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´╗┐Title: What's Wrong with the World
Author: Chesterton, G. K. (Gilbert Keith), 1874-1936
Language: English
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By G.K. Chesterton



      I      The Medical Mistake
      II     Wanted: An Unpractical Man
      III    The New Hypocrite
      IV     The Fear of the Past
      V      The Unfinished Temple
      VI     The Enemies of Property
      VII    The Free Family
      XIII   The Wildness of Domesticity
      IX     History of Hudge and Gudge
      X      Oppression by Optimism
      XI     The Homelessness of Jones


      I      The Charm of Jingoism
      II     Wisdom and the Weather
      III    The Common Vision
      IV     The Insane Necessity


      I      The Unmilitary Suffragette
      II     The Universal Stick
      III    The Emancipation of Domesticity
      IV     The Romance of Thrift
      V      The Coldness of Chloe
      VI     The Pedant and the Savage
      VII    The Modern Surrender of Woman
      VIII   The Brand of the Fleur-de-Lis
      IX     Sincerity and the Gallows
      X      The Higher Anarchy
      XI     The Queen and the Suffragettes
      XII    The Modern Slave


      I      The Calvinism of To-day
      II     The Tribal Terror
      III    The Tricks of Environment
      IV     The Truth About Education
      V      An Evil Cry
      VI     Authority the Unavoidable
      VII    The Humility of Mrs. Grundy
      VIII   The Broken Rainbow
      IX     The Need for Narrowness
      X      The Case for the Public Schools
      XI     The School for Hypocrites
      XII    The Staleness of the New Schools
      XIII   The Outlawed Parent
      XIV    Folly and Female Education


      I      The Empire of the Insect
      II     The Fallacy of the Umbrella Stand
      III    The Dreadful Duty of Gudge
      IV     A Last Instance
      V      Conclusion


      I      On Female Suffrage
      II     On Cleanliness in Education
      III    On Peasant Proprietorship


To C. F G. Masterman, M. P.

My Dear Charles,

I originally called this book "What is Wrong," and it would
have satisfied your sardonic temper to note the number of social
misunderstandings that arose from the use of the title. Many a mild lady
visitor opened her eyes when I remarked casually, "I have been doing
'What is Wrong' all this morning." And one minister of religion moved
quite sharply in his chair when I told him (as he understood it) that I
had to run upstairs and do what was wrong, but should be down again in
a minute. Exactly of what occult vice they silently accused me I cannot
conjecture, but I know of what I accuse myself; and that is, of having
written a very shapeless and inadequate book, and one quite unworthy
to be dedicated to you. As far as literature goes, this book is what is
wrong and no mistake.

It may seem a refinement of insolence to present so wild a composition
to one who has recorded two or three of the really impressive visions of
the moving millions of England. You are the only man alive who can
make the map of England crawl with life; a most creepy and enviable
accomplishment. Why then should I trouble you with a book which, even
if it achieves its object (which is monstrously unlikely) can only be a
thundering gallop of theory?

Well, I do it partly because I think you politicians are none the worse
for a few inconvenient ideals; but more because you will recognise the
many arguments we have had, those arguments which the most wonderful
ladies in the world can never endure for very long. And, perhaps, you
will agree with me that the thread of comradeship and conversation must
be protected because it is so frivolous. It must be held sacred, it
must not be snapped, because it is not worth tying together again. It
is exactly because argument is idle that men (I mean males) must take it
seriously; for when (we feel), until the crack of doom, shall we have so
delightful a difference again? But most of all I offer it to you because
there exists not only comradeship, but a very different thing, called
friendship; an agreement under all the arguments and a thread which,
please God, will never break.

Yours always,

G. K. Chesterton.



A book of modern social inquiry has a shape that is somewhat sharply
defined. It begins as a rule with an analysis, with statistics, tables
of population, decrease of crime among Congregationalists, growth of
hysteria among policemen, and similar ascertained facts; it ends with a
chapter that is generally called "The Remedy." It is almost wholly due
to this careful, solid, and scientific method that "The Remedy" is never
found. For this scheme of medical question and answer is a blunder;
the first great blunder of sociology. It is always called stating the
disease before we find the cure. But it is the whole definition and
dignity of man that in social matters we must actually find the cure
before we find the disease.

The fallacy is one of the fifty fallacies that come from the modern
madness for biological or bodily metaphors. It is convenient to speak
of the Social Organism, just as it is convenient to speak of the British
Lion. But Britain is no more an organism than Britain is a lion. The
moment we begin to give a nation the unity and simplicity of an animal,
we begin to think wildly. Because every man is a biped, fifty men are
not a centipede. This has produced, for instance, the gaping absurdity
of perpetually talking about "young nations" and "dying nations," as
if a nation had a fixed and physical span of life. Thus people will say
that Spain has entered a final senility; they might as well say that
Spain is losing all her teeth. Or people will say that Canada should
soon produce a literature; which is like saying that Canada must soon
grow a new moustache. Nations consist of people; the first generation
may be decrepit, or the ten thousandth may be vigorous. Similar
applications of the fallacy are made by those who see in the increasing
size of national possessions, a simple increase in wisdom and stature,
and in favor with God and man. These people, indeed, even fall short in
subtlety of the parallel of a human body. They do not even ask whether
an empire is growing taller in its youth, or only growing fatter in its
old age. But of all the instances of error arising from this physical
fancy, the worst is that we have before us: the habit of exhaustively
describing a social sickness, and then propounding a social drug.

Now we do talk first about the disease in cases of bodily breakdown; and
that for an excellent reason. Because, though there may be doubt about
the way in which the body broke down, there is no doubt at all about
the shape in which it should be built up again. No doctor proposes to
produce a new kind of man, with a new arrangement of eyes or limbs. The
hospital, by necessity, may send a man home with one leg less: but
it will not (in a creative rapture) send him home with one leg extra.
Medical science is content with the normal human body, and only seeks to
restore it.

But social science is by no means always content with the normal human
soul; it has all sorts of fancy souls for sale. Man as a social idealist
will say "I am tired of being a Puritan; I want to be a Pagan," or
"Beyond this dark probation of Individualism I see the shining paradise
of Collectivism." Now in bodily ills there is none of this difference
about the ultimate ideal. The patient may or may not want quinine; but
he certainly wants health.  No one says "I am tired of this headache; I
want some toothache," or "The only thing for this Russian influenza is
a few German measles," or "Through this dark probation of catarrh I see
the shining paradise of rheumatism." But exactly the whole difficulty in
our public problems is that some men are aiming at cures which other
men would regard as worse maladies; are offering ultimate conditions
as states of health which others would uncompromisingly call states of
disease. Mr. Belloc once said that he would no more part with the idea
of property than with his teeth; yet to Mr. Bernard Shaw property is
not a tooth, but a toothache. Lord Milner has sincerely attempted to
introduce German efficiency; and many of us would as soon welcome German
measles. Dr. Saleeby would honestly like to have Eugenics; but I would
rather have rheumatics.

This is the arresting and dominant fact about modern social discussion;
that the quarrel is not merely about the difficulties, but about the
aim. We agree about the evil; it is about the good that we should tear
each other's eyes out. We all admit that a lazy aristocracy is a bad
thing. We should not by any means all admit that an active aristocracy
would be a good thing. We all feel angry with an irreligious priesthood;
but some of us would go mad with disgust at a really religious one.
Everyone is indignant if our army is weak, including the people who
would be even more indignant if it were strong. The social case is
exactly the opposite of the medical case. We do not disagree, like
doctors, about the precise nature of the illness, while agreeing about
the nature of health. On the contrary, we all agree that England is
unhealthy, but half of us would not look at her in what the other half
would call blooming health. Public abuses are so prominent and pestilent
that they sweep all generous people into a sort of fictitious unanimity.
We forget that, while we agree about the abuses of things, we should
differ very much about the uses of them. Mr. Cadbury and I would agree
about the bad public house. It would be precisely in front of the good
public-house that our painful personal fracas would occur.

I maintain, therefore, that the common sociological method is quite
useless: that of first dissecting abject poverty or cataloguing
prostitution. We all dislike abject poverty; but it might be another
business if we began to discuss independent and dignified poverty. We
all disapprove of prostitution; but we do not all approve of purity.
The only way to discuss the social evil is to get at once to the social
ideal. We can all see the national madness; but what is national sanity?
I have called this book "What Is Wrong with the World?" and the upshot
of the title can be easily and clearly stated. What is wrong is that we
do not ask what is right.



There is a popular philosophical joke intended to typify the endless
and useless arguments of philosophers; I mean the joke about which came
first, the chicken or the egg? I am not sure that properly understood,
it is so futile an inquiry after all. I am not concerned here to enter
on those deep metaphysical and theological differences of which the
chicken and egg debate is a frivolous, but a very felicitous, type. The
evolutionary materialists are appropriately enough represented in the
vision of all things coming from an egg, a dim and monstrous oval germ
that had laid itself by accident. That other supernatural school of
thought (to which I personally adhere) would be not unworthily typified
in the fancy that this round world of ours is but an egg brooded upon by
a sacred unbegotten bird; the mystic dove of the prophets. But it is
to much humbler functions that I here call the awful power of such a
distinction. Whether or no the living bird is at the beginning of our
mental chain, it is absolutely necessary that it should be at the end of
our mental chain. The bird is the thing to be aimed at--not with a gun,
but a life-bestowing wand. What is essential to our right thinking is
this: that the egg and the bird must not be thought of as equal cosmic
occurrences recurring alternatively forever. They must not become a mere
egg and bird pattern, like the egg and dart pattern. One is a means
and the other an end; they are in different mental worlds. Leaving
the complications of the human breakfast-table out of account, in an
elemental sense, the egg only exists to produce the chicken. But the
chicken does not exist only in order to produce another egg. He may also
exist to amuse himself, to praise God, and even to suggest ideas to a
French dramatist. Being a conscious life, he is, or may be, valuable
in himself. Now our modern politics are full of a noisy forgetfulness;
forgetfulness that the production of this happy and conscious life
is after all the aim of all complexities and compromises. We talk of
nothing but useful men and working institutions; that is, we only think
of the chickens as things that will lay more eggs. Instead of seeking to
breed our ideal bird, the eagle of Zeus or the Swan of Avon, or whatever
we happen to want, we talk entirely in terms of the process and the
embryo. The process itself, divorced from its divine object, becomes
doubtful and even morbid; poison enters the embryo of everything; and
our politics are rotten eggs.

Idealism is only considering everything in its practical essence.
Idealism only means that we should consider a poker in reference to
poking before we discuss its suitability for wife-beating; that we
should ask if an egg is good enough for practical poultry-rearing before
we decide that the egg is bad enough for practical politics. But I know
that this primary pursuit of the theory (which is but pursuit of the
aim) exposes one to the cheap charge of fiddling while Rome is burning.
A school, of which Lord Rosebery is representative, has endeavored to
substitute for the moral or social ideals which have hitherto been the
motive of politics a general coherency or completeness in the social
system which has gained the nick-name of "efficiency." I am not very
certain of the secret doctrine of this sect in the matter. But, as
far as I can make out, "efficiency" means that we ought to discover
everything about a machine except what it is for. There has arisen in
our time a most singular fancy: the fancy that when things go very wrong
we need a practical man. It would be far truer to say, that when things
go very wrong we need an unpractical man. Certainly, at least, we need a
theorist. A practical man means a man accustomed to mere daily practice,
to the way things commonly work. When things will not work, you must
have the thinker, the man who has some doctrine about why they work at
all. It is wrong to fiddle while Rome is burning; but it is quite right
to study the theory of hydraulics while Rome is burning.

It is then necessary to drop one's daily agnosticism and attempt rerum
cognoscere causas. If your aeroplane has a slight indisposition, a handy
man may mend it. But, if it is seriously ill, it is all the more likely
that some absent-minded old professor with wild white hair will have to
be dragged out of a college or laboratory to analyze the evil. The more
complicated the smash, the whiter-haired and more absent-minded will be
the theorist who is needed to deal with it; and in some extreme cases,
no one but the man (probably insane) who invented your flying-ship could
possibly say what was the matter with it.

"Efficiency," of course, is futile for the same reason that strong men,
will-power and the superman are futile. That is, it is futile because
it only deals with actions after they have been performed. It has no
philosophy for incidents before they happen; therefore it has no power
of choice. An act can only be successful or unsuccessful when it is
over; if it is to begin, it must be, in the abstract, right or wrong.
There is no such thing as backing a winner; for he cannot be a winner
when he is backed. There is no such thing as fighting on the winning
side; one fights to find out which is the winning side. If any operation
has occurred, that operation was efficient. If a man is murdered, the
murder was efficient. A tropical sun is as efficient in making people
lazy as a Lancashire foreman bully in making them energetic. Maeterlinck
is as efficient in filling a man with strange spiritual tremors as
Messrs. Crosse and Blackwell are in filling a man with jam. But it
all depends on what you want to be filled with. Lord Rosebery, being
a modern skeptic, probably prefers the spiritual tremors. I, being an
orthodox Christian, prefer the jam. But both are efficient when they
have been effected; and inefficient until they are effected. A man who
thinks much about success must be the drowsiest sentimentalist; for he
must be always looking back. If he only likes victory he must always
come late for the battle. For the man of action there is nothing but

This definite ideal is a far more urgent and practical matter in our
existing English trouble than any immediate plans or proposals. For the
present chaos is due to a sort of general oblivion of all that men were
originally aiming at. No man demands what he desires; each man demands
what he fancies he can get. Soon people forget what the man really
wanted first; and after a successful and vigorous political life, he
forgets it himself. The whole is an extravagant riot of second bests,
a pandemonium of pis-aller. Now this sort of pliability does not merely
prevent any heroic consistency, it also prevents any really practical
compromise. One can only find the middle distance between two points if
the two points will stand still. We may make an arrangement between two
litigants who cannot both get what they want; but not if they will
not even tell us what they want. The keeper of a restaurant would much
prefer that each customer should give his order smartly, though it
were for stewed ibis or boiled elephant, rather than that each customer
should sit holding his head in his hands, plunged in arithmetical
calculations about how much food there can be on the premises. Most of
us have suffered from a certain sort of ladies who, by their perverse
unselfishness, give more trouble than the selfish; who almost clamor
for the unpopular dish and scramble for the worst seat. Most of us
have known parties or expeditions full of this seething fuss of
self-effacement. From much meaner motives than those of such admirable
women, our practical politicians keep things in the same confusion
through the same doubt about their real demands. There is nothing that
so much prevents a settlement as a tangle of small surrenders. We are
bewildered on every side by politicians who are in favor of secular
education, but think it hopeless to work for it; who desire total
prohibition, but are certain they should not demand it; who regret
compulsory education, but resignedly continue it; or who want peasant
proprietorship and therefore vote for something else. It is this dazed
and floundering opportunism that gets in the way of everything. If our
statesmen were visionaries something practical might be done. If we ask
for something in the abstract we might get something in the concrete.
As it is, it is not only impossible to get what one wants, but it is
impossible to get any part of it, because nobody can mark it out plainly
like a map. That clear and even hard quality that there was in the old
bargaining has wholly vanished. We forget that the word "compromise"
contains, among other things, the rigid and ringing word "promise."
Moderation is not vague; it is as definite as perfection. The middle
point is as fixed as the extreme point.

If I am made to walk the plank by a pirate, it is vain for me to offer,
as a common-sense compromise, to walk along the plank for a reasonable
distance. It is exactly about the reasonable distance that the pirate
and I differ. There is an exquisite mathematical split second at which
the plank tips up. My common-sense ends just before that instant; the
pirate's common-sense begins just beyond it. But the point itself is as
hard as any geometrical diagram; as abstract as any theological dogma.



But this new cloudy political cowardice has rendered useless the old
English compromise. People have begun to be terrified of an improvement
merely because it is complete. They call it utopian and revolutionary
that anyone should really have his own way, or anything be really done,
and done with. Compromise used to mean that half a loaf was better than
no bread. Among modern statesmen it really seems to mean that half a
loaf is better than a whole loaf.

As an instance to sharpen the argument, I take the one case of our
everlasting education bills. We have actually contrived to invent a new
kind of hypocrite. The old hypocrite, Tartuffe or Pecksniff, was a man
whose aims were really worldly and practical, while he pretended that
they were religious. The new hypocrite is one whose aims are really
religious, while he pretends that they are worldly and practical. The
Rev. Brown, the Wesleyan minister, sturdily declares that he cares
nothing for creeds, but only for education; meanwhile, in truth, the
wildest Wesleyanism is tearing his soul. The Rev. Smith, of the Church
of England, explains gracefully, with the Oxford manner, that the only
question for him is the prosperity and efficiency of the schools; while
in truth all the evil passions of a curate are roaring within him. It
is a fight of creeds masquerading as policies. I think these reverend
gentlemen do themselves wrong; I think they are more pious than they
will admit. Theology is not (as some suppose) expunged as an error. It
is merely concealed, like a sin. Dr. Clifford really wants a theological
atmosphere as much as Lord Halifax; only it is a different one. If Dr.
Clifford would ask plainly for Puritanism and Lord Halifax ask plainly
for Catholicism, something might be done for them. We are all, one
hopes, imaginative enough to recognize the dignity and distinctness of
another religion, like Islam or the cult of Apollo. I am quite ready
to respect another man's faith; but it is too much to ask that I should
respect his doubt, his worldly hesitations and fictions, his political
bargain and make-believe. Most Nonconformists with an instinct for
English history could see something poetic and national about the
Archbishop of Canterbury as an Archbishop of Canterbury. It is when
he does the rational British statesman that they very justifiably get
annoyed. Most Anglicans with an eye for pluck and simplicity could
admire Dr. Clifford as a Baptist minister. It is when he says that he is
simply a citizen that nobody can possibly believe him.

But indeed the case is yet more curious than this. The one argument that
used to be urged for our creedless vagueness was that at least it saved
us from fanaticism. But it does not even do that. On the contrary, it
creates and renews fanaticism with a force quite peculiar to itself.
This is at once so strange and so true that I will ask the reader's
attention to it with a little more precision.

Some people do not like the word "dogma." Fortunately they are free, and
there is an alternative for them. There are two things, and two things
only, for the human mind, a dogma and a prejudice. The Middle Ages
were a rational epoch, an age of doctrine. Our age is, at its best, a
poetical epoch, an age of prejudice. A doctrine is a definite point; a
prejudice is a direction. That an ox may be eaten, while a man should
not be eaten, is a doctrine. That as little as possible of anything
should be eaten is a prejudice; which is also sometimes called an ideal.
Now a direction is always far more fantastic than a plan. I would
rather have the most archaic map of the road to Brighton than a general
recommendation to turn to the left. Straight lines that are not parallel
must meet at last; but curves may recoil forever. A pair of lovers might
walk along the frontier of France and Germany, one on the one side and
one on the other, so long as they were not vaguely told to keep away
from each other. And this is a strictly true parable of the effect of
our modern vagueness in losing and separating men as in a mist.

It is not merely true that a creed unites men. Nay, a difference of
creed unites men--so long as it is a clear difference. A boundary
unites. Many a magnanimous Moslem and chivalrous Crusader must have been
nearer to each other, because they were both dogmatists, than any two
homeless agnostics in a pew of Mr. Campbell's chapel. "I say God is
One," and "I say God is One but also Three," that is the beginning of a
good quarrelsome, manly friendship. But our age would turn these creeds
into tendencies. It would tell the Trinitarian to follow multiplicity as
such (because it was his "temperament"), and he would turn up later with
three hundred and thirty-three persons in the Trinity. Meanwhile, it
would turn the Moslem into a Monist: a frightful intellectual fall. It
would force that previously healthy person not only to admit that there
was one God, but to admit that there was nobody else. When each had, for
a long enough period, followed the gleam of his own nose (like the Dong)
they would appear again; the Christian a Polytheist, and the Moslem a
Panegoist, both quite mad, and far more unfit to understand each other
than before.

It is exactly the same with politics. Our political vagueness divides
men, it does not fuse them. Men will walk along the edge of a chasm in
clear weather, but they will edge miles away from it in a fog. So a
Tory can walk up to the very edge of Socialism, if he knows what is
Socialism. But if he is told that Socialism is a spirit, a sublime
atmosphere, a noble, indefinable tendency, why, then he keeps out of its
way; and quite right too. One can meet an assertion with argument; but
healthy bigotry is the only way in which one can meet a tendency. I
am told that the Japanese method of wrestling consists not of suddenly
pressing, but of suddenly giving way. This is one of my many reasons for
disliking the Japanese civilization. To use surrender as a weapon is the
very worst spirit of the East. But certainly there is no force so hard
to fight as the force which it is easy to conquer; the force that
always yields and then returns. Such is the force of a great impersonal
prejudice, such as possesses the modern world on so many points. Against
this there is no weapon at all except a rigid and steely sanity, a
resolution not to listen to fads, and not to be infected by diseases.

In short, the rational human faith must armor itself with prejudice in
an age of prejudices, just as it armoured itself with logic in an age of
logic. But the difference between the two mental methods is marked and
unmistakable. The essential of the difference is this: that prejudices
are divergent, whereas creeds are always in collision. Believers bump
into each other; whereas bigots keep out of each other's way. A creed
is a collective thing, and even its sins are sociable. A prejudice is a
private thing, and even its tolerance is misanthropic. So it is with our
existing divisions. They keep out of each other's way; the Tory paper
and the Radical paper do not answer each other; they ignore each other.
Genuine controversy, fair cut and thrust before a common audience, has
become in our special epoch very rare. For the sincere controversialist
is above all things a good listener. The really burning enthusiast never
interrupts; he listens to the enemy's arguments as eagerly as a spy
would listen to the enemy's arrangements. But if you attempt an actual
argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will find that no
medium is admitted between violence and evasion. You will have no answer
except slanging or silence. A modern editor must not have that eager ear
that goes with the honest tongue. He may be deaf and silent; and that is
called dignity. Or he may be deaf and noisy; and that is called slashing
journalism. In neither case is there any controversy; for the whole
object of modern party combatants is to charge out of earshot.

The only logical cure for all this is the assertion of a human ideal.
In dealing with this, I will try to be as little transcendental as is
consistent with reason; it is enough to say that unless we have some
doctrine of a divine man, all abuses may be excused, since evolution
may turn them into uses. It will be easy for the scientific plutocrat to
maintain that humanity will adapt itself to any conditions which we now
consider evil. The old tyrants invoked the past; the new tyrants
will invoke the future evolution has produced the snail and the owl;
evolution can produce a workman who wants no more space than a snail,
and no more light than an owl. The employer need not mind sending a
Kaffir to work underground; he will soon become an underground animal,
like a mole. He need not mind sending a diver to hold his breath in the
deep seas; he will soon be a deep-sea animal. Men need not trouble to
alter conditions, conditions will so soon alter men. The head can be
beaten small enough to fit the hat. Do not knock the fetters off
the slave; knock the slave until he forgets the fetters. To all this
plausible modern argument for oppression, the only adequate answer is,
that there is a permanent human ideal that must not be either confused
or destroyed. The most important man on earth is the perfect man who
is not there. The Christian religion has specially uttered the ultimate
sanity of Man, says Scripture, who shall judge the incarnate and human
truth. Our lives and laws are not judged by divine superiority, but
simply by human perfection. It is man, says Aristotle, who is the
measure. It is the Son of Man, says Scripture, who shall judge the quick
and the dead.

Doctrine, therefore, does not cause dissensions; rather a doctrine alone
can cure our dissensions. It is necessary to ask, however, roughly,
what abstract and ideal shape in state or family would fulfil the human
hunger; and this apart from whether we can completely obtain it or not.
But when we come to ask what is the need of normal men, what is the
desire of all nations, what is the ideal house, or road, or rule, or
republic, or king, or priesthood, then we are confronted with a strange
and irritating difficulty peculiar to the present time; and we must call
a temporary halt and examine that obstacle.



The last few decades have been marked by a special cultivation of
the romance of the future. We seem to have made up our minds to
misunderstand what has happened; and we turn, with a sort of relief, to
stating what will happen--which is (apparently) much easier. The modern
man no longer presents the memoirs of his great grandfather; but
is engaged in writing a detailed and authoritative biography of his
great-grandson. Instead of trembling before the specters of the dead,
we shudder abjectly under the shadow of the babe unborn. This spirit is
apparent everywhere, even to the creation of a form of futurist romance.
Sir Walter Scott stands at the dawn of the nineteenth century for the
novel of the past; Mr. H. G. Wells stands at the dawn of the twentieth
century for the novel of the future. The old story, we know, was
supposed to begin: "Late on a winter's evening two horsemen might have
been seen--." The new story has to begin: "Late on a winter's evening
two aviators will be seen--." The movement is not without its elements
of charm; there is something spirited, if eccentric, in the sight of so
many people fighting over again the fights that have not yet happened;
of people still glowing with the memory of tomorrow morning. A man in
advance of the age is a familiar phrase enough. An age in advance of the
age is really rather odd.

But when full allowance has been made for this harmless element of
poetry and pretty human perversity in the thing, I shall not hesitate to
maintain here that this cult of the future is not only a weakness but
a cowardice of the age. It is the peculiar evil of this epoch that even
its pugnacity is fundamentally frightened; and the Jingo is contemptible
not because he is impudent, but because he is timid. The reason why
modern armaments do not inflame the imagination like the arms and
emblazonments of the Crusades is a reason quite apart from optical
ugliness or beauty. Some battleships are as beautiful as the sea; and
many Norman nosepieces were as ugly as Norman noses. The atmospheric
ugliness that surrounds our scientific war is an emanation from that
evil panic which is at the heart of it. The charge of the Crusades was a
charge; it was charging towards God, the wild consolation of the braver.
The charge of the modern armaments is not a charge at all. It is a rout,
a retreat, a flight from the devil, who will catch the hindmost. It is
impossible to imagine a mediaeval knight talking of longer and longer
French lances, with precisely the quivering employed about larger and
larger German ships The man who called the Blue Water School the "Blue
Funk School" uttered a psychological truth which that school itself
would scarcely essentially deny. Even the two-power standard, if it be
a necessity, is in a sense a degrading necessity. Nothing has more
alienated many magnanimous minds from Imperial enterprises than the fact
that they are always exhibited as stealthy or sudden defenses against a
world of cold rapacity and fear. The Boer War, for instance, was colored
not so much by the creed that we were doing something right, as by
the creed that Boers and Germans were probably doing something wrong;
driving us (as it was said) to the sea. Mr. Chamberlain, I think, said
that the war was a feather in his cap and so it was: a white feather.

Now this same primary panic that I feel in our rush towards patriotic
armaments I feel also in our rush towards future visions of society. The
modern mind is forced towards the future by a certain sense of fatigue,
not unmixed with terror, with which it regards the past. It is propelled
towards the coming time; it is, in the exact words of the popular
phrase, knocked into the middle of next week. And the goad which drives
it on thus eagerly is not an affectation for futurity Futurity does not
exist, because it is still future. Rather it is a fear of the past; a
fear not merely of the evil in the past, but of the good in the past
also. The brain breaks down under the unbearable virtue of mankind.
There have been so many flaming faiths that we cannot hold; so many
harsh heroisms that we cannot imitate; so many great efforts of
monumental building or of military glory which seem to us at once
sublime and pathetic. The future is a refuge from the fierce competition
of our forefathers. The older generation, not the younger, is knocking
at our door. It is agreeable to escape, as Henley said, into the Street
of By-and-Bye, where stands the Hostelry of Never. It is pleasant to
play with children, especially unborn children. The future is a blank
wall on which every man can write his own name as large as he likes;
the past I find already covered with illegible scribbles, such as Plato,
Isaiah, Shakespeare, Michael Angelo, Napoleon. I can make the future as
narrow as myself; the past is obliged to be as broad and turbulent as
humanity. And the upshot of this modern attitude is really this: that
men invent new ideals because they dare not attempt old ideals. They
look forward with enthusiasm, because they are afraid to look back.

Now in history there is no Revolution that is not a Restoration. Among
the many things that leave me doubtful about the modern habit of fixing
eyes on the future, none is stronger than this: that all the men in
history who have really done anything with the future have had their
eyes fixed upon the past. I need not mention the Renaissance, the very
word proves my case. The originality of Michael Angelo and Shakespeare
began with the digging up of old vases and manuscripts. The mildness of
poets absolutely arose out of the mildness of antiquaries. So the great
mediaeval revival was a memory of the Roman Empire. So the Reformation
looked back to the Bible and Bible times. So the modern Catholic
movement has looked back to patristic times. But that modern movement
which many would count the most anarchic of all is in this sense the
most conservative of all. Never was the past more venerated by men than
it was by the French Revolutionists. They invoked the little republics
of antiquity with the complete confidence of one who invokes the gods.
The Sans-culottes believed (as their name might imply) in a return to
simplicity. They believed most piously in a remote past; some might call
it a mythical past. For some strange reason man must always thus plant
his fruit trees in a graveyard. Man can only find life among the dead.
Man is a misshapen monster, with his feet set forward and his face
turned back. He can make the future luxuriant and gigantic, so long as
he is thinking about the past. When he tries to think about the future
itself, his mind diminishes to a pin point with imbecility, which some
call Nirvana. To-morrow is the Gorgon; a man must only see it mirrored
in the shining shield of yesterday. If he sees it directly he is turned
to stone. This has been the fate of all those who have really seen fate
and futurity as clear and inevitable. The Calvinists, with their perfect
creed of predestination, were turned to stone. The modern sociological
scientists (with their excruciating Eugenics) are turned to stone. The
only difference is that the Puritans make dignified, and the Eugenists
somewhat amusing, statues.

But there is one feature in the past which more than all the rest defies
and depresses the moderns and drives them towards this featureless
future. I mean the presence in the past of huge ideals, unfulfilled and
sometimes abandoned. The sight of these splendid failures is melancholy
to a restless and rather morbid generation; and they maintain a strange
silence about them--sometimes amounting to an unscrupulous silence. They
keep them entirely out of their newspapers and almost entirely out of
their history books. For example, they will often tell you (in their
praises of the coming age) that we are moving on towards a United States
of Europe. But they carefully omit to tell you that we are moving away
from a United States of Europe, that such a thing existed literally
in Roman and essentially in mediaeval times. They never admit that the
international hatreds (which they call barbaric) are really very recent,
the mere breakdown of the ideal of the Holy Roman Empire. Or again, they
will tell you that there is going to be a social revolution, a great
rising of the poor against the rich; but they never rub it in that
France made that magnificent attempt, unaided, and that we and all the
world allowed it to be trampled out and forgotten. I say decisively that
nothing is so marked in modern writing as the prediction of such ideals
in the future combined with the ignoring of them in the past. Anyone
can test this for himself. Read any thirty or forty pages of pamphlets
advocating peace in Europe and see how many of them praise the old Popes
or Emperors for keeping the peace in Europe. Read any armful of essays
and poems in praise of social democracy, and see how many of them praise
the old Jacobins who created democracy and died for it. These colossal
ruins are to the modern only enormous eyesores. He looks back along the
valley of the past and sees a perspective of splendid but unfinished
cities. They are unfinished, not always through enmity or accident,
but often through fickleness, mental fatigue, and the lust for alien
philosophies. We have not only left undone those things that we ought to
have done, but we have even left undone those things that we wanted to

It is very currently suggested that the modern man is the heir of
all the ages, that he has got the good out of these successive human
experiments. I know not what to say in answer to this, except to ask the
reader to look at the modern man, as I have just looked at the modern
man--in the looking-glass. Is it really true that you and I are two
starry towers built up of all the most towering visions of the past?
Have we really fulfilled all the great historic ideals one after the
other, from our naked ancestor who was brave enough to kill a mammoth
with a stone knife, through the Greek citizen and the Christian saint
to our own grandfather or great-grandfather, who may have been sabred by
the Manchester Yeomanry or shot in the '48? Are we still strong enough
to spear mammoths, but now tender enough to spare them? Does the cosmos
contain any mammoth that we have either speared or spared? When we
decline (in a marked manner) to fly the red flag and fire across a
barricade like our grandfathers, are we really declining in deference to
sociologists--or to soldiers? Have we indeed outstripped the warrior and
passed the ascetical saint? I fear we only outstrip the warrior in the
sense that we should probably run away from him. And if we have passed
the saint, I fear we have passed him without bowing.

This is, first and foremost, what I mean by the narrowness of the new
ideas, the limiting effect of the future. Our modern prophetic idealism
is narrow because it has undergone a persistent process of elimination.
We must ask for new things because we are not allowed to ask for old
things. The whole position is based on this idea that we have got all
the good that can be got out of the ideas of the past. But we have not
got all the good out of them, perhaps at this moment not any of the
good out of them. And the need here is a need of complete freedom for
restoration as well as revolution.

We often read nowadays of the valor or audacity with which some rebel
attacks a hoary tyranny or an antiquated superstition. There is not
really any courage at all in attacking hoary or antiquated things, any
more than in offering to fight one's grandmother. The really courageous
man is he who defies tyrannies young as the morning and superstitions
fresh as the first flowers. The only true free-thinker is he whose
intellect is as much free from the future as from the past. He cares
as little for what will be as for what has been; he cares only for
what ought to be. And for my present purpose I specially insist on this
abstract independence. If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of
the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern
assumption that past things have become impossible. There is one
metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying,
"You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You
can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by
the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a
piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has
ever existed.

There is another proverb, "As you have made your bed, so you must lie on
it"; which again is simply a lie. If I have made my bed uncomfortable,
please God I will make it again. We could restore the Heptarchy or the
stage coaches if we chose. It might take some time to do, and it might
be very inadvisable to do it; but certainly it is not impossible as
bringing back last Friday is impossible. This is, as I say, the first
freedom that I claim: the freedom to restore. I claim a right to propose
as a solution the old patriarchal system of a Highland clan, if that
should seem to eliminate the largest number of evils. It certainly would
eliminate some evils; for instance, the unnatural sense of obeying cold
and harsh strangers, mere bureaucrats and policemen. I claim the right
to propose the complete independence of the small Greek or Italian
towns, a sovereign city of Brixton or Brompton, if that seems the best
way out of our troubles. It would be a way out of some of our troubles;
we could not have in a small state, for instance, those enormous
illusions about men or measures which are nourished by the great
national or international newspapers. You could not persuade a city
state that Mr. Beit was an Englishman, or Mr. Dillon a desperado,
any more than you could persuade a Hampshire Village that the
village drunkard was a teetotaller or the village idiot a statesman.
Nevertheless, I do not as a fact propose that the Browns and the Smiths
should be collected under separate tartans. Nor do I even propose
that Clapham should declare its independence. I merely declare my
independence. I merely claim my choice of all the tools in the universe;
and I shall not admit that any of them are blunted merely because they
have been used.



The task of modern idealists indeed is made much too easy for them by
the fact that they are always taught that if a thing has been defeated
it has been disproved. Logically, the case is quite clearly the other
way. The lost causes are exactly those which might have saved the world.
If a man says that the Young Pretender would have made England happy,
it is hard to answer him. If anyone says that the Georges made England
happy, I hope we all know what to answer. That which was prevented is
always impregnable; and the only perfect King of England was he who
was smothered. Exactly be cause Jacobitism failed we cannot call it
a failure. Precisely because the Commune collapsed as a rebellion we
cannot say that it collapsed as a system. But such outbursts were brief
or incidental. Few people realize how many of the largest efforts, the
facts that will fill history, were frustrated in their full design and
come down to us as gigantic cripples. I have only space to allude to the
two largest facts of modern history: the Catholic Church and that modern
growth rooted in the French Revolution.

When four knights scattered the blood and brains of St. Thomas of
Canterbury, it was not only a sign of anger but of a sort of black
admiration. They wished for his blood, but they wished even more for his
brains. Such a blow will remain forever unintelligible unless we realise
what the brains of St. Thomas were thinking about just before they were
distributed over the floor. They were thinking about the great mediaeval
conception that the church is the judge of the world. Becket objected to
a priest being tried even by the Lord Chief Justice. And his reason was
simple: because the Lord Chief Justice was being tried by the priest.
The judiciary was itself sub judice. The kings were themselves in the
dock. The idea was to create an invisible kingdom, without armies or
prisons, but with complete freedom to condemn publicly all the kingdoms
of the earth. Whether such a supreme church would have cured society we
cannot affirm definitely; because the church never was a supreme church.
We only know that in England at any rate the princes conquered the
saints. What the world wanted we see before us; and some of us call it
a failure. But we cannot call what the church wanted a failure, simply
because the church failed. Tracy struck a little too soon. England had
not yet made the great Protestant discovery that the king can do no
wrong. The king was whipped in the cathedral; a performance which I
recommend to those who regret the unpopularity of church-going. But the
discovery was made; and Henry VIII scattered Becket's bones as easily as
Tracy had scattered his brains.

Of course, I mean that Catholicism was not tried; plenty of Catholics
were tried, and found guilty. My point is that the world did not tire
of the church's ideal, but of its reality. Monasteries were impugned not
for the chastity of monks, but for the unchastity of monks. Christianity
was unpopular not because of the humility, but of the arrogance of
Christians. Certainly, if the church failed it was largely through the
churchmen. But at the same time hostile elements had certainly begun to
end it long before it could have done its work. In the nature of
things it needed a common scheme of life and thought in Europe. Yet
the mediaeval system began to be broken to pieces intellectually, long
before it showed the slightest hint of falling to pieces morally. The
huge early heresies, like the Albigenses, had not the faintest excuse in
moral superiority. And it is actually true that the Reformation began
to tear Europe apart before the Catholic Church had had time to pull
it together. The Prussians, for instance, were not converted to
Christianity at all until quite close to the Reformation. The poor
creatures hardly had time to become Catholics before they were told
to become Protestants. This explains a great deal of their subsequent
conduct. But I have only taken this as the first and most evident case
of the general truth: that the great ideals of the past failed not by
being outlived (which must mean over-lived), but by not being lived
enough. Mankind has not passed through the Middle Ages. Rather mankind
has retreated from the Middle Ages in reaction and rout. The Christian
ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult;
and left untried.

It is, of course, the same in the case of the French Revolution. A great
part of our present perplexity arises from the fact that the French
Revolution has half succeeded and half failed. In one sense, Valmy was
the decisive battle of the West, and in another Trafalgar. We have,
indeed, destroyed the largest territorial tyrannies, and created a free
peasantry in almost all Christian countries except England; of which we
shall say more anon. But representative government, the one universal
relic, is a very poor fragment of the full republican idea. The theory
of the French Revolution presupposed two things in government, things
which it achieved at the time, but which it has certainly not bequeathed
to its imitators in England, Germany, and America. The first of these
was the idea of honorable poverty; that a statesman must be something of
a stoic; the second was the idea of extreme publicity. Many imaginative
English writers, including Carlyle, seem quite unable to imagine how it
was that men like Robespierre and Marat were ardently admired. The best
answer is that they were admired for being poor--poor when they might
have been rich.

No one will pretend that this ideal exists at all in the haute politique
of this country. Our national claim to political incorruptibility is
actually based on exactly the opposite argument; it is based on the
theory that wealthy men in assured positions will have no temptation to
financial trickery. Whether the history of the English aristocracy,
from the spoliation of the monasteries to the annexation of the mines,
entirely supports this theory I am not now inquiring; but certainly
it is our theory, that wealth will be a protection against political
corruption. The English statesman is bribed not to be bribed. He is born
with a silver spoon in his mouth, so that he may never afterwards be
found with the silver spoons in his pocket. So strong is our faith in
this protection by plutocracy, that we are more and more trusting our
empire in the hands of families which inherit wealth without either
blood or manners. Some of our political houses are parvenue by pedigree;
they hand on vulgarity like a coat of-arms. In the case of many a modern
statesman to say that he is born with a silver spoon in his mouth, is
at once inadequate and excessive. He is born with a silver knife in his
mouth. But all this only illustrates the English theory that poverty is
perilous for a politician.

It will be the same if we compare the conditions that have come about
with the Revolution legend touching publicity. The old democratic
doctrine was that the more light that was let in to all departments of
State, the easier it was for a righteous indignation to move promptly
against wrong. In other words, monarchs were to live in glass houses,
that mobs might throw stones. Again, no admirer of existing English
politics (if there is any admirer of existing English politics) will
really pretend that this ideal of publicity is exhausted, or even
attempted. Obviously public life grows more private every day. The
French have, indeed, continued the tradition of revealing secrets and
making scandals; hence they are more flagrant and palpable than we, not
in sin but in the confession of sin. The first trial of Dreyfus might
have happened in England; it is exactly the second trial that would have
been legally impossible. But, indeed, if we wish to realise how far we
fall short of the original republican outline, the sharpest way to test
it is to note how far we fall short even of the republican element
in the older regime. Not only are we less democratic than Danton and
Condorcet, but we are in many ways less democratic than Choiseul and
Marie Antoinette. The richest nobles before the revolt were needy
middle-class people compared with our Rothschilds and Roseberys. And
in the matter of publicity the old French monarchy was infinitely more
democratic than any of the monarchies of today. Practically anybody
who chose could walk into the palace and see the king playing with his
children, or paring his nails. The people possessed the monarch, as the
people possess Primrose Hill; that is, they cannot move it, but they can
sprawl all over it. The old French monarchy was founded on the excellent
principle that a cat may look at a king. But nowadays a cat may not look
at a king; unless it is a very tame cat. Even where the press is free
for criticism it is only used for adulation. The substantial difference
comes to something uncommonly like this: Eighteenth century tyranny
meant that you could say "The K__ of Br__rd is a profligate." Twentieth
century liberty really means that you are allowed to say "The King of
Brentford is a model family man."

But we have delayed the main argument too long for the parenthetical
purpose of showing that the great democratic dream, like the great
mediaeval dream, has in a strict and practical sense been a dream
unfulfilled. Whatever is the matter with modern England it is not
that we have carried out too literally, or achieved with disappointing
completeness, either the Catholicism of Becket or the equality of Marat.
Now I have taken these two cases merely because they are typical of
ten thousand other cases; the world is full of these unfulfilled ideas,
these uncompleted temples. History does not consist of completed and
crumbling ruins; rather it consists of half-built villas abandoned by
a bankrupt-builder. This world is more like an unfinished suburb than a
deserted cemetery.



But it is for this especial reason that such an explanation is necessary
on the very threshold of the definition of ideals. For owing to that
historic fallacy with which I have just dealt, numbers of readers will
expect me, when I propound an ideal, to propound a new ideal. Now I
have no notion at all of propounding a new ideal. There is no new ideal
imaginable by the madness of modern sophists, which will be anything
like so startling as fulfilling any one of the old ones. On the day
that any copybook maxim is carried out there will be something like an
earthquake on the earth. There is only one thing new that can be done
under the sun; and that is to look at the sun. If you attempt it on a
blue day in June, you will know why men do not look straight at their
ideals. There is only one really startling thing to be done with the
ideal, and that is to do it. It is to face the flaming logical fact, and
its frightful consequences. Christ knew that it would be a more stunning
thunderbolt to fulfil the law than to destroy it. It is true of both
the cases I have quoted, and of every case. The pagans had always adored
purity: Athena, Artemis, Vesta. It was when the virgin martyrs began
defiantly to practice purity that they rent them with wild beasts, and
rolled them on red-hot coals. The world had always loved the notion of
the poor man uppermost; it can be proved by every legend from Cinderella
to Whittington, by every poem from the Magnificat to the Marseillaise.
The kings went mad against France not because she idealized this ideal,
but because she realized it. Joseph of Austria and Catherine of Russia
quite agreed that the people should rule; what horrified them was that
the people did. The French Revolution, therefore, is the type of all
true revolutions, because its ideal is as old as the Old Adam, but
its fulfilment almost as fresh, as miraculous, and as new as the New

But in the modern world we are primarily confronted with the
extraordinary spectacle of people turning to new ideals because they
have not tried the old. Men have not got tired of Christianity; they
have never found enough Christianity to get tired of. Men have never
wearied of political justice; they have wearied of waiting for it.

Now, for the purpose of this book, I propose to take only one of these
old ideals; but one that is perhaps the oldest. I take the principle
of domesticity: the ideal house; the happy family, the holy family of
history. For the moment it is only necessary to remark that it is like
the church and like the republic, now chiefly assailed by those who have
never known it, or by those who have failed to fulfil it. Numberless
modern women have rebelled against domesticity in theory because they
have never known it in practice. Hosts of the poor are driven to the
workhouse without ever having known the house. Generally speaking, the
cultured class is shrieking to be let out of the decent home, just as
the working class is shouting to be let into it.

Now if we take this house or home as a test, we may very generally lay
the simple spiritual foundations of the idea. God is that which can make
something out of nothing. Man (it may truly be said) is that which can
make something out of anything. In other words, while the joy of God
be unlimited creation, the special joy of man is limited creation, the
combination of creation with limits. Man's pleasure, therefore, is
to possess conditions, but also to be partly possessed by them; to
be half-controlled by the flute he plays or by the field he digs. The
excitement is to get the utmost out of given conditions; the conditions
will stretch, but not indefinitely. A man can write an immortal sonnet
on an old envelope, or hack a hero out of a lump of rock. But hacking
a sonnet out of a rock would be a laborious business, and making a hero
out of an envelope is almost out of the sphere of practical politics.
This fruitful strife with limitations, when it concerns some airy
entertainment of an educated class, goes by the name of Art. But
the mass of men have neither time nor aptitude for the invention of
invisible or abstract beauty. For the mass of men the idea of artistic
creation can only be expressed by an idea unpopular in present
discussions--the idea of property. The average man cannot cut clay into
the shape of a man; but he can cut earth into the shape of a garden; and
though he arranges it with red geraniums and blue potatoes in alternate
straight lines, he is still an artist; because he has chosen. The
average man cannot paint the sunset whose colors be admires; but he can
paint his own house with what color he chooses, and though he paints it
pea green with pink spots, he is still an artist; because that is his
choice. Property is merely the art of the democracy. It means that every
man should have something that he can shape in his own image, as he is
shaped in the image of heaven. But because he is not God, but only a
graven image of God, his self-expression must deal with limits; properly
with limits that are strict and even small.

I am well aware that the word "property" has been defied in our time by
the corruption of the great capitalists. One would think, to hear people
talk, that the Rothchilds and the Rockefellers were on the side of
property. But obviously they are the enemies of property; because they
are enemies of their own limitations. They do not want their own land;
but other people's. When they remove their neighbor's landmark, they
also remove their own. A man who loves a little triangular field ought
to love it because it is triangular; anyone who destroys the shape, by
giving him more land, is a thief who has stolen a triangle. A man with
the true poetry of possession wishes to see the wall where his garden
meets Smith's garden; the hedge where his farm touches Brown's. He
cannot see the shape of his own land unless he sees the edges of his
neighbor's. It is the negation of property that the Duke of Sutherland
should have all the farms in one estate; just as it would be the
negation of marriage if he had all our wives in one harem.



As I have said, I propose to take only one central instance; I will take
the institution called the private house or home; the shell and organ of
the family. We will consider cosmic and political tendencies simply as
they strike that ancient and unique roof. Very few words will suffice
for all I have to say about the family itself. I leave alone the
speculations about its animal origin and the details of its social
reconstruction; I am concerned only with its palpable omnipresence. It
is a necessity far mankind; it is (if you like to put it so) a trap for
mankind. Only by the hypocritical ignoring of a huge fact can any
one contrive to talk of "free love"; as if love were an episode like
lighting a cigarette, or whistling a tune. Suppose whenever a man lit a
cigarette, a towering genie arose from the rings of smoke and followed
him everywhere as a huge slave. Suppose whenever a man whistled a tune
he "drew an angel down" and had to walk about forever with a seraph on
a string. These catastrophic images are but faint parallels to the
earthquake consequences that Nature has attached to sex; and it is
perfectly plain at the beginning that a man cannot be a free lover; he
is either a traitor or a tied man. The second element that creates
the family is that its consequences, though colossal, are gradual; the
cigarette produces a baby giant, the song only an infant seraph. Thence
arises the necessity for some prolonged system of co-operation; and
thence arises the family in its full educational sense.

It may be said that this institution of the home is the one anarchist
institution. That is to say, it is older than law, and stands outside
the State. By its nature it is refreshed or corrupted by indefinable
forces of custom or kinship. This is not to be understood as meaning
that the State has no authority over families; that State authority
is invoked and ought to be invoked in many abnormal cases. But in most
normal cases of family joys and sorrows, the State has no mode of entry.
It is not so much that the law should not interfere, as that the law
cannot. Just as there are fields too far off for law, so there are
fields too near; as a man may see the North Pole before he sees his own
backbone. Small and near matters escape control at least as much as vast
and remote ones; and the real pains and pleasures of the family form
a strong instance of this. If a baby cries for the moon, the policeman
cannot procure the moon--but neither can he stop the baby. Creatures so
close to each other as husband and wife, or a mother and children, have
powers of making each other happy or miserable with which no public
coercion can deal. If a marriage could be dissolved every morning it
would not give back his night's rest to a man kept awake by a curtain
lecture; and what is the good of giving a man a lot of power where he
only wants a little peace? The child must depend on the most imperfect
mother; the mother may be devoted to the most unworthy children; in such
relations legal revenges are vain. Even in the abnormal cases where
the law may operate, this difficulty is constantly found; as many a
bewildered magistrate knows. He has to save children from starvation by
taking away their breadwinner. And he often has to break a wife's heart
because her husband has already broken her head. The State has no tool
delicate enough to deracinate the rooted habits and tangled affections
of the family; the two sexes, whether happy or unhappy, are glued
together too tightly for us to get the blade of a legal penknife in
between them. The man and the woman are one flesh--yes, even when they
are not one spirit. Man is a quadruped. Upon this ancient and anarchic
intimacy, types of government have little or no effect; it is happy or
unhappy, by its own sexual wholesomeness and genial habit, under the
republic of Switzerland or the despotism of Siam. Even a republic in
Siam would not have done much towards freeing the Siamese Twins.

The problem is not in marriage, but in sex; and would be felt under the
freest concubinage. Nevertheless, the overwhelming mass of mankind has
not believed in freedom in this matter, but rather in a more or less
lasting tie. Tribes and civilizations differ about the occasions on
which we may loosen the bond, but they all agree that there is a bond to
be loosened, not a mere universal detachment. For the purposes of this
book I am not concerned to discuss that mystical view of marriage in
which I myself believe: the great European tradition which has made
marriage a sacrament. It is enough to say here that heathen and
Christian alike have regarded marriage as a tie; a thing not normally
to be sundered. Briefly, this human belief in a sexual bond rests on a
principle of which the modern mind has made a very inadequate study. It
is, perhaps, most nearly paralleled by the principle of the second wind
in walking.

The principle is this: that in everything worth having, even in every
pleasure, there is a point of pain or tedium that must be survived, so
that the pleasure may revive and endure. The joy of battle comes after
the first fear of death; the joy of reading Virgil comes after the bore
of learning him; the glow of the sea-bather comes after the icy shock of
the sea bath; and the success of the marriage comes after the failure of
the honeymoon. All human vows, laws, and contracts are so many ways of
surviving with success this breaking point, this instant of potential

In everything on this earth that is worth doing, there is a stage when
no one would do it, except for necessity or honor. It is then that the
Institution upholds a man and helps him on to the firmer ground ahead.
Whether this solid fact of human nature is sufficient to justify the
sublime dedication of Christian marriage is quite an other matter, it is
amply sufficient to justify the general human feeling of marriage as a
fixed thing, dissolution of which is a fault or, at least, an ignominy.
The essential element is not so much duration as security. Two people
must be tied together in order to do themselves justice; for twenty
minutes at a dance, or for twenty years in a marriage In both cases the
point is, that if a man is bored in the first five minutes he must go on
and force himself to be happy. Coercion is a kind of encouragement; and
anarchy (or what some call liberty) is essentially oppressive, because
it is essentially discouraging. If we all floated in the air like
bubbles, free to drift anywhere at any instant, the practical result
would be that no one would have the courage to begin a conversation. It
would be so embarrassing to start a sentence in a friendly whisper,
and then have to shout the last half of it because the other party was
floating away into the free and formless ether. The two must hold each
other to do justice to each other. If Americans can be divorced for
"incompatibility of temper" I cannot conceive why they are not all
divorced. I have known many happy marriages, but never a compatible one.
The whole aim of marriage is to fight through and survive the instant
when incompatibility becomes unquestionable. For a man and a woman, as
such, are incompatible.



In the course of this crude study we shall have to touch on what is
called the problem of poverty, especially the dehumanized poverty
of modern industrialism. But in this primary matter of the ideal the
difficulty is not the problem of poverty, but the problem of wealth.
It is the special psychology of leisure and luxury that falsifies life.
Some experience of modern movements of the sort called "advanced" has
led me to the conviction that they generally repose upon some experience
peculiar to the rich. It is so with that fallacy of free love of which I
have already spoken; the idea of sexuality as a string of episodes. That
implies a long holiday in which to get tired of one woman, and a motor
car in which to wander looking for others; it also implies money for
maintenances. An omnibus conductor has hardly time to love his own
wife, let alone other people's. And the success with which nuptial
estrangements are depicted in modern "problem plays" is due to the fact
that there is only one thing that a drama cannot depict--that is a
hard day's work. I could give many other instances of this plutocratic
assumption behind progressive fads. For instance, there is a plutocratic
assumption behind the phrase "Why should woman be economically dependent
upon man?" The answer is that among poor and practical people she isn't;
except in the sense in which he is dependent upon her. A hunter has to
tear his clothes; there must be somebody to mend them. A fisher has
to catch fish; there must be somebody to cook them. It is surely quite
clear that this modern notion that woman is a mere "pretty clinging
parasite," "a plaything," etc., arose through the somber contemplation
of some rich banking family, in which the banker, at least, went to the
city and pretended to do something, while the banker's wife went to the
Park and did not pretend to do anything at all. A poor man and his
wife are a business partnership. If one partner in a firm of publishers
interviews the authors while the other interviews the clerks, is one of
them economically dependent? Was Hodder a pretty parasite clinging to
Stoughton? Was Marshall a mere plaything for Snelgrove?

But of all the modern notions generated by mere wealth the worst is
this: the notion that domesticity is dull and tame. Inside the home
(they say) is dead decorum and routine; outside is adventure and
variety. This is indeed a rich man's opinion. The rich man knows that
his own house moves on vast and soundless wheels of wealth, is run by
regiments of servants, by a swift and silent ritual. On the other hand,
every sort of vagabondage of romance is open to him in the streets
outside. He has plenty of money and can afford to be a tramp. His
wildest adventure will end in a restaurant, while the yokel's tamest
adventure may end in a police-court. If he smashes a window he can
pay for it; if he smashes a man he can pension him. He can (like the
millionaire in the story) buy an hotel to get a glass of gin. And
because he, the luxurious man, dictates the tone of nearly all
"advanced" and "progressive" thought, we have almost forgotten what a
home really means to the overwhelming millions of mankind.

For the truth is, that to the moderately poor the home is the only place
of liberty. Nay, it is the only place of anarchy. It is the only spot
on the earth where a man can alter arrangements suddenly, make an
experiment or indulge in a whim. Everywhere else he goes he must accept
the strict rules of the shop, inn, club, or museum that he happens to
enter. He can eat his meals on the floor in his own house if he likes.
I often do it myself; it gives a curious, childish, poetic, picnic
feeling. There would be considerable trouble if I tried to do it in
an A.B.C. tea-shop. A man can wear a dressing gown and slippers in his
house; while I am sure that this would not be permitted at the Savoy,
though I never actually tested the point. If you go to a restaurant
you must drink some of the wines on the wine list, all of them if you
insist, but certainly some of them. But if you have a house and garden
you can try to make hollyhock tea or convolvulus wine if you like. For a
plain, hard-working man the home is not the one tame place in the world
of adventure. It is the one wild place in the world of rules and set
tasks. The home is the one place where he can put the carpet on the
ceiling or the slates on the floor if he wants to. When a man spends
every night staggering from bar to bar or from music-hall to music-hall,
we say that he is living an irregular life. But he is not; he is living
a highly regular life, under the dull, and often oppressive, laws of
such places. Some times he is not allowed even to sit down in the bars;
and frequently he is not allowed to sing in the music-halls. Hotels may
be defined as places where you are forced to dress; and theaters may
be defined as places where you are forbidden to smoke. A man can only
picnic at home.

Now I take, as I have said, this small human omnipotence, this
possession of a definite cell or chamber of liberty, as the working
model for the present inquiry. Whether we can give every English man
a free home of his own or not, at least we should desire it; and he
desires it. For the moment we speak of what he wants, not of what he
expects to get. He wants, for instance, a separate house; he does not
want a semi-detached house. He may be forced in the commercial race
to share one wall with another man. Similarly he might be forced in a
three-legged race to share one leg with another man; but it is not so
that he pictures himself in his dreams of elegance and liberty. Again,
he does not desire a flat. He can eat and sleep and praise God in a
flat; he can eat and sleep and praise God in a railway train. But a
railway train is not a house, because it is a house on wheels. And a
flat is not a house, because it is a house on stilts. An idea of
earthy contact and foundation, as well as an idea of separation and
independence, is a part of this instructive human picture.

I take, then, this one institution as a test. As every normal man
desires a woman, and children born of a woman, every normal man desires
a house of his own to put them into. He does not merely want a roof
above him and a chair below him; he wants an objective and visible
kingdom; a fire at which he can cook what food he likes, a door he can
open to what friends he chooses. This is the normal appetite of men; I
do not say there are not exceptions. There may be saints above the need
and philanthropists below it. Opalstein, now he is a duke, may have got
used to more than this; and when he was a convict may have got used
to less. But the normality of the thing is enormous. To give nearly
everybody ordinary houses would please nearly everybody; that is what I
assert without apology. Now in modern England (as you eagerly point out)
it is very difficult to give nearly everybody houses. Quite so; I merely
set up the desideratum; and ask the reader to leave it standing there
while he turns with me to a consideration of what really happens in the
social wars of our time.



There is, let us say, a certain filthy rookery in Hoxton, dripping with
disease and honeycombed with crime and promiscuity. There are, let us
say, two noble and courageous young men, of pure intentions and (if you
prefer it) noble birth; let us call them Hudge and Gudge. Hudge, let us
say, is of a bustling sort; he points out that the people must at all
costs be got out of this den; he subscribes and collects money, but he
finds (despite the large financial interests of the Hudges) that the
thing will have to be done on the cheap if it is to be done on the spot.
He therefore, runs up a row of tall bare tenements like beehives; and
soon has all the poor people bundled into their little brick cells,
which are certainly better than their old quarters, in so far as they
are weather proof, well ventilated and supplied with clean water. But
Gudge has a more delicate nature. He feels a nameless something lacking
in the little brick boxes; he raises numberless objections; he even
assails the celebrated Hudge Report, with the Gudge Minority Report; and
by the end of a year or so has come to telling Hudge heatedly that the
people were much happier where they were before. As the people preserve
in both places precisely the same air of dazed amiability, it is very
difficult to find out which is right. But at least one might safely say
that no people ever liked stench or starvation as such, but only some
peculiar pleasures en tangled with them. Not so feels the sensitive
Gudge. Long before the final quarrel (Hudge v. Gudge and Another), Gudge
has succeeded in persuading himself that slums and stinks are really
very nice things; that the habit of sleeping fourteen in a room is
what has made our England great; and that the smell of open drains is
absolutely essential to the rearing of a viking breed.

But, meanwhile, has there been no degeneration in Hudge? Alas, I fear
there has. Those maniacally ugly buildings which he originally put up
as unpretentious sheds barely to shelter human life, grow every day more
and more lovely to his deluded eye. Things he would never have dreamed
of defending, except as crude necessities, things like common kitchens
or infamous asbestos stoves, begin to shine quite sacredly before him,
merely because they reflect the wrath of Gudge. He maintains, with the
aid of eager little books by Socialists, that man is really happier in
a hive than in a house. The practical difficulty of keeping total
strangers out of your bedroom he describes as Brotherhood; and the
necessity for climbing twenty-three flights of cold stone stairs, I dare
say he calls Effort. The net result of their philanthropic adventure is
this: that one has come to defending indefensible slums and still more
indefensible slum-landlords, while the other has come to treating as
divine the sheds and pipes which he only meant as desperate. Gudge
is now a corrupt and apoplectic old Tory in the Carlton Club; if
you mention poverty to him he roars at you in a thick, hoarse voice
something that is conjectured to be "Do 'em good!" Nor is Hudge more
happy; for he is a lean vegetarian with a gray, pointed beard and an
unnaturally easy smile, who goes about telling everybody that at last we
shall all sleep in one universal bedroom; and he lives in a Garden City,
like one forgotten of God.

Such is the lamentable history of Hudge and Gudge; which I merely
introduce as a type of an endless and exasperating misunderstanding
which is always occurring in modern England. To get men out of a rookery
men are put into a tenement; and at the beginning the healthy human
soul loathes them both. A man's first desire is to get away as far as
possible from the rookery, even should his mad course lead him to a
model dwelling. The second desire is, naturally, to get away from the
model dwelling, even if it should lead a man back to the rookery. But
I am neither a Hudgian nor a Gudgian; and I think the mistakes of these
two famous and fascinating persons arose from one simple fact. They
arose from the fact that neither Hudge nor Gudge had ever thought for
an instant what sort of house a man might probably like for himself.
In short, they did not begin with the ideal; and, therefore, were not
practical politicians.

We may now return to the purpose of our awkward parenthesis about the
praise of the future and the failures of the past. A house of his own
being the obvious ideal for every man, we may now ask (taking this need
as typical of all such needs) why he hasn't got it; and whether it is
in any philosophical sense his own fault. Now, I think that in
some philosophical sense it is his own fault, I think in a yet more
philosophical sense it is the fault of his philosophy. And this is what
I have now to attempt to explain.

Burke, a fine rhetorician, who rarely faced realities, said, I think,
that an Englishman's house is his castle. This is honestly entertaining;
for as it happens the Englishman is almost the only man in Europe whose
house is not his castle. Nearly everywhere else exists the assumption of
peasant proprietorship; that a poor man may be a landlord, though he is
only lord of his own land. Making the landlord and the tenant the same
person has certain trivial advantages, as that the tenant pays no rent,
while the landlord does a little work. But I am not concerned with the
defense of small proprietorship, but merely with the fact that it exists
almost everywhere except in England. It is also true, however, that this
estate of small possession is attacked everywhere today; it has never
existed among ourselves, and it may be destroyed among our neighbors. We
have, therefore, to ask ourselves what it is in human affairs generally,
and in this domestic ideal in particular, that has really ruined the
natural human creation, especially in this country.

Man has always lost his way. He has been a tramp ever since Eden; but he
always knew, or thought he knew, what he was looking for. Every man has
a house somewhere in the elaborate cosmos; his house waits for him waist
deep in slow Norfolk rivers or sunning itself upon Sussex downs. Man has
always been looking for that home which is the subject matter of this
book. But in the bleak and blinding hail of skepticism to which he
has been now so long subjected, he has begun for the first time to be
chilled, not merely in his hopes, but in his desires. For the first time
in history he begins really to doubt the object of his wanderings on the
earth. He has always lost his way; but now he has lost his address.

Under the pressure of certain upper-class philosophies (or in other
words, under the pressure of Hudge and Gudge) the average man has
really become bewildered about the goal of his efforts; and his efforts,
therefore, grow feebler and feebler. His simple notion of having a home
of his own is derided as bourgeois, as sentimental, or as despicably
Christian. Under various verbal forms he is recommended to go on to the
streets--which is called Individualism; or to the work-house--which
is called Collectivism. We shall consider this process somewhat more
carefully in a moment. But it may be said here that Hudge and Gudge, or
the governing class generally, will never fail for lack of some modern
phrase to cover their ancient predominance. The great lords will refuse
the English peasant his three acres and a cow on advanced grounds, if
they cannot refuse it longer on reactionary grounds. They will deny him
the three acres on grounds of State Ownership. They will forbid him the
cow on grounds of humanitarianism.

And this brings us to the ultimate analysis of this singular influence
that has prevented doctrinal demands by the English people. There are,
I believe, some who still deny that England is governed by an oligarchy.
It is quite enough for me to know that a man might have gone to sleep
some thirty years ago over the day's newspaper and woke up last week
over the later newspaper, and fancied he was reading about the same
people. In one paper he would have found a Lord Robert Cecil, a Mr.
Gladstone, a Mr. Lyttleton, a Churchill, a Chamberlain, a Trevelyan,
an Acland. In the other paper he would find a Lord Robert Cecil, a Mr.
Gladstone, a Mr. Lyttleton, a Churchill, a Chamberlain, a Trevelyan, an
Acland. If this is not being governed by families I cannot imagine
what it is. I suppose it is being governed by extraordinary democratic



But we are not here concerned with the nature and existence of the
aristocracy, but with the origin of its peculiar power, why is it the
last of the true oligarchies of Europe; and why does there seem no
very immediate prospect of our seeing the end of it? The explanation is
simple though it remains strangely unnoticed. The friends of aristocracy
often praise it for preserving ancient and gracious traditions.
The enemies of aristocracy often blame it for clinging to cruel
or antiquated customs. Both its enemies and its friends are wrong.
Generally speaking the aristocracy does not preserve either good or bad
traditions; it does not preserve anything except game. Who would dream
of looking among aristocrats anywhere for an old custom? One might
as well look for an old costume! The god of the aristocrats is not
tradition, but fashion, which is the opposite of tradition. If you
wanted to find an old-world Norwegian head-dress, would you look for it
in the Scandinavian Smart Set? No; the aristocrats never have customs;
at the best they have habits, like the animals. Only the mob has

The real power of the English aristocrats has lain in exactly the
opposite of tradition. The simple key to the power of our upper classes
is this: that they have always kept carefully on the side of what is
called Progress. They have always been up to date, and this comes quite
easy to an aristocracy. For the aristocracy are the supreme instances
of that frame of mind of which we spoke just now. Novelty is to them a
luxury verging on a necessity. They, above all, are so bored with the
past and with the present, that they gape, with a horrible hunger, for
the future.

But whatever else the great lords forgot they never forgot that it was
their business to stand for the new things, for whatever was being most
talked about among university dons or fussy financiers. Thus they were
on the side of the Reformation against the Church, of the Whigs against
the Stuarts, of the Baconian science against the old philosophy, of
the manufacturing system against the operatives, and (to-day) of the
increased power of the State against the old-fashioned individualists.
In short, the rich are always modern; it is their business. But the
immediate effect of this fact upon the question we are studying is
somewhat singular.

In each of the separate holes or quandaries in which the ordinary
Englishman has been placed, he has been told that his situation is, for
some particular reason, all for the best. He woke up one fine morning
and discovered that the public things, which for eight hundred years
he had used at once as inns and sanctuaries, had all been suddenly and
savagely abolished, to increase the private wealth of about six or seven
men. One would think he might have been annoyed at that; in many places
he was, and was put down by the soldiery. But it was not merely the
army that kept him quiet. He was kept quiet by the sages as well as the
soldiers; the six or seven men who took away the inns of the poor told
him that they were not doing it for themselves, but for the religion
of the future, the great dawn of Protestantism and truth. So whenever a
seventeenth century noble was caught pulling down a peasant's fence and
stealing his field, the noble pointed excitedly at the face of Charles I
or James II (which at that moment, perhaps, wore a cross expression) and
thus diverted the simple peasant's attention. The great Puritan lords
created the Commonwealth, and destroyed the common land. They saved
their poorer countrymen from the disgrace of paying Ship Money,
by taking from them the plow money and spade money which they were
doubtless too weak to guard. A fine old English rhyme has immortalized
this easy aristocratic habit--

You prosecute the man or woman Who steals the goose from off the common,
But leave the larger felon loose Who steals the common from the goose.

But here, as in the case of the monasteries, we confront the strange
problem of submission. If they stole the common from the goose, one can
only say that he was a great goose to stand it. The truth is that they
reasoned with the goose; they explained to him that all this was needed
to get the Stuart fox over seas. So in the nineteenth century the great
nobles who became mine-owners and railway directors earnestly assured
everybody that they did not do this from preference, but owing to a
newly discovered Economic Law. So the prosperous politicians of our own
generation introduce bills to prevent poor mothers from going about with
their own babies; or they calmly forbid their tenants to drink beer in
public inns. But this insolence is not (as you would suppose) howled at
by everybody as outrageous feudalism. It is gently rebuked as Socialism.
For an aristocracy is always progressive; it is a form of going the
pace. Their parties grow later and later at night; for they are trying
to live to-morrow.



Thus the Future of which we spoke at the beginning has (in England at
least) always been the ally of tyranny. The ordinary Englishman has been
duped out of his old possessions, such as they were, and always in the
name of progress. The destroyers of the abbeys took away his bread and
gave him a stone, assuring him that it was a precious stone, the white
pebble of the Lord's elect. They took away his maypole and his original
rural life and promised him instead the Golden Age of Peace and Commerce
inaugurated at the Crystal Palace. And now they are taking away the
little that remains of his dignity as a householder and the head of a
family, promising him instead Utopias which are called (appropriately
enough) "Anticipations" or "News from Nowhere." We come back, in fact,
to the main feature which has already been mentioned. The past is
communal: the future must be individualist. In the past are all the
evils of democracy, variety and violence and doubt, but the future is
pure despotism, for the future is pure caprice. Yesterday, I know I was
a human fool, but to-morrow I can easily be the Superman.

The modern Englishman, however, is like a man who should be perpetually
kept out, for one reason after another, from the house in which he had
meant his married life to begin. This man (Jones let us call him) has
always desired the divinely ordinary things; he has married for love, he
has chosen or built a small house that fits like a coat; he is ready
to be a great grandfather and a local god. And just as he is moving
in, something goes wrong. Some tyranny, personal or political, suddenly
debars him from the home; and he has to take his meals in the front
garden. A passing philosopher (who is also, by a mere coincidence, the
man who turned him out) pauses, and leaning elegantly on the railings,
explains to him that he is now living that bold life upon the bounty of
nature which will be the life of the sublime future. He finds life in
the front garden more bold than bountiful, and has to move into mean
lodgings in the next spring. The philosopher (who turned him out),
happening to call at these lodgings, with the probable intention of
raising the rent, stops to explain to him that he is now in the real
life of mercantile endeavor; the economic struggle between him and the
landlady is the only thing out of which, in the sublime future, the
wealth of nations can come. He is defeated in the economic struggle, and
goes to the workhouse. The philosopher who turned him out (happening at
that very moment to be inspecting the workhouse) assures him that he is
now at last in that golden republic which is the goal of mankind; he is
in an equal, scientific, Socialistic commonwealth, owned by the State
and ruled by public officers; in fact, the commonwealth of the sublime

Nevertheless, there are signs that the irrational Jones still dreams
at night of this old idea of having an ordinary home. He asked for so
little, and he has been offered so much. He has been offered bribes
of worlds and systems; he has been offered Eden and Utopia and the New
Jerusalem, and he only wanted a house; and that has been refused him.

Such an apologue is literally no exaggeration of the facts of English
history. The rich did literally turn the poor out of the old guest house
on to the road, briefly telling them that it was the road of
progress. They did literally force them into factories and the modern
wage-slavery, assuring them all the time that this was the only way to
wealth and civilization. Just as they had dragged the rustic from the
convent food and ale by saying that the streets of heaven were paved
with gold, so now they dragged him from the village food and ale by
telling him that the streets of London were paved with gold. As he
entered the gloomy porch of Puritanism, so he entered the gloomy porch
of Industrialism, being told that each of them was the gate of the
future. Hitherto he has only gone from prison to prison, nay, into
darkening prisons, for Calvinism opened one small window upon heaven.
And now he is asked, in the same educated and authoritative tones, to
enter another dark porch, at which he has to surrender, into unseen
hands, his children, his small possessions and all the habits of his

Whether this last opening be in truth any more inviting than the old
openings of Puritanism and Industrialism can be discussed later. But
there can be little doubt, I think, that if some form of Collectivism is
imposed upon England it will be imposed, as everything else has been, by
an instructed political class upon a people partly apathetic and
partly hypnotized. The aristocracy will be as ready to "administer"
Collectivism as they were to administer Puritanism or Manchesterism; in
some ways such a centralized political power is necessarily attractive
to them. It will not be so hard as some innocent Socialists seem to
suppose to induce the Honorable Tomnoddy to take over the milk supply as
well as the stamp supply--at an increased salary. Mr. Bernard Shaw
has remarked that rich men are better than poor men on parish councils
because they are free from "financial timidity." Now, the English ruling
class is quite free from financial timidity. The Duke of Sussex will be
quite ready to be Administrator of Sussex at the same screw. Sir William
Harcourt, that typical aristocrat, put it quite correctly. "We" (that
is, the aristocracy) "are all Socialists now."

But this is not the essential note on which I desire to end. My main
contention is that, whether necessary or not, both Industrialism and
Collectivism have been accepted as necessities--not as naked ideals or
desires. Nobody liked the Manchester School; it was endured as the only
way of producing wealth. Nobody likes the Marxian school; it is endured
as the only way of preventing poverty. Nobody's real heart is in the
idea of preventing a free man from owning his own farm, or an old woman
from cultivating her own garden, any more than anybody's real heart was
in the heartless battle of the machines. The purpose of this chapter
is sufficiently served in indicating that this proposal also is a pis
aller, a desperate second best--like teetotalism. I do not propose to
prove here that Socialism is a poison; it is enough if I maintain that
it is a medicine and not a wine.

The idea of private property universal but private, the idea of families
free but still families, of domesticity democratic but still domestic,
of one man one house--this remains the real vision and magnet of
mankind. The world may accept something more official and general, less
human and intimate. But the world will be like a broken-hearted woman
who makes a humdrum marriage because she may not make a happy one;
Socialism may be the world's deliverance, but it is not the world's



I have cast about widely to find a title for this section; and I confess
that the word "Imperialism" is a clumsy version of my meaning. But
no other word came nearer; "Militarism" would have been even more
misleading, and "The Superman" makes nonsense of any discussion that he
enters. Perhaps, upon the whole, the word "Caesarism" would have been
better; but I desire a popular word; and Imperialism (as the reader will
perceive) does cover for the most part the men and theories that I mean
to discuss.

This small confusion is increased, however, by the fact that I do also
disbelieve in Imperialism in its popular sense, as a mode or theory
of the patriotic sentiment of this country. But popular Imperialism in
England has very little to do with the sort of Caesarean Imperialism
I wish to sketch. I differ from the Colonial idealism of Rhodes' and
Kipling; but I do not think, as some of its opponents do, that it is
an insolent creation of English harshness and rapacity. Imperialism,
I think, is a fiction created, not by English hardness, but by English
softness; nay, in a sense, even by English kindness.

The reasons for believing in Australia are mostly as sentimental as the
most sentimental reasons for believing in heaven. New South Wales
is quite literally regarded as a place where the wicked cease from
troubling and the weary are at rest; that is, a paradise for uncles
who have turned dishonest and for nephews who are born tired. British
Columbia is in strict sense a fairyland, it is a world where a magic and
irrational luck is supposed to attend the youngest sons. This strange
optimism about the ends of the earth is an English weakness; but to show
that it is not a coldness or a harshness it is quite sufficient to
say that no one shared it more than that gigantic English
sentimentalist--the great Charles Dickens. The end of "David
Copperfield" is unreal not merely because it is an optimistic ending,
but because it is an Imperialistic ending. The decorous British
happiness planned out for David Copperfield and Agnes would be
embarrassed by the perpetual presence of the hopeless tragedy of Emily,
or the more hopeless farce of Micawber. Therefore, both Emily and
Micawber are shipped off to a vague colony where changes come over them
with no conceivable cause, except the climate. The tragic woman becomes
contented and the comic man becomes responsible, solely as the result of
a sea voyage and the first sight of a kangaroo.

To Imperialism in the light political sense, therefore, my only
objection is that it is an illusion of comfort; that an Empire whose
heart is failing should be specially proud of the extremities, is to me
no more sublime a fact than that an old dandy whose brain is gone should
still be proud of his legs. It consoles men for the evident ugliness and
apathy of England with legends of fair youth and heroic strenuousness in
distant continents and islands. A man can sit amid the squalor of Seven
Dials and feel that life is innocent and godlike in the bush or on the
veldt. Just so a man might sit in the squalor of Seven Dials and feel
that life was innocent and godlike in Brixton and Surbiton. Brixton and
Surbiton are "new"; they are expanding; they are "nearer to nature,"
in the sense that they have eaten up nature mile by mile. The only
objection is the objection of fact. The young men of Brixton are not
young giants. The lovers of Surbiton are not all pagan poets, singing
with the sweet energy of the spring. Nor are the people of the Colonies
when you meet them young giants or pagan poets. They are mostly Cockneys
who have lost their last music of real things by getting out of the
sound of Bow Bells. Mr. Rudyard Kipling, a man of real though decadent
genius, threw a theoretic glamour over them which is already fading. Mr.
Kipling is, in a precise and rather startling sense, the exception that
proves the rule. For he has imagination, of an oriental and cruel kind,
but he has it, not because he grew up in a new country, but precisely
because he grew up in the oldest country upon earth. He is rooted in a
past--an Asiatic past. He might never have written "Kabul River" if he
had been born in Melbourne.

I say frankly, therefore (lest there should be any air of evasion), that
Imperialism in its common patriotic pretensions appears to me both weak
and perilous. It is the attempt of a European country to create a kind
of sham Europe which it can dominate, instead of the real Europe, which
it can only share. It is a love of living with one's inferiors. The
notion of restoring the Roman Empire by oneself and for oneself is a
dream that has haunted every Christian nation in a different shape
and in almost every shape as a snare. The Spanish are a consistent and
conservative people; therefore they embodied that attempt at Empire
in long and lingering dynasties. The French are a violent people, and
therefore they twice conquered that Empire by violence of arms. The
English are above all a poetical and optimistic people; and therefore
their Empire is something vague and yet sympathetic, something distant
and yet dear. But this dream of theirs of being powerful in the
uttermost places, though a native weakness, is still a weakness in them;
much more of a weakness than gold was to Spain or glory to Napoleon. If
ever we were in collision with our real brothers and rivals we should
leave all this fancy out of account. We should no more dream of pitting
Australian armies against German than of pitting Tasmanian sculpture
against French. I have thus explained, lest anyone should accuse me of
concealing an unpopular attitude, why I do not believe in Imperialism as
commonly understood. I think it not merely an occasional wrong to other
peoples, but a continuous feebleness, a running sore, in my own. But it
is also true that I have dwelt on this Imperialism that is an amiable
delusion partly in order to show how different it is from the deeper,
more sinister and yet more persuasive thing that I have been forced to
call Imperialism for the convenience of this chapter. In order to get to
the root of this evil and quite un-English Imperialism we must cast
back and begin anew with a more general discussion of the first needs of
human intercourse.



It is admitted, one may hope, that common things are never commonplace.
Birth is covered with curtains precisely because it is a staggering
and monstrous prodigy. Death and first love, though they happen to
everybody, can stop one's heart with the very thought of them. But while
this is granted, something further may be claimed. It is not merely true
that these universal things are strange; it is moreover true that they
are subtle. In the last analysis most common things will be found to
be highly complicated. Some men of science do indeed get over the
difficulty by dealing only with the easy part of it: thus, they will
call first love the instinct of sex, and the awe of death the instinct
of self-preservation. But this is only getting over the difficulty of
describing peacock green by calling it blue. There is blue in it. That
there is a strong physical element in both romance and the Memento
Mori makes them if possible more baffling than if they had been wholly
intellectual. No man could say exactly how much his sexuality was
colored by a clean love of beauty, or by the mere boyish itch for
irrevocable adventures, like running away to sea. No man could say how
far his animal dread of the end was mixed up with mystical traditions
touching morals and religion. It is exactly because these things are
animal, but not quite animal, that the dance of all the difficulties
begins. The materialists analyze the easy part, deny the hard part and
go home to their tea.

It is complete error to suppose that because a thing is vulgar therefore
it is not refined; that is, subtle and hard to define. A drawing-room
song of my youth which began "In the gloaming, O, my darling," was
vulgar enough as a song; but the connection between human passion and
the twilight is none the less an exquisite and even inscrutable thing.
Or to take another obvious instance: the jokes about a mother-in-law
are scarcely delicate, but the problem of a mother-in-law is extremely
delicate. A mother-in-law is subtle because she is a thing like the
twilight. She is a mystical blend of two inconsistent things--law and a
mother. The caricatures misrepresent her; but they arise out of a real
human enigma. "Comic Cuts" deals with the difficulty wrongly, but it
would need George Meredith at his best to deal with the difficulty
rightly. The nearest statement of the problem perhaps is this: it is not
that a mother-in-law must be nasty, but that she must be very nice.

But it is best perhaps to take in illustration some daily custom we have
all heard despised as vulgar or trite. Take, for the sake of argument,
the custom of talking about the weather. Stevenson calls it "the very
nadir and scoff of good conversationalists." Now there are very deep
reasons for talking about the weather, reasons that are delicate as well
as deep; they lie in layer upon layer of stratified sagacity. First of
all it is a gesture of primeval worship. The sky must be invoked; and
to begin everything with the weather is a sort of pagan way of beginning
everything with prayer. Jones and Brown talk about the weather: but so
do Milton and Shelley. Then it is an expression of that elementary idea
in politeness--equality. For the very word politeness is only the Greek
for citizenship. The word politeness is akin to the word policeman: a
charming thought. Properly understood, the citizen should be more polite
than the gentleman; perhaps the policeman should be the most courtly and
elegant of the three. But all good manners must obviously begin with
the sharing of something in a simple style. Two men should share an
umbrella; if they have not got an umbrella, they should at least share
the rain, with all its rich potentialities of wit and philosophy.
"For He maketh His sun to shine...." This is the second element in the
weather; its recognition of human equality in that we all have our hats
under the dark blue spangled umbrella of the universe. Arising out of
this is the third wholesome strain in the custom; I mean that it begins
with the body and with our inevitable bodily brotherhood. All true
friendliness begins with fire and food and drink and the recognition of
rain or frost. Those who will not begin at the bodily end of things are
already prigs and may soon be Christian Scientists. Each human soul has
in a sense to enact for itself the gigantic humility of the Incarnation.
Every man must descend into the flesh to meet mankind.

Briefly, in the mere observation "a fine day" there is the whole great
human idea of comradeship. Now, pure comradeship is another of those
broad and yet bewildering things. We all enjoy it; yet when we come to
talk about it we almost always talk nonsense, chiefly because we suppose
it to be a simpler affair than it is. It is simple to conduct; but it is
by no means simple to analyze. Comradeship is at the most only one half
of human life; the other half is Love, a thing so different that one
might fancy it had been made for another universe. And I do not mean
mere sex love; any kind of concentrated passion, maternal love, or
even the fiercer kinds of friendship are in their nature alien to pure
comradeship. Both sides are essential to life; and both are known in
differing degrees to everybody of every age or sex. But very broadly
speaking it may still be said that women stand for the dignity of love
and men for the dignity of comradeship. I mean that the institution
would hardly be expected if the males of the tribe did not mount guard
over it. The affections in which women excel have so much more authority
and intensity that pure comradeship would be washed away if it were not
rallied and guarded in clubs, corps, colleges, banquets and regiments.
Most of us have heard the voice in which the hostess tells her husband
not to sit too long over the cigars. It is the dreadful voice of Love,
seeking to destroy Comradeship.

All true comradeship has in it those three elements which I have
remarked in the ordinary exclamation about the weather. First, it has
a sort of broad philosophy like the common sky, emphasizing that we are
all under the same cosmic conditions. We are all in the same boat, the
"winged rock" of Mr. Herbert Trench. Secondly, it recognizes this bond
as the essential one; for comradeship is simply humanity seen in that
one aspect in which men are really equal. The old writers were entirely
wise when they talked of the equality of men; but they were also very
wise in not mentioning women. Women are always authoritarian; they
are always above or below; that is why marriage is a sort of poetical
see-saw. There are only three things in the world that women do not
understand; and they are Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity. But men
(a class little understood in the modern world) find these things the
breath of their nostrils; and our most learned ladies will not even
begin to understand them until they make allowance for this kind of cool
camaraderie. Lastly, it contains the third quality of the weather, the
insistence upon the body and its indispensable satisfaction. No one
has even begun to understand comradeship who does not accept with it a
certain hearty eagerness in eating, drinking, or smoking, an uproarious
materialism which to many women appears only hoggish. You may call the
thing an orgy or a sacrament; it is certainly an essential. It is at
root a resistance to the superciliousness of the individual. Nay, its
very swaggering and howling are humble. In the heart of its rowdiness
there is a sort of mad modesty; a desire to melt the separate soul into
the mass of unpretentious masculinity. It is a clamorous confession of
the weakness of all flesh. No man must be superior to the things that
are common to men. This sort of equality must be bodily and gross and
comic. Not only are we all in the same boat, but we are all seasick.

The word comradeship just now promises to become as fatuous as the word
"affinity." There are clubs of a Socialist sort where all the members,
men and women, call each other "Comrade." I have no serious emotions,
hostile or otherwise, about this particular habit: at the worst it is
conventionality, and at the best flirtation. I am convinced here only
to point out a rational principle. If you choose to lump all flowers
together, lilies and dahlias and tulips and chrysanthemums and call
them all daisies, you will find that you have spoiled the very fine word
daisy. If you choose to call every human attachment comradeship, if
you include under that name the respect of a youth for a venerable
prophetess, the interest of a man in a beautiful woman who baffles him,
the pleasure of a philosophical old fogy in a girl who is impudent and
innocent, the end of the meanest quarrel or the beginning of the most
mountainous love; if you are going to call all these comradeship, you
will gain nothing, you will only lose a word. Daisies are obvious and
universal and open; but they are only one kind of flower. Comradeship is
obvious and universal and open; but it is only one kind of affection;
it has characteristics that would destroy any other kind. Anyone who
has known true comradeship in a club or in a regiment, knows that it is
impersonal. There is a pedantic phrase used in debating clubs which is
strictly true to the masculine emotion; they call it "speaking to the
question." Women speak to each other; men speak to the subject they are
speaking about. Many an honest man has sat in a ring of his five
best friends under heaven and forgotten who was in the room while he
explained some system. This is not peculiar to intellectual men; men are
all theoretical, whether they are talking about God or about golf. Men
are all impersonal; that is to say, republican. No one remembers after
a really good talk who has said the good things. Every man speaks to a
visionary multitude; a mystical cloud, that is called the club.

It is obvious that this cool and careless quality which is essential to
the collective affection of males involves disadvantages and dangers.
It leads to spitting; it leads to coarse speech; it must lead to these
things so long as it is honorable; comradeship must be in some degree
ugly. The moment beauty is mentioned in male friendship, the nostrils
are stopped with the smell of abominable things. Friendship must be
physically dirty if it is to be morally clean. It must be in its shirt
sleeves. The chaos of habits that always goes with males when left
entirely to themselves has only one honorable cure; and that is the
strict discipline of a monastery. Anyone who has seen our unhappy young
idealists in East End Settlements losing their collars in the wash and
living on tinned salmon will fully understand why it was decided by the
wisdom of St. Bernard or St. Benedict, that if men were to live without
women, they must not live without rules. Something of the same sort of
artificial exactitude, of course, is obtained in an army; and an army
also has to be in many ways monastic; only that it has celibacy without
chastity. But these things do not apply to normal married men. These
have a quite sufficient restraint on their instinctive anarchy in the
savage common-sense of the other sex. There is only one very timid sort
of man that is not afraid of women.



Now this masculine love of an open and level camaraderie is the life
within all democracies and attempts to govern by debate; without it the
republic would be a dead formula. Even as it is, of course, the spirit
of democracy frequently differs widely from the letter, and a pothouse
is often a better test than a Parliament. Democracy in its human sense
is not arbitrament by the majority; it is not even arbitrament by
everybody. It can be more nearly defined as arbitrament by anybody. I
mean that it rests on that club habit of taking a total stranger for
granted, of assuming certain things to be inevitably common to yourself
and him. Only the things that anybody may be presumed to hold have the
full authority of democracy. Look out of the window and notice the
first man who walks by. The Liberals may have swept England with an
over-whelming majority; but you would not stake a button that the man is
a Liberal. The Bible may be read in all schools and respected in all law
courts; but you would not bet a straw that he believes in the Bible. But
you would bet your week's wages, let us say, that he believes in wearing
clothes. You would bet that he believes that physical courage is a fine
thing, or that parents have authority over children. Of course, he might
be the millionth man who does not believe these things; if it comes
to that, he might be the Bearded Lady dressed up as a man. But these
prodigies are quite a different thing from any mere calculation
of numbers. People who hold these views are not a minority, but a
monstrosity. But of these universal dogmas that have full democratic
authority the only test is this test of anybody. What you would observe
before any newcomer in a tavern--that is the real English law. The first
man you see from the window, he is the King of England.

The decay of taverns, which is but a part of the general decay of
democracy, has undoubtedly weakened this masculine spirit of equality. I
remember that a roomful of Socialists literally laughed when I told them
that there were no two nobler words in all poetry than Public House.
They thought it was a joke. Why they should think it a joke, since they
want to make all houses public houses, I cannot imagine. But if anyone
wishes to see the real rowdy egalitarianism which is necessary (to
males, at least) he can find it as well as anywhere in the great
old tavern disputes which come down to us in such books as Boswell's
Johnson. It is worth while to mention that one name especially because
the modern world in its morbidity has done it a strange injustice.
The demeanor of Johnson, it is said, was "harsh and despotic." It was
occasionally harsh, but it was never despotic. Johnson was not in the
least a despot; Johnson was a demagogue, he shouted against a shouting
crowd. The very fact that he wrangled with other people is proof that
other people were allowed to wrangle with him. His very brutality was
based on the idea of an equal scrimmage, like that of football. It
is strictly true that he bawled and banged the table because he was
a modest man. He was honestly afraid of being overwhelmed or even
overlooked. Addison had exquisite manners and was the king of his
company; he was polite to everybody; but superior to everybody;
therefore he has been handed down forever in the immortal insult of

"Like Cato, give his little Senate laws And sit attentive to his own

Johnson, so far from being king of his company, was a sort of Irish
Member in his own Parliament. Addison was a courteous superior and was
hated. Johnson was an insolent equal and therefore was loved by all who
knew him, and handed down in a marvellous book, which is one of the mere
miracles of love.

This doctrine of equality is essential to conversation; so much may be
admitted by anyone who knows what conversation is. Once arguing at a
table in a tavern the most famous man on earth would wish to be
obscure, so that his brilliant remarks might blaze like the stars on the
background of his obscurity. To anything worth calling a man nothing can
be conceived more cold or cheerless than to be king of your company. But
it may be said that in masculine sports and games, other than the great
game of debate, there is definite emulation and eclipse. There is
indeed emulation, but this is only an ardent sort of equality. Games are
competitive, because that is the only way of making them exciting. But
if anyone doubts that men must forever return to the ideal of equality,
it is only necessary to answer that there is such a thing as a handicap.
If men exulted in mere superiority, they would seek to see how far such
superiority could go; they would be glad when one strong runner came
in miles ahead of all the rest. But what men like is not the triumph of
superiors, but the struggle of equals; and, therefore, they introduce
even into their competitive sports an artificial equality. It is sad
to think how few of those who arrange our sporting handicaps can be
supposed with any probability to realize that they are abstract and even
severe republicans.

No; the real objection to equality and self-rule has nothing to do with
any of these free and festive aspects of mankind; all men are democrats
when they are happy. The philosophic opponent of democracy would
substantially sum up his position by saying that it "will not work."
Before going further, I will register in passing a protest against the
assumption that working is the one test of humanity. Heaven does not
work; it plays. Men are most themselves when they are free; and if I
find that men are snobs in their work but democrats on their holidays,
I shall take the liberty to believe their holidays. But it is this
question of work which really perplexes the question of equality; and
it is with that that we must now deal. Perhaps the truth can be put
most pointedly thus: that democracy has one real enemy, and that is
civilization. Those utilitarian miracles which science has made are
anti-democratic, not so much in their perversion, or even in
their practical result, as in their primary shape and purpose. The
Frame-Breaking Rioters were right; not perhaps in thinking that machines
would make fewer men workmen; but certainly in thinking that machines
would make fewer men masters. More wheels do mean fewer handles;
fewer handles do mean fewer hands. The machinery of science must be
individualistic and isolated. A mob can shout round a palace; but a mob
cannot shout down a telephone. The specialist appears and democracy is
half spoiled at a stroke.



The common conception among the dregs of Darwinian culture is that
men have slowly worked their way out of inequality into a state
of comparative equality. The truth is, I fancy, almost exactly the
opposite. All men have normally and naturally begun with the idea of
equality; they have only abandoned it late and reluctantly, and always
for some material reason of detail. They have never naturally felt that
one class of men was superior to another; they have always been driven
to assume it through certain practical limitations of space and time.

For example, there is one element which must always tend to
oligarchy--or rather to despotism; I mean the element of hurry. If the
house has caught fire a man must ring up the fire engines; a committee
cannot ring them up. If a camp is surprised by night somebody must give
the order to fire; there is no time to vote it. It is solely a question
of the physical limitations of time and space; not at all of any mental
limitations in the mass of men commanded. If all the people in the house
were men of destiny it would still be better that they should not
all talk into the telephone at once; nay, it would be better that the
silliest man of all should speak uninterrupted. If an army actually
consisted of nothing but Hanibals and Napoleons, it would still be
better in the case of a surprise that they should not all give orders
together. Nay, it would be better if the stupidest of them all gave the
orders. Thus, we see that merely military subordination, so far from
resting on the inequality of men, actually rests on the equality of men.
Discipline does not involve the Carlylean notion that somebody is always
right when everybody is wrong, and that we must discover and crown that
somebody. On the contrary, discipline means that in certain frightfully
rapid circumstances, one can trust anybody so long as he is not
everybody. The military spirit does not mean (as Carlyle fancied)
obeying the strongest and wisest man. On the contrary, the military
spirit means, if anything, obeying the weakest and stupidest man,
obeying him merely because he is a man, and not a thousand men.
Submission to a weak man is discipline. Submission to a strong man is
only servility.

Now it can be easily shown that the thing we call aristocracy in Europe
is not in its origin and spirit an aristocracy at all. It is not a
system of spiritual degrees and distinctions like, for example, the
caste system of India, or even like the old Greek distinction
between free men and slaves. It is simply the remains of a military
organization, framed partly to sustain the sinking Roman Empire, partly
to break and avenge the awful onslaught of Islam. The word Duke simply
means Colonel, just as the word Emperor simply means Commander-in-Chief.
The whole story is told in the single title of Counts of the Holy Roman
Empire, which merely means officers in the European army against
the contemporary Yellow Peril. Now in an army nobody ever dreams of
supposing that difference of rank represents a difference of moral
reality. Nobody ever says about a regiment, "Your Major is very humorous
and energetic; your Colonel, of course, must be even more humorous
and yet more energetic." No one ever says, in reporting a mess-room
conversation, "Lieutenant Jones was very witty, but was naturally
inferior to Captain Smith." The essence of an army is the idea of
official inequality, founded on unofficial equality. The Colonel is not
obeyed because he is the best man, but because he is the Colonel. Such
was probably the spirit of the system of dukes and counts when it first
arose out of the military spirit and military necessities of Rome. With
the decline of those necessities it has gradually ceased to have
meaning as a military organization, and become honeycombed with unclean
plutocracy. Even now it is not a spiritual aristocracy--it is not so bad
as all that. It is simply an army without an enemy--billeted upon the

Man, therefore, has a specialist as well as comrade-like aspect; and the
case of militarism is not the only case of such specialist submission.
The tinker and tailor, as well as the soldier and sailor, require a
certain rigidity of rapidity of action: at least, if the tinker is not
organized that is largely why he does not tink on any large scale. The
tinker and tailor often represent the two nomadic races in Europe: the
Gipsy and the Jew; but the Jew alone has influence because he alone
accepts some sort of discipline. Man, we say, has two sides, the
specialist side where he must have subordination, and the social side
where he must have equality. There is a truth in the saying that ten
tailors go to make a man; but we must remember also that ten Poets
Laureate or ten Astronomers Royal go to make a man, too. Ten million
tradesmen go to make Man himself; but humanity consists of tradesmen
when they are not talking shop. Now the peculiar peril of our time,
which I call for argument's sake Imperialism or Caesarism, is the
complete eclipse of comradeship and equality by specialism and

There are only two kinds of social structure conceivable--personal
government and impersonal government. If my anarchic friends will not
have rules--they will have rulers. Preferring personal government, with
its tact and flexibility, is called Royalism. Preferring impersonal
government, with its dogmas and definitions, is called Republicanism.
Objecting broadmindedly both to kings and creeds is called Bosh; at
least, I know no more philosophic word for it. You can be guided by
the shrewdness or presence of mind of one ruler, or by the equality and
ascertained justice of one rule; but you must have one or the other,
or you are not a nation, but a nasty mess. Now men in their aspect of
equality and debate adore the idea of rules; they develop and complicate
them greatly to excess. A man finds far more regulations and definitions
in his club, where there are rules, than in his home, where there is
a ruler. A deliberate assembly, the House of Commons, for instance,
carries this mummery to the point of a methodical madness. The whole
system is stiff with rigid unreason; like the Royal Court in Lewis
Carroll. You would think the Speaker would speak; therefore he is mostly
silent. You would think a man would take off his hat to stop and put it
on to go away; therefore he takes off his hat to walk out and puts it on
to stop in. Names are forbidden, and a man must call his own father
"my right honorable friend the member for West Birmingham." These are,
perhaps, fantasies of decay: but fundamentally they answer a masculine
appetite. Men feel that rules, even if irrational, are universal; men
feel that law is equal, even when it is not equitable. There is a wild
fairness in the thing--as there is in tossing up.

Again, it is gravely unfortunate that when critics do attack such cases
as the Commons it is always on the points (perhaps the few points) where
the Commons are right. They denounce the House as the Talking-Shop,
and complain that it wastes time in wordy mazes. Now this is just one
respect in which the Commons are actually like the Common People. If
they love leisure and long debate, it is because all men love it; that
they really represent England. There the Parliament does approach to the
virile virtues of the pothouse.

The real truth is that adumbrated in the introductory section when we
spoke of the sense of home and property, as now we speak of the sense
of counsel and community. All men do naturally love the idea of leisure,
laughter, loud and equal argument; but there stands a specter in our
hall. We are conscious of the towering modern challenge that is called
specialism or cut-throat competition--Business. Business will
have nothing to do with leisure; business will have no truck with
comradeship; business will pretend to no patience with all the legal
fictions and fantastic handicaps by which comradeship protects its
egalitarian ideal. The modern millionaire, when engaged in the agreeable
and typical task of sacking his own father, will certainly not refer
to him as the right honorable clerk from the Laburnum Road, Brixton.
Therefore there has arisen in modern life a literary fashion devoting
itself to the romance of business, to great demigods of greed and to
fairyland of finance. This popular philosophy is utterly despotic and
anti-democratic; this fashion is the flower of that Caesarism against
which I am concerned to protest. The ideal millionaire is strong in the
possession of a brain of steel. The fact that the real millionaire is
rather more often strong in the possession of a head of wood, does not
alter the spirit and trend of the idolatry. The essential argument is
"Specialists must be despots; men must be specialists. You cannot have
equality in a soap factory; so you cannot have it anywhere. You cannot
have comradeship in a wheat corner; so you cannot have it at all. We
must have commercial civilization; therefore we must destroy democracy."
I know that plutocrats have seldom sufficient fancy to soar to such
examples as soap or wheat. They generally confine themselves, with fine
freshness of mind, to a comparison between the state and a ship. One
anti-democratic writer remarked that he would not like to sail in a
vessel in which the cabin-boy had an equal vote with the captain. It
might easily be urged in answer that many a ship (the Victoria, for
instance) was sunk because an admiral gave an order which a cabin-boy
could see was wrong. But this is a debating reply; the essential fallacy
is both deeper and simpler. The elementary fact is that we were all
born in a state; we were not all born on a ship; like some of our great
British bankers. A ship still remains a specialist experiment, like
a diving-bell or a flying ship: in such peculiar perils the need for
promptitude constitutes the need for autocracy. But we live and die in
the vessel of the state; and if we cannot find freedom camaraderie and
the popular element in the state, we cannot find it at all. And the
modern doctrine of commercial despotism means that we shall not find it
at all. Our specialist trades in their highly civilized state cannot (it
says) be run without the whole brutal business of bossing and sacking,
"too old at forty" and all the rest of the filth. And they must be run,
and therefore we call on Caesar. Nobody but the Superman could descend
to do such dirty work.

Now (to reiterate my title) this is what is wrong. This is the huge
modern heresy of altering the human soul to fit its conditions, instead
of altering human conditions to fit the human soul. If soap boiling
is really inconsistent with brotherhood, so much the worst for
soap-boiling, not for brotherhood. If civilization really cannot get on
with democracy, so much the worse for civilization, not for democracy.
Certainly, it would be far better to go back to village communes, if
they really are communes. Certainly, it would be better to do without
soap rather than to do without society. Certainly, we would sacrifice
all our wires, wheels, systems, specialties, physical science and
frenzied finance for one half-hour of happiness such as has often come
to us with comrades in a common tavern. I do not say the sacrifice will
be necessary; I only say it will be easy.



It will be better to adopt in this chapter the same process that
appeared a piece of mental justice in the last. My general opinions on
the feminine question are such as many suffragists would warmly approve;
and it would be easy to state them without any open reference to the
current controversy. But just as it seemed more decent to say first
that I was not in favor of Imperialism even in its practical and popular
sense, so it seems more decent to say the same of Female Suffrage, in
its practical and popular sense. In other words, it is only fair to
state, however hurriedly, the superficial objection to the Suffragettes
before we go on to the really subtle questions behind the Suffrage.

Well, to get this honest but unpleasant business over, the objection
to the Suffragettes is not that they are Militant Suffragettes. On the
contrary, it is that they are not militant enough. A revolution is a
military thing; it has all the military virtues; one of which is that
it comes to an end. Two parties fight with deadly weapons, but under
certain rules of arbitrary honor; the party that wins becomes the
government and proceeds to govern. The aim of civil war, like the aim of
all war, is peace. Now the Suffragettes cannot raise civil war in
this soldierly and decisive sense; first, because they are women; and,
secondly, because they are very few women. But they can raise something
else; which is altogether another pair of shoes. They do not create
revolution; what they do create is anarchy; and the difference between
these is not a question of violence, but a question of fruitfulness and
finality. Revolution of its nature produces government; anarchy only
produces more anarchy. Men may have what opinions they please about
the beheading of King Charles or King Louis, but they cannot deny that
Bradshaw and Cromwell ruled, that Carnot and Napoleon governed. Someone
conquered; something occurred. You can only knock off the King's
head once. But you can knock off the King's hat any number of times.
Destruction is finite, obstruction is infinite: so long as rebellion
takes the form of mere disorder (instead of an attempt to enforce a new
order) there is no logical end to it; it can feed on itself and renew
itself forever. If Napoleon had not wanted to be a Consul, but only
wanted to be a nuisance, he could, possibly, have prevented any
government arising successfully out of the Revolution. But such a
proceeding would not have deserved the dignified name of rebellion.

It is exactly this unmilitant quality in the Suffragettes that makes
their superficial problem. The problem is that their action has none of
the advantages of ultimate violence; it does not afford a test. War is
a dreadful thing; but it does prove two points sharply and
unanswerably--numbers, and an unnatural valor. One does discover the two
urgent matters; how many rebels there are alive, and how many are
ready to be dead. But a tiny minority, even an interested minority, may
maintain mere disorder forever. There is also, of course, in the case of
these women, the further falsity that is introduced by their sex. It is
false to state the matter as a mere brutal question of strength. If his
muscles give a man a vote, then his horse ought to have two votes and
his elephant five votes. The truth is more subtle than that; it is that
bodily outbreak is a man's instinctive weapon, like the hoofs to the
horse or the tusks to the elephant. All riot is a threat of war; but the
woman is brandishing a weapon she can never use. There are many weapons
that she could and does use. If (for example) all the women nagged for
a vote they would get it in a month. But there again, one must remember,
it would be necessary to get all the women to nag. And that brings us to
the end of the political surface of the matter. The working objection
to the Suffragette philosophy is simply that overmastering millions of
women do not agree with it. I am aware that some maintain that women
ought to have votes whether the majority wants them or not; but this is
surely a strange and childish case of setting up formal democracy to the
destruction of actual democracy. What should the mass of women decide
if they do not decide their general place in the State? These people
practically say that females may vote about everything except about
Female Suffrage.

But having again cleared my conscience of my merely political and
possibly unpopular opinion, I will again cast back and try to treat the
matter in a slower and more sympathetic style; attempt to trace the real
roots of woman's position in the western state, and the causes of our
existing traditions or perhaps prejudices upon the point. And for this
purpose it is again necessary to travel far from the modern topic, the
mere Suffragette of today, and to go back to subjects which, though much
more old, are, I think, considerably more fresh.



Cast your eye round the room in which you sit, and select some three or
four things that have been with man almost since his beginning; which at
least we hear of early in the centuries and often among the tribes. Let
me suppose that you see a knife on the table, a stick in the corner,
or a fire on the hearth. About each of these you will notice one
speciality; that not one of them is special. Each of these ancestral
things is a universal thing; made to supply many different needs; and
while tottering pedants nose about to find the cause and origin of some
old custom, the truth is that it had fifty causes or a hundred origins.
The knife is meant to cut wood, to cut cheese, to cut pencils, to cut
throats; for a myriad ingenious or innocent human objects. The stick
is meant partly to hold a man up, partly to knock a man down; partly to
point with like a finger-post, partly to balance with like a balancing
pole, partly to trifle with like a cigarette, partly to kill with like a
club of a giant; it is a crutch and a cudgel; an elongated finger and an
extra leg. The case is the same, of course, with the fire; about which
the strangest modern views have arisen. A queer fancy seems to be
current that a fire exists to warm people. It exists to warm people, to
light their darkness, to raise their spirits, to toast their muffins,
to air their rooms, to cook their chestnuts, to tell stories to their
children, to make checkered shadows on their walls, to boil their
hurried kettles, and to be the red heart of a man's house and that
hearth for which, as the great heathens said, a man should die.

Now it is the great mark of our modernity that people are always
proposing substitutes for these old things; and these substitutes always
answer one purpose where the old thing answered ten. The modern man
will wave a cigarette instead of a stick; he will cut his pencil with
a little screwing pencil-sharpener instead of a knife; and he will even
boldly offer to be warmed by hot water pipes instead of a fire. I have
my doubts about pencil-sharpeners even for sharpening pencils; and about
hot water pipes even for heat. But when we think of all those other
requirements that these institutions answered, there opens before us the
whole horrible harlequinade of our civilization. We see as in a vision a
world where a man tries to cut his throat with a pencil-sharpener; where
a man must learn single-stick with a cigarette; where a man must try to
toast muffins at electric lamps, and see red and golden castles in the
surface of hot water pipes.

The principle of which I speak can be seen everywhere in a comparison
between the ancient and universal things and the modern and specialist
things. The object of a theodolite is to lie level; the object of a
stick is to swing loose at any angle; to whirl like the very wheel of
liberty. The object of a lancet is to lance; when used for slashing,
gashing, ripping, lopping off heads and limbs, it is a disappointing
instrument. The object of an electric light is merely to light (a
despicable modesty); and the object of an asbestos stove... I wonder
what is the object of an asbestos stove? If a man found a coil of rope
in a desert he could at least think of all the things that can be done
with a coil of rope; and some of them might even be practical. He could
tow a boat or lasso a horse. He could play cat's-cradle, or pick oakum.
He could construct a rope-ladder for an eloping heiress, or cord her
boxes for a travelling maiden aunt. He could learn to tie a bow, or he
could hang himself. Far otherwise with the unfortunate traveller
who should find a telephone in the desert. You can telephone with a
telephone; you cannot do anything else with it. And though this is
one of the wildest joys of life, it falls by one degree from its full
delirium when there is nobody to answer you. The contention is, in
brief, that you must pull up a hundred roots, and not one, before you
uproot any of these hoary and simple expedients. It is only with great
difficulty that a modern scientific sociologist can be got to see that
any old method has a leg to stand on. But almost every old method has
four or five legs to stand on. Almost all the old institutions are
quadrupeds; and some of them are centipedes.

Consider these cases, old and new, and you will observe the operation of
a general tendency. Everywhere there was one big thing that served six
purposes; everywhere now there are six small things; or, rather (and
there is the trouble), there are just five and a half. Nevertheless, we
will not say that this separation and specialism is entirely useless or
inexcusable. I have often thanked God for the telephone; I may any
day thank God for the lancet; and there is none of these brilliant and
narrow inventions (except, of course, the asbestos stove) which might
not be at some moment necessary and lovely. But I do not think the most
austere upholder of specialism will deny that there is in these old,
many-sided institutions an element of unity and universality which
may well be preserved in its due proportion and place. Spiritually,
at least, it will be admitted that some all-round balance is needed to
equalize the extravagance of experts. It would not be difficult to carry
the parable of the knife and stick into higher regions. Religion, the
immortal maiden, has been a maid-of-all-work as well as a servant
of mankind. She provided men at once with the theoretic laws of an
unalterable cosmos and also with the practical rules of the rapid and
thrilling game of morality. She taught logic to the student and told
fairy tales to the children; it was her business to confront the
nameless gods whose fears are on all flesh, and also to see the streets
were spotted with silver and scarlet, that there was a day for wearing
ribbons or an hour for ringing bells. The large uses of religion have
been broken up into lesser specialities, just as the uses of the hearth
have been broken up into hot water pipes and electric bulbs. The romance
of ritual and colored emblem has been taken over by that narrowest of
all trades, modern art (the sort called art for art's sake), and men are
in modern practice informed that they may use all symbols so long as
they mean nothing by them. The romance of conscience has been dried
up into the science of ethics; which may well be called decency for
decency's sake, decency unborn of cosmic energies and barren of artistic
flower. The cry to the dim gods, cut off from ethics and cosmology,
has become mere Psychical Research. Everything has been sundered from
everything else, and everything has grown cold. Soon we shall hear of
specialists dividing the tune from the words of a song, on the ground
that they spoil each other; and I did once meet a man who openly
advocated the separation of almonds and raisins. This world is all one
wild divorce court; nevertheless, there are many who still hear in
their souls the thunder of authority of human habit; those whom Man hath
joined let no man sunder.

This book must avoid religion, but there must (I say) be many, religious
and irreligious, who will concede that this power of answering many
purposes was a sort of strength which should not wholly die out of our
lives. As a part of personal character, even the moderns will agree that
many-sidedness is a merit and a merit that may easily be overlooked.
This balance and universality has been the vision of many groups of
men in many ages. It was the Liberal Education of Aristotle; the
jack-of-all-trades artistry of Leonardo da Vinci and his friends; the
august amateurishness of the Cavalier Person of Quality like Sir William
Temple or the great Earl of Dorset. It has appeared in literature in our
time in the most erratic and opposite shapes, set to almost inaudible
music by Walter Pater and enunciated through a foghorn by Walt Whitman.
But the great mass of men have always been unable to achieve this
literal universality, because of the nature of their work in the world.
Not, let it be noted, because of the existence of their work. Leonardo
da Vinci must have worked pretty hard; on the other hand, many a
government office clerk, village constable or elusive plumber may do
(to all human appearance) no work at all, and yet show no signs of the
Aristotelian universalism. What makes it difficult for the average man
to be a universalist is that the average man has to be a specialist; he
has not only to learn one trade, but to learn it so well as to uphold
him in a more or less ruthless society. This is generally true of males
from the first hunter to the last electrical engineer; each has not
merely to act, but to excel. Nimrod has not only to be a mighty hunter
before the Lord, but also a mighty hunter before the other hunters.
The electrical engineer has to be a very electrical engineer, or he is
outstripped by engineers yet more electrical. Those very miracles of the
human mind on which the modern world prides itself, and rightly in the
main, would be impossible without a certain concentration which disturbs
the pure balance of reason more than does religious bigotry. No creed
can be so limiting as that awful adjuration that the cobbler must not go
beyond his last. So the largest and wildest shots of our world are but
in one direction and with a defined trajectory: the gunner cannot go
beyond his shot, and his shot so often falls short; the astronomer
cannot go beyond his telescope and his telescope goes such a little way.
All these are like men who have stood on the high peak of a mountain and
seen the horizon like a single ring and who then descend down different
paths towards different towns, traveling slow or fast. It is right;
there must be people traveling to different towns; there must be
specialists; but shall no one behold the horizon? Shall all mankind
be specialist surgeons or peculiar plumbers; shall all humanity be
monomaniac? Tradition has decided that only half of humanity shall be
monomaniac. It has decided that in every home there shall be a tradesman
and a Jack-of-all-trades. But it has also decided, among other things,
that the Jack-of-all-trades shall be a Jill-of-all-trades. It has
decided, rightly or wrongly, that this specialism and this universalism
shall be divided between the sexes. Cleverness shall be left for men and
wisdom for women. For cleverness kills wisdom; that is one of the few
sad and certain things.

But for women this ideal of comprehensive capacity (or common-sense)
must long ago have been washed away. It must have melted in the
frightful furnaces of ambition and eager technicality. A man must be
partly a one-idead man, because he is a one-weaponed man--and he is
flung naked into the fight. The world's demand comes to him direct; to
his wife indirectly. In short, he must (as the books on Success say)
give "his best"; and what a small part of a man "his best" is! His
second and third best are often much better. If he is the first violin
he must fiddle for life; he must not remember that he is a fine fourth
bagpipe, a fair fifteenth billiard-cue, a foil, a fountain pen, a hand
at whist, a gun, and an image of God.



And it should be remarked in passing that this force upon a man to
develop one feature has nothing to do with what is commonly called
our competitive system, but would equally exist under any rationally
conceivable kind of Collectivism. Unless the Socialists are frankly
ready for a fall in the standard of violins, telescopes and electric
lights, they must somehow create a moral demand on the individual that
he shall keep up his present concentration on these things. It was
only by men being in some degree specialist that there ever were any
telescopes; they must certainly be in some degree specialist in order to
keep them going. It is not by making a man a State wage-earner that you
can prevent him thinking principally about the very difficult way he
earns his wages. There is only one way to preserve in the world that
high levity and that more leisurely outlook which fulfils the old vision
of universalism. That is, to permit the existence of a partly protected
half of humanity; a half which the harassing industrial demand troubles
indeed, but only troubles indirectly. In other words, there must be in
every center of humanity one human being upon a larger plan; one who
does not "give her best," but gives her all.

Our old analogy of the fire remains the most workable one. The fire need
not blaze like electricity nor boil like boiling water; its point is
that it blazes more than water and warms more than light. The wife is
like the fire, or to put things in their proper proportion, the fire
is like the wife. Like the fire, the woman is expected to cook: not to
excel in cooking, but to cook; to cook better than her husband who is
earning the coke by lecturing on botany or breaking stones. Like the
fire, the woman is expected to tell tales to the children, not original
and artistic tales, but tales--better tales than would probably be
told by a first-class cook. Like the fire, the woman is expected to
illuminate and ventilate, not by the most startling revelations or the
wildest winds of thought, but better than a man can do it after breaking
stones or lecturing. But she cannot be expected to endure anything
like this universal duty if she is also to endure the direct cruelty
of competitive or bureaucratic toil. Woman must be a cook, but not
a competitive cook; a school mistress, but not a competitive
schoolmistress; a house-decorator but not a competitive house-decorator;
a dressmaker, but not a competitive dressmaker. She should have not
one trade but twenty hobbies; she, unlike the man, may develop all her
second bests. This is what has been really aimed at from the first in
what is called the seclusion, or even the oppression, of women. Women
were not kept at home in order to keep them narrow; on the contrary,
they were kept at home in order to keep them broad. The world outside
the home was one mass of narrowness, a maze of cramped paths, a madhouse
of monomaniacs. It was only by partly limiting and protecting the woman
that she was enabled to play at five or six professions and so come
almost as near to God as the child when he plays at a hundred trades.
But the woman's professions, unlike the child's, were all truly and
almost terribly fruitful; so tragically real that nothing but her
universality and balance prevented them being merely morbid. This is the
substance of the contention I offer about the historic female position.
I do not deny that women have been wronged and even tortured; but I
doubt if they were ever tortured so much as they are tortured now by the
absurd modern attempt to make them domestic empresses and competitive
clerks at the same time. I do not deny that even under the old tradition
women had a harder time than men; that is why we take off our hats. I do
not deny that all these various female functions were exasperating; but
I say that there was some aim and meaning in keeping them various. I do
not pause even to deny that woman was a servant; but at least she was a
general servant.

The shortest way of summarizing the position is to say that woman stands
for the idea of Sanity; that intellectual home to which the mind must
return after every excursion on extravagance. The mind that finds its
way to wild places is the poet's; but the mind that never finds its way
back is the lunatic's. There must in every machine be a part that moves
and a part that stands still; there must be in everything that changes
a part that is unchangeable. And many of the phenomena which moderns
hastily condemn are really parts of this position of the woman as the
center and pillar of health. Much of what is called her subservience,
and even her pliability, is merely the subservience and pliability of
a universal remedy; she varies as medicines vary, with the disease. She
has to be an optimist to the morbid husband, a salutary pessimist to the
happy-go-lucky husband. She has to prevent the Quixote from being put
upon, and the bully from putting upon others. The French King wrote--

     "Toujours femme varie Bien fol qui s'y fie,"

but the truth is that woman always varies, and that is exactly why we
always trust her. To correct every adventure and extravagance with its
antidote in common-sense is not (as the moderns seem to think) to be
in the position of a spy or a slave. It is to be in the position
of Aristotle or (at the lowest) Herbert Spencer, to be a universal
morality, a complete system of thought. The slave flatters; the complete
moralist rebukes. It is, in short, to be a Trimmer in the true sense of
that honorable term; which for some reason or other is always used in a
sense exactly opposite to its own. It seems really to be supposed that
a Trimmer means a cowardly person who always goes over to the stronger
side. It really means a highly chivalrous person who always goes over
to the weaker side; like one who trims a boat by sitting where there are
few people seated. Woman is a trimmer; and it is a generous, dangerous
and romantic trade.

The final fact which fixes this is a sufficiently plain one. Supposing
it to be conceded that humanity has acted at least not unnaturally in
dividing itself into two halves, respectively typifying the ideals of
special talent and of general sanity (since they are genuinely difficult
to combine completely in one mind), it is not difficult to see why the
line of cleavage has followed the line of sex, or why the female became
the emblem of the universal and the male of the special and superior.
Two gigantic facts of nature fixed it thus: first, that the woman who
frequently fulfilled her functions literally could not be specially
prominent in experiment and adventure; and second, that the same natural
operation surrounded her with very young children, who require to be
taught not so much anything as everything. Babies need not to be taught
a trade, but to be introduced to a world. To put the matter shortly,
woman is generally shut up in a house with a human being at the time
when he asks all the questions that there are, and some that there
aren't. It would be odd if she retained any of the narrowness of a
specialist. Now if anyone says that this duty of general enlightenment
(even when freed from modern rules and hours, and exercised more
spontaneously by a more protected person) is in itself too exacting and
oppressive, I can understand the view. I can only answer that our race
has thought it worth while to cast this burden on women in order to
keep common-sense in the world. But when people begin to talk about this
domestic duty as not merely difficult but trivial and dreary, I simply
give up the question. For I cannot with the utmost energy of imagination
conceive what they mean. When domesticity, for instance, is called
drudgery, all the difficulty arises from a double meaning in the word.
If drudgery only means dreadfully hard work, I admit the woman drudges
in the home, as a man might drudge at the Cathedral of Amiens or drudge
behind a gun at Trafalgar. But if it means that the hard work is more
heavy because it is trifling, colorless and of small import to the soul,
then as I say, I give it up; I do not know what the words mean. To be
Queen Elizabeth within a definite area, deciding sales, banquets, labors
and holidays; to be Whiteley within a certain area, providing toys,
boots, sheets, cakes and books, to be Aristotle within a certain area,
teaching morals, manners, theology, and hygiene; I can understand how
this might exhaust the mind, but I cannot imagine how it could narrow
it. How can it be a large career to tell other people's children about
the Rule of Three, and a small career to tell one's own children about
the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and
narrow to be everything to someone? No; a woman's function is laborious,
but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs.
Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its

But though the essential of the woman's task is universality, this does
not, of course, prevent her from having one or two severe though largely
wholesome prejudices. She has, on the whole, been more conscious than
man that she is only one half of humanity; but she has expressed it (if
one may say so of a lady) by getting her teeth into the two or three
things which she thinks she stands for. I would observe here in
parenthesis that much of the recent official trouble about women has
arisen from the fact that they transfer to things of doubt and reason
that sacred stubbornness only proper to the primary things which a woman
was set to guard. One's own children, one's own altar, ought to be a
matter of principle--or if you like, a matter of prejudice. On the
other hand, who wrote Junius's Letters ought not to be a principle or
a prejudice, it ought to be a matter of free and almost indifferent
inquiry. But take an energetic modern girl secretary to a league to show
that George III wrote Junius, and in three months she will believe it,
too, out of mere loyalty to her employers. Modern women defend their
office with all the fierceness of domesticity. They fight for desk
and typewriter as for hearth and home, and develop a sort of wolfish
wifehood on behalf of the invisible head of the firm. That is why they
do office work so well; and that is why they ought not to do it.



The larger part of womankind, however, have had to fight for things
slightly more intoxicating to the eye than the desk or the typewriter;
and it cannot be denied that in defending these, women have developed
the quality called prejudice to a powerful and even menacing degree. But
these prejudices will always be found to fortify the main position of
the woman, that she is to remain a general overseer, an autocrat within
small compass but on all sides. On the one or two points on which she
really misunderstands the man's position, it is almost entirely in order
to preserve her own. The two points on which woman, actually and of
herself, is most tenacious may be roughly summarized as the ideal of
thrift and the ideal of dignity.

Unfortunately for this book it is written by a male, and these two
qualities, if not hateful to a man, are at least hateful in a man. But
if we are to settle the sex question at all fairly, all males must make
an imaginative attempt to enter into the attitude of all good women
toward these two things. The difficulty exists especially, perhaps, in
the thing called thrift; we men have so much encouraged each other in
throwing money right and left, that there has come at last to be a sort
of chivalrous and poetical air about losing sixpence. But on a broader
and more candid consideration the case scarcely stands so.

Thrift is the really romantic thing; economy is more romantic than
extravagance. Heaven knows I for one speak disinterestedly in the
matter; for I cannot clearly remember saving a half-penny ever since I
was born. But the thing is true; economy, properly understood, is the
more poetic. Thrift is poetic because it is creative; waste is unpoetic
because it is waste. It is prosaic to throw money away, because it is
prosaic to throw anything away; it is negative; it is a confession of
indifference, that is, it is a confession of failure. The most prosaic
thing about the house is the dustbin, and the one great objection to the
new fastidious and aesthetic homestead is simply that in such a moral
menage the dustbin must be bigger than the house. If a man could
undertake to make use of all things in his dustbin he would be a broader
genius than Shakespeare. When science began to use by-products; when
science found that colors could be made out of coaltar, she made her
greatest and perhaps her only claim on the real respect of the human
soul. Now the aim of the good woman is to use the by-products, or, in
other words, to rummage in the dustbin.

A man can only fully comprehend it if he thinks of some sudden joke or
expedient got up with such materials as may be found in a private house
on a rainy day. A man's definite daily work is generally run with such
rigid convenience of modern science that thrift, the picking up of
potential helps here and there, has almost become unmeaning to him. He
comes across it most (as I say) when he is playing some game within four
walls; when in charades, a hearthrug will just do for a fur coat, or a
tea-cozy just do for a cocked hat; when a toy theater needs timber
and cardboard, and the house has just enough firewood and just enough
bandboxes. This is the man's occasional glimpse and pleasing parody of
thrift. But many a good housekeeper plays the same game every day with
ends of cheese and scraps of silk, not because she is mean, but on the
contrary, because she is magnanimous; because she wishes her creative
mercy to be over all her works, that not one sardine should be
destroyed, or cast as rubbish to the void, when she has made the pile

The modern world must somehow be made to understand (in theology and
other things) that a view may be vast, broad, universal, liberal and yet
come into conflict with another view that is vast, broad, universal and
liberal also. There is never a war between two sects, but only between
two universal Catholic Churches. The only possible collision is the
collision of one cosmos with another. So in a smaller way it must be
first made clear that this female economic ideal is a part of that
female variety of outlook and all-round art of life which we have
already attributed to the sex: thrift is not a small or timid or
provincial thing; it is part of that great idea of the woman watching
on all sides out of all the windows of the soul and being answerable for
everything. For in the average human house there is one hole by which
money comes in and a hundred by which it goes out; man has to do with
the one hole, woman with the hundred. But though the very stinginess
of a woman is a part of her spiritual breadth, it is none the less true
that it brings her into conflict with the special kind of spiritual
breadth that belongs to the males of the tribe. It brings her into
conflict with that shapeless cataract of Comradeship, of chaotic
feasting and deafening debate, which we noted in the last section. The
very touch of the eternal in the two sexual tastes brings them the more
into antagonism; for one stands for a universal vigilance and the other
for an almost infinite output. Partly through the nature of his moral
weakness, and partly through the nature of his physical strength, the
male is normally prone to expand things into a sort of eternity; he
always thinks of a dinner party as lasting all night; and he always
thinks of a night as lasting forever. When the working women in the poor
districts come to the doors of the public houses and try to get their
husbands home, simple minded "social workers" always imagine that every
husband is a tragic drunkard and every wife a broken-hearted saint. It
never occurs to them that the poor woman is only doing under coarser
conventions exactly what every fashionable hostess does when she tries
to get the men from arguing over the cigars to come and gossip over the
teacups. These women are not exasperated merely at the amount of money
that is wasted in beer; they are exasperated also at the amount of time
that is wasted in talk. It is not merely what goeth into the mouth but
what cometh out the mouth that, in their opinion, defileth a man. They
will raise against an argument (like their sisters of all ranks) the
ridiculous objection that nobody is convinced by it; as if a man wanted
to make a body-slave of anybody with whom he had played single-stick.
But the real female prejudice on this point is not without a basis; the
real feeling is this, that the most masculine pleasures have a quality
of the ephemeral. A duchess may ruin a duke for a diamond necklace; but
there is the necklace. A coster may ruin his wife for a pot of beer; and
where is the beer? The duchess quarrels with another duchess in order to
crush her, to produce a result; the coster does not argue with another
coster in order to convince him, but in order to enjoy at once the sound
of his own voice, the clearness of his own opinions and the sense of
masculine society. There is this element of a fine fruitlessness about
the male enjoyments; wine is poured into a bottomless bucket; thought
plunges into a bottomless abyss. All this has set woman against the
Public House--that is, against the Parliament House. She is there to
prevent waste; and the "pub" and the parliament are the very palaces of
waste. In the upper classes the "pub" is called the club, but that makes
no more difference to the reason than it does to the rhyme. High and
low, the woman's objection to the Public House is perfectly definite and
rational, it is that the Public House wastes the energies that could be
used on the private house.

As it is about feminine thrift against masculine waste, so it is about
feminine dignity against masculine rowdiness. The woman has a fixed
and very well-founded idea that if she does not insist on good manners
nobody else will. Babies are not always strong on the point of dignity,
and grown-up men are quite unpresentable. It is true that there are
many very polite men, but none that I ever heard of who were not either
fascinating women or obeying them. But indeed the female ideal of
dignity, like the female ideal of thrift, lies deeper and may easily
be misunderstood. It rests ultimately on a strong idea of spiritual
isolation; the same that makes women religious. They do not like being
melted down; they dislike and avoid the mob. That anonymous quality we
have remarked in the club conversation would be common impertinence in
a case of ladies. I remember an artistic and eager lady asking me in her
grand green drawing-room whether I believed in comradeship between
the sexes, and why not. I was driven back on offering the obvious and
sincere answer "Because if I were to treat you for two minutes like a
comrade you would turn me out of the house." The only certain rule on
this subject is always to deal with woman and never with women. "Women"
is a profligate word; I have used it repeatedly in this chapter; but
it always has a blackguard sound. It smells of oriental cynicism and
hedonism. Every woman is a captive queen. But every crowd of women is
only a harem broken loose.

I am not expressing my own views here, but those of nearly all the women
I have known. It is quite unfair to say that a woman hates other women
individually; but I think it would be quite true to say that she detests
them in a confused heap. And this is not because she despises her own
sex, but because she respects it; and respects especially that sanctity
and separation of each item which is represented in manners by the idea
of dignity and in morals by the idea of chastity.



We hear much of the human error which accepts what is sham and what is
real. But it is worth while to remember that with unfamiliar things
we often mistake what is real for what is sham. It is true that a very
young man may think the wig of an actress is her hair. But it is equally
true that a child yet younger may call the hair of a negro his wig.
Just because the woolly savage is remote and barbaric he seems to be
unnaturally neat and tidy. Everyone must have noticed the same thing in
the fixed and almost offensive color of all unfamiliar things, tropic
birds and tropic blossoms. Tropic birds look like staring toys out of
a toy-shop. Tropic flowers simply look like artificial flowers,
like things cut out of wax. This is a deep matter, and, I think, not
unconnected with divinity; but anyhow it is the truth that when we
see things for the first time we feel instantly that they are fictive
creations; we feel the finger of God. It is only when we are thoroughly
used to them and our five wits are wearied, that we see them as wild and
objectless; like the shapeless tree-tops or the shifting cloud. It is
the design in Nature that strikes us first; the sense of the crosses and
confusions in that design only comes afterwards through experience and
an almost eerie monotony. If a man saw the stars abruptly by accident he
would think them as festive and as artificial as a firework. We talk of
the folly of painting the lily; but if we saw the lily without warning
we should think that it was painted. We talk of the devil not being
so black as he is painted; but that very phrase is a testimony to the
kinship between what is called vivid and what is called artificial. If
the modern sage had only one glimpse of grass and sky, he would say that
grass was not as green as it was painted; that sky was not as blue as it
was painted. If one could see the whole universe suddenly, it would look
like a bright-colored toy, just as the South American hornbill looks
like a bright-colored toy. And so they are--both of them, I mean.

But it was not with this aspect of the startling air of artifice about
all strange objects that I meant to deal. I mean merely, as a guide to
history, that we should not be surprised if things wrought in fashions
remote from ours seem artificial; we should convince ourselves that nine
times out of ten these things are nakedly and almost indecently honest.
You will hear men talk of the frosted classicism of Corneille or of the
powdered pomposities of the eighteenth century, but all these phrases
are very superficial. There never was an artificial epoch. There never
was an age of reason. Men were always men and women women: and their two
generous appetites always were the expression of passion and the
telling of truth. We can see something stiff and quaint in their mode of
expression, just as our descendants will see something stiff and quaint
in our coarsest slum sketch or our most naked pathological play. But
men have never talked about anything but important things; and the next
force in femininity which we have to consider can be considered best
perhaps in some dusty old volume of verses by a person of quality.

The eighteenth century is spoken of as the period of artificiality, in
externals at least; but, indeed, there may be two words about that. In
modern speech one uses artificiality as meaning indefinitely a sort of
deceit; and the eighteenth century was far too artificial to deceive.
It cultivated that completest art that does not conceal the art. Its
fashions and costumes positively revealed nature by allowing artifice;
as in that obvious instance of a barbering that frosted every head with
the same silver. It would be fantastic to call this a quaint humility
that concealed youth; but, at least, it was not one with the evil pride
that conceals old age. Under the eighteenth century fashion people did
not so much all pretend to be young, as all agree to be old. The same
applies to the most odd and unnatural of their fashions; they were
freakish, but they were not false. A lady may or may not be as red as
she is painted, but plainly she was not so black as she was patched.

But I only introduce the reader into this atmosphere of the older and
franker fictions that he may be induced to have patience for a moment
with a certain element which is very common in the decoration and
literature of that age and of the two centuries preceding it. It is
necessary to mention it in such a connection because it is exactly one
of those things that look as superficial as powder, and are really as
rooted as hair.

In all the old flowery and pastoral love-songs, those of the seventeenth
and eighteenth centuries especially, you will find a perpetual reproach
against woman in the matter of her coldness; ceaseless and stale similes
that compare her eyes to northern stars, her heart to ice, or her bosom
to snow. Now most of us have always supposed these old and iterant
phrases to be a mere pattern of dead words, a thing like a cold
wall-paper. Yet I think those old cavalier poets who wrote about the
coldness of Chloe had hold of a psychological truth missed in nearly all
the realistic novels of today. Our psychological romancers perpetually
represent wives as striking terror into their husbands by rolling on the
floor, gnashing their teeth, throwing about the furniture or poisoning
the coffee; all this upon some strange fixed theory that women are what
they call emotional. But in truth the old and frigid form is much nearer
to the vital fact. Most men if they spoke with any sincerity would
agree that the most terrible quality in women, whether in friendship,
courtship or marriage, was not so much being emotional as being

There is an awful armor of ice which may be the legitimate protection of
a more delicate organism; but whatever be the psychological explanation
there can surely be no question of the fact. The instinctive cry of the
female in anger is noli me tangere. I take this as the most obvious and
at the same time the least hackneyed instance of a fundamental quality
in the female tradition, which has tended in our time to be almost
immeasurably misunderstood, both by the cant of moralists and the cant
of immoralists. The proper name for the thing is modesty; but as we live
in an age of prejudice and must not call things by their right names, we
will yield to a more modern nomenclature and call it dignity. Whatever
else it is, it is the thing which a thousand poets and a million lovers
have called the coldness of Chloe. It is akin to the classical, and is
at least the opposite of the grotesque. And since we are talking here
chiefly in types and symbols, perhaps as good an embodiment as any of
the idea may be found in the mere fact of a woman wearing a skirt. It is
highly typical of the rabid plagiarism which now passes everywhere for
emancipation, that a little while ago it was common for an "advanced"
woman to claim the right to wear trousers; a right about as grotesque as
the right to wear a false nose. Whether female liberty is much advanced
by the act of wearing a skirt on each leg I do not know; perhaps Turkish
women might offer some information on the point. But if the western
woman walks about (as it were) trailing the curtains of the harem
with her, it is quite certain that the woven mansion is meant for
a perambulating palace, not for a perambulating prison. It is quite
certain that the skirt means female dignity, not female submission; it
can be proved by the simplest of all tests. No ruler would deliberately
dress up in the recognized fetters of a slave; no judge would appear
covered with broad arrows. But when men wish to be safely impressive, as
judges, priests or kings, they do wear skirts, the long, trailing robes
of female dignity The whole world is under petticoat government; for
even men wear petticoats when they wish to govern.



We say then that the female holds up with two strong arms these two
pillars of civilization; we say also that she could do neither, but for
her position; her curious position of private omnipotence, universality
on a small scale. The first element is thrift; not the destructive
thrift of the miser, but the creative thrift of the peasant; the second
element is dignity, which is but the expression of sacred personality
and privacy. Now I know the question that will be abruptly and
automatically asked by all that know the dull tricks and turns of the
modern sexual quarrel. The advanced person will at once begin to argue
about whether these instincts are inherent and inevitable in woman
or whether they are merely prejudices produced by her history and
education. Now I do not propose to discuss whether woman could now be
educated out of her habits touching thrift and dignity; and that for two
excellent reasons. First it is a question which cannot conceivably ever
find any answer: that is why modern people are so fond of it. From the
nature of the case it is obviously impossible to decide whether any of
the peculiarities of civilized man have been strictly necessary to his
civilization. It is not self-evident (for instance), that even the habit
of standing upright was the only path of human progress. There might
have been a quadrupedal civilization, in which a city gentleman put on
four boots to go to the city every morning. Or there might have been
a reptilian civilization, in which he rolled up to the office on his
stomach; it is impossible to say that intelligence might not have
developed in such creatures. All we can say is that man as he is
walks upright; and that woman is something almost more upright than

And the second point is this: that upon the whole we rather prefer women
(nay, even men) to walk upright; so we do not waste much of our noble
lives in inventing any other way for them to walk. In short, my second
reason for not speculating upon whether woman might get rid of these
peculiarities, is that I do not want her to get rid of them; nor does
she. I will not exhaust my intelligence by inventing ways in which
mankind might unlearn the violin or forget how to ride horses; and the
art of domesticity seems to me as special and as valuable as all the
ancient arts of our race. Nor do I propose to enter at all into those
formless and floundering speculations about how woman was or is regarded
in the primitive times that we cannot remember, or in the savage
countries which we cannot understand. Even if these people segregated
their women for low or barbaric reasons it would not make our reasons
barbaric; and I am haunted with a tenacious suspicion that these
people's feelings were really, under other forms, very much the same as
ours. Some impatient trader, some superficial missionary, walks across
an island and sees the squaw digging in the fields while the man is
playing a flute; and immediately says that the man is a mere lord of
creation and the woman a mere serf. He does not remember that he might
see the same thing in half the back gardens in Brixton, merely because
women are at once more conscientious and more impatient, while men are
at once more quiescent and more greedy for pleasure. It may often be
in Hawaii simply as it is in Hoxton. That is, the woman does not work
because the man tells her to work and she obeys. On the contrary, the
woman works because she has told the man to work and he hasn't obeyed. I
do not affirm that this is the whole truth, but I do affirm that we have
too little comprehension of the souls of savages to know how far it
is untrue. It is the same with the relations of our hasty and surface
science, with the problem of sexual dignity and modesty. Professors find
all over the world fragmentary ceremonies in which the bride affects
some sort of reluctance, hides from her husband, or runs away from
him. The professor then pompously proclaims that this is a survival of
Marriage by Capture. I wonder he never says that the veil thrown over
the bride is really a net. I gravely doubt whether women ever were
married by capture I think they pretended to be; as they do still.

It is equally obvious that these two necessary sanctities of thrift
and dignity are bound to come into collision with the wordiness,
the wastefulness, and the perpetual pleasure-seeking of masculine
companionship. Wise women allow for the thing; foolish women try to
crush it; but all women try to counteract it, and they do well. In many
a home all round us at this moment, we know that the nursery rhyme is
reversed. The queen is in the counting-house, counting out the money.
The king is in the parlor, eating bread and honey. But it must be
strictly understood that the king has captured the honey in some heroic
wars. The quarrel can be found in moldering Gothic carvings and in
crabbed Greek manuscripts. In every age, in every land, in every tribe
and village, has been waged the great sexual war between the Private
House and the Public House. I have seen a collection of mediaeval
English poems, divided into sections such as "Religious Carols,"
"Drinking Songs," and so on; and the section headed, "Poems of Domestic
Life" consisted entirely (literally, entirely) of the complaints
of husbands who were bullied by their wives. Though the English was
archaic, the words were in many cases precisely the same as those which
I have heard in the streets and public houses of Battersea, protests on
behalf of an extension of time and talk, protests against the nervous
impatience and the devouring utilitarianism of the female. Such, I say,
is the quarrel; it can never be anything but a quarrel; but the aim of
all morals and all society is to keep it a lovers' quarrel.



But in this corner called England, at this end of the century, there has
happened a strange and startling thing. Openly and to all appearance,
this ancestral conflict has silently and abruptly ended; one of the two
sexes has suddenly surrendered to the other. By the beginning of the
twentieth century, within the last few years, the woman has in public
surrendered to the man. She has seriously and officially owned that the
man has been right all along; that the public house (or Parliament) is
really more important than the private house; that politics are not
(as woman had always maintained) an excuse for pots of beer, but are
a sacred solemnity to which new female worshipers may kneel; that the
talkative patriots in the tavern are not only admirable but enviable;
that talk is not a waste of time, and therefore (as a consequence,
surely) that taverns are not a waste of money. All we men had grown used
to our wives and mothers, and grandmothers, and great aunts all
pouring a chorus of contempt upon our hobbies of sport, drink and party
politics. And now comes Miss Pankhurst with tears in her eyes, owning
that all the women were wrong and all the men were right; humbly
imploring to be admitted into so much as an outer court, from which she
may catch a glimpse of those masculine merits which her erring sisters
had so thoughtlessly scorned.

Now this development naturally perturbs and even paralyzes us. Males,
like females, in the course of that old fight between the public and
private house, had indulged in overstatement and extravagance, feeling
that they must keep up their end of the see-saw. We told our wives that
Parliament had sat late on most essential business; but it never crossed
our minds that our wives would believe it. We said that everyone must
have a vote in the country; similarly our wives said that no one must
have a pipe in the drawing room. In both cases the idea was the same.
"It does not matter much, but if you let those things slide there
is chaos." We said that Lord Huggins or Mr. Buggins was absolutely
necessary to the country. We knew quite well that nothing is necessary
to the country except that the men should be men and the women women.
We knew this; we thought the women knew it even more clearly; and we
thought the women would say it. Suddenly, without warning, the women
have begun to say all the nonsense that we ourselves hardly believed
when we said it. The solemnity of politics; the necessity of votes;
the necessity of Huggins; the necessity of Buggins; all these flow in a
pellucid stream from the lips of all the suffragette speakers. I suppose
in every fight, however old, one has a vague aspiration to conquer; but
we never wanted to conquer women so completely as this. We only expected
that they might leave us a little more margin for our nonsense; we never
expected that they would accept it seriously as sense. Therefore I am
all at sea about the existing situation; I scarcely know whether to be
relieved or enraged by this substitution of the feeble platform lecture
for the forcible curtain-lecture. I am lost without the trenchant and
candid Mrs. Caudle. I really do not know what to do with the prostrate
and penitent Miss Pankhurst. This surrender of the modern woman has taken
us all so much by surprise that it is desirable to pause a moment, and
collect our wits about what she is really saying.

As I have already remarked, there is one very simple answer to all this;
these are not the modern women, but about one in two thousand of the
modern women. This fact is important to a democrat; but it is of very
little importance to the typically modern mind. Both the characteristic
modern parties believed in a government by the few; the only difference
is whether it is the Conservative few or Progressive few. It might
be put, somewhat coarsely perhaps, by saying that one believes in any
minority that is rich and the other in any minority that is mad. But in
this state of things the democratic argument obviously falls out for the
moment; and we are bound to take the prominent minority, merely
because it is prominent. Let us eliminate altogether from our minds the
thousands of women who detest this cause, and the millions of women who
have hardly heard of it. Let us concede that the English people itself
is not and will not be for a very long time within the sphere of
practical politics. Let us confine ourselves to saying that these
particular women want a vote and to asking themselves what a vote is. If
we ask these ladies ourselves what a vote is, we shall get a very
vague reply. It is the only question, as a rule, for which they are not
prepared. For the truth is that they go mainly by precedent; by the mere
fact that men have votes already. So far from being a mutinous movement,
it is really a very Conservative one; it is in the narrowest rut of
the British Constitution. Let us take a little wider and freer sweep of
thought and ask ourselves what is the ultimate point and meaning of this
odd business called voting.



Seemingly from the dawn of man all nations have had governments; and
all nations have been ashamed of them. Nothing is more openly fallacious
than to fancy that in ruder or simpler ages ruling, judging and
punishing appeared perfectly innocent and dignified. These things were
always regarded as the penalties of the Fall; as part of the humiliation
of mankind, as bad in themselves. That the king can do no wrong was
never anything but a legal fiction; and it is a legal fiction still. The
doctrine of Divine Right was not a piece of idealism, but rather a piece
of realism, a practical way of ruling amid the ruin of humanity; a very
pragmatist piece of faith. The religious basis of government was not so
much that people put their trust in princes, as that they did not
put their trust in any child of man. It was so with all the ugly
institutions which disfigure human history. Torture and slavery were
never talked of as good things; they were always talked of as necessary
evils. A pagan spoke of one man owning ten slaves just as a modern
business man speaks of one merchant sacking ten clerks: "It's very
horrible; but how else can society be conducted?" A mediaeval scholastic
regarded the possibility of a man being burned to death just as a modern
business man regards the possibility of a man being starved to death:
"It is a shocking torture; but can you organize a painless world?" It
is possible that a future society may find a way of doing without the
question by hunger as we have done without the question by fire. It
is equally possible, for the matter of that, that a future society may
reestablish legal torture with the whole apparatus of rack and fagot.
The most modern of countries, America, has introduced with a vague savor
of science, a method which it calls "the third degree." This is simply
the extortion of secrets by nervous fatigue; which is surely uncommonly
close to their extortion by bodily pain. And this is legal and
scientific in America. Amateur ordinary America, of course, simply burns
people alive in broad daylight, as they did in the Reformation Wars. But
though some punishments are more inhuman than others there is no such
thing as humane punishment. As long as nineteen men claim the right in
any sense or shape to take hold of the twentieth man and make him even
mildly uncomfortable, so long the whole proceeding must be a humiliating
one for all concerned. And the proof of how poignantly men have always
felt this lies in the fact that the headsman and the hangman, the
jailors and the torturers, were always regarded not merely with fear but
with contempt; while all kinds of careless smiters, bankrupt knights
and swashbucklers and outlaws, were regarded with indulgence or even
admiration. To kill a man lawlessly was pardoned. To kill a man lawfully
was unpardonable. The most bare-faced duelist might almost brandish his
weapon. But the executioner was always masked.

This is the first essential element in government, coercion; a necessary
but not a noble element. I may remark in passing that when people say
that government rests on force they give an admirable instance of the
foggy and muddled cynicism of modernity. Government does not rest on
force. Government is force; it rests on consent or a conception of
justice. A king or a community holding a certain thing to be abnormal,
evil, uses the general strength to crush it out; the strength is his
tool, but the belief is his only sanction. You might as well say that
glass is the real reason for telescopes. But arising from whatever
reason the act of government is coercive and is burdened with all the
coarse and painful qualities of coercion. And if anyone asks what is the
use of insisting on the ugliness of this task of state violence since
all mankind is condemned to employ it, I have a simple answer to that.
It would be useless to insist on it if all humanity were condemned to
it. But it is not irrelevant to insist on its ugliness so long as half
of humanity is kept out of it.

All government then is coercive; we happen to have created a government
which is not only coercive; but collective. There are only two kinds
of government, as I have already said, the despotic and the democratic.
Aristocracy is not a government, it is a riot; that most effective
kind of riot, a riot of the rich. The most intelligent apologists of
aristocracy, sophists like Burke and Nietzsche, have never claimed
for aristocracy any virtues but the virtues of a riot, the accidental
virtues, courage, variety and adventure. There is no case anywhere of
aristocracy having established a universal and applicable order, as
despots and democracies have often done; as the last Caesars created
the Roman law, as the last Jacobins created the Code Napoleon. With
the first of these elementary forms of government, that of the king or
chieftain, we are not in this matter of the sexes immediately concerned.
We shall return to it later when we remark how differently mankind
has dealt with female claims in the despotic as against the democratic
field. But for the moment the essential point is that in self-governing
countries this coercion of criminals is a collective coercion. The
abnormal person is theoretically thumped by a million fists and kicked
by a million feet. If a man is flogged we all flogged him; if a man
is hanged, we all hanged him. That is the only possible meaning of
democracy, which can give any meaning to the first two syllables
and also to the last two. In this sense each citizen has the high
responsibility of a rioter. Every statute is a declaration of war, to
be backed by arms. Every tribunal is a revolutionary tribunal. In a
republic all punishment is as sacred and solemn as lynching.



When, therefore, it is said that the tradition against Female Suffrage
keeps women out of activity, social influence and citizenship, let us
a little more soberly and strictly ask ourselves what it actually does
keep her out of. It does definitely keep her out of the collective act
of coercion; the act of punishment by a mob. The human tradition does
say that, if twenty men hang a man from a tree or lamp-post, they
shall be twenty men and not women. Now I do not think any reasonable
Suffragist will deny that exclusion from this function, to say the least
of it, might be maintained to be a protection as well as a veto. No
candid person will wholly dismiss the proposition that the idea of
having a Lord Chancellor but not a Lady Chancellor may at least be
connected with the idea of having a headsman but not a headswoman, a
hangman but not a hangwoman. Nor will it be adequate to answer (as is
so often answered to this contention) that in modern civilization women
would not really be required to capture, to sentence, or to slay; that
all this is done indirectly, that specialists kill our criminals as they
kill our cattle. To urge this is not to urge the reality of the vote,
but to urge its unreality. Democracy was meant to be a more direct way
of ruling, not a more indirect way; and if we do not feel that we are
all jailers, so much the worse for us, and for the prisoners. If it is
really an unwomanly thing to lock up a robber or a tyrant, it ought to
be no softening of the situation that the woman does not feel as if she
were doing the thing that she certainly is doing. It is bad enough that
men can only associate on paper who could once associate in the street;
it is bad enough that men have made a vote very much of a fiction. It
is much worse that a great class should claim the vote be cause it is
a fiction, who would be sickened by it if it were a fact. If votes for
women do not mean mobs for women they do not mean what they were meant
to mean. A woman can make a cross on a paper as well as a man; a child
could do it as well as a woman; and a chimpanzee after a few lessons
could do it as well as a child. But nobody ought to regard it merely
as making a cross on paper; everyone ought to regard it as what it
ultimately is, branding the fleur-de-lis, marking the broad arrow,
signing the death warrant. Both men and women ought to face more fully
the things they do or cause to be done; face them or leave off doing

On that disastrous day when public executions were abolished, private
executions were renewed and ratified, perhaps forever. Things grossly
unsuited to the moral sentiment of a society cannot be safely done in
broad daylight; but I see no reason why we should not still be roasting
heretics alive, in a private room. It is very likely (to speak in the
manner foolishly called Irish) that if there were public executions
there would be no executions. The old open-air punishments, the pillory
and the gibbet, at least fixed responsibility upon the law; and in
actual practice they gave the mob an opportunity of throwing roses as
well as rotten eggs; of crying "Hosannah" as well as "Crucify." But I
do not like the public executioner being turned into the private
executioner. I think it is a crooked oriental, sinister sort of
business, and smells of the harem and the divan rather than of the forum
and the market place. In modern times the official has lost all the
social honor and dignity of the common hangman. He is only the bearer of
the bowstring.

Here, however, I suggest a plea for a brutal publicity only in order
to emphasize the fact that it is this brutal publicity and nothing else
from which women have been excluded. I also say it to emphasize the
fact that the mere modern veiling of the brutality does not make
the situation different, unless we openly say that we are giving the
suffrage, not only because it is power but because it is not, or in
other words, that women are not so much to vote as to play voting. No
suffragist, I suppose, will take up that position; and a few suffragists
will wholly deny that this human necessity of pains and penalties is
an ugly, humiliating business, and that good motives as well as bad may
have helped to keep women out of it. More than once I have remarked in
these pages that female limitations may be the limits of a temple as
well as of a prison, the disabilities of a priest and not of a pariah. I
noted it, I think, in the case of the pontifical feminine dress. In the
same way it is not evidently irrational, if men decided that a woman,
like a priest, must not be a shedder of blood.



But there is a further fact; forgotten also because we moderns forget
that there is a female point of view. The woman's wisdom stands partly,
not only for a wholesome hesitation about punishment, but even for a
wholesome hesitation about absolute rules. There was something feminine
and perversely true in that phrase of Wilde's, that people should not
be treated as the rule, but all of them as exceptions. Made by a man the
remark was a little effeminate; for Wilde did lack the masculine power
of dogma and of democratic cooperation. But if a woman had said it
it would have been simply true; a woman does treat each person as a
peculiar person. In other words, she stands for Anarchy; a very ancient
and arguable philosophy; not anarchy in the sense of having no customs
in one's life (which is inconceivable), but anarchy in the sense of
having no rules for one's mind. To her, almost certainly, are due all
those working traditions that cannot be found in books, especially those
of education; it was she who first gave a child a stuffed stocking
for being good or stood him in the corner for being naughty. This
unclassified knowledge is sometimes called rule of thumb and sometimes
motherwit. The last phrase suggests the whole truth, for none ever
called it fatherwit.

Now anarchy is only tact when it works badly. Tact is only anarchy
when it works well. And we ought to realize that in one half of
the world--the private house--it does work well. We modern men are
perpetually forgetting that the case for clear rules and crude penalties
is not self-evident, that there is a great deal to be said for the
benevolent lawlessness of the autocrat, especially on a small scale;
in short, that government is only one side of life. The other half is
called Society, in which women are admittedly dominant. And they have
always been ready to maintain that their kingdom is better governed than
ours, because (in the logical and legal sense) it is not governed at
all. "Whenever you have a real difficulty," they say, "when a boy is
bumptious or an aunt is stingy, when a silly girl will marry somebody,
or a wicked man won't marry somebody, all your lumbering Roman Law and
British Constitution come to a standstill. A snub from a duchess or a
slanging from a fish-wife are much more likely to put things straight."
So, at least, rang the ancient female challenge down the ages until the
recent female capitulation. So streamed the red standard of the higher
anarchy until Miss Pankhurst hoisted the white flag.

It must be remembered that the modern world has done deep treason to the
eternal intellect by believing in the swing of the pendulum. A man
must be dead before he swings. It has substituted an idea of fatalistic
alternation for the mediaeval freedom of the soul seeking truth.
All modern thinkers are reactionaries; for their thought is always a
reaction from what went before. When you meet a modern man he is always
coming from a place, not going to it. Thus, mankind has in nearly all
places and periods seen that there is a soul and a body as plainly
as that there is a sun and moon. But because a narrow Protestant sect
called Materialists declared for a short time that there was no
soul, another narrow Protestant sect called Christian Science is
now maintaining that there is no body. Now just in the same way
the unreasonable neglect of government by the Manchester School has
produced, not a reasonable regard for government, but an unreasonable
neglect of everything else. So that to hear people talk to-day one would
fancy that every important human function must be organized and avenged
by law; that all education must be state education, and all employment
state employment; that everybody and everything must be brought to the
foot of the august and prehistoric gibbet. But a somewhat more liberal
and sympathetic examination of mankind will convince us that the cross
is even older than the gibbet, that voluntary suffering was before and
independent of compulsory; and in short that in most important matters
a man has always been free to ruin himself if he chose. The huge
fundamental function upon which all anthropology turns, that of sex
and childbirth, has never been inside the political state, but always
outside of it. The state concerned itself with the trivial question of
killing people, but wisely left alone the whole business of getting them
born. A Eugenist might indeed plausibly say that the government is
an absent-minded and inconsistent person who occupies himself with
providing for the old age of people who have never been infants. I will
not deal here in any detail with the fact that some Eugenists have
in our time made the maniacal answer that the police ought to control
marriage and birth as they control labor and death. Except for this
inhuman handful (with whom I regret to say I shall have to deal with
later) all the Eugenists I know divide themselves into two sections:
ingenious people who once meant this, and rather bewildered people who
swear they never meant it--nor anything else. But if it be conceded
(by a breezier estimate of men) that they do mostly desire marriage to
remain free from government, it does not follow that they desire it to
remain free from everything. If man does not control the marriage market
by law, is it controlled at all? Surely the answer is broadly that man
does not control the marriage market by law, but the woman does control
it by sympathy and prejudice. There was until lately a law forbidding
a man to marry his deceased wife's sister; yet the thing happened
constantly. There was no law forbidding a man to marry his deceased
wife's scullery-maid; yet it did not happen nearly so often. It did not
happen because the marriage market is managed in the spirit and by the
authority of women; and women are generally conservative where classes
are concerned. It is the same with that system of exclusiveness by
which ladies have so often contrived (as by a process of elimination)
to prevent marriages that they did not want and even sometimes procure
those they did. There is no need of the broad arrow and the fleur-de
lis, the turnkey's chains or the hangman's halter. You need not strangle
a man if you can silence him. The branded shoulder is less effective and
final than the cold shoulder; and you need not trouble to lock a man in
when you can lock him out.

The same, of course, is true of the colossal architecture which we call
infant education: an architecture reared wholly by women. Nothing can
ever overcome that one enormous sex superiority, that even the male
child is born closer to his mother than to his father. No one, staring
at that frightful female privilege, can quite believe in the equality of
the sexes. Here and there we read of a girl brought up like a tom-boy;
but every boy is brought up like a tame girl. The flesh and spirit of
femininity surround him from the first like the four walls of a house;
and even the vaguest or most brutal man has been womanized by being
born. Man that is born of a woman has short days and full of misery; but
nobody can picture the obscenity and bestial tragedy that would belong
to such a monster as man that was born of a man.



But, indeed, with this educational matter I must of necessity embroil
myself later. The fourth section of discussion is supposed to be about
the child, but I think it will be mostly about the mother. In this
place I have systematically insisted on the large part of life that is
governed, not by man with his vote, but by woman with her voice, or more
often, with her horrible silence. Only one thing remains to be added.
In a sprawling and explanatory style has been traced out the idea
that government is ultimately coercion, that coercion must mean cold
definitions as well as cruel consequences, and that therefore there
is something to be said for the old human habit of keeping one-half of
humanity out of so harsh and dirty a business. But the case is stronger

Voting is not only coercion, but collective coercion. I think Queen
Victoria would have been yet more popular and satisfying if she had
never signed a death warrant. I think Queen Elizabeth would have stood
out as more solid and splendid in history if she had not earned (among
those who happen to know her history) the nickname of Bloody Bess. I
think, in short, that the great historic woman is more herself when she
is persuasive rather than coercive. But I feel all mankind behind
me when I say that if a woman has this power it should be despotic
power--not democratic power. There is a much stronger historic argument
for giving Miss Pankhurst a throne than for giving her a vote. She might
have a crown, or at least a coronet, like so many of her supporters;
for these old powers are purely personal and therefore female. Miss
Pankhurst as a despot might be as virtuous as Queen Victoria, and she
certainly would find it difficult to be as wicked as Queen Bess, but the
point is that, good or bad, she would be irresponsible--she would not be
governed by a rule and by a ruler. There are only two ways of governing:
by a rule and by a ruler. And it is seriously true to say of a woman, in
education and domesticity, that the freedom of the autocrat appears
to be necessary to her. She is never responsible until she is
irresponsible. In case this sounds like an idle contradiction, I
confidently appeal to the cold facts of history. Almost every despotic
or oligarchic state has admitted women to its privileges. Scarcely one
democratic state has ever admitted them to its rights The reason is very
simple: that something female is endangered much more by the violence
of the crowd. In short, one Pankhurst is an exception, but a thousand
Pankhursts are a nightmare, a Bacchic orgie, a Witches Sabbath. For in
all legends men have thought of women as sublime separately but horrible
in a herd.



Now I have only taken the test case of Female Suffrage because it is
topical and concrete; it is not of great moment for me as a political
proposal. I can quite imagine anyone substantially agreeing with my
view of woman as universalist and autocrat in a limited area; and still
thinking that she would be none the worse for a ballot paper. The real
question is whether this old ideal of woman as the great amateur is
admitted or not. There are many modern things which threaten it much
more than suffragism; notably the increase of self-supporting women,
even in the most severe or the most squalid employments. If there be
something against nature in the idea of a horde of wild women governing,
there is something truly intolerable in the idea of a herd of tame women
being governed. And there are elements in human psychology that make
this situation particularly poignant or ignominous. The ugly exactitudes
of business, the bells and clocks the fixed hours and rigid departments,
were all meant for the male: who, as a rule, can only do one thing and
can only with the greatest difficulty be induced to do that. If clerks
do not try to shirk their work, our whole great commercial system breaks
down. It is breaking down, under the inroad of women who are adopting
the unprecedented and impossible course of taking the system seriously
and doing it well. Their very efficiency is the definition of their
slavery. It is generally a very bad sign when one is trusted very much
by one's employers. And if the evasive clerks have a look of being
blackguards, the earnest ladies are often something very like blacklegs.
But the more immediate point is that the modern working woman bears a
double burden, for she endures both the grinding officialism of the
new office and the distracting scrupulosity of the old home. Few men
understand what conscientiousness is. They understand duty, which
generally means one duty; but conscientiousness is the duty of the
universalist. It is limited by no work days or holidays; it is a
lawless, limitless, devouring decorum. If women are to be subjected to
the dull rule of commerce, we must find some way of emancipating them
from the wild rule of conscience. But I rather fancy you will find it
easier to leave the conscience and knock off the commerce. As it is, the
modern clerk or secretary exhausts herself to put one thing straight in
the ledger and then goes home to put everything straight in the house.

This condition (described by some as emancipated) is at least the
reverse of my ideal. I would give woman, not more rights, but more
privileges. Instead of sending her to seek such freedom as notoriously
prevails in banks and factories, I would design specially a house in
which she can be free. And with that we come to the last point of all;
the point at which we can perceive the needs of women, like the rights
of men, stopped and falsified by something which it is the object of
this book to expose.

The Feminist (which means, I think, one who dislikes the chief feminine
characteristics) has heard my loose monologue, bursting all the time
with one pent-up protest. At this point he will break out and say, "But
what are we to do? There is modern commerce and its clerks; there is
the modern family with its unmarried daughters; specialism is expected
everywhere; female thrift and conscientiousness are demanded and
supplied. What does it matter whether we should in the abstract prefer
the old human and housekeeping woman; we might prefer the Garden of
Eden. But since women have trades they ought to have trades unions.
Since women work in factories, they ought to vote on factory-acts. If
they are unmarried they must be commercial; if they are commercial they
must be political. We must have new rules for a new world--even if it
be not a better one." I said to a Feminist once: "The question is not
whether women are good enough for votes: it is whether votes are good
enough for women." He only answered: "Ah, you go and say that to the
women chain-makers on Cradley Heath."

Now this is the attitude which I attack. It is the huge heresy of
Precedent. It is the view that because we have got into a mess we must
grow messier to suit it; that because we have taken a wrong turn some
time ago we must go forward and not backwards; that because we have lost
our way we must lose our map also; and because we have missed our ideal,
we must forget it. "There are numbers of excellent people who do not
think votes unfeminine; and there may be enthusiasts for our beautiful
modern industry who do not think factories unfeminine." But if these
things are unfeminine it is no answer to say that they fit into each
other. I am not satisfied with the statement that my daughter must have
unwomanly powers because she has unwomanly wrongs. Industrial soot and
political printer's ink are two blacks which do not make a white. Most
of the Feminists would probably agree with me that womanhood is under
shameful tyranny in the shops and mills. But I want to destroy the
tyranny. They want to destroy womanhood. That is the only difference.

Whether we can recover the clear vision of woman as a tower with
many windows, the fixed eternal feminine from which her sons, the
specialists, go forth; whether we can preserve the tradition of a
central thing which is even more human than democracy and even
more practical than politics; whether, in word, it is possible to
re-establish the family, freed from the filthy cynicism and cruelty of
the commercial epoch, I shall discuss in the last section of this book.
But meanwhile do not talk to me about the poor chain-makers on Cradley
Heath. I know all about them and what they are doing. They are engaged
in a very wide-spread and flourishing industry of the present age. They
are making chains.



When I wrote a little volume on my friend Mr. Bernard Shaw, it is
needless to say that he reviewed it. I naturally felt tempted to answer
and to criticise the book from the same disinterested and impartial
standpoint from which Mr. Shaw had criticised the subject of it. I was
not withheld by any feeling that the joke was getting a little
obvious; for an obvious joke is only a successful joke; it is only the
unsuccessful clowns who comfort themselves with being subtle. The real
reason why I did not answer Mr. Shaw's amusing attack was this: that one
simple phrase in it surrendered to me all that I have ever wanted, or
could want from him to all eternity. I told Mr. Shaw (in substance) that
he was a charming and clever fellow, but a common Calvinist. He admitted
that this was true, and there (so far as I am concerned) is an end of
the matter. He said that, of course, Calvin was quite right in holding
that "if once a man is born it is too late to damn or save him." That is
the fundamental and subterranean secret; that is the last lie in hell.

The difference between Puritanism and Catholicism is not about whether
some priestly word or gesture is significant and sacred. It is about
whether any word or gesture is significant and sacred. To the Catholic
every other daily act is dramatic dedication to the service of good
or of evil. To the Calvinist no act can have that sort of solemnity,
because the person doing it has been dedicated from eternity, and is
merely filling up his time until the crack of doom. The difference
is something subtler than plum-puddings or private theatricals; the
difference is that to a Christian of my kind this short earthly life
is intensely thrilling and precious; to a Calvinist like Mr. Shaw it is
confessedly automatic and uninteresting. To me these threescore years
and ten are the battle. To the Fabian Calvinist (by his own confession)
they are only a long procession of the victors in laurels and the
vanquished in chains. To me earthly life is the drama; to him it is
the epilogue. Shavians think about the embryo; Spiritualists about the
ghost; Christians about the man. It is as well to have these things

Now all our sociology and eugenics and the rest of it are not so much
materialist as confusedly Calvinist, they are chiefly occupied in
educating the child before he exists. The whole movement is full of a
singular depression about what one can do with the populace, combined
with a strange disembodied gayety about what may be done with posterity.
These essential Calvinists have, indeed, abolished some of the more
liberal and universal parts of Calvinism, such as the belief in an
intellectual design or an everlasting happiness. But though Mr. Shaw and
his friends admit it is a superstition that a man is judged after death,
they stick to their central doctrine, that he is judged before he is

In consequence of this atmosphere of Calvinism in the cultured world of
to-day, it is apparently necessary to begin all arguments on education
with some mention of obstetrics and the unknown world of the prenatal.
All I shall have to say, however, on heredity will be very brief,
because I shall confine myself to what is known about it, and that is
very nearly nothing. It is by no means self-evident, but it is a current
modern dogma, that nothing actually enters the body at birth except a
life derived and compounded from the parents. There is at least quite as
much to be said for the Christian theory that an element comes from
God, or the Buddhist theory that such an element comes from previous
existences. But this is not a religious work, and I must submit to those
very narrow intellectual limits which the absence of theology always
imposes. Leaving the soul on one side, let us suppose for the sake of
argument that the human character in the first case comes wholly from
parents; and then let us curtly state our knowledge rather than our



Popular science, like that of Mr. Blatchford, is in this matter as mild
as old wives' tales. Mr. Blatchford, with colossal simplicity, explained
to millions of clerks and workingmen that the mother is like a bottle of
blue beads and the father is like a bottle of yellow beads; and so the
child is like a bottle of mixed blue beads and yellow. He might just as
well have said that if the father has two legs and the mother has two
legs, the child will have four legs. Obviously it is not a question
of simple addition or simple division of a number of hard detached
"qualities," like beads. It is an organic crisis and transformation of
the most mysterious sort; so that even if the result is unavoidable, it
will still be unexpected. It is not like blue beads mixed with yellow
beads; it is like blue mixed with yellow; the result of which is green,
a totally novel and unique experience, a new emotion. A man might live
in a complete cosmos of blue and yellow, like the "Edinburgh Review"; a
man might never have seen anything but a golden cornfield and a sapphire
sky; and still he might never have had so wild a fancy as green. If
you paid a sovereign for a bluebell; if you spilled the mustard on the
blue-books; if you married a canary to a blue baboon; there is nothing
in any of these wild weddings that contains even a hint of green. Green
is not a mental combination, like addition; it is a physical result
like birth. So, apart from the fact that nobody ever really understands
parents or children either, yet even if we could understand the parents,
we could not make any conjecture about the children. Each time the force
works in a different way; each time the constituent colors combine into
a different spectacle. A girl may actually inherit her ugliness from
her mother's good looks. A boy may actually get his weakness from his
father's strength. Even if we admit it is really a fate, for us it must
remain a fairy tale. Considered in regard to its causes, the Calvinists
and materialists may be right or wrong; we leave them their dreary
debate. But considered in regard to its results there is no doubt about
it. The thing is always a new color; a strange star. Every birth is as
lonely as a miracle. Every child is as uninvited as a monstrosity.

On all such subjects there is no science, but only a sort of ardent
ignorance; and nobody has ever been able to offer any theories of moral
heredity which justified themselves in the only scientific sense; that
is that one could calculate on them beforehand. There are six cases,
say, of a grandson having the same twitch of mouth or vice of character
as his grandfather; or perhaps there are sixteen cases, or perhaps
sixty. But there are not two cases, there is not one case, there are no
cases at all, of anybody betting half a crown that the grandfather will
have a grandson with the twitch or the vice. In short, we deal with
heredity as we deal with omens, affinities and the fulfillment of
dreams. The things do happen, and when they happen we record them; but
not even a lunatic ever reckons on them. Indeed, heredity, like dreams
and omens, is a barbaric notion; that is, not necessarily an untrue, but
a dim, groping and unsystematized notion. A civilized man feels himself
a little more free from his family. Before Christianity these tales of
tribal doom occupied the savage north; and since the Reformation and
the revolt against Christianity (which is the religion of a civilized
freedom) savagery is slowly creeping back in the form of realistic
novels and problem plays. The curse of Rougon-Macquart is as heathen and
superstitious as the curse of Ravenswood; only not so well written.
But in this twilight barbaric sense the feeling of a racial fate is not
irrational, and may be allowed like a hundred other half emotions that
make life whole. The only essential of tragedy is that one should take
it lightly. But even when the barbarian deluge rose to its highest in
the madder novels of Zola (such as that called "The Human Beast", a
gross libel on beasts as well as humanity), even then the application
of the hereditary idea to practice is avowedly timid and fumbling. The
students of heredity are savages in this vital sense; that they stare
back at marvels, but they dare not stare forward to schemes. In practice
no one is mad enough to legislate or educate upon dogmas of physical
inheritance; and even the language of the thing is rarely used except
for special modern purposes, such as the endowment of research or the
oppression of the poor.



After all the modern clatter of Calvinism, therefore, it is only with
the born child that anybody dares to deal; and the question is not
eugenics but education. Or again, to adopt that rather tiresome
terminology of popular science, it is not a question of heredity but of
environment. I will not needlessly complicate this question by urging
at length that environment also is open to some of the objections and
hesitations which paralyze the employment of heredity. I will merely
suggest in passing that even about the effect of environment modern
people talk much too cheerfully and cheaply. The idea that surroundings
will mold a man is always mixed up with the totally different idea that
they will mold him in one particular way. To take the broadest case,
landscape no doubt affects the soul; but how it affects it is
quite another matter. To be born among pine-trees might mean loving
pine-trees. It might mean loathing pine-trees. It might quite seriously
mean never having seen a pine-tree. Or it might mean any mixture of
these or any degree of any of them. So that the scientific method here
lacks a little in precision. I am not speaking without the book; on the
contrary, I am speaking with the blue book, with the guide-book and the
atlas. It may be that the Highlanders are poetical because they inhabit
mountains; but are the Swiss prosaic because they inhabit mountains? It
may be the Swiss have fought for freedom because they had hills; did the
Dutch fight for freedom because they hadn't? Personally I should
think it quite likely. Environment might work negatively as well as
positively. The Swiss may be sensible, not in spite of their wild
skyline, but be cause of their wild skyline. The Flemings may be
fantastic artists, not in spite of their dull skyline, but because of

I only pause on this parenthesis to show that, even in matters
admittedly within its range, popular science goes a great deal too fast,
and drops enormous links of logic. Nevertheless, it remains the working
reality that what we have to deal with in the case of children is,
for all practical purposes, environment; or, to use the older word,
education. When all such deductions are made, education is at least
a form of will-worship; not of cowardly fact-worship; it deals with a
department that we can control; it does not merely darken us with the
barbarian pessimism of Zola and the heredity-hunt. We shall certainly
make fools of ourselves; that is what is meant by philosophy. But we
shall not merely make beasts of ourselves; which is the nearest popular
definition for merely following the laws of Nature and cowering under
the vengeance of the flesh. Education contains much moonshine; but not
of the sort that makes mere mooncalves and idiots the slaves of a silver
magnet, the one eye of the world. In this decent arena there are fads,
but not frenzies. Doubtless we shall often find a mare's nest; but it
will not always be the nightmare's.



When a man is asked to write down what he really thinks on education, a
certain gravity grips and stiffens his soul, which might be mistaken by
the superficial for disgust. If it be really true that men sickened
of sacred words and wearied of theology, if this largely unreasoning
irritation against "dogma" did arise out of some ridiculous excess of
such things among priests in the past, then I fancy we must be laying up
a fine crop of cant for our descendants to grow tired of. Probably the
word "education" will some day seem honestly as old and objectless as
the word "justification" now seems in a Puritan folio. Gibbon thought
it frightfully funny that people should have fought about the difference
between the "Homoousion" and the "Homoiousion." The time will come when
somebody will laugh louder to think that men thundered against Sectarian
Education and also against Secular Education; that men of prominence and
position actually denounced the schools for teaching a creed and also
for not teaching a faith. The two Greek words in Gibbon look rather
alike; but they really mean quite different things. Faith and creed do
not look alike, but they mean exactly the same thing. Creed happens to
be the Latin for faith.

Now having read numberless newspaper articles on education, and
even written a good many of them, and having heard deafening and
indeterminate discussion going on all around me almost ever since I
was born, about whether religion was part of education, about whether
hygiene was an essential of education, about whether militarism was
inconsistent with true education, I naturally pondered much on this
recurring substantive, and I am ashamed to say that it was comparatively
late in life that I saw the main fact about it.

Of course, the main fact about education is that there is no such thing.
It does not exist, as theology or soldiering exist. Theology is a word
like geology, soldiering is a word like soldering; these sciences may
be healthy or no as hobbies; but they deal with stone and kettles, with
definite things. But education is not a word like geology or kettles.
Education is a word like "transmission" or "inheritance"; it is not an
object, but a method. It must mean the conveying of certain facts, views
or qualities, to the last baby born. They might be the most trivial
facts or the most preposterous views or the most offensive qualities;
but if they are handed on from one generation to another they are
education. Education is not a thing like theology, it is not an inferior
or superior thing; it is not a thing in the same category of terms.
Theology and education are to each other like a love-letter to the
General Post Office. Mr. Fagin was quite as educational as Dr. Strong;
in practice probably more educational. It is giving something--perhaps
poison. Education is tradition, and tradition (as its name implies) can
be treason.

This first truth is frankly banal; but it is so perpetually ignored
in our political prosing that it must be made plain. A little boy in a
little house, son of a little tradesman, is taught to eat his breakfast,
to take his medicine, to love his country, to say his prayers, and to
wear his Sunday clothes. Obviously Fagin, if he found such a boy, would
teach him to drink gin, to lie, to betray his country, to blaspheme
and to wear false whiskers. But so also Mr. Salt the vegetarian would
abolish the boy's breakfast; Mrs. Eddy would throw away his medicine;
Count Tolstoi would rebuke him for loving his country; Mr. Blatchford
would stop his prayers, and Mr. Edward Carpenter would theoretically
denounce Sunday clothes, and perhaps all clothes. I do not defend any of
these advanced views, not even Fagin's. But I do ask what, between the
lot of them, has become of the abstract entity called education. It is
not (as commonly supposed) that the tradesman teaches education plus
Christianity; Mr. Salt, education plus vegetarianism; Fagin, education
plus crime. The truth is, that there is nothing in common at all between
these teachers, except that they teach. In short, the only thing they
share is the one thing they profess to dislike: the general idea of
authority. It is quaint that people talk of separating dogma from
education. Dogma is actually the only thing that cannot be separated
from education. It is education. A teacher who is not dogmatic is simply
a teacher who is not teaching.



The fashionable fallacy is that by education we can give people
something that we have not got. To hear people talk one would think
it was some sort of magic chemistry, by which, out of a laborious
hotchpotch of hygienic meals, baths, breathing exercises, fresh air and
freehand drawing, we can produce something splendid by accident; we can
create what we cannot conceive. These pages have, of course, no other
general purpose than to point out that we cannot create anything good
until we have conceived it. It is odd that these people, who in the
matter of heredity are so sullenly attached to law, in the matter of
environment seem almost to believe in miracle. They insist that nothing
but what was in the bodies of the parents can go to make the bodies of
the children. But they seem somehow to think that things can get into
the heads of the children which were not in the heads of the parents,
or, indeed, anywhere else.

There has arisen in this connection a foolish and wicked cry typical of
the confusion. I mean the cry, "Save the children." It is, of course,
part of that modern morbidity that insists on treating the State (which
is the home of man) as a sort of desperate expedient in time of panic.
This terrified opportunism is also the origin of the Socialist and other
schemes. Just as they would collect and share all the food as men do in
a famine, so they would divide the children from their fathers, as men
do in a shipwreck. That a human community might conceivably not be in a
condition of famine or shipwreck never seems to cross their minds. This
cry of "Save the children" has in it the hateful implication that it is
impossible to save the fathers; in other words, that many millions of
grown-up, sane, responsible and self-supporting Europeans are to be
treated as dirt or debris and swept away out of the discussion; called
dipsomaniacs because they drink in public houses instead of private
houses; called unemployables because nobody knows how to get them work;
called dullards if they still adhere to conventions, and called loafers
if they still love liberty. Now I am concerned, first and last, to
maintain that unless you can save the fathers, you cannot save the
children; that at present we cannot save others, for we cannot save
ourselves. We cannot teach citizenship if we are not citizens; we cannot
free others if we have forgotten the appetite of freedom. Education is
only truth in a state of transmission; and how can we pass on truth if
it has never come into our hand? Thus we find that education is of
all the cases the clearest for our general purpose. It is vain to save
children; for they cannot remain children. By hypothesis we are teaching
them to be men; and how can it be so simple to teach an ideal manhood to
others if it is so vain and hopeless to find one for ourselves?

I know that certain crazy pedants have attempted to counter this
difficulty by maintaining that education is not instruction at all, does
not teach by authority at all. They present the process as coming, not
from the outside, from the teacher, but entirely from inside the boy.
Education, they say, is the Latin for leading out or drawing out the
dormant faculties of each person. Somewhere far down in the dim boyish
soul is a primordial yearning to learn Greek accents or to wear clean
collars; and the schoolmaster only gently and tenderly liberates this
imprisoned purpose. Sealed up in the newborn babe are the intrinsic
secrets of how to eat asparagus and what was the date of Bannockburn.
The educator only draws out the child's own unapparent love of long
division; only leads out the child's slightly veiled preference for milk
pudding to tarts. I am not sure that I believe in the derivation; I have
heard the disgraceful suggestion that "educator," if applied to a Roman
schoolmaster, did not mean leading our young functions into freedom; but
only meant taking out little boys for a walk. But I am much more certain
that I do not agree with the doctrine; I think it would be about as
sane to say that the baby's milk comes from the baby as to say that the
baby's educational merits do. There is, indeed, in each living creature
a collection of forces and functions; but education means producing
these in particular shapes and training them to particular purposes, or
it means nothing at all. Speaking is the most practical instance of the
whole situation. You may indeed "draw out" squeals and grunts from the
child by simply poking him and pulling him about, a pleasant but cruel
pastime to which many psychologists are addicted. But you will wait and
watch very patiently indeed before you draw the English language out
of him. That you have got to put into him; and there is an end of the



But the important point here is only that you cannot anyhow get rid of
authority in education; it is not so much (as poor Conservatives say)
that parental authority ought to be preserved, as that it cannot be
destroyed. Mr. Bernard Shaw once said that he hated the idea of forming
a child's mind. In that case Mr. Bernard Shaw had better hang himself;
for he hates something inseparable from human life. I only mentioned
educere and the drawing out of the faculties in order to point out that
even this mental trick does not avoid the inevitable idea of parental or
scholastic authority. The educator drawing out is just as arbitrary and
coercive as the instructor pouring in; for he draws out what he chooses.
He decides what in the child shall be developed and what shall not be
developed. He does not (I suppose) draw out the neglected faculty of
forgery. He does not (so far at least) lead out, with timid steps, a
shy talent for torture. The only result of all this pompous and
precise distinction between the educator and the instructor is that the
instructor pokes where he likes and the educator pulls where he likes.
Exactly the same intellectual violence is done to the creature who is
poked and pulled. Now we must all accept the responsibility of this
intellectual violence. Education is violent; because it is creative.
It is creative because it is human. It is as reckless as playing on the
fiddle; as dogmatic as drawing a picture; as brutal as building a house.
In short, it is what all human action is; it is an interference with
life and growth. After that it is a trifling and even a jocular question
whether we say of this tremendous tormentor, the artist Man, that he
puts things into us like an apothecary, or draws things out of us, like
a dentist.

The point is that Man does what he likes. He claims the right to take
his mother Nature under his control; he claims the right to make
his child the Superman, in his image. Once flinch from this creative
authority of man, and the whole courageous raid which we call
civilization wavers and falls to pieces. Now most modern freedom is at
root fear. It is not so much that we are too bold to endure rules; it
is rather that we are too timid to endure responsibilities. And Mr. Shaw
and such people are especially shrinking from that awful and ancestral
responsibility to which our fathers committed us when they took the wild
step of becoming men. I mean the responsibility of affirming the truth
of our human tradition and handing it on with a voice of authority, an
unshaken voice. That is the one eternal education; to be sure enough
that something is true that you dare to tell it to a child. From this
high audacious duty the moderns are fleeing on every side; and the only
excuse for them is, (of course,) that their modern philosophies are so
half-baked and hypothetical that they cannot convince themselves enough
to convince even a newborn babe. This, of course, is connected with the
decay of democracy; and is somewhat of a separate subject. Suffice it
to say here that when I say that we should instruct our children, I mean
that we should do it, not that Mr. Sully or Professor Earl Barnes should
do it. The trouble in too many of our modern schools is that the State,
being controlled so specially by the few, allows cranks and experiments
to go straight to the schoolroom when they have never passed through
the Parliament, the public house, the private house, the church, or the
marketplace. Obviously, it ought to be the oldest things that are taught
to the youngest people; the assured and experienced truths that are put
first to the baby. But in a school to-day the baby has to submit to
a system that is younger than himself. The flopping infant of four
actually has more experience, and has weathered the world longer, than
the dogma to which he is made to submit. Many a school boasts of having
the last ideas in education, when it has not even the first idea;
for the first idea is that even innocence, divine as it is, may learn
something from experience. But this, as I say, is all due to the mere
fact that we are managed by a little oligarchy; my system presupposes
that men who govern themselves will govern their children. To-day we all
use Popular Education as meaning education of the people. I wish I could
use it as meaning education by the people.

The urgent point at present is that these expansive educators do
not avoid the violence of authority an inch more than the old school
masters. Nay, it might be maintained that they avoid it less. The old
village schoolmaster beat a boy for not learning grammar and sent him
out into the playground to play anything he liked; or at nothing, if he
liked that better. The modern scientific schoolmaster pursues him into
the playground and makes him play at cricket, because exercise is so
good for the health. The modern Dr. Busby is a doctor of medicine as
well as a doctor of divinity. He may say that the good of exercise is
self-evident; but he must say it, and say it with authority. It cannot
really be self-evident or it never could have been compulsory. But this
is in modern practice a very mild case. In modern practice the
free educationists forbid far more things than the old-fashioned
educationists. A person with a taste for paradox (if any such shameless
creature could exist) might with some plausibility maintain concerning
all our expansion since the failure of Luther's frank paganism and its
replacement by Calvin's Puritanism, that all this expansion has not
been an expansion, but the closing in of a prison, so that less and less
beautiful and humane things have been permitted. The Puritans destroyed
images; the Rationalists forbade fairy tales. Count Tostoi practically
issued one of his papal encyclicals against music; and I have heard of
modern educationists who forbid children to play with tin soldiers. I
remember a meek little madman who came up to me at some Socialist soiree
or other, and asked me to use my influence (have I any influence?)
against adventure stories for boys. It seems they breed an appetite for
blood. But never mind that; one must keep one's temper in this madhouse.
I need only insist here that these things, even if a just deprivation,
are a deprivation. I do not deny that the old vetoes and punishments
were often idiotic and cruel; though they are much more so in a country
like England (where in practice only a rich man decrees the punishment
and only a poor man receives it) than in countries with a clearer
popular tradition--such as Russia. In Russia flogging is often inflicted
by peasants on a peasant. In modern England flogging can only in
practice be inflicted by a gentleman on a very poor man. Thus only a
few days ago as I write a small boy (a son of the poor, of course) was
sentenced to flogging and imprisonment for five years for having picked
up a small piece of coal which the experts value at 5d. I am entirely
on the side of such liberals and humanitarians as have protested against
this almost bestial ignorance about boys. But I do think it a little
unfair that these humanitarians, who excuse boys for being robbers,
should denounce them for playing at robbers. I do think that those who
understand a guttersnipe playing with a piece of coal might, by a sudden
spurt of imagination, understand him playing with a tin soldier. To
sum it up in one sentence: I think my meek little madman might have
understood that there is many a boy who would rather be flogged, and
unjustly flogged, than have his adventure story taken away.



In short, the new education is as harsh as the old, whether or no it is
as high. The freest fad, as much as the strictest formula, is stiff with
authority. It is because the humane father thinks soldiers wrong that
they are forbidden; there is no pretense, there can be no pretense, that
the boy would think so. The average boy's impression certainly would
be simply this: "If your father is a Methodist you must not play with
soldiers on Sunday. If your father is a Socialist you must not play
with them even on week days." All educationists are utterly dogmatic and
authoritarian. You cannot have free education; for if you left a child
free you would not educate him at all. Is there, then, no distinction
or difference between the most hide-bound conventionalists and the most
brilliant and bizarre innovators? Is there no difference between the
heaviest heavy father and the most reckless and speculative maiden aunt?
Yes; there is. The difference is that the heavy father, in his heavy
way, is a democrat. He does not urge a thing merely because to his
fancy it should be done; but, because (in his own admirable republican
formula) "Everybody does it." The conventional authority does claim some
popular mandate; the unconventional authority does not. The Puritan who
forbids soldiers on Sunday is at least expressing Puritan opinion;
not merely his own opinion. He is not a despot; he is a democracy, a
tyrannical democracy, a dingy and local democracy perhaps; but one that
could do and has done the two ultimate virile things--fight and appeal
to God. But the veto of the new educationist is like the veto of
the House of Lords; it does not pretend to be representative. These
innovators are always talking about the blushing modesty of Mrs. Grundy.
I do not know whether Mrs. Grundy is more modest than they are; but I am
sure she is more humble.

But there is a further complication. The more anarchic modern may again
attempt to escape the dilemma by saying that education should only be
an enlargement of the mind, an opening of all the organs of receptivity.
Light (he says) should be brought into darkness; blinded and thwarted
existences in all our ugly corners should merely be permitted to
perceive and expand; in short, enlightenment should be shed over
darkest London. Now here is just the trouble; that, in so far as this
is involved, there is no darkest London. London is not dark at all; not
even at night. We have said that if education is a solid substance, then
there is none of it. We may now say that if education is an abstract
expansion there is no lack of it. There is far too much of it. In fact,
there is nothing else.

There are no uneducated people. Everybody in England is educated; only
most people are educated wrong. The state schools were not the first
schools, but among the last schools to be established; and London had
been educating Londoners long before the London School Board. The error
is a highly practical one. It is persistently assumed that unless
a child is civilized by the established schools, he must remain a
barbarian. I wish he did. Every child in London becomes a highly
civilized person. But here are so many different civilizations, most of
them born tired. Anyone will tell you that the trouble with the poor is
not so much that the old are still foolish, but rather that the young
are already wise. Without going to school at all, the gutter-boy would
be educated. Without going to school at all, he would be over-educated.
The real object of our schools should be not so much to suggest
complexity as solely to restore simplicity. You will hear venerable
idealists declare we must make war on the ignorance of the poor;
but, indeed, we have rather to make war on their knowledge. Real
educationists have to resist a kind of roaring cataract of culture. The
truant is being taught all day. If the children do not look at the large
letters in the spelling-book, they need only walk outside and look at
the large letters on the poster. If they do not care for the colored
maps provided by the school, they can gape at the colored maps provided
by the Daily Mail. If they tire of electricity, they can take to
electric trams. If they are unmoved by music, they can take to drink. If
they will not work so as to get a prize from their school, they may work
to get a prize from Prizy Bits. If they cannot learn enough about law
and citizenship to please the teacher, they learn enough about them to
avoid the policeman. If they will not learn history forwards from the
right end in the history books, they will learn it backwards from the
wrong end in the party newspapers. And this is the tragedy of the whole
affair: that the London poor, a particularly quick-witted and civilized
class, learn everything tail foremost, learn even what is right in the
way of what is wrong. They do not see the first principles of law in a
law book; they only see its last results in the police news. They do not
see the truths of politics in a general survey. They only see the lies
of politics, at a General Election.

But whatever be the pathos of the London poor, it has nothing to do with
being uneducated. So far from being without guidance, they are guided
constantly, earnestly, excitedly; only guided wrong. The poor are not
at all neglected, they are merely oppressed; nay, rather they are
persecuted. There are no people in London who are not appealed to by the
rich; the appeals of the rich shriek from every hoarding and shout
from every hustings. For it should always be remembered that the queer,
abrupt ugliness of our streets and costumes are not the creation of
democracy, but of aristocracy. The House of Lords objected to the
Embankment being disfigured by trams. But most of the rich men who
disfigure the street-walls with their wares are actually in the House
of Lords. The peers make the country seats beautiful by making the town
streets hideous. This, however, is parenthetical. The point is, that the
poor in London are not left alone, but rather deafened and bewildered
with raucous and despotic advice. They are not like sheep without a
shepherd. They are more like one sheep whom twenty-seven shepherds are
shouting at. All the newspapers, all the new advertisements, all the
new medicines and new theologies, all the glare and blare of the gas and
brass of modern times--it is against these that the national school must
bear up if it can. I will not question that our elementary education is
better than barbaric ignorance. But there is no barbaric ignorance. I
do not doubt that our schools would be good for uninstructed boys. But
there are no uninstructed boys. A modern London school ought not merely
to be clearer, kindlier, more clever and more rapid than ignorance and
darkness. It must also be clearer than a picture postcard, cleverer than
a Limerick competition, quicker than the tram, and kindlier than
the tavern. The school, in fact, has the responsibility of universal
rivalry. We need not deny that everywhere there is a light that must
conquer darkness. But here we demand a light that can conquer light.



I will take one case that will serve both as symbol and example: the
case of color. We hear the realists (those sentimental fellows) talking
about the gray streets and the gray lives of the poor. But whatever
the poor streets are they are not gray; but motley, striped, spotted,
piebald and patched like a quilt. Hoxton is not aesthetic enough to be
monochrome; and there is nothing of the Celtic twilight about it. As a
matter of fact, a London gutter-boy walks unscathed among furnaces of
color. Watch him walk along a line of hoardings, and you will see him
now against glowing green, like a traveler in a tropic forest; now black
like a bird against the burning blue of the Midi; now passant across a
field gules, like the golden leopards of England. He ought to understand
the irrational rapture of that cry of Mr. Stephen Phillips about "that
bluer blue, that greener green." There is no blue much bluer than
Reckitt's Blue and no blacking blacker than Day and Martin's; no more
emphatic yellow than that of Colman's Mustard. If, despite this chaos
of color, like a shattered rainbow, the spirit of the small boy is not
exactly intoxicated with art and culture, the cause certainly does not
lie in universal grayness or the mere starving of his senses. It lies in
the fact that the colors are presented in the wrong connection, on the
wrong scale, and, above all, from the wrong motive. It is not colors he
lacks, but a philosophy of colors. In short, there is nothing wrong with
Reckitt's Blue except that it is not Reckitt's. Blue does not belong to
Reckitt, but to the sky; black does not belong to Day and Martin, but to
the abyss. Even the finest posters are only very little things on a very
large scale. There is something specially irritant in this way about the
iteration of advertisements of mustard: a condiment, a small luxury;
a thing in its nature not to be taken in quantity. There is a special
irony in these starving streets to see such a great deal of mustard to
such very little meat. Yellow is a bright pigment; mustard is a pungent
pleasure. But to look at these seas of yellow is to be like a man who
should swallow gallons of mustard. He would either die, or lose the
taste of mustard altogether.

Now suppose we compare these gigantic trivialities on the hoardings
with those tiny and tremendous pictures in which the mediaevals recorded
their dreams; little pictures where the blue sky is hardly longer than
a single sapphire, and the fires of judgment only a pigmy patch of gold.
The difference here is not merely that poster art is in its nature more
hasty than illumination art; it is not even merely that the ancient
artist was serving the Lord while the modern artist is serving the
lords. It is that the old artist contrived to convey an impression that
colors really were significant and precious things, like jewels and
talismanic stones. The color was often arbitrary; but it was always
authoritative. If a bird was blue, if a tree was golden, if a fish was
silver, if a cloud was scarlet, the artist managed to convey that these
colors were important and almost painfully intense; all the red red-hot
and all the gold tried in the fire. Now that is the spirit touching
color which the schools must recover and protect if they are really to
give the children any imaginative appetite or pleasure in the thing. It
is not so much an indulgence in color; it is rather, if anything, a sort
of fiery thrift. It fenced in a green field in heraldry as straitly as a
green field in peasant proprietorship. It would not fling away gold
leaf any more than gold coin; it would not heedlessly pour out purple or
crimson, any more than it would spill good wine or shed blameless blood.
That is the hard task before educationists in this special matter; they
have to teach people to relish colors like liquors. They have the heavy
business of turning drunkards into wine tasters. If even the twentieth
century succeeds in doing these things, it will almost catch up with the

The principle covers, however, the whole of modern life. Morris and the
merely aesthetic mediaevalists always indicated that a crowd in the time
of Chaucer would have been brightly clad and glittering, compared with
a crowd in the time of Queen Victoria. I am not so sure that the real
distinction is here. There would be brown frocks of friars in the first
scene as well as brown bowlers of clerks in the second. There would be
purple plumes of factory girls in the second scene as well as purple
lenten vestments in the first. There would be white waistcoats against
white ermine; gold watch chains against gold lions. The real difference
is this: that the brown earth-color of the monk's coat was instinctively
chosen to express labor and humility, whereas the brown color of the
clerk's hat was not chosen to express anything. The monk did mean to say
that he robed himself in dust. I am sure the clerk does not mean to say
that he crowns himself with clay. He is not putting dust on his head, as
the only diadem of man. Purple, at once rich and somber, does suggest a
triumph temporarily eclipsed by a tragedy. But the factory girl does not
intend her hat to express a triumph temporarily eclipsed by a tragedy;
far from it. White ermine was meant to express moral purity; white
waistcoats were not. Gold lions do suggest a flaming magnanimity; gold
watch chains do not. The point is not that we have lost the material
hues, but that we have lost the trick of turning them to the best
advantage. We are not like children who have lost their paint box and
are left alone with a gray lead-pencil. We are like children who have
mixed all the colors in the paint-box together and lost the paper of
instructions. Even then (I do not deny) one has some fun.

Now this abundance of colors and loss of a color scheme is a pretty
perfect parable of all that is wrong with our modern ideals and
especially with our modern education. It is the same with ethical
education, economic education, every sort of education. The growing
London child will find no lack of highly controversial teachers who
will teach him that geography means painting the map red; that economics
means taxing the foreigner, that patriotism means the peculiarly
un-English habit of flying a flag on Empire Day. In mentioning these
examples specially I do not mean to imply that there are no similar
crudities and popular fallacies upon the other political side. I mention
them because they constitute a very special and arresting feature of the
situation. I mean this, that there were always Radical revolutionists;
but now there are Tory revolutionists also. The modern Conservative
no longer conserves. He is avowedly an innovator. Thus all the current
defenses of the House of Lords which describe it as a bulwark against
the mob, are intellectually done for; the bottom has fallen out of them;
because on five or six of the most turbulent topics of the day, the
House of Lords is a mob itself; and exceedingly likely to behave like



Through all this chaos, then we come back once more to our main
conclusion. The true task of culture to-day is not a task of expansion,
but very decidedly of selection--and rejection. The educationist must
find a creed and teach it. Even if it be not a theological creed, it
must still be as fastidious and as firm as theology. In short, it must
be orthodox. The teacher may think it antiquated to have to decide
precisely between the faith of Calvin and of Laud, the faith of Aquinas
and of Swedenborg; but he still has to choose between the faith of
Kipling and of Shaw, between the world of Blatchford and of General
Booth. Call it, if you will, a narrow question whether your child shall
be brought up by the vicar or the minister or the popish priest. You
have still to face that larger, more liberal, more highly civilized
question, of whether he shall be brought up by Harmsworth or by
Pearson, by Mr. Eustace Miles with his Simple Life or Mr. Peter Keary
with his Strenuous Life; whether he shall most eagerly read Miss Annie
S. Swan or Mr. Bart Kennedy; in short, whether he shall end up in the
mere violence of the S. D. F., or in the mere vulgarity of the Primrose
League. They say that nowadays the creeds are crumbling; I doubt it, but
at least the sects are increasing; and education must now be sectarian
education, merely for practical purposes. Out of all this throng of
theories it must somehow select a theory; out of all these thundering
voices it must manage to hear a voice; out of all this awful and aching
battle of blinding lights, without one shadow to give shape to them, it
must manage somehow to trace and to track a star.

I have spoken so far of popular education, which began too vague and
vast and which therefore has accomplished little. But as it happens
there is in England something to compare it with. There is an
institution, or class of institutions, which began with the same popular
object, which has since followed a much narrower object, but which had
the great advantage that it did follow some object, unlike our modern
elementary schools.

In all these problems I should urge the solution which is positive,
or, as silly people say, "optimistic." I should set my face, that is,
against most of the solutions that are solely negative and abolitionist.
Most educators of the poor seem to think that they have to teach the
poor man not to drink. I should be quite content if they teach him to
drink; for it is mere ignorance about how to drink and when to drink
that is accountable for most of his tragedies. I do not propose (like
some of my revolutionary friends) that we should abolish the public
schools. I propose the much more lurid and desperate experiment that we
should make them public. I do not wish to make Parliament stop working,
but rather to make it work; not to shut up churches, but rather to
open them; not to put out the lamp of learning or destroy the hedge of
property, but only to make some rude effort to make universities fairly
universal and property decently proper.

In many cases, let it be remembered, such action is not merely going
back to the old ideal, but is even going back to the old reality. It
would be a great step forward for the gin shop to go back to the inn. It
is incontrovertibly true that to mediaevalize the public schools would
be to democratize the public schools. Parliament did once really mean
(as its name seems to imply) a place where people were allowed to talk.
It is only lately that the general increase of efficiency, that is, of
the Speaker, has made it mostly a place where people are prevented from
talking. The poor do not go to the modern church, but they went to the
ancient church all right; and if the common man in the past had a grave
respect for property, it may conceivably have been because he sometimes
had some of his own. I therefore can claim that I have no vulgar itch of
innovation in anything I say about any of these institutions. Certainly
I have none in that particular one which I am now obliged to pick out
of the list; a type of institution to which I have genuine and personal
reasons for being friendly and grateful: I mean the great Tudor
foundations, the public schools of England. They have been praised for a
great many things, mostly, I am sorry to say, praised by themselves and
their children. And yet for some reason no one has ever praised them the
one really convincing reason.



The word success can of course be used in two senses. It may be used
with reference to a thing serving its immediate and peculiar purpose,
as of a wheel going around; or it can be used with reference to a thing
adding to the general welfare, as of a wheel being a useful discovery.
It is one thing to say that Smith's flying machine is a failure, and
quite another to say that Smith has failed to make a flying machine.
Now this is very broadly the difference between the old English public
schools and the new democratic schools. Perhaps the old public schools
are (as I personally think they are) ultimately weakening the country
rather than strengthening it, and are therefore, in that ultimate sense,
inefficient. But there is such a thing as being efficiently inefficient.
You can make your flying ship so that it flies, even if you also make
it so that it kills you. Now the public school system may not work
satisfactorily, but it works; the public schools may not achieve what we
want, but they achieve what they want. The popular elementary schools do
not in that sense achieve anything at all. It is very difficult to point
to any guttersnipe in the street and say that he embodies the ideal
for which popular education has been working, in the sense that the
fresh-faced, foolish boy in "Etons" does embody the ideal for which the
headmasters of Harrow and Winchester have been working. The aristocratic
educationists have the positive purpose of turning out gentlemen, and
they do turn out gentlemen, even when they expel them. The popular
educationists would say that they had the far nobler idea of turning
out citizens. I concede that it is a much nobler idea, but where are the
citizens? I know that the boy in "Etons" is stiff with a rather silly
and sentimental stoicism, called being a man of the world. I do not
fancy that the errand-boy is rigid with that republican stoicism that
is called being a citizen. The schoolboy will really say with fresh
and innocent hauteur, "I am an English gentleman." I cannot so easily
picture the errand-boy drawing up his head to the stars and answering,
"Romanus civis sum." Let it be granted that our elementary teachers are
teaching the very broadest code of morals, while our great headmasters
are teaching only the narrowest code of manners. Let it be granted
that both these things are being taught. But only one of them is being

It is always said that great reformers or masters of events can manage
to bring about some specific and practical reforms, but that they never
fulfill their visions or satisfy their souls. I believe there is a real
sense in which this apparent platitude is quite untrue. By a strange
inversion the political idealist often does not get what he asks for,
but does get what he wants. The silent pressure of his ideal lasts much
longer and reshapes the world much more than the actualities by which he
attempted to suggest it. What perishes is the letter, which he
thought so practical. What endures is the spirit, which he felt to be
unattainable and even unutterable. It is exactly his schemes that are
not fulfilled; it is exactly his vision that is fulfilled. Thus the ten
or twelve paper constitutions of the French Revolution, which seemed so
business-like to the framers of them, seem to us to have flown away
on the wind as the wildest fancies. What has not flown away, what is a
fixed fact in Europe, is the ideal and vision. The Republic, the idea
of a land full of mere citizens all with some minimum of manners and
minimum of wealth, the vision of the eighteenth century, the reality
of the twentieth. So I think it will generally be with the creator of
social things, desirable or undesirable. All his schemes will fail,
all his tools break in his hands. His compromises will collapse, his
concessions will be useless. He must brace himself to bear his fate; he
shall have nothing but his heart's desire.

Now if one may compare very small things with very great, one may say
that the English aristocratic schools can claim something of the same
sort of success and solid splendor as the French democratic politics.
At least they can claim the same sort of superiority over the distracted
and fumbling attempts of modern England to establish democratic
education. Such success as has attended the public schoolboy throughout
the Empire, a success exaggerated indeed by himself, but still positive
and a fact of a certain indisputable shape and size, has been due to the
central and supreme circumstance that the managers of our public schools
did know what sort of boy they liked. They wanted something and they
got something; instead of going to work in the broad-minded manner and
wanting everything and getting nothing.

The only thing in question is the quality of the thing they got. There
is something highly maddening in the circumstance that when modern
people attack an institution that really does demand reform, they always
attack it for the wrong reasons. Thus many opponents of our public
schools, imagining themselves to be very democratic, have exhausted
themselves in an unmeaning attack upon the study of Greek. I can
understand how Greek may be regarded as useless, especially by those
thirsting to throw themselves into the cut throat commerce which is
the negation of citizenship; but I do not understand how it can be
considered undemocratic. I quite understand why Mr. Carnegie has
a hatred of Greek. It is obscurely founded on the firm and sound
impression that in any self-governing Greek city he would have been
killed. But I cannot comprehend why any chance democrat, say Mr. Quelch,
or Mr. Will Crooks, I or Mr. John M. Robertson, should be opposed to
people learning the Greek alphabet, which was the alphabet of liberty.
Why should Radicals dislike Greek? In that language is written all
the earliest and, Heaven knows, the most heroic history of the Radical
party. Why should Greek disgust a democrat, when the very word democrat
is Greek?

A similar mistake, though a less serious one, is merely attacking
the athletics of public schools as something promoting animalism and
brutality. Now brutality, in the only immoral sense, is not a vice of
the English public schools. There is much moral bullying, owing to the
general lack of moral courage in the public-school atmosphere. These
schools do, upon the whole, encourage physical courage; but they do not
merely discourage moral courage, they forbid it. The ultimate result
of the thing is seen in the egregious English officer who cannot even
endure to wear a bright uniform except when it is blurred and hidden
in the smoke of battle. This, like all the affectations of our present
plutocracy, is an entirely modern thing. It was unknown to the old
aristocrats. The Black Prince would certainly have asked that any knight
who had the courage to lift his crest among his enemies, should also
have the courage to lift it among his friends. As regards moral courage,
then it is not so much that the public schools support it feebly, as
that they suppress it firmly. But physical courage they do, on the
whole, support; and physical courage is a magnificent fundamental. The
one great, wise Englishman of the eighteenth century said truly that if
a man lost that virtue he could never be sure of keeping any other. Now
it is one of the mean and morbid modern lies that physical courage is
connected with cruelty. The Tolstoian and Kiplingite are nowhere more at
one than in maintaining this. They have, I believe, some small sectarian
quarrel with each other, the one saying that courage must be abandoned
because it is connected with cruelty, and the other maintaining that
cruelty is charming because it is a part of courage. But it is all,
thank God, a lie. An energy and boldness of body may make a man stupid
or reckless or dull or drunk or hungry, but it does not make him
spiteful. And we may admit heartily (without joining in that perpetual
praise which public-school men are always pouring upon themselves) that
this does operate to the removal of mere evil cruelty in the public
schools. English public school life is extremely like English public
life, for which it is the preparatory school. It is like it specially in
this, that things are either very open, common and conventional, or else
are very secret indeed. Now there is cruelty in public schools, just as
there is kleptomania and secret drinking and vices without a name.
But these things do not flourish in the full daylight and common
consciousness of the school, and no more does cruelty. A tiny trio
of sullen-looking boys gather in corners and seem to have some ugly
business always; it may be indecent literature, it may be the beginning
of drink, it may occasionally be cruelty to little boys. But on this
stage the bully is not a braggart. The proverb says that bullies are
always cowardly, but these bullies are more than cowardly; they are shy.

As a third instance of the wrong form of revolt against the public
schools, I may mention the habit of using the word aristocracy with a
double implication. To put the plain truth as briefly as possible, if
aristocracy means rule by a rich ring, England has aristocracy and the
English public schools support it. If it means rule by ancient families
or flawless blood, England has not got aristocracy, and the public
schools systematically destroy it. In these circles real aristocracy,
like real democracy, has become bad form. A modern fashionable host
dare not praise his ancestry; it would so often be an insult to half the
other oligarchs at table, who have no ancestry. We have said he has
not the moral courage to wear his uniform; still less has he the moral
courage to wear his coat-of-arms. The whole thing now is only a vague
hotch-potch of nice and nasty gentlemen. The nice gentleman never refers
to anyone else's father, the nasty gentleman never refers to his own.
That is the only difference, the rest is the public-school manner. But
Eton and Harrow have to be aristocratic because they consist so largely
of parvenues. The public school is not a sort of refuge for aristocrats,
like an asylum, a place where they go in and never come out. It is a
factory for aristocrats; they come out without ever having perceptibly
gone in. The poor little private schools, in their old-world,
sentimental, feudal style, used to stick up a notice, "For the Sons of
Gentlemen only." If the public schools stuck up a notice it ought to be
inscribed, "For the Fathers of Gentlemen only." In two generations they
can do the trick.



These are the false accusations; the accusation of classicism, the
accusation of cruelty, and the accusation of an exclusiveness based on
perfection of pedigree. English public-school boys are not pedants,
they are not torturers; and they are not, in the vast majority of
cases, people fiercely proud of their ancestry, or even people with any
ancestry to be proud of. They are taught to be courteous, to be good
tempered, to be brave in a bodily sense, to be clean in a bodily sense;
they are generally kind to animals, generally civil to servants, and to
anyone in any sense their equal, the jolliest companions on earth. Is
there then anything wrong in the public-school ideal? I think we all
feel there is something very wrong in it, but a blinding network of
newspaper phraseology obscures and entangles us; so that it is hard to
trace to its beginning, beyond all words and phrases, the faults in this
great English achievement.

Surely, when all is said, the ultimate objection to the English public
school is its utterly blatant and indecent disregard of the duty of
telling the truth. I know there does still linger among maiden ladies
in remote country houses a notion that English schoolboys are taught to
tell the truth, but it cannot be maintained seriously for a moment.
Very occasionally, very vaguely, English schoolboys are told not to tell
lies, which is a totally different thing. I may silently support all the
obscene fictions and forgeries in the universe, without once telling a
lie. I may wear another man's coat, steal another man's wit, apostatize
to another man's creed, or poison another man's coffee, all without
ever telling a lie. But no English school-boy is ever taught to tell the
truth, for the very simple reason that he is never taught to desire the
truth. From the very first he is taught to be totally careless about
whether a fact is a fact; he is taught to care only whether the fact can
be used on his "side" when he is engaged in "playing the game." He takes
sides in his Union debating society to settle whether Charles I ought to
have been killed, with the same solemn and pompous frivolity with
which he takes sides in the cricket field to decide whether Rugby or
Westminster shall win. He is never allowed to admit the abstract notion
of the truth, that the match is a matter of what may happen, but that
Charles I is a matter of what did happen--or did not. He is Liberal or
Tory at the general election exactly as he is Oxford or Cambridge at the
boat race. He knows that sport deals with the unknown; he has not even a
notion that politics should deal with the known. If anyone really
doubts this self-evident proposition, that the public schools definitely
discourage the love of truth, there is one fact which I should think
would settle him. England is the country of the Party System, and it
has always been chiefly run by public-school men. Is there anyone out
of Hanwell who will maintain that the Party System, whatever its
conveniences or inconveniences, could have been created by people
particularly fond of truth?

The very English happiness on this point is itself a hypocrisy. When a
man really tells the truth, the first truth he tells is that he himself
is a liar. David said in his haste, that is, in his honesty, that
all men are liars. It was afterwards, in some leisurely official
explanation, that he said the Kings of Israel at least told the truth.
When Lord Curzon was Viceroy he delivered a moral lecture to the Indians
on their reputed indifference to veracity, to actuality and intellectual
honor. A great many people indignantly discussed whether orientals
deserved to receive this rebuke; whether Indians were indeed in a
position to receive such severe admonition. No one seemed to ask, as I
should venture to ask, whether Lord Curzon was in a position to give
it. He is an ordinary party politician; a party politician means a
politician who might have belonged to either party. Being such a person,
he must again and again, at every twist and turn of party strategy,
either have deceived others or grossly deceived himself. I do not know
the East; nor do I like what I know. I am quite ready to believe that
when Lord Curzon went out he found a very false atmosphere. I only say
it must have been something startlingly and chokingly false if it was
falser than that English atmosphere from which he came. The English
Parliament actually cares for everything except veracity. The
public-school man is kind, courageous, polite, clean, companionable;
but, in the most awful sense of the words, the truth is not in him.

This weakness of untruthfulness in the English public schools, in the
English political system, and to some extent in the English
character, is a weakness which necessarily produces a curious crop of
superstitions, of lying legends, of evident delusions clung to through
low spiritual self-indulgence. There are so many of these public-school
superstitions that I have here only space for one of them, which may be
called the superstition of soap. It appears to have been shared by
the ablutionary Pharisees, who resembled the English public-school
aristocrats in so many respects: in their care about club rules and
traditions, in their offensive optimism at the expense of other people,
and above all in their unimaginative plodding patriotism in the worst
interests of their country. Now the old human common sense about washing
is that it is a great pleasure. Water (applied externally) is a splendid
thing, like wine. Sybarites bathe in wine, and Nonconformists drink
water; but we are not concerned with these frantic exceptions. Washing
being a pleasure, it stands to reason that rich people can afford it
more than poor people, and as long as this was recognized all was
well; and it was very right that rich people should offer baths to poor
people, as they might offer any other agreeable thing--a drink or a
donkey ride. But one dreadful day, somewhere about the middle of the
nineteenth century, somebody discovered (somebody pretty well off)
the two great modern truths, that washing is a virtue in the rich and
therefore a duty in the poor. For a duty is a virtue that one can't do.
And a virtue is generally a duty that one can do quite easily; like
the bodily cleanliness of the upper classes. But in the public-school
tradition of public life, soap has become creditable simply because it
is pleasant. Baths are represented as a part of the decay of the Roman
Empire; but the same baths are represented as part of the energy and
rejuvenation of the British Empire. There are distinguished public
school men, bishops, dons, headmasters, and high politicians, who,
in the course of the eulogies which from time to time they pass upon
themselves, have actually identified physical cleanliness with moral
purity. They say (if I remember rightly) that a public-school man is
clean inside and out. As if everyone did not know that while saints can
afford to be dirty, seducers have to be clean. As if everyone did
not know that the harlot must be clean, because it is her business to
captivate, while the good wife may be dirty, because it is her business
to clean. As if we did not all know that whenever God's thunder cracks
above us, it is very likely indeed to find the simplest man in a muck
cart and the most complex blackguard in a bath.

There are other instances, of course, of this oily trick of turning the
pleasures of a gentleman into the virtues of an Anglo-Saxon. Sport, like
soap, is an admirable thing, but, like soap, it is an agreeable thing.
And it does not sum up all mortal merits to be a sportsman playing the
game in a world where it is so often necessary to be a workman doing the
work. By all means let a gentleman congratulate himself that he has
not lost his natural love of pleasure, as against the blase, and
unchildlike. But when one has the childlike joy it is best to have also
the childlike unconsciousness; and I do not think we should have special
affection for the little boy who ever lastingly explained that it was
his duty to play Hide and Seek and one of his family virtues to be
prominent in Puss in the Corner.

Another such irritating hypocrisy is the oligarchic attitude towards
mendicity as against organized charity. Here again, as in the case of
cleanliness and of athletics, the attitude would be perfectly human and
intelligible if it were not maintained as a merit. Just as the obvious
thing about soap is that it is a convenience, so the obvious thing about
beggars is that they are an inconvenience. The rich would deserve very
little blame if they simply said that they never dealt directly with
beggars, because in modern urban civilization it is impossible to deal
directly with beggars; or if not impossible, at least very difficult.
But these people do not refuse money to beggars on the ground that such
charity is difficult. They refuse it on the grossly hypocritical ground
that such charity is easy. They say, with the most grotesque gravity,
"Anyone can put his hand in his pocket and give a poor man a penny; but
we, philanthropists, go home and brood and travail over the poor man's
troubles until we have discovered exactly what jail, reformatory,
workhouse, or lunatic asylum it will really be best for him to go to."
This is all sheer lying. They do not brood about the man when they get
home, and if they did it would not alter the original fact that their
motive for discouraging beggars is the perfectly rational one that
beggars are a bother. A man may easily be forgiven for not doing this
or that incidental act of charity, especially when the question is as
genuinely difficult as is the case of mendicity. But there is something
quite pestilently Pecksniffian about shrinking from a hard task on the
plea that it is not hard enough. If any man will really try talking to
the ten beggars who come to his door he will soon find out whether it is
really so much easier than the labor of writing a check for a hospital.



For this deep and disabling reason therefore, its cynical and abandoned
indifference to the truth, the English public school does not provide
us with the ideal that we require. We can only ask its modern critics
to remember that right or wrong the thing can be done; the factory is
working, the wheels are going around, the gentlemen are being produced,
with their soap, cricket and organized charity all complete. And in
this, as we have said before, the public school really has an advantage
over all the other educational schemes of our time. You can pick out a
public-school man in any of the many companies into which they stray,
from a Chinese opium den to a German Jewish dinner-party. But I doubt
if you could tell which little match girl had been brought up by
undenominational religion and which by secular education. The great
English aristocracy which has ruled us since the Reformation is really,
in this sense, a model to the moderns. It did have an ideal, and
therefore it has produced a reality.

We may repeat here that these pages propose mainly to show one thing:
that progress ought to be based on principle, while our modern progress
is mostly based on precedent. We go, not by what may be affirmed in
theory, but by what has been already admitted in practice. That is why
the Jacobites are the last Tories in history with whom a high-spirited
person can have much sympathy. They wanted a specific thing; they were
ready to go forward for it, and so they were also ready to go back for
it. But modern Tories have only the dullness of defending situations
that they had not the excitement of creating. Revolutionists make a
reform, Conservatives only conserve the reform. They never reform
the reform, which is often very much wanted. Just as the rivalry of
armaments is only a sort of sulky plagiarism, so the rivalry of parties
is only a sort of sulky inheritance. Men have votes, so women must soon
have votes; poor children are taught by force, so they must soon be fed
by force; the police shut public houses by twelve o'clock, so soon they
must shut them by eleven o'clock; children stop at school till they
are fourteen, so soon they will stop till they are forty. No gleam of
reason, no momentary return to first principles, no abstract asking of
any obvious question, can interrupt this mad and monotonous gallop of
mere progress by precedent. It is a good way to prevent real revolution.
By this logic of events, the Radical gets as much into a rut as the
Conservative. We meet one hoary old lunatic who says his grandfather
told him to stand by one stile. We meet another hoary old lunatic who
says his grandfather told him only to walk along one lane.

I say we may repeat here this primary part of the argument, because
we have just now come to the place where it is most startlingly and
strongly shown. The final proof that our elementary schools have no
definite ideal of their own is the fact that they so openly imitate the
ideals of the public schools. In the elementary schools we have all the
ethical prejudices and exaggerations of Eton and Harrow carefully copied
for people to whom they do not even roughly apply. We have the same
wildly disproportionate doctrine of the effect of physical cleanliness
on moral character. Educators and educational politicians declare,
amid warm cheers, that cleanliness is far more important than all the
squabbles about moral and religious training. It would really seem that
so long as a little boy washes his hands it does not matter whether he
is washing off his mother's jam or his brother's gore. We have the
same grossly insincere pretense that sport always encourages a sense of
honor, when we know that it often ruins it. Above all, we have the
same great upperclass assumption that things are done best by large
institutions handling large sums of money and ordering everybody about;
and that trivial and impulsive charity is in some way contemptible.
As Mr. Blatchford says, "The world does not want piety, but soap--and
Socialism." Piety is one of the popular virtues, whereas soap and
Socialism are two hobbies of the upper middle class.

These "healthy" ideals, as they are called, which our politicians and
schoolmasters have borrowed from the aristocratic schools and applied
to the democratic, are by no means particularly appropriate to an
impoverished democracy. A vague admiration for organized government and
a vague distrust of individual aid cannot be made to fit in at all into
the lives of people among whom kindness means lending a saucepan and
honor means keeping out of the workhouse. It resolves itself either into
discouraging that system of prompt and patchwork generosity which is a
daily glory of the poor, or else into hazy advice to people who have no
money not to give it recklessly away. Nor is the exaggerated glory of
athletics, defensible enough in dealing with the rich who, if they did
not romp and race, would eat and drink unwholesomely, by any means so
much to the point when applied to people, most of whom will take a great
deal of exercise anyhow, with spade or hammer, pickax or saw. And for
the third case, of washing, it is obvious that the same sort of rhetoric
about corporeal daintiness which is proper to an ornamental class
cannot, merely as it stands, be applicable to a dustman. A gentleman is
expected to be substantially spotless all the time. But it is no more
discreditable for a scavenger to be dirty than for a deep-sea diver to
be wet. A sweep is no more disgraced when he is covered with soot
than Michael Angelo when he is covered with clay, or Bayard when he
is covered with blood. Nor have these extenders of the public-school
tradition done or suggested anything by way of a substitute for the
present snobbish system which makes cleanliness almost impossible to the
poor; I mean the general ritual of linen and the wearing of the cast-off
clothes of the rich. One man moves into another man's clothes as he
moves into another man's house. No wonder that our educationists are
not horrified at a man picking up the aristocrat's second-hand trousers,
when they themselves have only taken up the aristocrat's second-hand



There is one thing at least of which there is never so much as a whisper
inside the popular schools; and that is the opinion of the people. The
only persons who seem to have nothing to do with the education of
the children are the parents. Yet the English poor have very definite
traditions in many ways. They are hidden under embarrassment and irony;
and those psychologists who have disentangled them talk of them as very
strange, barbaric and secretive things. But, as a matter of fact, the
traditions of the poor are mostly simply the traditions of humanity,
a thing which many of us have not seen for some time. For instance,
workingmen have a tradition that if one is talking about a vile thing it
is better to talk of it in coarse language; one is the less likely to be
seduced into excusing it. But mankind had this tradition also, until the
Puritans and their children, the Ibsenites, started the opposite idea,
that it does not matter what you say so long as you say it with long
words and a long face. Or again, the educated classes have tabooed most
jesting about personal appearance; but in doing this they taboo not only
the humor of the slums, but more than half the healthy literature of
the world; they put polite nose-bags on the noses of Punch and Bardolph,
Stiggins and Cyrano de Bergerac. Again, the educated classes have
adopted a hideous and heathen custom of considering death as too
dreadful to talk about, and letting it remain a secret for each person,
like some private malformation. The poor, on the contrary, make a great
gossip and display about bereavement; and they are right. They have hold
of a truth of psychology which is at the back of all the funeral customs
of the children of men. The way to lessen sorrow is to make a lot of it.
The way to endure a painful crisis is to insist very much that it is a
crisis; to permit people who must feel sad at least to feel important.
In this the poor are simply the priests of the universal civilization;
and in their stuffy feasts and solemn chattering there is the smell of
the baked meats of Hamlet and the dust and echo of the funeral games of

The things philanthropists barely excuse (or do not excuse) in the life
of the laboring classes are simply the things we have to excuse in all
the greatest monuments of man. It may be that the laborer is as gross as
Shakespeare or as garrulous as Homer; that if he is religious he talks
nearly as much about hell as Dante; that if he is worldly he talks
nearly as much about drink as Dickens. Nor is the poor man without
historic support if he thinks less of that ceremonial washing which
Christ dismissed, and rather more of that ceremonial drinking which
Christ specially sanctified. The only difference between the poor man of
to-day and the saints and heroes of history is that which in all classes
separates the common man who can feel things from the great man who can
express them. What he feels is merely the heritage of man. Now nobody
expects of course that the cabmen and coal-heavers can be complete
instructors of their children any more than the squires and colonels and
tea merchants are complete instructors of their children. There must be
an educational specialist in loco parentis. But the master at Harrow is
in loco parentis; the master in Hoxton is rather contra parentem. The
vague politics of the squire, the vaguer virtues of the colonel, the
soul and spiritual yearnings of a tea merchant, are, in veritable
practice, conveyed to the children of these people at the English public
schools. But I wish here to ask a very plain and emphatic question. Can
anyone alive even pretend to point out any way in which these special
virtues and traditions of the poor are reproduced in the education of
the poor? I do not wish the coster's irony to appeal as coarsely in the
school as it does in the tap room; but does it appear at all? Is
the child taught to sympathize at all with his father's admirable
cheerfulness and slang? I do not expect the pathetic, eager pietas of
the mother, with her funeral clothes and funeral baked meats, to be
exactly imitated in the educational system; but has it any influence at
all on the educational system? Does any elementary schoolmaster accord
it even an instant's consideration or respect? I do not expect the
schoolmaster to hate hospitals and C.O.S. centers so much as the
schoolboy's father; but does he hate them at all? Does he sympathize
in the least with the poor man's point of honor against official
institutions? Is it not quite certain that the ordinary elementary
schoolmaster will think it not merely natural but simply conscientious
to eradicate all these rugged legends of a laborious people, and on
principle to preach soap and Socialism against beer and liberty? In
the lower classes the school master does not work for the parent, but
against the parent. Modern education means handing down the customs of
the minority, and rooting out the customs of the majority. Instead of
their Christlike charity, their Shakespearean laughter and their high
Homeric reverence for the dead, the poor have imposed on them mere
pedantic copies of the prejudices of the remote rich. They must think
a bathroom a necessity because to the lucky it is a luxury; they must
swing Swedish clubs because their masters are afraid of English cudgels;
and they must get over their prejudice against being fed by the parish,
because aristocrats feel no shame about being fed by the nation.



It is the same in the case of girls. I am often solemnly asked what
I think of the new ideas about female education. But there are no new
ideas about female education. There is not, there never has been, even
the vestige of a new idea. All the educational reformers did was to ask
what was being done to boys and then go and do it to girls; just as they
asked what was being taught to young squires and then taught it to young
chimney sweeps. What they call new ideas are very old ideas in the wrong
place. Boys play football, why shouldn't girls play football; boys
have school colors, why shouldn't girls have school-colors; boys go
in hundreds to day-schools, why shouldn't girls go in hundreds to
day-schools; boys go to Oxford, why shouldn't girls go to Oxford--in
short, boys grow mustaches, why shouldn't girls grow mustaches--that is
about their notion of a new idea. There is no brain-work in the thing
at all; no root query of what sex is, of whether it alters this or that,
and why, anymore than there is any imaginative grip of the humor and
heart of the populace in the popular education. There is nothing but
plodding, elaborate, elephantine imitation. And just as in the case
of elementary teaching, the cases are of a cold and reckless
inappropriateness. Even a savage could see that bodily things, at least,
which are good for a man are very likely to be bad for a woman. Yet
there is no boy's game, however brutal, which these mild lunatics have
not promoted among girls. To take a stronger case, they give girls very
heavy home-work; never reflecting that all girls have home-work already
in their homes. It is all a part of the same silly subjugation; there
must be a hard stick-up collar round the neck of a woman, because it is
already a nuisance round the neck of a man. Though a Saxon serf, if he
wore that collar of cardboard, would ask for his collar of brass.

It will then be answered, not without a sneer, "And what would you
prefer? Would you go back to the elegant early Victorian female, with
ringlets and smelling-bottle, doing a little in water colors, dabbling
a little in Italian, playing a little on the harp, writing in vulgar
albums and painting on senseless screens? Do you prefer that?" To which
I answer, "Emphatically, yes." I solidly prefer it to the new female
education, for this reason, that I can see in it an intellectual design,
while there is none in the other. I am by no means sure that even in
point of practical fact that elegant female would not have been more
than a match for most of the inelegant females. I fancy Jane Austen was
stronger, sharper and shrewder than Charlotte Bronte; I am quite certain
she was stronger, sharper and shrewder than George Eliot. She could
do one thing neither of them could do: she could coolly and sensibly
describe a man. I am not sure that the old great lady who could only
smatter Italian was not more vigorous than the new great lady who can
only stammer American; nor am I certain that the bygone duchesses who
were scarcely successful when they painted Melrose Abbey, were so much
more weak-minded than the modern duchesses who paint only their own
faces, and are bad at that. But that is not the point. What was the
theory, what was the idea, in their old, weak water-colors and their
shaky Italian? The idea was the same which in a ruder rank expressed
itself in home-made wines and hereditary recipes; and which still, in
a thousand unexpected ways, can be found clinging to the women of the
poor. It was the idea I urged in the second part of this book: that
the world must keep one great amateur, lest we all become artists and
perish. Somebody must renounce all specialist conquests, that she may
conquer all the conquerors. That she may be a queen of life, she must
not be a private soldier in it. I do not think the elegant female with
her bad Italian was a perfect product, any more than I think the slum
woman talking gin and funerals is a perfect product; alas! there are few
perfect products. But they come from a comprehensible idea; and the new
woman comes from nothing and nowhere. It is right to have an ideal, it
is right to have the right ideal, and these two have the right ideal.
The slum mother with her funerals is the degenerate daughter of
Antigone, the obstinate priestess of the household gods. The lady
talking bad Italian was the decayed tenth cousin of Portia, the great
and golden Italian lady, the Renascence amateur of life, who could be a
barrister because she could be anything. Sunken and neglected in the
sea of modern monotony and imitation, the types hold tightly to their
original truths. Antigone, ugly, dirty and often drunken, will still
bury her father. The elegant female, vapid and fading away to nothing,
still feels faintly the fundamental difference between herself and
her husband: that he must be Something in the City, that she may be
everything in the country.

There was a time when you and I and all of us were all very close to
God; so that even now the color of a pebble (or a paint), the smell of a
flower (or a firework), comes to our hearts with a kind of authority and
certainty; as if they were fragments of a muddled message, or features
of a forgotten face. To pour that fiery simplicity upon the whole of
life is the only real aim of education; and closest to the child comes
the woman--she understands. To say what she understands is beyond me;
save only this, that it is not a solemnity. Rather it is a towering
levity, an uproarious amateurishness of the universe, such as we felt
when we were little, and would as soon sing as garden, as soon paint as
run. To smatter the tongues of men and angels, to dabble in the dreadful
sciences, to juggle with pillars and pyramids and toss up the planets
like balls, this is that inner audacity and indifference which the human
soul, like a conjurer catching oranges, must keep up forever. This is
that insanely frivolous thing we call sanity. And the elegant female,
drooping her ringlets over her water-colors, knew it and acted on it.
She was juggling with frantic and flaming suns. She was maintaining
the bold equilibrium of inferiorities which is the most mysterious of
superiorities and perhaps the most unattainable. She was maintaining
the prime truth of woman, the universal mother: that if a thing is worth
doing, it is worth doing badly.



A cultivated Conservative friend of mine once exhibited great distress
because in a gay moment I once called Edmund Burke an atheist. I need
scarcely say that the remark lacked something of biographical precision;
it was meant to. Burke was certainly not an atheist in his conscious
cosmic theory, though he had not a special and flaming faith in God,
like Robespierre. Nevertheless, the remark had reference to a truth
which it is here relevant to repeat. I mean that in the quarrel over the
French Revolution, Burke did stand for the atheistic attitude and mode
of argument, as Robespierre stood for the theistic. The Revolution
appealed to the idea of an abstract and eternal justice, beyond all
local custom or convenience. If there are commands of God, then there
must be rights of man. Here Burke made his brilliant diversion; he did
not attack the Robespierre doctrine with the old mediaeval doctrine of
jus divinum (which, like the Robespierre doctrine, was theistic), he
attacked it with the modern argument of scientific relativity; in short,
the argument of evolution. He suggested that humanity was everywhere
molded by or fitted to its environment and institutions; in fact, that
each people practically got, not only the tyrant it deserved, but the
tyrant it ought to have. "I know nothing of the rights of men," he said,
"but I know something of the rights of Englishmen." There you have the
essential atheist. His argument is that we have got some protection by
natural accident and growth; and why should we profess to think beyond
it, for all the world as if we were the images of God! We are born under
a House of Lords, as birds under a house of leaves; we live under a
monarchy as niggers live under a tropic sun; it is not their fault if
they are slaves, and it is not ours if we are snobs. Thus, long
before Darwin struck his great blow at democracy, the essential of the
Darwinian argument had been already urged against the French Revolution.
Man, said Burke in effect, must adapt himself to everything, like an
animal; he must not try to alter everything, like an angel. The last
weak cry of the pious, pretty, half-artificial optimism and deism of the
eighteenth century came in the voice of Sterne, saying, "God tempers
the wind to the shorn lamb." And Burke, the iron evolutionist,
essentially answered, "No; God tempers the shorn lamb to the wind."
It is the lamb that has to adapt himself. That is, he either dies or
becomes a particular kind of lamb who likes standing in a draught.

The subconscious popular instinct against Darwinism was not a mere
offense at the grotesque notion of visiting one's grandfather in a cage
in the Regent's Park. Men go in for drink, practical jokes and
many other grotesque things; they do not much mind making beasts
of themselves, and would not much mind having beasts made of their
forefathers. The real instinct was much deeper and much more valuable.
It was this: that when once one begins to think of man as a shifting and
alterable thing, it is always easy for the strong and crafty to twist
him into new shapes for all kinds of unnatural purposes. The popular
instinct sees in such developments the possibility of backs bowed and
hunch-backed for their burden, or limbs twisted for their task. It has
a very well-grounded guess that whatever is done swiftly and
systematically will mostly be done by a successful class and almost
solely in their interests. It has therefore a vision of inhuman hybrids
and half-human experiments much in the style of Mr. Wells's "Island of
Dr. Moreau." The rich man may come to breeding a tribe of dwarfs to be
his jockeys, and a tribe of giants to be his hall-porters. Grooms might
be born bow-legged and tailors born cross-legged; perfumers might have
long, large noses and a crouching attitude, like hounds of scent; and
professional wine-tasters might have the horrible expression of one
tasting wine stamped upon their faces as infants. Whatever wild image
one employs it cannot keep pace with the panic of the human fancy, when
once it supposes that the fixed type called man could be changed. If
some millionaire wanted arms, some porter must grow ten arms like an
octopus; if he wants legs, some messenger-boy must go with a hundred
trotting legs like a centipede. In the distorted mirror of hypothesis,
that is, of the unknown, men can dimly see such monstrous and evil
shapes; men run all to eye, or all to fingers, with nothing left but one
nostril or one ear. That is the nightmare with which the mere notion of
adaptation threatens us. That is the nightmare that is not so very far
from the reality.

It will be said that not the wildest evolutionist really asks that we
should become in any way unhuman or copy any other animal. Pardon me,
that is exactly what not merely the wildest evolutionists urge, but some
of the tamest evolutionists too. There has risen high in recent
history an important cultus which bids fair to be the religion of the
future--which means the religion of those few weak-minded people who
live in the future. It is typical of our time that it has to look
for its god through a microscope; and our time has marked a definite
adoration of the insect. Like most things we call new, of course, it is
not at all new as an idea; it is only new as an idolatry. Virgil takes
bees seriously but I doubt if he would have kept bees as carefully as
he wrote about them. The wise king told the sluggard to watch the ant, a
charming occupation--for a sluggard. But in our own time has appeared a
very different tone, and more than one great man, as well as numberless
intelligent men, have in our time seriously suggested that we should
study the insect because we are his inferiors. The old moralists merely
took the virtues of man and distributed them quite decoratively and
arbitrarily among the animals. The ant was an almost heraldic symbol of
industry, as the lion was of courage, or, for the matter of that, the
pelican of charity. But if the mediaevals had been convinced that a
lion was not courageous, they would have dropped the lion and kept the
courage; if the pelican is not charitable, they would say, so much the
worse for the pelican. The old moralists, I say, permitted the ant to
enforce and typify man's morality; they never allowed the ant to upset
it. They used the ant for industry as the lark for punctuality; they
looked up at the flapping birds and down at the crawling insects for a
homely lesson. But we have lived to see a sect that does not look down
at the insects, but looks up at the insects, that asks us essentially to
bow down and worship beetles, like ancient Egyptians.

Maurice Maeterlinck is a man of unmistakable genius, and genius always
carries a magnifying glass. In the terrible crystal of his lens we have
seen the bees not as a little yellow swarm, but rather in golden armies
and hierarchies of warriors and queens. Imagination perpetually peers
and creeps further down the avenues and vistas in the tubes of science,
and one fancies every frantic reversal of proportions; the earwig
striding across the echoing plain like an elephant, or the grasshopper
coming roaring above our roofs like a vast aeroplane, as he leaps from
Hertfordshire to Surrey. One seems to enter in a dream a temple of
enormous entomology, whose architecture is based on something
wilder than arms or backbones; in which the ribbed columns have the
half-crawling look of dim and monstrous caterpillars; or the dome is
a starry spider hung horribly in the void. There is one of the modern
works of engineering that gives one something of this nameless fear
of the exaggerations of an underworld; and that is the curious curved
architecture of the under ground railway, commonly called the Twopenny
Tube. Those squat archways, without any upright line or pillar, look as
if they had been tunneled by huge worms who have never learned to lift
their heads. It is the very underground palace of the Serpent, the spirit
of changing shape and color, that is the enemy of man.

But it is not merely by such strange aesthetic suggestions that writers
like Maeterlinck have influenced us in the matter; there is also an
ethical side to the business. The upshot of M. Maeterlinck's book on
bees is an admiration, one might also say an envy, of their collective
spirituality; of the fact that they live only for something which
he calls the Soul of the Hive. And this admiration for the communal
morality of insects is expressed in many other modern writers in various
quarters and shapes; in Mr. Benjamin Kidd's theory of living only for
the evolutionary future of our race, and in the great interest of some
Socialists in ants, which they generally prefer to bees, I suppose,
because they are not so brightly colored. Not least among the hundred
evidences of this vague insectolatry are the floods of flattery poured
by modern people on that energetic nation of the Far East of which
it has been said that "Patriotism is its only religion"; or, in other
words, that it lives only for the Soul of the Hive. When at long
intervals of the centuries Christendom grows weak, morbid or skeptical,
and mysterious Asia begins to move against us her dim populations and to
pour them westward like a dark movement of matter, in such cases it
has been very common to compare the invasion to a plague of lice
or incessant armies of locusts. The Eastern armies were indeed like
insects; in their blind, busy destructiveness, in their black nihilism
of personal outlook, in their hateful indifference to individual life
and love, in their base belief in mere numbers, in their pessimistic
courage and their atheistic patriotism, the riders and raiders of the
East are indeed like all the creeping things of the earth. But never
before, I think, have Christians called a Turk a locust and meant it
as a compliment. Now for the first time we worship as well as fear; and
trace with adoration that enormous form advancing vast and vague out
of Asia, faintly discernible amid the mystic clouds of winged creatures
hung over the wasted lands, thronging the skies like thunder and
discoloring the skies like rain; Beelzebub, the Lord of Flies.

In resisting this horrible theory of the Soul of the Hive, we of
Christendom stand not for ourselves, but for all humanity; for the
essential and distinctive human idea that one good and happy man is an
end in himself, that a soul is worth saving. Nay, for those who like
such biological fancies it might well be said that we stand as chiefs
and champions of a whole section of nature, princes of the house whose
cognizance is the backbone, standing for the milk of the individual
mother and the courage of the wandering cub, representing the pathetic
chivalry of the dog, the humor and perversity of cats, the affection of
the tranquil horse, the loneliness of the lion. It is more to the point,
however, to urge that this mere glorification of society as it is in
the social insects is a transformation and a dissolution in one of the
outlines which have been specially the symbols of man. In the cloud and
confusion of the flies and bees is growing fainter and fainter, as is
finally disappearing, the idea of the human family. The hive has become
larger than the house, the bees are destroying their captors; what the
locust hath left, the caterpillar hath eaten; and the little house and
garden of our friend Jones is in a bad way.



When Lord Morley said that the House of Lords must be either mended
or ended, he used a phrase which has caused some confusion; because
it might seem to suggest that mending and ending are somewhat similar
things. I wish specially to insist on the fact that mending and ending
are opposite things. You mend a thing because you like it; you end a
thing because you don't. To mend is to strengthen. I, for instance,
disbelieve in oligarchy; so I would no more mend the House of Lords
than I would mend a thumbscrew. On the other hand, I do believe in the
family; therefore I would mend the family as I would mend a chair; and
I will never deny for a moment that the modern family is a chair that
wants mending. But here comes in the essential point about the mass of
modern advanced sociologists. Here are two institutions that have always
been fundamental with mankind, the family and the state. Anarchists, I
believe, disbelieve in both. It is quite unfair to say that Socialists
believe in the state, but do not believe in the family; thousands of
Socialists believe more in the family than any Tory. But it is true
to say that while anarchists would end both, Socialists are specially
engaged in mending (that is, strengthening and renewing) the state; and
they are not specially engaged in strengthening and renewing the family.
They are not doing anything to define the functions of father, mother,
and child, as such; they are not tightening the machine up again; they
are not blackening in again the fading lines of the old drawing. With
the state they are doing this; they are sharpening its machinery,
they are blackening in its black dogmatic lines, they are making mere
government in every way stronger and in some ways harsher than before.
While they leave the home in ruins, they restore the hive, especially
the stings. Indeed, some schemes of labor and Poor Law reform recently
advanced by distinguished Socialists, amount to little more than putting
the largest number of people in the despotic power of Mr. Bumble.
Apparently, progress means being moved on--by the police.

The point it is my purpose to urge might perhaps be suggested thus:
that Socialists and most social reformers of their color are vividly
conscious of the line between the kind of things that belong to the
state and the kind of things that belong to mere chaos or uncoercible
nature; they may force children to go to school before the sun rises,
but they will not try to force the sun to rise; they will not, like
Canute, banish the sea, but only the sea-bathers. But inside the outline
of the state their lines are confused, and entities melt into each
other. They have no firm instinctive sense of one thing being in its
nature private and another public, of one thing being necessarily
bond and another free. That is why piece by piece, and quite silently,
personal liberty is being stolen from Englishmen, as personal land has
been silently stolen ever since the sixteenth century.

I can only put it sufficiently curtly in a careless simile. A Socialist
means a man who thinks a walking-stick like an umbrella because
they both go into the umbrella-stand. Yet they are as different as a
battle-ax and a bootjack. The essential idea of an umbrella is breadth
and protection. The essential idea of a stick is slenderness and,
partly, attack. The stick is the sword, the umbrella is the shield, but
it is a shield against another and more nameless enemy--the hostile but
anonymous universe. More properly, therefore, the umbrella is the roof;
it is a kind of collapsible house. But the vital difference goes far
deeper than this; it branches off into two kingdoms of man's mind, with
a chasm between. For the point is this: that the umbrella is a shield
against an enemy so actual as to be a mere nuisance; whereas the
stick is a sword against enemies so entirely imaginary as to be a pure
pleasure. The stick is not merely a sword, but a court sword; it is a
thing of purely ceremonial swagger. One cannot express the emotion in
any way except by saying that a man feels more like a man with a stick
in his hand, just as he feels more like a man with a sword at his side.
But nobody ever had any swelling sentiments about an umbrella; it is
a convenience, like a door scraper. An umbrella is a necessary evil. A
walking-stick is a quite unnecessary good. This, I fancy, is the real
explanation of the perpetual losing of umbrellas; one does not hear of
people losing walking sticks. For a walking-stick is a pleasure, a piece
of real personal property; it is missed even when it is not needed. When
my right hand forgets its stick may it forget its cunning. But anybody
may forget an umbrella, as anybody might forget a shed that he has stood
up in out of the rain. Anybody can forget a necessary thing.

If I might pursue the figure of speech, I might briefly say that the
whole Collectivist error consists in saying that because two men
can share an umbrella, therefore two men can share a walking-stick.
Umbrellas might possibly be replaced by some kind of common awnings
covering certain streets from particular showers. But there is nothing
but nonsense in the notion of swinging a communal stick; it is as if one
spoke of twirling a communal mustache. It will be said that this is a
frank fantasia and that no sociologists suggest such follies. Pardon me
if they do. I will give a precise parallel to the case of confusion
of sticks and umbrellas, a parallel from a perpetually reiterated
suggestion of reform. At least sixty Socialists out of a hundred, when
they have spoken of common laundries, will go on at once to speak of
common kitchens. This is just as mechanical and unintelligent as the
fanciful case I have quoted. Sticks and umbrellas are both stiff rods
that go into holes in a stand in the hall. Kitchens and washhouses
are both large rooms full of heat and damp and steam. But the soul and
function of the two things are utterly opposite. There is only one way
of washing a shirt; that is, there is only one right way. There is no
taste and fancy in tattered shirts. Nobody says, "Tompkins likes five
holes in his shirt, but I must say, give me the good old four holes."
Nobody says, "This washerwoman rips up the left leg of my pyjamas; now
if there is one thing I insist on it is the right leg ripped up." The
ideal washing is simply to send a thing back washed. But it is by no
means true that the ideal cooking is simply to send a thing back cooked.
Cooking is an art; it has in it personality, and even perversity, for
the definition of an art is that which must be personal and may be
perverse. I know a man, not otherwise dainty, who cannot touch common
sausages unless they are almost burned to a coal. He wants his sausages
fried to rags, yet he does not insist on his shirts being boiled to
rags. I do not say that such points of culinary delicacy are of high
importance. I do not say that the communal ideal must give way to
them. What I say is that the communal ideal is not conscious of their
existence, and therefore goes wrong from the very start, mixing a wholly
public thing with a highly individual one. Perhaps we ought to accept
communal kitchens in the social crisis, just as we should accept
communal cat's-meat in a siege. But the cultured Socialist, quite at his
ease, by no means in a siege, talks about communal kitchens as if they
were the same kind of thing as communal laundries. This shows at the
start that he misunderstands human nature. It is as different as three
men singing the same chorus from three men playing three tunes on the
same piano.



In the quarrel earlier alluded to between the energetic Progressive and
the obstinate Conservative (or, to talk a tenderer language, between
Hudge and Gudge), the state of cross-purposes is at the present moment
acute. The Tory says he wants to preserve family life in Cindertown;
the Socialist very reasonably points out to him that in Cindertown
at present there isn't any family life to preserve. But Hudge, the
Socialist, in his turn, is highly vague and mysterious about whether he
would preserve the family life if there were any; or whether he will try
to restore it where it has disappeared. It is all very confusing. The
Tory sometimes talks as if he wanted to tighten the domestic bonds that
do not exist; the Socialist as if he wanted to loosen the bonds that do
not bind anybody. The question we all want to ask of both of them is
the original ideal question, "Do you want to keep the family at all?" If
Hudge, the Socialist, does want the family he must be prepared for the
natural restraints, distinctions and divisions of labor in the family.
He must brace himself up to bear the idea of the woman having a
preference for the private house and a man for the public house. He must
manage to endure somehow the idea of a woman being womanly, which does
not mean soft and yielding, but handy, thrifty, rather hard, and very
humorous. He must confront without a quiver the notion of a child who
shall be childish, that is, full of energy, but without an idea of
independence; fundamentally as eager for authority as for information
and butter-scotch. If a man, a woman and a child live together any more
in free and sovereign households, these ancient relations will recur;
and Hudge must put up with it. He can only avoid it by destroying the
family, driving both sexes into sexless hives and hordes, and bringing
up all children as the children of the state--like Oliver Twist. But if
these stern words must be addressed to Hudge, neither shall Gudge escape
a somewhat severe admonition. For the plain truth to be told pretty
sharply to the Tory is this, that if he wants the family to remain,
if he wants to be strong enough to resist the rending forces of our
essentially savage commerce, he must make some very big sacrifices and
try to equalize property. The overwhelming mass of the English people at
this particular instant are simply too poor to be domestic. They are
as domestic as they can manage; they are much more domestic than the
governing class; but they cannot get what good there was originally
meant to be in this institution, simply because they have not got enough
money. The man ought to stand for a certain magnanimity, quite lawfully
expressed in throwing money away: but if under given circumstances
he can only do it by throwing the week's food away, then he is not
magnanimous, but mean. The woman ought to stand for a certain wisdom
which is well expressed in valuing things rightly and guarding money
sensibly; but how is she to guard money if there is no money to guard?
The child ought to look on his mother as a fountain of natural fun and
poetry; but how can he unless the fountain, like other fountains,
is allowed to play? What chance have any of these ancient arts and
functions in a house so hideously topsy-turvy; a house where the woman
is out working and the man isn't; and the child is forced by law to
think his schoolmaster's requirements more important than his mother's?
No, Gudge and his friends in the House of Lords and the Carlton Club
must make up their minds on this matter, and that very quickly. If
they are content to have England turned into a beehive and an ant-hill,
decorated here and there with a few faded butterflies playing at an old
game called domesticity in the intervals of the divorce court, then let
them have their empire of insects; they will find plenty of Socialists
who will give it to them. But if they want a domestic England, they must
"shell out," as the phrase goes, to a vastly greater extent than any
Radical politician has yet dared to suggest; they must endure burdens
much heavier than the Budget and strokes much deadlier than the death
duties; for the thing to be done is nothing more nor less than the
distribution of the great fortunes and the great estates. We can now
only avoid Socialism by a change as vast as Socialism. If we are to save
property, we must distribute property, almost as sternly and sweepingly
as did the French Revolution. If we are to preserve the family we must
revolutionize the nation.



And now, as this book is drawing to a close, I will whisper in the
reader's ear a horrible suspicion that has sometimes haunted me: the
suspicion that Hudge and Gudge are secretly in partnership. That the
quarrel they keep up in public is very much of a put-up job, and that
the way in which they perpetually play into each other's hands is not
an everlasting coincidence. Gudge, the plutocrat, wants an anarchic
industrialism; Hudge, the idealist, provides him with lyric praises of
anarchy. Gudge wants women-workers because they are cheaper; Hudge calls
the woman's work "freedom to live her own life." Gudge wants steady
and obedient workmen, Hudge preaches teetotalism--to workmen, not to
Gudge--Gudge wants a tame and timid population who will never take arms
against tyranny; Hudge proves from Tolstoi that nobody must take
arms against anything. Gudge is naturally a healthy and well-washed
gentleman; Hudge earnestly preaches the perfection of Gudge's washing
to people who can't practice it. Above all, Gudge rules by a coarse and
cruel system of sacking and sweating and bi-sexual toil which is totally
inconsistent with the free family and which is bound to destroy
it; therefore Hudge, stretching out his arms to the universe with a
prophetic smile, tells us that the family is something that we shall
soon gloriously outgrow.

I do not know whether the partnership of Hudge and Gudge is conscious
or unconscious. I only know that between them they still keep the common
man homeless. I only know I still meet Jones walking the streets in
the gray twilight, looking sadly at the poles and barriers and low red
goblin lanterns which still guard the house which is none the less his
because he has never been in it.



Here, it may be said, my book ends just where it ought to begin. I have
said that the strong centers of modern English property must swiftly
or slowly be broken up, if even the idea of property is to remain
among Englishmen. There are two ways in which it could be done, a
cold administration by quite detached officials, which is called
Collectivism, or a personal distribution, so as to produce what is
called Peasant Proprietorship. I think the latter solution the finer and
more fully human, because it makes each man as somebody blamed somebody
for saying of the Pope, a sort of small god. A man on his own turf
tastes eternity or, in other words, will give ten minutes more work than
is required. But I believe I am justified in shutting the door on this
vista of argument, instead of opening it. For this book is not designed
to prove the case for Peasant Proprietorship, but to prove the case
against modern sages who turn reform to a routine. The whole of this
book has been a rambling and elaborate urging of one purely ethical
fact. And if by any chance it should happen that there are still some
who do not quite see what that point is, I will end with one plain
parable, which is none the worse for being also a fact.

A little while ago certain doctors and other persons permitted by modern
law to dictate to their shabbier fellow-citizens, sent out an order that
all little girls should have their hair cut short. I mean, of course,
all little girls whose parents were poor. Many very unhealthy habits are
common among rich little girls, but it will be long before any doctors
interfere forcibly with them. Now, the case for this particular
interference was this, that the poor are pressed down from above into
such stinking and suffocating underworlds of squalor, that poor people
must not be allowed to have hair, because in their case it must mean
lice in the hair. Therefore, the doctors propose to abolish the hair. It
never seems to have occurred to them to abolish the lice. Yet it could
be done. As is common in most modern discussions the unmentionable thing
is the pivot of the whole discussion. It is obvious to any Christian man
(that is, to any man with a free soul) that any coercion applied to
a cabman's daughter ought, if possible, to be applied to a Cabinet
Minister's daughter. I will not ask why the doctors do not, as a matter
of fact apply their rule to a Cabinet Minister's daughter. I will not
ask, because I know. They do not because they dare not. But what is the
excuse they would urge, what is the plausible argument they would use,
for thus cutting and clipping poor children and not rich? Their argument
would be that the disease is more likely to be in the hair of poor
people than of rich. And why? Because the poor children are forced
(against all the instincts of the highly domestic working classes)
to crowd together in close rooms under a wildly inefficient system of
public instruction; and because in one out of the forty children there
may be offense. And why? Because the poor man is so ground down by the
great rents of the great ground landlords that his wife often has
to work as well as he. Therefore she has no time to look after
the children, therefore one in forty of them is dirty. Because the
workingman has these two persons on top of him, the landlord sitting
(literally) on his stomach, and the schoolmaster sitting (literally) on
his head, the workingman must allow his little girl's hair, first to be
neglected from poverty, next to be poisoned by promiscuity, and, lastly,
to be abolished by hygiene. He, perhaps, was proud of his little girl's
hair. But he does not count.

Upon this simple principle (or rather precedent) the sociological doctor
drives gayly ahead. When a crapulous tyranny crushes men down into the
dirt, so that their very hair is dirty, the scientific course is clear.
It would be long and laborious to cut off the heads of the tyrants;
it is easier to cut off the hair of the slaves. In the same way, if
it should ever happen that poor children, screaming with toothache,
disturbed any schoolmaster or artistic gentleman, it would be easy to
pull out all the teeth of the poor; if their nails were disgustingly
dirty, their nails could be plucked out; if their noses were indecently
blown, their noses could be cut off. The appearance of our humbler
fellow-citizen could be quite strikingly simplified before we had done
with him. But all this is not a bit wilder than the brute fact that a
doctor can walk into the house of a free man, whose daughter's hair may
be as clean as spring flowers, and order him to cut it off. It never
seems to strike these people that the lesson of lice in the slums is the
wrongness of slums, not the wrongness of hair. Hair is, to say the least
of it, a rooted thing. Its enemy (like the other insects and oriental
armies of whom we have spoken) sweep upon us but seldom. In truth, it
is only by eternal institutions like hair that we can test passing
institutions like empires. If a house is so built as to knock a man's
head off when he enters it, it is built wrong.

The mob can never rebel unless it is conservative, at least enough to
have conserved some reasons for rebelling. It is the most awful thought
in all our anarchy, that most of the ancient blows struck for freedom
would not be struck at all to-day, because of the obscuration of the
clean, popular customs from which they came. The insult that brought
down the hammer of Wat Tyler might now be called a medical examination.
That which Virginius loathed and avenged as foul slavery might now be
praised as free love. The cruel taunt of Foulon, "Let them eat grass,"
might now be represented as the dying cry of an idealistic vegetarian.
Those great scissors of science that would snip off the curls of the
poor little school children are ceaselessly snapping closer and closer
to cut off all the corners and fringes of the arts and honors of the
poor. Soon they will be twisting necks to suit clean collars, and
hacking feet to fit new boots. It never seems to strike them that the
body is more than raiment; that the Sabbath was made for man; that all
institutions shall be judged and damned by whether they have fitted the
normal flesh and spirit. It is the test of political sanity to keep your
head. It is the test of artistic sanity to keep your hair on.

Now the whole parable and purpose of these last pages, and indeed of all
these pages, is this: to assert that we must instantly begin all over
again, and begin at the other end. I begin with a little girl's hair.
That I know is a good thing at any rate. Whatever else is evil, the
pride of a good mother in the beauty of her daughter is good. It is one
of those adamantine tendernesses which are the touchstones of every age
and race. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If
landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and
sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter
I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a girl should have
long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean
hair, she should not have an unclean home: because she should not have
an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because
she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord;
because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a
redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution
of property, there shall be a revolution. That little urchin with the
gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she
shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut
short like a convict's; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be
hacked about and mutilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred
image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall;
the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come
rushing down, and not one hair of her head shall be harmed.



Not wishing to overload this long essay with too many parentheses, apart
from its thesis of progress and precedent, I append here three notes on
points of detail that may possibly be misunderstood.

The first refers to the female controversy. It may seem to many that I
dismiss too curtly the contention that all women should have votes,
even if most women do not desire them. It is constantly said in this
connection that males have received the vote (the agricultural laborers
for instance) when only a minority of them were in favor of it. Mr.
Galsworthy, one of the few fine fighting intellects of our time, has
talked this language in the "Nation." Now, broadly, I have only to
answer here, as everywhere in this book, that history is not a toboggan
slide, but a road to be reconsidered and even retraced. If we really
forced General Elections upon free laborers who definitely disliked
General Elections, then it was a thoroughly undemocratic thing to do;
if we are democrats we ought to undo it. We want the will of the people,
not the votes of the people; and to give a man a vote against his will
is to make voting more valuable than the democracy it declares.

But this analogy is false, for a plain and particular reason. Many
voteless women regard a vote as unwomanly. Nobody says that most
voteless men regarded a vote as unmanly. Nobody says that any voteless
men regarded it as unmanly. Not in the stillest hamlet or the most
stagnant fen could you find a yokel or a tramp who thought he lost his
sexual dignity by being part of a political mob. If he did not care
about a vote it was solely because he did not know about a vote; he did
not understand the word any better than Bimetallism. His opposition, if
it existed, was merely negative. His indifference to a vote was really

But the female sentiment against the franchise, whatever its size, is
positive. It is not negative; it is by no means indifferent. Such
women as are opposed to the change regard it (rightly or wrongly) as
unfeminine. That is, as insulting certain affirmative traditions to
which they are attached. You may think such a view prejudiced; but
I violently deny that any democrat has a right to override such
prejudices, if they are popular and positive. Thus he would not have
a right to make millions of Moslems vote with a cross if they had a
prejudice in favor of voting with a crescent. Unless this is admitted,
democracy is a farce we need scarcely keep up. If it is admitted, the
Suffragists have not merely to awaken an indifferent, but to convert a
hostile majority.



On re-reading my protest, which I honestly think much needed, against
our heathen idolatry of mere ablution, I see that it may possibly be
misread. I hasten to say that I think washing a most important thing to
be taught both to rich and poor. I do not attack the positive but the
relative position of soap. Let it be insisted on even as much as now;
but let other things be insisted on much more. I am even ready to admit
that cleanliness is next to godliness; but the moderns will not even
admit godliness to be next to cleanliness. In their talk about Thomas
Becket and such saints and heroes they make soap more important than
soul; they reject godliness whenever it is not cleanliness. If we resent
this about remote saints and heroes, we should resent it more about the
many saints and heroes of the slums, whose unclean hands cleanse the
world. Dirt is evil chiefly as evidence of sloth; but the fact remains
that the classes that wash most are those that work least. Concerning
these, the practical course is simple; soap should be urged on them and
advertised as what it is--a luxury. With regard to the poor also the
practical course is not hard to harmonize with our thesis. If we want
to give poor people soap we must set out deliberately to give them
luxuries. If we will not make them rich enough to be clean, then
emphatically we must do what we did with the saints. We must reverence
them for being dirty.



I have not dealt with any details touching distributed ownership, or
its possibility in England, for the reason stated in the text. This book
deals with what is wrong, wrong in our root of argument and effort. This
wrong is, I say, that we will go forward because we dare not go back.
Thus the Socialist says that property is already concentrated into
Trusts and Stores: the only hope is to concentrate it further in the
State. I say the only hope is to unconcentrate it; that is, to repent
and return; the only step forward is the step backward.

But in connection with this distribution I have laid myself open to
another potential mistake. In speaking of a sweeping redistribution,
I speak of decision in the aim, not necessarily of abruptness in the
means. It is not at all too late to restore an approximately rational
state of English possessions without any mere confiscation. A policy of
buying out landlordism, steadily adopted in England as it has already
been adopted in Ireland (notably in Mr. Wyndham's wise and fruitful
Act), would in a very short time release the lower end of the see-saw
and make the whole plank swing more level. The objection to this course
is not at all that it would not do, only that it will not be done. If
we leave things as they are, there will almost certainly be a crash of
confiscation. If we hesitate, we shall soon have to hurry. But if we
start doing it quickly we have still time to do it slowly.

This point, however, is not essential to my book. All I have to urge
between these two boards is that I dislike the big Whiteley shop, and
that I dislike Socialism because it will (according to Socialists) be so
like that shop. It is its fulfilment, not its reversal. I do not object
to Socialism because it will revolutionize our commerce, but because it
will leave it so horribly the same.

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