Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter IV.: SUNDAY EVENING. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 8
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Chapter IV.: SUNDAY EVENING. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 8 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 8.
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Temmy was fond of feeling his grandfather's hand upon his shoulder any day of the week; but on the Sunday evening, in particular, it was delightful to the boy to share the leisure of the family. Many a tale of old times had Mrs. Sneyd then to tell; many a curious secret of things in earth, air, and heaven had the doctor to disclose; and uncle Arthur was always ready to hear of the doings of the last week, and to promise favours for the time to come. It was seldom that Temmy could enjoy a whole evening of such pleasures;— only when Mr. Temple chose to make an excursion, and carry his lady with him, or to go to bed at eight o'clock because his ennui had by that time become intolerable. Usually, Temmy could be spared only for an hour or two, and was sure to be fetched away in the midst of the most interesting of all his grand-mamma's stories, or the most anxious of the doctor's experiments.
This evening,—the evening of the day of opening the market-house for worship,—the poor boy had given up all hope of getting beyond the boundaries of the Lodge. Mr. Temple was, as he said, very ill; as every body else would have said,—in a very intolerable humour. He could not bear sunshine or sound. His wife must sit behind closed shutters, and was grievously punished for her inability to keep the birds from singing. Temmy must not move from the foot of the sofa, except to ring the bell every two minutes, and carry scolding messages every quarter of an hour; in return for which he was reproved till he cried for moving about, and opening and shutting the door. At length, to the great joy of every body, the gentleman went to bed. having drunk as much wine as his, head would bear, and finding no relief to his many ailments from that sort of medicine. This final measure was accomplished just in time for the drawing-room windows to be thrown open to the level rays of the sun, and the last breath of the closing flowers. The wine was carried away, and Ephraim called for to attend his young master to Dr. Sneyd's. Temmy was to explain why Mrs. Temple could not leave home this evening, and he might stay till Dr. Sneyd himself should think it time for him to return. Without the usual formalities of pony, groom, and what not, Temmy was soon on the way, and in another half-hour had nearly forgotten papa's terrible headache under the blessed influence of grand-papa's ease of heart.
Uncle Arthur was sitting astride on the low window-sill of the study, with Temmy hanging on his shoulder, when a golden planet showed itself above the black line of the forest. The moon had not risen, so that there was no rival in the heaven; and when the evening had darkened a little more, Temmy fancied that this bright orb cast a faint light upon his grandfather's silver hairs, and over uncle Arthur's handsome, weather-browned face. Temmy had often heard that his father had much beauty; and certainly his picture seemed to have been taken a great many times; yet the boy always forgot to look for this beauty except when some of these pictures were brought cut, while he admired uncle Arthur's dark eyes, and beautiful smile and high forehead, more and more every time he saw him. It was very lucky that uncle Arthur looked so well without combing his eyebrows, and oiling his hair, and using three sorts of soap for his hands, and three different steel instruments, of mysterious construction, for his nails; for the young farmer had no time for such amusements. It was also well that he was not troubled with fears for his complexion from the summer's sun, or from the evening air in the keenest night of winter. This was lucky, even as far as his good looks were concerned, for, if he looked well by candle-light, he looked better in the joyous, busy noon; and more dignified still when taking his rest in the moonlight; and, as Temmy now thought, noblest of all while under the stars. If papa could see him now, perhaps he would not laugh so very much as usual about uncle Arthur's being tanned, and letting his hair go as it would.
“Shall we mount to the telescopes, father?” asked Arthur. “The boy will have time to enjoy them to-night. I will lake care of him home, if Ephraim dares not stay.”
Dr. Sneyd rose briskly observing that it would indeed be a pity to lose such an evening. Temmy grasped his grandmamma's hand, hoping that she was going too. He scarcely knew why, but he felt the observatory to be a very awful place, particularly at night, when only a faint bluish light came in through the crevices of the shifting boards; or a stray beam, mysteriously bright, fell from the end of the slanting telescope, and visibly moved on the floor. Grandpapa was rather apt to forget Temmy when he once got into the observatory, and to leave him shivering in a dark corner, wondering why every body spoke low in this place, and afraid to ask whether the stars really made any music which mortal ears might listen for. When grandpapa did remember the boy, he was not aware that he was uneasy and out of breath, but would call him here and send him there, just as he did in the study in broad daylight. It had been very different with grandmamma, the only time she had mounted hither with him. She had held his hand all the while, and found out that, tall as he was grown, he could see better by sitting on her knee; and she had clasped him round the waist, as if she had found out that he trembled. Perhaps she had heard his teeth chatter, though grandpapa did not. Temmy hoped they would not chatter to-night, as he did not wish that uncle Arthur should hear them; but Mrs. Sneyd was not to be at hand. She declared that she should be less tired with walking to the lodge than with mounting to the observatory. She would go and spend an hour with her daughter, and have some talk with Ephraim by the way.
There needed no excuse for Temmy's being out of breath, after mounting all the stairs in the house, and the ladder of the observatory to boot; and the planet which he was to see being still low in the sky was reason enough for uncle Arthur to hold him up to the end of the telescope. He did not recover his breath, however, as the moments passed on. This was a larger instrument than he had ever looked through before, and his present impressions were quite different from any former experience. The palpable roundness of the orb, the unfathomable black depth in which it moved solitary, the silence,—all were as if new to him.
“You see it ?” asked Arthur.
Another long silence, during which the boy breathed yet more heavily.
“You see it still?”
“No, uncle Arthur.”
“My dear boy, why did you not tell me? We must overtake it. There! there it is once more! You must not let it travel out of sight again.”
“How can I stop it?” thought Temmy, and he would fam have pressed his hands before his eyes, as the silent vision traversed the space more brightly and more rapidly, it seemed to him, every moment. Arthur showed him, however,—not how to stop the planet, but how to move the instrument so as not to lose sight of it: he then put a stool under him, and told him he could now manage for himself. Dr. Sneyd had something to show his son on the other side of the heavens.
If Temmy had had the spheres themselves to manage, he could scarcely have been in a greater trepidation. He assured himself repeatedly that friends were at hand, but his head throbbed so that he could scarcely hear their whispers, and the orb now seemed to be dancing as he had seen the reflection of the sun dance in a shaken basin of water. He would look at something else. He jerked the telescope, and flash went one light after another before his eyes, as if the stars themselves were going out with a blaze. This would never do. He must look at something earthly. After another jerk to each side, which did not serve his purpose, he pushed it up, and saw—something which might belong to any of the worlds in being,—for Temmy knew no more about it than that it was most horrible. An enormous black object swept across the area of vision, again and again, as quick as lightning. It would not leave off. Temmy uttered a shriek of terror, and half slipped, half tumbled from his stool.
“What has the boy found? What can be the matter?” asked grandpapa. Arthur presently laughed, and told Temmy he was very clever to have found what he should have thought it very difficult to discover from this place—Arthur's own mill;—the new windmill on the mound, whose sails were now turning rapidly in the evening breeze. It was some comfort to learn that his panic was not much to be wondered at. Uncle Arthur knew what it was to take in too near a range with a large telescope. He had done so once, and had been startled with an apparition of two red cheeks and two staring blue eyes, apparently within half an inch of the end of his own nose.
“Here, Temmy,” said Dr. Sneyd, “try whether you can read in this book.”
“Shall I go and get a candle, grandpapa?”
“No, no. I want to see whether a little star yonder will be our candle. Lay the book in this gleam of light, and try whether you can read.”
Many strange things were still whisking before Temmy's eyes, but he could make out the small print of the book. He was then shown the star that gave the light,—one of the smallest in a bright constellation. He heartily wished that nobody would ask him to look at any more stars to-night, and soon managed to slip away to the little table, and show that he was amused with turning a greater and a lesser light upon the book, and showing with how little he could read the title-page, and with how much the small type of the notes. The next pleasant thing that happened was the lamp being lighted.
“Father,” said Arthur, “you seldom have me for an assistant now. I am neither tired nor busy to-night, and the sky is clear. Suppose we make a long watch.”
Dr. Sneyd was only too happy. He produced a light in one of his magical ways, and hung the shade on the lamp, while Arthur arranged his pens and paper, and laid his watch on the table. Dr. Sneyd took his place at the best telescope now in readiness, after various screwing and unscrewings, and shiftings of the moveable boards. Arthur meanwhile was cutting a pencil, with which he invited Temmy to draw beside him. Uncle Arthur thought Temmy would draw very well if he chose. In a little while nothing was to be heard but the brief directions of Dr. Sneyd to his secretary, and the ticking of the watch on the table.
Temmy was fast asleep, with his head resting on his drawing, when he was called from below, to go home.
“Just see him down the ladder,” said Dr. Sneyd.
“No, thank you, grandpapa; I can always get down.” In truth, Temmy always went down much more quickly than he came up.
The next time a cloud came in the way, Dr. Sneyd observed,
“Temple is ruining that boy. He will leave him no nerve,—no sense. What will his many thousand acres be worth to him without?”
“Do you think he will ever have those many thousand acres, sir?”
“I almost wish he may not. Perhaps his best chance would be in his being left to manage for himself in some such way as you have done, Arthur. Such a call on his energies would be the best thing for him, if it did not come too late.
Arthur had a strong persuasion that it might come at any time. He was by no means satisfied, that the many thousand acres were still Temple's. He was very sure that much of the gentleman's wealth must have evaporated during bis incessant transmutations of meadows into pleasure-grounds, and flower-gardens into shrubberies, and hot-houses into baths, and stables into picturesque cottages, and cottages into stables again. He was seldom seen three times on the same horse; and it was certain that the money he had locked up in land would never be productive while he remained its owner. Who would come and settle under such a proprietor, when land as good, and liberty to boot, was to be had elsewhere? Temple himself was contracting his cultivation every year. The more he laid out unproductively, the less remained to be employed productively. If Arthur had had one-tenth part of what Temple had wasted since he settled at Briery Creek, his days of anxiety and excessive toil might have been over long ago.
“It is all for the best, Arthur. You would not have been happy in the possession of Temple's money, subject to his caprices, poor man! Nobody is more easy than I am under pecuniary obligation; but all depends on the quarter whence it comes, and the purposes for which the assistance is designed. I accepted this observatory from you, you remember, when I knew that it cost you something to give up your time and labour to it; and I dare say I should have accepted the same thing from Temple, if he had happened to offer it, because, in such a case, the good of science could be the only object. But, if I were you, I would rather work my own way up in the world than connect myself with such a man as Temple. The first time he wanted something to fidget himself about, he would be for calling out of your hands all he had lent you.”
“One would almost bear such a risk,” said Arthur, “for the sake of the settlement. My poor sister makes the best of matters by talking everywhere of the quantity of labour her husband employs. But I think she must see that that employment must soon come to an end if no returns issue from it. I am sure I should be glad to employ much more labour, and in a way which would yield a maintenance for a still greater quantity next year, if I had the laying out of the money Temple wastes on his caprices. I am not complaining, father, on my own account. My hardest time is over, and I shall soon be doing as well as I could wish. I am now thinking of the interests of the place at large. It seems too hard that the richest man among us should at the same time keep away new settlers by holding more land than he can cultivate, waste his capital, instead of putting it out to those who would employ it for his and the common good, and praise himself mightily for his liberal expenditure, holding the entire community obliged to him for it, every time he buys a new luxury which will yield no good beyond his own selfish pleasure.”
“I am afraid you think the community has little to thank me for, Arthur? Perhaps, in our present state of affairs, the money I have ought to go towards tilling the ground, instead of exploring the heavens.”
“My dear sir, no. I differ from you entirely. You do not live beyond your income, nor—”
“Give your mother the credit of that, Arthur. But for her, my little property would have flown up to the moon long ago.”
“But, father, I was going to say that what I and others here produce is but the means of living, after all. It would be deplorable to sacrifice the end to them.”
“What end ? Do you mean the pleasure of star-gazing? I should be delighted to hear that.”
“Pleasure,—whether of star-gazing, or of any thing else that is innocent and virtuous,—that is really happiness. If Temple is really happy over his foreign wines, I am sure I have no more objection to his drinking them than to my men enjoying their cider. Let it be his end, if he is capable of no higher, as long as his pleasures do not consume more than his income. Much more may I be willing that you should enjoy your star-gazing, when out of the gratification to yourself arises the knowledge which ennobles human life, and the truth for which, if wc do not live now, we shall assuredly live hereafter.”
“I have always trusted, Arthur, that the means which have been bestowed upon me would not prove to be lost. Otherwise, I would have taken my axe on my shoulder, and marched off to the forest with you.”
“Father, it is for such as you that forests and prairies should be made to yield double, if the skill of man could ensure such fruitfulness. It is for such as you that the husbandman should lead forth his sons before the dawn, and instruct them to be happy in toiling for him whose light in yon high place is yet twinkling,—who has been working out God's truth for men's use while they slept.”
“Our husbandmen are not of the kind you speak of, Arthur. I see them look up as they pass, as if they thought this high chamber a folly of the same sort as Temple's Chinese alcove.”
“I think you mistake them, sir. I can answer for those with whom I have to do. They see all the difference between Temple's restless discontent and your cheerfulness. They see that he has no thought beyond himself, while you have objects of high and serious interest ever before your mind's eye; objects which, not comprehending, they can respect, because the issue is a manifestation of wisdom and benignity.”
“Enough! enough!” cried the doctor. “I have no complaint to make of my neighbours, I am sure. I should be a very ungrateful man, if I fancied I had. I am fully aware of the general disposition of men to venerate science, and to afford large aid to those who pursue it, on a principle of faith in its results. My belief in this is not at all shaken by what befel me in England; but, as I have appeared here accidentally,—a philosopher suddenly lighting in an infant community instead of having grown up out of it, it was fair to doubt the light in which I am regarded. If the people hated me as a magician, or despised me as an idle man, I think it would be no wonder.”
“I am glad you hold your faith, father, in the natural veneration of society for the great ends of human life. I believe it must be a strong influence, indeed, which can poison men's minds against their legislators, and philosophers, and other wise men who neither dig nor manufacture. I believe it must be such a silver tongue as never yet spoke that could persuade any nation that its philosophers are not its best benefactors.”
“True. It was not the English nation that drove me hither; and those who did it never complained of my pursuits,—only of what they supposed my principles. I wish I could bear all the sorrow of the mistake.”
“Be satisfied to let them bear some of it, father. It will help to guard them against a repetition of it. I am sure your own share is enough.”
“In one sense it is, Arthur. Do you know, I find myself somewhat changed. I perceive it when I settle myself down to my pursuits; and to a greater extent than I anticipated. It may be owing in part to the want of the facilities I had enjoyed for so many years, and never thought to part with more. I sometimes wonder whether I should be the same man again at home, among——But let all that pass. What I was thinking of, and what your mother and I oftenest think of, is the hardship of your having to bear a part,— so large a part in our misfortune. I should wonder to see you toiling as you do, from month to month,—(for I know that wealth is no great object with you,)—if I did not suspect——But I beg your pardon. I have no right to force your confidence.”
“Go on, father.”
“Well, to say the truth, I suspect that you left something more behind you than you gave us reason to suppose. If you had not come of your own free choice, this idea would have made both your mother and me very unhappy.”
“I have hopes that she will come, father. I have been waiting to tell you, only for a prospect of the time when I might go for her. Nothing is settled, or I would have told you long ago; but I have hopes.”
Dr. Sneyd was so long silent, thinking how easily the use of some of Temple's wasted money would have completed Arthur's happiness ere this, —benefiting Temple and the whole community at the same time,—that his son feared he was disappointed. He had no apprehension of his being displeased at any part of his conduct.
“I hoped tile prospect would have given you pleasure, father,” he said, in a tone of deep mortification.
“My dear son, so it does—the greatest satisfaction, I assure you; though, indeed, I do not know how you were to become aware of it with-out my telling you. I know my wife's opinion of her to be the same as my own. I only hope she will be to you all that may repay you for what you have been to us: indeed, I have no doubt of it.”
Arthur was perfectly happy; happy enough to observe that the clouds were parting, and that,—as science had been so lately pronounced the great end for which his father was living,—it was a pity his observations should not be renewed.
“If science be the great object we think it,” observed the doctor the next time he was obliged to suspend his labours, “it seems strange that it should be pursued by so few. At present, for one who devotes himself to the end, thousands look not beyond the mere means of living. I am not afraid to call it the end to you, though I would not have done so in my pulpit this morning without explanation. We understand one another.”
“Perfectly; that since the full recognition of truth is virtue, science is the true end. I hope, I believe, I discern the method by which more and more labour will be withdrawn from the means to be transferred to the end. For a long time past,—ever since I have been in the habit of comparing you and your pursuits with the people about you and their pursuits—ever since I came here,—I have been arriving at my present conviction, that every circumstance of our social condition,—the most trifling worldly interest of the meanest of us,—bears its relation to this great issue, and aids the force of tendency towards it.”
“You have come hither for something worth gaining, then: it is worth while to cross land and sea for such a conviction. Can I aid you with confirmation from the stars?”
“No doubt; for all knowledge, come whence it may,—from incalculable heights or unfathomable depths,—all new knowledge of the forces of nature affords the means of setting free a quantity of human labour to be turned to new purposes. In the infancy of the race, the mind had no instruments but the unassisted hands. By degrees, the aid of other natural forces was called in; by degrees, those forces have been overruled to more and more extended purposes, and further powers brought into subjection, setting free, at every new stage of acquisition, an immense proportion of human labour, and affording a glimpse, —almost too bright to be met by our yet feeble vision,—of times when material production—the means of living, shall be turned over to the machinery of nature, only superintended by man, whose life may then be devoted to science, ‘worthy of the name.’ which may, in its turn, have then become the means to some yet higher end than is at present within our ken.”
“In those days, then, instead of half-a-dozen labourers being virtuously employed in production for themselves and one unproductive philosopher, the six labourers will themselves have become philosophers, supported and cherished by the forces of nature, controlled by the intellect of perhaps one productive labourer.”
“Just so; the original philosopher being the cause of this easy production by his ascertainment of the natural forces in question. This result is merely the protraction of the process which has been going on from the earliest infancy of the race. If Noah, in his first moonlight walk upon Ararat, could have seen mirrored in the watery waste the long procession of gigantic powers which time should lead forth to pass under the yoke of man, would he not have decided (in his blindness to the new future of man) that nothing would be left for man to do?”
“Probably. And in order to exhibit to him the whole case, he must be carried forward to man's new point of view.”
“And so it will be with some second Noah, whose happier lot it shall be to see knowledge cover the earth, bearing on its bosom all that is worthy of the new heavens and new earth; while all that is unworthy of them is sunk and lost. By the agency of his gigantic servants he may be raised to that pinnacle of the universe whence he may choose to look forth again, and see what new services are appointed to man, and who are the guides and guardians allotted to his higher state.”
“And what will he behold?——But it is foolish to inquire. One must be there to know.”
“To know fully. But though we can but barely speculate upon what he will see, we may decidedly pronounce upon what he will not see. We cannot tell how many galaxies will be perceived to complete the circle of Nature's crown, nor what echoes of her diapason shall be wafted to the intent spirit. We cannot tell how near he may be permitted to approach to behold the evolution of a truth from apparent nothingness, as we are apt to fancy a seraph watches the creation of one of yonder worlds—first distinguishing the dim apparition of an orb emerging from the vacuum, then seeing it moulded into order, and animated with warmth, and invested with light, till myriads of adorers are attracted to behold it sent forth by the hand of silence on its everlasting way. We cannot tell to what depth man may then safely plunge, to repose in the sea-caves, and listen to the new tale that its thunders interpret, and collect around him the tributaries of knowledge that come thronging down the green vistas of ocean light. We cannot tell what way will be opened before him to the dim chambers of the earth, where Patience presides, while her slow and blind agents work in dumb concert from age to age, till, the hour being come, the spirit of the volcano, or the angel of the deluge, arrives to burst their prison-house. Of all these things we can yet have but a faint conception; but of some things which will not be we can speak with certainty.”
“That when these inanimate powers are found to be our best servants, the immortal mind of man will be released from the drudgery which may be better performed by them. Then, never more will the precious term of human life be spent in a single manual operation; never more will the elastic limbs of children grow rigid under one uniform and excessive exercise; never more will the spirit sit, self-gnawing, in the fetters to which it has been condemned by the tyranny of ignorance, which must have its gratifications. Then bellows may breathe in the tainted streams of our factories; and human lungs be spared, and men's dwellings be filled with luxuries, and no husband-man be reduced from his sovereignty of reason to a similitude with the cattle of his pastures. But much labour has already been set free by the employment of the agency of nature; and how little has been given to science!”
“It seems as if there must ever be an intermediate state between the discovery of an instrument and its application to its final use. I am far from complaining, as you know, of the nature of human demands being what it has been, as, from time to time, liberated industry has afforded a new supply. I am far from complaining that new graces have grown up within the domains of the rich, and that new notions of convenience require a larger satisfaction day by day. Even when I perceive that a hundred heads and hands are necessary to the furnishing forth of a gentleman's equipage, and that the wardrobe of a lady must consist of, at least, a hundred and sixty articles, I am far from wishing that the world should be set back to a period when men produced nothing but what was undeniably essential.”
“You would rather lead it on to the time when consumption will not be stimulated as it is at present?”
“When it shall be of a somewhat different kind. A perpetual stimulus seems to me to be provided for by labour being more and more set at liberty, since all the fruits of labour constitute at once the demand and the supply. But the desires and tastes which have grown up under a superabundance of labour and a dearth of science are not those which may be looked for when new science (which is as much the effect as the cause of new methods of production) shall have opened fresh worlds to human tastes. The spread of luxury, whether it be pronounced a good or an evil, is, I conceive, of limited duration. It has served, and it still serves, to employ a part of the race and amuse another part, while the transition is being made from one kind of simplicity to another,—from animal simplicity to intellectual simplicity.”
“The mechanism of society thus resembles the mechanism of man's art. What was done as a simple operation by the human arm, is effected as a complicated operation by instruments of wood and steel. But the time surely comes when this complexity is reduced, and the brute instrument is brought into a closer and a still closer analogy with the original human mechanism. The more advanced the art, the simpler the mechanism.”
“Just so. If, in respect of our household furniture, equal purposes of convenience are found to be answered by a smaller variety of articles, the industry which is thus released will be free to turn to the fine arts,—to the multiplication of objects which embody truth and set forth beauty, —objects which cannot be too extensively multiplied. If our ladies, at the same time, discover that equal grace and more convenience are attained by a simpler costume, a more than classical simplicity will prevail, and the toil of operatives will be transferred to some higher species of production.”
“We should lose no time, then, in making a list of the present essentials of a lady's wardrobe, to be preserved among the records of the race. Isaiah has presented one, which exhibits the maidens of Judea in their days of wealth. But I believe they are transcended by the damsels of Britain.”
“I am sure the British ladies transcend the Jewish in their method of justifying their luxury. The Jewesses were satisfied that they enjoyed luxury, and looked no farther. The modern ladies extol it as a social virtue,—except the few who denounce the very enjoyment of it as a crime. How long will the two parties go on disputing whether luxury be a virtue or a crime?”
“Till they cease to float themselves on the surface of morals on the support of old maxims of morality; till they look with their own eyes into the evidence of circumstance, and learn to make an induction for themselves. They will see that each side of the question has its right and its wrong; that there is no harm, but much good in enjoyment, regarded by itself; and that there is no good, but much harm in causing toil which tends to the extinction of enjoyment.”
“In other words, that Dr. B.'s pleasure in his picture gallery is a virtuous pleasure while he spends upon it only what he can well spare; and that Temple's hot-houses are a vicious luxury, if, as we suspect, he is expending upon them the capital on which he has taught his labourers to depend as a subsistence fund.”
“Exactly; and that the milk-maid may virtuously be married in the silk gown which her bridegroom thinks becoming, provided it is purchased with her surplus earnings; while an empress has no business with a yard of ribbon if she buys it after having parted with the last shilling of her revenue at the gaming-table. Silk is beautiful. If this were all, let every body wear silk; but if the consequence of procuring silk be more pain to somebody than the wearing of silk gives pleasure, it becomes a sin to wear silk. A thriving London tradesman may thus innocently dress his wife and nine daughters in Genoa velvet, while the spendthrift nobleman may do a guilty deed in arraying himself in a new fashion of silk hose.”
“Our countrywomen may be expected to defend all luxurious expenditure as a virtue, while their countrymen,—the greyheaded as well as youths,—are overheard extolling a war expenditure as a public good. Both proceed on the notion that benefit resides in mere consumption, instead of in the reproduction or in the enjoyment which results; that toil is the good itself, instead of the condition of the good, without which toil is an evil.”
“If war can be defended as a mode of expenditure by any but gunsmiths and army clothiers, there is no saying what curse we may not next find out to be a blessing. Of all kinds of unproductive consumption, that occasioned by war is the very worst. Life, and the means of life, are there extinguished together, and one might as well try to cause the resurrection of a slain army on the field of battle, as hope for any return to the toil of the labourers who equipped them for the strife. The sweat of the artisan falls as fruitless as the tears of the widow and orphan. For every man that dies of his wounds abroad, there is another that pines in hunger at home. The hero of to-day may fancy his laurels easily won; but he ought to know that his descendants of the hundredth generation will not have been able to pay the last farthing of their purchase-money.”
“And this is paid, not so much out of the luxuries of the rich as the necessaries of the poor. It is not so much one kind of unproductive consumption being exchanged for another as a productive consumption being stinted for the sake of an unproductive. The rich may contribute some of their revenue to the support of a war, but the middling classes give,—some a portion of their capital, and others the revenue of which they would otherwise make capital,—so that even if the debts of a war were not carried forward to a future age, the evil consequences of an abstraction of capital are.”
“It appears, however, as if unproductive consumption was much lessened at home during a war. One may see the difference in the very aspect of the streets in London, and yet more in the columns of newspapers. Puffing declines as soon as a war breaks out,—not that puffing is a sign of any thing but a glut of the article puffed, —but this decline of puffing signifies rather a cessation of the production of the community than such a large demand as needs no stimulating.”
“Yes; one may now see in London fire-arms or scarlet cloth exhibited at the windows of an establishment where, during the peace, might be found ‘the acmè of paper-hanging;’ and where might formerly be had floor-cloth of a marvellous number of yards without seam, whose praises were blazoned in large letters from the roof to the ground, ball cartridges are piled, and gun powder stands guarded, day and night. Since gluts work their own cure, and puffing comes of gluts, puffing is only a temporary absurdity. Long may it be before we are afflicted with it here!”
“Afflicted?—Well! looked at by itself, perhaps it is an affliction, as all violations of truth, all exhibitions of folly, are; but one may draw pleasure too from every thing which is a sign of the times.”
“O, yes; there is not only the strong present pleasure of philosophising on states of society, but every indication of what it serves to the thinker, at the same time, as a prophecy of better things that shall be. But, do you not find it pleasanter to go to worship, as we went this morning, through green pastures and by still waters, where human industry made its appeals to us in eloquent silence, and men's dwellings bore entire the aspect of sabbath repose, than to pass through paved streets, with a horizon of brick-walls, and tokens on every side, not only of week day labour, but of struggle for subsistence, and subservience for bread? The London shop-keepers do not remove their signs on a Sunday. If one catches a glimpse here and there of a spectacled old gentleman reading his Bible in the first-floor parlour, or meets a train of spruce children issuing from their father's door at the sound of the church-bell, one sees, at the same time, that their business is to push the sale of floor-cloth without seam, and to boast of the acmè of paper-hanging.”
“There may be more immediate pleasure in the one Sabbath walk than in the other, Arthur, but they yield, perhaps, equally the aliment of piety. Whatever indicates the condition of man, points out, not only the species of duty owing to man, but the species of homage due to God.— the character of the petitions appropriate to the season. All the methods of going to worship may serve the purpose of preparation for the sanctuary. The nobleman may lean back in his carriage to meditate; the priest may stalk along in reverie, unconscious of all around him; the citizen-father may look with pride on the train of little ones with whom he may spend the leisure of this day; and the observing philanthropist may go forth early and see a thousand incidents by the way, and all may alike enter the church-door with raised and softened hearts.”
“And all listen with equal faith to the promise of peace on earth and good-will to men?”
“Yes, and the observer not the least, if he observe for holy purposes.”
“O, father, think of the gin-shop and the news-office that he must pass by the way! They are infinitely worse than the visible puffery. Think of the thronged green-grocer's shop, where yon may see a widow in her soiled weeds, flushed with drink, careless of the little ones that cling to her gown, hungering as they are for the few potatoes which are all she can purchase after having had her morning dram!—Think of the father cheapening the refuse of the Saturday's market, and passing on, at last, wondering when his pale family will again taste meat! Think of the insolent footmen, impeding the way to the church-door, while they amuse themselves with the latest record of licentiousness in the paper of the day!”
“I have often seen all this, Arthur, and have found in it——”
“Nothing that necessarily hardens the heart, I know; on the contrary, the compassion excited is so painful that devotion is at times the only refuge. But as for the congeniality——”
“What is the value of faith, if it cannot assimilate all things to itself? And as for Christian faith, where and amidst what circumstances did it arise? Was it necessary, in going up to the temple, to overlook the blind beside the way, and to stop the ears when the contention of brethren was heard, and to avoid the proud Pharisee and the degraded publican? Was the repose of the spirit broken when an adultress entered the sacred precincts? Were the avenues to the temple blocked up that the holy might worship in peace? And when they issued forth, were they sent home to their closets, forbidden to look to the right hand or to the left for fear of defilement?”
“If so, it was by order of the Pharisees. You are right, father. The holiest did not even find it necessary to resort to mountain solitudes, or to the abodes of those who were pure as themselves, for the support of their faith or the repose of their devotion. Aliment for piety was found at the table of the publican, and among the sufferers beside Bethesda. To the pure every emotion became a refining process, and whatever was not found congenial was made so. It may certainly be the same with the wise and the benignant of every age.”
“It is indeed a halting faith which dreads as common that which God has cleansed and sanctified; and where is God's own mark to be recognized but in the presence of joy and sorrow, of which he is the sole originator and distributor? Whatever bears a relation to joy and sorrow is a call to devotion; and no path to the sanctuary is more sacred than another, while there are traces of human beings by the way.”
“You prefer then the pastures which tell of our prosperity to the wilds of the prairie; and I observed that you dwelt upon the portraits of familiar faces before you left your study this morning.”
“I did; and many a time have I dwelt quite as earnestly on strange faces in which shone no friendship for me, and no consciousness of the objects of the day. I read in their human countenance,—human, whether it be vile or noble,— the promise, that as all things are for some use, and as all men contribute while all have need, the due distribution will in time be made, causes of contention be done away, and the sources of social misery be dried up, so that——”
“So that we may, through all present dismay and vicissitude, look forward to ultimate peace on earth and good-will towards men. Yes, all things are of use to some, from the stalk of flax that waves in my field below, to Orion now showing himself as the black cloud draws off,—all for purposes of support to body or mind,—all, whether appropriated, or left at large because they cannot be appropriated. Let us hope that each will, at length, have his share; and as Providence has placed no limit to the enjoyment of his gifts but that of food, we may learn so to understand one another's desires as mutually to satisfy them; so that there may not be too much of one thing to the injury of some, and too little of another thing, to the deprivation of more.”
“If we could but calculate the present uses of any one gift!” said Dr. Sneyd, smiling; “but this is a task for the philosophers of another age, or another state. I would fain know how many living beings are reposing or pasturing on your flax-stalk, and how much service will be rendered in the course of the processes it has to go through. I would fain know how many besides ourselves are drawing from yonder constellation knowledge and pleasure.”
“More than there are stars in the heaven, besides the myriads that have their home in one or other of its worlds. What more knowledge are we to derive to-night?”
And Arthur returned to his seat and his task, which he had quitted while the sky was clouded. His father observed, with surprise, how far the twinkling lights had travelled from their former place.
“It is later than I thought, Arthur,” said he. “I ought not to have kept you so long from your rest, busy as your days are.”
Arthur was quite disposed to go on, till sunrise, if his father wished to take advantage of his services. He must meet his men very early in the dewy morning to mow, and the night was now so far advanced that it would be as well to watch it out. Dr. Sneyd was very thankful for his aid. When they had satisfied themselves that the household were gone to rest, and had replenished the lamp, nothing but brief directions and the ticking of the watch was again heard in this upper chamber till the chirping of birds summoned the mower to fetch his scythe.