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´╗┐Title: England
Author: Warner, Charles Dudley, 1829-1900
Language: English
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By Charles Dudley Warner

England has played a part in modern history altogether out of proportion
to its size. The whole of Great Britain, including Ireland, has only
eleven thousand more square miles than Italy; and England and Wales alone
are not half so large as Italy. England alone is about the size of North
Carolina. It is, as Franklin, in 1763, wrote to Mary Stevenson in London,
"that petty island which, compared to America, is but a stepping-stone in
a brook, scarce enough of it above water to keep one's shoes dry."

A considerable portion of it is under water, or water-soaked a good part
of the year, and I suppose it has more acres for breeding frogs than any
other northern land, except Holland. Old Harrison says that the North
Britons when overcome by hunger used to creep into the marshes till the
water was up to their chins and there remain a long time, "onlie to
qualifie the heats of their stomachs by violence, which otherwise would
have wrought and beene readie to oppresse them for hunger and want of
sustinance." It lies so far north--the latitude of Labrador--that the
winters are long and the climate inhospitable. It would be severely cold
if the Gulf Stream did not make it always damp and curtain it with
clouds. In some parts the soil is heavy with water, in others it is only
a thin stratum above the chalk; in fact, agricultural production could
scarcely be said to exist there until fortunes made in India and in other
foreign adventure enabled the owners of the land to pile it knee-deep
with fertilizers from Peru and elsewhere. Thanks to accumulated wealth
and the Gulf Stream, its turf is green and soft; figs, which will not
mature with us north of the capes of Virginia, ripen in sheltered nooks
in Oxford, and the large and unfrequent strawberry sometimes appears upon
the dinner-table in such profusion that the guests can indulge in one

Yet this small, originally infertile island has been for two centuries,
and is today, the most vital influence on the globe. Cast your eye over
the world upon her possessions, insular and continental, into any one of
which, almost, England might be dropped, with slight disturbance, as you
would transfer a hanging garden. For any parallel to her power and
possessions you must go back to ancient Rome. Egypt under Thotmes and
Seti overran the then known world and took tribute of it; but it was a
temporary wave of conquest and not an assimilation. Rome sent her laws
and her roads to the end of the earth, and made an empire of it; but it
was an empire of barbarians largely, of dynasties rather than of peoples.
The dynasties fought, the dynasties submitted, and the dynasties paid the
tribute. The modern "people" did not exist. One battle decided the fate
of half the world--it might be lost or won for a woman's eyes; the flight
of a chieftain might settle the fate of a province; a campaign might
determine the allegiance of half Asia. There was but one compact,
disciplined, law-ordered nation, and that had its seat on the Tiber.

Under what different circumstances did England win her position! Before
she came to the front, Venice controlled, and almost monopolized, the
trade of the Orient. When she entered upon her career Spain was almost
omnipotent in Europe, and was in possession of more than half the Western
world; and besides Spain, England had, wherever she went, to contend for
a foothold with Portugal, skilled in trade and adventure; and with
Holland, rich, and powerful on the sea. That is to say, she met
everywhere civilizations old and technically her superior. Of the ruling
powers, she was the least in arts and arms. If you will take time to fill
out this picture, you will have some conception of the marvelous
achievements of England, say since the abdication of the Emperor Charles

This little island is today the centre of the wealth, of the solid
civilization, of the world. I will not say of art, of music, of the
lighter social graces that make life agreeable; but I will say of the
moral forces that make progress possible and worth while. Of this island
the centre is London; of London the heart is "the City," and in the City
you can put your finger on one spot where the pulse of the world is
distinctly felt to beat. The Moslem regards the Kaaba at Mecca as the
centre of the universe; but that is only a theological phrase. The centre
of the world is the Bank of England in Leadenhall Street. There is not an
occurrence, not a conquest or a defeat, a revolution, a panic, a famine,
an abundance, not a change in value of money or material, no depression
or stoppage in trade, no recovery, no political, and scarcely any great
religious movement--say the civil deposition of the Pope or the Wahhabee
revival in Arabia and India--that does not report itself instantly at
this sensitive spot. Other capitals feel a local influence; this feels
all the local influences. Put your ear at the door of the Bank or the
Stock Exchange near by, and you hear the roar of the world.

But this is not all, nor the most striking thing, nor the greatest
contrast to the empires of Rome and of Spain. The civilization that has
gone forth from England is a self-sustaining one, vital to grow where it
is planted, in vast communities, in an order that does not depend, as
that of the Roman world did, upon edicts and legions from the capital.
And it must be remembered that if the land empire of England is not so
vast as that of Rome, England has for two centuries been mistress of the
seas, with all the consequences of that opportunity--consequences to
trade beyond computation. And we must add to all this that an
intellectual and moral power has been put forth from England clear round
the globe, and felt beyond the limits of the English tongue.

How is it that England has attained this supremacy--a supremacy in vain
disputed on land and on sea by France, but now threatened by an equipped
and disciplined Germany, by an unformed Colossus--a Slav and Tartar
conglomerate; and perhaps by one of her own children, the United States?
I will mention some of the things that have determined England's
extraordinary career; and they will help us to consider her prospects. I

I. The Race. It is a mixed race, but with certain dominant qualities,
which we call, loosely, Teutonic; certainly the most aggressive, tough,
and vigorous people the world has seen. It does not shrink from any
climate, from any exposure, from any geographic condition; yet its choice
of migration and of residence has mainly been on the grass belt of the
globe, where soil and moisture produce good turf, where a changing and
unequal climate, with extremes of heat and cold, calls out the physical
resources, stimulates invention, and requires an aggressive and defensive
attitude of mind and body. The early history of this people is marked by
two things:

( 1 ) Town and village organizations, nurseries of law, order, and
self-dependence, nuclei of power, capable of indefinite expansion,
leading directly to a free and a strong government, the breeders of civil

( 2 ) Individualism in religion, Protestantism in the widest sense: I
mean by this, cultivation of the individual conscience as against
authority. This trait was as marked in this sturdy people in Catholic
England as it is in Protestant England. It is in the blood. England never
did submit to Rome, not even as France did, though the Gallic Church held
out well. Take the struggle of Henry II. and the hierarchy. Read the
fight with prerogative all along. The English Church never could submit.
It is a shallow reading of history to attribute the final break with Rome
to the unbridled passion of Henry VIII.; that was an occasion only: if it
had not been that, it would have been something else.

Here we have the two necessary traits in the character of a great people:
the love and the habit of civil liberty and religious conviction and
independence. Allied to these is another trait--truthfulness. To speak
the truth in word and action, to the verge of bluntness and offense--and
with more relish sometimes because it is individually obnoxious and
unlovely--is an English trait, clearly to be traced in the character of
this people, notwithstanding the equivocations of Elizabethan diplomacy,
the proverbial lying of English shopkeepers, and the fraudulent
adulteration of English manufactures. Not to lie is perhaps as much a
matter of insular pride as of morals; to lie is unbecoming an Englishman.
When Captain Burnaby was on his way to Khiva he would tolerate no
Oriental exaggeration of his army rank, although a higher title would
have smoothed his way and added to his consideration. An English official
who was a captive at Bokhara (or Khiva) was offered his life by the Khan
if he would abjure the Christian faith and say he was a Moslem; but he
preferred death rather than the advantage of a temporary equivocation. I
do not suppose that he was a specially pious man at home or that he was a
martyr to religious principle, but for the moment Christianity stood for
England and English honor and civilization. I can believe that a rough
English sailor, who had not used a sacred name, except in vain, since he
said his prayer at his mother's knee, accepted death under like
circumstances rather than say he was not a Christian.

The next determining cause in England's career is:

II. The insular position. Poor as the island was, this was the
opportunity. See what came of it:

( 1 ) Maritime opportunity. The irregular coastlines, the bays and
harbors, the near islands and mainlands invited to the sea. The nation
became, per force, sailors--as the ancient Greeks were and the modern
Greeks are: adventurers, discoverers--hardy, ambitious, seeking food from
the sea and wealth from every side.

( 2 ) Their position protected them. What they got they could keep;
wealth could accumulate. Invasion was difficult and practically
impossible to their neighbors. And yet they were in the bustling world,
close to the continent, commanding the most important of the navigable
seas. The wealth of Holland was on the one hand, the wealth of France on
the other. They held the keys.

( 3 ) The insular position and their free institutions invited refugees
from all the Continent, artisans and skilled laborers of all kinds.
Hence, the beginning of their great industries, which made England rich
in proportion as her authority and chance of trade expanded over distant
islands and continents. But this would not have been possible without the
third advantage which I shall mention, and that is:

III. Coal. England's power and wealth rested upon her coal-beds. In this
bounty nature was more liberal to the tight little island than to any
other spot in Western Europe, and England took early advantage of it. To
be sure, her coal-field is small compared with that of the United
States--an area of only 11,900 square miles to our 192,000. But Germany
has only 1,770; Belgium, 510; France, 2,086; and Russia only in her
expansion of territory leads Europe in this respect, and has now 30,000
square miles of coal-beds. But see the use England makes of this
material: in 1877, she took out of the ground 134,179,968 tons. The
United States the same year took out 50,000,000 tons; Germany,
48,000,000; France, 16,000,000; Belgium, 14,000,000. This tells the story
of the heavy industries.

We have considered as elements of national greatness the race itself, the
favorable position, and the material to work with. I need not enlarge
upon the might and the possessions of England, nor the general
beneficence of her occupation wherever she has established fort, factory,
or colony. With her flag go much injustice, domineering, and cruelty;
but, on the whole, the best elements of civilization.

The intellectual domination of England has been as striking as the
physical. It is stamped upon all her colonies; it has by no means
disappeared in the United States. For more than fifty years after our
independence we imported our intellectual food--with the exception of
politics, and theology in certain forms--and largely our ethical guidance
from England. We read English books, or imitations of the English way of
looking at things; we even accepted the English caricatures of our own
life as genuine--notably in the case of the so-called typical Yankee. It
is only recently that our writers have begun to describe our own life as
it is, and that readers begin to feel that our society may be as
interesting in print as that English society which they have been all
their lives accustomed to read about. The reading-books of children in
schools were filled with English essays, stories, English views of life;
it was the English heroines over whose woes the girls wept; it was of the
English heroes that the boys declaimed. I do not know how much the
imagination has to do in shaping the national character, but for half a
century English writers, by poems and novels, controlled the imagination
of this country. The principal reading then, as now--and perhaps more
then than now--was fiction, and nearly all of this England supplied. We
took in with it, it will be noticed, not only the romance and gilding of
chivalry and legitimacy, such as Scott gives us, but constant instruction
in a society of ranks and degrees, orders of nobility and commonalty, a
fixed social status, a well-ordered, and often attractive, permanent
social inequality, a state of life and relations based upon lingering
feudal conditions and prejudices. The background of all English fiction
is monarchical; however liberal it may be, it must be projected upon the
existing order of things. We have not been examining these foreign social
conditions with that simple curiosity which leads us to look into the
social life of Russia as it is depicted in Russian novels; we have, on
the contrary, absorbed them generation after generation as part of our
intellectual development, so that the novels and the other English
literature must have had a vast influence in molding our mental
character, in shaping our thinking upon the political as well as the
social constitution of states.

For a long time the one American counteraction, almost the only, to this
English influence was the newspaper, which has always kept alive and
diffused a distinctly American spirit--not always lovely or modest, but
national. The establishment of periodicals which could afford to pay for
fiction written about our society and from the American point of view has
had a great effect on our literary emancipation. The wise men whom we
elect to make our laws--and who represent us intellectually and morally a
good deal better than we sometimes like to admit--have always gone upon
the theory, with regard to the reading for the American people, that the
chief requisite of it was cheapness, with no regard to its character so
far as it is a shaper of notions about government and social life. What
educating influence English fiction was having upon American life they
have not inquired, so long as it was furnished cheap, and its authors
were cheated out of any copyright on it.

At the North, thanks to a free press and periodicals, to a dozen reform
agitations, and to the intellectual stir generally accompanying
industries and commerce, we have been developing an immense intellectual
activity, a portion of which has found expression in fiction, in poetry,
in essays, that are instinct with American life and aspiration; so that
now for over thirty years, in the field of literature, we have had a
vigorous offset to the English intellectual domination of which I spoke.
How far this has in the past molded American thought and sentiment, in
what degree it should be held responsible for the infidelity in regard to
our "American experiment," I will not undertake to say. The South
furnishes a very interesting illustration in this connection. When the
civil war broke down the barriers of intellectual non-intercourse behind
which the South had ensconced itself, it was found to be in a colonial
condition. Its libraries were English libraries, mostly composed of old
English literature. Its literary growth stopped with the reign of George
III. Its latest news was the Spectator and the Tatler. The social order
it covered was that of monarchical England, undisturbed by the fiery
philippics of Byron or Shelley or the radicalism of a manufacturing age.
Its chivalry was an imitation of the antiquated age of lords and ladies,
and tournaments, and buckram courtesies, when men were as touchy to
fight, at the lift of an eyelid or the drop of the glove, as Brian de
Bois-Guilbert, and as ready for a drinking-bout as Christopher North. The
intellectual stir of the North, with its disorganizing radicalism, was
rigorously excluded, and with it all the new life pouring out of its
presses. The South was tied to a republic, but it was not republican,
either in its politics or its social order. It was, in its mental
constitution, in its prejudices, in its tastes, exactly what you would
expect a people to be, excluded from the circulation of free ideas by its
system of slavery, and fed on the English literature of a century ago. I
dare say that a majority of its reading public, at any time, would have
preferred a monarchical system and a hierarchy of rank.

To return to England. I have said that English domination usually carries
the best elements of civilization. Yet it must be owned that England has
pursued her magnificent career in a policy often insolent and brutal, and
generally selfish. Scarcely any considerations have stood in the way of
her trade and profit. I will not dwell upon her opium culture in India,
which is a proximate cause of famine in district after district, nor upon
her forcing the drug upon China--a policy disgraceful to a Christian
queen and people. We have only just got rid of slavery, sustained so long
by Biblical and official sanction, and may not yet set up as critics. But
I will refer to a case with which all are familiar--England's treatment
of her American colonies. In 1760 and onward, when Franklin, the agent of
the colonies of Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, was cooling his heels in
lords' waiting-rooms in London, America was treated exactly as Ireland
was--that is, discriminated against in every way; not allowed to
manufacture; not permitted to trade with other nations, except under the
most vexatious restrictions; and the effort was continued to make her a
mere agricultural producer and a dependent. All that England cared for us
was that we should be a market for her manufactures. This same
selfishness has been the keynote of her policy down to the present day,
except as the force of circumstances has modified it. Steadily pursued,
it has contributed largely to make England the monetary and industrial
master of the world.

With this outline I pass to her present condition and outlook. The
dictatorial and selfish policy has been forced to give way somewhat in
regard to the colonies. The spirit of the age and the strength of the
colonies forbid its exercise; they cannot be held by the old policy.
Australia boldly adopts a protective tariff, and her parliament is only
nominally controlled by the crown. Canada exacts duties on English goods,
and England cannot help herself. Even with these concessions, can England
keep her great colonies? They are still loyal in word. They still affect
English manners and English speech, and draw their intellectual supplies
from England. On the prospect of a war with Russia they nearly all
offered volunteers. But everybody knows that allegiance is on the
condition of local autonomy. If united Canada asks to go, she will go. So
with Australia. It may be safely predicted that England will never fight
again to hold the sovereignty of her new-world possessions against their
present occupants. And, in the judgment of many good observers, a
dissolution of the empire, so far as the Western colonies are concerned,
is inevitable, unless Great Britain, adopting the plan urged by Franklin,
becomes an imperial federation, with parliaments distinct and
independent, the crown the only bond of union--the crown, and not the
English parliament, being the titular and actual sovereign. Sovereign
power over America in the parliament Franklin never would admit. His idea
was that all the inhabitants of the empire must be citizens, not some of
them subjects ruled by the home citizens. The two great political parties
of England are really formed on lines constructed after the passage of
the Reform Bill of 1832. The Tories had been long in power. They had made
many changes and popular concessions, but they resisted parliamentary
reform. The great Whig lords, who had tried to govern England without the
people and in opposition to the crown in the days of George III., had
learned to seek popular support. The Reform Bill, which was ultimately
forced through by popular pressure and threat of civil war, abolished the
rotten boroughs, gave representation to the large manufacturing towns and
increased representation to the counties, and the suffrage to all men who
had 'paid ten pounds a year rent in boroughs, or in the counties owned
land worth ten pounds a year or paid fifty pounds rent. The immediate
result of this was to put power into the hands of the middle classes and
to give the lower classes high hopes, so that, in 1839, the Chartist
movement began, one demand of which was universal suffrage. The old party
names of Whig and Tory had been dropped and the two parties had assumed
their present appellations of Conservatives and Liberals. Both parties
had, however, learned that there was no rest for any ruling party except
a popular basis, and the Conservative party had the good sense to
strengthen itself in 1867 by carrying through Mr. Disraeli's bill, which
gave the franchise in boroughs to all householders paying rates, and in
counties to all occupiers of property rated at fifteen pounds a year.
This broadening of the suffrage places the power irrevocably in the hands
of the people, against whose judgment neither crown nor ministry can
venture on any important step.

In general terms it may be said that of these two great parties the
Conservative wishes to preserve existing institutions, and latterly has
leaned to the prerogatives of the crown, and the Liberal is inclined to
progress and reform, and to respond to changes demanded by the people.
Both parties, however, like parties elsewhere, propose and oppose
measures and movements, and accept or reject policies, simply to get
office or keep office. The Conservative party of late years, principally
because it has the simple task of holding back, has been better able to
define its lines and preserve a compact organization. The Liberals, with
a multitude of reformatory projects, have, of course, a less homogeneous
organization, and for some years have been without well-defined issues.
The Conservative aristocracy seemed to form a secure alliance with the
farmers and the great agricultural interests, and at the same time to
have a strong hold upon the lower classes. In what his opponents called
his "policy of adventure," Lord Beaconsfield had the support of the lower
populace. The Liberal party is an incongruous host. On one wing are the
Whig lords and great landowners, who cannot be expected to take kindly to
a land reform that would reform them out of territorial power; and on the
other wing are the Radicals, who would abolish the present land system
and the crown itself, and institute the rule of a democracy. Between
these two is the great body of the middle class, a considerable portion
of the educated and university trained, the majorities of the
manufacturing towns, and perhaps, we may say, generally the
Nonconformists. There are some curious analogies in these two parties to
our own parties before the war. It is, perhaps, not fanciful to suppose
that the Conservative lords resemble our own aristocratic leaders of
democracy, who contrived to keep near the people and had affiliations
that secured them the vote of the least educated portion of the voters;
while the great Liberal lords are not unlike our old aristocratic Whigs,
of the cotton order, who have either little sympathy with the people or
little faculty of showing it. It is a curious fact that during our civil
war respect for authority gained us as much sympathy from the
Conservatives, as love for freedom (hampered by the greed of trade and
rivalry in manufactures) gained us from the Liberals.

To return to the question of empire. The bulk of the Conservative party
would hold the colonies if possible, and pursue an imperial policy; while
certainly a large portion of the Liberals--not all, by any means--would
let the colonies go, and, with the Manchester school, hope to hold
England's place by free-trade and active competition. The imperial policy
may be said to have two branches, in regard to which parties will not
sharply divide: one is the relations to be held towards the Western
colonies, and the other in the policy to be pursued in the East in
reference to India and to the development of the Indian empire, and also
the policy of aggression and subjection in South Africa.

An imperial policy does not necessarily imply such vagaries as the
forcible detention of the forcibly annexed Boer republic. But everybody
sees that the time is near when England must say definitely as to the
imperial policy generally whether it will pursue it or abandon it. And it
may be remarked in passing that the Gladstone government, thus far,
though pursuing this policy more moderately than the Beaconsfield
government, shows no intention of abandoning it. Almost everybody admits
that if it is abandoned England must sink to the position of a third-rate
power like Holland. For what does abandonment mean? It means to have no
weight, except that of moral example, in Continental affairs: to
relinquish her advantages in the Mediterranean; to let Turkey be absorbed
by Russia; to become so weak in India as to risk rebellion of all the
provinces, and probable attack from Russia and her Central Asian allies.
But this is not all. Lost control in Asia is lost trade; this is evident
in every foot of control Russia has gained in the Caucasus, about the
Caspian Sea, in Persia. There Russian manufactures supplant the English;
and so in another quarter: in order to enjoy the vast opening trade of
Africa, England must be on hand with an exhibition of power. We might
show by a hundred examples that the imperial idea in England does not
rest on pride alone, on national glory altogether, though that is a large
element in it, but on trade instincts. "Trade follows the flag" is a
well-known motto; and that means that the lines of commerce follow the
limits of empire.

Take India as an illustration. Why should England care to keep India? In
the last forty years the total revenue from India, set down up to 1880 as
L 1,517,000,000, has been L 53,000,000 less than the expenditure. It
varies with the years, and occasionally the balance is favorable, as in
1879, when the expenditure was L 63,400,000 and the revenue was L
64,400,000. But to offset this average deficit the very profitable trade
of India, which is mostly in British hands, swells the national wealth;
and this trade would not be so largely in British hands if the flag were

But this is not the only value of India. Grasp on India is part of the
vast Oriental network of English trade and commerce, the carrying trade,
the supply of cotton and iron goods. This largely depends upon English
prestige in the Orient, and to lose India is to lose the grip. On
practically the same string with India are Egypt, Central Africa, and the
Euphrates valley. A vast empire of trade opens out. To sink the imperial
policy is to shut this vision. With Russia pressing on one side and
America competing on the other, England cannot afford to lose her
military lines, her control of the sea, her prestige.

Again, India offers to the young and the adventurous a career, military,
civil, or commercial. This is of great weight--great social weight. One
of the chief wants of England today is careers and professions for her
sons. The population of the United Kingdom in 1876 was estimated at near
thirty-four millions; in the last few decades the decennial increase had
been considerably over two millions; at that rate the population in 1900
would be near forty millions. How can they live in their narrow limits?
They must emigrate, go for good, or seek employment and means of wealth
in some such vast field as India. Take away India now, and you cut off
the career of hundreds of thousands of young Englishmen, and the hope of
tens of thousands of households.

There is another aspect of the case which it would be unfair to ignore.
Opportunity is the measure of a nation's responsibility. I have no doubt
that Mr. Thomas Hughes spoke for a very respectable portion of Christian
England, in 1861, when he wrote Mr. James Russell Lowell, in a prefatory
note to "Tom Brown at Oxford," these words:

   "The great tasks of the world are only laid on the strongest
   shoulders. We, who have India to guide and train, who have for our
   task the educating of her wretched people into free men, who feel
   that the work cannot be shifted from ourselves, and must be done as
   God would have it done, at the peril of England's own life, can and
   do feel for you."

It is safe, we think, to say that if the British Empire is to be
dissolved, disintegration cannot be permitted to begin at home. Ireland
has always been a thorn in the side of England. And the policy towards it
could not have been much worse, either to impress it with a respect for
authority or to win it by conciliation; it has been a strange mixture of
untimely concession and untimely cruelty. The problem, in fact, has
physical and race elements that make it almost insolvable. A water-logged
country, of which nothing can surely be predicted but the uncertainty of
its harvests, inhabited by a people of most peculiar mental constitution,
alien in race, temperament, and religion, having scarcely one point of
sympathy with the English. But geography settles some things in this
world, and the act of union that bound Ireland to the United Kingdom in
1800 was as much a necessity of the situation as the act of union that
obliterated the boundary line between Scotland and England in 1707. The
Irish parliament was confessedly a failure, and it is scarcely within the
possibilities that the experiment will be tried again. Irish
independence, so far as English consent is concerned, and until England's
power is utterly broken, is a dream. Great changes will doubtless be made
in the tenure and transfer of land, and these changes will react upon
England to the ultimate abasement of the landed aristocracy; but this
equalization of conditions would work no consent to separation. The
undeniable growth of the democratic spirit in England can no more be
relied on to bring it about, when we remember what renewed executive
vigor and cohesion existed with the Commonwealth and the fiery foreign
policy of the first republic of France. For three years past we have seen
the British Empire in peril on all sides, with the addition of depression
and incipient rebellion at home, but her horizon is not as dark as it was
in 1780, when, with a failing cause in America, England had the whole of
Europe against her.

In any estimate of the prospects of England we must take into account the
recent marked changes in the social condition. Mr. Escott has an
instructive chapter on this in his excellent book on England. He notices
that the English character is losing its insularity, is more accessible
to foreign influences, and is adopting foreign, especially French, modes
of living. Country life is losing its charm; domestic life is changed;
people live in "flats" more and more, and the idea of home is not what it
was; marriage is not exactly what it was; the increased free and
independent relations of the sexes are somewhat demoralizing; women are a
little intoxicated with their newly-acquired freedom; social scandals are
more frequent. It should be said, however, that perhaps the present
perils are due not to the new system, but to the fact that it is new;
when the novelty is worn off the peril may cease.

Mr. Escott notices primogeniture as one of the stable and, curious
enough, one of the democratic institutions of society. It is owing to
primogeniture that while there is a nobility in England there is no
noblesse. If titles and lands went to all the children there would be the
multitudinous noblesse of the Continent. Now, by primogeniture, enough is
retained for a small nobility, but all the younger sons must go into the
world and make a living. The three respectable professions no longer
offer sufficient inducement, and they crowd more and more into trade.
Thus the middle class is constantly recruited from the upper. Besides,
the upper is all the time recruited from the wealthy middle; the union of
aristocracy and plutocracy may be said to be complete. But merit makes
its way continually from even the lower ranks upward, in the professions,
in the army, the law, the church, in letters, in trade, and, what Mr.
Escott does not mention, in the reformed civil service, newly opened to
the humblest lad in the land. Thus there is constant movement up and down
in social England, approaching, except in the traditional nobility, the
freedom of movement in our own country. This is all wholesome and sound.
Even the nobility itself, driven by ennui, or a loss of former political
control, or by the necessity of more money to support inherited estates,
goes into business, into journalism, writes books, enters the

What are the symptoms of decay in England? Unless the accumulation of
wealth is a symptom of decay, I do not see many. I look at the people
themselves. It seems to me that never in their history were they more
full of vigor. See what travelers, explorers, adventurers they are. See
what sportsmen, in every part of the globe, how much they endure, and how
hale and jolly they are--women as well as men. The race, certainly, has
not decayed. And look at letters. It may be said that this is not the age
of pure literature--and I'm sure I hope the English patent for producing
machine novels will not be infringed--but the English language was never
before written so vigorously, so clearly, and to such purpose. And this
is shown even in the excessive refinement and elaboration of trifles, the
minutia of reflection, the keenness of analysis, the unrelenting pursuit
of every social topic into subtleties untouched by the older essayists.
And there is still more vigor, without affectation, in scientific
investigation, in the daily conquests made in the realm of social
economy, the best methods of living and getting the most out of life. Art
also keeps pace with luxury, and shows abundant life and promise for the

I believe, from these and other considerations, that this vigorous people
will find a way out of its present embarrassment, and a way out without
retreating. For myself, I like to see the English sort of civilization
spreading over the world rather than the Russian or the French. I hope
England will hang on to the East, and not give it over to the havoc of
squabbling tribes, with a dozen religions and five hundred dialects, or
to the military despotism of an empire whose morality is only matched by
the superstition of its religion.

The relations of England and the United States are naturally of the first
interest to us. Our love and our hatred have always been that of true
relatives. For three-quarters of a century our 'amour propre' was
constantly kept raw by the most supercilious patronage. During the past
decade, when the quality of England's regard has become more and more a
matter of indifference to us, we have been the subject of a more
intelligent curiosity, of increased respect, accompanied with a sincere
desire to understand us. In the diplomatic scale Washington still ranks
below the Sublime Porte, but this anomaly is due to tradition, and does
not represent England's real estimate of the status of the republic.
There is, and must be, a good deal of selfishness mingled in our
friendship--patriotism itself being a form of selfishness--but our ideas
of civilization so nearly coincide, and we have so many common
aspirations for humanity that we must draw nearer together,
notwithstanding old grudges and present differences in social structure.
Our intercourse is likely to be closer, our business relations will
become more inseparable. I can conceive of nothing so lamentable for the
progress of the world as a quarrel between these two English-speaking

But, in one respect, we are likely to diverge. I refer to literature; in
that, assimilation is neither probable nor desirable. We were brought up
on the literature of England; our first efforts were imitations of it; we
were criticised--we criticised ourselves on its standards. We compared
every new aspirant in letters to some English writer. We were patted on
the back if we resembled the English models; we were stared at or sneered
at if we did not. When we began to produce something that was the product
of our own soil and our own social conditions, it was still judged by the
old standards, or, if it was too original for that, it was only accepted
because it was curious or bizarre, interesting for its oddity. The
criticism that we received for our best was evidently founded on such
indifference or toleration that it was galling. At first we were
surprised; then we were grieved; then we were indignant. We have long ago
ceased to be either surprised, grieved, or indignant at anything the
English critics say of us. We have recovered our balance. We know that
since Gulliver there has been no piece of original humor produced in
England equal to "Knickerbocker's New York"; that not in this century has
any English writer equaled the wit and satire of the "Biglow Papers." We
used to be irritated at what we called the snobbishness of English
critics of a certain school; we are so no longer, for we see that its
criticism is only the result of ignorance--simply of inability to

And we the more readily pardon it, because of the inability we have to
understand English conditions, and the English dialect, which has more
and more diverged from the language as it was at the time of the
separation. We have so constantly read English literature, and kept
ourselves so well informed of their social life, as it is exhibited in
novels and essays, that we are not so much in the dark with regard to
them as they are with regard to us; still we are more and more bothered
by the insular dialect. I do not propose to criticise it; it is our
misfortune, perhaps our fault, that we do not understand it; and I only
refer to it to say that we should not be too hard on the Saturday Review
critic when he is complaining of the American dialect in the English that
Mr. Howells writes. How can the Englishman be expected to come into
sympathy with the fiction that has New England for its subject--from
Hawthorne's down to that of our present novelists--when he is ignorant of
the whole background on which it is cast; when all the social conditions
are an enigma to him; when, if he has, historically, some conception of
Puritan society, he cannot have a glimmer of comprehension of the subtle
modifications and changes it has undergone in a century? When he visits
America and sees it, it is a puzzle to him. How, then, can he be expected
to comprehend it when it is depicted to the life in books?

No, we must expect a continual divergence in our literatures. And it is
best that there should be. There can be no development of a nation's
literature worth anything that is not on its own lines, out of its own
native materials. We must not expect that the English will understand
that literature that expresses our national life, character, conditions,
any better than they understand that of the French or of the Germans.
And, on our part, the day has come when we receive their literary efforts
with the same respectful desire to be pleased with them that we have to
like their dress and their speech.

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