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- Lectures and Essays - 30/67 -

confuting. I have never said, or imagined, that "all land ought to be producing food." I hold that no land in England is better employed than that of the London parks and the gardens of the Crystal Palace, though I could not speak so confidently with regard to a vast park from which all are excluded but its owner. Mr. Greg here again takes up what seems to me the strange position that to condemn excess is to condemn moderation. He says that whatever is said against the great parks and gardens of the most luxurious millionaire may equally be said against a tradesman's little flower-garden, or the plot of ornamental ground before the cottage windows of a peasant. I must again say that, so far from regarding this argument as irrefutable, I altogether fail to discover its cogency. The tradesman's little bit of green, the peasant's flower- bed, are real necessities of a human soul. Can the same thing be said of a pleasure-ground which consumes the labour of twenty men, and of which the object is not to refresh the weariness of labour but to distract the vacancy of idleness?

Mr. Greg specially undertakes the defence of deer-parks. But his ground is that the deer-forests which were denounced as unproductive have been proved to be the only mode of raising the condition and securing the well-being of the ill-fed population. If so, "humanitarians" are ready to hold up both hands in favour of deer-forests. Nay, we are ready to do the same if the pleasure yielded by the deer-forests bears any reasonable proportion to the expense and the agricultural sacrifice, especially if the sportsman is a worker recruiting his exhausted brain, not a sybarite killing time.

From parks and pleasure-grounds Mr. Greg goes on to horses; and here it is the same thing over again. The apologist first sneers at those who object to the millionaire's stud, then lets in the interest of the community as a limiting principle, and ends by saying: "We may then allow frankly and without demur, that if he (the millionaire) maintains more horses than he needs or can use, his expenditure thereon is strictly pernicious and indefensible, precisely in the same way as it would be if he burnt so much hay and threw so many bushels of oats into the fire. He is destroying human food." Now Mr. Greg has only to determine whether a man who is keeping a score or more of carriage and saddle horses, is "using" them or not. If he is, "humanitarians" are perfectly satisfied.

Finally Mr. Greg comes to the case of large establishments of servants. And here, having set out with intentions most adverse to my theory, he "blesses it altogether." "Perhaps," he says, "of all the branches of a wealthy nobleman's expenditure, that which will be condemned with most unanimity, and defended with most difficulty, is the number of ostentatious and unnecessary servants it is customary to maintain. For this practice I have not a word to say. It is directly and indirectly bad. It is bad for all parties. Its reflex action on the masters themselves is noxious; it is mischievous to the flunkies who are maintained in idleness, and in enervating and demoralizing luxury; it is pernicious to the community at large, and especially to the middle and upper middle classes, whose inevitable expenditure in procuring fit domestic service--already burdensomely great--is thereby oppressively enhanced, till it has become difficult not only to find good household servants at moderate wages, but to find servants who will work diligently and faithfully for any wages at all."

How will Mr. Greg keep up the palaces, parks, and studs, when he has taken away the retinues of servants? If he does not take care, he will find himself wielding the bosom of sumptuary reform in the most sweeping manner before he is aware of it. But let me respectfully ask him, who can he suppose objects to any expenditure except on the ground that it is directly and indirectly bad; bad for all parties, noxious to the voluptuary himself, noxious to all about him, and noxious to the community? So long as a man does no harm to himself or to anyone else, I for one see no objection to his supping like a Roman Emperor, on pheasants' tongues, or making shirt-studs of Koh-i-noors.

"It is charity," says Mr. Greg, hurling at the system of great establishments his last and bitterest anathema--"It is charity, and charity of the bastard sort--charity disguised as ostentation. It feeds, clothes, and houses a number of people in strenuous and pretentious laziness. If almshouses are noxious and offensive to the economic mind, then, by parity of reasoning, superfluous domestics are noxious also." And so it would seem, by parity of reasoning, or rather _a fortiori_, as being fed, clothed, and housed far more expensively, and in far more strenuous and pretentious laziness, are the superfluous masters of flunkeys. The flunkey does some work, at all events enough to prevent him from becoming a mere fattened animal. If he is required to grease and powder his head, he does work, as it seems to me, for which he may fairly claim a high remuneration.

As I have said already, let Mr. Greg take in the moral, political, and social evils of luxury, as well as the material waste, and I flatter myself that there will be no real difference between his general view of the responsibilities of wealth and mine. He seems to be as convinced as I am that there is no happiness in living in strenuous and pretentious laziness by the sweat of other men's brows.

Nor do I believe that even the particular phrase which has been deemed so fraught with treason to plutocracy would, if my critic examined it closely, seem to him so very objectionable. His own doctrine, it is true, sounds severely economical. He holds that "the natural man and the Christian" who should be moved by his natural folly and Christianity to forego a bottle of champagne in order to relieve a neighbour in want of actual food, would do a thing "distinctly criminal and pernicious." Still I presume he would allow, theoretically, as I am very sure he would practically, a place to natural sympathy. He would not applaud a banquet given in the midst of a famine, although it might be clearly proved that the money spent by the banqueters was their own, that those who were perishing of famine had not been robbed of it, that their bellies were none the emptier because those of the banqueters were full, and that the cookery gave a stimulus to gastronomic art. He would not, even, think it wholly irrational that the gloom of the work-house should cast a momentary shadow on the enjoyments of the palace. I should also expect him to understand the impression that a man of "brain," even one free from any excessive tenderness of "heart," would not like to see a vast apparatus of luxury, and a great train of flunkeys devoted to his own material enjoyment--that he would feel it as a slur on his good sense, as an impeachment of his mental resources, and of his command of nobler elements of happiness, and even as a degradation of his manhood. There was surely something respectable in the sentiment which made Mr. Brassey refuse, however much his riches might increase, to add to his establishment. There is surely something natural in the tendency, which we generally find coupled with greatness, to simplicity of life. A person whom I knew had dined with a millionaire _tete-a-tete_, with six flunkeys standing round the table. I suspect that a man of Mr. Greg's intellect and character, in spite of his half-ascetic hatred of plush, would rather have been one of the six than one of the two.

While, however, I hope that my view of these matters coincides practically with that of Mr. Greg far more than he supposes, I must admit that there may be a certain difference of sentiment behind. Mr. Greg describes the impressions to which I have given currency as a confused compound of natural sympathy, vague Christianity, and dim economic science. Of the confusion, vagueness and dimness of our views, of course we cannot be expected to be conscious; but I own that I defer, in these matters, not only to natural feeling, but to the ethics of rational Christianity. I still adhere to the Christian code for want of a better, the Utilitarian system of morality being, so far as I can see, no morality at all, in the ordinary sense of the term, as it makes no appeal to our moral nature, our conscience, or whatever philosophers choose to call the deepest part of humanity. Of course, therefore, I accept as the fundamental principle of human relations, and of all science concerning them, the great Christian doctrine that "we are every one members one of another" As a consequence of this doctrine I hold that the wealth of mankind is morally a common store; that we are morally bound to increase it as much, and to waste it as little, as we can, that of the two it is happier to be underpaid than to be overpaid; and that we shall all find it so in the sum of things. There is nothing in such a view in the least degree subversive of the legal rights of property, which the founders of Christianity distinctly recognised in their teaching, and strengthened practically by raising the standard of integrity; nothing adverse to active industry or good business habits; nothing opposed to economic science as the study of the laws regulating the production and distribution of wealth; nothing condemnatory of pleasure, provided it be pleasure which opens the heart, as I suppose was the case with the marriage feast at Cana, not the pleasure which closes the heart, as I fear was the case with the "refined luxury" of the Marquis of Steyne.

If this is superstition, all that I can say is that I have read Strauss, Renan, Mr. Greg on the "Creed of Christendom," and all the eminent writers I could hear of on that side, and that I am not conscious of any bias to the side of orthodoxy, at least I have not given satisfaction to the orthodox classes.

Christianity, of course, in common with other systems, craves a reasonable construction. Plato cannot afford to have his apologues treated as histories. In "Joshua Davidson," a good man is made to turn away from Christianity because he finds that his faith will not literally remove a mountain and cast it into the sea. But he had omitted an indispensable preliminary. He ought first to have exactly compared the bulk of his faith with that of a grain of Palestinian mustard seed. Mr. Greg makes sport of the text "He that hath two coats let him impart to him that hath none," which he says he heard in his youth, but without ever considering its present applicability. Yet in the next paragraph but one he gives it a precise and a very important application by pronouncing that a man is not at liberty to grow wine for himself on land which other people need for food. I fail to see how the principle involved in this passage, and others of a similar tendency which I have quoted from Mr. Greg's paper, differ from that involved in Gospel texts which, if I were to quote them would grate strangely upon his ear. The texts comprise a moral sanction; but Mr. Greg must have some moral sanction when he forbids a man to do that which he is permitted to do by law. Christianity, whatever its source and authority, was addressed at first to childlike minds, and what its antagonists have to prove is not that its forms of expression or even of thought are adapted to such minds, but that its principles, when rationally applied to a more advanced state of society, are unsound. Rightly understood it does not seem to me to enjoin anything eccentric or spasmodic, to bid you enact primitive Orientalism in the streets of London, thrust fraternity upon writers in the _Pall Mall Gazette_, or behave generally as if the "Kingdom of God" were already come. Your duty as a Christian is done if you help its coming according to the circumstances of your place in society and the age in which you live.

Of course, in subscribing to the Christian code of ethics, one lays oneself open to "retorts corteous" without limit. But so one does in subscribing to any code, or accepting any standard, whether moral or of any other kind.

I do not see on what principle Mr. Greg would justify, if he does justify, any sort of charitable benefactions. Did not Mr. Peabody give his glass of champagne to a man in need? He might have spent all his money on himself if he had been driven to building Chatsworths, and hanging their walls with Raffaelles. How will he escape the reproach of having done what was criminal and pernicious? And what are we to say of the conduct of London plutocrats who abetted his proceedings by their applause though they abstained from following his example? Is there any

Lectures and Essays - 30/67

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