mr. Bax.
What is the baker's position?
To him, again, the cost of producing the loaf is less than fourpence—say, threepence. So he "wrings" from Mr. Bax a penny, for which he has given nothing—that is, he "exploits" Mr. Bax. But as things have now got pretty mixed, and there is an old saying, "Pull Bax, pull baker," we will leave them to settle it between them.
Have you a third objection?
I have—a practical test. If John Smith is not satisfied, let him leave the factory and work on his own account. The fact of his entering the factory shows that he feels he does better there.
But do not the machinery, organisation, and division of labour in the factory enable him to produce much more than if he worked on his own account?
They do; but the whole of that excess is created not by him, but by the brains and labour of his employer. If the workman claims any of that, he is exploiting his employer. If he is not satisfied still, let him start as an employer.
But how can he get the capital?
In the same way as his employer did, who probably began as a workman. The famous James Nasmyth, inventor of the steam hammer, began business with $60. John Smith could save this in three years by putting off marriage.
But do not workmen often do what you suggest?
Very often; and the results are instructive. In going about the smaller streets I have often been struck, and saddened, by noticing that a shop which two years ago bore the name of "Brown, Tailor," and a year ago "Jones, Fishmonger," is now "Robinson, Grocer."
What does that mean?
That in each case a hard-working man has saved money, started in business, and failed.
Why has he failed?
For one or all of many reasons—fixing on a bad situation; want of judgment of the quality of goods; want of a head for figures; want of the gift of managing men. Many men are good servants, but bad masters.
What proportion of these ventures fail?
An American economist puts it at nine-tenths.
Then it is not the fact, as Mr. Bax and all Socialists assume, that the profits of capital are large?
No. That is one of the delusions but for which Socialism would not have arisen. If you divide the total profits of capital by the number of capitalists, the quotient is small.
Are the profits steady?
Not at all. Many prosperous businesses have periods, sometimes of several years, when they make nothing, or even a loss, yet the workmen get their wages all the time. It is in the foundations, then, that Socialism is so weak? Yes. An Irishman might describe it as an economic house of cards, founded on mares' nests of sentiment.
You spoke of wages. What is that? The share of the produce given to the workman. In lengthy processes this is advanced out of capital. How is the amount of wages fixed?
Socialists, consistently with their erroneous measuring of value by the amount of labour a thing has cost, say that it is determined by the cost of subsistence of the labourer. That is called the "Iron Law of Wages."
Is this so?
Of course, wages cannot fall below what will support life. But as the subsistence of one man costs about as much as that of another, and the wages of one man are often a hundred times as much as those of another, there must be another determinant.
What postulate lies at the root of the Socialist definition?
The assumption that workmen always multiply improvidently, so that there are more workmen than there are places. Mr. Bax says: "The labourer is not really free. He must sell his labour-power in order to live, and, having no control over the means of production, cannot employ himself." All this implies a man who spends all his wages, and goes into the labour market without a penny.
Do you accept this?
No. I have shown that, if a man saves, he can employ himself, as happens every day. If, in addition, he has the gift of management, he can employ others as well.
What, then, do Socialists want?
They want a man who has not the gift of management and does not manage, to be paid as if he did; a man who has no risk, to be paid compensation for risk; a man who contributes no capital, to receive interest on capital.
What really governs wages?
The ratio between the amount of capital available to pay them and the number of men seeking work.
But is not the idea of a wages fund abandoned?
It is by many, but it is a quibble about words. When capital is abundant and men few, wages rise. When the case is reversed, they fall. An employer looks to recoup himself for his outgoings and get interest on his capital and return for his brains and risk.
Then an employer does not object to high wages?
Quite the contrary, if he gets a proportionate return, as is seen in America.
What, then, is the way to raise wages?
To have increased production by increased talent in the employer devising improvements in machinery and processes, and increased energy and industry in the workmen.
Then wages cannot be raised by combination?
Not permanently. If there are more men than there is employment for, they can only be prevented from competing, and so lowering wages, by devoting the extra wages those at work get to buying off the unemployed.
But do not Socialists propose to abolish the wages system?
They do. That means that capital is to be provided and risk born by the whole community, instead of by the persons who are interested in providing the first and avoiding the second.
But do not Socialists say that production would be increased under their system?
They do—quintupled. As success in production depends on abundance of capital and minute attention to details, they expect an increase under a system where no one would feel any compulsion to produce capital—that is, to save— and no one would have the special knowledge, or the time, or the stimulus, to supervise details.
But would not public officials do that?
They could not provide capital, which must come from the savings of private persons. As for supervision, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? They would require supervising, and it is universal experience that public management is more costly than private, owing to no one in particular feeling bound to acquire the knowledge or to give the time.
Then it all comes to this, that Socialism presupposes a radical change in human nature?
But do not Socialists expect also a great saving in consumption?
They do, by co-operative housekeeping. But this, if voluntary, has nothing socialistic about it. It is largely practised now.
By all classes of persons?
No. People who are comfortably off, and are either single or without young children, often live in hotels or boarding-houses, and get more for their money than if they lived alone.
Then are there two kinds of economy?
There are. If a person has only $90 a year, it is no use telling him that for a payment of $100 in an hotel he can get $120 worth of comfort. By living alone he might get $80 worth of comfort for his $90.
But could he not save proportionately by cooperative living on the smaller sum?
With difficulty, for people shrink from practising petty economies in public. Besides, it would destroy the feeling of home. Compulsory co-operative living, as in workhouses and shelters, is a miserable thing.
What does history say?
Mr. Bax gives an historical sketch, beginning with the astonishing statement that the condition of the mass of the people is not improved, and that the purchasing power of money has decreased. He acknowledges that primitive society was communistic, but calls the introduction of slavery a step towards Individualism.
But is there not a difference between Socialism and ancient slavery?
Yes. The chief or owner of old got a larger share of the produce than his slaves. Socialism proposes that he should still furnish the capital and management, but share equally with the slaves.
Do not Socialists assert that the serfs had rights in the land of which they have been wrongfully deprived?
They do, and attribute pauperism and the necessity for the Poor Law to that cause.
But have there not been, and are there not now, many small owners?
There are, and always have been; but their condition is not so superior to that of the wage-labourer as to support the Socialist contention. The fact that most of the statesmen or small owners of Cumberland have sold their property shows that they cannot have been very flourishing.
Do not Socialists attribute much of present-day evils to some ogre called the capitalist system, which they assert to be a modern invention?
They do. Mr. Bax defines it as "large bodies of labourers working together for a single employer, and for his profit."
When does he say this began?
About the middle of the sixteenth century.
Is this historically correct?
It is not. Stonehenge, the Coliseum, the pyramids, the palaces of Babylon, the temples of India, could not have been made without large bodies of men working together for a single man, and for his profit, certainly not for their own.
Then was this system the same as the modern capitalist system?
By no means, though it answers Mr. Bax's definition. The ancient labour was wholly unproductive, was solely to gratify the vanity of a despot, and was attended with frightful suffering. In the modern system the workers unless they are redundant, which is not the capitalists' fault, always earn a comfortable subsistence for themselves, and sometimes a profit for their employer.
Then the difference between ancient and modern capitalism is in favour of modern?
Entirely, as far as the workman is concerned.
But do the workmen acknowledge this?
They do, by their actions, whatever their words may be. In Australia, where land may be had for the asking, men prefer to stop in the towns and work for wages, showing that they think themselves better off as wage-earners.
To what do you attribute the Socialist delusion that the workmen are exploited?
To their failure to understand the difference between productive and unproductive labour.
Explain your meaning.
They argue that as a man now, owing to machinery, division of labour, and other improvements, can produce many times more wealth than before, his share ought to be proportionately greater.
Is not that correct?
It is true that a man can produce a much greater quantity of lace, wall-paper, and all the ornaments of life; but he cannot produce much more food. The purchasing power, therefore, of those who grow corn or meat—that is, the excess of what they produce over what they consume—is not much greater than it was.
What is the effect on the producers of comforts and luxuries?
Their produce is cheapened—that is, they have to give a greater amount of it for the same quantity of food.
Then what is the difference between the state of the ancient and modern workman?
The ancient workman perhaps had as much to eat, but he did not eat it with a fork, drink out of glass, sleep in cotton sheets, have glazed windows, wall papers and pictures, and a hundred such refinements.
But does not the employer make a large profit?
Sometimes, if he is clever and fortunate, a small profit on each workman will amount to a large fortune in time; but the average profit is not large.
Do not large concerns tend to increase in number and size?
Naturally, with increased population, capital, and concentration, men who have the gift of organisation have a greater opportunity of forming what Mr. Bax calls "giant octopus-like combinations which promise to bring all the businesses of the world under the control of a mere handful of wealthy capitalists."
Are these great businesses likely to be permanent?
Seeing that they are created by the talent of one man, and that talent and energy are not always inherited, they have a tendency to decline when the founder dies.
How do Socialists propose to cure this evil, as they consider, of big concerns?
By making them bigger still—that is, handing them over to Government.
What effect would that have?
Government would have to make the present employers managers, as no one else would have the talent. If they were selfish before, making them State officials would not make them less so, and they would have larger opportunities of enriching themselves with less supervision. If they died, and there was no one to succeed them, ruin would follow.
Did you not say that Mr. Bax devotes a section of his work to Socialist ethics?
He does, asserting that Socialism has a special code of ethics, as each stage of society has. He gives a history, in which he strangely mixes up ethics and religion, saying that ethics had first for its object the welfare of the tribe. It then became introspective, and the object was a divinity. But ethics has always been rules of conduct, the result of experience, inherited and acquired, of the conduct that promotes human welfare. Its object was always the community. The Spartan cheerfully gave his life for the good of his tribe. But that was because he found that, if every Spartan bravely risked death, his individual chance of life was better than if he ran away. We find Englishmen to-day just as ready to sacrifice their lives when necessary as Spartans were, only Spartans had to do it oftener, because of the savage manners of the time. Ethics, therefore, develops with the development of society, and is not perfect yet, for most people regard a wrong done to one of lower social position to themselves as less blameworthy than if done to their equal. Religion, on the other hand, has always been a personal affair. Men have pictured to themselves an invisible being like themselves, but stronger, whom they sought to propitiate. At first they gave presents and sacrifices. When they became ethical, they imagined an ethical god who was pleased with virtuous conduct; but the idea that he likes sacrifice and fulsome adulation, like an Eastern King, still lingers.
Does Mr. Bax tell us what Individualist ethics is like?
He does. It is the theory of the Manchester school of economics-—namely, the individual scramble for wealth, the cash nexus, and purely material relations, instead of sentiment between men.
That sounds very confused.
It is. Cobden and Bright were not noted as ethical teachers, though they were persons of eminently ethical conduct, and, when ethical questions were discussed, advocated a pure and lofty morality. But their fame rests on the economic doctrine they preached-—that if each person or nation devoted his or its energies to those commodities which it could produce with least effort, and exchanged with others, all would enjoy the maximum of satisfaction with the minimum of exertion.
How does Mr. Bax sum up Socialist ethics?
It is enlightened selfishness, since, in some unexplained way, under Socialism the good of all will be the good of each-—that is, things will be made pleasant all round, and duty will never entail a sacrifice.
Why, then, does not everyone become a Socialist?
Because, we are told, they are not "class-conscious"—-that is, they do not realise that their interests are opposed to those of the class above them.
Then we have a direct confession that envy is the origin of Socialism?
What are the political views of Socialists?
They are, Mr. Bax says, Little Englanders. They would gladly unite with foreign workmen to ruin their own country if they could thereby plunder their employers or upset the present arrangement of society.
What is their attitude towards co-operation and trade unionism?
They view them with favour, so far as they may be a step in the same direction.
How do they view real improvements—-such as thrifty temperance, and Malthusianism?
They hate them, as enabling workmen to live more cheaply, and so tending to lower wages, starting from the false assumption that wages never rise above the cost of maintenance.
Then the way for workmen to raise their wages would be to drink champagne?
Just so, by similar reasoning.
But is the object of those who preach temperance, thrift, and prudence in marriage to make workmen spend less?
Not at all, but to spend their income so as to have a greater amount of comfort and well-being, and, by having a reserve, to be able to move to where wages are high, and not have their efficiency impaired by sickness or loss of work.
Having criticised the Socialist view, can you give a summary of the Individualist doctrine?
I can. Individualism means enlisting the natural tendencies of human nature on behalf of well-being, as we all do when we reward our children if they are good and punish them if disobedient, and as a workman avails himself of the natural forces of gravitation, friction, etc., to do his work with the least effort. It holds, with Jesus, that good and evil spring from the heart of man and thence affect his surroundings, so that the way to improve him is to deal with the cause, by persuasion, and not with the effect, by compulsion. It holds that social progress, like all natural healthy growths, is slow and that no forced and artificial effect is permanent. It holds that every action has indirect and remote effects as well as immediate ones, and that the former are generally more important. It holds that the State has no money but what it takes from the people. It holds that denunciation of the idle rich who have earned or lawfully acquired their riches accords ill with the proposal to pension a man at his prime whether he has earned his pension or not. It holds that imperfect instruments cannot turn out perfect work, however good the scheme. Its holds that periodicity is the law of the universe, so that the only way to prosperity is to work hard while we have the chance and make hay while the sun shines. It points to the success of the Jews and of all brain workers who pursue this plan. It points out that the time of England's prosperity coincides with the reign of laissez faire and the complaints of German competition with the present system of socialist interference.
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