Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IV.: MORE NOVELTY. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 4
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Chapter IV.: MORE NOVELTY. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 4 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 4.
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At length came September, with its utter dulness in town, and its busy brightness in the country. No parliament, no ministry, no court, with whose proceedings to diversify the daily papers; but instead, a reporting of the progress of certain noble lords and patriotic gentlemen from one country seat to another, with accurate calculations of the quantity of game bagged by each. Now were expresses hurrying to and for in search of the runaway men in power. Now were ancient ladies proudly leaning on the arms of sons, who were happy in being allowed breathing time to watch the autumn sunsets from the terraces of their stately castles. Now were the young heirs of rank and wealth initiated by playful papas into the mysteries of riding and sham shooting. Many a little lord was now mounted on his pony to adventure forth as far as the park gates, while mamma and sisters waved their handkerchiefs from afar, and careful grooms waited to lead him back safe. Many such a little rogue carried his mimic fowling-piece into the stubble, and learned not to wink or flinch when papa brought down a bird, or coaxed the gamekeeper to lend him a brace or two to carry when they should come in sight of home and the girls. Many a tenant now put himself in the way of a greeting from his landlord, resting on a stile, or pacing his way slowly th, rough a field. Many a state secret, that the public would fain have known, was dismissed for some such freak as snatching at a high hazel twig, or leaping a gate. Many a fair family group of riders was seen threading green lanes, or cantering over downs, or appearing and disappearing in the clumpy drives of a park,—graceful boys, and high-born girls, leading their father in search of some new beauty which it turns out he discovered in like manner, when he was a pleasure-loving youth instead of a statesman. Now, in the golden noon, was the boat seen to unfurl its snowy sail, noon, and glide in rivalship of grace with the swans which diverged on either hand to let the vessel have its way without disturbing their serenity. He who has guided, or may guide, the helm of the state, now condescends to steer a less majestic bark on a calmer element; and instead of the prayers, threats and blessings of an empire, bends his ear to the prattle of his little ones, or to the rustling of a startled deer, bounding from the thicket as the vessel nears the shore. Not now too busy to observe whether rain or sunshine be without, the recreated statesman finds in either case equal pleasure and repose. His lady's nursery lan boudoir, his sons' classics, his daughters' music, his library, his billiard table, and withal some peculiar and long relinquished pet pursuit, give him as much pleasure on a rainy day, as the flower-garden, the fish-pond and poultry-yard when the sky is blue overhead. He sighs over his past toils, reminds his spouse of their wedding sojourn at Chamouni, and at intervals quotes Virgil to the lad behind his chair, and whispers Pope to the little lady netting at his elbow. Statesmanship should have pleasures worthy of its toils; and so thought Letitia when her husband first mutely pointed out to her the woods of Weston.
Sweet was the leisure of the first afternoon, which gave promise of what should be done at future intervals of leisure;—intervals not likely to be too frequent to retain their charm. His lordship had brought his business and its apparatus with him; but for this day all was laid aside. Within half an hour after alighting from the carriage, and while dinner was being served up, my lord and lady were in the rosery, observing on what must have been its beauty a few weeks before, and the one pointing out and the other following with eager eyes the tracts among the hanging woods which had to be explored, the points of view which must be visited, one at sunrise, one in the glowing noon, another in the still evening. As soon as dinner was over, they were out again, that Letitia might see the ruins of the old, abbey before the sunlight should have departed. Her heart melted within her when she saw the long shadows of the lofty arch extended on the velvet turf, motionless except when a bird took wing from among the ivy, and set its boughs dancing. The rooks sailed in circles above the stately ruin, and the thrush piped from the evergreen covert which shut in the retired nook in which it stood. The sun-dial also marked the silent lapse of time, although there was usually none to lay the lesson to heart.
“This is the place, love,” said lord F—.
“And you would have had me come without you,” said Letitia, after a long pause.
“We have some weeks yet, to be sure, to enjoy it. This is the last spot that looks desolate as winter comes on. No leafless trees, no strewn blossoms! The wall-flowers there on the pinnacle flourish late; and all is green and bright till the snow falls.”
“And after, surely,” said Letitia. “I should like to see icicles glistening on these arches, springing grey from the sheeted snow. I should like to see the ivy sprays bending under their white burden, or shaking it off in a shower of sparkles at the breeze's bidding. O let us come here at Christmas!”
“If we do, you may chance to see another sight. You will see tracks of small feet in the snow, and catch some little girl, in her red cloak, stealing from the Wishing-Well.”
“The Wishing-Well! O where?”
“It springs from under an old stump behind this wall. Have you any wishes?”
“I will make some for the superstition's sake.”
And immediately Letitia might be seen unbonneted, kneeling on the consecrated stone, and drinking the draught her husband had filled for her. Thus was she seen, as presently appeared. A voice reached them from one side, praying that her ladyship's wishes might come to pass, be they what they might, as they must be for good and no harm to the people under her. Letitia sprang up, laughing, and her husband replaced her hat, calling to the well-wisher to show himself. He did so, not in the shape of a hardy labourer, with his farming or gardening tools on his shoulder; nor yet of a picturesque old man bending beneath his faggot. Such might better have beseemed the place: but this was a middle-aged, shrewdlooking little man, whom one would have guessed to be town-.bred. He came forward, saying that he had a message for her ladyship from his wife; —my lord knew his wife.
“Not I,” said his lordship. “I did not know you had a wife.”
“May be not, my lord; but you know the woman. She that keeps the grocery shop, as you turn the corner in the village, your lordship remembers.”
“What! Nanny Sweet? So you have taken her to wife since I saw you last.”
“Yes, my lord. She has a very good business, or had before the equality folks set up a store against us. I don't like equality, not I. But my wife sends word, my lady . . . .”
“You do not like equality!” interrupted Letitia. “If there was equality, you know, you would not need to mind who set up a store, and what came of your wife's grocery business.—And do not you like this place too,—these woods, and the deer, and the lake?”
White lauded the grandeur and beauty of Weston.
“Well; this place would be as much yours as ours if there was equality. You might fish on the lake, and shoot in the preserves, and . . . .”
“And lie down to sleep in the sun here beside the well,” continued lord F—;and all without asking anybody's leave.”
“I thank you kindly, my lord; but I like sleeping in my bed, if I sleep at all, unless it be dozing over my pipe, while Jack is reading the news at the Duke's Head. The only time I went fishing, I fell into the water; so you'll not soon find me in a boat again. My wife and I like a chicken now and then, on Sundays; so a share of your poultry-yard would be welcome perhaps; and, as for the deer and game, I leave it to other folks to get out of their warm beds for the sake of it. It would not answer to me to be laid by with the rheumatism for such a cause, you see.”
“But there would be no poaching if there was equality,” said Letitia, laughing. “Cannot game be shot in the daytime?”
“By none but gentlemen, my lady, as I have always heard. However, the equality folks have no more game, as far as I know, than other people. The most they pretend to is to have plenty of butcher's meat.—What I pretend to, and Nanny too, is to get our bread honestly; and so, my lady, she bade me tell you that she has laid in a new stock, hearing your ladyship was coming, and has lost already by its being September instead of June. Light ginghams for morning wear . . . .”
“I thought your wife was a grocer.”
“Grocer and draper, my lady. If your ladyship should find the mornings chilly, as they will be soon, perhaps you would look at her stuffs;— a very pretty variety of browns, as you will see, my lady. And her tea and sugar is of the best and as for her snuffs . . . .”
“O, I must make acquaintance with her snuffs, of course. Have you a pinch about you?”
“And what is your occupation now, White?” inquired lord F——.
“The last thing I had to do, my lord, was lining your lordship's pew at church, and covering the hassocks.”
“And what did your priest say to that.?”
“Lord, sir, I cleared scores with the priest long ago; ever since I was employed to whitewash the Baptist chapel.”
“Were you once a Catholic?” inquired Letitia.
“Yes, my lady. There was carving work to do at Sir William's chapel, and I got a good long job.”
“And were a Catholic while it lasted, and a Baptist after white-washing the meeting-house?”
“To be sure, my lady; I took a part in the week-day meetings after that.”
“Till you were employed to line my pew; and now, I dare say, you are a very good churchman?”
“I hope to be so, my lord. Your lordship may laugh, but I know what manners is. I wouldn't be so unhandsome as to take work at one place, and attend at another.”
“So your interest has nothing at all to do with it, White; only manners. But I'wonder now what you think your religion is worth, if you can change and change again as you have done?”
“Why, my lord, I think religion is a very good thing, as long as it does not come in one's way: but one must make sacrifices to duty, as all the clergy tell us; and is it not my duty to get my living the best way I can?”
“Well, White; tell your wife I will step down to see her stock, some day soon. I do not at present take snuff'; but whenever I do, I will be her customer.”
Thérèse and her mistress kept one another waiting this night. The housekeeper, who was much amused with Thérèse's broken English and unbroken simplicity, invited her out to a turn in the shrubberies when tea was sent in, and she was sure of not being wanted for an hour or two. When they came in again, they found that their master and mistress had once more wandered forth, tempted by the rising of the clear full moon behind the woods. After sitting nearly an hour in the dressing-room, Thér`se put faith in the housekeeper's prophecy that her master would stay abroad till after midnight, like a child as he always was, or one that lived on air, the first few days after his coming down from town. Thérèse looked out and longed for another ramble. The dressing-room lamp shed a pearly light through the room; but a golden planet hung over the opposite beechen grove: a small bright fire burned in the grate; but it was less cheering than the bracing evening air: the time-piece ticked drowsily amidst the silence; but it was less soothing than the coming and going of the night-breeze among the elms in the green walk. Thérèse could not resist. Once more she ran out, promising herself that she would be back in ten minutes,—long before her mistress should be ready for her. In an hour, startled by the striking of the village clock, she returned, and found Letitia, half undressed, still gazing from the window.
“Ah, madam!” cried Thérèse, terrified; “I am very, very wrong . . . .”
As she hastened, with trembling hands, to throw off her cloak, and arrange the toilet-table, appealing the while to the moon and other temptations, Letitia, under a sudden impulse, ran and kissed the astonished Thérèse, crying, “O Thérèse, how happy we shall be here!” Thérèse returned the kiss again and again before she stopped to consider what she was about. As soon as Letitia could repress her inclination to laugh, she observed that they seemed all to have set aside common rules to-day, and to have their heads turned alike by coming into the country. After this, Thérèse would be in waiting at the proper hour, and she herself ....
“And you, madam . . . .” said Thérèse, half smiling. “You will not make me forget that there is one in this country who loves me as some love me at home; but this will redouble my respect, madam.”
“I hope it will, Thérèse; for I need to be reminded now and then .... I was not always lady F——, you know; and a moon-light night makes me forget these things sometimes. We are all equal in reality, except when ignorance, and all that comes of ignorance, separates us from one another; so there may be friendship,—there is friendship between you and me, Thérèse.”
“The knowledge which you have given me, madam, will make this friendship my secret treasure. No one will know it who cannot also be your friend.—But many ladies put confidence in their maids, and tell them such things as I have never heard from you. Mrs. Philips . . . .”
“Mrs. Philips, I suspect, Thérèse, had much more to tell than she ever was told; at least, her secrets were of a kind that will never be known to come from me. Your confessor shall never have to warn you against me,—unless, indeed, it be my heresy. I would not spoil you, my dear; and that is the reason why I keep you so much with me. It would be hard if I did not love you and let you love me. Now go to bed; and when the sun shines, instead of the moon, we must forget all the wild things we have done this first day.”
“I shall never be fit to be a countess,” was her confession to lord F——; “I kissed my maid last night.”
“O no, no. That would be idiotcy. Philips is at Brighton, you know, where lady Frances spoils her by a more pernicious familiarity than mine with Thérèse. But really this girl wins one's heart as if she had been born one's younger sister.”
“I dare say she is some countess, or countess's daughter in disguise; or so some romantic ladies might fancy.”
“Ladies who think that nobility is only hereditary. There is disguised nobility in Thérèse; but her patent is sealed with an impress which there are few to recognize, and it is deposited where not many trouble themselves to look for it.”
“Side by side with yours, love. Happily, your nobility of that better kind needs be disguised no more than the lesser which you have acquired. This was the chief satisfaction I had in giving you the lesser.”
“We will look among the equality folks, as White calls them, for specimens of natural nobility. According to their theory, such always assumes its rank among them, does it not?”
“This is one of the professed objects of their system; but it is not fair to look for its fulfilment in such small societies as they have yet been able to form. Master minds are thinly sown.”
“There needs not equality of outward condition,” observed Letitia, “to make the best minds master minds. Those who, by virtue of a patent of mental nobility, have held sway over the national mind, have been of all ranks.”
“And will so continue to be; for, as long as men are unlike one another, there will be a distinction of ranks, though the distinction may be maintained by a better principle than heritage. Rank and wealth will, I trust, be in time distributed according to natural laws; but degrees of rank and wealth there will always be; and the advocates of a system of equality would greatly promote their cause by a frank recognition of this truth. While all evidence from which a judgment can be formed is before them, and they come to a conclusion in direct opposition to the evidence, I cannot, however much I may respect them on some accounts, think them wise and safe guides of the people. The necessity of inequality of condition may be established thus.”
“But first tell me whether their favourite principle of co-operation necessarily involves equality of condition.”
“They would tell you ‘yes’. I say ‘no.’ They hold that competition is both the cause and effect of inequality of condition; whereas certain advocates of co-operation in another country hold, (and I think wisely,) that their principle stands a better chance where a gradation of rank and property is allowed. I so far agree with these last as to believe the time to be discernible when co-operation, in a certain sense, shall prevail,—meaning thereby, when all interests shall be harmonized instead of opposed; but that this includes equality of condition, I cannot allow, since varieties of character seem to me to forbid such equality.”
“There must be an inequality of physical and mental powers, at all events.”
“Surely; and therefore an inequality in the produce of individual labour. No one labours, or ever will labour, without a view to the fruits; and those fruits, however appropriated, are property. If a giant produces ten times as much as a dwarf, and each is allowed the same middle portion of the fruits, for his maintenance and enjoyment, is it to be supposed that the giant will trouble himself henceforth to produce more than the dwarf?”
“He will be more likely to seize some of the dwarf's portion.”
“Certainly; and hence it is clear that the only security of society lies in awarding to all their rights, and enforcing upon all their duties; and what are rights but a man's exclusive power over his own produce? What are his duties but allowing to others the possession of their produce?”
“You do not think then that the giant and the dwarf would be alike contented with having everything they could want or wish for administered to them in return for a certain Portion of their labour. You do not look forward to the lion dandling the kid.”
“I should be afraid the lion would be dandling the kid when he ought to be out in quest of food. If there was no inducement to giants to produce more than dwarfs, there would soon be little to administer to anybody. The consumption of giants would soon have to be provided for by the labour of a community of dwarfs.”
“The giants would foresee this, and then . . . .”
“Instead of working harder for no recompense, they would withdraw,— the mightiest first, and then the next strongest, and so on, till the weakest of the dwarfs would be left to shift for themselves as they best might.”
“And then would come the days of potatoes and wooden trenchers, of which you were speaking one day.—But this is supposing men to have the same passions and desires that they have now; whereas they are to be educated into a better state.”
“With all my heart: but the utmost that education can do is to extend man's views, to exalt his aims, to strengthen and vivify his powers,— not to change his nature. His nature involves inequality of powers; and this decree of Providence can never be set aside, or its operation neutralized by any decree of man that the fruits of those powers shall be equally divided.”
“Certainly not; for such a decree of man involves injustice. If the giant feels it to be unjust that he must give to others the fruits of his labour, the dwarf may also complain that he enjoys no more than the giant, though he works ten times as hard.”
“The dwarf's complaint would thus be against Providence, and the giant's against man; but both show that equality is an arbitrary state, good neither for each nor for all. Nothing but compulsion would retain the giant in it long; and thus it is clear that, where there is liberty, there cannot be equality.”
“What becomes of the old cry of Liberty and Equality?”
“It relates, I imagine, to an equality of rights; It means an open field and fair play to every one. This kind of equality I am doing all I can in my office to procure, by doing away with the protection to some which imposes burdens upon others. By the same principle I am bound to oppose that arbitrary equality which enriches the weak with the fruits of the strong man's labours.”
“But there is no force used. All who bind themselves to equality do it voluntarily.”
“Certainly. The only applicable force is force of argument, and the opposition I bring is an opposition of reasons. If these should not prevail, a little experience will soon finish the business. I am only sorry that any should be dazzled with a delusive prospect of ease and luxury, when their efforts should be guided in another direction for the relief of their grievous burdens. At a time when every one should be bent on regulating the labour market, providing for the utmost permanent growth of capital, and lessening the burdens of taxation, we cannot spare any from these grand objects to be urging on the increase of capital at the expense of a much greater increase of population, and amusing themselves with visions of what can never be achieved by the means they propose. Man must and will be better served as the world grows older; but it will be by giving the eternal laws of society fair play, and not by attempting to subvert them. I shall be surprised if you hear anything from our neighbours in the village which will not bear the construction I have put upon the system as laid down by its originators.”
“Suppose I make myself popular among them at once by telling them my tale of last night.”
“There is no need, my dear. I trust they do us the justice to believe that our affections graduate according to a truer scale than that of hereditary rank.”
“You have shown that they do by marrying me.”
“All people show it in the most important circumstances of their lives,—in their attachments. Alas for man, if the movements within must correspond with the outward state! Whom then would kings love?”
“And (what is more important) how should the poverty-stricken look up through the ranks above him, and say, with hope in his eye and assurance in his voice, ‘I am a brother?’ How else should the stirring thought be kept alive in him that his rights will not be for ever overlaid, his claims not be for ever incompatible with those of his brethren? Natural affinities are ever acting, even now, in opposition to circumstance. They will in time direct us to the due control of circumstance. Meanwhile, let no class imagine that any other class denies the existence of these affinities, or resists their workings..—I will go and see how they are acting in the village.—Shall I bring you some of Mrs. White's snuff?”
“Why, thank you, I am not aware of any affinity between a rappee canister and my nostrils. But the old sexton is a snuff-taker. Call upon him by all means, and show him that you understand his likings. He will gratify some of yours, if you find him in a talkative mood.”