progress and civilisation; no power, however constitutional in form, which is subject to it, can be anything but reactionary. The unfortunate Pope has the peculiar quality of bringing all his best friends to grief. He has ruined the King of Naples as he ruined Charles X. and the elder branch of the Bourbons. It is a question now, whether the empire of Austria will save itself by throwing overboard the Concordat. The princes of the House of Orleans, if they expect any sympathy from the good sense of Europe, must make their connection as slight as may be with that Papacy whose weakness is only equalled by its wickedness, and which sends its begging-boxes through Catholic Europe, to enable it to keep brigands in pay, that its dying teeth may meet in the flesh of resuscitated Italy.

On simple constitutional grounds, we should naturally sympathise with the House of Orleans, deplore their ejection from power, and wish for their speedy return. Constitutional monarchy shows at the present time, more decidedly than ever, to greatest advantage as a form of government. Democracy has been often discredited as inherently liable to culminate in military despotism; it is now discredited by its apparent tendency, when in a federal form, to dissolution: for it seems al

most a solecism for the American union to call that a rebellion, which is a rising against itself in a State which has no head (since kingly prestige is denied to the president), and assumes rather the form of a dissolution of a commercial partnership without the leave of all the members of the firm; and to be able to give the name of rebellion to any rising against authority with truth and justice, is always a tower of strength to the executive government. So that a monarchy, where one man or woman represents the divine power of law, has the advantage, not possessed by a republic, of being able to stigmatise as rebels its disobedient subjects; and is, therefore, less liable to fall to pieces.

Granting, however, all that may be said in favour of constitutional monarchy in the abstract, the question arises whether a despotism may not possibly be a better form of government for a state that either has not come to years of discretion, or whose wise teeth, though it be old, have not, from some peculiarity of constitution, ever been cut at all.

And then arises the peculiar application of this question to France. France had constitutional governors in the House of Orleans ; she gave one wanton kick-up, and they lost their seat without struggle.



It has always been held amongst the learned, who write histories and other kinds of hard reading, that the world was very much improved, on the whole, by the irruption of the barbarians upon the Roman Empire. It is true that, inasmuch as these learned writers themselves claim to be the legitimate descendants of the so-called barbarians, we are bound to take their evidence with some reserve; and it is very possible that, if our old classical friends had survived the storm, and beaten back Ostrogoth and Visigoth to their native wildernesses, and had been able to write their own history of the world from that time forth, they would have proved quite as clearly how much the cause of improvement, moral and social, was indebted to their successful resistance of the invaders. It is so much the fashion with modern political writers to compare our own civilisation with the Roman-to speculate upon the probable decadence of all nations in their turn, after reaching their culminating point of prosperity, asserting that states, like individuals, first "ripe, and ripe, and ripe," and then, from generation to generation, "rot, and rot, and rot "—that really one has got to look upon the probable fate of England as merely a question of time, and to fancy one hears the tramp of the advancing hordes-from Central Africa, or elsewhere- already thundering in the distance.

And this raises a question in the minds of modest people like myself, who are unwilling to claim quite so large a share of perfection for ourselves, or the age we live in, as some do, as to the possible verdict of the future historian in our case, supposing this second barbarian conquest completed. Would he, too, speak of us as a degenerated stock, and describe all our modern arts and appliances as effete civilisation"? Would the



noble savages who came to lay London waste be hailed, in their turn, by the philosophical historian, as the regenerators of Europe?

I confess, putting myself into the very impossible case of a commentator on the last days of the English Empire, when it had been succeeded by the new blood of a ruder race I can fancy quite as uncharitable remarks made upon us as we are fond of lavishing upon the Romans under Augustulus. I could find it in my heart to admit of such a barbarian inundation, what Mr Froude handsomely admits of the Reformation, that it might not be quite an unmixed evil; that it might possibly clear away some social rubbish, and give us a fillip into more healthy and vigorous life.



Not that I am prepared to deny that modern civilisation has been productive of some advantages to mankind. I am not going to argue in defence of savagedom as a whole. The days are long gone by in which, like other philosophers of eight years old, I longed to be a little savage, and held the grey barbarian happier than the Christian child." The terrible discipline of washings and scrubbings, and forcible hair-brushings, and putting on of clean collars and pinafores, and other penalties of small civilised life, are no longer so objectionable in my eyes as they then appeared. To wish one was a pig, because he could eat without being restricted by nursery etiquette as to the manual exercise of knife, fork, and spoon-could even put his foot into his plate if he found it convenient, much more his fingers, and was never subjected to the miseries of the small-tooth comb-to envy the sheep, because they carried all their clothes fast to their backs, were never undressed but once a-year, and were troubled with neither buttons nor boot-laces-to long for the life of the cows, who stood up

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

be only in blubber and train-oilappropriated by a hungry neighbour whose lawful fisheries have been less successful. It is possible that the loss, in the first case, may prevent you from sending your boys to Eton, as you had promised yourself, and as they had a right to expect; but it must be remembered that, on the latter hypothesis, those young gentlemen would be thrown altogether upon their own finding in a world in which there would be very little to be found, and where there would not be even a workhouse or a Refuge for the Destitute, far less any chance of "smart young men" being always wanted for her Majesty's service.

No; I am quite willing, in all these important points, to accept civilisation as it stands, with its good and its evil largely developed, but let us hope with the good taking longer strides than the evil. It is not the immoralities of modern refinement, but its inconveniences, of which I complain; it is the hope of getting rid of some of these which alone could make the chances of a second barbarian conquest tolerable. There are a great many inventions amongst us of which necessity was never the mother, and which we should be a great deal more comfortable without. The obstructive principle which is happily so active in the human mind, and tends to the rejection of all novelties as abominations, is a much more valuable element of human society than is commonly admitted. There was great and sublime wisdom in the principle which the world acted upon in what we call its dark ages, of burning a very prominent inventor occasionally, as a manifest disciple of the evil one; not that such a proceeding is desirable in actual practice, but it rested upon a basis of truth. One understands how Jabal, and Jubal, and TubalCain sprang from the loins of the first evil-doer. For after all, even in this estate of childhood, the world had sense enough to know its real friends. One class of in

to their knees in the nice cool mud all through the hot summer day (seen through the window while I was declining bonus in the Eton Grammar) these are visions which have long since faded, like other dreams of youth. I am not sure whether it is the development of my moral and æsthetic perceptions, or merely the force of habit, but I think I now do really prefer a silver fork to my fingers, and would rather go through bonus than the mud. Indeed, the march of improvement has reached even the lower animal life, which then seemed so enviable in its unfettered simplicity. Piggy is now (in our model farms) washed and scrubbed, and has his hair combed-though he is still, I believe, deficient in dinner-table observances; the sheep have little coats made to wear in cold weather after shearing; and the unhappy cow is tied up all day and stall-fed, and Miss Martineau (who has mesmerised cows, and is therefore acquainted with all their private feelings) declares that she likes it-and although Once a Week, in which the statement first appeared, is taken in I believe at all respectable dairies, no cow has hitherto ventured to come forward to contradict the assertion.

Nor is it a theory which finds much favour in my eyes, that the unsophisticated vices of the savage are more tolerable than the cultivated rascality of civilised communities. If one must be robbed and murdered, it is just as well to have it done civilly. A man may as well be poisoned to secure the insurance on his life, as be knocked on the head for the sake of a coveted tenpenny nail-unless, indeed, a very strong-minded philanthropist might take comfort from the thought that, in the latter case, his remains would probably be utilised-by being eaten. Nor is it really a harder case to lose your bank shares by the "unfortunate speculations" of a director (quite the gentleman), than to have all your next year's income—even if it

ventors and discoverers, who introduced the real arts of life, were deified instead of being persecuted. Bacchus, and Triptolemus, and Orpheus or even, in another hemisphere, the mysterious Hiawathathose who brought true divine gifts, corn, and wine, and song-were voted seats in the halls of the gods. The genius of man is so prone to invention, that some decisive check upon it is imperatively demanded, to prevent human life from being strangled in an ingenious system of helps and contrivances. We affect to smile at the shortsightedness of the parliamentary committee who laughed at Stephenson and his railways; but it would be very well for us all if parliamentary and other committees never did any more foolish things. They were like the Roman college who condemned Galileo-they were wrong in the point of fact; but every wise man sees they were right in principle. Things had gone on very well and regularly, on the whole, under the Ptolemaic system, while the earth was supposed to stand still; and the notion of its moving about under one was certainly very uncomfortable—not rashly to be admitted, by any means. So, really, life was very enjoyable during the reign of stage-coaches: twelve miles an hour including stoppages was very pretty travelling; and the public were not going to be tied to the tail of teakettles, and whisked about at the rate of a mile in two minutes, without a fair amount of decent resistance. And there was, and still is, much to be said on both sides even in the matter of railways. Locomotion has been very much facilitated, no doubt; and as a consequence, a home-keeping Englishman, or English-woman, is become a very scarce article. But travelling, in any proper sense of the word, has been almost extinguished. There can be no possible enjoyment, even in the loveliest weather, in flying along between cuttings and through tunnels, afraid to keep the window open for the

black dust that chokes your nostrils and spoils your clothes, and afraid to shut them for fear of being stifled. The old exhilarating feeling of "the road" is gone. Even if you possessed enough of the good old principle to defy the rail and all its works, and stick to the turnpike, there are no longer any decent posters to draw you, or any decent inns to put up at; and the road itself is no longer the lively thoroughfare of old days: you will meet nothing in a run of ten miles better than a donkey-cart or a shabby railway omnibus. As to travelling by the rail itself, one may as well be a parcel for any pleasure that a rational being can find in that mode of conveyance. You are pretty safe to be delivered at your destination in due course, and that is the best that can be said of it. Indeed, it would be a great blessing to a good many bewildered passengers, male and female, and to the troubled officials who have to answer the same questions a thousand times a-day (and therefore not always in the politest manner), if they were treated as parcels in every respect, and not only booked but packed and directed-of course "With Care; this side upwards."

However, since the great object of human life at present seems to be to get from Manchester to London, and from London to the Land's End, in the shortest possible space of time, it must be conceded that the rail answers its purpose; and the private feelings of slow people like myself must be sacrificed under the wheels of the steam Juggernaut. The new Attila will come upon his march of regeneration no doubt by an express train. Nor let this feeble pen attempt any hopeless remonstrance against the atrocities of modern costume, though that alone cries aloud for an avenging Nemesis. Crinoline and pegtops shall here be sacred. In such matters, satire and sumptuary laws have always been found powerless alike. Not only decency and convenience, but even bodily danger, is bravely disregarded

in the march of fashion. A wellknown wit, protesting against the locking-up of passengers in a railway carriage, declared that the practice would never be given up by the directors until some person of consequence-a bishop at the very least -had been burnt as a martyr to the custom. But judging from facts, it would seem that a holocaust of the female aristocracy would not persuade the survivors to reduce an inch of skirt. It would have no more effect than the awful example recorded by Punch in a case of the opposite sex-of a young gentleman who had his head cut off by his "all-rounder."


Besides, it is not clear from what quarter one could hope for a purer taste in these matters to be imported into Europe. In such an immigration as I have been imagining, there would be some risk of the most desirable barbarians bringing with them private fancies of costume quite as inconvenient and indefensible. I confess for I have every wish to deal with the subject fairly and honestly-that the most objectionable form of hat or bonnet ever worn is preferable, as a headdressing, to the castor-oil which some coloured" ladies consider the correct thing. So I could bear with a slight suspicion of rouge and pearl-powder, judiciously subdued, rather than with the remarkable ornament, universally worn in the first circles among the ladies of New Holland, of a large fish-bone through the cartilage of the nose, or a quarter-pound weight pendant from the lower lip. Even tattooing of the newest patterns seems to me a questionable addition to feminine attractions; unless, indeed, in cases of very remarkable ugliness, where it might perhaps be introduced with advantage. I had rather, as a matter of personal taste, that the lady I admire should pull her hair back from the roots in the most boldfaced Imperatrice fashion-if it was done every day - than that she should make it up once a-year into a solid mass with animal fat, and

consider it then in a state of fulldress for the season, or, as in the case of the Natal beauties, for the term of their natural lives. To something like this, however, we are fast coming in another direction; at this moment I see advertised, as "the ladies' friend to all those who study economy" (and dirt), the "Sansplectum Skirt - - the Indispensable Jupon"-"can at all times be kept perfectly clean by the simple use of a wet sponge.' We know already there are to be "No more Wrinkles"-"No more Grey Hair"

- but here is an advertisement which should have been headed"No more Clean Linen !" A wet sponge, and a few of the new paper collars, will make our modern heroine quite independent of such luxuries, or even of Sir Charles Napier's "bit of soap;" and she will accomplish her travels, like the ladies of old romance, not, perhaps, exactly "simplex munditus," but without troubling her cavalier on the disputed point of baggage. There is certainly one style of costume, formerly prevalent under distinguished patronage (if the statues of Venus and the Graces may be depended upon as authentic), which is open to no such objections on the score of taste, and which the Dinka and Shillook ladies, by Mr Petherick's account, are prepared to introduce among us, and which may be described as the robe à l'innocence. It would ruin the milliners, no doubt but that is a consummation to which we might devoutly submit, especially since we are assured, by the best political economists, that class interests are not for a moment to be considered when they come into collision with the public good; but its adoption (even with the addition which the Dinka elegantes make to it, of a string of glass beads round the neck and waist) implies too severe and classical a taste to be generally popular, and would require a modification of our climate, as well as in our ideas of propriety, which it must take a few geological ages to effect.

« VorigeDoorgaan »