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- Without Prejudice - 3/66 -

my soul. He ruined me with promiskus charity. Whenever I was stoney-broke 'e give me doles in aid, 'e did. 'E wos werry bad to me, 'e wos. 'E destroyed my self-respeck, druv me to drink, broke up my home, and druv my darters on the streets."

"This is what comes of undisciplined compassion," observed the gold-spectacled gentleman, glowering at me. "The integrity and virtue of a whole family sacrificed to the gratification of thy altruistic emotions!"

"Stand out of the way!" I cried to the burly man; "I wish to leave my own house."

"And carry thy rudeness abroad?" he retorted indignantly. "Perchance thou wouldst like to go to the Continent, and swagger through Europe clad in thy loud-patterned checks and thine insular self-sufficiency."

I tried to move him out of the way by brute force, and we wrestled, and he threw me. I heard myself strike the floor with a thud.

Rubbing my eyes, instead of my back, I discovered that I was safe in my reading-chair, and that it was the lady novelist's novel that had made the noise. I picked it up, but I still seemed to see the reproachful eyes of a thousand tormentors, and hear their objurgations. Yet I had none of the emotions of Scrooge, no prickings of conscience, no ferment of good resolutions. Instead, I felt a wave of bitterness and indignation flooding my soul.

"I will _not_ be responsible for the universe!" I cried to the ceiling. "I am sick of the woman question, and the problem of man makes my gorge rise. Is there one question in the world that can really be settled? No, not one, except by superficial thinkers. Just as the comprehensive explanation of 'the flower in the crannied wall' is the explanation of the whole universe, so every question is but a thin layer of ice over infinite depths. You may touch it lightly, you may skate over it; but press it at all, and you sink into bottomless abysses. The simplest interrogation is a doorway to chaos, to endless perspectives of winding paths perpetually turning upon themselves in a blind maze. Suppose one is besought to sign a petition against capital punishment. A really conscientious and logical person, pursuing truth after the manner recommended by Descartes, and professed by Huxley, could not settle this question for himself without going into the endless question of Free-will _versus_ Necessity, and studying the various systems of philosophy and ethics. Murder may be due to insane impulse: Insanity must therefore be studied. Moreover, ought not hanging to be abolished in cases of murder and reserved for more noxious crimes, such as those of fraudulent directors? This opens up new perspectives and new lines of study. The whole theory of Punishment would also have to be gone into: should it be restrictive, or revengeful, or reformative? (See Aristotle, Bentham, Owen, etc.) Incidentally great tracts of the science of Psychology are involved. And what right have we to interfere with our fellow-creatures at all? This opens up the vast domains of Law and Government, and requires the perusal of Montesquieu, Bodin, Rousseau, Mill, etc., etc. Sociology would also be called in to determine the beneficent or maleficent influence of the death-punishment upon the popular mind; and statistics would be required to trace the operation of the systems of punishment in various countries. History would be consulted to the same effect. The sanctity of human life being a religious dogma, the religions of the world would have to be studied, to see under what conditions it has been thought permissible to destroy life. One ought not to rely on translations: Confucius should be read in Chinese, the Koran in Arabic, and the few years spent in the acquisition of Persian would be rewarded by a first-hand familiarity with the Zend Avesta. The Old Testament enjoins capital punishment. On what grounds, then, if one is leaning the other way, may a text be set aside that seems to settle the matter positively? Here comes in the vast army of Bible commentators and theologians. But perhaps the text is of late origin, interpolated. The Dutch and German savants rise in their might, with their ingenious theories and microscopic scholarship. But there are other scientists who bid us not heed the Bible at all, because it contradicts the latest editions of their primers. Is, then, science strictly accurate? To answer this you must have a thorough acquaintance with biology, geology, astronomy, besides deciding for yourself between the conflicting views at nearly every point. By the time you have made up your mind as to whether capital punishment should be abolished, it has passed out of the statute-book, and you are dead, or mad, or murdered.

"But were this the only question a man has to settle in his short span of years, he might cheerfully engage in its solution. But life bristles with a hundred questions equally capital, and with a thousand-and-one minor problems on which he is expected to have an opinion, and about which he is asked at one time or other, if only at dinner."

At this moment the Poet who shares my chambers came in--later than he should have done--and interrupted my soliloquy. But I was still hot, and enlisted his interest in my vision and my apologia, and began drawing up a list of the questions, in which after a while he became so interested that he started adding to it. Hours flew like minutes, and only the splitting headache we both brought upon ourselves drove us to desist. Here is our first rough list of the questions that confront the modern man--a disorderly, deficient, and tautological list, no doubt, to which any reader can add many hundred more.


Queen Mary and Bothwell. Shakespeare and Bacon. Correct transliteration of Greek; pronunciation of Latin. Sunday opening of museums; of theatres. The English Sunday; Bank Holiday. Darwinism. Is there spontaneous creation? or spontaneous combustion? The germ theory; Pasteur's cures; Mattei's cures; Virchow's cell theory. Unity of Homer; of the Bible. Dickens v. Thackeray. Shall we ever fly? or steer balloons? The credit system; the discount system. Impressionism, decadence, Japanese art, the _plein air_ school. Realism _v._ romance; Gothic _v._ Greek art. Russian fiction, Dutch, Bulgarian, Norwegian, American, etc., etc.: opinion of every novel ever written, of every school, in every language (you must read them in the original); ditto of every opera and piece of music, with supplementary opinions about every vocalist and performer; ditto of every play, with supplementary opinions about every actor, dancer, etc.; ditto of every poem; ditto of every picture ever painted, with estimates of every artist in every one of his manners at every stage of his development and decisions as to which pictures are not genuine; also of every critic of literature, drama, art, and music (in all of which departments certain names are equal to an appalling plexus of questions--Wagner, Ibsen, Meredith, Browning, Comte, Goethe, Shakespeare, Dante, Degas, Rousseau, Tolstoï, Maeterlinck, Strindberg, Zola, Whistler, Leopardi, Emerson, Carlyle, Swedenborg, Rabelais). Socialism, its various schools, its past and its future; Anarchism: bombs. Labour questions: the Eight Hours' Day, the Unemployed, the Living Wage, etc., etc. Mr. Gladstone's career. Shall members of Parliament be paid? Chamberlain's position; ditto for every statesman in every country, to-day and in all past ages. South Africa, Rhodes, Captain Jim. The English girl _v._ the French or the American. Invidious comparisons of every people from every point of view, physical, moral, intellectual, and aesthetic. Vizetelly. Vivisection. First love _v._ later love; French marriage system _v._ the English. The corrupt choruses in the Greek dramas (also in modern burlesque--with the question of the Church and Stage Guild, Zaeo's back, the County Council, etc.). How to make London beautiful. Fogs. Bi-metallism. Secondary Education. Volunteer or conscript? Anonymity in journalism. Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Mohammedanism: their mutual superiorities, their past and their future. Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, and all philosophers and philosophies. The Independent Theatre. The origin of language, Where do the Aryans come from? Was Mrs. Maybrick guilty? Same question for every great murderer. The Tichborne case, and every other _cause célèbre_, including divorce cases. Crime and punishment. Music-hall songs. Heredity: are acquired qualities inherited? Is tobacco a mistake? Is drink? Is marriage? Is the high hat? Polygamy; the social evil. Are the planets inhabited? Is the English concert pitch too high? The divided skirt. The antiquity of man. Geology: is the story of the rocks short, or long, or true? Geology _v._ Genesis; Genesis _v._ Kuenen. Was Pope a poet? Was Whitman? Was Poe a drunkard, or Griswold a liar? Was Hamlet mad? Was Blake? Is waltzing immoral? Is humour declining? Is there a modern British drama? Corporal punishment in schools. Compulsory vaccination. What shall we do with our daughters? or our sons? or our criminals? or our paupers? or ourselves? Female franchise. Republicanism. Which is the best soap? or tooth-powder? Is Morris's printing really good? Is the race progressing? Is our navy fit? Should dynamite be used in war? or in peace? What persons should be buried in Westminster Abbey? Origin of every fairy-tale. Who made our proverbs and ballads? Cold baths _v._ hot or Turkish. Home Rule. Should the Royal Academy be abolished? and who should be the next R.A.? Should there be an Academy of Literature? or a Channel Tunnel? Was De Lesseps to blame? Should we not patronise English watering-places? Should there be pianos in board schools? or theology? Authors and publishers; artists and authors. Is literature a trade? Should pauper aliens be admitted? or pauper couples separated? Bank Holiday. Irving _v._ Tree. The world's politics, present, future, and even past--retrospective questions being constantly re-agitated: as, Should the American slaves have been emancipated? or Was the French Revolution a Folly? _Apropos_, which is the best history of it? Who is the rightful Queen of England? Is cycling injurious to the cyclist? or the public? Who was the Man in the Iron Mask? Is the Stock Exchange immoral? What is influenza? Ought we to give cabmen more than their fare? Tips generally. Should dogs be muzzled? Have we a right to extend our empire? or to keep it? Should we federate it? Are there ghosts? Is spiritualism a fraud? Is theosophy? Was Madame Blavatsky? Was Jezebel a wretch, or a Hellenist? The abuse of the quarantine. Should ladies ride astride? Amateurs _v_. professionals in sports. Is prize-fighting beneficial? Is trial by jury played out? The cost of law: Chancery. Abuses of the Universities. The Cambridge Spinning House. Compulsory Greek. The endowment of research. A teaching university in London. Is there a sea-serpent? Servants _v._ mistresses. Shall the Jews have Palestine? Classical _v._ modern side in schools. Should we abolish the censorship of plays? or fees? or found a dramatic academy? or a State theatre? Should gambling be legal? Should potatoes be boiled in their skins? should dynamiters? Should newspapers publish racing tips? or divorce cases? or comment? The New Journalism. What is the best ninth move in the Evans gambit? Would Morphy have been a first-class chess-player to-day? Is the Steinitz gambit sound? Do plants dream? Ought we to fill up income-tax papers accurately? Shelley and Harriet and Mary. Swift and Vanessa and Stella. Lord and Lady Byron. Did Mrs. Carlyle deserve it? The limits of biography; of photography in painting; of the spot-stroke in billiards. Did Shakespeare hold horses? Should girls be brought up like boys, or boys like girls, or both like one another? Are animals automata? Have they reason? or do they live without reason? Will Brighton A's fall? or Peruvians rise? Is it cruel to cage birds and animals? What is the best breed of horses? Did Wellington say "Up, Guards, and at 'em"? Cremation _v._ Burial. Should immoral men be allowed to retain office? Is suicide immoral? Opinion of the character of Elizabeth, Parnell, Catherine, Cleopatra, Rousseau, Jack the Ripper, Semiramis, Lucrezia Borgia, etc., etc. The present state of the Libel Law; and of the Game Laws. Is vegetarianism higher? or healthier? Do actors feel their parts? Should German type be abolished? or book-edges cut? or editions artificially limited? or organ-grinders? How about church-and-muffin-bells? Peasant proprietorship. Deer or Highlanders?

Without Prejudice - 3/66

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