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- Without Prejudice - 4/66 -


Were our ancestors taller than we? Is fruit or market-gardening or cattle-farming more profitable? Dutch _v._ Italian gardening. What is an etching? Do dreams come true? Is freemasonry a fraud? or champagne? are Havanas? Best brand of whiskey? Ought Building and Friendly Societies to be supervised? Smoking in theatres. Should gentlemen pay ladies' cab-fares? Genius and insanity. Are cigarettes poisonous? Is luxury a boon? Thirteen at table, and all other superstitions--are they foolish? Why young men don't marry. Shall we ever reach the Pole? How soon will England and the States be at war? The real sites and people in Thackeray's novels. A universal penny post? Cheap telegrams and telephones? Is the Bank of England safe? Are the planets inhabited? Should girls have more liberty? Should they propose? or wear crinolines? Why not have an unlimited paper currency? or a decimal system and coinage? or a one-pound note? Should we abolish the Lords? or preserve the Commons? Why not euthanasia? Should dramatic critics write plays? Who built the Pyramids? Are the English the Lost Ten Tribes? Should we send missions to the heathen? How long will our coal hold out? Who executed Charles I.? Are the tablets of Tel-el-Amarna trustworthy? are hieroglyphic readers? Will war ever die? or people live to a hundred? The best moustache-forcer, bicycle, typewriter, and system of shorthand or of teaching the blind? Was Sam Weller possible? Who was the original of Becky Sharp? Of Dodo? Does tea hurt? Do gutta-percha shoes? or cork soles? Shall we disestablish the church? or tolerate a reredos in St. Paul's? Is Euclid played out? Is there a fourth dimension of space? Which is the real old Curiosity Shop? Is the Continental man better educated than the Briton? Why can't we square the circle? or solve equations to the _n_th degree? or colour-print in England? What is the use of South Kensington? Is paraffin good for baldness? or eucalyptus for influenza? How many elements are there? Should cousins marry? or the House be adjourned on Derby Day? Do water-colours fade? Will the ether theory live? or Stanley's reputation? Is Free Trade fair? Is a Free Press? Is fox-hunting cruel? or pigeon-shooting? How about the Queen's staghounds? Should not each railway station bear its name in big letters? and have better refreshments? Should we permit sky-signs? Limits of advertisement. Preservation of historic buildings and beautiful views _v_. utilitarianism. Is the coinage ugly? Should we not get letters on Sunday? Who really wrote the "Marseillaise"? Are examinations any real test? Promotion in the Army or the Civil Service. Is logic or mathematics the primal science? and what is the best system of symbolic logic? Should curates be paid more and archbishops less? Should postmen knock? or combine? Are they under military régime? or underpaid? Should Board School children be taught religion? The future of China and Japan. Is Anglo-Indian society immoral? Style or matter? Have we one personality or many?--with a hundred other questions of psychology and ethics. A graduated income tax--with a hundred other questions of political economy. Asphalt for horses. Will the French republic endure? Will America have an aristocracy? Shall Welsh perish? Is Platonic love possible? Did Shakespeare write "Coriolanus"? Is there a skull in Holbein's "Ambassadors"? What is the meaning of Dryden's line, "He was and is the Captain of the Test"? or of the horny projection under the left wing of the sub-parasite of the third leg of a black-beetle? Was Orme poisoned? Are there fresh-water jelly-fishes? Is physiognomy true? or phrenology? or graphology? or cheiromancy? If so, what are their laws? Opinions on Guelphs and Ghibellines, fasting displays, infanticide, the genealogy of the peerage, the origin of public-house signs, Siberia, the author of Junius, of the Sibylline Books, werewolves, dyeing one's hair, coffin-ships, standing armies, the mediaeval monasteries, Church Brotherhoods, state insurance of the poor, promiscuous almsgiving, the rights of animals, the C. D. Acts, the Kernoozer Club, emigration, book-plates, the Psychical Society, Kindergarten, Henry George, Positivism, Chevalier's Coster, colour-blindness, Total Abstinence, Arbitration, the best hundred books, Local Option, Women's Rights, the Wandering Jew, the Flying Dutchman, the Neanderthal skull, the Early Closing movement, the Prince of Wales, and the Tonic Sol-fa notation. Is there an English hexameter? Is a perfect translation impossible? Will the coloured races conquer? Is consumption curable? Is celibacy possible? Can novels be really dramatised? Is the French school of acting superior to ours? Should literary men be offered peerages? or refuse them? Should quack-doctors be prosecuted? Should critics practise without a license? Are the poor happier or unhappier than the rich? or is Paley right? Did Paley steal his celebrated watch? Did Milton steal from Vondel? Is the Salon dead in England? Should duelling be revived? What is the right thing in dados, hall-lamps, dressing-gowns, etc.? Should ladies smoke? Is there a Ghetto in England? Anti-Semitism. Why should London wait? or German waiters? Mr. Stead's revival of pilgrimages. Is Grimm's Law universal? The abuses of the Civil Service; of the Pension List. Dr. Barnardo. Grievances of match-girls; of elementary teachers. Are our police reliable? Is Stevenson's Scotch accurate? Is our lifeboat service efficient? The Eastern Question. What is an English fairy-tale? What are the spots on the sun? Have they anything to do with commercial crises? Should we spoil the Court if we spared the Black Rod? or the City if we spared the Lord Mayor? Is chloroforming dangerous? Should armorial bearings be taxed? or a tradesman's holiday use of his cart? Should classical texts be Bowdlerised for school-boys? Is the confessional of value? Is red the best colour for a soldier's uniform or for a target? Will it rain to-morrow? Ought any one to carry firearms? Do we permit the cancan on the English stage? or aërial flights without nets? Where are the lost Tales of Miletus? Should lawyers wear their own hair? Was the Silent System so bad? Should a novel have a purpose? Was the _Victoria_ Fund rightly distributed? What is the origin of Egyptian civilisation? Is it allowable to say, "It's me"? Every other doubtful point of grammar and--worse still--of pronunciation; also of etymology. May we say "Give an ovation"? Is the German Emperor a genius, or a fool? Should bachelors be taxed? Will the family be abolished? Ensilage. Why was Ovid banished from Rome? Is the soul immortal? Is our art-pottery bad? Is the Revised Version of the Bible superior to the Old? Who stole Gainsborough's picture? Which are the rarest coins and stamps? Is there any sugar in the blood? Blondes or brunettes? Do monkeys talk? What should you lead at whist? Should directors of insolvent companies be prosecuted? Or classics be annotated? Was Boswell a fool? Do I exist? Does anybody else exist? Is England declining? Shall the costers stand in Farringdon Street? Do green wall-papers contain arsenic? Shall we adopt phonetic spelling? Is life worth living?

The last question at least I thought I could answer, as I bore to bed with me that headache which you have doubtless acquired if you have been foolish enough to read the list. If only one were a journalist, one would have definite opinions on all these points.

And to these questions every day brings a fresh quota. You are expected to have read the latest paragraph in the latest paper, and the newest novel, and not to have missed such and such an article in such and such a quarterly. And all the while you are fulfilling the duties of, and solving the problems of, son, brother, cousin, husband, father, friend, parishioner, citizen, patriot, all complicated by specific religious and social relations, and earning your living by some business that has its own hosts of special problems, and you are answering letters from everybody about everything, and deciding as to the genuineness of begging appeals, and wrestling with some form or forms of disease, pain, and sorrow.

"Truly, we are imperfect instruments for determining truth," I said to the Poet. "The sane person acts from impulse, and only pretends to give a reason. Reason is only called in to justify the verdict of prejudice. Sometimes the impulse is sentiment--which is prejudice touched with emotion. We cannot judge anything on pure, abstract grounds, because the balance is biassed. A human being is born a bundle of prejudices, a group of instincts and intuitions and emotions that precede judgment. Patriotism is prejudice touched with pride, and politics is prejudice touched with spite. Philosophy is prejudice put into propositions, and art is prejudice put into paint or sound, and religion is a pious opinion. Every man is born a Platonist or an Aristotelian, a Romanticist, or a Realist, or an Impressionist, and usually erects his own limitations into a creed. Every country, town, district, family, individual, has a special set of prejudices along the lines of which it moves, and which it mistakes for exclusive truths or reasoned conclusions. Touch human society anywhere, it is rotten, it crumbles into a myriad notes of interrogation; the acid of analysis dissolves every ideal. Humanity only keeps alive and sound by going on in faith and hope,--_solvitur ambulando_,--if it sat down to ask questions, it would freeze like the traveller in the Polar regions. The world is saved by bad logic."

"And by good feeling," added my friend the Poet.

"And in the face of all these questions," I cried, surveying the list ruefully again, "we go on accumulating researches and multiplying books without end, vituperating the benefactors who destroyed the library of Alexandria, and exhuming the civilisations that the earthquakes of Time have swallowed under. The Hamlet of centuries, 'sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,' the nineteenth of that ilk mouches along, soliloquising about more things in heaven and earth than were dreamt of in any of its predecessors' philosophies. Ah me! Analysis is paralysis and introspection is vivisection and culture drives one mad. What will be the end of it all?"

"The end will be," answered the Poet, "that the overstrung nerves of the century will give way, and that we shall fall into the simple old faith of Omar Khayyám:

"A Book of Verses underneath the Bough, A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou Beside me singing in the Wilderness-- O Wilderness were Paradise enow."

"Yes," said I, "the only wisdom is to live. Action is substance and thought shadow." And so--paradoxically enough--I began to think out

A WORKING PHILOSOPHY

The solar system turns without thine aid. Live, die! The universe is not afraid. What is is right! If aught seems wrong below, Then wrong it is--of thee to leave it so. Then wrong it first becomes for human thought, Which else would die of dieting on naught. Tied down by race and sex and creed and station, Go, learn to find thy strength in limitation, To do the little good that comes to hand, Content to love and not to understand; Faithful to friends and country, work and dreams, Knowing the Real is the thing that seems. While reverencing every nobleness, In whatsoever tongue or shape or dress, Speak out the word that to _thy_ soul seems right, Strike out thy path by individual light: 'Tis contradictory rays that give the White.

"The ideas are good. But what a pity you are not a poet!" said my friend the Poet.

But, though I recognise that prejudice in the deepest sense supplies the matter of judgment, while logic is only regulative of the form, yet in the more work-a-day sense of the word in which prejudice is taken to mean


Without Prejudice - 4/66

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