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Title: England and the War
Author: Raleigh, Walter Alexander, Sir, 1861-1922
Language: English
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delivered during the war
and now first collected







  First published as one of the Oxford Pamphlets,
  October 1914.

  An Address to the Royal Colonial Institute,
  December 12, 1916.

  An Address to the Union Society of University
  College, London, March 22, 1917.

  An Address to the Royal Colonial Institute,
  February 13, 1918.

  A Paper read to the Essay Society, Eton College,
  March 14, 1918.

  The Annual Shakespeare Lecture of the British
  Academy, delivered July 4, 1918.


This book was not planned, but grew out of the troubles of the time.
When, on one occasion or another, I was invited to lecture, I did not
find, with Milton's Satan, that the mind is its own place; I could speak
only of what I was thinking of, and my mind was fixed on the War. I am
unacquainted with military science, so my treatment of the War was
limited to an estimate of the characters of the antagonists.

The character of Germany and the Germans is a riddle. I have seen no
convincing solution of it by any Englishman, and hardly any confident
attempt at a solution which did not speak the uncontrolled language of
passion. There is the same difficulty with the lower animals; our
description of them tends to be a description of nothing but our own
loves and hates. Who has ever fathomed the mind of a rhinoceros; or has
remembered, while he faces the beast, that a good rhinoceros is a
pleasant member of the community in which his life is passed? We see
only the folded hide, the horn, and the angry little eye. We know that
he is strong and cunning, and that his desires and instincts are
inconsistent with our welfare. Yet a rhinoceros is a simpler creature
than a German, and does not trouble our thought by conforming, on
occasion, to civilized standards and humane conditions.

It seems unreasonable to lay great stress on racial differences. The
insuperable barrier that divides England from Germany has grown out of
circumstance and habit and thought. For many hundreds of years the
German peoples have stood to arms in their own defence against the
encroachments of successive empires; and modern Germany learned the
doctrine of the omnipotence of force by prolonged suffering at the hands
of the greatest master of that immoral school--the Emperor Napoleon. No
German can understand the attitude of disinterested patronage which the
English mind quite naturally assumes when it is brought into contact
with foreigners. The best example of this superiority of attitude is to
be seen in the people who are called pacifists. They are a peculiarly
English type, and they are the most arrogant of all the English. The
idea that they should ever have to fight for their lives is to them
supremely absurd. There must be some mistake, they think, which can be
easily remedied once it is pointed out. Their title to existence is so
clear to themselves that they are convinced it will be universally
recognized; it must not be made a matter of international conflict.
Partly, no doubt, this belief is fostered by lack of imagination. The
sheltered conditions and leisured life which they enjoy as the parasites
of a dominant race have produced in them a false sense of security. But
there is something also of the English strength and obstinacy of
character in their self-confidence, and if ever Germany were to conquer
England some of them would spring to their full stature as the heroes of
an age-long and indomitable resistance. They are not held in much esteem
to-day among their own people; they are useless for the work in hand;
and their credit has suffered from the multitude of pretenders who make
principle a cover for cowardice. But for all that, they are kin to the
makers of England, and the fact that Germany would never tolerate them
for an instant is not without its lesson.

We shall never understand the Germans. Some of their traits may possibly
be explained by their history. Their passionate devotion to the State,
their amazing vulgarity, their worship of mechanism and mechanical
efficiency, are explicable in a people who are not strong in individual
character, who have suffered much to achieve union, and who have
achieved it by subordinating themselves, soul and body, to a brutal
taskmaster. But the convulsions of war have thrown up things that are
deeper than these, primaeval things, which, until recently, civilization
was believed to have destroyed. The old monstrous gods who gave their
names to the days of the week are alive again in Germany. The English
soldier of to-day goes into action with the cold courage of a man who is
prepared to make the best of a bad job. The German soldier sacrifices
himself, in a frenzy of religious exaltation, to the War-God. The
filthiness that the Germans use, their deliberate befouling of all that
is elegant and gracious and antique, their spitting into the food that
is to be eaten by their prisoners, their defiling with ordure the sacred
vessels in the churches--all these things, too numerous and too
monotonous to describe, are not the instinctive coarsenesses of the
brute beast; they are a solemn ritual of filth, religiously practised,
by officers no less than by men. The waves of emotional exaltation which
from time to time pass over the whole people have the same character,
the character of savage religion.

If they are alien to civilization when they fight, they are doubly alien
when they reason. They are glib and fluent in the use of the terms which
have been devised for the needs of thought and argument, but their use
of these terms is empty, and exhibits all the intellectual processes
with the intelligence left out. I know nothing more distressing than the
attempt to follow any German argument concerning the War. If it were
merely wrong-headed, cunning, deceitful, there might still be some
compensation in its cleverness. There is no such compensation. The
statements made are not false, but empty; the arguments used are not
bad, but meaningless. It is as if they despised language, and made use
of it only because they believe that it is an instrument of deceit. But
a man who has no respect for language cannot possibly use it in such a
manner as to deceive others, especially if those others are accustomed
to handle it delicately and powerfully. It ought surely to be easy to
apologize for a war that commands the whole-hearted support of a nation;
but no apology worthy of the name has been produced in Germany. The
pleadings which have been used are servile things, written to order, and
directed to some particular address, as if the truth were of no
importance. No one of these appeals has produced any appreciable effect
on the minds of educated Frenchmen, or Englishmen, or Americans, even
among those who are eager to hear all that the enemy has to say for
himself. This is a strange thing; and is perhaps the widest breach of
all. We are hopelessly separated from the Germans; we have lost the use
of a common language, and cannot talk with them if we would.

We cannot understand them; is it remotely possible that they will ever
understand us? Here, too, the difficulties seem insuperable. It is true
that in the past they have shown themselves willing to study us and to
imitate us. But unless they change their minds and their habits, it is
not easy to see how they are to get near enough to us to carry on their
study. While they remain what they are we do not want them in our
neighbourhood. We are not fighting to anglicize Germany, or to impose
ourselves on the Germans; our work is being done, as work is so often
done in this idle sport-loving country, with a view to a holiday. We
wish to forget the Germans; and when once we have policed them into
quiet and decency we shall have earned the right to forget them, at
least for a time. The time of our respite perhaps will not be long. If
the Allies defeat them, as the Allies will, it seems as certain as any
uncertain thing can be that a mania for imitating British and American
civilization will take possession of Germany. We are not vindictive to a
beaten enemy, and when the Germans offer themselves as pupils we are not
likely to be either enthusiastic in our welcome or obstinate in our
refusal. We shall be bored but concessive. I confess that there are
some things in the prospect of this imitation which haunt me like a
nightmare. The British soldier, whom the German knows to be second to
none, is distinguished for the levity and jocularity of his bearing in
the face of danger. What will happen when the German soldier attempts to
imitate that? We shall be delivered from the German peril as when Israel
came out of Egypt, and the mountains skipped like rams.

The only parts of this book for which I claim any measure of authority
are the parts which describe the English character. No one of purely
English descent has ever been known to describe the English character,
or to attempt to describe it. The English newspapers are full of praises
of almost any of the allied troops other than the English regiments. I
have more Scottish and Irish blood in my veins than English; and I think
I can see the English character truly, from a little distance. If, by
some fantastic chance, the statesmen of Germany could learn what I tell
them, it would save their country from a vast loss of life and from many
hopeless misadventures. The English character is not a removable part of
the British Empire; it is the foundation of the whole structure, and the
secret strength of the American Republic. But the statesmen of Germany,
who fall easy victims to anything foolish in the shape of a theory that
flatters their vanity, would not believe a word of my essays even if
they were to read them, so they must learn to know the English character
in the usual way, as King George the Third learned to know it from
Englishmen resident in America.

A habit of lying and a belief in the utility of lying are often
attended by the most unhappy and paralysing effects. The liars become
unable to recognize the truth when it is presented to them. This is the
misery which fate has fixed on the German cause. War, the Germans are
fond of remarking, is war. In almost all wars there is something to be
said on both sides of the question. To know that one side or the other
is right may be difficult; but it is always useful to know why your
enemies are fighting. We know why Germany is fighting; she explained it
very fully, by her most authoritative voices, on the very eve of the
struggle, and she has repeated it many times since in moments of
confidence or inadvertence. But here is the tragedy of Germany: she does
not know why we are fighting. We have told her often enough, but she
does not believe it, and treats our statement as an exercise in the
cunning use of what she calls ethical propaganda. Why ethics, or morals,
should be good enough to inspire sympathy, but not good enough to
inspire war, is one of the mysteries of German thought. No German, not
even any of those few feeble German writers who have fitfully criticized
the German plan, has any conception of the deep, sincere, unselfish, and
righteous anger that was aroused in millions of hearts by the cruelties
of the cowardly assault on Serbia and on Belgium. The late German
Chancellor became uneasily aware that the crucifixion of Belgium was one
of the causes which made this war a truceless war, and his offer, which
no doubt seemed to him perfectly reasonable, was that Germany is willing
to bargain about Belgium, and to relax her hold, in exchange for solid
advantages elsewhere. Perhaps he knew that if the Allies were to spend
five minutes in bargaining about Belgium they would thereby condone the
German crime and would lose all that they have fought for. But it seems
more likely that he did not know it. The Allies know it.

There is hope in these clear-cut issues. Of all wars that ever were
fought this war is least likely to have an indecisive ending. It must be
settled one way or the other. If the Allied Governments were to make
peace to-day, there would be no peace; the peoples of the free countries
would not suffer it. Germany cannot make peace, for she is bound by
heavy promises to her people, and she cannot deliver the goods. She is
tied to the stake, and must fight the course. Emaciated, exhausted,
repeating, as if in a bad dream, the old boastful appeals to military
glory, she must go on till she drops, and then at last there will be

These may themselves seem boastful words; they cannot be proved except
by the event. There are some few Englishmen, with no stomach for a
fight, who think that England is in a bad way because she is engaged in
a war of which the end is not demonstrably certain. If the issues of
wars were known beforehand, and could be discounted, there would be no
wars. Good wars are fought by nations who make their choice, and would
rather die than lose what they are fighting for. Military fortunes are
notoriously variable, and depend on a hundred accidents. Moral causes
are constant, and operate all the time. The chief of these moral causes
is the character of a people. Germany, by her vaunted study of the art
and science of war, has got herself into a position where no success can
come to her except by way of the collapse or failure of the
English-speaking peoples. A study of the moral causes, if she were
capable of making it, would not encourage her in her old impious belief
that God will destroy these peoples in order to clear the way for the
dominion of the Hohenzollerns.


_First published as one of the Oxford Pamphlets, October 1914_

It is now recognized in England that our enemy in this war is not a
tyrant military caste, but the united people of modern Germany. We have
to combat an armed doctrine which is virtually the creed of all Germany.
Saxony and Bavaria, it is true, would never have invented the doctrine;
but they have accepted it from Prussia, and they believe it. The
Prussian doctrine has paid the German people handsomely; it has given
them their place in the world. When it ceases to pay them, and not till
then, they will reconsider it. They will not think, till they are
compelled to think. When they find themselves face to face with a
greater and more enduring strength than their own, they will renounce
their idol. But they are a brave people, a faithful people, and a stupid
people, so that they will need rough proofs. They cannot be driven from
their position by a little paper shot. In their present mood, if they
hear an appeal to pity, sensibility, and sympathy, they take it for a
cry of weakness. I am reminded of what I once heard said by a genial and
humane Irish officer concerning a proposal to treat with the leaders of
a Zulu rebellion. 'Kill them all,' he said, 'it's the only thing they
understand.' He meant that the Zulu chiefs would mistake moderation for
a sign of fear. By the irony of human history this sentence has become
almost true of the great German people, who built up the structure of
modern metaphysics. They can be argued with only by those who have the
will and the power to punish them.

The doctrine that Might is Right, though it is true, is an unprofitable
doctrine, for it is true only in so broad and simple a sense that no one
would dream of denying it. If a single nation can conquer, depress, and
destroy all the other nations of the earth and acquire for itself a sole
dominion, there may be matter for question whether God approves that
dominion; what is certain is that He permits it. No earthly governor who
is conscious of his power will waste time in listening to arguments
concerning what his power ought to be. His right to wield the sword can
be challenged only by the sword. An all-powerful governor who feared no
assault would never trouble himself to assert that Might is Right. He
would smile and sit still. The doctrine, when it is propounded by weak
humanity, is never a statement of abstract truth; it is a declaration of
intention, a threat, a boast, an advertisement. It has no value except
when there is some one to be frightened. But it is a very dangerous
doctrine when it becomes the creed of a stupid people, for it flatters
their self-sufficiency, and distracts their attention from the
difficult, subtle, frail, and wavering conditions of human power. The
tragic question for Germany to-day is what she can do, not whether it is
right for her to do it. The buffaloes, it must be allowed, had a
perfect right to dominate the prairie of America, till the hunters came.
They moved in herds, they practised shock-tactics, they were violent,
and very cunning. There are but few of them now. A nation of men who
mistake violence for strength, and cunning for wisdom, may conceivably
suffer the fate of the buffaloes and perish without knowing why.

To the English mind the German political doctrine is so incredibly
stupid that for many long years, while men in high authority in the
German Empire, ministers, generals, and professors, expounded that
doctrine at great length and with perfect clearness, hardly any one
could be found in England to take it seriously, or to regard it as
anything but the vapourings of a crazy sect. England knows better now;
the scream of the guns has awakened her. The German doctrine is to be
put to the proof. Who dares to say what the result will be? To predict
certain failure to the German arms is only a kind of boasting. Yet there
are guarded beliefs which a modest man is free to hold till they are
seen to be groundless. The Germans have taken Antwerp; they may possibly
destroy the British fleet, overrun England and France, repel Russia,
establish themselves as the dictators of Europe--in short, fulfil their
dreams. What then? At an immense cost of human suffering they will have
achieved, as it seems to us, a colossal and agonizing failure. Their
engines of destruction will never serve them to create anything so fair
as the civilization of France. Their uneasy jealousy and self-assertion
is a miserable substitute for the old laws of chivalry and regard for
the weak, which they have renounced and forgotten. The will and high
permission of all-ruling Heaven may leave them at large for a time, to
seek evil to others. When they have finished with it, the world will
have to be remade.

We cannot be sure that the Ruler of the world will forbid this. We
cannot even be sure that the destroyers, in the peace that their
destruction will procure for them, may not themselves learn to rebuild.
The Goths, who destroyed the fabric of the Roman Empire, gave their
name, in time, to the greatest mediaeval art. Nature, it is well known,
loves the strong, and gives to them, and to them alone, the chance of
becoming civilized. Are the German people strong enough to earn that
chance? That is what we are to see. They have some admirable elements of
strength, above any other European people. No other European army can be
marched, in close order, regiment after regiment, up the slope of a
glacis, under the fire of machine guns, without flinching, to certain
death. This corporate courage and corporate discipline is so great and
impressive a thing that it may well contain a promise for the future.
Moreover, they are, within the circle of their own kin, affectionate and
dutiful beyond the average of human society. If they succeed in their
worldly ambitions, it will be a triumph of plain brute morality over all
the subtler movements of the mind and heart.

On the other hand, it is true to say that history shows no precedent for
the attainment of world-wide power by a people so politically stupid as
the German people are to-day. There is no mistake about this; the
instances of German stupidity are so numerous that they make something
like a complete history of German international relations. Here is one.
Any time during the last twenty years it has been matter of common
knowledge in England that one event, and one only, would make it
impossible for England to remain a spectator in a European war--that
event being the violation of the neutrality of Holland or Belgium. There
was never any secret about this, it was quite well known to many people
who took no special interest in foreign politics. Germany has maintained
in this country, for many years, an army of spies and secret agents; yet
not one of them informed her of this important truth. Perhaps the
radical difference between the German and the English political systems
blinded the astute agents. In England nothing really important is a
secret, and the amount of privileged political information to be gleaned
in barbers' shops, even when they are patronized by Civil servants, is
distressingly small. Two hours of sympathetic conversation with an
ordinary Englishman would have told the German Chancellor more about
English politics than ever he heard in his life. For some reason or
other he was unable to make use of this source of intelligence, so that
he remained in complete ignorance of what every one in England knew and

Here is another instance. The programme of German ambition has been
voluminously published for the benefit of the world. France was first to
be crushed; then Russia; then, by means of the indemnities procured from
these conquests, after some years of recuperation and effort, the naval
power of England was to be challenged and destroyed. This programme was
set forth by high authorities, and was generally accepted; there was no
criticism, and no demur. The crime against the civilization of the world
foreshadowed in the horrible words 'France is to be crushed' is before a
high tribunal; it would be idle to condemn it here. What happened is
this. The French and Russian part of the programme was put into action
last July. England, who had been told that her turn was not yet, that
Germany would be ready for her in a matter of five or ten years, very
naturally refused to wait her turn. She crowded up on to the scaffold,
which even now is in peril of breaking down under the weight of its
victims, and of burying the executioner in its ruins. But because
England would not wait her turn, she is overwhelmed with accusations of
treachery and inhumanity by a sincerely indignant Germany. Could
stupidity, the stupidity of the wise men of Gotham, be more fantastic or
more monstrous?

German stupidity was even more monstrous. A part of the accusation
against England is that she has raised her hand against the nation
nearest to her in blood. The alleged close kinship of England and
Germany is based on bad history and doubtful theory. The English are a
mixed race, with enormous infusions of Celtic and Roman blood. The Roman
sculpture gallery at Naples is full of English faces. If the German
agents would turn their attention to hatters' shops, and give the
barbers a rest, they would find that no English hat fits any German
head. But suppose we were cousins, or brothers even, what kind of
argument is that on the lips of those who but a short time before were
explaining, with a good deal of zest and with absolute frankness, how
they intended to compass our ruin? There is something almost amiable in
fatuity like this. A touch of the fool softens the brute.

The Germans have a magnificent war-machine which rolls on its way,
crushing all that it touches. We shall break it if we can. If we fail,
the German nation is at the beginning, not the end, of its troubles.
With the making of peace, even an armed peace, the war-machine has
served its turn; some other instrument of government must then be
invented. There is no trace of a design for this new instrument in any
of the German shops. The governors of Alsace-Lorraine offer no
suggestions. The bald fact is that there is no spot in the world where
the Germans govern another race and are not hated. They know this, and
are disquieted; they meet with coldness on all hands, and their remedy
for the coldness is self-assertion and brag. The Russian statesman was
right who remarked that modern Germany has been too early admitted into
the comity of European nations. Her behaviour, in her new international
relations, is like the behaviour of an uneasy, jealous upstart in an
old-fashioned quiet drawing-room. She has no genius for equality; her
manners are a compound of threatening and flattery. When she wishes to
assert herself, she bullies; when she wishes to endear herself, she
crawls; and the one device is no more successful than the other.

Might is Right; but the sort of might which enables one nation to govern
another in time of peace is very unlike the armoured thrust of the
war-engine. It is a power compounded of sympathy and justice. The
English (it is admitted by many foreign critics) have studied justice
and desired justice. They have inquired into and protected rights that
were unfamiliar, and even grotesque, to their own ideas, because they
believed them to be rights. In the matter of sympathy their reputation
does not stand so high; they are chill in manner, and dislike all
effusive demonstrations of feeling. Yet those who come to know them know
that they are not unimaginative; they have a genius for equality; and
they do try to put themselves in the other fellow's place, to see how
the position looks from that side. What has happened in India may
perhaps be taken to prove, among many other things, that the inhabitants
of India begin to know that England has done her best, and does feel a
disinterested solicitude for the peoples under her charge. She has long
been a mother of nations, and is not frightened by the problems of

The Germans have as yet shown no sign of skill in governing other
peoples. Might is Right; and it is quite conceivable that they may
acquire colonies by violence. If they want to keep them they will have
to shut their own professors' books, and study the intimate history of
the British Empire. We are old hands at the business; we have lost more
colonies than ever they owned, and we begin to think that we have learnt
the secret of success. At any rate, our experience has done much for us,
and has helped us to avoid failure. Yet the German colonial party stare
at us with bovine malevolence. In all the library of German theorizing
you will look in vain for any explanation of the fact that the Boers
are, in the main, loyal to the British Empire. If German political
thinkers could understand that political situation, which seems to
English minds so simple, there might yet be hope for them. But they
regard it all as a piece of black magic, and refuse to reason about it.
How should a herd of cattle be driven without goads? Witchcraft,

Their world-wide experience it is, perhaps, which has made the English
quick to appreciate the virtues of other peoples. I have never known an
Englishman who travelled in Russia without falling in love with the
Russian people. I have never heard a German speak of the Russian people
without contempt and dislike. Indeed the Germans are so unable to see
any charm in that profound and humane people that they believe that the
English liking for them must be an insincere pretence, put forward for
wicked or selfish reasons. What would they say if they saw a sight that
is common in Indian towns, a British soldier and a Gurkha arm in arm,
rolling down the street in cheerful brotherhood? And how is it that it
has never occurred to any of them that this sort of brotherhood has its
value in Empire-building? The new German political doctrine has bidden
farewell to Christianity, but there are some political advantages in
Christianity which should not be overlooked. It teaches human beings to
think of one another and to care for one another. It is an antidote to
the worst and most poisonous kind of political stupidity.

Another thing that the Germans will have to learn for the welfare of
their much-talked Empire is the value of the lone man. The architects
and builders of the British Empire were all lone men. Might is Right;
but when a young Englishman is set down at an outpost of Empire to
govern a warlike tribe, he has to do a good deal of hard thinking on the
problem of political power and its foundations. He has to trust to
himself, to form his own conclusions, and to choose his own line of
action. He has to try to find out what is in the mind of others. A young
German, inured to skilled slavery, does not shine in such a position.
Man for man, in all that asks for initiative and self-dependence,
Englishmen are the better men, and some Germans know it. There is an old
jest that if you settle an Englishman and a German together in a new
country, at the end of a year you will find the Englishman governor, and
the German his head clerk. A German must know the rules before he can
get to work.

More than three hundred years ago a book was written in England which is
in some ways a very exact counterpart to General von Bernhardi's
notorious treatise. It is called _Tamburlaine_, and, unlike its
successor, is full of poetry and beauty. Our own colonization began with
a great deal of violent work, and much wrong done to others. We suffered
for our misdeeds, and we learned our lesson, in part at least. Why, it
may be asked, should not the Germans begin in the same manner, and by
degrees adapt themselves to the new task? Perhaps they may, but if they
do, they cannot claim the Elizabethans for their model. Of all men on
earth the German is least like the undisciplined, exuberant Elizabethan
adventurer. He is reluctant to go anywhere without a copy of the rules,
a guarantee of support, and a regular pension. His outlook is as prosaic
as General von Bernhardi's or General von der Golt's own, and that is
saying a great deal. In all the German political treatises there is an
immeasurable dreariness. They lay down rules for life, and if they be
asked what makes such a life worth living they are without any hint of
an answer. Their world is a workhouse, tyrannically ordered, and full of
pusillanimous jealousies.

It is not impious to be hopeful. A Germanized world would be a
nightmare. We have never attempted or desired to govern them, and we
must not think that God will so far forget them as to permit them to
attempt to govern us. Now they hate us, but they do not know for how
many years the cheerful brutality of their political talk has shocked
and disgusted us. I remember meeting, in one of the French Mediterranean
dependencies, with a Prussian nobleman, a well-bred and pleasant man,
who was fond of expounding the Prussian creed. He was said to be a
political agent of sorts, but he certainly learned nothing in
conversation. He talked all the time, and propounded the most monstrous
paradoxes with an air of mathematical precision. Now it was the
character of Sir Edward Grey, a cunning Machiavel, whose only aim was to
set Europe by the ears and make neighbours fall out. A friend who was
with me, an American, laughed aloud at this, and protested, without
producing the smallest effect. The stream of talk went on. The error of
the Germans, we were told, was always that they are too humane; their
dislike of cruelty amounts to a weakness in them. They let France escape
with a paltry fine, next time France must be beaten to the dust. Always
with a pleasant outward courtesy, he passed on to England. England was
decadent and powerless, her rule must pass to the Germans. 'But we shall
treat England rather less severely than France,' said this bland apostle
of Prussian culture, 'for we wish to make it possible for ourselves to
remain in friendly relations with other English-speaking peoples.' And
so on--the whole of the Bernhardi doctrine, explained in quiet fashion
by a man whose very debility of mind made his talk the more impressive,
for he was simply parroting what he had often heard. No one criticized
his proposals, nor did we dislike him. It all seemed too mad; a rather
clumsy jest. His world of ideas did not touch our world at any point, so
that real talk between us was impossible. He came to see us several
times, and always gave the same kind of mesmerized recital of Germany's
policy. The grossness of the whole thing was in curious contrast with
the polite and quiet voice with which he uttered his insolences. When I
remember his talk I find it easy to believe that the German Emperor and
the German Chancellor have also talked in such a manner that they have
never had the smallest opportunity of learning what Englishmen think and

While the German doctrine was the plaything merely of hysterical and
supersensitive persons, like Carlyle and Nietzsche, it mattered little
to the world of politics. An excitable man, of vivid imagination and
invalid constitution, like Carlyle, feels a natural predilection for the
cult of the healthy brute. Carlyle's English style is itself a kind of
epilepsy. Nietzsche was so nervously sensitive that everyday life was an
anguish to him, and broke his strength. Both were poets, as Marlowe was
a poet, and both sang the song of Power. The brutes of the swamp and the
field, who gathered round them and listened, found nothing new or
unfamiliar in the message of the poets. 'This', they said, 'is what we
have always known, but we did not know that it is poetry. Now that great
poets teach it, we need no longer be ashamed of it.' So they went away
resolved to be twice the brutes that they were before, and they named
themselves Culture-brutes.

It is difficult to see how the world, or any considerable part of it,
can belong to Germany, till she changes her mind. If she can do that,
she might make a good ruler, for she has solid virtues and good
instincts. It is her intellect that has gone wrong. Bishop Butler was
one day found pondering the problem whether, a whole nation can go mad.
If he had lived to-day what would he have said about it? Would he have
admitted that that strangest of grim fancies is realized?

It would be vain for Germany to take the world; she could not keep it;
nor, though she can make a vast number of people miserable for a long
time, could she ever hope to make all the inhabitants of the world
miserable for all time. She has a giant's power, and does not think it
infamous to use it like a giant. She can make a winter hideous, but she
cannot prohibit the return of spring, or annul the cleansing power of
water. Sanity is not only better than insanity; it is much stronger, and
Might is Right.

Meantime, it is a delight and a consolation to Englishmen that England
is herself again. She has a cause that it is good to fight for, whether
it succeed or fail. The hope that uplifts her is the hope of a better
world, which our children shall see. She has wonderful friends. From
what self-governing nations in the world can Germany hear such messages
as came to England from the Dominions oversea? 'When England is at war,
Canada is at war.' 'To the last man and the last shilling, Australia
will support the cause of the Empire.' These are simple words, and
sufficient; having said them, Canada and Australia said no more. In the
company of such friends, and for the creed that she holds, England might
be proud to die; but surely her time is not yet.

  Our faith is ours, and comes not on a tide;
  And whether Earth's great offspring by decree
  Must rot if they abjure rapacity,
  Not argument, but effort shall decide.
  They number many heads in that hard flock,
  Trim swordsmen they push forth, yet try thy steel;
  Thou, fighting for poor human kind, shalt feel
  The strength of Roland in thy wrist to hew
  A chasm sheer into the barrier rock,
  And bring the army of the faithful through.


_An Address to the Royal Colonial Institute, December 12, 1916_

I hold, as I daresay you do, that we are at a crisis of our history
where there is not much room for talk. The time when this struggle might
have been averted or won by talk is long past. During the hundred years
before the war we have not talked much, or listened much, to the
Germans. For fifty of those years at least the head of waters that has
now been let loose in a devastating flood over Europe was steadily
accumulating; but we paid little attention to it. People sometimes speak
of the negotiations of the twelve days before the war as if the whole
secret and cause of the war could be found there; but it is not so.
Statesmen, it is true, are the keepers of the lock-gates, but those
keepers can only delay, they cannot prevent an inundation that has great
natural causes. The world has in it evil enough, and darkness enough.
But it is not so bad and so dark that a slip in diplomacy, a careless
word, or an impolite gesture, can instantaneously, as if by magic,
involve twenty million men in a struggle to the death. It is only
clever, conceited men, proud of their neat little minds, who think that
because they cannot fathom the causes of the war, it might easily have
been prevented. I confess I find it difficult to conceive of the war in
terms of simple right and wrong. We must respect the tides, and their
huge unintelligible force teaches us to respect them.

It is not a war of race. For all our differences with the Germans, any
cool and impartial mind must admit that we have many points of kinship
with them. During the years before the war our naval officers in the
Mediterranean found, I believe, that it was easier to associate on terms
of social friendship with the Austrians than with the officers of any
other foreign navy. We have a passionate admiration for France, and a
real devotion to her, but that is a love affair, not a family tie. We
begin to be experienced in love affairs, for Ireland steadily refuses to
be treated on any other footing. In any case, we are much closer to the
Germans than they are to the Bulgarians or the Turks. Of these three we
like the Turks the best, because they are chivalrous and generous
enemies, which the Germans are not.

It is a war of ideas. We are fighting an armed doctrine. Yet Burke's use
of those words to describe the military power of Revolutionary France
should warn us against fallacious attempts to simplify the issue. When
ideas become motives and are filtered into practice, they lose their
clearness of outline and are often hard to recognize. They leaven the
lump, but the lump is still human clay, with its passions and
prejudices, its pride and its hate. I remember seeing in a provincial
paper, in the early days of the war, two adjacent columns, both dealing
with the war. The first was headed 'A Holy War' and set forth the great
principles of nationality, respect for treaties, and protection of the
weak, which in our opinion are the main motives of the Allies in this
war. The second was headed 'The War on Commerce; Tips to capture German
trade', and set forth those other principles and motives which, in the
opinion of the Germans, brought England into this war.

I am not going to defend England against the charge that she entered
this war on a cold calculation of mercantile profit. Every one here
knows that the charge is utterly untrue. Those who believe the charge
could not be shaken in their belief except by being educated all over
again, and introduced to some knowledge of human nature. It is enough to
remark that this charge is a commonplace between belligerent nations.
They all like to believe that their adversaries entertain only base
motives, while they themselves act only on the loftiest ideal
promptings. If the charge means only that every nation at war is bound
to think of its own interests, to conserve its own strength, and to
seize on all material gains that are within its reach, the charge is
true and harmless. When two angry women quarrel in a back street, they
commonly accuse each other of being amorous. They might just as well
accuse each other of being human. The charge is true and insignificant.
So also with nations; they all cherish themselves and seek to preserve
their means of livelihood.

If this were their sole concern, there would be few wars; certainly this
war, which is desolating and impoverishing Europe, would be impossible.
No one, surely, can look at the war and say that nations are moved only
by their material interests. It would be more plausible to say that they
are too little moved by those interests. Bacon, in his essay _Of Death_,
remarks that the fear of death does not much affect mankind. 'There is
no passion in the mind of man so weak, but it mates and masters the
fear of death; and therefore death is no such terrible enemy when a man
hath so many attendants about him that can win the combat of him.
Revenge triumphs over death; love slights it; honour aspireth to it;
grief flieth to it, fear pre-occupateth it; nay, we read, after Otho the
Emperor had slain himself, pity (which is the tenderest of affections)
provoked many to die out of mere compassion to their sovereign, and as
the truest sort of followers.' If this is true of the fear of death, how
much truer it is of the love of material gain. Any whim, or point of
pride, or fixed idea, or old habit, is enough to make a man or a nation
forgo the hope of profit and fight for a creed.

The German creed is by this time well known. Before the war we took
little notice of it. We sometimes saw it stated in print, but it seemed
to us too monstrous and inhuman to be the creed of a whole people. We
were wrong; it was the creed of a whole people. By the mesmerism of
State education, by the discipline of universal military service, by the
pride of the German people in their past victories, and by the fears
natural to a nation that finds enemies on all its fronts, an absolute
belief in the State, in war as the highest activity of the State, and in
the right of the State to enslave all its subjects, body and soul, to
its purposes, had become the creed of all those diverse peoples that are
united under the Prussian Monarchy. Most of them are not naturally
warlike peoples. They have been lured, and frightened, and drilled, and
bribed into war, but it is true to say that, on the whole, they enjoy
fighting less than we do. One of the truest remarks ever made on the war
was that famous remark of a British private soldier, who was telling
how his company took a trench from the enemy. Fearing that his account
of the affair might sound boastful, he added, 'You see, Sir, they're not
a military people, like we are.' Only the word was wrong, the meaning
was right. They are, as every one knows, an enormously military people,
and, if they want to fight at all, they have to be a military people,
for the vast majority of them are not a warlike people. A first-class
army could never have been fashioned in Germany out of volunteer
civilians, like our army on the Somme. That army has a little shaken the
faith of the Germans in their creed. Again I must quote one of our
soldiers: 'I don't say', he remarked, 'that our average can run rings
round their best; what I say is that our average is better than their
average, and our best is better than their best.' The Germans already
are uneasy about their creed and their system, but there is no escape
for them; they have sacrificed everything to it; they have impoverished
the mind and drilled the imagination of every German citizen, so that
Germany appears before the world with the body of a giant and the mind
of a dwarf; they have sacrificed themselves in millions that their creed
may prevail, and with their creed they must stand or fall. The State,
organized as absolute power, responsible to no one, with no duties to
its neighbour, and with only nominal duties to a strictly subordinate
God, has challenged the soul of man in its dearest possessions. We
cannot predict the course of military operations; but if we were not
sure of the ultimate issue of this great struggle, we should have no
sufficient motive for continuing to breathe. The State has challenged
the soul of man before now, and has always been defeated. A miserable
remnant of men and women, tied to stakes or starved in dungeons, have
before now shattered what seemed an omnipotent tyranny, because they
stood for the soul and were not prompted by vanity or self-regard. They
had great allies--

     'Their friends were exultations, agonies,
     And love, and man's unconquerable mind.'

If we are defeated we shall be defeated not by German strength but by
our own weakness. The worst enemy of the martyr is doubt and the divided
mind, which suggests the question, 'Is it, after all, worth while?' We
must know what we have believed. What do we stand for in this war? It is
only the immovable conviction that we stand for something ultimate and
essential that can help us and carry us through. No war of this kind and
on this scale is good enough to fight unless it is good enough to fail
in. 'The calculation of profit', said Burke,'in all such wars is false.
On balancing the account of such wars, ten thousand hogs-heads of sugar
are purchased at ten thousand times their price. The blood of man should
never be shed but to redeem the blood of man. It is well shed for our
family, for our friends, for our God, for our country, for our kind. The
rest is vanity; the rest is crime.'

The question I have asked is a difficult question to answer, or, rather,
the answer is not easy to formulate briefly and clearly. Most of the men
at the front know quite well what they are fighting for; they know that
it is for their country, but that it is also for their kind--for certain
ideals of humanity. We at home know that we are at war for liberty and
humanity. But these words are invoked by different nations in different
senses; the Germans, or at least most of them, have as much liberty as
they desire, and believe that the highest good of humanity is to be
found in the prevalence of their own ideas and of their own type of
government and society. No abstract demonstration can help us. Liberty
is a highly comparative notion; no one asks for it complete. Humanity is
a highly variable notion; it is interpreted in different senses by
different societies. What we are confronted by is two types of
character, two sets of aims, two ideals for society. There can be no
harm in trying to understand both.

The Germans can never be understood by those who neglect their history.
They are a solid, brave, and earnest people, who, till quite recent
times, have been denied their share in the government of Europe. In the
sixteenth century they were deeply stirred by questions of religion, and
were rent asunder by the Reformation. Compromise proved futile; the
small German states were ranked on this side or on that at the will of
their rulers and princes; men of the same race were ranged in mortal
opposition on the question of religious belief, and there was no
solution but war. For thirty years in the seventeenth century the war
raged. It was conducted with a fierceness and inhumanity that even the
present war has not equalled. The civilian population suffered
hideously. Whole provinces were desolated and whole states were bereaved
of their men. When, from mere exhaustion, the war came to an end,
Germany lay prostrate, and the chief gains of the war fell to the rising
monarchy of France, which had intervened in the middle of the struggle.
By the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 Alsace and Lorraine went to France,
and the rule of the great monarch, Louis XIV, had nothing to fear from
the German peoples. The ambitions of Germany, for long after this, were
mainly cosmopolitan and intellectual. But political ambitions, though
they seemed almost dead, were revived by the hardy state of Prussia, and
the rest of Germany's history, down to our own time, is the history of
the welding of the Germanic peoples into a single state by Prussian
monarchs and statesmen.

This history explains many things. If a people has a corporate memory,
if it can learn from its own sufferings, Germany has reason enough to
cherish with a passionate devotion her late achieved unity. And German
brutality, which is not the less brutality because Germans regard it as
quite natural and right, has its origin in German history. The Prussian
is a Spartan, a natural brute, but brutal to himself as well as to
others, capable of extremes of self-denial and self-discipline. From the
Prussians the softer and more emotional German peoples of the South
received the gift of national unity, and they repaid the debt by
extravagant admiration for Prussian prowess and hardihood, which had
been so serviceable to their cause. The Southern Germans, the Bavarians
especially, have developed a sort of sentimentalism of brutality,
expressed in the hysterical Hymn of Hate (which hails from Munich),
expressed also in those monstrous excesses and cruelties, surpassing
anything that mere insensibility can produce, which have given the
Bavarian troops their foul reputation in the present war.

The last half century of German history must also be remembered. Three
assaults on neighbouring states were rewarded by a great increase of
territory and of strength. From Denmark, in 1864, Prussia took
Schleswig-Holstein. The defeat of Austria in 1866 brought Hanover and
Bavaria under the Prussian leadership; Alsace and Lorraine were regained
from France in 1870. The Prussian mind, which is not remarkable for
subtlety, found a justification in these three wars for its favourite
doctrine of frightfulness. That doctrine, put briefly, is that people
can always be frightened into submission, and that it is cheaper to
frighten them than to fight them to the bitter end. Denmark was a small
nation, and moreover was left utterly unsupported by the European powers
who had guaranteed her integrity. Bavaria was frightened, and will be
frightened again when her hot fit gives way to her cold fit. France was
divided and half-hearted under a tinsel emperor. It is Germany's
misfortune that on these three special cases she based a general
doctrine of war. A very little knowledge of human nature--a knowledge so
alien to her that she calls it psychology and assigns it to
specialists--would have taught her that, for the most part, human beings
when they are fighting for their homes and their faith cannot be
frightened, and must be killed or conciliated. The practice of
frightfulness has not worked very well in this war. It has steeled the
heart of Germany's enemies. It has produced in her victims a temper of
hate that will outlive this generation, and will make the small peoples
whom she has kicked and trampled on impossible subjects of the German
Empire. Worst of all it has suggested to onlookers that the people who
have so plenary a belief in frightfulness are not themselves strangers
to fear. There is an old English proverb, hackneyed and stale three
hundred years ago, but now freshened again by disuse, that the goodwife
would never have looked for her daughter in the oven unless she had been
there herself.

How shall I describe the English temper, which the Germans, high and
low, learned and ignorant, have so profoundly mistaken? You can get no
description of it from the Englishman pure and simple; he has no theory
of himself, and it bores him to hear himself described. Yet it is this
temper which has given England her great place in the world and which
has cemented the British Empire. It is to be found not in England alone,
but wherever there is a strain of English blood or an acceptance of
English institutions. You can find it in Australia, in Canada, in
America; it infects Scotland, and impresses Wales. It is everywhere in
our trenches to-day. It is not clannish, or even national, it is
essentially the lonely temper of a man independent to the verge of
melancholy. An admirable French writer of to-day has said that the best
handbook and guide to the English temper is Defoe's romance of _Robinson
Crusoe_. Crusoe is practical, but is conscious of the over-shadowing
presence of the things that are greater than man. He makes his own
clothing, teaches his goats to dance, and wrestles in thought with the
problems suggested by his Bible. Another example of the same temper may
be seen in Bunyan's _Pilgrim's Progress_, and yet another in
Wordsworth's _Prelude_. There is no danger that English thought will
ever underestimate the value and meaning of the individual soul. The
greatest English literature, it might almost be said, from Shakespeare's
_Hamlet_ to Browning's _The Ring and the Book_, is concerned with no
other subject. The age-long satire against the English is that in
England every man claims the right to go to heaven his own way. English
institutions, instead of subduing men to a single pattern, are devised
chiefly with the object of saving the rights of the subject and the
liberty of the individual. 'Every man in his humour' is an English
proverb, and might almost be a statement of English constitutional
doctrine. But this extreme individualism is the right of all, and does
not favour self-exaltation. The English temper has an almost morbid
dislike of all that is showy or dramatic in expression. I remember how a
Winchester boy, when he was reproached with the fact that Winchester has
produced hardly any great men, replied, 'No, indeed, I should think not.
We would pretty soon have knocked that out of them.' And the epigrams of
the English temper usually take the form of understatement. 'Give
Dayrolles a chair' were the last dying words of Lord Chesterfield,
spoken of the friend who had come to see him. When the French troops go
over the parapet to make an advance, their battle cry shouts the praises
of their Country. The British troops prefer to celebrate the advance in
a more trivial fashion, 'This way to the early door, sixpence extra.'

I might go on interminably with this dissertation, but I have said
enough for my purpose. The history of England has had much to do with
moulding the English temper. We have been protected from direct
exposure to the storms that have swept the Continent. Our wars on land
have been adventures undertaken by expeditionary forces. At sea, while
the power of England was growing, we have been explorers, pirates,
buccaneers. Now that we are involved in a great European war on land,
our methods have been changed. The artillery and infantry of a modern
army cannot act effectively on their own impulse. We hold the sea, and
the pirates' work for the present has passed into other hands. But our
spirit and temper is the same as of old. It has found a new world in the
air. War in the air, under the conditions of to-day, demands all the old
gallantry and initiative. The airman depends on his own brain and nerve;
he cannot fall back on orders from his superiors. Our airmen of to-day
are the true inheritors of Drake; they have the same inspired
recklessness, the same coolness, and the same chivalry to a vanquished

I am a very bad example of the English temper; for the English temper
grumbles at all this, to the great relief of our enemies, who believe
that what a man admits against his own nation must be true. Our
pessimists, by indulging their natural vein, serve us, without reward,
quite as well as Germany is served by her wireless press. They deceive
the enemy.

Modern Germany has organized and regimented her people like an ant-hill
or a beehive. The people themselves, including many who belong to the
upper class, are often simple villagers in temper, full of kindness and
anger, much subject to envy and jealousy, not magnanimous, docile and
obedient to a fault. If they claimed, as individuals, to represent the
highest reach of European civilization, the claim would be merely
absurd. So they shift their ground, and pretend that society is greater
than man, and that by their painstaking organization their society has
been raised to the pinnacle of human greatness. They make this claim so
insistently, and in such obvious good faith, that some few weak tempers
and foolish minds in England have been impressed by it. These
panic-stricken counsellors advise us, without delay, to reform our
institutions and organize them upon the German model. Only thus, they
tell us, can we hold our own against so huge a power. But if we were to
take their advice, we should have nothing of our own left to hold. It is
reasonable and good to co-operate and organize in order to attain an
agreed object, but German organization goes far beyond this. The German
nation is a carefully built, smooth-running machine, with powerful
engines. It has only one fault--that any fool can drive it; and seeing
that the governing class in Germany is obstinate and unimaginative,
there is no lack of drivers to pilot it to disaster. The best ability of
Germany is seen in her military organization. Napoleon is her worshipped
model, and, like many admirers of Napoleon, she thinks only of his great
campaigns; she forgets that he died in St. Helena, and that his schemes
for the reorganization of Europe failed.

I know that many people in England are not daunted but depressed by the
military successes of the enemy. Our soldiers in the field are not
depressed. But we who are kept at home suffer from the miasma of the
back-parlour. We read the headlines of newspapers--a form of literature
that is exciting enough, but does not merit the praise given to
Sophocles, who saw life steadily and saw it whole. We keep our ears to
the telephone, and we forget that the great causes which are always at
work, and which will shape the issues of this war, are not recorded upon
the telephone. There are things truer and more important than the latest
dispatches. Here is one of them. The organization of the second-rate can
never produce anything first-rate. We do not understand a people who,
when it comes to the last push of man against man, throw up their hands
and utter the pathetic cry of 'Kamerad'. To surrender is a weakness that
no one who has not been under modern artillery fire has any right to
condemn; to profess a sudden affection for the advancing enemy is not
weakness but baseness. Or rather, it would be baseness in a voluntary
soldier; in the Germans it means only that the war is not their own war;
that they are fighting as slaves, not as free men. The idea that we
could ever live under the rule of these people is merely comic. To do
them justice, they do not now entertain the idea, though they have
dallied with it in the past.

No harm can be done, I think, by preaching to the English people the
necessity for organization and discipline. We shall still be ourselves,
and there is no danger that we shall overdo discipline or make
organization a thing to be worshipped for its own sake. The danger is
all the other way. We have learnt much from the war, and the work that
we shall have to do when it ends is almost more important than the terms
of peace, or concessions made this way and that. If the treacherous
assault of the Germans on the liberties and peace of Europe is rewarded
by any solid gain to the German Empire, then history may forgive them,
but this people of the British Empire will not forgive them. Nothing
will be as it was before; and our cause, which will not be lost in the
war, will still have to be won in the so-called peace. I know that some
say, 'Let us have war when we are at war, and peace when we are at
peace'. It sounds plausible and magnanimous, but it is Utopian. You must
reckon with your own people. They know that when we last had peace, the
sunshine of that peace was used by the Germans to hatch the spawn of
malice and treason. If the Germans are defeated in the war, we shall, I
suppose, forgive them, for the very English reason that it is a bore not
to forgive your enemies. But if they escape without decisive defeat in
battle, their harder trial is yet to come.

In some ways we are stronger than we have been in all our long history.
We have found ourselves, and we have found our friends. Our dead have
taught the children of to-day more and better than any living teachers
can teach them. No one in this country will ever forget how the people
of the Dominions, at the first note of war, sprang to arms like one man.
We must not thank or praise them; like the Navy, they regard our thanks
and praise as something of an impertinence. They are not fighting, they
say, for us. But that is how we discovered them. They are doing much
better than fighting for us, they are fighting with us, because, without
a word of explanation or appeal, their ideas and ours are the same. We
never have discussed with them, and we never shall discuss, what is
decent and clean and honourable in human behaviour. A philosopher who
is interested in this question can find plenty of intellectual exercise
by discussing it with the Germans, Where an Englishman, a Canadian, and
an Australian are met, there is no material for such a debate.

It would be extravagant to suppose that a discovery like this can leave
our future relations untouched. We now know that we are profoundly
united in a union much stronger and deeper than any mechanism can
produce. I know how difficult a problem it is to hit on the best device
for giving political expression to this union between States separated
from one another by the whole world's diameter, differing in their
circumstances, their needs, and their outlook. I do not dare to
prescribe; but I should like to make a few remarks, and to call
attention to a few points which are perhaps more present to the mind of
the ordinary citizen than they are in the discussions of constitutional

We must arrange for co-operation and mutual support. If the arrangement
is complicated and lengthy, we must not wait for it; we must meet and
discuss our common affairs. Ministers from the Dominions have already
sat with the British Cabinet. We can never go back on that; it is a
landmark in our history. Our Ministers must travel; if their supporters
are impatient of their absence on the affairs of the Empire, they must
find some less parochial set of supporters. We have begun in the right
way; the right way is not to pass laws determining what you are to do;
but to do what is needful, and do it at once,--do a lot of things, and
regularize your successes by later legislation. Now is the time, while
the Empire is white-hot. Our first need is not lawyers, but men who,
feeling friendly, know how to behave as friends do. They will not be
impeached if they go beyond the letter of the law. One act of faith is
worth a hundred arguments. This is a family affair; the habits of an
affectionate and united family are the only good model.

As for the Crown Colonies and India, the Dominions must share our
burden. It is objected, both here and in India, that life in the
Dominions is a very inadequate education for the sympathetic handling of
alien races and customs. So is life in many parts of this island. The
fact is that the process of learning to govern these alien peoples is
the best education in the world. The Indian Civil Service is a great
College, and it governs India. I can speak to this point, for I have
lived there and seen it at work. If India were really governed by the
ideas of the young novices who go out there fresh from their
examinations, she would be a distressful country. But the novice is
taken in hand at once by the older members of the service; he works
under the eye of the Collector and the Assistant Collector; they
shoulder him and instruct him as tame elephants shoulder and instruct
the wild; they are kind to him, and he lives in their company while his
prejudices and follies peel off him; so that within a few years he
becomes a tolerant, wise, and devoted civil servant, who speaks the
language of the College and is proud to belong to it. The success of the
Government of India is not to be credited to the classes from which the
Civil Service is recruited, but to the discipline of the Service itself,
a Service so high in tradition and so free from corruption that
advancement in it is to be gained only by intelligence and sympathy.
What I am saying is that I can imagine no finer raw material for the
political discipline of the Indian Civil Service than some of the
generous and clean-run spirits who have come from the Dominions to help
in this war. They could be introduced to a share of our responsibilities
without impeding or retarding the movement to give to selected natives
of India a larger share in the government of their country.

But the war is not over, so I return to the main issue--the conflict
between the English idea and the German idea of world government. It is
not an accident, as Baron von Hügel remarks in his book on _The German
Soul_, that the chief colonizing nation of the world should be a nation
without a national army. We have depended enormously in the past on the
initiative and virtue of the individual adventurer; if our adventurers
were to fail us, which is not likely, or if the State were to supersede
them, and attempt to do their work, which is not conceivable, our
political power and influence would vanish with them. The world might
perhaps be well ordered, but there would be no freedom, and no fun. The
beauty of the adventurer is that he is practically invincible. He does
not wait for orders. Under the most perfect police system that Germany
could devise, he would be up and at it again. We are not so numerous as
the Germans, but there are enough and to spare of us to make German
government impossible in any place where we pitch our tents. We are
practised hands at upsetting governments. Our political system is a
training school for rebels. This is what makes our very existence an
offence to the moral instincts of the German people. They are quite
right to want to kill us; the only way to abolish fun and freedom is to
abolish life. But I must not be unjust to them; their forethought
provides for everything, and no doubt they would prescribe authorized
forms of fun for half an hour a week, and would gather together their
subjects in public assembly, under municipal regulations, to perform
approved exercises in freedom.

Mankind lives by ideas; and if an irreconcilable difference in ideas
makes a good war, then this is a good war. The contrast between the two
ideas is profound and far-reaching. My business lies in a University.
For a good many years before the war certain selected German students,
who had had a University education in their own country, came as Rhodes
scholars to Oxford. The intention of Mr. Rhodes was benevolent; he
thought that if German students were to reside for four years at Oxford
and to associate there, at an impressionable time of life, with young
Englishmen, understanding and fellowship would be encouraged between the
two peoples. But the German government took care to defeat Mr. Rhodes's
intention. Instead of sending a small number of students for the full
period, as Mr. Rhodes had provided, Germany asked and (by whose mistake
I do not know) obtained leave to send a larger number for a shorter
stay. The students selected were intended for the political and
diplomatic service, and were older than the usual run of Oxford
freshmen. Their behaviour had a certain ambassadorial flavour about it.
They did not mix much in the many undergraduate societies which flourish
in a college, but met together in clubs of their own to drink patriotic
toasts. They were nothing if not superior. I remember a conversation I
had with one of them who came to consult me. He wished, he said, to do
some definite piece of research work in English literature. I asked him
what problems or questions in English literature most interested him,
and he replied that he would do anything that I advised. We had a talk
of some length, wholly at cross-purposes. At last I tried to make my
point of view clear by reminding him that research means finding the
answer to a question, and that if his reading of English literature,
which had been fairly extensive, had suggested no questions to his mind,
he was not in the happiest possible position to begin research. This
touched his national pride, and he gave me something not unlike a
lecture. In Germany, he said, the professor tells you what you are to
do; he gives you a subject for investigation, he names the books you are
to read, and advises you on what you are to write; you follow his
advice, and produce a thesis, which gains you the degree of Doctor of
Letters. I have seen a good many of these theses, and I am sure this
account is correct. With very rare exceptions they are as dead as
mutton, and much less nourishing. The upshot of our conversation was
that he thought me an incompetent professor, and I thought him an
unprofitable student.

There are many people in England to-day who praise the thoroughness of
the Germans, and their devotion to systematic thought. Has any one ever
taken the trouble to trace the development of the thesis habit, and its
influence on their national life? They theorize everything, and they
believe in their theories. They have solemn theories of the English
character, of the French character, of the nature of war, of the history
of the world. No breath of scepticism dims their complacency, although
events steadily prove their theories wrong. They have courage, and when
they are seeking truth by the process of reasoning, they accept the
conclusions attained by the process, however monstrous these conclusions
may be. They not only accept them, they act upon them, and, as every one
knows, their behaviour in Belgium was dictated to them by their

Thought of this kind is the enemy of the human race. It intoxicates
sluggish minds, to whom thought is not natural. It suppresses all the
gentler instincts of the heart and supplies a basis of orthodoxy for all
the cruelty and treachery in the world. I do not know, none of us knows,
when or how this war will end. But I know that it is worth fighting to
the end, whatever it may cost to all and each of us. We may have peace
with the Germans, the peace of exhaustion or the peace that is only a
breathing space in a long struggle. We can never have peace with the
German idea. It was not the idea of the older German thinkers--of Kant,
or of Goethe, who were good Europeans. Kant said that there is nothing
good in the world except the good will. The modern German doctrine is
that there is nothing good in the world except what tends to the power
and glory of the State. The inventor of this doctrine, it may be
remembered, was the Devil, who offered to the Son of Man the glory of
all the kingdoms of the world, if only He would fall down and worship
him. The Germans, exposed to a like temptation, have accepted the offer
and have fulfilled the condition. They can have no assurance that faith
will be kept with them. On the other hand, we can have no assurance that
they will suffer any signal or dramatic reverse. Human history does not
usually observe the laws of melodrama. But we know that their newly
purchased doctrine can be fought, in war and in peace, and we know that
in the end it will not prevail.


_An Address to the Union Society of University College, London, March

When Professor W.P. Ker asked me to address you on this ceremonial
occasion I felt none of the confidence of the man who knows what he
wants to say, and is looking for an audience. But Professor Ker is my
old friend, and this place is the place where I picked up many of those
fragmentary impressions which I suppose must be called my education. So
I thought it would be ungrateful to refuse, even though it should prove
that I have nothing to express save goodwill and the affections of

When I matriculated in the University of London and became a student in
this place, my professors were Professor Goodwin, Professor Church,
Professor Henrici, Professor Groom Robertson, and Professor Henry
Morley. I remember all these, though, if they were alive, I do not think
that any of them would remember me. The indescribable exhilaration,
which must be familiar to many of you, of leaving school and entering
college, is in great part the exhilaration of making acquaintance with
teachers who care much about their subject and little or nothing about
their pupils. To escape from the eternal personal judgements which make
a school a place of torment is to walk upon air. The schoolmaster looks
at you; the college professor looks the way you are looking. The
statements made by Euclid, that thoughtful Greek, are no longer
encumbered at college with all those preposterous and irrelevant moral
considerations which desolate the atmosphere of a school. The question
now is not whether you have perfectly acquainted yourself with what
Euclid said, but whether what he said is true. In my earliest days at
college I heard a complete exposition of the first six books of Euclid,
given in four lectures, with masterly ease and freedom, by Professor
Henrici, who did not hesitate to employ methods of demonstration which,
though they are perfectly legitimate and convincing, were rejected by
the daintiness of the Greek. Professor Groom Robertson introduced his
pupils to the mysteries of mental and moral philosophy, and incidentally
disaffected some of us by what seemed to us his excessive reverence for
the works of Alexander Bain. Those works were our favourite theme for
satirical verse, which we did not pain our Professor by publishing.
Professor Henry Morley lectured hour after hour to successive classes in
a room half way down the passage, on the left. Even overwork could not
deaden his enormous vitality; but I hope that his immediate successor
does not lecture so often. Outside the classrooms I remember the
passages, which resembled the cellars of an unsuccessful sculptor, the
library, where I first read _Romeo and Juliet_, and the refectory, where
we discussed human life in most, if not in all, of its aspects. In the
neighbourhood of the College there was the classic severity of Gower
Street, and, for those who preferred the richer variety of romance,
there was always the Tottenham Court Road. Beyond all, and throughout
all, there was friendship, and there was freedom. The College was
founded, I believe, partly in the interests of those who object to
subscribe to a conclusion before they are permitted to examine the
grounds for it. It has always been a free place; and if I remember it as
a place of delight, that is because I found here the delights of

My thoughts in these days are never very long away from the War, so that
I should feel it difficult to speak of anything else. Yet there are so
many ways in which it would be unprofitable for me to pretend to speak
of it, that the difficulty remains. I have no knowledge of military or
naval strategy. I am not intimately acquainted with Germany or with
German culture. I could praise our own people, and our own fighting men,
from a full heart; but that, I think, is not exactly what you want from
me. So I am reduced to attempting what we have all had to attempt during
the past two years or more, to try to state, for myself as much as for
you, the meaning of this War so far as we can perceive it.

It seems to be a decree of fate that this country shall be compelled
every hundred years to fight for her very life. We live in an island
that lies across the mouths of the Rhine, and guards the access to all
the ports of northern Europe. In this island we have had enough safety
and enough leisure to develop for ourselves a system of constitutional
and individual liberty which has had an enormous influence on other
nations. It has been admired and imitated; it has also been hated and
attacked. To the majority of European statesmen and politicians it has
been merely unintelligible. Some of them have regarded it with a kind
of superstitious reverence; for we have been very successful in the
world at large, and how could so foolish and ineffective a system
achieve success except by adventitious aid? Others, including all the
statesmen and political theorists who prepared Germany for this War,
have refused to admire; the power of England, they have taught, is not
real power; she has been crafty and lucky; she has kept herself free
from the entanglements and strifes of the Continent, and has enriched
herself by filching the property of the combatants. If once she were
compelled to hold by force what she won by guile, her pretensions would
collapse, and she would fall back into her natural position as a small
agricultural island, inhabited by a people whose proudest boast would
then be that they are poor cousins of the Germans.

It is difficult to discuss this question with German professors and
politicians: they have such simple minds, and they talk like angry
children. Their opinions concerning England are not original; their
views were held with equal fervour and expressed in very similar
language by Philip of Spain in the sixteenth century, by Louis XIV of
France in the seventeenth century, and by Napoleon at the close of the
eighteenth century. 'These all died in faith, not having received the
promises, but having seen them afar off.' I will ask you to consider the
attack made upon England by each of these three powerful rulers.

Any one who reads the history of these three great wars will feel a
sense of illusion, as if he were reading the history of to-day. The
points of resemblance in all four wars are so many and so great that it
seems as if the four wars were all one war, repeated every century. The
cause of the war is always an ambitious ruler who covets supremacy on
the European Continent. England is always opposed to him--inevitably and
instinctively. It took the Germans twenty years to prepare their people
for this War. It took us two days to prepare ours. Our instinct is quick
and sound; for the resources and wealth of the Continent, if once they
were controlled by a single autocratic power, would make it impossible
for England to follow her fortunes upon the sea. But we never stand
quite alone. The smaller peoples of the Continent, who desire
self-government, or have achieved it, always give the conqueror trouble,
and rebel against him or resist him. England always sends help to them,
the help of an expeditionary force, or, failing that, the help of
irregular volunteers. Sir Philip Sidney dies at Zutphen; Sir John Moore
at Corunna. There is always desperate fighting in the Low Countries; and
the names of Mons, Liège, Namur, and Lille recur again and again.
England always succeeds in maintaining herself, though not without some
reverses, on the sea. In the end the power of the master of legions,
Philip, Louis, Napoleon, and shall we say William, crumbles and melts;
his ambitions are too costly to endure, his people chafe under his lash,
and his kingdom falls into insignificance or is transformed by internal

In all these wars there is one other resemblance which it is good to
remember to-day. The position of England, at one time or another in the
course of the war, always seems desperate. When Philip of Spain invaded
England with the greatest navy of the world, he was met on the seas by a
fleet made up chiefly of volunteers. When Louis overshadowed Europe and
threatened England, our king was in his pay and had made a secret treaty
with him; our statesmen, moreover, had destroyed our alliance with the
maritime powers of Sweden and Holland, we had war with the Dutch, and
our fleet was beaten by them. During the war against Napoleon we were in
an even worse plight; the plausible political doctrines of the
Revolution found many sympathizers in this country; our sailors mutinied
at the Nore; Ireland was aflame with discontent; and we were involved in
the Mahratta War in India, not to mention the naval war with America.
Even after Trafalgar, our European allies failed us, Napoleon disposed
of Austria and Prussia, and concluded a separate treaty with Russia. It
was then that Wordsworth wrote--

  ''Tis well! from this day forward we shall know
  That in ourselves our safety must be sought;
  That by our own right hands it must be wrought;
  That we must stand unpropped, or be laid low.
  O dastard whom such foretaste doth not cheer!
  We shall exult, if they who rule the land
  Be men who hold its many blessings dear,
  Wise, upright, valiant; not a servile band,
  Who are to judge of dangers which they fear,
  And honour which they do not understand.'

Always in the same cause, we have suffered worse things than we are
suffering to-day, and if there is worse to come we hope that we are
ready. The youngest and best of us, who carry on and go through with
it, though many of them are dead and many more will not live to see the
day of victory, have been easily the happiest and most confident among
us. They have believed that, at a price, they can save decency and
civilization in Europe, and, if they are wrong, they have known, as we
know, that the day when decency and civilization are trampled under the
foot of the brute is a day when it is good to die.

When I speak of the German nation as the brute I am not speaking
controversially or rhetorically; the whole German nation has given its
hearty assent to a brutal doctrine of war and politics; no facts need be
disputed between us: what to us is their shame, to them is their glory.
This is a grave difference; yet it would be wrong to suppose that we can
treat it adequately by condemning the whole German nation as a nation of
confessed criminals. It is the paradox of war that there is always right
on both sides. When a man is ready and willing to sacrifice his life,
you cannot deny him the right to choose what he will die for. The most
beautiful virtues, faith and courage and devotion, grow like weeds upon
the battle-field. The fighters recognize these virtues in each other,
and the front lines, for all their mud and slaughter, are breathed on by
the airs of heaven. Hate and pusillanimity have little there to nourish
them. To find the meaner passions you must seek further back. Johnson,
speaking in the _Idler_ of the calamities produced by war, admits that
he does not know 'whether more is to be dreaded from streets filled with
soldiers accustomed to plunder, or from garrets filled with scribblers
accustomed to lie'. Now that our army is the nation in arms, the danger
from a lawless soldiery has become less, or has vanished; but the other
danger has increased. Journalists are not the only offenders. It is a
strange, squalid background for the nobility of the soldier that is made
by the deceits and boasts of diplomatists and statesmen. In one of the
prison camps of England, some weeks ago, I saw a Saxon boy who had
fought bravely for his country. Simplicity and openness and loyalty were
written on his face. There are hundreds like him, and I would not
mention him if it were not that that same day I read with a new and
heightened sense of disgust a speech by the German Chancellor, writhing
with timidity and dishonesty and uneasy braggadocio. Those who feel this
contrast as I did may be excused, I think, if they come to the
conclusion that to talk about war is an accursed trade, and that to
fight well, whether on the one side or the other, is the only noble

Yet there is no escape for us; if we are to avoid chaos, if the daily
life of the world is to be re-established and carried on, there must be
an understanding between nations, and there is no possible way to come
to an understanding save by the action and words of representative men
on the one side and the other. Such representative men there are; there
is no reason to doubt that they do in the main truly express the
aspirations and wishes of their people, and on both sides they have
either explicitly or virtually made offers. The offer of the Allied
Powers is on record. What does Germany offer? She has refused to make a
definite statement, but her rulers have talked a great deal, and what
she intends is not really in doubt; only she is not sure whether she can
get it, and still clings to the hope that a favourable turn of events
may relieve her of the duty of making proposals, and put her in a
position to dictate a settlement. We all know what that settlement would

The German offer for a solution of the problem of world-government is
German sentiments, German racial pride, German manners and customs, an
immense increase of German territory and German influence, and above all
an acknowledged supremacy for the German race among the nations of the
world. She thinks she has not stated these aims in so many words; but
she has. When it was suggested that the future peace of the world might
be assured by the formation of a League to Enforce Peace, Germany,
through her official spokesmen, expressed her sympathy with that idea,
and stated that she would very gladly put herself at the head of such a
League. I can hardly help loving the Germans when their rustic
simplicity and rustic cunning lead them all unconsciously into
self-revelation. The very idea of a League to Enforce Peace implies
equality among the contracting parties; and Germany does not understand
equality. 'By all means', she says,'let us sit at a round table, and I
will sit at the top of it.' Her panacea for human ills is Germanism. She
has nothing to offer but a purely national sentiment, which some,
greatly privileged, may share, and the rest must revere and bow to. In
the Book of Genesis we are told how Joseph was thrown into a pit by his
elder brothers for talking just like this; but he meant it quite
innocently, and so do the Germans. They do not intend irreverence to God
when they call Him the good German God. On the contrary, they choose for
His praise a word that to them stands for all goodness and all
greatness. Their worship expresses itself naturally in the tribal ritual
and the tribal creed. This tribal creed, there can be no doubt, is what
they offer us for a talisman to ensure the right ordering of the world.

Patriotism and loyalty to hearth and home are passions so strong in
humanity that a creed like this, when men are under its influence, is
not easily seen to be absurd. The Saxon boy, whom I saw in his prison
camp, probably would not quarrel with it. And even in the wider world of
thought the illusions of nationalism are all-pervading. I once heard
Professor Henry Sidgwick remark that it is not easy for us to understand
how the troops of Portugal are stirred to heroic effort when their
commanders call on them to remember that they are Portuguese. He would
no doubt have been the first to admit, for he had an alert and sceptical
mind, that it is only our stupidity which finds anything comic in such
an appeal. But it is stupidity of this kind which unfits men to deal
with other races, and it is stupidity of this kind which has been
exalted by the Germans as a primal duty, and has, indeed, been advanced
by them as their principal claim to undertake the government of the

This extreme nationalism, this unwillingness to feel any sympathy for
other peoples, or to show them any consideration, has stupefied and
blinded the Germans. One of the heaviest charges that can be brought
against them is that they have seen no virtue in France, I do not ask
that they shall interrupt the War to express admiration for their
enemies: I am speaking of the time before the War. France is the chief
modern inheritor of that great Roman civilization which found us painted
savages, and made us into citizens of the world. The French mind, it is
admitted, and admitted most readily by the most intelligent men, is
quick and delicate and perceptive, surer and clearer in its operation
than the average European mind. Yet the Germans, infatuated with a
belief in their own numbers and their own brute strength, have dared to
express contempt for the genius of France. A contempt for foreigners is
common enough among the vulgar and unthinking of all nations, but I do
not believe that you will find anywhere but in Germany a large number of
men trained in the learned professions who are so besotted by vanity as
to deny to France her place in the vanguard of civilization. These louts
cannot be informed or argued with; they are interested in no one but
themselves, and naked self-assertion is their only idea of political
argument. Treitschke, who was for twenty years Professor of History at
Berlin, and who did perhaps more than any other man to build up the
modern German creed, has crystallized German politics in a single
sentence. 'War', he says, 'is politics _par excellence_,' that is to
say, politics at their purest and highest. Our political doctrine, if it
must be put in as brief a form, would be better expressed in the
sentence, 'War is the failure of politics'.

If England were given over to nationalism as Germany is given over,
then a war between these two Powers, though it would still be a great
dramatic spectacle, would have as little meaning as a duel between two
rival gamebirds in a cockpit. We know, and it will some day dawn on the
Germans, that this War has a deeper meaning than that. We are not
nationalist; we are too deeply experienced in politics to stumble into
that trap. We have had a better and longer political education than has
come to Germany in her short and feverish national life. It is often
said that the Germans are better educated than we are, and in a sense
that is true; they are better furnished with schools and colleges and
the public means of education. The best boy in a school is the boy who
best minds his book, and even if he dutifully believes all that it tells
him, that will not lose him the prize. When he leaves school and
graduates in a wider world, where men must depend on their own judgement
and their own energy, he is often a little disconcerted to find that
some of his less bookish fellows easily outgo him in quickness of
understanding and resource. German education is too elaborate; it
attempts to do for its pupils much that they had better be left to do
for themselves. The pupils are docile and obedient, not troubled with
unruly doubts and questionings, so that the German system of public
education is a system of public mesmerism, and, now that we see it in
its effects, may be truly described as a national disease.

I have said that England is not nationalist. If the English believed in
England as the Germans believe in Germany, there would be nothing for
it but a duel to the death, the extinction of one people or the other,
and darkness as the burier of the dead. Peace would be attained by a
great simplification and impoverishment of the world. But the English do
not believe in themselves in that mad-bull fashion. They come of mixed
blood, and have been accustomed for many long centuries to settle their
differences by compromise and mutual accommodation. They do not inquire
too curiously into a man's descent if he shares their ideas. They have
shown again and again that they prefer a tolerant and intelligent
foreigner to rule over them rather than an obstinate and wrong-headed
man of native origin. The earliest strong union of the various parts of
England was achieved by William the Norman, a man of French and
Scandinavian descent. Our native-born king, Charles the First, was put
to death by his people; his son, James the Second, was banished, and the
Dutchman, William the Third, who had proved himself a statesman and
soldier of genius in his opposition to Louis the Fourteenth, was elected
to the throne of England. The fierce struggles of the seventeenth
century, between Royalists and Parliamentarians, between Cavaliers and
Puritans, were settled at last, not by the destruction of either party,
but by the stereotyping of the dispute in the milder and more tolerable
shape of the party system. The only people we have ever shown ourselves
unwilling to tolerate are the people who will tolerate no one but their
own kind. We hate all Acts of Uniformity with a deadly hatred. We are
careful for the rights of minorities. We think life should be made
possible, and we do not object to its being made happy, for dissenters.
Voltaire, the acutest French mind of his age, remarked on this when he
visited England in 1726. 'England', he says, 'is the country of sects.
"In my father's house are many mansions".... Although the Episcopalians
and the Presbyterians are the two dominant sects in Great Britain, all
the others are welcomed there, and live together very fairly, whilst
most of the preachers hate one another almost as cordially as a
Jansenist damns a Jesuit. Enter the London Exchange, a place much more
worthy of respect than most Courts, and you see assembled for the
benefit of mankind representatives of all nations. There the Jew, the
Mohammedan, and the Christian deal with each other as if they were of
the same religion, and call infidels only those who become bankrupt.
There the Presbyterian trusts the Anabaptist, and the Anabaptist relies
on the promise of the Quaker. On leaving these free and peaceful
assemblies, some proceed to the synagogue, others to the tavern.... If
in England there were only one religion, its despotism would be to be
dreaded; if there were only two, their followers would cut each other's
throats; but there are thirty of them, and they live in peace and

Since we have had so much practice in tolerating one another, and in
living together even when our ideas on life and the conduct of life seem
absolutely incompatible, it is no wonder that we approach the treatment
of international affairs in a temper very unlike the solemn and dogmatic
ferocity of the German. We do not expect or desire that other peoples
shall resemble us. The world is wide; and the world-drama is enriched
by multiplicity and diversity of character. We like bad men, if there is
salt and spirit in their badness. We even admire a brute, if he is a
whole-hearted brute. I have often thought that if the Germans had been
true to their principles and their programme--if, after proclaiming that
they meant to win by sheer strength and that they recognized no other
right, they had continued as they began, and had battered and hacked,
burned and killed, without fear or pity, a certain reluctant admiration
for them might have been felt in this country. There is no chance of
that now, since they took to whining about humanity. Yet it is very
difficult wholly to alienate the sympathies of the English people. It is
perhaps in some ways a weakness, as it is certainly in other ways a
strength, that we are fanciers of other peoples. Our soldiers have a
tendency to make pets of their prisoners, to cherish them as curiosities
and souvenirs. The fancy becomes a passion when we find a little fellow
struggling valiantly against odds. I suppose we should be at war with
Germany to-day, even if the Germans had respected the neutrality of
Belgium. But the unprovoked assault upon a little people that asked only
to be let alone united all opinions in this country and brought us in
with a rush. I believe there is one German, at least (I hope he is
alive), who understands this. Early in July, 1914, a German student at
Oxford, who was a friend and pupil of mine, came to say good-bye to me.
I have since wondered whether he was under orders to join his regiment.
Anyhow, we talked very freely of many things, and he told me of an
adventure that had befallen him in an Oxford picture-palace. Portraits
of notabilities were being thrown on the screen. When a portrait of the
German Emperor appeared, a youth, sitting just behind my friend, shouted
out an insulting and scurrilous remark. So my friend stood up and turned
round and, catching him a cuff on the head, said,'That's my emperor'.
The house was full of undergraduates, and he expected to be seized and
thrown into the street. To his great surprise the undergraduates, many
of whom have now fallen on the fields of France, broke into rounds of
cheering. 'I should like to think', my friend said, 'that a thing like
that could possibly happen in a German city, but I am afraid that the
feeling there would always be against the foreigner. I admire the
English; they are so just.' I have heard nothing of him since, except a
rumour that he is with the German army of occupation in Belgium. If so,
I like to think of him at a regimental mess, suggesting doubts, or, if
that is an impossible breach of military discipline, keeping silence,
when the loud-voiced major explains that the sympathy of the English for
Belgium is all pretence and cant.

Ideal and disinterested motives are always to be reckoned with in human
nature. What the Germans call 'real politics', that is to say, politics
which treat disinterested motives as negligible, have led them into a
morass and have bogged them there. How easy it is to explain that the
British Empire depends on trade, that we are a nation of traders, that
all our policy is shaped by trade, that therefore it can only be
hypocrisy in us to pretend to any of the finer feelings. This is not,
as you might suppose, the harmless sally of a one-eyed wit; it is the
carefully reasoned belief of Germany's profoundest political thinkers.
They do not understand a cavalier, so they confidently assert that there
is no such thing in nature. That is a bad mistake to make about any
nation, but perhaps worst when it is made about the English, for the
cavalier temper in England runs through all classes. You can find it in
the schoolmaster, the small trader, the clerk, and the labourer, as
readily as in the officer of dragoons, or the Arctic explorer. The
Roundheads won the Civil War, and bequeathed to us their political
achievements. From the Cavaliers we have a more intimate bequest: it is
from them, not from the Puritans, that the fighting forces of the
British Empire inherit their outlook on the world, their freedom from
pedantry, and that gaiety and lightness of courage which makes them
carry their lives like a feather in the cap.

I am not saying that our qualities, good or bad, commend us very readily
to strangers. The people of England, on the whole, are respected more
than they are liked. When I call them fanciers of other nations, I feel
it only fair to add that some of those other nations express the same
truth in different language. I have often heard the complaint made that
Englishmen cannot speak of foreigners without an air of patronage. It is
impossible to deny this charge, for, in a question of manners, the
impressions you produce are your manners; and there is no doubt about
this impression. There is a certain coldness about the upright and
humane Englishman which repels and intimidates any trivial human being
who approaches him. Most men would forgo their claim to justice for the
chance of being liked. They would rather have their heads broken, or
accept a bribe, than be the objects of a dispassionate judgement,
however kindly. They feel this so strongly that they experience a dull
discomfort in any relationship that is not tinctured with passion. As
there are many such relationships, not to be avoided even by the most
emotional natures, they escape from them by simulating lively feeling,
and are sometimes exaggerated and insincere in manner. They issue a very
large paper currency on a very small gold reserve. This, which is
commonly known as the Irish Question, is an insoluble problem, for it is
a clash not of interests but of temperaments. The English, it must in
fairness be admitted, do as they would be done by. No Englishman pure
and simple is incommoded by the coldness of strangers. He prefers it,
for there are many stupid little businesses in the world, which are
falsified when they are made much of; and even when important facts are
to be told, he would rather have them told in a dreary manner. He hates
a fuss.

The Germans, who are a highly emotional and excitable people, have
concentrated all their energy on a few simple ideas. Their moral outlook
is as narrow as their geographical outlook is wide. Will their faith
prevail by its intensity, narrow and false though it be? I cannot prove
that it will not, but I have a suspicion, which I think has already
occurred to some of them, that the world is too large and wilful and
strong to be mastered by them. We have seen what their hatchets and
explosives can do, and they are nearing the end of their resources. They
can still repeat some of their old exploits, but they make no headway,
and time is not their friend.

One service, perhaps, they have done to civilization. There is a growing
number of people who hold that when this War is over international
relations must not be permitted to slip back into the unstable condition
which tempted the Germans to their crime. A good many pacific theorists,
no doubt, have not the experience and the imagination which would enable
them to pass a useful judgement, or to make a valuable suggestion, on
the affairs of nations. The abolition of war would be easily obtained if
it were generally agreed that war is the worst thing that can befall a
people. But this is not generally agreed; and, further, it is not true.
While men are men they cannot be sure that they will never be challenged
on a point of deep and intimate concern, where they would rather die
than yield. But something can perhaps be done to discourage gamblers'
wars, though even here any stockbroker will tell you how difficult it is
to suppress gambling without injuring the spirit of enterprise. The only
real check on war is an understanding between nations. For the
strengthening of such an understanding the Allies have a great
opportunity, and admirable instruments. I do not think that we shall
call on Germany to preside at our conferences. But we shall have the
help of all those qualities of heart and mind which are possessed by
France, by Russia, by Italy, and by America, who, for all her caution,
hates cruelty even more than she loves peace. There has never been an
alliance of greater promise for the government and peace of the world.

What is the contribution of the British Empire, and of England, towards
this settlement? Many of our domestic problems, as I have said, bear a
curious resemblance to international problems. We have not solved them
all. We have had many stumblings and many backslidings. But we have
shown again and again that we believe in toleration on the widest
possible basis, and that we are capable of generosity, which is a virtue
much more commonly shown by private persons than by communities. We
abolished the slave trade. We granted self-government to South Africa
just after our war with her. Only a few days ago we gave India her will,
and allowed her to impose a duty on our manufactures. Ireland could have
self-government to-morrow if she did not value her feuds more than
anything else in the world. All these are peoples to whom we have been
bound by ties of kinship or trusteeship. A wider and greater opportunity
is on its way to us. We are to see whether we are capable of generosity
and trust towards peoples who are neither our kin nor our wards. Our
understanding with France and Russia will call for great goodwill on
both sides, not so much in the drafting of formal treaties as in
indulging one another in our national habits. Families who fail to live
together in unity commonly fail not because they quarrel about large
interests, but because they do not like each other's little ways. The
French are not a dull people; and the Russians are not a tedious people
(what they do they do suddenly, without explanation); so that if we
fail to take pleasure in them we have ourselves to blame. If we are not
equal to our opportunities, if we do not learn to feel any affection for
them, then not all the pacts and congresses in the world can make peace

Of Germany it is too early to speak. We have not yet defeated her. If we
do defeat her, no one who is acquainted with our temper and our record
believes that we shall impose cruel or vindictive terms. If it were only
the engineers of this war who were in question, we would destroy them
gladly as common pests. But the thing is not so easy. A single home is
in many ways a greater and more appealing thing than a nation; we should
find ourselves thinking of the miseries of simple and ignorant people
who have given their all for the country of their birth; and our hearts
would fail us.

The Germans would certainly despise this address of mine, for I have
talked only of morality, while they talk and think chiefly of machines.
Zeppelins are a sad disappointment; but if any address on the War is
being delivered to-night by a German professor, there can be no doubt
that it deals with submarines, and treats them as the saviours of the
Fatherland. Well, I know very little about submarines, but I notice that
they have not had much success against ships of war. We are so
easy-going that we expected to carry on our commerce in war very much as
we did in peace. We have to change all that, and it will cost us not a
little inconvenience, or even great hardships. But I cannot believe that
a scheme of privy attacks on the traders of all nations, devised as a
last resort, in lieu of naval victory, can be successful when it is no
longer a surprise. And when I read history, I am strengthened in my
belief that morality is all-important. I do not find that any war
between great nations was ever won by a machine. The Trojan horse will
be trotted out against me, but that was a municipal affair. Wars are won
by the temper of a people. Serbia is not yet defeated. It is a frenzied
and desperate quest that the Germans undertook when they began to seek
for some mechanical trick or dodge, some monstrous engine, which should
enable the less resolved and more excited people to defeat the more
resolved and less excited. If we are to be defeated, it must be by them,
not by their bogey-men. We got their measure on the Somme, and we found
that when their guns failed to protect them, many of them threw up their
hands. These men will never be our masters until we deserve to be their

So I am glad to be able to end on a note of agreement with the German
military party. If they defeat us, it will be no more than we deserve.
Till then, or till they throw up their hands, we shall fight them, and
God will defend the right.


_An Address to the Royal Colonial Institute, February 13, 1918_

Our losses in this War continue to be enormous, and we are not yet near
to the end. So it may seem absurd to speak of our gains, of gains that
we have already achieved. But if you will look at the thing in a large
light, I think you will see that it is not absurd.

I do not speak of gains of territory, and prisoners, and booty. It is
true that we have taken from the Germans about a million square miles of
land in Africa, where land is cheap. We have taken more prisoners from
them than they have taken from us, and we have whole parks of German
artillery to set over against the battered and broken remnants of
British field-guns which were exhibited in Berlin--a monument to the
immortal valour of the little old Army. I am speaking rather of gains
which cannot be counted as guns are counted, or measured as land is
measured, but which are none the less real and important.

The Germans have achieved certain great material gains in this War, and
they are fighting now to hold them. If they fail to hold them, the
Germany of the war-lords is ruined. She will have to give up all her
bloated ambitions, to purge and live cleanly, and painfully to
reconstruct her prosperity on a quieter and sounder basis. She will not
do this until she is forced to it by defeat. No doubt there are moderate
and sensible men in Germany, as in other countries; but in Germany they
are without influence, and can do nothing. War is the national industry
of Prussia; Prussia has knit together the several states of the larger
Germany by means of war, and has promised them prosperity and power in
the future, to be achieved by war. You know the Prussian doctrine of
war. Every one now knows it. According to that doctrine it is a foolish
thing for a nation to wait till it is attacked. It should carefully
calculate its own strength and the strength of its neighbours, and, when
it is ready, it should attack them, on any pretext, suddenly, without
warning, and should take from them money and land. When it has gained
territory in this fashion, it should subject the population of the
conquered territory to the strictest laws of military service, and so
supply itself with an instrument for new and bolder aggression. This is
not only the German doctrine; it is the German practice. In this way and
no other modern Germany has been built up. It is a huge new State,
founded on force, cemented by fear, and financed on speculative gains to
be derived from the great gamble of war. You may have noticed that the
German people have not been called on, as yet, to pay any considerable
sum in taxation towards the expenses of this war. Those expenses (that,
at least, was the original idea) were to be borne wholly by the
conquered enemy. There are hundreds of thousands of Germans to-day who
firmly believe that their war-lords will return in triumph from the
stricken field, bringing with them the spoils of war, and scattering a
largess of peace and plenty.

To us it seems a marvel that any people should accept such a doctrine,
and should willingly give their lives and their fortunes to the work of
carrying it out in practice; but it is not so marvellous as it seems.
The German peoples are brave and obedient, and so make good soldiers;
they are easily lured by the hope of profit; they are naturally
attracted by the spectacular and sentimental side of war; above all,
they are so curiously stupid that many of them do actually believe that
they are a divinely chosen race, superior to the other races of the
world. They are very carefully educated, and their education, which is
ordered by the State, is part of the military machine. Their thinking is
done for them by officials. It would require an extraordinary degree of
courage and independence for a German youth to cut himself loose and
begin thinking and judging for himself. It must always be remembered,
moreover, that their recent history seems to justify their creed. I will
not go back to Frederick the Great, though the history of his wars is
the Prussian handbook, which teaches all the characteristic Prussian
methods of treachery and deceit. But consider only the last two German
wars. How, in the face of these, can it be proved to any German that war
is not the most profitable of adventures? In 1866 Prussia had war with
Austria. The war lasted forty days, and Prussia had from five to six
thousand soldiers killed in action. As a consequence of the war Prussia
gained much territory, and established her control over the states of
greater Germany. In 1870 she had war with France. Her total casualties
in that war were approximately a hundred thousand, just about the same
as our casualties in Gallipoli. From the war she gained, besides a great
increase of strength at home, the rich provinces of Alsace and Lorraine,
with all their mineral wealth, and an indemnity of two hundred million
pounds, that is to say, four times the actual cost of the war in money.
How then can it be maintained that war is not good business? If you say
so to any Prussian, he thinks you are talking like a child.

Not only were these two wars rich in profit for the Germans, but they
did not lose them much esteem. There was sympathy in this country for
the union of the German peoples, just as there was sympathy, a few years
earlier, for the union of the various states of Italy. There was not a
little admiration for German efficiency and strength. So that Bismarck,
who was an expert in all the uses of bullying, blackmail, and fraud, was
accepted as a great European statesman. I have always believed, and I
still believe, that Germany will have to pay a heavy price for
Bismarck--all the heavier because the payment has been so long deferred.

The present War, then, is in the direct line of succession to these
former wars; it was planned by Germany, elaborately and deliberately
planned, on a calculation of the profits to be derived from operations
on a large scale.

Well, as I said, we, as a people, do not believe in gambling in human
misery to attain uncertain speculative gains. We hold that war can be
justified only by a good cause, not by a lucky event. The German
doctrine seems to us impious and wicked. Though we have defined our war
aims in detail, and the Germans have not dared publicly to define
theirs, our real and sufficient war aim is to break the monstrous and
inhuman doctrine and practice of the enemy--to make their calculations
miscarry. And observe, if their calculations miscarry, they have fought
and suffered for nothing. They entered into this War for profit, and in
the conduct of the War, though they have made many mistakes, they have
made none of those generous and magnanimous mistakes which redeem and
beautify a losing cause.

The essence of our cause, and its greatest strength, is that we are not
fighting for profit. We are fighting for no privilege except the
privilege of possessing our souls, of being ourselves--a privilege which
we claim also for other weaker nations. The inestimable strength of that
position is that if the odds are against us it does not matter. If you
see a ruffian torturing a child, and interfere to prevent him, do you
feel that your attempt was a wrong one because he knocks you down? And
if you succeed, what material profit is there in saving a child from
torture? We have sometimes fought in the past for doubtful causes and
for wrong causes, but this time there is no mistake. Our cause is better
than we deserve; we embraced it by an act of faith, and it is only by
continuing in that faith that we shall see it through. The little old
Army, when they went to France in August 1914, did not ask what profits
were likely to come their way. They knew that there were none, but they
were willing to sacrifice themselves to save decency and humanity from
being trampled in the mud. This was the Army that the Germans called a
mercenary Army, and its epitaph has been written by a good poet:

     These, in the day when heaven was falling,
     The hour when earth's foundations fled,
     Followed their mercenary calling,
     And took their wages, and are dead.

     Their shoulders held the heavens suspended,
     They stood, and earth's foundations stay,
     What God abandoned these defended,
     And saved the sum of things for pay.

We must follow their example, for we shall never get a better. We must
not make too much of calculation, especially when it deals with
incalculable things. Nervous public critics, like Mr. H.G. Wells, are
always calling out for more cleverness in our methods, for new and
effective tricks, so that we may win the War. I would never disparage
cleverness; the more you can get of it, the better; but it is useless
unless it is in the service of something stronger and greater than
itself, and that is character. Cleverness can grasp; it is only
character that can hold. The Duke of Wellington was not a clever man; he
was a man of simple and honourable mind, with an infinite capacity for
patience, persistence, and endurance, so that neither unexpected
reverses abroad nor a flood of idle criticism at home could shake him or
change him. So he bore a chief part in laying low the last great tyranny
that desolated Europe.

None of our great wars was won by cleverness; they were all won by
resolution and perseverance. In all of them we were near to despair and
did not despair. In all of them we won through to victory in the end.

But in none of them did victory come in the expected shape. The worst of
making elaborate plans of victory, and programmes of all that is to
follow victory, is that the mixed event is sure to defeat those plans.
Not every war finds its decision in a single great battle. Think of our
war with Spain in the sixteenth century. Spain was then the greatest of
European Powers. She had larger armies than we could raise; she had
more than our wealth, and more than our shipping. The newly discovered
continent of America was an appanage of Spain, and her great galleons
were wafted lazily to and fro, bringing her all the treasures of the
western hemisphere. We defeated her by standing out and holding on. We
fought her in the Low Countries, which she enslaved and oppressed. We
refused to recognize her exclusive rights in America, and our merchant
seamen kept the sea undaunted, as they have kept it for the last three
years. When at last we became an intolerable vexation to Spain, she
collected a great Armada, or war-fleet, to invade and destroy us; and it
was shattered, by the winds of heaven and the sailors of England, in
1588. The defeat of the Armada was the turning-point of the war, but it
was not the end. It lifted a great shadow of fear from the hearts of the
people, as a great shadow of fear has already been lifted from their
hearts in the present War, but during the years that followed we
suffered many and serious reverses at the hand of Spain, before peace
and security were reached. So late as 1601, thirteen years after the
defeat of the Armada, the King of Denmark offered to mediate between
England and Spain, so that the long and disastrous war might be ended.
Queen Elizabeth was then old and frail, but this was what she said--and
if you want to understand why she was almost adored by her people,
listen to her words: 'I would have the King of Denmark, and all Princes
Christian and Heathen to know, that England hath no need to crave peace;
nor myself endured one hour's fear since I attained the crown thereof,
being guarded with so valiant and faithful subjects.' In the end the
power and menace of Spain faded away, and when peace was made, in 1604,
this nation never again, from that day to this, feared the worst that
Spain could do.

What were our gains from the war with Spain? Freedom to live our lives
in our own way, unthreatened; freedom to colonize America. The gains of
a great war are never visible immediately; they are deferred, and
extended over many years. What did we gain by our war with Napoleon,
which ended in the victory of Waterloo? For long years after Waterloo
this country was full of riots and discontents; there were
rick-burnings, agitations, popular risings, and something very near to
famine in the land. But all these things, from a distance, are now seen
to have been the broken water that follows the passage of a great storm.
The real gains of Waterloo, and still more of Trafalgar, are evident in
the enormous commercial and industrial development of England during the
nineteenth century, and in the peaceful foundation of the great
dominions of Canada, Australia, and South Africa, which was made
possible only by our unchallenged use of the seas. The men who won those
two great battles did not live to gather the fruits of their victory;
but their children did. If we defeat Germany as completely as we hope,
we shall not be able to point at once to our gains. But it is not a rash
forecast to say that our children and children's children will live in
greater security and freedom than we have ever tasted.

A man must have a good and wide imagination if he is to be willing to
face wounds and death for the sake of his unborn descendants and
kinsfolk. We cannot count on the popular imagination being equal to the
task. Fortunately, there is a substitute for imagination which does the
work as well or better, and that is character. Our people are sound in
instinct; they understand a fight. They know that a wrestler who
considers, while he is in the grip of his adversary, whether he would
not do well to give over, and so put an end to the weariness and the
strain, is no sort of a wrestler. They have never failed under a strain
of this kind, and they will not fail now. The people who do the
half-hearted and timid talking are either young egotists, who are angry
at being deprived of their personal ease and independence; or elderly
pensive gentlemen, in public offices and clubs, who are no longer fit
for action, and, being denied action, fall into melancholy; or feverish
journalists, who live on the proceeds of excitement, who feel the pulse
and take the temperature of the War every morning, and then rush into
the street to announce their fluttering hopes and fears; or cosmopolitan
philosophers, to whom the change from London to Berlin means nothing but
a change in diet and a pleasant addition to their opportunities of
hearing good music; or aliens in heart, to whom the historic fame of
England, 'dear for her reputation through the world,' is less than
nothing; or practical jokers, who are calm and confident enough
themselves, but delight in startling and depressing others. These are
not the people of England; they are the parasites of the people of
England. The people of England understand a fight.

That brings me to the first great gain of the War. We have found
ourselves. Which of us, in the early months of 1914, would have dared
to predict the splendours of the youth of this Empire--splendours which
are now a part of our history? We are adepts at self-criticism and
self-depreciation. We hate the language of emotion. Some of us, if we
were taken to heaven and asked what we thought of it, would say that it
is decent, or not so bad. I suppose we are jealous to keep our standard
high, and to have something to say if a better place should be found.
But in spite of all this, we do now know, and it is worth knowing, that
we are not weaker than our fathers. We know that the people who inhabit
these islands and this commonwealth of nations cannot be pushed on one
side, or driven under, or denied a great share in the future ordering of
the world. We know this, and our knowledge of it is the debt that we owe
to our dead. It is not vanity to admit that we know it; on the contrary,
it would be vanity to pretend that we do not know it. It is visible to
other eyes than ours. Some time ago I heard an address given by a friend
of mine, an Indian Mohammedan of warrior descent, to University students
of his own faith. He was urging on them the futility of dreams and the
necessity of self-discipline and self-devotion. 'Why do the people of
this country', he said, 'count for so much all the world over? It is not
because of their dreams; it is because thousands of them are lying at
the bottom of the sea.'

Further, we have not only found ourselves; we have found one another. A
new kindliness has grown up, during the War, between people divided by
the barriers of class, or wealth, or circumstance. A statesman of the
seventeenth century remarks that _It is a Misfortune for a Man not to
have a Friend in the World, but for that reason he shall have no Enemy_.
I might invert his maxim and say, _It is a Misfortune for a Man to have
many Enemies, but for that reason he shall know who are his Friends_. No
Radical member of Parliament will again, while any of us live, cast
contempt on 'the carpet Captains of Mayfair'. No idle Tory talker will
again dare to say that the working men of England care nothing for their
country. Even the manners of railway travel have improved. I was
travelling in a third-class compartment of a crowded train the other
day; we were twenty in the compartment, but it seemed a pity to leave
any one behind, and we made room for number twenty-one. Nothing but a
very kindly human feeling could have packed us tight enough for this.
Yet now is the time that has been chosen by some of these pensive
gentlemen that I spoke of, and by some of these excitable journalists,
to threaten us with class-war, and to try to make our flesh creep by
conjuring up the horrors of revolution. I advise them to take their
opinions to the third-class compartment and discuss them there. It is a
good tribunal, for, sooner or later, you will find every one there--even
officers, when they are travelling in mufti at their own expense. I have
visited this tribunal very often, and I have always come away from it
with the same impression, that this people means to win the War. But I
do not travel much in the North of England, so I asked a friend of mine,
whose dealings are with the industrial North, what the workpeople of
Lancashire and Yorkshire think of the War. He said, 'Their view is very
simple: they mean to win it; and they mean to make as much money out of
it as ever they can.' Certainly, that is very simple; but before you
judge them, put yourselves in their place. There are great outcries
against profiteers, for making exorbitant profits out of the War, and
against munition workers, for delaying work in order to get higher
wages. I do not defend either of them; they are unimaginative and
selfish, and I do not care how severely they are dealt with; but I do
say that the majority of them are not wicked in intention. A good many
of the more innocent profiteers are men whose sin is that they take an
offer of two shillings rather than an offer of eighteenpence for what
cost them one and a penny. Some of us, in our weaker moments, might be
betrayed into doing the same. As for the munition workers, I remember
what Goldsmith, who had known the bitterest poverty, wrote to his
brother. 'Avarice', he said, 'in the lower orders of mankind is true
ambition; avarice is the only ladder the poor can use to preferment.
Preach then, my dear Sir, to your son, not the excellence of human
nature nor the disrespect of riches, but endeavour to teach him thrift
and economy. Let his poor wandering uncle's example be placed in his
eyes. I had learned from books to love virtue before I was taught from
experience the necessity of being selfish.'

The profiteers and the munition workers are endeavouring, incidentally,
to better their own position. But make no mistake; the bulk of these
people would rather die than allow one spire of English grass to be
trodden under the foot of a foreign trespasser. Their chief sin is that
they do not fear. They think that there is plenty of time to do a little
business for themselves on the way to defeat the enemy. I cannot help
remembering the mutiny at the Nore, which broke out in our fleet during
the Napoleonic wars. The mutineers struck for more pay and better
treatment, but they agreed together that if the French fleet should put
in an appearance during the mutiny, all their claims should be postponed
for a time, and the French fleet should have their first attention.

Employers and employed do, no doubt, find in some trades to-day that
their relations are strained and irksome. They would do well to take a
lesson from the Army, where, with very few exceptions, there is harmony
and understanding between those who take orders and those who give them.
It is only in the Army that you can see realized the ideal of ancient

     Then none was for a party,
       Then all were for the State;
     Then the great man helped the poor,
       And the poor man loved the great.

Why is the Army so far superior to most commercial and industrial
businesses? The secret does not lie in State employment. There is plenty
of discontent and unrest among the State-employed railway men and
munition workers. It lies rather in the habit of mutual help and mutual
trust. If any civilian employer of labour wants to have willing
workpeople, let him take a hint from the Army. Let him live with his
workpeople, and share all their dangers and discomforts. Let him take
thought for their welfare before his own, and teach self-sacrifice by
example. Let him put the good of the nation before all private
interests; and those whom he commands will do for him anything that he

I cannot believe that the benefits which have come to us from the Army
will pass away with the passing of the War. Those who have been comrades
in danger will surely take with them something of the old spirit into
civil life. And those who have kept clear of the Army in order to carry
on their own trades and businesses will surely realize that they have
missed the great opportunity of their lives.

In a wider sense the War has brought us to an understanding of one
another. This great Commonwealth of independent nations which is called
the British Empire is scattered over the surface of the habitable globe.
It embraces people who live ten thousand miles apart, and whose ways of
life are so different that they might seem to have nothing in common.
But the War has brought them together, and has done more than half a
century of peace could do to promote a common understanding. Hundreds of
thousands of men of our blood who, before the War, had never seen this
little island, have now made acquaintance with it. Hundreds of thousands
of the inhabitants of this island to whom the Dominions were strange,
far places, if, after the War, they should be called on to settle there,
will not feel that they are leaving home. I can only hope that the
Canadians and Anzacs think as well of us as we do of them. We do not
like to praise our friends in their hearing, so I will say no more than
this: I am told that a new kind of peerage, very haughty and very
self-important, has arisen in South London. Its members are those
house-holders who have been privileged to have Anzac soldiers billeted
on them. It is private ties of this kind, invisible to the
constitutional lawyer and the political historian, which make the fine
meshes of the web of Empire.

Because he knew that the strength of the whole texture depends on the
strength of the fine meshes, Earl Grey, who died last year, will always
be remembered in our history. Not many men have his opportunity to make
acquaintance with the domain that is their birthright, for he had
administered a province of South Africa, and had been Governor-General
of Canada, He rediscovered the glory of the Empire, as poets rediscover
the glory of common speech. 'He had breathed its air,' a friend of his
says, 'fished its rivers, walked in its valleys, stood on its mountains,
met its people face to face. He had seen it in all the zones of the
world. He knew what it meant to mankind. Under the British flag,
wherever he journeyed, he found men of English speech living in an
atmosphere of liberty and carrying on the dear domestic traditions of
the British Isles. He saw justice firmly planted there, industry and
invention hard at work unfettered by tyrants of any kind, domestic life
prospering in natural conditions, and our old English kindness and
cheerfulness and broad-minded tolerance keeping things together. But he
also saw room under that same flag, ample room, for millions and
millions more of the human race. The Empire wasn't a word to him. It was
a vast, an almost boundless, home for honest men.'

The War did not dishearten him. When he died, in August, 1917, he said,
'Here I lie on my death-bed, looking clear into the Promised Land. I'm
not allowed to enter it, but there it is before my eyes. After the War
the people of this country will enter it, and those who laughed at me
for a dreamer will see that I wasn't so wrong after all. But there's
still work to do for those who didn't laugh, hard work, and with much
opposition in the way; all the same, it is work right up against the
goal. My dreams have come true.'

One of the clear gains of the War is to be found in the increased
activity and alertness of our own people. The motto of to-day is, 'Let
those now work who never worked before, And those who always worked now
work the more.' Before the War we had a great national reputation for
idleness--in this island, at least. I remember a friendly critic from
Canada who, some five or six years ago, expressed to me, with much
disquiet, his opinion that there was something very far wrong with the
old country; that we had gone soft. As for our German critics, they
expressed the same view in gross and unmistakable fashion. Wit is not a
native product in Germany, it all has to be imported, so they could not
satirize us; but their caricatures of the typical Englishman showed us
what they thought. He was a young weakling with a foolish face, and was
dressed in cricketing flannels. It would have been worth their while to
notice what they did not notice, that his muscles and nerves are not
soft. They learned that later, when the bank-clerks of Manchester broke
the Prussian Guard into fragments at Contalmaison. This must have been a
sad surprise, for the Germans had always taught, in their delightful
authoritative fashion, that the chief industries of the young Englishman
are lawn-tennis and afternoon tea. They are a fussy people, and they
find it difficult to understand the calm of the man who, having nothing
to do, does it. Perhaps they were right, and we were too idle. The
disease was never so serious as they thought it, and now, thanks to
them, we are in a fair way to recovery. The idle classes have turned
their hand to the lathe and the plough. Women are doing a hundred things
that they never did before, and are doing them well. The elasticity and
resourcefulness that the War has developed will not be lost or destroyed
by the coming of peace. Least of all will those qualities be lost if we
should prove unable, in this War, to impose our own terms on Germany.
Then the peace that follows will be a long struggle, and in that
struggle we shall prevail. In the last long peace we were not
suspicious; we felt friendly enough to the Germans, and we gave them
every advantage. They despised us for our friendliness and used the
peace to prepare our downfall. That will never happen again. If we
cannot tame the cunning animal that has assaulted humanity, at least we
can and will tether him. Laws will not be necessary; there are millions
of others besides the seamen of England who will have no dealings with
an unsubdued and unrepentant Germany. What the Germans are not taught by
the War they will have to learn in the more tedious and no less costly
school of peace.

In any case, whether we win through to real peace and real security, or
whether we are thrown back on an armed peace and the duty of unbroken
vigilance, we shall be dependent for our future on the children who are
now learning in the schools or playing in the streets. It is a good
dependence. The children of to-day are better than the children whom I
knew when I was a child. I think they have more intelligence and
sympathy; they certainly have more public spirit. We cannot do too much
for them. The most that we can do is nothing to what they are going to
do for us, for their own nation and people. I am not concerned to
discuss the education problem. Formal education, carried on chiefly by
means of books, is a very small part of the making of a man or a woman.
But I am interested to know what the children are thinking. You cannot
fathom a child's thoughts, but we know who are their best teachers, and
what lessons have been stamped indelibly on their minds. Their teachers,
whom they never saw, and whose lessons they will never forget, lie in
graves in Flanders and France and Gallipoli and Syria and Mesopotamia,
or unburied at the bottom of the sea. The runner falls, but the torch is
carried forward. This is what Julian Grenfell, who gave his mind and his
life to the War, has said in his splendid poem called _Into Battle_:

     And life is colour and warmth and light,
     And a striving evermore for these;
     And he is dead who will not fight,
     And who dies fighting hath increase.

Those who died fighting will have such increase that a whole new
generation, better even than the old, will be ready, no long time hence,
to uphold and extend and decorate the Commonwealth of nations which
their fathers and brothers saved from ruin.

One thing I have never heard discussed, but it is the clearest gain of
all, and already it may be called a certain gain. After the War the
English language will have such a position as it has never had before.
It will be established in world-wide security. Even before the War, it
may be truly said, our language was in no danger from the competition of
the German language. The Germans have never had much success in the
attempt to get their language adopted by other peoples. Not all the
military laws of Prussia can drive out French from the hearts and homes
of the people of Alsace. In the ports of the near and far East you will
hear English spoken--pidgin English, as it is called, that is to say, a
selection of English words suited for the business of daily life. But
you may roam the world over, and you will hear no pidgin German. Before
the War many Germans learned English, while very few English-speaking
people learned German. In other matters we disagreed, but we both knew
which way the wind was blowing. It may be said, and said truly, that our
well-known laziness was one cause of our failing or neglecting to learn
German. But it was not the only cause; and we are not lazy in tasks
which we believe to be worth our while. Rather we had an instinctive
belief that the future does not belong to the German tongue. That belief
is not likely to be impaired by the War. Armed ruffians can do some
things, but one thing they cannot do; they cannot endear their language
to those who have suffered from their violence. The Germans poisoned the
wells in South-West Africa; in Europe they did all they could to poison
the wells of mutual trust and mutual understanding among civilized men.
Do they think that these things will make a good advertisement for the
explosive guttural sounds and the huddled deformed syntax of the speech
in which they express their arrogance and their hate? Which of the
chief European languages will come first, after the War, with the little
nations? Will Serbia be content to speak German? Will Norway and Denmark
feel a new affection for the speech of the men who have degraded the old
humanity of the seas? Neighbourhood, kinship, and the necessities of
commerce may retain for the German language a certain measure of custom
in Sweden and Switzerland, and in Holland. But for the most part Germans
will have to be content to be addressed in their own tongue only by
those who fear them, or by those who hope to cheat them.

This gain, which I make bold to predict for the English language, is a
real gain, apart from all patriotic bias. The English language is
incomparably richer, more fluid, and more vital than the German
language. Where the German has but one way of saying a thing, we have
two or three, each with its distinctions and its subtleties of usage.
Our capital wealth is greater, and so are our powers of borrowing.
English sprang from the old Teutonic stock, and we can still coin new
words, such as 'food-hoard' and 'joy-ride', in the German fashion. But
long centuries ago we added thousands of Romance words, words which came
into English through the French or Norman-French, and brought with them
the ideas of Latin civilization and of mediaeval Christianity. Later on,
when the renewed study of Latin and Greek quickened the intellectual
life of Europe, we imported thousands of Greek and Latin words direct
from the ancient world, learned words, many of them, suitable for
philosophers, or for writers who pride themselves on shooting a little
above the vulgar apprehension. Yet many of these, too, have found their
way into daily speech, so that we can say most things in three ways,
according as we draw on one or another of the three main sources of our
speech. Thus, you can Begin, or Commence, or Initiate an undertaking,
with Boldness, or Courage, or Resolution. If you are a Workman, or
Labourer, or Operative, you can Ask, or Bequest, or Solicit your
employer to Yield, or Grant, or Concede, an increase in the Earnings, or
Wages, or Remuneration which fall to the lot of your Fellow, or
Companion, or Associate. Your employer is perhaps Old, or Veteran, or
Superannuated, which may Hinder, or Delay, or Retard the success of your
application. But if you Foretell, or Prophesy, or Predict that the War
will have an End, or Close, or Termination that shall not only be
Speedy, or Rapid, or Accelerated, but also Great, or Grand, or
Magnificent, you may perhaps Stir, or Move, or Actuate him to have Ruth,
or Pity, or Compassion on your Mate, or Colleague, or Collaborator. The
English language, then, is a language of great wealth--much greater
wealth than can be illustrated by any brief example. But wealth is
nothing unless you can use it. The real strength of English lies in the
inspired freedom and variety of its syntax. There is no grammar of the
English speech which is not comic in its stiffness and inadequacy. An
English grammar does not explain all that we can do with our speech; it
merely explains what shackles and restraints we must put upon our speech
if we would bring it within the comprehension of a school-bred
grammarian. But the speech itself is like the sea, and soon breaks down
the dykes built by the inland engineer. It was the fashion, in the
eighteenth century, to speak of the divine Shakespeare. The reach and
catholicity of his imagination was what earned him that extravagant
praise; but his syntax has no less title to be called divine. It is not
cast or wrought, like metal; it leaps like fire, and moves like air. So
is every one that is born of the spirit. Our speech is our great
charter. Far better than in the long constitutional process whereby we
subjected our kings to law, and gave dignity and strength to our
Commons, the meaning of English freedom is to be seen in the illimitable
freedom of our English speech.

Our literature is almost as rich as our language. Modern German
literature begins in the eighteenth century. Modern English literature
began with Chaucer, in the fourteenth century, and has been full of
great names and great books ever since. Nothing has been done in German
literature for which we have not a counterpart, done as well or
better--except the work of Heine, and Heine was a Jew. His opinion of
the Prussians was that they are a compost of beer, deceit, and sand.
French literature and English literature can be compared, throughout
their long course, sometimes to the great advantage of the French.
German literature cannot seriously be compared with either.

It may be objected that literature and art are ornamental affairs, which
count for little in the deadly strife of nations. But that is not so.
Our language cannot go anywhere without taking our ideas and our creed
with it, not to mention our institutions and our games. If the Germans
could understand what Chaucer means when he says of his Knight that

                     he lovèd chivalry,
     Truth and honoùr, freedom and courtesy,

then indeed we might be near to an understanding. I asked a good German
scholar the other day what is the German word for 'fair play'. He
replied, as they do in Parliament, that he must ask for notice of that
question. I fear there is no German word for 'fair play'.

The little countries, the pawns and victims of German policy, understand
our ideas better. The peoples who have suffered from tyranny and
oppression look to England for help, and it is a generous weakness in us
that we sometimes deceive them by our sympathy, for our power is
limited, and we cannot help them all. But it will not count against us
at the final reckoning that in most places where humanity has suffered
cruelty and indignity the name of England has been invoked: not always
in vain.

And now, for I have kept to the last what I believe to be the greatest
gain of all, the entry of America into the War assures the triumph of
our common language. America is peopled by many races; only a minority
of the inhabitants--an influential and governing minority--are of the
English stock. But here, again, the language carries it; and the ideas
that inspire America are ideas which had their origin in the long
English struggle for freedom. Our sufferings in this War are great, but
they are not so great that we cannot recognize virtue in a new recruit
to the cause. No nation, in the whole course of human history, has ever
made a more splendid decision, or performed a more magnanimous act, than
America, when she decided to enter this War. She had nothing to gain,
for, to say the bare truth, she had little to lose. If Germany were to
dominate the world, America, no doubt, would be ruined; but in all human
likelihood, Germany's impious attempt would have spent itself and been
broken long before it reached the coasts of America. America might have
stood out of the War in the assurance that her own interests were safe,
and that, when the tempest had passed, the centre of civilization would
be transferred from a broken and exhausted Europe to a peaceful and
prosperous America. Some few Americans talked in this strain, and
favoured a decision in this sense. But it was not for nothing that
America was founded upon religion. When she saw humanity in anguish, she
did not pass by on the other side. Her entry into the War has put an
end, I hope for ever, to the family quarrel, not very profound or
significant, which for a century and a half has been a jarring note in
the relations of mother and daughter. And it has put an end to another
danger. It seemed at one time not unlikely that the English language as
it is spoken overseas would set up a life of its own, and become
separated from the language of the old country. A development of this
kind would be natural enough. The Boers of South Africa speak Dutch, but
not the Dutch spoken in Holland. The French Canadians speak French, but
not the French of Molière. Half a century ago, when America was
exploring and settling her own country, in wild and lone places, her
pioneers enriched the English speech with all kinds of new and vivid
phrases. The tendency was then for America to go her own way, and to
cultivate what is new in language at the expense of what is old. She
prided herself even on having a spelling of her own, and seemed almost
willing to break loose from tradition and to coin a new American

This has not happened; and now, I think, it will not happen. For one
thing, the American colonists left us when already we had a great
literature. Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Spenser belong to America no less
than to us, and America has never forgotten them. The education which
has been fostered in American schools and colleges keeps the whole
nation in touch with the past. Some of their best authors write in a
style that Milton and Burke would understand and approve. There is no
more beautiful English prose than Nathaniel Hawthorne's. The best
speeches of Abraham Lincoln, and, we may truly add, of President Wilson,
are merely classic English. During my own lifetime I am sure I have seen
the speech usages of the two peoples draw closer together. For one
thing, we on this side now borrow, and borrow very freely, the more
picturesque colloquialisms of America. On informal occasions I sometimes
brighten my own speech with phrases which I think I owe to one of the
best of living American authors, Mr. George Ade, of Chicago, the author
of _Fables in Slang_. The press, the telegraph, the telephone, and the
growing habit of travel bind us closer together every year; and the
English that we speak, however rich and various it may be, is going to
remain one and the same English, our common inheritance.

One question, the most important and difficult of all, remains to be
asked. Will this War, in its course and in its effects, tend to prevent
or discourage later wars? If the gains that it brings prove to be merely
partial and national gains, if it exalts one nation by unjustly
depressing another, and conquers cruelty by equal cruelty, then nothing
can be more certain than that the peace of the world is farther off than
ever. When she was near her death, Edith Cavell, patriot and martyr,
said that patriotism is not enough. Every one who thinks on
international affairs knows this; almost every one forgets it in time of
war. What can be done to prevent nations from appealing to the wild
justice of revenge?

A League of Nations may do good, but I am surprised that any one who has
imagination and a knowledge of the facts should entertain high hopes of
it as a full solution. There is a League of Nations to-day which has
given a verdict against the Central Powers, and that verdict is being
enforced by the most terrible War in all human history. If the verdict
had been given before the War began, it may be said, then Germany might
have accepted it, and refrained. So she might, but what then? She would
have felt herself wronged; she would have deferred the War, and, in ways
that she knows so well, would have set about making a party for herself
among the nations of the League. Who can be confident that she would
have failed either to divide her judges, or to accumulate such elements
of strength that she might dare to defy them? A League of Nations would
work well only if its verdicts were loyally accepted by all the nations
composing it. To make majority-rule possible you must have a community
made up of members who are reasonably well informed upon one another's
affairs, and who are bound together by a tie of loyalty stronger and
more enduring than their causes of difference. It would be a happy thing
if the nations of the world made such a community; and the sufferings of
this War have brought them nearer to desiring it. But those who believe
that such a community can be formed to-day or to-morrow are too
sanguine. It must not be forgotten that the very principle of the
League, if its judgements are to take effect, involves a world-war in
cases where a strong minority resists those judgements. Every war would
become a world-war. Perhaps this very fact would prevent wars, but it
cannot be said that experience favours such a conclusion.

There is no escape for us by way of the Gospels. The Gospel precept to
turn the other cheek to the aggressor was not addressed to a meeting of
trustees. Christianity has never shirked war, or even much disliked it.
Where the whole soul is set on things unseen, wounds and death become of
less account. And if the Christians have not helped us to avoid war, how
should the pacifists be of use? Those of them whom I happen to know, or
to have met, have shown themselves, in the relations of civil life, to
be irritable, self-willed, combative creatures, where the average
soldier is calm, unselfish, and placable. There is something incongruous
and absurd in the pacifist of British descent. He has fighting in his
blood, and when his creed, or his nervous sensibility to physical
horrors, denies him the use of fighting, his blood turns sour. He can
argue, and object, and criticize, but he cannot lead. All that he can
offer us in effect is eternal quarrels in place of occasional fights.

No one can do anything to prevent war who does not recognize its
splendour, for it is by its splendour that it keeps its hold on
humanity, and persists. The wickedest and most selfish war in the world
is not fought by wicked and selfish soldiers. The spirit of man is
immense, and for an old memory, a pledged word, a sense of fellowship,
offers this frail and complicated tissue of flesh and blood, which a pin
or a grain of sand will disorder, to be the victim of all the atrocities
that the wit of man can compound out of fire and steel and poison. If
that spirit is to be changed, or directed into new courses, it must be
by one who understands it, and approaches it reverently, with bared

The best hope seems to me to lie in paying chief attention to the
improvement of war rather than to its abolition; to the decencies of the
craft; to the style rather than the matter. Style is often more
important than matter, and this War would not have been so fierce or so
prolonged if it had not become largely a war on a point of style, a war,
that is to say, to determine the question how war should be waged. If
the Germans had behaved humanely and considerately to the civil
population of Belgium, if they had kept their solemn promise not to use
poison-gas, if they had refrained from murder at sea, if their valour
had been accompanied by chivalry, the War might now have been ended,
perhaps not in their disfavour, for it would not have been felt, as it
now is felt, that they must be defeated at no matter how great a cost,
or civilization will perish.

Even as things are, there have been some gains in the manner of
conducting war, which, when future generations look back on them, will
be seen to be considerable. It is true that modern science has devised
new and appalling weapons. The invention of a new weapon in war always
arouses protest, but it does not usually, in the long run, make war more
inhuman. There was a great outcry in Europe when the broadsword was
superseded by the rapier, and a tall man of his hands could be spitted
like a cat or a rabbit by any dexterous little fellow with a trained
wrist. There was a wave of indignation, which was a hundred years in
passing, when musketry first came into use, and a man-at-arms of great
prowess could be killed from behind a wall by one who would not have
dared to meet him in open combat. But these changes did not, in effect,
make war crueller or more deadly. They gave more play to intelligence,
and abolished the tyranny of the bully, who took the wall of every man
he met, and made himself a public nuisance. The introduction of
poison-gas, which is a small thing compared with the invention of
fire-arms, has given the chemist a place in the ranks of fighting-men.
And if science has lent its aid to the destruction of life, it has spent
greater zeal and more prolonged effort on the saving of life. No
previous war will compare with this in care for the wounded and maimed.
In all countries, and on all fronts, an army of skilled workers devote
themselves to this single end. I believe that this quickening of the
human conscience, for that is what it is, will prove to be the greatest
gain of the War, and the greatest advance made in restraint of war. If
the nations come to recognize that their first duty, and their first
responsibility, is to those who give so much in their service, that
recognition will of itself do more than can be done by any conclave of
statesmen to discourage war. It was the monk Telemachus, according to
the old story, who stopped the gladiatorial games at Rome, and was
stoned by the people. If war, in process of time, shall be abolished,
or, failing that, shall be governed by the codes of humanity and
chivalry, like a decent tournament; then the one sacrificial figure
which will everywhere be honoured for the change will be the figure not
of a priest or a politician, but of a hospital nurse.


_A paper read to the Essay Society, Eton College, March 14, 1918._

When you asked me to read or speak to you, I promised to speak about the
War. What I have to say is wholly orthodox, but it is none the worse for
that. Indeed, when I think how entirely the War possesses our thoughts
and how entirely we are agreed concerning it, I seem to see a new
meaning in the creeds of the religions. These creeds grew up by general
consent, and no one who believed them grudged repeating them. In the
face of an indifferent or hostile world the faithful found themselves
obliged to define their belief, and to strengthen themselves by an
unwearying and united profession of faith. It is the enemy who gives
meaning to a religious creed: without our creed we cannot win. So I am
willing to remind you of what you know, rather than to try to introduce
you to novelties.

The strength of the enemy lies in his creed; not in the lands that he
has ravished from his neighbours. If his creed does not prevail, his
lands will not help him. Germany has taken lands from Belgium, Serbia,
Roumania, Russia, and the rest, but unless her digestion is as strong as
her appetite, she will fail to keep them. If she is to hold them in
peace, the peoples who inhabit these lands must be either exterminated
or converted to the German creed. Lands can be annexed by a successful
campaign; they can be permanently conquered only by the operations of
peace. The people who survive will be a weakness to the German Empire
unless they accept what they are offered, a share in the German creed.

That creed has not many natural attractions for the peoples on whom it
is imposed by force. It is an intensely patriotic creed; it insists on
racial supremacy, and on unity to be achieved by violence. Pleading and
persuasion have little part in it except as instruments of deceit. There
is no use in listening to what the Germans say; they do not believe it
themselves. What they say is for others; what they do is for themselves.
While they are at war, language for them has only two uses--to conceal
their thoughts, and to deceive their enemies.

The creed of Western civilization, for which they feel nothing but
contempt, and on which they will be broken, is not a simple thing, like
theirs. The words by which it is commonly expressed--democracy,
parliamentarism, individual liberty, diversity, free development--are
puzzling theoretic words, which make no instinctive appeal to the heart.
Nevertheless, we stand for growth as against order; and for life as
against death. If Germany wins this war, her system will have to be
broken or to decay before growth can start again. Must we lose even a
hundred years in shaking ourselves free from the paralysis of the German

The Germans have shown themselves strong in their unity, and strong in
their willingness to make great sacrifices to preserve that unity. No
one can deny nobility to the sacrifice made by the simple-minded German
soldier who dies fighting bravely for his people and his creed. His
narrowness is his strength, and makes unselfishness easier by saving his
mind from question. 'This one thing you shall do', his country says to
him, 'fight and die for your country, so that your country and your
people shall have lordship over other countries and other peoples. You
are nothing; Germany is everything.'

We who live in this island love our country with at least as deep a
passion; but a creed so simple as the German creed will never do for us.
We are patriotic, but our patriotism is often overlaid and confused by a
wider thought and a wider sympathy than the Germans have ever known.
Much extravagant praise has lately been given to the German power of
thinking, which produces the elaborate marvels of German organization.
But this thinking is slave-thinking, not master-thinking; it spends
itself wholly on devising complicated means to achieve a very simple
end. That is what makes the Germans so like the animals. Their wisdom is
all cunning. I have had German friends, two or three, in the course of
my life, but none of them ever understood a word that I said if I tried
to say what I thought. You could talk to them about food, and they
responded easily. It was all very restful and pleasant, like talking to
an intelligent dog.

If each of the allied nations were devoted to the creed of nationalism,
the alliance could not endure. We depend for our strength on what we
hold in common. The weakness of this wider creed is that it makes no
such immediate and strong appeal to the natural instincts as is made by
the mother-country. It demands the habitual exercise of reason and
imagination. Further, seeing that we are infinitely less tame and less
docile than the Germans, we depend for our strength on informing and
convincing our people, and on obtaining agreement among them. Questions
which in Germany are discussed only in the gloomy Berlin head-quarters
of the General Staff are discussed here in the newspapers. In the press,
even under the censorship, we think aloud. It records our differences
and debates our policy. You could not suppress these differences and
these debates without damaging our cause. There is no freedom worth
having which does not, sooner or later, include the freedom to say what
you think.

No doubt we could, if necessary, carry on for a time without the press;
and I agree with those newspaper writers who have been saying recently
that the importance of the press is monstrously exaggerated by some of
its critics. The working-man, so far as I know him, does not depend for
his patriotism on the leader-writers of the newspapers. He takes even
the news with a very large grain of salt. 'So the papers say', he
remarks; 'it may be true or it may not.' Yet the press has done good
service, and might do better, in putting the meaning of the War before
our people and in holding them together. Freedom means that we must love
our diversity well enough to be willing to unite to protect it. We must
die for our differences as cheerfully as the Germans die for their
pattern. Or, if we can sketch a design of our cause, we must be as
passionate in defence of that large vague design as the Germans are
passionate in defence of their tight uniformity and their drill. If we
were to fail to keep together, our cause, I believe, would still
prevail, but at a cost that we dare not contemplate, by way of anarchy,
and the dissolution of societies, by long tortures, and tears, and
martyrdoms. If we refuse to die in the ranks against the German tyranny
we can keep our faith by dying at the stake. There are those who think
martyrdom the better way; and certainly that was how Christianity
prevailed in Europe; you can read the story in Caxton's translation of
the _Golden Legend_. But these saints and martyrs were making a
beginning; we are fighting to keep what we have won, and it would be a
huge failure on our part if we could keep nothing of it, but had to
begin all over again.

The business of the press, then, at this present crisis, is to keep the
cause for which we are fighting clearly before us, and this it has done
well; also, because we do not fight best in blinders, to tell us all
that can be known of the facts of the situation, and this it has done
not so well.

The power of the newspapers is that most people read them, and that many
people read nothing else. Their weakness is that they have to sell or
cease to be, so that by a natural instinct of self-preservation they
fall back on the two sure methods whereby you can always capture the
attention of the public. Any man who is trying to say what he thinks,
making full allowance for all doubts and differences, runs the risk of
losing his audience. He can regain their attention by flattering them or
by frightening them. Flattery and fright, the one following the other
from day to day, and often from paragraph to paragraph, is a very large
part of the newspaper reader's diet. If he is a sane and busy man, he is
not too much impressed by either. He is not mercurial enough for the
quick changes of an orator's or journalist's fancy, whereby he is called
on, one day, to dig the German warships like rats out of their harbour,
and, not many days later, to spend his last shilling on the purchase of
the last bullet to shoot at the German invader. He knows that this is
such stuff as dreams are made of. He knows also that the orator or
journalist, after calling on him for these achievements, goes home to
dinner. No great harm is done, just as no great harm is done by bad
novels. But an opportunity is lost; the press and the platform might do
more than they do to strengthen us and inform us, and help forward our

I name the press and the platform together because they are essentially
the same thing. Journalism is a kind of talk. The press, it is fair to
say, is ourselves; and every people, it may truly be said, has the press
that it deserves. But reading is a thing that we do chiefly for
indulgence and pleasure in our idle time; and the press falls in with
our mood, and supplies us with what we want in our weaker and lazier
moments. No responsible man, with an eager and active mind, spends much
of his time on the newspapers. Those who are excited to action by what
they read in the papers are mostly content with the mild exercise of
writing to these same papers to explain that some one else ought to do
something and to do it at once. Their excitement worries themselves more
than it hurts others. When the devil, with horns and hooves, appeared to
Cuvier, the naturalist, and threatened to devour him, Cuvier, who was
asleep at the time, opened his eyes and looked at the terrible
apparition. 'Hm,' he said, 'cloven-footed; graminivorous; needn't be
afraid of you;' and he went to sleep again. A man who says that he has
not time to read the morning papers carefully is commonly a man who
counts; he knows what he has to do, and he goes on doing it. So far as I
have observed, the cadets who are training for command in the army take
very little interest in the exhortations of the newspapers. They even
prefer the miserable trickle which is all that is left of football news.

One of the chief problems connected with the press is therefore
this--how can it be prevented from producing hysteria in the
feeble-minded? In time of war the censorship no doubt does something to
prevent this; and I think it might do more. 'Scare-lines', as they are
called--that is, sensational headings in large capital letters--might be
reduced by law to modest dimensions. More important, the censorship
might insist that all who write shall sign their names to their
articles. Why should journalists alone be relieved of responsibility to
their country? Is it possible that the Government is afraid of the
press? There is no need for fear. 'Beware of Aristophanes', says Landor,
'he can cast your name as a byword to a thousand cities of Asia for a
thousand years. But all that the press can do by its disfavour is to
keep your name obscure in a hundred cities of England for a hundred
days. Signed articles are robbed of their vague impressiveness, and are
known for what they are--the opinions of one man. I would also recommend
that a photograph of the author be placed at the head of every article.
I have been saved from many bad novels by the helpful pictorial
advertisements of modern publishers.

The real work of the Press, as I said, is to help to hold the people
together. Nothing else that it can do is of any importance compared with
this. We are at one in this War as we have never been at one before
within living memory, as we were not at one against Napoleon or against
Louis XIV. Our trial is on us; and if we cannot preserve our oneness, we
fail. What would be left to us I do not know; but I am sure that an
England which had accepted conditions of peace at Germany's hands would
not be the England that any of us know. There might still be a few
Englishmen, but they would have to look about for somewhere to live.
Serbia would be a good place; it has made no peace-treaty with Germany.

We are profoundly at one; and are divided only by illusions, which the
press, in times past, has done much to keep alive. One of these
illusions is the illusion of party. I have never been behind the scenes,
among the creaking machinery, but my impression, as a spectator, is that
parties in England are made very much as you pick up sides for a game. I
have observed that they are all conservative. The affections are
conservative; every one has a liking for his old habits and his old
associates. There is something comic in a well-nourished rich man who
believes that he is a bold reformer and a destructive thinker. For real
clotted reactionary sentiment I know nothing to match the table-talk of
any aged parliamentary Radical. When we get a Labour Government, it will
be patriotic, prejudiced, opposed to all innovation, superstitiously
reverential of the past, sticky and, probably, tyrannical.

The party illusion has been much weakened by the War, and those who
still repeat the old catch-words are very near to lunacy. There is a
deeper and more dangerous illusion which has not been killed--the class
illusion. We are all very much alike; but we live in water-tight
compartments called classes, and the inhabitants of each compartment
tend to believe that they alone are patriotic. This illusion, to be
just, is not fostered chiefly by the press, which wants to sell its work
to all classes; but it has strong hold of the Government office. The
Government does not know the people, except as an actor knows the
audience; and therefore does not trust the people. It is pathetic to
hear officials talking timidly of the people--will they endure hardships
and sacrifices, will they carry through? Yet most of the successes we
have won in the War have to be credited not so much to the skill of the
management as to the amazing high courage of the ordinary soldier and
sailor. Even soldiers are often subject to class illusion. I remember
listening, in the first month of the War, to a retired colonel, who
explained, with some heat, that the territorials could never be of any
use. That illusion has gone. Then it was Kitchener's army--well-meaning
people, no doubt, but impossible for a European war. Kitchener's army
made good. Now it is the civil population, who, though they are the
blood relatives of the soldiers, are distrusted, and believed to be
likely to fail under a strain. Yet all the time, if you want to hear
half-hearted, timid, pusillanimous talk, the place where you are most
likely to hear it is in the public offices. Most of those who talk in
this way would be brave enough in fight, but they are kept at desks, and
worried with detailed business, and harassed by speculative dangers, and
they lose perspective. Soon or late, we are going to win this War; and
it is the people who are going to win it.

If the press (or perhaps the Government, which controls the press) is
not afraid of the people, why does it tell them so little about our
reverses, and the merits of our enemies? For information concerning
these things we have to depend wholly on conversation with returned
soldiers. For instance, the horrible stories that we hear of the brutal
treatment of our prisoners are numerous, and are true, and make a heavy
bill against Germany, which bill we mean to present. But are they fair
examples of the average treatment? We cannot tell; the accounts
published are almost exclusively confined to the worst happenings. Most
of the officers with whom I have talked who had been in several German
military prisons said that they had nothing serious to complain of.
Prison is not a good place, and it is not pleasant to have your
pea-soup and your coffee, one after the other, in the same tin dipper;
but they were soldiers, and they agreed that it would be absurd to make
a grievance of things like that. One private soldier was an even greater
philosopher. 'No', he said, 'I have nothing to complain of. Of course,
they do spit at you a good deal.' That man was unconquerable.

In shipping returns and the like we are given averages; why are we told
nothing at all of the milder experiences of our soldier prisoners? It
would not make us less resolved to do all that we can to better the lot
of those who are suffering insult and torture, and to exact full
retribution from the enemy. And it would bring some hope to those whose
husbands or children or friends are in German military prisons, and who
are racked every day by tales of what, in fact, are exceptional

Or take the question of the conduct of German officers. We know that the
Prussian military Government, in its approved handbooks, teaches its
officers the use of brutality and terror as military weapons. The German
philosophy of war, of which this is a part, is not really a philosophy
of war; it is a philosophy of victory. For a long time now the Germans
have been accustomed to victory, and have studied the arts of breaking
the spirit and torturing the mind of the peoples whom they invade. Their
philosophy of war will have to be rewritten when the time comes for them
to accommodate their doctrine to their own defeat. In the meantime they
teach frightfulness to their officers, and most of their officers prove
ready pupils. There must be some, one would think, here and there, if
only a sprinkling, who fall short of the Prussian doctrine, and are
betrayed by human feeling into what we should recognize as decent and
honourable conduct. And so there are; only we do not hear of them
through the press. I should like to tell two stories which come to me
from personal sources. The first may be called the story of the
Christmas truce and the German captain. In the lull which fell on the
fighting at the time of the first Christmas of the War, a British
officer was disquieted to notice that his men were fraternizing with the
Germans, who were standing about with them in No-man's land, laughing
and talking. He went out to them at once, to bring them back to their
own trenches. When he came up to his men, he met a German captain who
had arrived on the same errand. The two officers, British and German,
fell into talk, and while they were standing together, in not unfriendly
fashion, one of the men took a snapshot photograph of them, copies of
which were afterwards circulated in the trenches. Then the men were
recalled to their duty, on the one side and the other, and, after an
interval of some days, the war began again. A little time after this the
British officer was in charge of a patrol, and, having lost his way,
found himself in the German trenches, where he and his men were
surrounded and captured. As they were being marched off along the
trenches, they met the German captain, who ordered the men to be taken
to the rear, and then, addressing the officer without any sign of
recognition, said in a loud voice, 'You, follow me!' He led him by
complicated ways along a whole series of trenches and up a sap, at the
end of which he stopped, saluted, and, pointing with his hand, said
'Your trenches are there. Good day.'

My second story, the story of the British lieutenant in No-man's land,
is briefer. I was with a friend of mine, a young officer back from the
front, wounded, and the conduct of German officers was being discussed.
He said, 'You can't expect me to be very hard on German officers, for
one of them saved my life'. He then told how he and a companion crept
out into No-man's land to bring in some of our wounded who were lying
there. When they had reached the wounded, and were preparing to bring
them in, they were discovered by the Germans opposite, who at once
whipped up a machine-gun and turned it on them. Their lives were not
worth half a minute's purchase, when suddenly a German officer leapt up
on to the parapet, and, angrily waving back the machine-gunners, called
out, in English, 'That's all right. You may take them in.'

These are no doubt exceptional cases; the rule is very different. But a
good many of such cases are known to soldiers, and I have seen none of
them in the press. Soldiers are silent by law, and journalists either do
not hear these things, or, believing that hate is a valuable asset,
suppress all mention of them. If England could ever be disgraced by a
mishap, she would be disgraced by having given birth to those
Englishmen, few and wretched, who, when an enemy behaves generously,
conceal or deny the fact. And consider the effect of this silence on the
Germans. There are some German officers, as I said, who are better than
the German military handbooks, and better than their monstrous chiefs.
Which of them will pay the smallest attention to what our papers say
when he finds that they collect only atrocities, and are blind to
humanity if they see it in an enemy? He will regard our press accounts
of the German army as the work of malicious cripples; and our perfectly
true narrative of the unspeakable brutality and filthiness of the German
army's doings will lose credit with him.

If I had my way, I would staff the newspaper offices, as far as
possible, with wounded soldiers, and I would give some of the present
staff a holiday as stretcher-bearers. Then we should hear more of the

Is it feared that we should have no heart for the War if once we are
convinced that among the Germans there are some human beings? Is it
believed that our people can be heroic on one condition only, that they
shall be asked to fight no one but orangoutangs? Our airmen fight as
well as any one, in this world or above it, has ever fought; and we owe
them a great debt of thanks for maintaining, and, by their example,
actually teaching the Germans to maintain, a high standard of decency.

This War has shown, what we might have gathered from our history, that
we fight best up hill. From our history also we may learn that it does
not relax our sinews to be told that our enemy has some good qualities.
We should like him better as an enemy if he had more. We know what we
have believed; and we are not going to fail in resolve or perseverance
because we find that our task is difficult, and that we have not a
monopoly of all the virtues.

Most of us will not live to see it, for our recovery from this disease
will be long and troublesome, but the War will do great things for us.
It will make a reality of the British Commonwealth, which until now has
been only an aspiration and a dream. It will lay the sure foundation of
a League of Nations in the affection and understanding which it has
promoted among all English-speaking peoples, and in the relations of
mutual respect and mutual service which it has established between the
English-speaking peoples and the Latin races. Our united Rolls of Honour
make the most magnificent list of benefactors that the world has ever
seen. In the end, the War may perhaps even save the soul of the main
criminal, awaken him from his bloody dream, and lead him back by degrees
to the possibility of innocence and goodwill.


_Annual Shakespeare Lecture of the British Academy, delivered July 4,

There is nothing new and important to be said of Shakespeare. In recent
years antiquaries have made some additions to our knowledge of the facts
of his life. These additions are all tantalizing and comparatively
insignificant. The history of the publication of his works has also
become clearer and more intelligible, especially by the labours of Mr.
Pollard; but the whole question of quartos and folios remains thorny and
difficult, so that no one can reach any definite conclusion in this
matter without a liberal use of conjecture.

I propose to return to the old catholic doctrine which has been
illuminated by so many disciples of Shakespeare, and to speak of him as
our great national poet. He embodies and exemplifies all the virtues,
and most of the faults, of England. Any one who reads and understands
him understands England. This method of studying Shakespeare by reading
him has perhaps gone somewhat out of vogue in favour of more roundabout
ways of approach, but it is the best method for all that. Shakespeare
tells us more about himself and his mind than we could learn even from
those who knew him in his habit as he lived, if they were all alive and
all talking. To learn what he tells we have only to listen.

I think there is no national poet, of any great nation whatsoever, who
is so completely representative of his own people as Shakespeare is
representative of the English. There is certainly no other English poet
who comes near to Shakespeare in embodying our character and our
foibles. No one, in this connexion, would venture even to mention
Spenser or Milton. Chaucer is English, but he lived at a time when
England was not yet completely English, so that he is only
half-conscious of his nation. Wordsworth is English, but he was a
recluse. Browning is English, but he lived apart or abroad, and was a
tourist of genius. The most English of all our great men of letters,
next to Shakespeare, is certainly Dr. Johnson, but he was no great poet.
Shakespeare, it may be suspected, is too poetic to be a perfect
Englishman; but his works refute that suspicion. He is the Englishman
endowed, by a fortunate chance, with matchless powers of expression. He
is not silent or dull; but he understands silent men, and he enters into
the minds of dull men. Moreover, the Englishman seems duller than he is.
It is a point of pride with him not to be witty and not to give voice to
his feelings. The shepherd Corin, who was never in court, has the true
philosophy. 'He that hath learned no wit by nature nor art may complain
of good breeding or comes of a very dull kindred.'

Shakespeare knew nothing of the British Empire. He was an islander, and
his patriotism was centred on

     This precious stone set in the silver sea,
     Which serves it in the office of a wall,
     Or as a moat defensive to a house,
     Against the envy of less happier lands.

When he speaks of Britons and British he always means the Celtic
peoples of the island. Once only he makes a slip. There is a passage in
_King Lear_ (IV. vi. 249) where the followers of the King, who in the
text of the quarto versions are correctly called 'the British party',
appear in the folio version as 'the English party'. Perhaps the quartos
contain Shakespeare's own correction of his own inadvertence; but those
of us, and we are many, who have been blamed by northern patriots for
the misuse of the word English may claim Shakespeare as a brother in

Our critics, at home and abroad, accuse us of arrogance. I doubt if we
can prove them wrong; but they do not always understand the nature of
English arrogance. It does not commonly take the form of self-assertion.
Shakespeare's casual allusions to our national characteristics are
almost all of a kind; they are humorous and depreciatory. Here are some
of them. Every holiday fool in England, we learn from Trinculo in _The
Tempest_, would give a piece of silver to see a strange fish, though no
one will give a doit to relieve a lame beggar. The English are
quarrelsome, Master Slender testifies, at the game of bear-baiting. They
are great drinkers, says Iago, 'most potent in potting; your Dane, your
German, and your swag-bellied Hollander are nothing to your English'.
They are epicures, says Macbeth. They will eat like wolves and fight
like devils, says the Constable of France. An English nobleman,
according to the Lady of Belmont, can speak no language but his own. An
English tailor, according to the porter of Macbeth's castle, will steal
cloth where there is hardly any cloth to be stolen, out of a French
hose. The devil, says the clown in _All's Well_, has an English name; he
is called the Black Prince.

Nothing has been changed in this vein of humorous banter since
Shakespeare died. One of the best pieces of Shakespeare criticism ever
written is contained in four words of the present Poet Laureate's Ode
for the Tercentenary of Shakespeare, 'London's laughter is thine'. The
wit of our trenches in this war, especially perhaps among the Cockney
and South country regiments, is pure Shakespeare. Falstaff would find
himself at home there, and would recognize a brother in Old Bill.

The best known of Shakespeare's allusions to England are no doubt those
splendid outbursts of patriotism which occur in _King John_, and
_Richard II,_ and _Henry V_. And of these the dying speech of John of
Gaunt, in _Richard II_, is the deepest in feeling. It is a lament upon
the decay of England, 'this dear, dear land'. Since we began to be a
nation we have always lamented our decay. I am afraid that the Germans,
whose self-esteem takes another form, were deceived by this. To the
right English temper all bragging is a thing of evil omen. That temper
is well expressed, where perhaps you would least expect to find it, in
the speech of King Henry V to the French herald:

                           To say the sooth,--
  Though 'tis no wisdom to confess so much
  Unto an enemy of craft and vantage,--
  My people are with sickness much enfeebled,
  My numbers lessened, and those few I have
  Almost no better than so many French;
  Who, when they were in health, I tell thee, herald,
  I thought upon one pair of English legs
  Did march three Frenchmen. Yet, forgive me, God,
  That I do brag thus! This your air of France
  Hath blown that vice in me; I must repent.
  Go therefore, tell thy master here I am:
  My ransom is this frail and worthless trunk;
  My army but a weak and sickly guard;
  Yet, God before, tell him we will come on,
  Though France himself and such another neighbour
  Stand in our way. There's for thy labour, Montjoy.
  Go bid thy master well advise himself:
  If we may pass, we will; if we be hindered,
  We shall your tawny ground with your red blood
  Discolour; and so, Montjoy, fare you well.
  The sum of all our answer is but this:
  We would not seek a battle as we are;
  Nor, as we are, we say we will not shun it;
  So tell your master.

That speech might have been written for the war which we are waging
to-day against a less honourable enemy. But, indeed, Shakespeare is full
of prophecy. Here is his description of the volunteers who flocked to
the colours in the early days of the war:

  Rash inconsiderate fiery voluntaries,
  With ladies' faces and fierce dragons' spleens,
  Have sold their fortunes at their native homes,
  Bearing their birthrights proudly on their backs,
  To make a hazard of new fortunes here.
  In brief, a braver choice of dauntless spirits
  Than now the English bottoms have waft o'er
  Did never float upon the swelling tide.

And here is his sermon on national unity, preached by the Bishop of

  O, if you rear this house against this house,
  It will the woefullest division prove
  That ever fell upon this cursed earth.
  Prevent it, resist it, let it not be so,
  Lest child, child's children, cry against you 'Woe!'

The patriotism of the women is described by the Bastard in _King John_:

  Your own ladies and pale-visag'd maids
  Like Amazons come tripping after drums:
  Their thimbles into armed gauntlets change,
  Their needles to lances, and their gentle hearts
  To fierce and bloody inclination.

Lastly, Queen Isabella's blessing, spoken over King Henry V and his
French bride, predicts an enduring friendship between England and

  As man and wife, being two, are one in love,
  So be there 'twixt your kingdoms such a spousal,
  That never may ill office, or fell jealousy,
  Which troubles oft the bed of blessed marriage,
  Thrust in between the paction of these kingdoms,
  To make divorce of their incorporate league;
  That English may as French, French Englishmen,
  Receive each other! God speak this Amen!

One of the delights of a literature as rich and as old as ours is that
at every step we take backwards we find ourselves again. We are
delivered from that foolish vein of thought, so dear to ignorant
conceit, which degrades the past in order to exalt the present and the
future. It is easy to feel ourselves superior to men who no longer
breathe and walk, and whom we do not trouble to understand. Here is the
real benefit of scholarship; it reduces men to kinship with their race.
Science, pressing forward, and beating against the bars which guard the
secrets of the future, has no such sympathy in its gift.

Anyhow, in Shakespeare's time, England was already old England; which if
she could ever cease to be, she might be Jerusalem, or Paradise, but
would not be England at all. What Shakespeare and his fellows of the
sixteenth century gave her was a new self-consciousness and a new
self-confidence. They foraged in the past; they recognized themselves in
their ancestors; they found feudal England, which had existed for many
hundreds of years, a dumb thing; and when she did not know her own
meaning, they endowed her purposes with words. They gave her a new
delight in herself, a new sense of power and exhilaration, which has
remained with her to this day, surviving all the airy philosophic
theories of humanity which thought to supersede the old solid national
temper. The English national temper is better fitted for traffic with
the world than any mere doctrine can ever be, for it is marked by an
immense tolerance. And this, too, Shakespeare has expressed. Falstaff is
perhaps the most tolerant man who was ever made in God's image. But it
is rather late in the day to introduce Falstaff to an English audience.
Perhaps you will let me modernize a brief scene from Shakespeare,
altering nothing essential, to illustrate how completely his spirit is
the spirit of our troops in Flanders and France.

A small British expeditionary force, bound on an international mission,
finds itself stranded in an unknown country. The force is composed of
men very various in rank and profession. Two of them, whom we may call
a non-commissioned officer and a private, go exploring by themselves,
and take one of the natives of the place prisoner. This native is an
ugly low-born creature, of great physical strength and violent criminal
tendencies, a liar, and ready at any time for theft, rape, and murder.
He is a child of Nature, a lover of music, slavish in his devotion to
power and rank, and very easily imposed upon by authority. His captors
do not fear him, and, which is more, they do not dislike him. They found
him lying out in a kind of no-man's land, drenched to the skin, so they
determine to keep him as a souvenir, and to take him home with them.
They nickname him, in friendly fashion, the monster, and the mooncalf,
as who should say Fritz, or the Boche. But their first care is to give
him a drink, and to make him swear allegiance upon the bottle. 'Where
the devil should he learn our language?' says the non-commissioned
officer, when the monster speaks. 'I will give him some relief, if it be
but for that.' The prisoner then offers to kiss the foot of his captor.
'I shall laugh myself to death', says the private, 'at this puppy-headed
monster. A most scurvy monster! I could find in my heart to beat him,
but that the poor monster's in drink.' When the private continues to
rail at the monster, his officer calls him to order. 'Trinculo, keep a
good tongue in your head: if you prove a mutineer, the next tree------
The poor monster's my subject, and he shall not suffer indignity.'

In this scene from _The Tempest_, everything is English except the
names. The incident has been repeated many times in the last four years.
'This is Bill,' one private said, introducing a German soldier to his
company. 'He's my prisoner. I wounded him, and I took him, and where I
go he goes. Come on, Bill, old man.' The Germans have known many
failures since they began the War, but one failure is more tragic than
all the rest. They love to be impressive, to produce a panic of
apprehension and a thrill of reverence in their enemy; and they have
completely failed to impress the ordinary British private. He remains
incurably humorous, and so little moved to passion that his daily
offices of kindness are hardly interrupted.

Shakespeare's tolerance, which is no greater than the tolerance of the
common English soldier, may be well seen in his treatment of his
villains. Is a liar, or a thief, merely a bad man? Shakespeare does not
much encourage you to think so. Is a murderer a bad man? He would be an
undiscerning critic who should accept that phrase as a true and adequate
description of Macbeth. Shakespeare does not dislike liars, thieves, and
murderers as such, and he does not pretend to dislike them. He has his
own dislikes. I once asked a friend of mine, long since dead, who
refused to condemn almost anything, whether there were any vices that he
could not find it in his heart to tolerate. He replied at once that
there were two--cruelty, and bilking; which, if the word is not
academic, I may paraphrase as cheating the helpless, swindling a child
out of its pennies, or leaving a house by the back door in order to
avoid paying your cabman his lawful fare. These exclusions from mercy
Shakespeare would accept; and I think he would add a third. His worst
villains are all theorists, who cheat and murder by the book of
arithmetic. They are men of principle, and are ready to expound their
principle and to defend it in argument. They follow it, without remorse
or mitigation, wherever it leads them. It is Iago's logic that makes him
so terrible; his mind is as cold as a snake and as hard as a surgeon's
knife. The Italian Renaissance did produce some such men; the modern
German imitation is a grosser and feebler thing, brutality trying to
emulate the glitter and flourish of refined cruelty.

With his wonderful quickness of intuition and his unsurpassed subtlety
of expression Shakespeare drew the characters of the Englishmen that he
saw around him. Why is it that he has given us no full-length portrait,
carefully drawn, of a hypocrite? It can hardly have been for lack of
models. Outside England, not only among our enemies, but among our
friends and allies, it is agreed that hypocrisy is our national vice,
our ruling passion. There must be some meaning in so widely held an
opinion; and, on our side, there are damaging admissions by many
witnesses. The portrait gallery of Charles Dickens is crowded with
hypocrites. Some of them are greasy and servile, like Mr. Pumblechook or
Uriah Heep; others rise to poetic heights of daring, like Mr. Chadband
or Mr. Squeers. But Shakespeare's hypocrites enjoy themselves too much;
they are artists to the finger-tips. It may be said, no doubt, that
Shakespeare lived before organized religious dissent had developed a new
type of character among the weaker brethren. But the Low Church
Protestant, whom Shakespeare certainly knew, is not very different from
the evangelical dissenter of later days; and he did not interest

My own impression is that Shakespeare had a free and happy childhood,
and grew up without much check from his elders. It is the child who sees
hypocrites. These preposterous grown-up people, who, if they are
well-mannered, do not seem to enjoy their food, who are fussy about
meaningless employments, and never give way to natural impulses, must
surely assume this veil of decorum with intent to deceive. Charles
Dickens was hard driven in his childhood, and the impressions that were
then burnt into him governed all his seeing. The creative spirit in him
transformed his sufferings into delight; but he never outgrew them; and,
when he died, the eyes of a child were closed upon a scene touched, it
is true, here and there with rapturous pleasure, rich in oddity, and
trembling with pathos, but, in the main, as bleak and unsatisfying as
the wards of a workhouse. The intense emotions of his childhood made the
usual fervours of adolescence a faint thing in the comparison, and if
you want to know how lovers think and feel you do not go to Dickens to
tell you. You go to Shakespeare, who put his childhood behind him, so
that he almost forgot it, and ran forward to seize life with both hands.
He sometimes looked back on children, and saw them through the eyes of
their elders. Dickens saw men and women as they appear to children.

This comparison suggests a certain lack of sympathy or lack of
understanding in those who are quick to see hypocrisy in others. In
Dickens lack of sympathy was a fair revenge; moreover, his hypocrites
amused him so much that he did not wish to understand them. What a loss
it would have been to the world if he had explained them away! But it is
difficult, I think, to see a hypocrite in a man whose intimacy you have
cultivated, whose mind you have entered into, as Shakespeare entered
into the mind of his creatures. Hypocrisy, in its ordinary forms, is a
superficial thing--a skin disease, not a cancer. It is not easy, at
best, to bring the outward and inward relations of the soul into perfect
harmony; a hypocrite is one who too readily consents to their
separation. The English, for I am ready now to return to my point, are a
people of a divided mind, slow to drive anything through on principle,
very ready to find reason in compromise. They are passionate, and they
are idealists, but they are also a practical people, and they dare not
give the rein to a passion or an idea. They know that in this world an
unmitigated principle simply will not work; that a clean cut will never
take you through the maze. So they restrain themselves, and listen, and
seem patient. They are not so patient as they seem; they must be
hypocrites! A cruder, simpler people like the Germans feel indignation,
not unmixed perhaps with envy, when they hear the quiet voice and see
the white lips of the thoroughbred Englishman who is angry. It is not
manly or honest, they think, to be angry without getting red in the
face. They certainly feel pride in their own honesty when they give
explosive vent to their emotions. They have not learned the elements of
self-distrust. The Englishman is seldom quite content to be himself;
often his thoughts are troubled by something better. He suffers from the
divided mind; and earns the reputation of a hypocrite. But the simpler
nature that indulges itself and believes in itself has an even heavier
penalty to pay. If, in the name of honesty, you cease to distinguish
between what you are and what you would wish to be, between how you act
and how you would like to act, you are in some danger of reeling back
into the beast. It is true that man is an animal; and before long you
feel a glow of conscious virtue in proclaiming and illustrating that
truth. You scorn the hypocrisy of pretending to be better than you are,
and that very scorn fixes you in what you are. 'He that is unjust, let
him be unjust still; and he which is filthy, let him be filthy still.'
That is the epitaph on German honesty. I have drifted away from
Shakespeare, who knew nothing of the sea of troubles that England would
one day take arms against, and who could not know that on that day she
would outgo his most splendid praise and more than vindicate his
reverence and his affection. But Shakespeare is still so live a mind
that it is vain to try to expound him by selected texts, or to pin him
to a mosaic of quotations from his book. Often, if you seek to know what
he thought on questions which must have exercised his imagination, you
can gather it only from a hint dropped by accident, and quite
irrelevant. What were his views on literature, and on the literary
controversies which have been agitated from his day to our own? He tells
us very little. He must have heard discussions and arguments on metre,
on classical precedent, on the ancient and modern drama; but he makes no
mention of these questions. He does not seem to have attached any
prophetic importance to poetry. The poets who exalt their craft are of a
more slender build. Is it conceivable that he would have given his
support to a literary academy,--a project which began to find advocates
during his lifetime? I think not. It is true that he is full of good
sense, and that an academy exists to promulgate good sense. Moreover his
own free experiments brought him nearer and nearer into conformity with
classical models. _Othello_ and _Macbeth_ are better constructed plays
than _Hamlet_. The only one of his plays which, whether by chance or by
design, observes the so-called unities, of action and time and place, is
one of his latest plays--_The Tempest_. But he was an Englishman, and
would have been jealous of his freedom and independence. When the
grave-digger remarks that it is no great matter if Hamlet do not recover
his wits in England, because there the men are as mad as he, the satire
has a sympathetic ring in it. Shakespeare did not wish to see the mad
English altered. Nor are they likely to alter; our fears and our hopes
are vain. We entered on the greatest of our wars with an army no bigger,
so we are told, than the Bulgarian army. Since that time we have
regimented and organized our people, not without success; and our
soothsayers are now directing our attention to the danger that after the
war we shall be kept in uniform and shall become tame creatures, losing
our independence and our spirit of enterprise. There is nothing that
soothsayers will not predict when they are gravelled for lack of matter,
but this is the stupidest of all their efforts. The national character
is not so flimsy a thing; it has gone through good and evil fortune for
hundreds of years without turning a hair. You can make a soldier, and a
good soldier, of a humorist; but you cannot militarize him. He remains a
free thinker.

New institutions do not flourish in England. The town is a comparatively
modern innovation; it has never, so to say, caught on. Most schemes of
town-planning are schemes for pretending that you live in the country.
This is one of the most persistent of our many hypocrisies. Wherever
working people inhabit a street of continuous red-brick cottages, the
names that they give to their homes are one long catalogue of romantic
lies. The houses have no gardens, and the only prospect that they
command is the view of over the way. But read their names--The Dingle,
The Elms, Pine Grove, Windermere, The Nook, The Nest. Even social
pretence, which is said to be one of our weaknesses, and which may be
read in such names as Belvoir or Apsley House, is less in evidence than
the Englishman's passion for the country. He cannot bear to think that
he lives in a town. He does not much respect the institutions of a town.
A policeman, before he has been long in the force, has to face the fact
that he is generally regarded as a comic character. The police are
Englishmen and good fellows, and they accept a situation which would
rouse any continental gendarme to heroic indignation. Mayors, Aldermen,
and Justices of the Peace are comic, and take it not quite so well.
Beadles were so wholly dedicated to the purposes of comedy that I
suppose they found their position unendurable and went to earth; at any
rate it is very difficult to catch one in his official costume.

All this is reflected in Shakespeare. He knew the country, and he knew
the town; and he has not left it in doubt which was the cherished home
of his imagination. He preferred the fields to the streets, but the
Arcadia of his choice is not agricultural or even pastoral; it is rather
a desert island, or the uninhabited stretches of wild and woodland
country. Indeed, he has both described it and named it. 'Where will the
old Duke live?' says Oliver in _As You Like It_. 'They say he is already
in the forest of Arden,' says Charles the wrestler, 'and a many merry
men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England.
They say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time
carelessly, as they did in the golden world.' That is Shakespeare's
Arcadia; and who that has read _As You Like It_ will deny that it
breathes the air of Paradise?

It is quite plain that the freedom that Shakespeare valued was in fact
freedom, not any of those ingenious mechanisms to which that name has
been applied by political theorists. He thought long and profoundly on
the problems of society; and anarchy has no place among his political
ideals. It is by all means to be avoided--at a cost. But what harm would
anarchy do if it meant no more than freedom for all the impulses of the
enlightened imagination and the tender heart? The ideals of his heart
were not political; and when he indulges himself, as he did in his
latest plays, you must look for him in the wilds; whether on the road
near the shepherd's cottage, or in the cave among the mountains of
Wales, or on the seashore in the Bermudas. The laws that are imposed
upon the intricate relations of men in society were a weariness to him;
and in this he is thoroughly English. The Englishman has always been an
objector, and he has a right to object, though it may very well be held
that he is too fond of larding his objection with the plea of
conscience. But even this has a meaning in our annals; as a mere
question of right we are very slow to prefer the claim of the organized
opinions of society to the claim of the individual conscience. We know
that there is no good in a man who is doing what he does not will to do.
We are not like our poets or our men of action to be void of
inspiration. A gift is nothing if there is no benevolence in the giver:

                    For to the noble mind
  Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind.

We ask for the impulse as well as the deed. Even when he is speaking of
social obligations Shakespeare makes his strongest appeal not to force
or command, but to the natural piety of the heart:

  If ever you have looked on better days,
  If ever been where bells have knolled to church,
  If ever sat at any good man's feast,
  If ever from your eyelids wiped a tear,
  And know what 'tis to pity and be pitied,
  Let gentleness my strong enforcement be:
  In the which hope I blush, and hide my sword.

So speaks Orlando when the Duke has met his threats with fair words;
and he adds an apology:

                 Pardon me, I pray you;
  I thought that all things had been savage here,
  And therefore put I on the countenance
  Of stern commandment.

The ultimate law between man and man, according to Shakespeare, is the
law of pity. I suppose that most of us have had our ears so dulled by
early familiarity with Portia's famous speech, which we probably knew by
heart long before we were fit to understand it, that the heavenly
quality of it, equal to almost anything in the New Testament, is
obscured and lost. There is no remedy but to read it again; to remember
that it was conceived in passion; and to notice how the meaning is
raised and perfected as line follows line:

  _Portia_.  Then must the Jew be merciful.

  _Shylock_. On what compulsion must I? Tell me that.

  _Portia_. The quality of mercy is not strained.
  It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
  Upon the place beneath; it is twice bless'd;
  It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
  'Tis mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
  The throned monarch better than his crown.
  His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
  The attribute to awe and majesty,
  Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
  But mercy is above this sceptred sway,
  It is enthroned in the hearts of kings,
  It is an attribute to God himself,
  And earthly power doth then show likest God's
  When mercy seasons justice. Therefore, Jew,
  Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
  That in the course of justice none of us
  Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy,
  And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
  The deeds of mercy.

That speech rises above the strife of nations; it belongs to humanity.
But an Englishman wrote it; and the author, we may be sure, if he ever
met with the doctrine that a man who is called on to help his own people
is in duty bound to set aside the claims of humanity, and to stop his
ears to the call of mercy, knew that the doctrine is an invention of the
devil, stupid and angry, as the devil commonly is. There are hundreds of
thousands of Englishmen who, though they could not have written the
speech, yet know all that it teaches, and act on the knowledge. It is
part of the creed of the Navy. We can speak more confidently than we
could have spoken three or four years ago. We know that not the
extremest pressure of circumstance could ever bring the people of
England to forget all the natural pieties, to permit official duties to
annul private charities, and to join in the frenzied dance of hate and
lust which leads to the mouth of the pit.

Yet Germany, where all this seems to have happened, was not very long
ago a country where it was easy to find humanity, and simplicity, and
kindness. It was a country of quiet industry and content, the home of
fairy stories, which Shakespeare himself would have loved. The Germans
of our day have made a religion of war and terror, and have used
commerce as a means for the treacherous destruction of the independence
and freedom of others. They were not always like that. In the fifteenth
century they spread the art of printing through Europe, for the service
of man, by the method of peaceful penetration. My friend Mr. John
Sampson recently expressed to me a hope that our air-forces would not
bomb Mainz, 'for Mainz', he said, 'is a sacred place to the
bibliographer'. According to a statement published in Cologne in 1499,
'the highly valuable art of printing was invented first of all in
Germany at Mainz on the Rhine. And it is a great honour to the German
nation that such ingenious men are to be found among them....And in the
year of our Lord 1450 it was a golden year, and they began to print, and
the first book they printed was the Bible in Latin: it was printed in a
large character, resembling the types with which the present mass-books
are printed.' Gutenberg, the printer of this Bible, never mentions his
own name, and the only personal note we have of his, in the colophon of
the _Catholicon_, printed in 1460, is a hymn in praise of his city:
'With the aid of the Most High, who unlooses the tongues of infants and
oft-times reveals to babes that which is hidden from learned men, this
admirable book, the _Catholicon_, was finished in the year of the
incarnation of our Saviour MCCCCLX, in the foster town of Mainz, a town
of the famous German nation, which God in his clemency, by granting to
it this high illumination of the mind, has preferred before the other
nations of the world.'

There is something not quite unlike modern Germany in that; and yet
these older activities of the Germans make a strange contrast with their
work to-day. It was in the city of Cologne that Caxton first made
acquaintance with his craft. Everywhere the Germans spread printing like
a new religion, adapting it to existing conditions. In Bavaria they used
the skill of the wood-engravers, and at Augsburg, Ulm, and Nuremberg
produced the first illustrated printed books. It was two Germans of the
old school, Conrad Sweynheym and Arnold Pannartz, who carried the art to
Italy, casting the first type in Roman characters, and printing editions
of the classics, first in the Benedictine monastery of St. Scholastica
at Subiaco, and later at Rome. They also cast the first Greek type. It
was three Germans, Gering, Kranz, and Freyburger, who first printed at
Paris, in 1470. It was a German who set up the first printing-press in
Spain, in 1474. The Germans were once the cherishers, as now they are
the destroyers, of the inheritance of civilization. I do not pretend to
explain the change. Perhaps it is a tragedy of education. That is a
dangerous moment in the life of a child when he begins to be uneasily
aware that he is valued for his simplicity and innocence. Then he
resolves to break with the past, to put away childish things, to forgo
affection, and to earn respect by imitating the activities of his
elders. The strange power of words and the virtues of abstract thought
begin to fascinate him. He loses touch with the things of sense, and
ceases to speak as a child. If his first attempts at argument and dogma
win him praise and esteem, if he proves himself a better fighter than an
older boy next door, who has often bullied him, and if at the same time
he comes into money, he is on the road to ruin. His very simplicity is a
snare to him. 'What a fool I was', he thinks, 'to let myself be put
upon; I now see that I am a great philosopher and a splendid soldier,
born to subdue others rather than to agree with them, and entitled to a
chief share in all the luxuries of the world. It is for me to say what
is good and true, and if any of these people contradict me I shall knock
them down.' He suits his behaviour to his new conception of himself, and
is soon hated by all the neighbours. Then he turns bitter. These people,
he thinks, are all in a plot against him. They must be blind to goodness
and beauty, or why do they dislike him! His rage reaches the point of
madness; he stabs and poisons the villagers, and burns down their
houses. We are still waiting to see what will become of him.

This outbreak has been long preparing. Seventy years before the War the
German poet Freiligrath wrote a poem to prove that Germany is Hamlet,
urged by the spirit of her fathers to claim her inheritance, vacillating
and lost in thought, but destined, before the Fifth Act ends, to strew
the stage with the corpses of her enemies. Only a German could have hit
on the idea that Germany is Hamlet. The English, for whom the play was
written, know that Hamlet is Hamlet, and that Shakespeare was thinking
of a young man, not of the pomposities of national ambition. But if
these clumsy allegories must be imposed upon great poets, Germany need
not go abroad to seek the likeness of her destiny. Germany is Faust; she
desired science and power and pleasure, and to get them on a short lease
she paid the price of her soul.

For the present, at any rate, the best thing the Germans can do with
Shakespeare is to leave him alone. They have divorced themselves from
their own great poets, to follow vulgar half-witted political prophets.
As for Shakespeare, they have studied him assiduously, with the complete
apparatus of criticism, for a hundred years, and they do not understand
the plainest words of all his teaching.

In England he has always been understood; and it is only fair, to him
and to ourselves, to add that he has never been regarded first and
foremost as a national poet. His humanity is too calm and broad to
suffer the prejudices and exclusions of international enmities. The
sovereignty that he holds has been allowed to him by men of all parties.
The schools of literature have, from the very first, united in his
praise. Ben Jonson, who knew him and loved him, was a classical scholar,
and disapproved of some of his romantic escapades, yet no one will ever
outgo Ben Jonson's praise of Shakespeare.

  Triumph, my Britain, thou hast one to show,
  To whom all Scenes of Europe homage owe.
  He was not-of an ago, but for all time!

The sects of religion forget their disputes and recognize the spirit of
religion in this profane author. He cannot be identified with any
institution. According to the old saying, he gave up the Church and took
to religion. Ho gave up the State, and took to humanity. The formularies
and breviaries to which political and religious philosophers profess
their allegiance were nothing to him. These formularies are a convenient
shorthand, to save the trouble of thinking. But Shakespeare always
thought. Every question that he treats is brought out of the realm of
abstraction, and exhibited in its relation to daily life and the minds
and hearts of men. He could never have been satisfied with such a smug
phrase as 'the greatest happiness of the greatest number'. His mind
would have been eager for details. In what do the greatest number find
their happiness? How far is the happiness of one consistent with the
happiness of another? What difficulties and miscarriages attend the
business of transmuting the recognized materials for happiness into
living human joy? Even these questions he would not have been content to
handle in high philosophic fashion; he would have insisted on instances,
and would have subscribed to no code that is not carefully built out of
case-law. He knew that sanity is in the life of the senses; and that if
there are some philosophers who are not mad it is because they live a
double life, and have consolations and resources of which their books
tell you nothing. It is the part of their life which they do not think
it worth their while to mention that would have interested Shakespeare.
He loves to reduce things to their elements. 'Is man no more than this?'
says the old king on the heath, as he gazes on the naked madman.
'Consider him well. Thou owest the worm no silk, the beast no hide, the
sheep no wool, the cat no perfume. Ha! here's three of us are
sophisticated! Thou art the thing itself: unaccommodated man is no more
but such a poor, bare, forked animal as thou art. Off, off, you
lendings!' That is how Shakespeare lays the mind of man bare, and strips
him of his pretences, to try if he be indeed noble. And he finds that
man, naked and weak, hunted by misfortune, liable to all the sins and
all the evils that follow frailty, still has faith left to him, and
charity. King Lear is still every inch a king.

That is not a little discovery, for when his mind came to grips with
human life Shakespeare did not deal in rhetoric; so that the good he
finds is real good--''tis in grain; 'twill endure wind and weather'.
Nothing is easier than to make a party of humanity, and to exalt mankind
by ignorantly vilifying the rest of the animal creation, which is full
of strange virtues and abilities. Shakespeare refused that way; he saw
man weak and wretched, not able to maintain himself except as a
pensioner on the bounty of the world, curiously ignorant of his nature
and his destiny, yet endowed with certain gifts in which he can find
sustenance and rest, brave by instinct, so that courage is not so much
his virtue as cowardice is his lamentable and exceptional fault, ready
to forget his pains or to turn them into pleasures by the alchemy of his
mind, quick to believe, and slow to suspect or distrust, generous and
tender to others, in so far as his thought and imagination, which are
the weakest things about him, enable him to bridge the spaces that
separate man from man, willing to make of life a great thing while he
has it, and a little thing when he comes to lose it. These are some of
his gifts; and Shakespeare would not have denied the saying of a thinker
with whom he has no very strong or natural affinity, that 'the greatest
of these is charity'.

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