Front Page Titles (by Subject) 255.: THE ENGLISH NATIONAL CHARACTER MONTHLY REPOSITORY, N.S. VIII (JUNE 1834), 385-95 - The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II
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255.: THE ENGLISH NATIONAL CHARACTER MONTHLY REPOSITORY, N.S. VIII (JUNE 1834), 385-95 - John Stuart Mill, The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II 
The Collected Works of John Stuart Mill, Volume XXIII - Newspaper Writings August 1831 - October 1834 Part II, ed. Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson, Introduction by Ann P. Robson and John M. Robson (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986).
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THE ENGLISH NATIONAL CHARACTER
Though it was published in a monthly review rather than a newspaper, this open letter, signed “A.” (the signature Mill was normally to use in the London and Westminster), was intended for Le National (see letter to John Robertson, 28 July, 1837; EL, CW, Vol. XII, pp. 343-4); the recipient of the open letter was Armand Carrel, editor of Le National, with whom Mill had in 1833 agreed to exchange articles (ibid., 25 Nov., 1833, p. 197). Perhaps because of the difficulties Le National was having (see Nos. 232, 247, and 266), Mill submitted his article to the Monthly Repository. Headed “Letter from an Englishman to a Frenchman, on a Recent Apology in The Journal des Débats, for the Faults of the English National Character,” it is described in his bibliography as “A ‘Letter from an Englishman to a Frenchman, on a recent apology in the Journal des Débats, for the faults of the English national character’ in the Monthly Repository for June 1834”
(MacMinn, p. 40).
at your suggestion I have thrown upon paper, though in a hasty and imperfect manner, some of the thoughts which occurred to me after perusing in the Journal des Débats under the signature C—s, a criticism on Mr. Bulwer’s recent work, England and the English.1
The well-known author of these articles is a person to whose writings on England some attention is due. He is one of the few Frenchmen who have a considerable acquaintance with English literature; and he knows, for a foreigner, much of England. His knowledge, however, is of a kind which reminds me of a saying of one of my own countrymen. Somebody having, in his presence, praised a third person very highly for the extensiveness of his knowledge, “Yes,” he replied, “he knows exactly enough of every subject to have the wrong opinion.” Precisely of this kind is the knowledge which M. Chales possesses of England. He knows just enough to encourage him to entertain the most erroneous opinions. He knows just enough to believe that whatever he does not know, does not exist. He knows just enough to be able to read a work, by a writer of acknowledged merit, abounding with descriptions and exemplifications of many of the most striking features in the social state of Great Britain, and to close the book without having received a single impression; never dreaming that he can have any thing to learn on the subject of England from an instructed and clever Englishman; setting down, in the quietest manner, as groundless and worthless, every thing in the book which goes beyond what he previously knew.
It would be ungracious in an Englishman to be severe on a foreigner for not being severe upon us. I am glad when a Frenchman praises the English; I am glad when, in a certain stage of his intellectual developement, he even overpraises us, as I am also when an Englishman, in the same stage of his progress, overpraises the French. It is a natural reaction against the national prejudice and antipathy from which both countries have but recently emerged. It is also a very natural middle stage in the expansion of an individual intellect. A vulgar person sees only the virtues of his own nation, only the faults of other nations: but when, ourselves beginning to rise above the herd, we first perceive the faults which are prevalent among our own countrymen, we are apt to pass into the contrary extreme, and to exaggerate the degree of positive excellence which is implied by the absence of those particular faults in other nations. While we continue bigoted, all we see in foreigners is, that they have not our virtues: when we become half-enlightened, we sometimes see only that they have not our faults, forgetting, or not sufficiently recollecting, that they have other faults which may be equally or more pernicious.
This last one-sidedness Mr. Bulwer may have partly fallen into; and even if, as I am more inclined to think, he is not justly chargeable with it, yet the tone of severe animadversion in which he speaks to his own countrymen of their national vices, might require to be modified if he were speaking of those same vices to foreigners; just as we should remonstrate with a brother or a friend in far stronger terms than we should use in speaking of the faults of that brother or friend to a stranger, who is not already familiar with their good qualities. A writer, therefore, who had to introduce Mr. Bulwer’s book to the French public, would have had much to say in mitigation of the unfavourable impression which might be produced by such strictures on the English if taken without qualification. He might have said to the French reader, “Here is a powerfully drawn picture of the faults of the English character; but a character is not to be judged solely by its faults. The characteristic faults, both of an individual and of a people, always point to their characteristic virtues; and if you display the one without the other, you may produce either a panegyric or a satire, which you will, but not a fair judgment. By insisting, in the same manner, upon the faults of the French character, without placing by their side those excellences which are often the bright side of the very same qualities, a picture might be made of France as repulsive as Mr. Bulwer’s picture of England, though with a different kind of repulsiveness.”
Had M. Chales reviewed Mr. Bulwer’s book in this spirit, he would have merited the thanks of both countries. But the course he has adopted is the very reverse. Instead of bringing forward the other half of the truth, he denies that half which Mr. Bulwer has so cleverly delineated. Instead of teaching France to know us, he teaches us not to know ourselves. Instead of using our example to improve his own countrymen, he will not allow us to be improved by theirs. Instead of pointing out to the French how much good, and good of the highest and rarest kind, and good which they are far from having yet equalled, coexists in England with all the evil which Mr. Bulwer describes, he boldly avers that the evil is not evil.
Such commendation of England is worse than the ancient antipathy. It is unnecessary for me, writing to you, to heap up common places on the importance of friendship and sympathy between two such nations; but we want you to sympathize in our virtues, not in our faults. The wiser and better of the English will not thank a Frenchman for stepping in with a denial or a vindication of all that they most disapprove in their own countrymen, all that they are daily and hourly struggling against, all that they are striving to make their countrymen ashamed of. The disposition to hold fast by a favourite vice does not stand in need of any foreign support. The moral teachers of England, those who are labouring for the regeneration of England’s national character, might have hoped for aid and encouragement from the nobler spirits abroad; they are at least justified in presuming that they know their own country as well as M. Chales knows it, that they wish every jot as well to it, and are quite as unlikely to judge it harshly, where harshness is not deserved.
Mr. Bulwer has employed a large part of his work in contending against what every Englishman of the slightest elevation of soul has long cried out against, as emphatically and disgustingly our national vice: the universal and all-absorbing struggle to be or to appear rich, and the readiness to make any sacrifice of ease, comfort, or personal dignity, for the appearance of mixing with, or of being honoured with the notice of, the wealthy. For his spirited denunciation of this vice he is called to account by M. Chales in the following terms:
Supposez qu’un Anglais, qui sait que le commerce c’est toute la Grande Bretagne, et que le commerce sans la garantie de la propriété n’existe pas, écrive deux volumes pour se moquer de la propriété, pour la bafouer, comme fille aînée de l’égoïsme et comme mère de tous les abus; que penseriez-vous de lui?—Qu’il faut l’envoyer à la maison de force s’il est dans son bon sens, et à Bedlam s’il est en délire.—Envoyez-y donc M. Bulwer, l’auteur de Paul Clifford, de Pelham, et de Devereux, M. Bulwer devenu saint-simonien, M. Bulwer qui se moque de la propriété et qui n’épargne pas le commerce. Imaginez ce que ce serait qu’une Angleterre sans commerce, une Angleterre spartiate, qui croupirait dans son ignorance et dans son abrutissement. Le bel esprit M. Bulwer a des railleries très mordantes contre le patriotisme égoïste de l’homme qui aime son pays comme sa propriété personnelle. Tout ce que nous aimons, ne l’aimons-nous pas comme nous appartenant, ou comme devant nous appartenir? M. Bulwer fait des caricatures vives, grotesques, coloriées, et s’attaque surtout au gros commerçant de la Cité, appuyé sur la colonne de chiffres et plein de son importance. Où serait, sans de tels appuis, la prospérité de la Grande Bretagne? Où seraient ses immenses fabriques, ses gigantesques usines, et ses admirables ports? Ces choses ne se font pas avec du dandysme et du bel esprit. M. Bulwer ressemble trop à ces sophistes Athéniens qui amusaient le peuple aux dépens de ce qu’il avait de meilleur et de plus utile, pour lui apprendre les jolies phrases, les images agréables, et les frivoles combats de la parole.2
We have heard of sophists, both at Athens and in other places, who have amused the people at the expense of what are usually considered to be “ce qu’ils avaient de meilleur et de plus utile,” their love of virtue, their love of freedom, their love of their country, their love of the pursuits of intellect, their love of God. But this is the first time we have seen any one reproached with attempting to laugh his countrymen out of the love of money; the first time a people were ever warned not to let themselves be cajoled into laying down the desire to grow rich, or, as Mr. M’Culloch would phrase it, “the desire inherent in all mankind of bettering their condition,”3 by the allurements of “jolies phrases” and “images agréables.” Would to God that there were in the world, that there had ever been in the world since it emerged from chaos, any people, any the smallest, paltriest tribe in the wildest, most inhospitable desert, among whom the danger lay on that side! Alas! it is not against such small weapons as a few declamatory phrases and bons mots, that the aid of moralists and politicians needs be invoked to strengthen a passion, against the excesses of which the highest degree of human culture yet attained is barely able to contribute some small counterpoise, and to neutralize some of its more detestable, of its more pitiable influences!
Did M. Chales ever know what it was to live in a country where the whole of life is but one incessant turmoil and struggle about obtaining the means of livelihood? where the grand object of the existence of him who has five hundred pounds a year, is to make them a thousand? of him who has one thousand, to make them two? of him who has two thousand, to make them ten? where next to getting more, the ruling passion is to appear to the world as if you had already got more, by spending or seeming to spend more than you have? where hardly any branch of education is valued, hardly any kind of knowledge cultivated, which does not lead in the directest way to some money-getting end? where whatever of any higher culture still forms part of the received systems of education, is strikingly in contrast with the spirit of the age, and is kept alive only by some remains of respect for old customs and traditional feelings? where (except a few of the richest of all, who in every country lead idle and useless lives) scarce a man can be found who has leisure to think, leisure to read, leisure to feel? where such a phenomenon is scarcely known, as a man who prefers his liberty to a little more money, who, like so many thousands in France, can sit down contented with a small patrimony, affording him the necessaries and comforts of life, but nothing for ostentation, and devote himself to literature, politics, science, art, or even to the mere enjoyment of quiet leisure? where by most it would scarcely be deemed credible if it were told that such men existed? where one who professed to act upon such principles would be supposed either to have some purpose to serve by assuming a false character, or to have renounced wealth because wealth had renounced him, because he had not talents or industry to acquire it; or, in fine, to be an odd, eccentric, unaccountable person, bordering upon a fool or a madman? For, the mass of what, by a truly English expression, are called “the better classes,” are quite unconscious of any thing peculiar in their eagerness for wealth; they suppose that it is natural, and that all other persons feel as they do; they do not philosophize on it, and make a theory to justify it; they leave that to their French apologist. And the truth is, it is not properly the love of money which is actuating them; in nine cases out of ten it is not properly a passion at all,—it is a mere habit; the acquisition of money is of such immense value in their eyes, not because they really care much for it, but because they care for nothing else. Where they are conscious of a motive, what they are aiming at is consequence: to keep up their importance in the eyes of others, by keeping up what almost alone gives importance in England, the appearance of a large income. But they are often unconscious even of this; they are following a blind mechanical impulse, which renders money, and the reputation of having money, the immediate end of their actions, without their knowing that it is so, far less why it is so, and they are merely astonished and incredulous when they meet with any one who acts as if with him the case were otherwise. But if their eyes could be opened to the real state of their own souls, if their imaginations could be cultured up to the bare perception of the existence of riches which are above money, and which money will not purchase, believe me they would be the last persons to make the kind of defence for themselves which M. Chales makes for them. If they knew what they lose by caring for nothing in the world but to “get on” in it, they would laugh at the bare idea of sacrificing the tranquillity of their lives for the sake of “la prospérité de la Grande Bretagne.” Yes, it is too true that in England a man is but one wheel in a machine; and that the human race, judging from English experience, would seem to have been created in order that there might be “immenses fabriques,” “gigantesques usines,” and “admirables ports.” But though this is the result, it is not the intention. A foreigner lands in London or Liverpool, and seeing such docks, such warehouses, such manufactories as he never saw before, thinks it vastly fine to belong to a country which has such things; but the merchant, or the manufacturer, does he ever think of taking credit to himself for toiling and scraping in order that his country may possess docks and manufactories? The man has no such thought, nor would it afford him any solace if he had: he is only thinking, poor man, of how to escape from bankruptcy, or how to be able to move into a finer house, in a more fashionable quarter of the town.
If the writer to whom I am replying has never known such a country as that which I have endeavoured to place before his imagination, let him bless heaven that he has not; that he lives in a country where money, though it adds to a person’s consequence, is not necessary to it; where a great thinker or a great writer is a more important individual than the richest landowner or banker; where any one who has a whole coat on his back, though he live in a single room on a fifth floor, is thought and thinks himself as fit for any society or any salon in the capital, and is treated on as perfect a footing of equality when there, as the richest man in the nation. Let M. Chales well meditate on these advantages, and if he would learn by contrast how to appreciate them, let him read Mr. Bulwer’s book; for as yet, it is evident, he has but looked into it.
Does not he accuse Mr. Bulwer of having written his book expressly to decry the institution of property? of wishing to put an end to commerce? of demanding “une Angleterre sans commerce, une Angleterre spartiate, qui croupirait dans son ignorance et dans son abrutissement?” Now, every person either in England or France who has read the book, knows that there is not in it, from beginning to end, so much as one word either against the institution of property or against commerce. It is only M. Chales who in his simplicity imagines, that whoever hints that the trading spirit and the love of money-getting can possibly exist in excess, must be an enemy to property and to commerce. All the moral writers who have ever lived, Greek, Roman, German, English, French, were all, according to this writer’s curious definition, “Saint-Simonians.”
Mr. Bulwer is occasionally superficial, and like all epigrammatic writers, frequently attains smartness at the expense of accuracy; he also occasionally temporizes with some classes of the enemies of improvement; but, with all its faults, his book is the truest ever written on the social condition of England; and the French may be assured, that although he misunderstands many of the smaller features of the English character, he has not in greater things at all overcharged the unfavourable side. Because he writes with perhaps somewhat too visible an aiming at effect, M. Chales accuses him of attempting to make fallacies pass by means of lively writing; unconscious that the very liveliness of the writing is acting upon himself in quite the contrary way: he thinks the observations must be shallow because they are brilliantly expressed. Mr. Bulwer’s English readers have, I make no doubt, been very generally impressed in the same manner. It would be a great mistake to suppose that frivolity of manner in this country prepossesses readers in favour of an author’s opinions; on the contrary, it excites a prejudice against them. But Mr. Bulwer probably thought it better to be read, even at a disadvantage, than not to be read. Such is the choice a writer usually has to make, in addressing himself to English readers, at least of the higher and middle classes. If his mode of writing be lively and amusing, they distrust all he says; if he be not amusing, they do not read him at all.
I could easily prove to you by examples that the necessity of being amusing is the cause of almost every blunder in Mr. Bulwer’s book, even in matters of fact. For the sake of being amusing, he could not be content to discuss, he thought it necessary to paint. But, for a picture, details are necessary as well as outlines: and the details which were requisite for correctly filling up the picture, Mr. Bulwer often did not know. This is particularly conspicuous in all that he writes about France. Thus, to take one instance among many, Mr. Bulwer dwells much, and with reason, on the characteristic fact (a fact connected with many other differences between the two countries) of the great personal consideration possessed in France by the leading journalists, while in England men are ashamed rather than proud of a connection with even the most successful newspaper. Almost all Mr. Bulwer’s general remarks on this subject are just and pertinent; but he must needs illustrate his assertions by an imaginary conversation between a supposed editor of The Times and M. Bertin de Vaux. In this conversation there are some clever traits of satire, but the part which is borne in it by the representative of French journalism must, by every Parisian who reads it, be felt as laughably incongruous and absurd; the smallest blunder being that M. Bertin de Vaux, peer of France, late deputy for the department of Seine et Oise, is confounded with M. Bertin l’aîné, principal editor and responsible manager of the Journal des Débats.4
This reminds me of a most portentous piece of ignorance of the state of society in England which M. Chales displays, in conjunction with a curiously perverse misapplication of a true principle. We are all familiar with that kind of philosophic pedantry, which, when it has got hold of a few truths which it conceives to be a test of superiority over the vulgar, applies them à tort et à travers, and sees proof of ignorance of them in the bare fact of maintaining an opinion different from its own on any subject. Thus M. Chales declares Mr. Bulwer to be entirely mistaken in deeming the position of a man of letters to be a more desirable one in France than in England; and then favours his readers with a column and a half of observations on the intrinsic worthlessness of the character of a mere man of letters, a writer by profession, a hack, who does not write because he has something to say, but who must find something to say in order that he may write, and by writing may obtain food or praise.5 Undoubtedly, this is a character of no great worth or dignity, and the observations of M. Chales on the subject are perfectly just, and the more just the more out of place; for, as M. Chales ought to have well known, Mr. Bulwer was not complaining of any neglect shown to such literary hacks, who, on the contrary, are almost the only prosperous persons among our public writers; but of the almost insuperable obstacles with which those writers have to struggle who are not mere “hommes de lettres,” but students, giving forth to the world the fruits of their studies; and the very inferior estimation in which intellectual pursuits and intellectual eminence are held, in whatever manner exemplified.
It is a fact, that of all the men of scientific eminence now living in Great Britain, whether eminent in moral and political or in mathematical and physical knowledge, there is scarcely one who, if he wanted a subsistence, could gain it by his scientific pursuits. The consequence is, that the finest scientific talents are, in the present state of society, almost lost to the world. Except the one or two in a hundred who possess an independent fortune, all the men of high philosophical intellect in Great Britain depend for food and clothing upon the vulgar pursuits of some mechanical business, which could be quite adequately performed by persons with none, or with a far smaller share of their exalted qualities; and are able to devote to their higher calling only the few leisure hours left them by the intense competition of the multitudes who, for a little bread, are willing to labour incessantly without any leisure at all.
Among “men of letters” it is upon such persons as these that the defects in the present state of society in Great Britain fall the most heavily. As for the hack writers, whom M. Chales with so much justice condemns, they, in a world which, whether it confesses it or not, is really governed by the press, can always, by skilfully playing upon the meaner passions of the public or of particular classes, reap a tolerable pecuniary harvest. Of consideration indeed they have little, and deserve, if possible, less; and this brings me to the statement of M. Chales which I characterized as a portentous piece of ignorance. He says:
M. Bulwer, toujours un peu frivole, a signalé entre la France et l’Angleterre des différences imaginaires. Le rang qu’il attribue à l’éditeur d’un journal français, est tout à fait illusoire. En Angleterre, comme ici, lorsqu’un journal est bon, qu’il représente une masse d’opinions accréditées, et qu’il en est l’organe non seulement fidèle mais actif, mais spirituel, mais éloquent, il devient centre, il conquiert de l’autorité, il influe même sur l’Etat. Le chef et l’âme d’une telle entreprise s’arme d’un pouvoir qui correspond non seulement à la force de l’opinion qu’il représente, mais au degré de talent qu’il déploie et dont il s’entoure.6
Mr. Bulwer, not being a fool, did not call in question any thing so obvious as that in every country where newspapers exist, a powerfully written and widely circulated newspaper must have great influence. Some of our newspapers are, as M. Chales truly says, powers in the state. But this influence of the press does not show itself in the shape of respect and consideration for those who wield that great empire; their power resembles that which, in a despotic country, is sometimes exercised by a low-born and disreputable favourite, who is at the same time dreaded and despised. I am not afraid of being contradicted by any Frenchman when I say, that in France the profession of a political journalist is one of the most honourable and most honoured which a man of powerful intellect and popular eloquence can exercise; it is a road to public dignities; a career by which a man who is suitably endowed by nature and education, rises to a position from which he might at his pleasure be a deputy or a minister, if he were not conscious of being already much more than a deputy, or even than a minister: and as men, previously unknown, may and continually do rise to eminence by this profession, so do men already eminent avowedly engage in it, without any other feeling than that they are raising, not lowering, their personal importance and rank. Now, I request it of you, show this which I have just written to any English friend, and hear what he will say. If I were to publish it to all England, I doubt if there would be found a hundred persons in the whole country who would not utterly disbelieve the statement. Englishmen cannot conceive that journalism can be anything but a rather low and disreputable trade. No man of any rank or station in society likes it to be known or suspected that he has anything to do with a newspaper. In France there are editors of daily journals, any one of whom may be considered as individually the head, or at lowest the right hand, of a political party: in England no journalist, however popular, is esteemed anything higher than the powerful and formidable but rather dangerous and disagreeable sting in its tail.
Like all despised classes, they, for the most part, merit their fate. A man of talents condemned to disrespect, generally becomes deserving of it; and makes his talents profitable to himself in such ways as are left open to him, not restrained by the fear of forfeiting the consideration he cannot look to have. In France a journalist of eminent talents, like a deputy of eminent talents, may at the worst have it presumed that the seductions to which he yields are those of a lofty ambition: but if an English journalist is unprincipled, the interest which actuates him is of the most grovelling sort; mere gain. A journalist in England is considered as an adventurer: and in most instances the estimation is just. There are honourable exceptions: men more high-minded, disinterested, and patriotic, than some editors of English newspapers, are not to be met with. But they are not sufficiently numerous to redeem the character of their class. Its reputation they could not redeem if they were five times as numerous. For in England every one who takes part in politics, and who is poor, is presumed to be an adventurer: and in England every one is considered poor who is not rich. In England there is some faith in that kind of public virtue which consists in not being corrupted, but none whatever in that kind which makes the public concerns its own, and devotes its life to them: consequently, if a man appears to make politics his occupation, unless he is already extremely rich, it is always taken for granted that his object is merely to get money.
However great the power exercised in England by the press—and it is a constantly increasing power—there must be a thorough change in the circumstances of society in Great Britain, before the profession of a writer will possess that sort of consideration and respectability which is now possessed, for instance, by the highly gentlemanly profession of the bar. The moral revolution, of which one of the many effects would be to exalt public writers to a station and consequence proportioned to their real power, might be mightily accelerated by their own efforts; but our men of letters have in general no consciousness of being below their proper station; they are too morally abject to be worthy of, or even aspire to, a higher.
But I must pause. Were I to comment upon every unfounded assertion of M. Chales at as much length as I have in this one instance, my criticism would be nearly three times as long as his three articles combined. I will let him off with a remark or two upon one more topic.
One of Mr. Bulwer’s complaints is that moral philosophy, the philosophy of man’s spiritual nature, his intellect, his feelings, and his duties, meets with little cultivation in England.7 To this M. Chales makes answer: “Tant mieux, mille fois; la morale scientifique, divisée par chapitres, la morale de parade, m’ennuie; elle est stérile autant que pompeuse: la morale pratique est la seule bonne,” &c. &c.;8 and wisely tells us that discussions and subtilties on morals are not morality, and that Greece, Rome, Italy, &c., were least moral, in the ages in which morality was most talked about. True; and if M. Chales can establish that the neglect of moral science in England arises from our being in a state of primeval simplicity, in which a few great and fixed principles of morals are universally acknowledged and firmly rooted in our hearts, and that it is from the unswerving firmness of our habitual regard for our duty that we consider all discussion of it superfluous, I shall agree with him that his fine talk is strictly to the point and altogether conclusive. But it argues no small share of primitive simplicity in M. Chales, that he should ascribe to us that sort of virtue which consists in the ignorance of evil. The fact is, M. Chales is completely out in his philosophy; he has confounded the effect, or rather symptom, and eventual remedy, of a decline in public morals, with the cause. The Greeks and Romans did not become immoral by theorizing on morals, though they did not (perhaps) begin to theorize on morals until they were becoming immoral. When ethical speculations come into vogue, it is generally symptomatic of a decay, or at least (in the medical sense) a critical period in a nation’s morals. And why so? Because it is a proof that the people are no longer united by a common faith; that the popular creed has begun to give way before the progress of knowledge. But there never was, and never will be, a virtuous people, where there is not unanimity, or an agreement nearly approaching to it, in their notions of virtue. The most immoral periods in a nation’s history are always the sceptical periods, when the old convictions are dying away, and no new ones having yet taken their place, each person “does what is right in his own eyes;” and as in those periods alone the doctrines of morals appear to require discussion, those are the only times when (except among casuists by profession) the discussion and the study of them comes into vogue. Such is now the case in Germany and France; but in England we are unfortunately in the predicament of having the will without the remedy. We have thrown off, or are rapidly getting rid of, our old convictions, and are not forming new. We have the diversities of opinion, the noisy conflicts; we do dispute on morality, but we do not philosophize on it, simply because we do not philosophize upon any thing—it is not our way; we set no value on systematic thought. This Mr. Bulwer blames us for, and surely with no little reason. I wish M. Chales would point out to us how, except by the inquiries and studies which he condemns, we can ever recover from the state which he laments; how, except through moral philosophy, we can ever hope to arrive again at unity in our moral convictions, the necessary preliminary to any elevation of the standard of our moral practice. Unless, indeed, we may permit ourselves to hope for a fresh revelation from heaven, which M. Chales, I presume, will hardly be bold enough to prophecy.
And now I must bring to a close these desultory observations, which yet I hope may not fail to answer, in some degree, the purpose for which they were written.
[1 ]Journal des Débats, 31 Oct., pp. 2-3; 21 Dec., pp. 2-3; and 26 Dec., 1833, p. 3, by “Cs.,” i.e., Philarète E. Chasles (spelled Chales by Mill) (1798-1873), journalist, librarian, and later professor at the Collège de France, labelled by Mill in private letters a humbug (EL, CW, Vol. XII, pp. 343, 346). He was reviewing England and the English, 2 vols. (London: Bentley, 1833), by Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer (1803-73), novelist and statesman, and an associate of Mill’s at the time. Bulwer’s book contained material by J.S. Mill on Bentham (see CW, Vol. X, pp. 3-18 and 499-502) and James Mill (see CW, Vol. I, pp. 589-95).
[2 ]Chasles, 21 Dec., p. 3. The references are to Bulwer’s novels: Paul Clifford, 3 vols. (London: Colburn and Bentley, 1830), Pelham, 3 vols. (London: Colburn, 1828), and Devereux, 3 vols. (London: Colburn, 1829).
[3 ]John Ramsay McCulloch, the economist. The quotation echoes his Principles of Political Economy (Edinburgh: Tait, 1825), p. 14, and his Discourse on Political Economy (Edinburgh: Constable, 1824), p. 10.
[4 ]England and the English, Vol. II, pp. 36-40. Louis François Bertin de Vaux (1771-1842), a peer since 1832, is (not surprisingly, since they shared the same names) mistakenly confused with his brother, Louis François Bertin, called l’aîné (1766-1841), proprietor and editor of the Journal des Débats.
[5 ]Chasles, 26 Dec., p. 3.
[7 ]Bulwer, Vol. I, pp. 364-72.
[8 ]Chasles, 21 Dec., p. 3.