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Title: Critical, Historical, and Miscellaneous Essays; Vol. (2 of 6) - With a Memoir and Index
Author: Macaulay, Thomas Babbington
Language: English
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*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Critical, Historical, and Miscellaneous Essays; Vol. (2 of 6) - With a Memoir and Index" ***

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Lord Macaulay

With A Memoir And Index

In Six Volumes.

Vol. II.

New York: Published By Sheldon And Company.


[Illustration: 0007]



(_Edinburgh Review_, March 1829.)

Of {5}those philosophers who call themselves Utilitarians, and whom
others generally call Benthamites, Mr. Mill is, with the exception of
the illustrious founder of the sect, by far the most distinguished. The
little work now before us contains a summary of the opinions held by
this gentleman and his brethren on several subjects most important to
society. All the seven essays of which it consists abound in curious
matter. But at present we intend to confine our remarks to the Treatise
on Government, which stands first in the volume. On some future
occasion, we may perhaps attempt to do justice to the rest.

It must be owned that to do justice to any composition of Mr. Mill is
not, in the opinion of his admirers, a very easy task. They do not,
indeed, place him in the same rank with Mr. Bentham; but the terms in
which they extol the disciple, though feeble when compared with the
hyperboles of adoration employed by

     (1) _Essays on Government, Jurisprudence, the Liberty of the
     Press, Prisons and Prison Discipline, Colonies, the Law of
     Nations, and Education_, By James Mill, Esq., author of the
     History of British India. Reprinted by permission from the
     Supplement to the Encyclopædia Britannica. (Not for sale.)
     London, 1828.

{6}them in speaking of the master, are as strong as any sober man would
allow himself to use concerning Locke or Bacon. The essay before us
is perhaps the most remarkable of the works to which Mr. Mill owes
his fame. By the members of his sect, it is considered as perfect and
unanswerable. Every part of it is an article of their faith; and
the damnatory clauses, in which their creed abounds far beyond any
theological symbol with which we are acquainted, are strong and
full against all who reject any portion of what is so irrefragably
established. No man, they maintain, who has understanding sufficient
to carry him through the first proposition of Euclid, can read this
master-piece of demonstration and honestly declare that he remains

We have formed a very different opinion of this work. We think that the
theory of Mr. Mill rests altogether on false principles, and that even
on those false principles he does not reason logically. Nevertheless,
we do not think it strange that his speculations should have filled the
Utilitarians with admiration. We have been for some time past inclined
to suspect that these people, whom some regard as the lights of the
world and others as incarnate demons, are in general ordinary men, with
narrow understandings and little information. The contempt which they
express for elegant literature is evidently the contempt of ignorance.
We apprehend that many of them are persons who, having read little
or nothing, are delighted to be rescued from the sense of their own
inferiority by some teacher who assures them that the studies which
they have neglected are of no value, puts five or six phrases into their
mouths, lends them an odd number of the Westminster Review, and in
a month {7}transforms them into philosophers. Mingled with these
smatterers, whose attainments just suffice to elevate them from the
insignificance of dunces to the dignity of bores, and to spread dismay
among their pious aunts and grandmothers, there are, we well know,
many well-meaning men who have really read and thought much; but whose
reading and meditation have been almost exclusively confined to one
class of subjects; and who, consequently, though they possess much
valuable knowledge respecting those subjects, are by no means so
well qualified to judge of a great system as if they had taken a more
enlarged view of literature and society.

Nothing is more amusing or instructive than to observe the manner in
which people who think themselves wiser than all the rest of the world
fall into snares which the simple good sense of their neighbours detects
and avoids. It is one of the principal tenets of the Utilitarians that
sentiment and eloquence serve only to impede the pursuit of truth. They
therefore affect a quakerly plainness, or rather a cynical negligence
and impurity, of style. The strongest arguments, when clothed in
brilliant language, seem to them so much wordy nonsense. In the mean
time they surrender their understandings, with a facility found in no
other party, to the meanest and most abject sophisms, provided those
sophisms come before them disguised with the externals of demonstration.
They do not seem to know that logic has its illusions as well as
rhetoric,--that a fallacy may lurk in a syllogism as well as in a

Mr. Mill is exactly the writer to please people of this description.
His arguments are stated with the utmost affectation of precision; his
divisions are awfully {8}formal; and his style is generally as dry as
that of Euclid’s Elements. Whether this be a merit, we must be permitted
to doubt. Thus much is certain: that the ages in which the true
principles of philosophy were least understood were those in which the
ceremonial of logic was most strictly observed, and that the time from
which we date the rapid progress of the experimental sciences was also
the time at which a less exact and formal way of writing came into use.

The style which the Utilitarians admire suits only those subjects on
which it is possible to reason _a priori_ It grew up with the verbal
sophistry which flourished during the dark ages. With that sophistry it
fell before the Baconian philosophy in the day of the great deliverance
of the human mind. The inductive method not only endured but required
greater freedom of diction. It was impossible to reason from phenomena
up to principles, to mark slight shades of difference in quality, or to
estimate the comparative effect of two opposite considerations between
which there was no common measure, by means of the naked and meagre
jargon of the schoolmen. Of those schoolmen Mr. Mill has inherited
both the spirit and the style. He is an Aristotelian of the fifteenth
century, born out of due season. We have here an elaborate treatise on
Government, from which, but for two or three passing allusions, it
would not appear that the author was aware that any governments actually
existed among men. Certain propensities of human nature are assumed;
and from these premises the whole science of politics is synthetically
deduced! We can scarcely persuade ourselves that we are not reading a
book written before the time of Bacon and Galileo,--a book {9}written in
those days in which physicians reasoned from the nature of heat to the
treatment of fever, and astronomers proved syllogistically that the
planets could have no independent motion,--because the heavens were
incorruptible, and nature abhorred a vacuum!

The reason, too, which Mr. Mill has assigned for taking this course
strikes us as most extraordinary.

“Experience,” says he, “if we look only at the outside of the facts,
appears to be _divided_ on this subject. Absolute monarchy, under Neros
and Caligulas, under such men as the Emperors of Morocco and Sultans of
Turkey, is the scourge of human nature. On the other side, the people of
Denmark, tired out with the oppression of an aristocracy, resolved that
their king should be absolute; and, under their absolute monarch, are as
well governed as any people in Europe.”

This Mr. Mill actually gives as a reason for pursuing the _a priori_
method. But, in our judgment, the very circumstances which he mentions
irresistibly prove that the _a priori_ method is altogether unfit for
investigations of this kind, and that the only way to arrive at the
truth is by induction. _Experience_ can never be divided, or even appear
to be divided, except with reference to some hypothesis. When we say
that one fact is inconsistent with another fact, we mean only that it is
inconsistent with _the theory_ which we have founded on that other fact.
But, if the fact be certain, the unavoidable conclusion is that our
theory is false; and, in order to correct it, we must reason back from
an enlarged collection of facts to principles.

Now here we have two governments which, by Mr. Mill’s own account, come
under the same head in his _theoretical_ classification. It is evident,
therefore, that, {10}by reasoning on that theoretical classification,
we shall be brought to the conclusion that these two forms of government
must produce the same effects. But Mr. Mill himself tells us that they
do not produce the same effects. Hence he infers that the only way to
get at truth is to place implicit confidence in that chain of proof _a
priori_ from which it appears that they must produce the same effects!
To believe at once in a theory and in a fact which contradicts it is
an exercise of faith sufficiently hard: but to believe in a theory
_because_ a fact contradicts it is what neither philosopher nor pope
ever before required. This, however, is what Mr. Mill demands of us. He
seems to think that, if all despots, without exception, governed ill,
it would be unnecessary to prove, by a synthetical argument, what would
then be sufficiently clear from experience. But, as some despots will be
so perverse as to govern well, he finds himself compelled to prove the
impossibility of their governing well by that synthetical argument
which would have been superfluous had not the facts contradicted it. He
reasons _a priori_, because the phenomena are not what, by reasoning
_a priori_, he will prove them to be. In other words, he reasons _a
priori_, because, by so reasoning, he is certain to arrive at a false

In the course of the examination to which we propose to subject the
speculations of Mr. Mill we shall have to notice many other curious
instances of that turn of mind which the passage above quoted indicates.

The first chapter of his Essay relates to the ends of government. The
conception on this subject, he tells us, which exists in the minds of
most men is vague and undistinguishing. He first assumes, justly
enough, that the end of government is “to increase to the utmost {11}the
pleasures, and diminish to the utmost the pains, which men derive
from each other.” He then proceeds to show, with great form, that “the
greatest possible happiness of society is attained by insuring to every
man the greatest possible quantity of the produce of his labour.” To
effect this is, in his opinion, the end of government. It is remarkable
that Mr. Mill, with all his affected display of precision, has here
given a description of the ends of government far less precise than that
which is in the mouths of the vulgar. The first man with whom Mr. Mill
may travel in a stage coach will tell him that government exists for the
protection of the _persons_ and property of men. But Mr. Mill seems to
think that the preservation of property is the first and only object. It
is true, doubtless, that many of the injuries which are offered to the
persons of men proceed from a desire to possess their property. But the
practice of vindictive assassination as it has existed in some parts of
Europe--the practice of fighting wanton and sanguinary duels, like those
of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, in which bands of seconds
risked their lives as well as the principals;--these practices, and many
others which might be named, are evidently injurious to society; and
we do not see how a government which tolerated them could be said “to
diminish to the utmost the pains which men derive from each other.”
 Therefore, according to Mr. Mill’s very correct assumption, such a
government would not perfectly accomplish the end of its institution.
Yet such a government might, as far as we can perceive, “insure to
every man the greatest possible quantity of the produce of his labour.”
 Therefore such a government might, according to Mr. Milks subsequent
doctrine, perfectly accomplish the end of its institution. {12}The
matter is not of much consequence, except as an instance of that
slovenliness of thinking which is often concealed beneath a peculiar
ostentation of logical neatness.

Having determined the ends, Mr. Mill proceeds to consider the means.
For the preservation of property-some portion of the community must be
intrusted with power. This is Government; and the question is, how are
those to whom the necessary power is intrusted to be prevented from
abusing it?

Mr. Mill first passes in review the simple forms of government. He
allows that it would be inconvenient, if not physically impossible, that
the whole community should meet in a mass; it follows, therefore, that
the powers of government cannot be directly exercised by the people. But
he sees no objection to pure and direct Democracy, except the difficulty
which we have mentioned.

“The community,” says he, “cannot have an interest opposite to its
interests. To affirm this would be a contradiction in terms. The
community within itself, and with respect to itself, can have no
sinister interest. One community may intend the evil of another;
never its own. This is an indubitable proposition, and one of great

Mr. Mill then proceeds to demonstrate that a purely aristocratical form
of government is necessarily bad.

“_The reason for which government exists is, that one man, if stronger
than another, will take from him whatever that other possesses and he
desires. But if one man will do this, so will several. And if powers
are put into the hands of a comparatively small number, called an
aristocracy,--powers which make them stronger than the rest of the
community, they will take from the rest of the community as much as they
please of the objects {13}of desire. They will thus defeat the very end
for whieh government was instituted. The unfitness, therefore, of an
aristocracy to be intrusted with the powers of government, rests on

In exactly the same manner Mr. Mill proves absolute monarchy to be a bad
form of government.

“_If government is founded upon this as a law of human nature, that a
man, if able, will take from others any thing which they have and he
desires, it is sufficiently evident, that when a man is called a king he
does not change his nature; so that when he has got power to enable him
to take from every man whatever he pleases, he will take whatever he
pleases. To suppose that he will not, is to affirm that government
is unnecessary, and that human beings will abstain from injuring one
another of their own accord.

“It is very evident that this reasoning extends to every modification of
the smaller number. Whenever the powers of government are placed in any
hands other than those of the community, whether those of one man, of
a few, or of several, those principles of human nature which imply that
government is at all necessary, imply that those persons will make use
of them to defeat the very end for which government exists._”

But is it not possible that a king or an aristocracy may soon be
saturated with the objects of their desires, and may then protect
the community in the enjoyment of the rest? Mr. Mill answers in the
negative. He proves, with great pomp, that every man desires to have the
actions of every other correspondent to his will. Others can be induced
to conform to our will only by motives derived from pleasure or from
pain. The infliction of pain is of course direct injury; and, even if it
take the milder course, in order to produce obedience by motives derived
from pleasure, the government must confer favours. But, as there is
no limit to its desire of obedience, there will be no limit to its
disposition to confer favours; and, as it can confer favours {14}only
by plundering the people, there will be no limit to its disposition to
plunder the people. “It is therefore not true that there is in the mind
of a king, or in the minds of an aristocracy, any point of saturation
with the objects of desire.”

Mr. Mill then proceeds to show that, as monarchical and oligarchical
governments can influence men by motives drawn from pain, as well as by
motives drawn from pleasure, they will carry their cruelty, as well as
their rapacity, to a frightful extent. As he seems greatly to admire his
own reasonings on this subject, we think it but fair to let him speak
for himself.

“_The chain of inference in this ease is close and strong to a most
unusual degree. A man desires that the actions of other men shall be
instantly and accurately correspondent to his will. He desires that the
actions of the greatest possible number shall be so. Terror is the grand
instrument. Terror can work only through assurance that evil will follow
any failure of conformity between the will and the actions willed. Every
failure must therefore be punished. As there are no bounds to the mind’s
desire of its pleasure, there are, of course, no bounds to its desire of
perfection in the instruments of that pleasure. There are, therefore, no
bounds to its desire of exactness in the conformity between its will and
the actions willed; and by consequence to the strength of that terror
which is its procuring cause. Every the most minute failure must
be visited with the heaviest infliction; and as failure in extreme
exactness must frequently happen, the occasions of cruelty must be

“We have thus arrived at several conclusions of the highest possible
importance. We have seen that the principle of human nature, upon which
the necessity of government is founded, the propensity of one man to
possess himself of the objects of desire at the cost of another, leads
on, by infallible sequence, where power over a community is attained,
and nothing checks, not only to that degree of plunder which leaves the
members (excepting always the recipients and instruments of the plunder)
the bare means of subsistence, but to that degree of cruelty which is
necessary to keep in existence the most intense terrors._” {15}Now, no
man who has the least knowledge of the real state of the world, either
in former ages or at the present moment, can possibly be convinced,
though he may perhaps be bewildered, by arguments like these.

During the last two centuries, some hundreds of absolute princes have
reigned in Europe Is it true, that their cruelty has kept in existence
the most intense degree of terror; that their rapacity has left no
more than the bare means of subsistence to any of their subjects, their
ministers and soldiers excepted? Is this true of all of them? Of one
half of them? Of one tenth part of them? Of a single one? Is it true, in
the full extent, even of Philip the Second, of Louis the Fifteenth, or
of the Emperor Paul? But it is scarcely necessary to quote history. No
man of common sense, however ignorant he may be of books, can be imposed
on by Mr. Mill’s argument I because no man of common sense can live
among his fellow-creatures for a day without seeing innumerable facts
which contradict it. It is our business, however, to point out its
fallacy; and happily the fallacy is not very recondite.

We grant that rulers will take as much as they can of the objects of
their desires; and that, when the agency of other men is necessary to
that end, they will attempt by all means in their power to enforce
the prompt obedience of such men. But what are the objects of human
desire? Physical pleasure, no doubt, in part. But the mere appetites
which we have in common with the animals would be gratified almost as
cheaply and easily as those of the animals are gratified, if nothing
were given to taste, to ostentation, or to the affections. How small a
portion of the income of a gentleman in easy circumstances is laid
out merely in {16}giving pleasurable sensations to the body of the
possessor! The greater part even of what is spent on his kitchen and his
cellar goes, not to titillate his palate, but to keep up his character
for hospitality, to save him from the reproach of meanness in
housekeeping, and to cement the ties of good neighbourhood. It is clear
that a king or an aristocracy may be supplied to satiety with mere
corporal pleasures, at an expense which the rudest and poorest community
would scarcely feel.

Those tastes and propensities which belong to us as reasoning and
imaginative beings are not indeed so easily gratified. There is, we
admit, no point of saturation with objects of desire which come under
this head. And therefore the argument of Mr. Mill will be just, unless
there be something in the nature of the objects of desire themselves
which is inconsistent with it. Now, of these objects there is none which
men in general seem to desire more than the good opinion of others. The
hatred and contempt of the public are generally felt to be
intolerable. It is probable that our regard for the sentiments of our
fellow-creatures springs, by association, from a sense of their ability
to hurt or to serve us. But, be this as it may, it is notorious that,
when the habit of mind of which we speak has once been formed, men feel
extremely solicitous about the opinions of those by whom it is most
improbable, nay, absolutely impossible, that they should ever be in the
slightest degree injured or benefited. The desire of posthumous fame and
the dread of posthumous reproach and execration are feelings from the
influence of which scarcely any man is perfectly free, and which in many
men are powerful and constant motives of action. As we are afraid
that, if we handle this part of the argument after our own manner, we
{17}shall incur the reproach of sentimentality, a word which, in the
sacred language of the Benthamites, is synonymous with idiocy, we will
quote what Mr. Mill himself says on the subject, in his Treatise on

“_Pains from the moral source are the pains derived from the
unfavourable sentiments of mankind.... These pains are capable of rising
to a height with which hardly any other pains incident to our nature
can be compared. There is a certain degree of unfavourableness in the
sentiments of his fellow-creatures, under which hardly any man, not
below the standard of humanity, can endure to live.

“The importance of this powerful agency, for the prevention of injurious
acts, is too obvious to need to be illustrated. If sufficiently at
command, it would almost supersede the use of other means....

“To know how to direct the unfavourable sentiments of mankind, it is
necessary to know in as complete, that is, in as comprehensive, a way as
possible, what it is which gives them birth. Without entering into the
metaphysics of the question, it is a sufficient practical answer, for
the present purpose, to say that the unfavourable sentiments of man are
excited by every thing which hurts them._”

It is strange that a writer who considers the pain derived from the
unfavourable sentiments of others as so acute that, if sufficiently at
command, it would supersede the use of the gallows and the tread-mill,
should take no notice of this most important restraint when discussing
the question of government. We will attempt to deduce a theory of
politics in the mathematical form, in which Mr. Mill delights, from the
premises with which he has himself furnished us.

Proposition I. Theorem.

No rulers will do any thing which may hurt the people. {18}This is the
thesis to be maintained: and the following we humbly offer to Mr. Mill,
as its syllogistic demonstration.

No rulers will do that which produces pain to themselves.

But the unfavourable sentiments of the people will give pain to them.

Therefore no rulers will do any thing which may excite the unfavourable
sentiments of the people.

But the unfavourable sentiments of the people are excited by every thing
which hurts them.

Therefore no rulers will do any thing which may hurt the people. Which
was the thing to be proved.

Having thus, as we think, not unsuccessfully imitated Mr. Mill’s logic,
we do not see why we should not imitate, what is at least equally
perfect in its kind, his self-complacency, and proclaim our _Evonka_
in his own words: “The chain of inference, in this case, is close and
strong to a most unusual degree.”

The fact is, that, when men, in treating of things which cannot be
circumscribed by precise definitions, adopt this mode of reasoning, when
once they begin to talk of power, happiness, misery, pain, pleasure,
motives, objects of desire, as they talk of lines and numbers, there is
no end to the contradictions and absurdities into which they fall. There
is no proposition so monstrously untrue in morals or politics that we
will not undertake to prove it, by something which shall sound like a
logical demonstration, from admitted principles.

Mr. Mill argues that, if men are not inclined to plunder each other,
government is unnecessary; and that, if they are so inclined, the
powers of government, when entrusted to a small number of them, will
necessarily {19}be abused. Surely it is not by propounding dilemmas of
this sort that we are likely to arrive at sound conclusions in any
moral science. The whole question is a question of degree. If all men
preferred the moderate approbation of their neighbours to any degree
of wealth or grandeur, or sensual pleasure, government would be
unnecessary. If all men desired wealth so intensely as to be willing
to brave the hatred of their fellow-creatures for sixpence, Mr. Mill’s
argument against monarchies and aristocracies would be true to the full
extent. But the fact is, that all men have some desires which impel them
to injure their neighbours, and some desires which impel them to benefit
their neighbours. Now, if there were a community consisting of two
classes of men, one of which should be principally influenced by the one
set of motives and the other by the other, government would clearly be
necessary to restrain the class which was eager for plunder and
careless of reputation: and yet the powers of government might be
safely intrusted to the class which was chiefly actuated by the love
of approbation. Now, it might with no small plausibility be maintained
that, in many countries, _there are_ two classes which, in some degree,
answer to this description; that the poor compose the class which
government is established to restrain, and the people of some property
the class to which the powers of government may without danger be
confided. It might be said that a man who can barely earn a livelihood
by severe labour is under stronger temptations to pillage others than a
man who enjoys many luxuries. It might be said that a man who is lost in
the crowd is less likely to have the fear of public opinion before his
eyes than a man whose station and mode of living render him conspicuous.
We do {20}not assert all this. We only say that it was Mr. Mill’s
business to prove the contrary; and that, not having proved the
contrary, he is not entitled to say, “that those principles which imply
that government is at all necessary, imply that an aristocracy will make
use of its power to defeat the end for which governments exist.” This
is not true, unless it be true that a rich man is as likely to covet the
goods of his neighbours as a poor man, and that a poor man is as likely
to be solicitous about the opinions of his neighbours as a rich man.

But we do not see that, by reasoning _a priori_ on such subjects as
these, it is possible to advance one single step. We know that every man
has some desires which he can gratify only by hurting his neighbours,
and some which he can gratify only by pleasing them. Mr. Mill has chosen
to look only at one-half of human nature, and to reason on the motives
which impel men to oppress and despoil others, as if they were the only
motives by which men could possibly be influenced. We have already shown
that, by taking the other half of the human character, and reasoning
on it as if it were the whole, we can bring out a result diametrically
opposite to that at which Mr. Mill has arrived. We can, by such a
process, easily prove that any form of government is good, or that all
government is superfluous.

We must now accompany Mr. Mill on the next stage of his argument. Does
any combination of the three simple forms of government afford the
requisite securities against the abuse of power? Mr. Mill complains
that those who maintain the affirmative generally beg the question;
and proceeds to settle the point by proving, after his fashion, that
no combination of the three simple forms, or of any two of them, can
possibly exist. {21}”_From the principles which we have already laid
down it follows that, of the objects of human desire, and, speaking more
definitely, of the means to the ends of human desire, namely, wealth and
power, each party will endeavour to obtain as much as possible.

“If any expedient presents itself to any of the supposed parties
effectual to this end, and not opposed to any preferred object of
pursuit, we may infer with certainty that it will be adopted. One
effectual expedient is not more effectual than obvious. Any two of the
parties, by combining, may swallow up the third. That such combination
will take place appears to be as certain as any thing which depends upon
human will; because there are strong motives in favour of it, and none
that can be conceived in opposition to it.... The mixture of three of
the kinds of government, it is thus evident, cannot possibly exist....
It may be proper to inquire whether an union may not be possible of two
of them....

“Let us first suppose, that monarchy is united with aristocracy. Their
power is equal or not equal. If it is not equal, it follows, as a
necessary consequence, from the principles which we have already
established, that the stronger will take from the weaker till it
engrosses the whole. The only question therefore is, What will happen
when the power is equal?

“In the first place, it seems impossible that such equality should ever
exist. How is it to be established? or, by what criterion is it to be
ascertained? If there is no such criterion, it must, in all eases, be
the result of chance. If so, the chances against it are as infinity to
one. The idea, therefore, is wholly chimerical and absurd....

“In this doctrine of the mixture of the simple forms of government is
included the celebrated theory of the balance among the component parts
of a government. By this it is supposed that, when a government is
composed of monarchy, aristocracy, and democracy, they balance one
another, and by mutual checks produce good government. A few words will
suffice to show that, if any theory deserves the epithets of ‘wild,
visionary and chimerical,’ it is that of the balance. If there are three
powers, how is it possible to prevent two of them from combining to
swallow up the third?

“The analysis which we have already performed will enable us to trace
rapidly the concatenation of causes and effects in this imagined case.
{22}"We have already seen that the interest of the community, considered
in the aggregate or in the democratical point of view, is, that each
individual should receive protection; and that the powers which are
constituted for that purpose should be employed exclusively for that
purpose.... We have also seen that the interest of the king and of the
governing aristocracy is directly the reverse. It is to have unlimited
power over the rest of the community, and to use it for their own
advantage. In the supposed case of the balance of the monarchical,
aristocratical, and democratical powers, it cannot be for the interest
of either the monarchy or the aristocracy to combine with the democracy;
because it is the interest of the democracy, or community at large, that
neither the king nor the aristocracy should have one particle of power,
or one particle of the wealth of the community, for their own advantage.

“The democracy or community have all possible motives to endeavour to
prevent the monarchy and aristocracy from exercising power, or obtaining
the wealth of the community for their own advantage. The monarchy
and aristocracy have all possible motives for endeavouring to obtain
unlimited power over the persons and property of the community. The
consequence is inevitable: they have all possible, motives for combining
to obtain that power_.”

If any part of this passage be more eminently absurd than another, it
is, we think, the argument by which Mr. Mill proves that there cannot
be an union of monarchy and aristocracy. Their power, he says, must be
equal or not equal. But of equality there is no criterion. Therefore the
chances against its existence are as infinity to one. If the power be
not equal, then it follows, from the principles of human nature, that
the stronger will take from the weaker, till it has engrossed the whole.

Now, if there be no criterion of equality between two portions of power
there can be no common measure of portions of power. Therefore it is
utterly impossible to compare them together. But where two {23}portions
of lower are of the same kind, there is no difficulty in ascertaining,
sufficiently for all practical purposes, whether they are equal or
unequal. It is easy to judge whether two men run equally fast, or can
lift equal weights. Two arbitrators, whose joint decision is to be
final, and neither of whom can do any thing without the assent of the
other, possess equal power. Two electors, each of whom has a vote for a
borough, possess, in that respect, equal power. If not, all Mr. Mill’s
political theories fall to the ground at once. For, if it be impossible
to ascertain whether two portions of power are equal, he never can show
that, even under a system of universal suffrage, a minority might not
carry every thing their own way, against the wishes and interests of the

Where there are two portions of power differing in kind, there is, we
admit, no criterion of equality. But then, in such a case, it is absurd
to talk, as Mr. Mill does, about the stronger and the weaker. Popularly,
indeed, and with reference to some particular objects, these words
may very fairly be used. But to use them mathematically is altogether
improper. If we are speaking of a boxing-match, we may say that some
famous bruiser has greater bodily power than any man in England. If
we are speaking of a pantomime, we may say the same of some very agile
harlequin. But it would be talking nonsense to say, in general, that the
power of Harlequin either exceeded that of the pugilist, or fell short
of it.

If Mr. Mill’s argument be good as between different branches of a
legislature, it is equally good as between sovereign powers. Every
government, it may be said, will, if it can, take the objects of its
desires from every other. If the French government can subdue England
{24}it will do so. If the English government can subdue France it will
do so. But the power of England and France is either equal or not equal.
The chance that it is not exactly equal is as infinity to one, and may
safely be left out of the account; and then the stronger will infallibly
take from the weaker till the weaker is altogether enslaved.

Surely the answer to all this hubbub of unmeaning words is the plainest
possible. For some purposes France is stronger than England. For some
purposes England is stronger than France. For some, neither has any
power at all. France has the greater population, England the greater
capital; France has the greater army, England the greater fleet. For an
expedition to Rio Janeiro or the Philippines, England has the greater
power. For a war on the Po or the Danube, France has the greater power.
But neither has power sufficient to keep the other in quiet subjection
for a month. Invasion would be very perilous; the idea of complete
conquest on either side utterly ridiculous. This is the manly and
sensible way of discussing such questions. The _ergo_, or rather the
_argal_, of Mr. Mill cannot impose on a child. Yet we ought scarcely to
say this; for we remember to have heard _a child_ ask whether Bonaparte
was stronger than an elephant!

Mr. Mill reminds us of those philosophers of the sixteenth century who,
having satisfied themselves _a priori_ that the rapidity with which
bodies descended to the earth varied exactly as their weights, refused
to believe the contrary on the evidence of their own eyes and ears.
The British constitution, according to Mr. Mill’s classification, is
a mixture of monarchy and aristocracy; one House of Parliament being
composed of {25}hereditary nobles, and the other almost entirely chosen
by a privileged class who possess the elective franchise on account
of their property, or their connection with certain corporations. Mr.
Mill’s argument proves that, from the time that these two powers were
mingled in our government, that is, from the very first dawn of our
history, one or the other must have been constantly encroaching.
According to him, moreover, all the encroachments must have been on
one side. For the first encroachment could only have been made by the
stronger I and that first encroachment would have made the stronger
stronger still. It is, therefore, matter of absolute demonstration, that
either the Parliament was stronger than the Crown in the reign of Henry
VIII., or that the Crown was stronger than the Parliament in 1641.
“Hippocrate dira ce que lui plaira,” says the girl in Moliere; “mail
le cocher est mort.” Mr. Mill may say what he pleases; but the English
constitution is still alive. That since the Revolution the Parliament
has possessed great power in the state, is what nobody will dispute.
The King, on the other hand, can create new peers, and can dissolve
Parliaments. William sustained severe mortifications from the House of
Commons, and was, indeed, unjustifiably oppressed. Anne was desirous to
change a ministry which had a majority in both Houses. She watched her
moment for a dissolution, created twelve Tory peers, and succeeded.
Thirty years later, the House of Commons drove Walpole from his seat. In
1784, George III. was able to keep Mr. Pitt in office in the face of a
majority of the House of Commons. In 1804, the apprehension of a defeat
in Parliament compelled the same King to part from his most favoured
minister. But, in 1807, he was able to do {26}exactly what Anne had done
nearly a hundred years before. Now, had the power of the King increased
during the intervening century, or had it remained stationary? Is it
possible that the one lot among the infinite number should have fallen
to us? If not, Mr. Mill has proved that one of the two parties must have
been constantly taking from the other. Many of the ablest men in England
think that the influence of the Crown has, on the whole, increased since
the reign of Anne. Others think that the Parliament has been growing in
strength. But of this there is no doubt, that both sides possessed great
power then, and possess great power now. Surely, if there were the least
truth in the argument of Mr. Mill, it could not possibly be a matter of
doubt, at the end of a hundred and twenty years, whether the one side or
the other had been the gainer.

But we ask pardon. We forgot that a fact, irreconcilable with Mr. Mill’s
theory, furnishes, in his opinion, the strongest reason for adhering to
the theory. To take up the question in another manner, is it not plain
that there may be two bodies, each possessing a perfect and entire
power, which cannot be taken from it without its own concurrence? What
is the meaning of the words stronger and weaker, when applied to such
bodies as these? The one may, indeed, by physical force, altogether
destroy the other. But this is not the question. A third party, a
general of their own, for example, may, by physical force, subjugate
them both. Nor is there any form of government, Mr. Mill’s utopian
democracy not excepted, secure from such an occurrence. We are speaking
of the powers with which the constitution invests the two branches of
the legislature: and we ask Mr. Mill how, on his own principles, he can
{27}maintain that one of them will be able to encroach on the other, if
the consent of the other be necessary to such encroachment?

Mr. Mill tells us that, if a government be composed of the three simple
forms, which he will not admit the British constitution to be, two of
the component parts will inevitably join against the third. Now, if two
of them combine and act as one, this case evidently resolves itself into
the last; and all the observations which we have just made will fully
apply to it. Mr. Mill says, that “any two of the parties, by combining,
may swallow up the third;” and afterwards asks, “How it is possible to
prevent two of them from combining to swallow up the third?” Surely Mr.
Mill must be aware that in politics two is not always the double of
one. If the concurrence of all the three branches of the legislature be
necessary to every law, each branch will possess constitutional power
sufficient to protect it against any thing but that physical force
from which no form of government is secure. Mr. Mill reminds us of the
Irishman, who could not be brought to understand how one juryman could
possibly starve out eleven others.

But is it certain that two of the branches of the legislature will
combine against the third? “It appears to be as certain,” says Mr. Mill,
“as any thing which depends upon human will; because there are strong
motives in favour of it, and none that can be conceived in opposition to
it.” He subsequently sets forth what these motives are. The interest
of the democracy is that each individual should receive protection. The
interest of the King and the aristocracy is to have all the power that
they can obtain, and to use it for their own ends. Therefore the King
and the {28}aristocracy have all possible motives for combining against
the people. If our readers will look back to the passage quoted above,
they will see that we represent Mr. Mill’s argument quite fairly.

Now we should have thought that, without the help of either history
or experience, Mr. Mill would have discovered, by the light of his own
logic, the fallacy which lurks, and indeed scarcely lurks, under this
pretended demonstration. The interest of the King may be opposed to that
of the people. But is it identical with that of the aristocracy? In the
very page which contains this argument, intended to prove that the King
and the aristocracy will coalesce against the people, Mr. Mill attempts
to show that there is so strong an opposition of interest between the
King and the aristocracy that if the powers of government are divided
between them the one will inevitably usurp the power of the other. If
so, he is not entitled to conclude that they will combine to destroy the
power of the people merely because their interests may be at variance
with those of the people. He is bound to show, not merely that in
all communities the interest of a king must be opposed to that of the
people, but also that, in all communities, it must be more directly
opposed to the interest of the people than to the interest of the
aristocracy. But he has not shown this. Therefore he has not proved
his proposition on his own principles. To quote history would be a mere
waste of time. Every schoolboy, whose studies have gone so far as the
Abridgments of Goldsmith, can mention instances in which sovereigns have
allied themselves with the people against the aristocracy, and in which
the nobles have allied themselves with the people against the sovereign.
In general, when there are three parties {29}every one of which has much
to fear from the others, it is not found that two of them combine to
plunder the third. If such a combination be formed it scarcely ever
effects its purpose. It soon becomes evident which member of the
coalition is likely to be the greater gainer by the transaction. He
becomes an object of jealousy to his ally, who, in all probability,
changes sides, and compels him to restore what he has taken. Everybody
knows how Henry VIII. trimmed between Francis and the Emperor Charles.
But it is idle to cite examples of the operation of a principle which is
illustrated in almost every page of history, ancient or modern, and to
which almost every state in Europe has, at one time or another, been
indebted for its independence.

Mr. Mill has now, as he conceives, demonstrated that the simple forms
of government are bad, and that the mixed forms cannot possibly exist.
There is still, however, it seems, a hope for mankind.

“_In the grand discovery of modern times, the system of representation,
the solution of all the difficulties, both speculative and practical,
will perhaps be found. If it cannot, we seem to be forced upon the
extraordinary conclusion, that good government is impossible. For,
as there is no individual or combination of individuals, except the
community itself, who would not have an interest in bad government if
intrusted with its powers, and as the community itself is incapable of
exercising those powers, and must intrust them to certain individuals,
the conclusion is obvious: the community itself must check those
individuals; else they will follow their interest, and produce bad
government. But how is it the community can cheek? The community can act
only when assembled; and when assembled, it is incapable of acting. The
community, however, can choose representatives_.”

The next question is--How must the representative body be constituted?
Mr. Mill lays down two principles, {30}about which, he says, “it is
unlikely that there will be any dispute.”

“First, The checking body must haye a degree of power sufficient for the
business of checking.”

“Secondly, It must have an identity of interest with the community.
Otherwise, it will make a mischievous use of its power.”

The first of these propositions certainly admits of no dispute. As to
the second, we shall hereafter take occasion to make some remarks on
the sense in which Mr. Mill understands the words “interest of the

It does not appear very easy, on Mr. Mill’s principles, to find out any
mode of making the interest of the representative body identical with
that of the constituent body. The plan proposed by Mr. Mill is simply
that of very frequent election. “As it appears,” says he, “that limiting
the duration of their power is a security against the sinister interest
of the people’s representatives, so it appears that it is the only
security of which the nature of the case admits.” But all the arguments
by which Mr. Mill has proved monarchy and aristocracy to be pernicious
will, as it appears to us, equally prove this security to be no security
at all. Is it not clear that the representatives, as soon as they are
elected, are an aristocracy, with an interest opposed to the interest of
the community? Why should they not pass a law for extending the term of
their power from one year to ten years, or declare themselves senators
for life? If the whole legislative power is given to them, they will be
constitutionally competent to do this. If part of the legislative power
is withheld from them, to whom is that part given? Is the people
to retain it, and to express its assent or dissent in primary
{31}assemblies? Mr. Mill himself tells us that the community can only
act when assembled, and that, when assembled, it is incapable of acting.
Or is it to be provided, as in some of the American republics, that no
change in the fundamental laws shall be made without the consent of
a convention, specially elected for the purpose? Still the difficulty
recurs: Why may not the members of the convention betray their trust, as
well as the members of the ordinary legislature? When private men,
they may have been zealous for the interests of the community. When
candidates, they may have pledged themselves to the cause of the
constitution. But, as soon as they are a convention, as soon as they
are separated from the people, as soon as the supreme power is put into
their hands, commences that interest opposite to the interest of the
community which must, according to Mr. Mill, produce measures opposite
to the interests of the community. We must find some other means,
therefore, of checking this check upon a check; some other prop to carry
the tortoise, that carries the elephant, that carries the world.

We know well that there is no real danger in such a case. But there is
no danger only because there is no truth in Mr. Mill’s principles.
If men were what he represents them to be, the letter of the very
constitution which he recommends would afford no safeguard against bad
government. The real security is this, that legislators will be deterred
by the fear of resistance and of infamy from acting in the manner
which we have described. But restraints, exactly the same in kind, and
differing only in degree, exist in all forms of government. That broad
line of distinction which Mr. Mill tries to point out between monarchies
and aristocracies {32}on the one side, and democracies on the other,
has in fact no existence. In no form of government is there an absolute
identity of interest between the people and their rulers. In every form
of government, the rulers stand in some awe of the people. The fear of
resistance and the sense of shame operate, in a certain degree, on the
most absolute kings and the most illiberal oligarchies. And nothing but
the fear of resistance and the sense of shame preserves the freedom of
the most democratic communities from the encroachments of their annual
and biennial delegates.

We have seen how Mr. Mill proposes to render the interest of the
representative body identical with that of the constituent body. The
next question is, in what manner the interest of the constituent body is
to be rendered identical with that of the community. Mr. Mill shows that
a minority of the community, consisting even of many thousands, would be
a bad constituent body, and, indeed, merely a numerous aristocracy.

“The benefits of the representative system,” says he, “are lost, in all
cases in which the interests of the choosing body are not the same with
those of the community. It is very evident, that if the community itself
were the choosing body, the interest of the community and that of the
choosing body would be the same.”

On these grounds Mr. Mill recommends that all males of mature age, rich
and poor, educated and ignorant, shall have votes. But why not the women
too? This question has often been asked in parliamentary debate, and has
never, to our knowledge, received a plausible answer. Mr. Mill escapes
from it as fast as he can. But we shall take the liberty to dwell a
little on the words of the oracle. “One thing,” says he, “is {33}pretty
clear, that all those individuals whose interests are involved in those
of other individuals, may be struck off without inconvenience.... In
this light women may be regarded, the interest of almost all of whom is
involved either in that of their fathers, or in that of their husbands.”

If we were to content ourselves with saying, in answer to all the
arguments in Mr. Mill’s essay, that the interest of a king is involved
in that of the community, we should be accused, and justly, of talking
nonsense. Yet such an assertion would not, as far as we can perceive,
be more unreasonable than that which Mr. Mill has here ventured to make.
Without adducing one fact, without taking the trouble to perplex the
question by one sophism, he placidly dogmatises away the interest of one
half of the human race. If there be a word of truth in history, women
have always been, and still are, over the greater part of the globe,
humble companions, playthings, captives, menials, beasts of burden.
Except in a few happy and highly civilised communities, they are
strictly in a state of personal slavery. Even in those countries where
they are best treated, the laws are generally unfavourable to them,
with respect to almost all the points in which they are most deeply

Mr. Mill is not legislating for England or the United States; but for
mankind. Is then the interest of a Turk the same with that of the girls
who compose his harem? Is the interest of a Chinese the same with that
of the woman whom he harnesses to his plough? Is the interest of an
Italian the same with that of the daughter whom he devotes to God?
The interest of a respectable Englishman may be said, without any
impropriety, to be identical with that of his wife. But {34}why is it
so? Because human nature is _not_ what Mr. Mill conceives it to be;
because civilised men, pursuing their own happiness in a social state,
are not Yahoos fighting for carrion; because there is a pleasure in
being loved and esteemed, as well as in being feared and servilely
obeyed. Why does not a gentleman restrict his wife to the bare
maintenance which the law would compel him to allow her, that he may
have more to spend on his personal pleasures? Because, if he loves her,
he has pleasure in seeing her pleased; and because, even if he dislikes
her, he is unwilling that the whole neighbourhood should cry shame on
his meanness and ill-nature. Why does not the legislature, altogether
composed of males, pass a law to deprive women of all civil privileges
whatever, and reduce them to the state of slaves? By passing such a
law, they would gratify what Mr. Mill tells us is an inseparable part of
human nature, the desire to possess unlimited power of inflicting pain
upon others. That they do not pass such a law, though they have the
power to pass it, and that no man in England wishes to see such a law
passed, proves that the desire to possess unlimited power of inflicting
pain is not inseparable from human nature.

If there be in this country an identity of interest between the two
sexes, it cannot possibly arise from any thing but the pleasure of being
loved, and of communicating happiness. For, that it does not spring from
the mere instinct of sex, the treatment which women experience over the
greater part of the world abundantly proves. And, if it be said that our
laws of marriage have produced it, this only removes the argument a
step further; for those laws have been made by males. Now, if the kind
feelings of one half of the species be a sufficient security for the
happiness of the other, {35}why may not the kind feelings of a monarch
or an aristocracy he sufficient at least to prevent them from grinding
the people to the very utmost of their power?

If Mr. Mill will examine why it is that women are better treated in
England than in Persia, he may perhaps find out, in the course of
his inquiries, why it is that the Danes are better governed than the
subjects of Caligula.

We now come to the most important practical question in the whole essay.
Is it desirable that all males arrived at years of discretion should
vote for representatives, or should a pecuniary qualification be
required? Mr. Mill’s opinion is, that the lower the qualification the
better; and that the best system is that in which there is none at all.

“_The qualification,” says he, “must either be such as to embrace
the majority of the population, or something less than the majority.
Suppose, in the first place, that it embraces the majority, the question
is, whether the majority would have an interest in oppressing those
who, upon this supposition, would be deprived of political power? If we
reduce the calculation to its elements, we shall see that the interest
which they would have of this deplorable kind, though it would be
something, would not be very great. Each man of the majority, if the
majority were constituted the governing body, would have something less
than the benefit of oppressing a single man. If the majority were twice
as great as the minority, each man of the majority would only have one
half the benefit of oppressing a single man.... Suppose, in the second
place, that the qualification did not admit a body of electors so
large as the majority, in that case taking again the calculation in its
elements, we shall see that each man would have a benefit equal to
that derived from the oppression of more than one man; and that, in
proportion as the elective body constituted a smaller and smaller
minority, the benefit of misrule to the elective body would be
increased, and bad government would be insured_.”

The first remark which we have to make on this argument {36}is, that,
by Mr. Mill’s own account, even a government in which every human being
should vote would still be defective. For, under a system of universal
suffrage, the majority of the electors return the representative, and
the majority of the representatives make the law. The whole people may
vote, therefore; but only the majority govern. So that, by Mr. Mill’s
own confession, the most perfect system of government conceivable is one
in which the interest of the ruling body to oppress, though not great,
is something.

But is Mr. Mill in the right when he says that such an interest could
not be very great? We think not. If, indeed, every man in the community
possessed an equal share of what Mr. Mill calls the objects of desire,
the majority would probably abstain from plundering the minority. A
large minority would offer a vigorous resistance; and the property of
a small minority would not repay the other members of the community
for the trouble of dividing it. But it happens that in all civilised
communities there is a small minority of rich men, and a great majority
of poor men. If there were a thousand men with ten pounds apiece, it
would not be worth while for nine hundred and ninety of them to rob
ten, and it would be a bold attempt for six hundred of them to rob four
hundred. But, if ten of them had a hundred thousand pounds apiece, the
case would be very different. There would then be much to be got, and
nothing to be feared.

“That one human being will desire to render the person and property of
another subservient to his pleasures, notwithstanding the pain or
loss of pleasure which it may occasion to that other individual, is,”
 according to Mr. Mill, “the foundation of government.” That the property
of the rich minority can be made subservient {37}to the pleasures of the
poor majority will scarcely be denied. But Mr. Mill proposes to give the
poor majority power over the rich minority. Is it possible to doubt to
what, on his own principles such an arrangement must lead?

It may perhaps be said that, in the long run, it is for the interest of
the people that property should be secure, and that therefore they will
respect it. We answer thus:--It cannot be pretended that it is not for
the immediate interest of the people to plunder the rich. Therefore,
even if it were quite certain that, in the long run, the people would,
as a body, lose by doing so, it would not necessarily follow that the
fear of remote ill consequences would overcome the desire of immediate
acquisitions. Every individual might flatter himself that the punishment
would not fall on him. Mr. Mill himself tells us, in his Essay on
Jurisprudence, that no quantity of evil which is remote and uncertain
will suffice to prevent crime.

But we are rather inclined to think that it would, on the whole, be
for the interest of the majority to plunder the rich. If so, the
Utilitarians will say, that the rich _ought_ to be plundered. We deny
the inference.

For, in the first place, if the object of government be the greatest
happiness of the greatest number, the intensity of the suffering which a
measure inflicts must be taken into consideration, as well as the
number of the sufferers. In the next place, we have to notice one
most important distinction which Mr. Mill has altogether overlooked.
Throughout his essay, he confounds the community with the species. He
talks of the greatest happiness of the greatest number: but, when we
examine his reasonings, we find that he thinks only of the greatest
number of a single generation. {38}Therefore, even if we were to concede
that all those arguments of which we have exposed the fallacy are
unanswerable, we might still deny the conclusion at which the essayist
arrives. Even if we were to grant that he had found out the form of
government which is best for the majority of the people now living on
the face of the earth, we might still without inconsistency maintain
that form of government to be pernicious to mankind. It would still be
incumbent on Mr. Mill to prove that the interest of every generation is
identical with the interest of all succeeding generations. And how on
his own principles he could do this we are at a loss to conceive.

The case, indeed, is strictly analogous to that of an aristocratic
government. In an aristocracy, says Mr. Mill, the few, being invested
with the powers of government, can take the objects of their desires
from the people. In the same manner, every generation in turn can
gratify itself at the expense of posterity,--priority of time, in the
latter case, giving an advantage exactly corresponding to that which
superiority of station gives in the former. That an aristocracy will
abuse its advantage, is, according to Mr. Mill, matter of demonstration.
Is it not equally certain that the whole people will do the same; that,
if they have the power, they will commit waste of every sort on the
estate of mankind, and transmit it to posterity impoverished and

How is it possible for any person who holds the doctrines of Mr. Mill
to doubt that the rich, in a democracy such as that which he recommends,
would be pillaged as unmercifully as under a Turkish Pacha? It is no
doubt for the interest of the next generation, and it may be for the
remote interest of the present {39}generation, that property should be
held sacred. And so no doubt it will be for the interest of the next
Pacha, and even for that of the present Pacha, if he should hold office
long, that the inhabitants of his Pachalik should be encouraged to
accumulate wealth. Scarcely any despotic sovereign has plundered his
subjects to a large extent without having reason before the end of his
reign to regret it. Every body knows how bitterly Louis the Fourteenth,
towards the close of his life, lamented his former extravagance. If that
magnificent prince had not expended millions on Marli and Versailles,
and tens of millions on the aggrandisement of his grandson, he would
not have been compelled at last to pay servile court to low-born
money-lenders, to humble himself before men on whom, in the days of his
pride, he would not have vouchsafed to look, for the means of supporting
even his own household. Examples to the same effect might easily be
multiplied. But despots, we see, do plunder their subjects, though
history and experience tell them that, by prematurely exacting the means
of profusion, they are in fact devouring the seed-corn from which the
future harvest of revenue is to spring. Why then should we suppose
that the people will be deterred from procuring immediate relief and
enjoyment by the fear of distant calamities, of calamities which perhaps
may not be fully felt till the times of their grand-children?

These conclusions are strictly drawn from Mr. Mill’s own principles:
and, unlike most of the conclusions which he has himself drawn from
those principles, they are not, as far as we know, contradicted by
facts. The case of the United States is not in point. In a country where
the necessaries of life are cheap and the wages of labour high, where
a man who has no capital {40}but his legs and arms may expect to become
rich by industry and frugality, it is not very decidedly even for the
immediate advantage of the poor to plunder the rich; and the punishment
of doing so would very speedily follow the offence. But in countries
in which the great majority live from hand to mouth, and in which vast
masses of wealth have been accumulated by a comparatively small number,
the case is widely different. The immediate want is, at particular
seasons, craving, imperious, irresistible. In our own time it has
steeled men to the fear of the gallows, and urged them on the point of
the bayonet. And, if these men had at their command that gallows and
those bayonets which now scarcely restrain them, what is to be expected?
Nor is this state of things one which can exist only under a bad
government. If there be the least truth in the doctrines of the school
to which Mr. Mill belongs, the increase of population will necessarily
produce it everywhere. The increase of population is accelerated by good
and cheap government. Therefore, the better the government, the greater
is the inequality of conditions: and the greater the inequality of
conditions, the stronger are the motives which impel the populace to
spoliation. As for America, we appeal to the twentieth century.

It is scarcely necessary to discuss the effects which a general
spoliation of the rich would produce. It may indeed happen that, where
a legal and political system full of abuses is inseparably bound up with
the institution of property, a nation may gain by a single convulsion,
in which both perish together. The price is fearful. But, if, when the
shock is over, a new order of things should arise under which property
may enjoy security, the industry of individuals will soon {41}repair the
devastation. Thus we entertain no doubt that the Revolution was, on the
whole, a most salutary event for France. But would France have gained
if, ever since the year 1793, she had been governed by a democratic
convention? If Mr. Mill’s principles be sound, we say that almost her
whole capital would by this time have been annihilated. As soon as the
first explosion was beginning to be forgotten, as soon as wealth again
began to germinate, as soon as the poor again began to compare their
cottages and salads with the hotels and banquets of the rich, there
would have been another scramble for property, another maximum, another
general confiscation, another reign of terror. Four or five such
convulsions following each other, at intervals of ten or twelve years,
would reduce the most flourishing countries of Europe to the state of
Barbary or the Morea.

The civilised part of the world has now nothing to fear from the
hostility of savage nations. Once the deluge of barbarism has passed
over it, to destroy and to fertilise; and in the present state of
mankind we enjoy a full security against that calamity. That flood will
no more return to cover the earth. But is it possible that in the bosom
of civilisation itself may be engendered the malady which shall destroy
it? Is it possible that institutions may be established which, without
the help of earthquake, of famine, of pestilence, or of the foreign
sword, may undo the work of so many ages of wisdom and glory,
and gradually sweep away taste, literature, science, commerce,
manufactures, everything but the rude arts necessary to the support of
animal life? Is it possible that, in two or three hundred years, a few
lean and half-naked fishermen may divide with owls and foxes the ruins
of the {42}greatest European cities--may wash their nets amidst the
relics of’ her gigantic docks, and build their huts out of the capitals
of her stately cathedrals? If the principles of Mr. Mill he sound, we
say, without hesitation, that the form of government which he recommends
will assuredly produce all this. But, if these principles be unsound,
if the reasonings by which we have opposed them be just, the higher and
middling orders are the natural representatives of the human race.
Their interest may be opposed in some things to that of their poorer
contemporaries; but it is identical with that of the innumerable
generations which are to follow.

Mr. Mill concludes his essay, by answering an objection often made to
the project of universal suffrage--that the people do not understand
their own interests. We shall not go through his arguments on this
subject, because, till he has proved that it is for the interest of the
people to respect property, he only makes matters worse by proving that
they understand their interests. But we cannot refrain from treating our
readers with a delicious _bonne bouche_ of wisdom, which he has kept for
the last moment.

“_The opinions of that class of the people who are below the middle
rank are formed, and their minds are directed, by that intelligent, that
virtuous rank, who come the most immediately in contact with them, who
are in the constant habit of intimate communication with them, to whom
they fly for advice and assistance in all their numerous difficulties,
upon whom they feel an immediate and daily dependence in health and in
sickness, in infancy and in old age, to whom their children look up as
models for their imitation, whose opinions they hear daily repeated, and
account it their honour to adopt. There can be no doubt that the middle
rank, which gives to science, to art, and to legislation itself their
most distinguished ornaments, and is the chief source of all that has
exalted and refined human nature, is that portion of the community, of
which, if the basis of representation were {43}ever so far extended, the
opinion would ultimately decide. Of the people, beneath them, a vast
majority would be sure to be guided by their advice and example_.”

This single paragraph is sufficient to upset Mr. Mill’s theory. Will
the people act against their own interest? Or will the middle rank
act against its own interest? Or is the interest of the middle rank
identical with the interest of the people? If the people act according
to the directions of the middle rank, as Mr. Mill says that they
assuredly will, one of these three questions must be answered in
the affirmative. But, if any one of the three be answered in the
affirmative, his whole system falls to the ground. If the interest of
the middle rank be identical with that of the people, why should not
the powers of government be intrusted to that rank? If the powers of
government were intrusted to that rank, there would evidently be an
aristocracy of wealth; and “to constitute an aristocracy of wealth,
though it were a very numerous one, would,” according to Mr. Mill,
“leave the community without protection, and exposed to all the evils
of unbridled power.” Will not the same motives which induce, the middle
classes to abuse one kind of power induce them to abuse another? If
their interest be the same with that of the people they will govern the
people well. If it be opposite to that of the people they will advise
the people ill. The system of universal suffrage, therefore, according
to Mr. Mill’s own account, is only a device for doing circuitously what
a representative system, with, a pretty high qualification, would do

So ends this celebrated Essay. And such is this philosophy for which the
experience of three thousand years is to be discarded; this philosophy,
the professors {44}of which speak as if it had guided the world to the
knowledge of navigation and alphabetical writing; as if, before its
dawn, the inhabitants of Europe had lived in caverns and eaten each
other! We are sick, it seems, like the children of Israel, of the
objects of our old and legitimate worship. We pine for a new idolatry.
All that is costly and all that is ornamental in our intellectual
treasures must be delivered up, and cast into the furnace--and there
comes out this Calf!

Our readers can scarcely mistake our object in writing this article.
They will not suspect us of any disposition to advocate the cause of
absolute monarchy, or of any narrow form of oligarchy, or to exaggerate
the evils of popular government. Our object at present is, not so much
to attack or defend any particular system of polity, as to expose the
vices of a kind of reasoning utterly unfit for moral and political
discussions; of a kind of reasoning which may so readily be turned to
purposes of falsehood that it ought to receive no quarter, even when by
accident it may be employed on the side of truth.

Our objection to the essay of Mr. Mill is fundamental. We believe that
it is utterly impossible to deduce the science of government from the
principles of human nature.

What proposition is there respecting human nature which is absolutely
and universally true? We know of only one: and that is not only true,
but identical; that men always act from self-interest. This truism the
Utilitarians proclaim with as much pride as if it were new, and as much
zeal as if it were important. But in fact, when explained, it means
only that men, if they can, will do as they choose. When we see the
{45}actions of a man we know with certainty what he thinks his interest
to be. But it is impossible to reason with certainty from what _we_ take
to be his interest to his actions. One man goes without a dinner that he
may add a shilling to a hundred thousand pounds: another runs in debt
to give balls and masquerades. One man cuts his father’s throat to get
possession of his old clothes: another hazards his own life to save that
of an enemy. One man volunteers on a forlorn hope: another is drummed
out of a regiment for cowardice. Each of these men has, no doubt, acted
from self-interest. But we gain nothing by knowing this, except the
pleasure, if it be one, of multiplying useless words. In fact, this
principle is just as recondite and just as important as the great truth
that whatever is, is. If a philosopher were always to state facts in
the following form--“There is a shower: but whatever is, is; therefore,
there is a shower,”--his reasoning would be perfectly sound; but we
do not apprehend that it would materially enlarge the circle of human
knowledge. And it is equally idle to attribute any importance to a
proposition which, when interpreted, means only that a man had rather do
what he had rather do.

If the doctrine, that men always act from self-interest, be laid down in
any other sense than this--if the meaning of the word self-interest
be narrowed so as to exclude any one of the motives which may by
possibility act on any human being,--the proposition ceases to be
identical; but at the same time it Rases to be true.

What we have said of the word “self-interest” applies to all the
synonymes and circumlocutions which are employed to convey the same
meaning; pain and pleasure, happiness and misery, objects of desire, and
so forth. {46}The whole art of Mr. Mill’s essay consists in one simple
trick of legerdemain. It consists in using words of the sort which we
have been describing first in one sense and then in another. Men will
take the objects of their desire if they can. Unquestionably:--but this
is an identical proposition: for an object of desire means merely
a thing which a man will procure if he can. Nothing can possibly be
inferred from a maxim of this kind. When we see a man take something we
shall know that it was an object of his desire. But till then we have
no means of judging with certainty what he desires or what he will
take. The general proposition, however, having been admitted, Mr. Mill
proceeds to reason as if men had no desires but those which can be
gratified only by spoliation and oppression. It then becomes easy to
deduce doctrines of vast importance from the original axiom. The only
misfortune is, that by thus narrowing the meaning of the word desire the
axiom becomes false, and all the doctrines consequent upon it are false

When we pass beyond those maxims which it is impossible to deny without
a contradiction in terms, and which, therefore, do not enable us to
advance a single step in practical knowledge, we do not believe that
it is possible to lay down a single general rule respecting the motives
which influence human actions. There is nothing which may not, by
association or by comparison, become an object either of desire or
of aversion. The fear of death is generally considered as one of the
strongest of our feelings. It is the most formidable sanction which
legislators have been able to devise. Yet it is notorious that, as Lord
Bacon has observed, there is no passion by which that fear has not been
often overcome. Physical pain is indisputably an evil; {47}yet it has
been often endured, and even welcomed. Innumerable martyrs have exulted
in torments which made the spectators shudder; and, to use a more homely
illustration, there are few wives who do not long to be mothers.

Is the love of approbation a stronger motive than the love of wealth? It
is impossible to answer this question generally even in the case of an
individual with whom we are very intimate. We often say, indeed, that a
man loves fame more than money or money more than fame. But this is said
in a loose and popular sense; for there is scarcely a man who would not
endure a few sneers for a great sum of money, if he were in pecuniary
distress; and scarcely a man, on the other hand, who, if he were in
flourishing circumstances, would expose himself to the hatred and
contempt of the public for a trifle. In order, therefore, to return a
precise answer even about a single human being, we must know what is
the amount of the sacrifice of reputation demanded and of the pecuniary
advantage offered, and in what situation the person to whom the
temptation is proposed stands at the time. But, when the question is
propounded generally about the whole species, the impossibility of
answering is still more evident. Man differs from man; generation from
generation; nation from nation. Education, station, sex, age, accidental
associations, produce infinite shades of variety.

Now, the only mode in which we can conceive it possible to deduce a
theory of government from the principles of human nature is this.
We must find out what are the motives which, in a particular form of
government, impel rulers to bad measures, and what are those which impel
them to good measures. We {48}must then compare the effect of the two
classes of motives; and, according as we find the one or the other to
prevail, we must pronounce the form of government in question good or

Now let it be supposed that, in aristocratical and monarchical states,
the desire of wealth and other desires of the same class always tend
to produce mis-government, and that the love of approbation and other
kindred feelings always tend to produce good government. Then, if it be
impossible, as we have shown that it is, to pronounce generally which of
the two classes of motives is the more influential, it is impossible to
find out, _a priori_, whether a monarchical or aristocratical form of
government be good or bad.

Mr. Mill has avoided the difficulty of making the comparison, by very
coolly putting all the weights into one of the scales,--by reasoning as
if no human being had ever sympathised with the feelings, been gratified
by the thanks, or been galled by the execrations, of another.

The case, as we have put it, is decisive against Mr. Mill; and yet we
have put it in a manner far too favourable to him. For, in fact, it is
impossible to lay it down as a general rule that the love of wealth in a
sovereign always produces misgovernment, or the love of approbation good
government. A patient and farsighted ruler, for example, who is
less desirous of raising a great sum immediately than of securing an
unencumbered and progressive revenue, will, by taking off restraints
from trade and giving perfect security to property, encourage
accumulation and entice capital from foreign countries. The commercial
policy of Prussia, which is perhaps superior to that of any country in
the world, and which puts to shame the {49}absurdities of our republican
brethren on the other side of the Atlantic, has probably sprung from the
desire of an absolute ruler to enrich himself. On the other hand, when
the popular estimate of virtues and vices is erroneous, which is too
often the case, the love of approbation leads sovereigns to spend
the wealth of the nation on useless shows, or to engage in wanton and
destructive wars. If then we can neither compare the strength of two
motives, nor determine with certainty to what description of actions
either motive will lead, how can we possibly deduce a theory of
government from the nature of man?

How, then, are we to arrive at just conclusions on a subject so
important to the happiness of mankind? Surely by that method which, in
every experimental science to which it has been applied, has signally
increased the power and knowledge of our species,--by that method for
which our new philosophers would substitute quibbles scarcely worthy
of the barbarous respondents and opponents of the middle ages,--by the
method of Induction;--by observing the present state of the world,--by
assiduously studying the history of past ages,--by sifting the evidence
of facts,--by carefully combining and contrasting those which are
authentic,--by generalising with judgment and diffidence,--by
perpetually bringing the theory which we have constructed to the test
of new facts,--by correcting, or altogether abandoning it, according
as those new facts prove it to be partially or fundamentally unsound.
Proceeding thus,--patiently,--diligently,--candidly,--we may hope to
form a system as far inferior in pretension to that which we have been
examining and as far superior to it in real utility as the prescriptions
of a great physician, varying with every {50}stage of every malady and
with the constitution of every patient, to the pill of the advertising
quack which is to cure all human beings, in all climates, of all

This is that noble Science of Politics, which is equally removed from
the barren theories of the Utilitarian sophists, and from the petty
craft, so often mistaken for statesmanship by minds grown narrow in
habits of intrigue, jobbing, and official etiquette;--which of all
sciences is the most important to the welfare of nations,--which of
all sciences most tends to expand and invigorate the mind,--which draws
nutriment and ornament from every part of philosophy and literature,
and dispenses in return nutriment and ornament to all. We are sorry and
surprised when we see men of good intentions and good natural abilities
abandon this healthful and generous study to pore over speculations like
those which we have been examining. And we should heartily rejoice to
find that our remarks had induced any person of this description to
employ, In researches of real utility, the talents and industry which
are now wasted on verbal sophisms, wretched of their wretched kind.

As to the greater part of the sect, it is, we apprehend, of little
consequence what they study or under whom. It would be more amusing,
to be sure, and more reputable, if they would take up the old republican
cant and declaim about Brutus and Timoleon, the duty of killing tyrants
and the blessedness of dying for liberty. But, on the whole, they
might have chosen worse. They may as well be Utilitarians as jockeys
or dandies. And, though quibbling about self-interest and motives, and
objects of desire, and the greatest happiness of the greatest number, is
but a poor employment {51}for a grown man, it certainly hurts the health
less than hard drinking and the fortune less than high play; it is not
much more laughable than phrenology, and is immeasurably more humane
than cock-fighting.


(Edinburgh Review, June 1829.)

We {52}have had great reason, we think, to be gratified by the success
of our late attack on the Utilitarians. We could publish a long list
of the cures which it has wrought in cases previously considered as
hopeless. Delicacy forbids us to divulge names; but we cannot refrain
from alluding to two remarkable instances. A respectable lady writes to
inform us that her son, who was plucked at Cambridge last January, has
not been heard to call Sir James Mackintosh a poor ignorant fool
more than twice since the appearance of our article. A distinguished
political writer in the Westminster and Parliamentary Reviews has
borrowed Hume’s History, and has actually got as far as the battle of
Agincourt. He assures us that he takes great pleasure in his new study,
and that he is very impatient to learn how Scotland and England became
one kingdom. But the greatest compliment that we have received is
that Mr. Bentham himself should have condescended to take the field in
defence of Mr. Mill. We have not been in the habit of reviewing reviews;
but, as Mr. Bentham is a truly great man, and as his party have thought
fit to announce in puffs and placards that this

     (1) The Westminster Review. No. XXI. Article XVI. Edinburgh
     Review. No. XCVII. Article on Mill’s Essays on Government,
     &c. {53}

article is written by him, and contains not only an answer to our
attacks, but a development of the “greatest happiness principle,” with
the latest improvements of the author, we shall for once depart from our
general rule. However the conflict may terminate, we shall at least not
have been vanquished by an ignoble hand.

Of Mr. Bentham himself we shall endeavour, even while defending
ourselves against his reproaches, to speak with the respect to which his
venerable age, his genius, and his public services entitle him. If any
harsh expression should escape us, we trust that he will attribute it to
inadvertence, to the momentary warmth of controversy,--to anything, in
short, rather than to a design of affronting him. Though we have
nothing in common with the crew of Hurds and Boswells, who, either from
interested motives, or from the habit of intellectual servility and
dependence, pamper and vitiate his appetite with the noxious sweetness
of their undiscerning praise, we are not perhaps less competent than
they to appreciate his merit, or less sincerely disposed to acknowledge
it. Though we may sometimes think his reasonings on moral and political
questions feeble and sophistical--though we may sometimes smile at his
extraordinary language--we can never be weary of admiring the amplitude
of his comprehension, the keenness of his penetration, the exuberant
fertility with which his mind pours forth arguments and illustrations.
However sharply he may speak of us, we can never cease to revere in him
the father of the philosophy of Jurisprudence. He has a full right to
all the privileges of a great inventor; and, in our court of criticism,
those privileges will never be pleaded in vain. But they are limited
in the same manner in which, fortunately for the ends of justice,
the privileges of the peerage {54}are now limited. The advantage is
personal and incommunicable. A nobleman can now no longer cover with his
protection every lackey who follows his heels, or every bully who draws
in his quarrel: and, highly as we respect the exalted rank which Mr.
Bentham holds among the writers of our time, yet when, for the due
maintenance of literary police, we shall think it necessary to confute
sophists, or to bring pretenders to shame, we shall not depart from the
ordinary course of our proceedings because the offenders call themselves

Whether Mr. Mill has much reason to thank Mr. Bentham for undertaking
his defence, our readers, when they have finished this article, will
perhaps be inclined to doubt. Great as Mr. Bentham’s talents are,
he has, we think, shown an undue confidence in them. He should have
considered how dangerous it is for any man, however eloquent and
ingenious he may be, to attack or defend a book without reading it: and
we feel quite convinced that Mr. Bentham would never have written the
article before us if he had, before he began, perused our review with
attention, and compared it with Mr. Mill’s Essay.

He has utterly mistaken our object and meaning. He seems to think that
we have undertaken to set up some theory of government in opposition to
that of Mr. Mill. But we distinctly disclaimed any such design. From
the beginning to the end of our article, there is not, as far as
we remember, a single sentence which, when fairly construed, can be
considered as indicating any such design. If such an expression can be
found, it has been dropped by inadvertence. Our object was to prove,
not that monarchy and aristocracy, are good, but that Mr. Mill had not
proved them to be bad; not {55}that democracy is bad, but that Mr. Mill
had not proved it to be good. The points in issue are these: whether the
famous Essay on Government be, as it has been called, a perfect solution
of the great political problem, or a series of sophisms and blunders;
and whether the sect which, while it glories in the precision of its
logic, extols this Essay as a masterpiece of demonstration, be a sect
deserving of the respect or of the derision of mankind. These, we say,
are the issues; and on these we with full confidence put ourselves on
the country.

It is not necessary, for the purposes of this investigation, that
we should state what our political creed is, or whether we have any
political creed at all. A man who cannot act the most trivial part in a
farce has a right to hiss Romeo Coates: a man who does not know a vein
from an artery may caution a simple neighbour against the advertisements
of Dr. Eady. A complete theory of government would indeed be a noble
present to mankind; but it is a present which we do not hope and do not
pretend that we can offer. If, however, we cannot lav the foundation, it
is something to clear away the rubbish; if we cannot set up truth, it
is something to pull down error. Even if the subjects of which the
Utilitarians treat were subjects of less fearful importance, we should
think it no small service to the cause of good sense and good taste to
point out the contrast between their magnificent pretensions and their
miserable performances. Some of them have, however, thought fit to
display their ingenuity on questions of the most momentous kind, and on
questions concerning which men cannot reason ill with impunity. We think
it, under these circumstances, an absolute duty to expose the fallacy
of their arguments. It is no matter {56}of pride or of pleasure. To read
their works is the most soporific employment that we know; and a man
ought no more to be proud of refuting them than of having two legs. We
must now come to close quarters with Mr. Bentham, whom, we need not
say, we do not mean to include in this observation. He charges us with

“_First, ‘That it is not true that all despots govern ill;’--whereon the
world is in a mistake, and the Whigs have the true light. And for proof,
principally,--that the King of Denmark is not Caligula. To which the
answer is, that the King of Denmark is not a despot. He was put in his
present situation by the people turning the scale in his favour in a
balanced contest between himself and the nobility. And it is quite clear
that the same power would turn the scale the other way the moment a King
of Denmark should take into his head to be Caligula. It is of little
consequence by what congeries of letters the Majesty of Denmark is
typified in the royal press of Copenhagen, while the real fact is
that the sword of the people is suspended over his head, in ease of
ill-behaviour, as effectually as in other countries where more noise is
made upon the subject. Every body believes the sovereign of Denmark to
be a good and virtuous gentleman; but there is no more superhuman merit
in his being so than in the ease of a rural squire who does not shoot
his land-steward or quarter his wife with his yeomanry sabre.

“It is true that there are partial exceptions to the rule, that all
men use power as badly as they dare. There may have been such things as
amiable negro-drivers and sentimental masters of press-gangs; and here
and there, among the odd freaks of human nature, there may have been
specimens of men who were not tyrants, though bred up to tyranny.’ But
it would be as wise to recommend wolves for nurses at the Foundling on
the credit of Romulus and Remus as to substitute the exception for the
general fact, and advise mankind to take to trusting to arbitrary power
on the credit of these specimens_.”

Now, in the first place, we never cited the case of Denmark to prove
that all despots do not govern ill. We cited it to prove that Mr.
Mill did not know how {57}to reason. Mr. Mill gave it as a reason for
deducing the theory of government from the general laws of human nature
that the King of Denmark was not Caligula. This we said, and we still
say, was absurd.

In the second place, it was not we, but Mr. Mill, who said that the King
of Denmark was a despot. His words are these:--“The people of Denmark,
tired out with the oppression of an aristocracy, resolved that their
king should be absolute; and under their absolute monarch are as well
governed as any people in Europe.” We leave Mr. Bentham to settle with
Mr. Mill the distinction between a despot and an absolute king.

In the third place, Mr. Bentham says that there was in Denmark a
balanced contest between the king and the nobility. We find some
difficulty in believing that Mr. Bentham seriously means to say this,
when we consider that Mr. Mill has demonstrated the chance to be as
infinity to one against the existence of such a balanced contest.

Fourthly, Mr. Bentham says that in this balanced contest the people
turned the scale in favour of the king against the aristocracy. But Mr.
Mill has demonstrated that it cannot possibly be for the interest of
the monarchy and democracy to join against the aristocracy; and that,
wherever the three parties exist, the king and the aristocracy will
combine against the people. This, Mr. Mill assures us, is as certain as
anything which depends upon human will.

Fifthly, Mr. Bentham says that, if the King of Denmark were to oppress
his people, the people and nobles would combine against the king.
But Mr. Mill has proved that it can never be for the interest of the
aristocracy to combine with the democracy against the {58}king. It
is evidently Mr. Bentham’s opinion, that “monarchy, aristocracy, and
democracy may balance each other, and by mutual checks produce good
government.” But this is the very theory which Mr. Mill pronounces to
be the wildest, the most visionary, the most chimerical ever broached on
the subject of government.

We have no dispute on these heads with Mr. Bentham. On the contrary, we
think his explanation true---or, at least, true in part; and we heartily
thank him for lending us his assistance to demolish the essay of his
follower. His wit and his sarcasm are sport to us; but they are death to
his unhappy disciple.

Mr. Bentham seems to imagine that we have said something implying an
opinion favourable to despotism. We can scarcely suppose that, as he has
not condescended to read that portion of our work which he undertook to
answer, he can have bestowed much attention on its general character.
Had he done so he would, we think, scarcely have entertained such
a suspicion. Mr. Mill asserts, and pretends to prove, that under no
despotic government does any human being, except the tools of the
sovereign, possess more than the necessaries of life, and that the most
intense degree of terror is kept up by constant cruelty. This, we say,
is untrue. It is not merely a rule to which there are exceptions: but it
is not the rule. Despotism is bad; but it is scarcely anywhere so bad as
Mr. Mill says that it is everywhere. This we are sure Mr. Bentham will
allow. If a man were to say that five hundred thousand people die every
year in London of dram-drinking, he would not assert a proposition more
monstrously false than Mr. Mill’s. Would it be just to charge us with
defending intoxication because we might say that such a man was grossly
in the wrong? {59}We say with Mr. Bentham that despotism is a bad thing.
We say with Mr. Bentham that the exceptions do not destroy the authority
of the rule. But this we say--that a single exception overthrows an
argument which either does not prove the rule at all, or else proves the
rule to be _true without exceptions_; and such an argument is Mr. Mill’s
argument against despotism. In this respect there is a great difference
between rules drawl from experience and rules deduced _a priori_. We
might believe that there had been a fall of snow last August, and yet
not think it likely that there would be snow next August. A single
occurrence opposed to our general experience would tell for very
little in our calculation of the chances. But if we could once satisfy
ourselves that in any single right-angled triangle the square of the
hypothenuse might be less than the squares of the sides, we must reject
the forty-seventh proposition of Euclid altogether. We willingly, adopt
Mr. Bentham’s lively illustration about the wolf; and we will say in
passing that it gives us real pleasure to see how little old age has
diminished the gaiety of this eminent man. We can assure him that his
merriment gives us far more pleasure on his account than pain on our
own. We say with him, Keep the wolf out of the nursery, in spite of
the story of Romulus and Remus. But, if the shepherd who saw the wolf
licking and suckling those famous twins were, after telling this story
to his companions, to assert that it was an infallible rule that no wolf
ever had spared, or ever would spare, any, living thing which might
fall in its way--that its nature was carnivorous--and that it conld not
possibly disobey its nature, we think that the hearers might have been
excused for staring. It may be strange, but is not inconsistent, that
a wolf which has eaten {60}ninety-nine children should spare the
hundredth. But the fact that a wolf has once spared a child is
sufficient to show that there must be some flaw in the chain of
reasoning purporting to prove that wolves cannot possibly spare

Mr. Bentham proceeds to attack another position which he conceives us to

“_Secondly, That a government not under the control of the community
(for there is no question upon any other) ‘may soon be saturated.’ Tell
it not in Bow-street, whisper it not in Hatton-garden--that there is
a plan for preventing injustice by ‘saturation.’ With what peals of
unearthly merriment would Minos, Æacus, and Rhadamanthus be aroused upon
their benches, if the ‘light wings of saffron and of blue’ should
bear this theory into their grim domains! Why do not the owners of
pocket-handkerchiefs try to ‘saturate?’ Why does not the cheated
publican beg leave to check the gulosity of his defrauder with a
repetatur haustus, and the pummelled plaintiff neutralise the malice of
his adversary, by requesting to have the rest of the beating In presence
of the court,--if it is not that such conduct would run counter to all
the conclusions of experience, and be the procreation of the mischief it
affected to destroy? Woful is the man whose wealth depends on his having
more than somebody else can be persuaded to take from him; and woful
also is the people that is in such a case!_”

Now this is certainly very pleasant writing: but there is no great
difficulty in answering the argument. The real reason which makes it
absurd to think of preventing theft by pensioning off thieves is this,
that there is no limit to the number of thieves. If there were only a
hundred thieves in a place, and we were quite sure that no person not
already addicted to theft would take to it, it might become a question
whether to keep the thieves from dishonesty by raising them above
distress would not be a better course than to employ officers against
them. But the actual cases are {61}not parallel. Every man who chooses
can become a thief; but a man cannot become a king or a member of
the aristocracy whenever he chooses. The number of the depredators is
limited; and therefore the amount of depredation, so far as physical
pleasures are concerned, must be limited also. Now, we made the remark
which Mr. Bentham censures with reference to physical pleasures only.
The pleasures of ostentation, of taste, of revenge, and other pleasures
of the same description, have, we distinctly allowed, no limit. Our
words are these:--“A king or an aristocracy may be supplied to satiety
with _corporal pleasures_, at an expense which the rudest and poorest
community would scarcely feel.” Does Mr. Bentham deny this? If he does,
we leave him to Mr. Mill. “What,” says that philosopher, in his Essay
on Education, “What are the ordinary pursuits of Wealth and power, Which
kindle to such a height the ardour of mankind? Not the mere love of
eating and of drinking, or all the physical objects together which
wealth can purchase or power command. With these every man is in the
long run speedily satisfied.” What the difference is between being
speedily satisfied and being soon saturated, we leave Mr. Bentham and
Mr. Mill to settle together.

The word ‘saturation,’ however, seems to provoke Mr. Bentham’s mirth. It
certainly did not strike us as very pure English; but, as Mr. Mill used
it, we supposed it to be good Benthamese. With the latter language we
are not critically acquainted, though, as it has many roots in common
with our mother tongue, we can contrive, by the help of a converted
Utilitarian, who attends us in the capacity of Moonshee, to make out a
little. But Mr. Bentham’s authority is of course decisive; and we bow to
it. {62}Mr. Bentham next represents us as maintaining:--

“_Thirdly, That ‘though there may be some tastes and propensities that
have no point of saturation, there exists a sufficient cheek in the
desire of the good opinion of others.’ The misfortune of this argument
is, that no man cares for the good opinion of those he has been
accustomed to wrong. If oysters have opinions, it is probable they think
very ill of those who eat them in August; but small is the effect upon
the autumnal glutton that engulfs their gentle substances within his
own. The planter and the slave-driver care just as much about negro
opinion, as the epicure about the sentiments of oysters. M. Ude throwing
live eels into the fire as a kindly method of divesting them of the
unsavoury oil that lodges beneath their skins, is not more convinced of
the immense aggregate of good which arises to the lordlier parts of the
creation, than is the gentle peer who strips his fellow man of country
and of family for a wild-fowl slain. The goodly land-owner, who lives by
morsels squeezed indiscriminately from the waxy hands of the cobbler and
the polluted ones of the nightman, is in no small degree the object of
both hatred and contempt; but it is to be feared that he is a long way
from feeling them to be intolerable. The principle of ‘At mihi plaudo
ipse domi, simul ac nununos contemplai’ in area’ is sufficient to make
a wide interval between the opinions of the plaintiff and defendant in
such eases. In short, to banish law and leave all plaintiffs to trust
to the desire of reputation on the opposite side, would only be
transporting the theory of the Whigs from the House of Commons to
Westminster Hall_.”

Now, in the first place, we never maintained the proposition which
Mr. Bentham puts into our mouths. We said, and say, that there is a
_certain_ check to the rapacity and cruelty of men, in their desire of
the good opinion of others. We never said that it was sufficient. Let
Mr. Mill show it to be insufficient. It is enough for us to prove that
there is a set-off against the principle from which Mr. Mill deduces the
whole theory of government. The balance may be, and, we believe, will
be, against despotism and the narrower forms of {63}aristocracy. But
what is this to the correctness or incorrectness of Mr. Mill’s accounts?
The question is not, whether the motives which lead rulers to behave ill
are stronger than those which lead them to behave well;--but, whether
we ought to form a theory of government by looking _only_ at the motives
which lead rulers to behave ill and never noticing those which lead them
to behave well.

Absolute rulers, says Mr. Bentham, do not care for the good opinion of
their subjects; for no man cares for the good opinion of those whom he
has been accustomed to wrong. By Mr. Bentham’s leave, this is a plain
begging of the question. The point at issue is this:--Will kings and
nobles wrong the people? The argument in favour of kings and nobles is
this:--they will not wrong the people, because they care for the good
opinion of the people. But this argument Mr. Bentham meets thus:--they
will not care for the good opinion of the people, because they are
accustomed to wrong the people.

Here Mr. Mill differs, as usual, from Mr. Bentham. “The greatest
princes,” says he, in his Essay on Education, “the most despotical
masters of human destiny, when asked what they aim at by their wars and
conquests, would answer, if sincere, as Frederick of Prussia answered,
_pour faire parler de soi_;--to occupy a large space in the admiration
of mankind.” Putting Mr. Mill’s and Mr. Bentham’s principles together,
we might make out very easily that “the greatest princes, the most
despotical masters of human destiny,” would never abuse their power.

A man who has been long accustomed to injure people must also have been
long accustomed to do without their love, and to endure their aversion.
Such a man {64}may not miss the pleasure of popularity; for men seldom
miss a pleasure which they have long denied themselves. An old tyrant
does without popularity just as an old water-drinker does without wine.
But, though it is perfectly true that men who for the good of their
health have long abstained from wine feel the want of it very little,
it would be absurd to infer that men will always abstain from wine when
their health requires that they should do so. And it would be equally
absurd to say, because men who have been accustomed to oppress care
little for popularity, that men will therefore necessarily prefer the
pleasures of oppression to those of popularity.

Then, again, a man may be accustomed to wrong people in one point and
not in another. He may care for their good opinion with regard to one
point and not with regard to another. The Regent Orleans laughed at
charges of impiety, libertinism, extravagance, idleness, disgraceful
promotions. But the slightest allusion to the charge of poisoning threw
him into convulsions. Louis the Fifteenth braved the hatred and contempt
of his subjects during many years of the most odious and imbecile
misgovernment. But, when a report was spread that he used human blood
for his baths, he was almost driven mad by it. Surely Mr. Bentham’s
position “that no man cares for the good opinion of those whom he has
been accustomed to wrong” would be objectionable, as far too sweeping
and indiscriminate, even if it did not involve, as in the present case
we have shown that it does, a direct begging of the question at issue.

Mr. Bentham proceeds:--

“_Fourthly, The Edinburgh Reviewers are of opinion, that ‘it might, with
no small plausibility, be maintained, that in many {65}countries, there
are two classes which, in some decree, answer to this description;’
[viz.] ‘that the poor compose the class which government is established
to restrain; and the people of some property the class to which the
powers of government may without danger be confided.’

“They take great pains, it is true, to say this and not to say it. They
shuffle and creep about, to secure a hole to escape at, if ‘what they
do not assert’ should be found in any degree inconvenient. A man might
waste his life in trying to find out whether the Misses of the Edinburgh
mean to say Yes or No in their political coquetry. But whichever way the
lovely spinsters may decide, it is diametrically opposed to history and
the evidence of facts, that the poor _are_ the class whom there is any
difficulty in restraining. It is not the poor but the rich that have a
propensity to take the property of other people. There is no instance
upon earth of the poor having combined to take away the property of the
rich; and all the instances habitually brought forward in support of it
are gross misrepresentations, founded upon the most necessary acts
of self-defence on the part of the most numerous classes. Such a
misrepresentation is the common one of the Agrarian law; which was
nothing but an attempt on the part of the Roman people to get back
some part of what had been taken from them by undisguised robbery. Such
another is the stock example of the French Revolution, appealed to by
the Edinburgh Review in the actual case. It is utterly untrue that the
French Revolution took place because ‘the poor began to compare their
cottages and salads with the hotels and banquets of the rich;’ it took
place because they were robbed of their cottages and salads to support
the hotels and banquets of their oppressors. It is utterly untrue that
there was either a scramble for property or a general confiscation; the
classes who took part with the foreign invaders lost their property, as
they would have done here, and ought to do everywhere. All these are the
vulgar errors of the man on the lion’s back,--which the lion will set
to rights when he can tell his own story. History is nothing but the
relation of the sufferings of the poor from the rich; except precisely
so far as the numerous classes of the community have contrived to keep
the virtual power in their hands, or in other words, to establish free
governments. If a poor man injures the rich, the law is instantly at his
heels; the injuries of the rich towards the poor are always inflicted by
the law. And to enable the rich {66}to do this to any extent that may be
practicable or prudent, there is clearly one postulate required, which
is, that the rich shall make the law_.”

This passage is alone sufficient to prove that Mr. Bentham has not taken
the trouble to read our article from beginning to end. We are quite sure
that he would not stoop to misrepresent it. And, if he had read it with
any attention, he would have perceived that all this coquetry, this
hesitation, this Yes and No, this saying and not saying, is simply an
exercise of the undeniable right which in controversy belongs to the
defensive side--to the side which proposes to establish nothing. The
affirmative of the issue and the burden of the proof are with Mr. Mill,
not with us. We are not bound, perhaps we are not able, to show that the
form of government which he recommends is bad. It is quite enough if we
can show that he does not prove it to be good. In his proof, among many
other flaws, is this--He says, that if men are not inclined to plunder
each other, government is unnecessary, and that, if men are so inclined,
kings and aristocracies will plunder the people. Now this, we say, is a
fallacy. That some men will plunder their neighbours if they can, is
a sufficient reason for the existence of governments. But it is not
demonstrated that kings and aristocracies will plunder the people,
unless it be true that all men will plunder their neighbours if they
can. Men are placed in very different situations. Some have all the
bodily pleasures that they desire, and many other pleasures besides,
without plundering anybody. Others can scarcely obtain their daily bread
without plundering. It may be true, but surely it is not self-evident,
that the former class is under as strong temptations to plunder as the
latter. Mr. Mill was therefore bound {67}to prove it. That he has not
proved it is one of thirty or forty fatal errors in his argument. It is
not necessary that we should express an opinion or even have an opinion
on the subject. Perhaps we are in a state of perfect scepticism: but
what then? Are we the theory-makers? When we bring before the world a
theory of government, it will be time to call upon us to offer proof
at every step. At present we stand on our undoubted logical right.
We concede nothing: and we deny nothing. We say to the Utilitarian
theorists:--When you prove your doctrine, we will believe it; and, till
you prove it, we will not believe it.

Mr. Bentham has quite misunderstood what we said about the French
Revolution. We never alluded to that event for the purpose of proving
that the poor were inclined to rob the rich. Mr. Mill’s principles of
human nature furnished us with that part of our argument ready-made.
We alluded to the French Revolution for the purpose of illustrating
the effects which general spoliation produces on society, not for the
purpose of showing that general spoliation will take place under a
democracy. We allowed distinctly that, in the peculiar circumstances of
the French monarchy, the Revolution, though accompanied by a great shock
to the institution of property, was a blessing. Surely Mr. Bentham will
not maintain that the injury produced by the deluge of assignats and
by the maximum fell only on the emigrants,--or that there were not many
emigrants who would have staid and lived peaceably under any government
if their persons and property had been secure.

We never said that the French Revolution took place because the poor
began to compare their cottages and salads with the hotels and banquets
of the rich. {68}We were not speaking about _the causes_ of the
Revolution, or thinking about them. This we said, and say, that, if a
democratic government had been established in France, the poor, when
they began to compare their cottages and salads with the hotels
and banquets of the rich, would, on the supposition that Mr. Mill’s
principles are sound, have plundered the rich, and repeated without
provocation all the severities and confiscations which, at the time of
the Revolution, were committed with provocation. We say that Mr. Mill’s
favourite form of government would, if his own views of human nature be
just, make those violent convulsions and transfers of property which now
rarely happen, except, as in the case of the French Revolution, when
the people are maddened by oppression, events of annual or biennial
occurrence. We gave no opinion of our own. We give none now. We say that
this proposition may be proved from Mr. Mill’s own premises, by steps
strictly analogous to those by which he proves monarchy and aristocracy
to be bad forms of government. To say this, is not to say that the
proposition is true. For we hold both Mr. Mill’s premises and his
deduction to be unsound throughout.

Mr. Bentham challenges us to prove from history that the people will
plunder the rich. What does history say to Mr. Mill’s doctrine, that
absolute kings will always plunder their subjects so unmercifully as to
leave nothing but a bare subsistence to any except their own creatures?
If experience is to be the test, Mr. Mill’s theory is unsound. If Mr.
Mill’s reasoning _a priori_ be sound, the people in a democracy will
plunder the rich. Let us use one weight and one measure. Let us not
throw history aside when we are proving a theory, and take it up again
when we have to refute an objection founded on the principles of that
theory. {69}We have not done, however, with Mr. Bentham’s charges
against us.

“_Among other specimens of their ingenuity, they think they embarrass
the subject by asking why, on the principles in question, women should
not have votes as well as men. And why not?

                        Gentle shepherd, tell me why.--

If the mode of election was what it ought to be, there would be no more
difficulty in women voting for a representative in Parliament than for
a director at the India House. The world will find out at some time
that the readiest way to secure justice on some points is to be just on
all:--that the whole is easier to accomplish than the part; and that,
whenever the camel is driven through the eye of the needle, it would be
simple folly and debility that would leave a hoof behind._”

Why, says or sings Mr. Bentham, should not women vote? It may seem
uncivil in us to turn a deaf ear to his Arcadian warblings. But we
submit, with great deference, that it is not _our_ business to tell him
why. We fully agree with him that the principle of female suffrage is
not so palpably absurd that a chain of reasoning ought to be pronounced
unsound merely because it leads to female suffrage. We say that every
argument which tells in favour of the universal suffrage of the males
tells equally in favour of female suffrage. Mr. Mill, however, wishes
to see all men vote, but says that it is unnecessary that women
should vote: and for making this distinction _he_ gives as a reason an
assertion which, in the first place, is not true, and which, in the next
place, would, if true, overset his whole theory of human nature; namely,
that the interest of the women is identical with that of the men. We
side with Mr. Bentham, so far at least as this: that, when we join to
drive the camel through the needle, he shall go through hoof and all.
We at present desire to be excused from {70}driving the camel. It is Mr.
Mill who leaves the hoof behind. But we should think it uncourteous to
reproach him in the language which Mr. Bentham, in the exercise of his
paternal authority over the sect, thinks himself entitled to employ.

“_Another of their perverted ingenuities is, that ‘they are rather
inclined to think,’ that it would, on the whole, be for the interest of
the majority to plunder the rich; and if so, the Utilitarians will say
that the rich ought to be plundered. On which it is sufficient to reply,
that for the majority to plunder the rich would amount to a declaration
that nobody should be rich; which, as all men wish to be rich, would
involve a suicide of hope. And as nobody has shown a fragment of reason
why such a proceeding should be for the general happiness, it does
not follow that the ‘Utilitarians’ would recommend it. The Edinburgh
Reviewers have a waiting gentlewoman’s ideas of ‘Utilitarianism.’ It
is unsupported by anything but the pitiable ‘We are rather inclined to
think’--and is utterly contradicted by the whole course of history and
human experience besides,--that there is either danger or possibility of
such a consummation as the majority agreeing on the plunder of the rich.
There have been instances in human memory, of their agreeing to plunder
rich oppressors, rich traitors, rich enemies,--but the rich simpliciter
never. It is as true now as in the days of Harrington, that ‘a people
never will, nor ever can, never did, nor ever shall, take up arms for
levelling.’ All the commotions in the world have been for something
else; and ‘levelling’ is brought forward as the blind to conceal what
the other was_.”

We say, again and again, that we are on the defensive. We do not think
it necessary to prove that a quack medicine is poison. Let the vendor
prove it to be sanative. We do not pretend to show that universal
suffrage is an evil. Let its advocates show it to be a good. Mr. Mill
tells us that, if power be given for short terms to representatives
elected by all the males of mature age, it will then be for the interest
of those {71}representatives to promote the greatest happiness of the
greatest number. To prove this, it is necessary that he should prove
three propositions: first, that the interest of such a representative
body will be identical with the interest of the constituent body;
secondly, that the interest of the constituent body will be identical
with that of the community; thirdly, that the interest of one generation
of a community is identical with that of all succeeding generations. The
two first propositions Mr. Mill attempts to prove, and fails. The last
he does not even attempt to prove. We therefore refuse our assent to his
conclusions. Is this unreasonable?

We never even dreamed, what Mr. Bentham conceives us to have maintained,
that it could be for the greatest happiness of _mankind_ to plunder the
rich. But we are “rather inclined to think,” though doubtingly and with
a disposition to yield to conviction, that it may be for the pecuniary
interest of the majority of a single generation in a thickly-peopled
country to plunder the rich. Why we are inclined to think so we will
explain, whenever we send a theory of government to an Encyclopaedia.
At present we are bound to say only that we think so, and shall think so
till somebody shows us a reason for thinking otherwise.

Mr. Bentham’s answer to us is simple assertion. He must not think that
we mean any discourtesy by meeting it with a simple denial. The fact is,
that almost all the governments that have ever existed in the civilised
world have been, in part at least, monarchical and aristocratical. The
first government constituted on principles approaching to those which
the Utilitarians hold was, we think, that of the United States. That the
poor have never combined to plunder the rich in {72}the governments of
the old world, no more proves that they might not combine to plunder
the rich under a system of universal suffrage, than the fact that
the English kings of the House of Brunswick have not been Neros and
Domitians proves that sovereigns may safely be intrusted with absolute
power. Of what the people would do in a state of perfect sovereignty we
can judge only by indications, which, though rarely of much moment in
themselves, and though always suppressed with little difficulty, are yet
of great significance, and resemble those by which our domestic animals
sometimes remind us that they are of kin with the fiercest monsters of
the forest. It would not be wise to reason from the behaviour of a dog
crouching under the lash, which is the case of the Italian people,
or from the behaviour of a dog pampered with the best morsels of a
plentiful kitchen, which is the case of the people of America, to the
behaviour of a wolf, which is nothing but a dog run wild, after a week’s
fast among the snows of the Pyrenees. No commotion, says Mr. Bentham,
was ever really produced by the wish of levelling: the wish has been put
forward as a blind; but something else has been the real object. Grant
all this. But why has levelling been put forward as a blind in times
of commotion to conceal the real objects of the agitators? Is it with
declarations which involve “a suicide of hope” that men attempt to
allure others? Was famine, pestilence, slavery, ever held out to attract
the people? If levelling has been made a pretence for disturbances, the
argument against Mr. Bentham’s doctrine is as strong as if it had been
the real object of disturbances.

But the great objection which Mr. Bentham makes to our review, still
remains to be noticed:--{73}"The pith of the charge against the
author of the Essays is, that he has written ‘an elaborate Treatise
on Government,’ and ‘deduced the whole science from the assumption of
certain propensities of human nature.’ Now, in the name of Sir Richard
Birnie and all saints, from what else should it be deduced? What did
ever anybody imagine to be the end, object, and design of government as
it ought to be but the same operation, on an extended scale, which that
meritorious chief magistrate conducts on a limited one at Bow-street; to
wit, the preventing one man from injuring another? Imagine, then, that
the Whiggery of Bow-street were to rise up against the proposition that
their science was to be deduced from ‘certain propensities of human
nature,’ and thereon were to ratiocinate as follows:--

“‘_How then are we to arrive at just conclusions on a subject so
‘important to the happiness of mankind? Surely by that method, which,
in every experimental science to which it has been applied, has signally
increased the power and knowledge of our species,--by that method for
which our new philosopher! would substitute quibbles scarcely worthy
of the barbarous respondents and opponents of the middle ages,--by the
method of induction,--by observing the present state of the world,--by
assiduously studying the history of past ages,--by sifting the evidence
of facts,--by carefully combining and contrasting those which
are authentic,--by generalising with judgment and diffidence,--by
perpetually bringing the theory which we have constructed to the test
of new facts,--by correcting, or altogether abandoning it, according
as those new facts prove it to be partially or fundamentally unsound.
Proceeding thus,--patiently, diligently, candidly, we may hope to form
a system as far inferior in pretension to that which we have
been examining, and as far superior to it in real utility, as the
prescriptions of a great physician, varying with every stage of every
malady, and with the constitution of every patient, to the pill of the
advertising quack, which is to cure all human beings, in all climates,
of all diseases.’”

“Fancy now,--only fancy,--the delivery of these wise words at
Bow-street; and think how speedily the practical catchpolls would
reply, that all this might be very fine, but as far as they had studied
history, the naked story was, after all, that numbers of men had a
propensity to thieving, and their business was to catch them; that they,
too, had been sifters of facts; and, to say the truth, their simple
opinion was, that their brethren of the red {74}waistcoat--though
they should be sorry to think ill of any man--had somehow contracted a
leaning to the other side, and were more bent on puzzling the case for
the benefit of the defendants, than on doing the duty of good officers
and true. Such would, beyond all doubt, be the sentence passed on such
trimmers in the microcosm of Bow-street. It might not absolutely follow
that they were in a plot to rob the goldsmiths’ shops, or to set fire
to the House of Commons; but it would be quite clear that they had got
a feeling,--that they were in process of siding with the thieves,--and
that it was not to them that any man must look who was anxious that
pantries should be safe_.”

This is all very witty; but it does not touch us. On the present
occasion, we cannot but flatter ourselves that we bear a much greater
resemblance to a practical catchpoll than either Mr. Mill or Mr.
Bentham. It would, to be sure, be very absurd in a magistrate,
discussing the arrangements of a police-office, to spout ill the style
either of our article or Mr. Bentham’s; but, in substance, he would
proceed, if he were a man of sense, exactly as _we_ recommend. He would,
on being appointed to provide for the security of property in a town,
study attentively the state of the town. He would learn at what places,
at what times, and under what circumstances, theft and outrage were most
frequent. Are the streets, he would ask, most infested with thieves at
sunset or at midnight? Are there any public places of resort which give
peculiar facilities to pickpockets? Are there any districts completely
inhabited by a lawless population? Which are the flash-houses, and which
the shops of receivers? Having made himself master of the facts he would
act accordingly. A strong detachment of officers might be necessary for
Petticoat Lane; another for the pit entrance of Covent Garden Theatre.
Grosvenor Square and Hamilton Place would require little or no
protection. {75}Exactly thus should we reason about government. Lombardy
is oppressed by tyrants; and constitutional checks, such as may produce
security to the people, are required. It is, so to speak, one of the
resorts of thieves; and there is great need of police-officers. Denmark
resembles one of those respectable streets in which it is scarcely
necessary to station a catchpoll, because the inhabitants would at once
join to seize a thief. Yet, even in such a street, we should wish to see
an officer appear now and then, as his occasional superintendence would
render the security more complete. And even Denmark, we think, would be
better off under a constitutional form of government.

Mr. Mill proceeds like a director of police, who, without asking a
single question about the state of his district, should give his orders
thus:--“My maxim is, that every man will take what he can. Every man in
London would be a thief, but for the thief-takers. This is an undeniable
principle of human nature. Some of my predecessors have wasted
their time in inquiring about particular pawnbrokers, and particular
alehouses. Experience is altogether divided. Of people placed in exactly
the same situation, I see that one steals, and that another would sooner
burn his hand off. _Therefore_ I trust to the laws of human nature
alone, and pronounce all men thieves alike. Let every body, high and
low, be watched. Let Townsend take particular care that the Duke of
Wellington does not steal the silk handkerchief of the lord in waiting
at the levee. A person has lost a watch. Go to Lord Fitz-william and
search him for it; he is as great a receiver of stolen goods as Ikey
Solomons himself. Don’t tell me about his rank, and character, and
fortune. He is a man; and a man does not change his nature {76}when he
is called a lord. (1) Either men will steal or they will not steal. If
they will not, why do I sit here? If they will, his lordship must be a
thief.” The Whiggery of Bow Street would perhaps rise up against this
wisdom. Would Mr. Bentham think that the Whiggery of Bow Street was In
the wrong?

We blamed Mr. Mill for deducing his theory of government from the
principles of human nature. “In the name of Sir Richard Birnie and all
saints,” cries Mr. Bentham, “from what else should it be deduced?”
 In spite of this solemn adjuration, we shall venture to answer Mr.
Bentham’s question by another. How does he arrive at those principles of
human nature from which he proposes to deduce the science of government?
We think that we may venture to put an answer into his mouth; for in
truth there is but one possible answer. He will say--By experience.
But what is the extent of this experience? Is it an experience which
includes experience of the conduct of men intrusted with the powers
of government; or is it exclusive of that experience? If it includes
experience of the manner in which men act when intrusted with the powers
of government, then those principles of human nature from which the
science of government is to be deduced can only be known after going
through that inductive process by which we propose to arrive at the
science of government. Our knowledge of human nature, instead of being
prior in order to our knowledge

     (1) “If Government is founded upon this, as a law of human
     nature, that a man, if able, will take from others anything
     which they have and he desires, it is sufficiently evident
     that when a man is called a king, he does not change his
     nature: so that, when he has power to take what he pleases,
     he will take what he pleases. To suppose that he will not,
     is to affirm that government is unnecessary, and that human
     beings will abstain from injuring one another of their own
     accord.”--Mill. _on Government._

{77} of the science of government, will be posterior to it. And it would
be correct to say, that by means of the science of government, and of
other kindred sciences--the science of education, for example, which
falls under exactly the same principle--we arrive at the science of
human nature.

If, on the other hand, we are to deduce the theory of government from
principles of human nature, in arriving at which principles we have not
taken into the account the manner in which men act when invested with
the powers of government, then those principles must be defective.
They have not been formed by a sufficiently copious induction. We are
reasoning, from what a man does in one situation, to what he will do in
another. Sometimes we may be quite justified in reasoning thus. When we
have no means of acquiring information about the particular case before
us, we are compelled to resort to cases which bear some resemblance to
it. But the most satisfactory course is to obtain information about
the particular case; and, whenever this can be obtained, it ought to be
obtained. When first the yellow fever broke out, a physician might
be justified in treating it as he had been accustomed to treat those
complaints which, on the whole, had the most symptoms in common with it.
But what should we think of a physician who should now tell us that
he deduced his treatment of yellow fever from the general theory of
pathology? Surely we should ask him, Whether, in constructing his theory
of pathology, he had or had not taken into the account the facts which
had been ascertained respecting the yellow fever? If he had, then it
would be more correct to say that he had arrived at the principles
of pathology partly by his experience of cases of yellow fever
than {78}that he had deduced his treatment of yellow fever from the
principles of pathology. If he had not, he should not prescribe for us.
If we had the yellow fever, we should prefer a man who had never
treated any cases but cases of yellow fever to a man who had walked the
hospitals of London and Paris for years, but who knew nothing of our
particular disease.

Let Lord Bacon speak for us: “Inductionem cense-mus cam esse
demonstrandi formam, quæ sensum tue-tur, et naturam promit, et operibus
imminet, ac fere immiscetur. Itaque ordo quoque demonstrandi
plane invertitur. Adhuc enim res ita geri consuevit, ut a sensu et
particularibus primo loco ad maxime generalia advoletur, tanquam ad
polos fixos, circa quos disputationes vertantur; ab illis cætera, per
media, deriventur; via certe compendiariâ, sed præcipiti, et ad naturam
im-perviâ, ad disputationes proclivi et accommodatâ. At, secundum nos,
axiomata continenter et gradatim exci-. tantur, ut non, nisi postremo
loco, ad maxime generalia veniatur.” Can any words more exactly describe
the political reasonings of Mr. Mill than those in which Lord Bacon thus
describes the logomachies of the schoolmen? Mr. Mill springs at once
to a general principle of the widest extent, and from that general
principle deduces syllogistically every thing which is included in
it. We say with Bacon--“non, nisi postremo loco, ad maxime generalia
veniatur.” In the present inquiry, the science of human nature is the
“maxime generale.” To this the Utilitarian rushes at once, and from this
he deduces a hundred sciences. But the true philosopher, the inductive
reasoner, travels up to it slowly, through those hundred sciences, of
which the science of government is one.

As we have lying before us that incomparable volume, {79}the noblest
and most useful of all the works of the human reason, the Novum Organum,
we will transcribe a few lines, in which the Utilitarian philosophy is
portrayed to the life.

_“Syllogismus act principia scientiarum non adhibetur, ad media axiomata
frustra adhibetur, cum sit subtilitati naturæ longe impar. Assensum
itaque constringit, non res. Syllogismus ex propositionibus constat,
propositiones ex verbis, verba notionnm tesseræ sunt. Itaque si notiones
ipsæ, id quod basis rei est, confusæ sint, et temerè a rebus abstraetæ,
nihil in iis quæ superstruuntur est firmitudinis. Itaque spes est una
in Induetione vera. In notionibus nil sani est, nee in Logieis nee in
physicis. Non substantia, non qualitas, agere, pati, ipsum esse, bonne
notiones sunt; multo minus grave, leve, densum, tenue, humidum, siecum,
generatio, corruptio, attrahere, fugare, elementum, materia, forma, et
id genus, sed omnes phantastieæ et male terminatæ_.”

Substitute for the “substantia,” the “generatio,” the “corruptio,”
 the “elementum,” the “materia” of the old schoolmen, Mr. Mill’s pain,
pleasure, interest, power, objects of desire,--and the words of Bacon
will seem to suit the current year as well as the beginning of the
seventeenth century.

We have now gone through the objections that Mr. Bentham makes to our
article: and we submit ourselves on all the charges to the judgment of
the public.

The rest of Mr. Bentham’s article consists of an exposition of the
Utilitarian principle, or, as he decrees that it shall be called, the
“greatest happiness principle.” He seems to think that we have been
assailing it. We never said a syllable against it. We spoke slightingly
of the Utilitarian sect, as we thought of them, and think of them; but
it was not for holding this doctrine that we blamed them. In attacking
them we no more meant to attack the “greatest happiness” {80}principle
than when we say that Mahometanism is a false religion we mean to deny
the unity of God, which is the first article of the Mahometan creed;--no
more than Mr. Bentham, when he sneers at the Whigs, means to blame
them for denying the divine right of kings. We reasoned throughout our
article on the supposition that the end of government was to produce the
greatest happiness to mankind.

Mr. Bentham gives an account of the manner In which he arrived at the
discovery of the “greatest happiness principle.” He then proceeds to
describe the effects which, as he conceives, that discovery is producing
in language so rhetorical and ardent that, if it had been written by any
other person, a genuine Utilitarian would certainly have thrown down the
book in disgust.

“_The only rivals of any note to the new principle which were brought
forward, were those known by the names of the ‘moral sense,’ and the
‘original contract.’ The new principle superseded the first of these, by
presenting it with a guide for its decisions; and the other, by making
it unnecessary to resort to a remote and imaginary contract for what was
clearly the business of every man and every hour. Throughout the whole
horizon of morals and of politics, the consequences were glorious and
vast. It might be said without danger of exaggeration, that they who
sat in darkness had seen a great light. The mists in which mankind
had jousted against each other were swept away, as when the sun of
astronomical science arose in the full development of the principle of
gravitation. If the object of legislation was the greatest happiness,
morality was the promotion of the same end by the conduct of the
individual; and by analogy, the happiness of the world was the morality
of nations.

“....All the sublime obscurities, which had haunted the mind of man from
the first formation of society,--the phantoms whose steps had been on
earth, and their heads among the clouds,--marshalled themselves at the
sound of this new principle of connection and of union, and stood a
regulated band, where all {81}was order, symmetry, and force. What men
had struggled for and bled, while they saw it but as through a glass
darkly, was made the object of substantial knowledge and lively
apprehension. The bones of sages and of patriots stirred within their
tombs, that what they dimly saw and followed had become the world’s
common heritage. And the great result was wrought by no supernatural
means, nor produced by any unparallelable concatenation of events. It
was foretold by no oracles, and ushered by no portents; but was brought
about by the quiet and reiterated exercise of God’s first gift of common

Mr. Bentham’s discovery does not, as we think we shall be able to show,
approach in importance to that of gravitation, to which he compares it.
At all events, Mr. Bentham seems to us to act much as Sir Isaac Newton
would have done if he had gone about boasting that he was the first
person who taught bricklayers not to jump off scaffolds and break their

Does Mr. Bentham profess to hold out any new motive which may induce
men to promote the happiness of the species to which they belong? Not
at all. He distinctly admits that, if he is asked why government should
attempt to produce the greatest possible happiness, he can give no

“_The real answer,” says he, “appeared to be, that men at large ought
not to allow a government to afflict them with move evil or less good
than they can help. What a government ought to do is a mysterious and
searching question, which those may answer who know what it means; but
what other men ought to do is a question of no mystery at all. The
word ought, if it means anything, must have reference to some kind of
interest or motives; and what interest a government has in doing right,
when it happens to be interested in doing wrong, is a question for
the schoolmen. The fact appears to be, that ought is not predicable of
governments. The question is not why governments are bound not to do
this or that, but why other men should let them if they can help it. The
point is not to determine why the lion should {82}not eat sheep, but why
men should not eat their own mutton if they can_.”

The principle of Mr. Bentham, if we understand it, is this, that
mankind ought to act so as to produce their greatest happiness. The word
_ought_, he tells us, has no meaning, unless it be used with reference
to some interest. But the interest of a man is synonymous with his
greatest happiness:--and therefore to say that a man ought to do a
thing, is to say that it is for his greatest happiness to do it. And
to say that mankind _ought_ to act so as to produce their greatest
happiness, is to say that the greatest happiness is the greatest
happiness--and this is all!

Does Mr. Bentham’s principle tend to make any man wish for anything for
which he would not have wished, or do any thing which he would not have
done, if the principle had never been heard of? If not, it is an
utterly useless principle. Now, every man pursues his own happiness or
interest--call it which you will. If his happiness coincides with the
happiness of the species, then, whether he ever heard of the “greatest
happiness principle” or not, he will, to the best of his knowledge and
ability, attempt to produce the greatest happiness of the species.
But, if what he thinks his happiness be inconsistent with the greatest
happiness of mankind, will this new principle convert him to another
frame of mind? Mr. Bentham himself allows, as we have seen, that he can
give no reason why a man should promote the greatest happiness of others
if their greatest happiness be inconsistent with what he thinks his own.
We should very much like to know how the Utilitarian principle would
run when reduced to one plain imperative proposition? Will it run
thus--pursue {83}your own happiness? This is superfluous. Every man
pursues it, according to his light, and always has pursued it, and
always must pursue it. To say that a man has done any thing, is to say
that he thought it for his happiness to do it. Will the principle run
thus--pursue the greatest happiness of mankind, whether it be your own
greatest happiness or not? This is absurd and impossible; and Bentham
himself allows it to be so. But, if the principle be not stated in one
of these two ways, we cannot imagine how it is to be stated at all.
Stated in one of these ways, it is an identical proposition,--true,
but utterly barren of consequences. Stated in the other way, it is
a contradiction in terms. Mr. Bentham has distinctly declined the
absurdity. Are we then to suppose that he adopts the truism?

There are thus, it seems, two great truths which the Utilitarian
philosophy is to communicate to mankind--two truths which are to produce
a revolution in morals, in laws, in governments, in literature, in the
whole system of life. The first of these is speculative; the second is
practical. The speculative truth is, that the greatest happiness is the
greatest happiness. The practical rule is very simple; for it imports
merely that men should never omit, when they wish for any thing, to wish
for it, or when they do any thing, to do it! It is a great comfort to us
to think that we readily assented to the former of these great doctrines
as soon as it was stated to us; and that we have long endeavoured,
as far as human frailty would permit, to conform to the latter in our
practice. We are, however, inclined to suspect that the calamities of
the human race have been owing, less to their not knowing that happiness
was happiness, than to their not knowing how to obtain it--less to their
neglecting to do what they did, than to their not {84}being able to do
what they wished, or not wishing to do what they ought.

Thus frivolous, thus useless is this philosophy,--“controversianun
ferax, operiun effoeta, ad garriendum prompta, ad generandum invalida.”
 (1) The humble mechanic who discovers some slight improvement in
the construction of safety lamps or steam-vessels does more for the
happiness of mankind than the “magnificent principle,” as Mr. Bentham
calls it, will do in ten thousand years. The mechanic teaches us how
we may in a small degree be better off than we were. The Utilitarian
advises us with great pomp to be as well off as we can.

The doctrine of a moral sense may be very unphilosophical; but we do
not think that it can be proved to be pernicious. Men did not entertain
certain desires and aversions because they believed in a moral sense,
but they gave the name of moral sense to a feeling which they found in
their minds, however it came there. If they had given it no name at all
it would still have influenced their actions; and it will not be very
easy to demonstrate that it has influenced their actions the more
because they have called it the moral sense. The theory of the original
contract is a fiction, and a very absurd fiction; but in practice it
meant, what the “greatest happiness principle,” if ever it becomes a
watchword of political warfare, will mean--that is to say, whatever
served the turn of those who used it. Both the one expression and the
other sound very well in debating clubs; but in the real conflicts of
life our passions and interests bid them stand aside and know their
place. The “greatest happiness principle” has always been latent under
the words, social contract, justice,

     (1) Bacon, Novum Organum.

{85}benevolence, patriotism, liberty, and so forth, just as for as it
was for the happiness, real or imagined, of those who used these words
to promote the greatest happiness of mankind. And of this we may be
sure, that the words “greatest happiness” will never, in any man’s
mouth, mean more than the greatest happiness of others which is
consistent with what he thinks his own. The project of mending a bad
world by teaching people to give new names to old things reminds us of
Walter Shandy’s scheme for compensating the loss of his son’s nose by
christening him Trismegistus.

What society wants is a new motive--not a new cant. If Mr. Bentham can
find out any argument yet undiscovered which may induce men to pursue
the general happiness, he will indeed be a great benefactor to our
species. But those whose happiness is identical with the general
happiness are even now promoting the general happiness to the very best
of their power and knowledge: and Mr. Bentham himself confesses that he
has no means of persuading those whose happiness is not identical with
the general happiness to act upon his principle. Is not this, then,
darkening counsel by words without knowledge? If the only fruit of the
“magnificent principle” is to be, that the oppressors and pilferers of
the next generation are to talk of seeking the greatest happiness of the
greatest number, just as the same class of men have talked in our time
of seeking to uphold the Protestant constitution--just as they talked
under Anne of seeking the good of the Church, and under Cromwell of
seeking the Lord--where is the gain? Is not every great question already
enveloped in a sufficiently dark cloud of unmeaning words? Is it so
difficult for a man to cant some one or more of the good old English
cants which his {86}father and grandfather canted before him, that he
must learn, in the schools of the Utilitarians, a new sleight of tongue,
to make fools clap and wise men sneer? Let our countrymen keep their
eyes on the neophytes of this sect, and see whether we turn out to be
mistaken in the prediction which we now hazard. It will before long be
found, we prophesy, that, as the corruption of a dunce is the generation
of an Utilitarian, so is the corruption of an Utilitarian the generation
of a jobber.

The most elevated station that the “greatest happiness principle” is
ever likely to attain is this, that it may be a fashionable phrase among
newspaper writers and members of parliament--that it may succeed to
the dignity which has been enjoyed by the “original contract,” by the
“constitution of 1688,” and other expressions of the same kind. We do
not apprehend that it is a less flexible cant than those which have
preceded it, or that it will less easily furnish a pretext for any
design for which a pretext may be required. The “original contract”
 meant in the Convention Parliament the co-ordinate authority of the
Three Estates. If there were to be a radical insurrection to-morrow, the
“original contract” would stand just as well for annual parliaments
and universal suffrage. The “Glorious Constitution,” again, has meant
everything in turn: the Habeas Corpus Act, the Suspension of the Habeas
Corpus Act, the Test Act, the Repeal of the Test Act. There has not
been for many years a single important measure which has not been
unconstitutional with its opponents, and which its supporters have not
maintained to be agreeable to the true spirit of the constitution. Is it
easier to ascertain what is for the greatest happiness of the human
race than what is the {87}constitution of England? If not, the greatest
happiness principle will be what the “principles of the constitution”
 are, a thing to be appealed to by everybody, and understood by everybody
in the sense which suits him best. It will mean cheap bread, dear
bread, free trade, protecting duties, annual parliaments, septennial
parliaments, universal suffrage, Old Sarum, trial by jury, martial
law--everything, in short, good, bad, or indifferent, of which any
person, from rapacity or from benevolence, chooses to undertake the
defence. It will mean six-and-eightpence with the attorney, tithes at
the rectory, and game-laws at the manor-house. The Statute of Uses, in
appearance the most sweeping legislative reform in our history, was said
to have produced no other effect than that of adding three words to a
conveyance. The universal admission of Mr. Bentham’s great principle
would, as far as we can see, produce no other effect than that those
orators who, while waiting for a meaning, gain time (like bankers paying
in sixpences during a run) by uttering words that mean nothing would
substitute “the greatest happiness,” or rather, as the longer phrase,
the “greatest happiness of the greatest number,” for “under existing
circumstances,”--“now that I am on my legs,”--and “Mr. Speaker, I, for
one, am free to say.” In fact, principles of this sort resemble those
forms which are sold by law-stationers, with blanks for the names of
parties, and for the special circumstances of every case--mere customary
headings and conclusions, which are equally at the command of the most
honest and of the most unrighteous claimant. It is on the filling up
that everything depends.

The “greatest happiness principle” of Mr. Bentham is included in the
Christian morality; and, to our {88}thinking, it is there exhibited in
an infinitely more sound and philosophical form than in the Utilitarian
speculations. For in the New Testament it is neither an identical
proposition, nor a contradiction in terms; and, as laid down by Mr.
Bentham, it must be either the one or the other. “Do as you would be
done by: Love your neighbour as yourself:” these are the precepts of
Jesus Christ. Understood in an enlarged sense, these precepts are, in
fact, a direction to every man to promote the greatest happiness of the
greatest number. But this direction would be utterly unmeaning, as it
actually is in Mr. Bentham’s philosophy, unless it were accompanied by
a sanction. In the Christian scheme, accordingly, it is accompanied by
a sanction of immense force. To a man whose greatest happiness in this
world is inconsistent with the greatest happiness of the greatest number
is held out the prospect of an infinite happiness hereafter, from which
he excludes himself by wronging his fellow-creatures here.

This is practical philosophy, as practical as that on which penal
legislation is founded. A man is told to do something which otherwise
he would not do, and is furnished with a new motive for doing it. Mr.
Bentham has no new motive to furnish his disciples with. He has talents
sufficient to effect any thing that can be effected. But to induce
men to act without an inducement is too much, even for him. He should
reflect that the whole vast world of morals cannot be moved unless
the mover can obtain some stand for his engines beyond it. He acts as
Archimedes would have done, if he had attempted to move the earth by a
lever fixed on the earth. The action and reaction neutralise each other.
The artist labours, and the world remains at rest. Mr. Bentham can only
tell us to do something {89}which we have always been doing, and should
still have continued to do, if we had never heard of the “greatest
happiness principle”--or else to do something which we have no
conceivable motive for doing, and therefore shall not do. Mr. Bentham’s
principle is at best no more than the golden rule of the Gospel without
its sanction. Whatever evils, therefore, have existed in societies in
which the authority of the Gospel is recognised may, _a fortiori_, as it
appears to us, exist in societies in which the Utilitarian principle is
recognised. We do not apprehend that it is more difficult for a tyrant
or a persecutor to persuade himself and others that in putting to death
those who oppose his power or differ from his opinions he is pursuing
“the greatest happiness,” than that he is doing as he would be done by.
But religion gives him a motive for doing as he would be done by: and
Mr. Bentham furnishes him no motive to induce him to promote the general
happiness. If, on the other hand, Mr. Bentham’s principle mean only
that every man should pursue his own greatest happiness, he merely
asserts what everybody knows, and recommends what everybody does.

It is not upon this “greatest happiness principle” that the fame of
Mr. Bentham will rest. He has not taught people to pursue their own
happiness; for that they always did. He has not taught them to promote
the happiness of others, at the expense of their own; for that they will
not and cannot do. But he has taught them _how_, in some most important
points, to promote their own happiness; and, if his school had emulated
him as successfully in this respect as in the trick of passing off
truisms for discoveries, the name of Benthamite would have been no word
for the scoffer. But few of those who consider themselves as in a more
especial {90}manner his followers have anything in common with him but
his faults. The whole science of’ Jurisprudence is his. He has done much
for political economy; but we are not aware that in either department
any improvement has been made by members of his sect. He discovered
truths; all that _they_ have done has been to make those truths
unpopular. He investigated the philosophy of law; he could teach them
only to snarl at lawyers.

We entertain no apprehensions of danger to the institutions of this
country from the Utilitarians. Our fears are of a different kind. We
dread the odium and discredit of their alliance. We wish to see a broad
and clear line drawn between the judicious friends of practical reform
and a sect which, having derived all its influence from the countenance
which they have imprudently bestowed upon it, hates them with the deadly
hatred of ingratitude. There is not, and we firmly believe that there
never was, in this country a party so unpopular. They have already made
the science of political economy--a science of vast importance to
the welfare of nations--an object of disgust to the majority of the
community. The question of parliamentary reform will share the same fate
if once an association be formed in the public mind between Reform and

We bear no enmity to any member of the sect; and for Mr. Bentham we
entertain very high admiration. We know that among his followers there
are some well-intentioned men, and some men of talents: but we cannot
say that we think the logic on which they pride themselves likely to
improve their heads, or the scheme of morality which they have adopted
likely to improve their hearts. Their theory of morals, however,{91}
well deserves an article to itself; and perhaps, on some future
occasion, we may discuss it more fully than time and space at present

The preceding article was written, and was actually in types, when a
letter from Mr. Bentham appeared in the newspapers, importing that,
“though he had furnished the Westminster Review with some _memoranda_
respecting ‘the greatest happiness principle,’ he had nothing to do with
the remarks on our former article.” We are truly happy to find that this
illustrious man had so small a share in a performance which, for his
sake, we have treated with far greater lenity than it deserved.
The mistake, however, does not in the least affect any part of our
arguments; and we have therefore thought it unnecessary to cancel or
cast anew any of the foregoing pages. Indeed, we are not sorry that the
world should see how respectfully we were disposed to treat a great man,
even when we considered him as the author of a very weak and very unfair
attack on ourselves. We wish, however, to intimate to the actual writer
of that attack that our civilities were intended for the author of the
“Preuves Judiciaires,” and the “Defence of Usury”--and not for him. We
cannot conclude, indeed, without expressing a wish--though we fear it
has but little chance of reaching Mr. Bentham--that he would endeavour
to find better editors for his compositions. If M. Dumont had not been a
_rédacteur_ of a different description from some of his successors, Mr.
Bentham would never have attained the distinction of even giving his
name to a sect.


(_Edinburgh, Review_, October 1829.)

We {92}have long been of opinion that the Utilitarians have owed all
their influence to a mere delusion--that, while professing to have
submitted their minds to an intellectual discipline of peculiar
severity, to have discarded all sentimentality, and to have acquired
consummate skill in the art of reasoning, they are decidedly inferior
to the mass of educated men in the very qualities in which they conceive
themselves to excel. They have undoubtedly freed themselves from the
dominion of some absurd notions. But their struggle for intellectual
emancipation has ended, as injudicious and violent struggles for
political emancipation too often end, in a mere change of tyrants.
Indeed, we are not sure that we do not prefer the venerable nonsense
which holds prescriptive sway over the ultra-Tory to the upstart dynasty
of prejudices and sophisms by which the revolutionists of the moral
world have suffered themselves to be enslaved.

The Utilitarians have sometimes been abused as intolerant, arrogant,
irreligious,--as enemies of literature, of the fine arts, and of the
domestic charities.

     (1) Westminster Review, (XXII. Art. 16,) on the Strictures
     of the Edinburgh Review (XCVIII. Art. 1) on the Utilitarian
     Theory of Government, and the “Greatest Happiness

{93}They have been reviled for some things of which they were guilty,
and for some of which they were innocent. But scarcely anybody seems
to have perceived that almost all their peculiar faults arise from the
utter want both of comprehensiveness and of precision in their mode of
reasoning. We have, for some time past, been convinced that this was
really the case; and that, whenever then philosophy should be boldly
and unsparingly scrutinised, the world would see that it had been under
a mistake respecting them.

We have made the experiment; and it has succeeded far beyond our most
sanguine expectations. A chosen champion of the School has come forth
against us. A specimen of his logical abilities now lies before us;
and we pledge ourselves to show that no prebendary at an anti-Catholic
meeting, no true-blue baronet after the third bottle at a Pitt Club,
ever displayed such utter incapacity of comprehending or answering an
argument as appears in the speculations of this Utilitarian apostle;
that he does not understand our meaning, or Mr. Mill’s meaning, or Mr.
Bentham’s meaning, or his own meaning; and that the various parts of his
system--if the name of system can be so misapplied--directly contradict
each other.

Having shown this, we intend to leave him in undisputed possession of
whatever advantage he may derive from the last word. We propose only to
convince the public that there is nothing in the far-famed logic of the
Utilitarians of which any plain man has reason to be afraid; that this
logic will impose on no man who dares to look it in the face.

The Westminster Reviewer begins by charging us with having
misrepresented an important part of Mr. Mill’s argument. {94}”_The first
extract given by the Edinburgh Reviewers from the essay was an insulated
passage, purposely despoiled of what had preceded and what followed.
The author had been observing, that ‘some profound and benevolent
investigators of human affairs had adopted the conclusion that, of all
the possible forms of government, absolute monarchy is the best.’ This
is what the reviewers have omitted at the beginning. He then adds, as
in the extract, that ‘Experience, if we look only at the outside of the
facts, appears to be divided on this subject;’ there are Caligulas in
one place, and kings of Denmark in another. ‘As the surface of history
affords, therefore, no certain principle of decision, we must go beyond
the surface, and penetrate to the springs within.’ This is what the
reviewers have omitted at the end_.”

It is perfectly true that our quotation from Mr. Mill’s essay was, like
most other quotations, preceded and followed by something which we did
not quote. But, if the Westminster Reviewer means to say that either
what preceded or what followed would, if quoted, have shown that we put
a wrong interpretation on the passage which was extracted, he does not
understand Mr. Mill rightly.

Mr. Mill undoubtedly says that, “as the surface of history affords
no certain principle of decision, we must go beyond the surface, and
penetrate to the springs within.” But these expressions will admit of
several interpretations. In what sense, then, does Mr. Mill use them?
If he means that we ought to inspect the facts with close attention,
he means what is rational. But, if he means that we ought to leave the
facts, with all their apparent inconsistencies, unexplained--to lay down
a general principle of the widest extent, and to deduce doctrines from
that principle by syllogistic argument, without pausing to consider
whether those doctrines be or be not consistent with the facts,--then he
means what is irrational; and this is clearly what he does mean: for he
immediately begins, without offering {95}the least explanation of the
contradictory appearances which he has himself described, to go beyond
the surface in the following manner:--“That one human being will
desire to render the person and property of another subservient to his
pleasures, notwithstanding the pain or loss of pleasure which it may
occasion to that other individual, is the foundation of government..
The desire of the object implies the desire of the power necessary to
accomplish the object.” And thus he proceeds to deduce consequences
directly inconsistent with what he has himself stated respecting the
situation of the Danish people.

If we assume that the object of government is the preservation of the
persons and property of men, then we must hold that, wherever that
object is attained, there the principle of good government exists. If
that object be attained both in Denmark and in the United States
of America, then that which makes government good must exist, under
whatever disguise of title or name, both in Denmark and in the United
States. If men lived in fear for their lives and their possessions under
Nero and under the National Convention, it follows that the causes from
which misgovernment proceeds existed both in the despotism of Rome and
in the democracy of France. What, then, is that which, being found
in Denmark and in the United States, and not being found in the Roman
Empire or under the administration of Robespierre, renders governments,
widely differing in their external form, practically good? Be it what it
may, it certainly is not that which Mr. Mill proves _a priori_ that it
must be,--a democratic representative assembly. For the Danes have no
such assembly.

The latent principle of good government ought to {96}be tracked, as it
appears to us, in the same manner in which Lord Bacon proposed to track
the principle of Heat. Make as large a list as possible, said that great
man, of those bodies in which, however widely they differ from each
other in appearance, we perceive heat; and as large a list as possible
of those which, while they bear a general resemblance to hot bodies, are
nevertheless not hot. Observe the different degrees of heat in different
hot bodies; and then, if there be something which is found in all hot
bodies, and of which the increase or diminution is always accompanied
by an increase or diminution of heat, we may hope that we have really
discovered the object of our search. In the same manner we ought to
examine the constitution of all those communities in which, under
whatever form, the blessings of good government are enjoyed; and to
discover, if possible, in what they resemble each other, and in what
they all differ from those societies in which the object of government
is not attained. By proceeding thus we shall arrive, not indeed at a
perfect theory of government, but at a theory which will be of great
practical use, and which the experience of every successive generation
will probably bring nearer and nearer to perfection.

The inconsistencies into which Mr. Mill has been betrayed by taking a
different course ought to serve as a warning to all speculators. Because
Denmark is well governed by a monarch who, in appearance at least, is
absolute, Mr. Mill thinks that the only mode of arriving at the true
principles of government is to deduce them _a priori_ from the laws of
human nature. And what conclusion does he bring out by this deduction?
We will give it in his own words:--“In the grand discovery of modern
times, the system of representation, {97}the solution of all the
difficulties, both speculative and practical, will perhaps be found. If
it cannot, we seem to be forced upon the extraordinary conclusion that
good government is impossible.” That the Danes are well governed without
a representation is a reason for deducing the theory of government
from a general principle from which it necessarily follows that good
government is impossible without a representation! We have done our
best to put this question plainly; and we think that, if the Westminster
Reviewer will read over what we have written twice or thrice with
patience and attention, some glimpse of our meaning will break in even
on his mind.

Some objections follow, so frivolous and unfair, that we are almost
ashamed to notice them.

“_When it was said that there was in Denmark a balanced contest between
the king and the nobility, what was said was, that there was a balanced
contest, but it did not last. It was balanced till something put an end
to the balance; and so is everything else That such a balance will not
last, is precisely what Mr. Mill had demonstrated_.”

Mr. Mill, we positively affirm, pretends to demonstrate, not merely that
a balanced contest between the king and the aristocracy will not last,
but that the chances are as infinity to one against the existence of
such a balanced contest. This is a mere question of fact. We quote the
words of the essay, and defy the Westminster Reviewer to impeach our

“_It seems impossible that such equality should ever exist. How is it to
be established? Or by what criterion is it to be ascertained? If there
is no such criterion, it must, in all cases, be the result of chance. If
so, the chances against it are as infinity to one_.”

The Reviewer has confounded the division of power {98}with the balance
or equal division of power. Mr. Mill says that the division of power
can never exist long, because it is next to impossible that the equal
division of power should ever exist at all.

“_When Mr. Mill asserted that it cannot be for the interest of either
the monarchy or the aristocracy to combine with the democracy, it is
plain he did not assert that if the monarchy and aristocracy were in
doubtful contest with each other, they would not, either of them, accept
of the assistance of the democracy. He spoke of their taking the side
of the democracy; not of their allowing the democracy to take side with

If Mr. Mill meant any thing, he must have meant this--that the monarchy
and the aristocracy will never forget their enmity to the democracy in
their enmity to each other.

“_The monarchy and aristocracy,” says he, “have all possible motives for
endeavouring to obtain unlimited power over the persons and property
of the community. The consequence is inevitable. They have all possible
motives for combining to obtain that power, and unless the people
have power enough to be a match for both they have no protection. The
balance, therefore, is a thing the existence of which upon the best
possible evidence is to be regarded as impossible_.”

If Mr. Mill meant only what the Westminster Reviewer conceives him to
have meant, his argument would leave the popular theory of the balance
quite untouched. For it is the very theory of the balance that the help
of the people will be solicited by the nobles when hard pressed by the
king, and by the king when hard pressed by the nobles; and that, as the
price of giving alternate support to the crown and the aristocracy, they
will obtain something for themselves, as the Reviewer admits that they
have done in Denmark. If Mr. Mill admits this, he admits the only theory
of the balance of which we ever heard--that {99}very theory which he has
declared to be wild and chimerical. If he denies it, he is at issue with
the Westminster Reviewer as to the phenomena of the Danish government.

We now come to a more important passage. Our opponent has discovered, as
he conceives, a radical error which runs through our whole argument, and
vitiates every part of it. We suspect that we shall spoil his triumph.

“_Mr. Mill never asserted ‘that under no despotic government does any
human being, except the tools of the sovereign possess more than the
necessaries of life, and that the most intense degree of terror is
kept up by constant cruelty.’ He said that absolute power leads to
such results, ‘by infallible sequence, where power over a community is
attained, and nothing checks’ The critic on the Mount never made a more
palpable misquotation.

“The spirit of this misquotation runs through every part of the reply
of the Edinburgh Review that relates to the Essay on Government; and is
repeated in as many shapes as the Roman pork. The whole description of
‘Mr. Mill’s argument against despotism,’--including the illustration
from right-angled triangles and the square of the hypothenuse,--is
founded on this invention of saying what an author has not said, and
leaving unsaid what he has_.”

We thought, and still think, for reasons which our readers will soon
understand, that we represented Mr. Mill’s principle quite fairly, and
according to the rule of law and common sense, _ut res magis valeat guam
pereat_. Let us, however, give him all the advantage of the explanation
tendered by his advocate, and see what he will gain by it.

The Utilitarian doctrine then is, not that despots and aristocracies
will always plunder and oppress the people to the last point, but that
they will do so if nothing checks them.

In the first place, it is quite clear that the doctrine {100}thus stated
is of no use at all, unless the force of the checks be estimated. The
first law of motion is, that a ball once projected will fly on to all
eternity with undiminished velocity, unless something checks. The fact
is, that a ball stops in a few seconds after proceeding a few yards with
very variable motion. Every man would wring his child’s neck and pick
his friend’s pocket if nothing checked him. In fact, the principle thus
stated means only that governments will oppress unless they abstain
from oppressing. This is quite true, we own. But we might with equal
propriety turn the maxim round, and lay it down, as the fundamental
principle of government, that all rulers will govern well, unless some
motive interferes to keep them from doing so.

If there be, as the Westminster Reviewer acknowledges, certain checks
which, under political institutions the most arbitrary in seeming,
sometimes produce good government, and almost always place some
restraint on the rapacity and cruelty of the powerful, surely the
knowledge of those checks, of their nature, and of their effect, must
be a most important part of the science of government. Does Mr. Mill say
any thing upon this part of the subject? Not one word.

The line of defence now taken by the Utilitarians evidently degrades Mr.
Mill’s theory of government from the rank which, till within the last
few months, was claimed for it by the whole sect. It is no longer a
practical system, fit to guide statesmen, but merely a barren exercise
of the intellect, like those propositions in mechanics in which the
effect of friction and of the resistance of the air is left out of
the question; and which, therefore, though correctly deduced from the
premises, are in practice utterly false. For, if Mr. {101}Mill professes
to prove only that absolute monarchy and aristocracy are pernicious
without checks,--if he allows that there are checks which produce good
government even under absolute monarchs and aristocracies,--and if he
omits to tell us what those checks are, and what effects they produce
under different circumstances,--he surely gives us no information which
can be of real utility.

But the fact is,--and it is most extraordinary that the Westminster
Reviewer should not have perceived it,--that, if once the existence
of checks on the abuse of power in monarchies and aristocracies be
admitted, the whole of Mr. Milks theory falls to the ground at once.
This is so palpable, that, in spite of the opinion of the Westminster
Reviewer, we must acquit Mr. Mill of having intended to make such an
admission. We still think that the words, “where power over a community
is attained, and nothing checks,” must not be understood to mean that
under a monarchical or aristocratical form of government there can
really be any check which can in any degree mitigate the wretchedness of
the people.

For all possible checks may be classed under two general heads,--want
of will, and want of power. Now, if a king or an aristocracy, having
the power to plunder and oppress the people, can want the will, all Mr.
Mill’s principles of human nature must be pronounced unsound. He tells
us, “that the desire to possess unlimited power of inflicting pain upon
others, is an inseparable part of human nature;” and that a “chain of
inference, close and strong to a most unusual degree,” leads to the
conclusion that those who possess this power will always desire to use
it. It is plain, therefore, that, if Mr. Mill’s principles be sound, the
{102}check on a monarchical or an aristocratical government will not be
the want of will to oppress.

If a king or an aristocracy, having, as Mr. Mill tells us that they
always must have, the will to oppress the people with the utmost
severity, want the power, then the government, by whatever name it may
be called, must be virtually a mixed government or a pure democracy: for
it is quite clear that the people possess some power in the state--some
means of influencing the nominal rulers. But Mr. Mill has demonstrated
that no mixed government can possibly exist, or at least that such a
government must come to a very speedy end; therefore, every country in
which people not in the service of the government have, for any length
of time, been permitted to accumulate more than the bare means of
subsistence must be a pure democracy. That is to say, France before the
revolution, and Ireland during the last century, were pure democracies.
Prussia, Austria, Russia, all the governments of the civilised world,
are pure democracies. If this be not a _reductio ad absurdum_, we do not
know what is.

The errors of Mr. Mill proceed principally from that radical vice in his
reasoning which, in our last number, we described in the words of Lord
Bacon. The Westminster Reviewer is unable to discover the meaning of our
extracts from the _Novum Organum_, and expresses himself as follows:

“_The quotations from Lord Bacon are misapplications, such as anybody
may make to any thing he dislikes. There is no more resemblance between
pain, pleasure, motives, &c., and substantia, generation corrupting
elementum, materia,--than between lines, angles, magnitudes, &c., and
the same_.”

It would perhaps be unreasonable to expect that a {103}writer who cannot
understand his own English should understand Lord Bacon’s Latin. We will
therefore attempt to make our meaning clearer.

What Lord Bacon blames in the schoolmen of his time is this,--that
they reasoned syllogistically on words which had not been defined with
precision; such as moist, dry, generation, corruption, and so forth.
Mr. Mill’s error is exactly of the same kind. He reasons syllogistically
about power, pleasure, and pain, without attaching any definite notion
to any one of those words. There is no more resemblance, says the
Westminster Reviewer, between pain and substantia than between pain and
a line or an angle. By his permission, in the very point to which
Lord Bacon’s observation applies, Mr. Mill’s subjects do resemble the
_substantia_ and _elementum_ of the schoolmen and differ from the lines
and magnitudes of Euclid. We can reason _a priori_ on mathematics,
because we can define with an exactitude which precludes all possibility
of confusion. If a mathematician were to admit the least laxity into his
notions, if he were to allow himself to be deluded by the vague sense
which words bear in popular use, or by the aspect of an ill-drawn
diagram, if he were to forget in his reasonings that a point was
indivisible, or that the definition of a line excluded breadth,
there would be no end to his blunders. The schoolmen tried to reason
mathematically about things which had not been, and perhaps could not
be, defined with mathematical accuracy. We know the result. Mr. Mill has
in our time attempted to do the same. He talks of power, for example, as
if the meaning of the word power were as determinate as the meaning of
the word circle. But, when we analyse his speculations, we find that his
notion of power is, {104}in the words of Bacon, “_phantastica et male

There are two senses in which we may use the word _power_ and those
words which denote the various distributions of power, as, for example,
_monarchy_;--the one sense popular and superficial,--the other more,
scientific and accurate. Mr. Mill, since he chose to reason _a priori_,
ought to have clearly pointed out in which sense he intended to use
words of this kind, and to have adhered inflexibly to the sense on which
he fixed. Instead of doing this, he flies backwards and forwards from
the one sense to the other, and brings out conclusions at last which
suit neither.

The state of those two communities to which he has himself referred--the
kingdom of Denmark and the empire of Rome--may serve to illustrate our
meaning. Looking merely at the surface of things, we should call Denmark
a despotic monarchy, and the Roman world, in the first century after
Christ, an aristocratical republic. Caligula was, in theory, nothing
more than a magistrate elected by the senate, and subject to the senate.
That irresponsible dignity which, in the most limited monarchies of our
time, is ascribed to the person of the sovereign never belonged to the
earlier Cæsars. The sentence of death which the great council of the
commonwealth passed on Nero was strictly according to the theory of the
constitution. Let, in fact, the power of the Roman emperors approached
nearer to absolute dominion than that of any prince in modern Europe.
On the other hand, the King of Denmark, in theory the most despotic of
princes, would in practice find it most perilous to indulge in cruelty
and licentiousness. Nor is there, we believe, at the present moment a
single sovereign in our x {105}part of the world who has so much real
power over the lives of his subjects as Robespierre, while he lodged at
a Handler’s and dined at a restaurateur’s, exercised over the lives of
those whom he called his fellow-citizens.

Mr. Mill and the Westminster Reviewer seem to agree that there cannot
long exist in any society a division of power between a monarch, an
aristocracy, and the people, or between any two of them. However the
power be distributed, one of the three parties will, according to them,
inevitably monopolise the whole. Now, what is here meant by power? If
Mr. Mill speaks of the external semblance of power,--of power recognised
by the theory of the constitution,--he is palpably wrong. In England,
for example, we have had for ages the name and form of a mixed
government, if nothing more. Indeed, Mr. Mill himself owns that there
are appearances which have given colour to the theory of the balance,
though he maintains that these appearances are delusive. But, if he uses
the word power in a deeper and philosophical sense, he is, if possible,
still more in the wrong than on the former supposition. For, if he had
considered in what the power of one human being over other human beings
must ultimately consist, he would have perceived, not only that there
are mixed governments in the world, but that all the governments in the
world, and all the governments which can even be conceived as existing
in the world, are virtually mixed.

If a king possessed the lamp of Aladdin,--if he governed by the help
of a genius who carried away the daughters and wives of his subjects
through the air to the royal _Parc-aux-cerfs_, and turned into stone
every man who wagged a finger against his majesty’s government, there
would indeed be an unmixed despotism. {106}But, fortunately, a ruler can
be gratified only by means of his subjects. His power depends on their
obedience; and, as any three or four of them are more than a match for
him by himself, he can only enforce the unwilling obedience of some by
means of the willing obedience of others.

Take any of those who are popularly called absolute princes--Napoleon
for example. Could Napoleon have walked through Paris, cutting off the
head of one person in every house which he passed? Certainly not without
the assistance of an army. If not, why not? Because the people had
sufficient physical power to resist him, and would have put forth that
power in defence of their lives and of the lives of their children.
In other words, there was a portion of power in the democracy under
Napoleon. Napoleon might probably have indulged himself in such an
atrocious freak of power if his army would have seconded him. But, if
his army had taken part with the people, he would have found himself
utterly helpless; and, even if they had obeyed his orders against the
people, they would not have suffered him to decimate their own body. In
other words, there was a portion of power in the hands of a minority of
the people, that is to say, in the hands of an aristocracy, under the
reign of Napoleon.

To come nearer home,--Mr. Mill tells us that it is a mistake to imagine
that the English government is mixed. He holds, we suppose, with all the
politicians of the Utilitarian school, that it is purely aristocratical.
There certainly is an aristocracy in England; and we are afraid that
their power is greater than it ought to be. They have power enough to
keep up the game-laws and corn-laws; but they have not power enough to
subject the bodies of men of the lowest class to wanton {107}outrage at
their pleasure. Suppose that they were to make a law that any gentleman
of two thousand a-year might have a day-labourer or a pauper flogged
with a cat-of-nine-tails whenever the whim might take him. It is
quite clear that the first day on which such flagellation should be
administered would be the last day of the English aristocracy. In this
point, and in many other points which might be named, the commonalty in
our island enjoy a security quite as complete as if they exercised the
right of universal suffrage. We say, therefore, that the English people
have in their own hands a sufficient guarantee that in some points the
aristocracy will conform to their wishes;--in other words, they have
a certain portion of power over the aristocracy. Therefore the English
government is mixed.

Wherever a king or an oligarchy refrains from the last extremity of
rapacity and tyranny through fear of the resistance of the people,
there the constitution, whatever it may be called, is in some measure

The admixture of democratic power may be slight. It may be much slighter
than it ought to be; but some admixture there is. Wherever a numerical
minority, by means of superior wealth or intelligence, of political
concert, or of military discipline, exercises a greater influence on
the society than any other equal number of persons,--there, whatever the
form of government may be called, a mixture of aristocracy does in fact
exist. And, wherever a single man, from whatever cause, is so necessary
to the community, or to any portion of it, that he possesses more
power than any other man, there is a mixture of monarchy. This is
the philosophical classification of governments: and if we use this
classification we shall find, not only that {108}there are mixed
governments, but that all governments are, and must always be, mixed.
But we may safely challenge Mr. Mill to give any definition of power, or
to make any classification of governments, which shall bear him ont in
his assertion that a lasting division of authority is impracticable.

It is evidently on the real distribution of power, and not on names and
badges, that the happiness of nations must depend. The representative
system, though doubtless a great and precious discovery in politics, is
only one of the many modes in which the democratic part of the community
can efficiently check the governing few. That certain men have been
chosen as deputies of the people,--that there is a piece of paper
stating such deputies to possess certain powers,--these circumstances
in themselves constitute no security for good government. Such a
constitution nominally existed in France; while, in fact, an oligarchy
of committees and clubs trampled at once on the electors and the
elected. Representation is a very happy contrivance for enabling large
bodies of men to exert their power with less risk of disorder than there
would otherwise be. But, assuredly, it does not of itself give power.
Unless a representative assembly is sure of being supported in the
last resort by the physical strength of large masses who have spirit
to defend the constitution and sense to defend it in concert, the mob of
the town in which it meets may overawe it;--the howls of the listeners
in its gallery may silence its deliberations;--an able and daring
individual may dissolve it. And, if that sense and that spirit of
which we speak be diffused through a society, then, even without a
representative assembly, that society will enjoy many of the blessings
of good government. {109}Which is the better able to defend himself as a
strong man with nothing but his fists, or a paralytic cripple encumbered
with a sword which he cannot lift? Such, we believe, is the difference
between Denmark and some new republics in which the constitutional forms
of the United States have been most sedulously imitated.

Look at the Long Parliament on the day on which Charles came to seize
the five members: and look at it again on the day when Cromwell stamped
with his foot on its floor. On which day was its apparent power the
greater? On which day was its real power the less? Nominally subject, it
was able to defy the sovereign. Nominally sovereign, it was turned out
of doors by its servant.

Constitutions are in politics what paper money is in commerce. They
afford great facilities and conveniences. But we must not attribute to
them that value which really belongs to what they represent. They
are not power, but symbols of power, and will, in an emergency, prove
altogether useless unless the power for which they stand be forthcoming.
The real power by which the community is governed is made up of all the
means which all its members possess of giving pleasure or pain to each

Great light may be thrown on the nature of a circulating medium by the
phenomena of a state of barter. And in the same manner it may be useful
to those who wish to comprehend the nature and operation of the outward
signs of power to look at communities in which no such signs exist;
for example, at the great community of nations. There we find nothing
analogous to a constitution: but do we not find a government? We do in
fact find government in its purest, and simplest, and most intelligible
form. We see one portion {110}of power acting directly on another
portion of power. We see a certain police kept up; the weak to a certain
degree protected; the strong to a certain degree restrained. We see the
principle of the balance in constant operation. We see the whole system
sometimes undisturbed by any attempt at encroachment for twenty or
thirty years at a time; and all this is produced without a legislative
assembly, or an executive magistracy--without tribunals--without any
code which deserves the name; solely by the mutual hopes and fears of
the various members of the federation. In the community of nations,
the first appeal is to physical force. In communities of men, forms
of government serve to put off that appeal, and often render it
unnecessary. But it is still open to the oppressed or the ambitious.

Of course, we do not mean to deny that a form of government will, after
it has existed for a long time, materially affect the real distribution
of power throughout the community. This is because those who administer
a government, with their dependents, form a compact and disciplined
body, which, acting methodically and in concert, is more powerful than
any other equally numerous body which is inferior in organisation.
The power of rulers is not, as superficial observers sometimes seem
to think, a thing _sui generis_. It is exactly similar in kind, though
generally superior in amount, to that of any set of conspirators who
plot to overthrow it. We have seen in our time the most extensive and
the best organised conspiracy that ever existed--a conspiracy which
possessed all the elements of real power in so great a degree that it
was able to cope with a strong government, and to triumph over it--the
Catholic Association. An Utilitarian {111}would tell us, we suppose,
that the Irish Catholics had no portion of political power whatever on
the first day of the late Session of Parliament.

Let us really go beyond the surface of facts: let us, in the sound sense
of the words, penetrate to the springs within; and the deeper we go the
more reason shall we find to smile at those theorists who hold that the
sole hope of the human race is in a rule-of-three sum and a ballot-box.

We must now return to the Westminster Reviewer. The following paragraph
is an excellent specimen of his peculiar mode of understanding and
answering arguments.

“_The reply to the argument against ‘saturation,’ supplies its own
answer. The reason why it is of no use to try to ‘saturate’ is precisely
what the Edinburgh Reviewers have suggested,--‘that there is no limit
to the number of thieves’ There are the thieves, and the thieves’
cousins,--with their men-servants, their maid-servants, and their little
ones, to the fortieth generation. It is true, that ‘a man cannot become
a king or a member of the aristocracy whenever he chooses:’ but if there
is to be no limit to the depredators except their own inclination to
increase and multiply, the situation of those who are to suffer is as
wretched as it needs be. It is impossible to define what are ‘corporal
pleasures.’ A Duchess of Cleveland was a ‘corporal pleasure.’ The
most disgraceful period in the history of any nation--that of the
Restoration--presents an instance of the length to which it is possible
to go in an attempt to ‘saturate’ with pleasures of this kind._”

To reason with such a writer is like talking to a deaf man who catches
at a stray word, makes answer beside the mark, and is led further and
further into error by every attempt to explain. Yet, that our readers
may fully appreciate the abilities of the new philosophers, we shall
take the trouble to go over some of our ground again.

Mr. Mill attempts to prove that there is no point of {112}saturation
with the objects of human desire. He then takes it for granted that men
have no objects of desire but those which can be obtained only at
the expense of the happiness of others. Hence he infers that absolute
monarchs and aristocracies will necessarily oppress and pillage the
people to a frightful extent.

We answered in substance thus. There are two kinds of objects of desire;
those which give mere bodily pleasure, and those which please through
the medium of associations. Objects of the former class, it is true, a
man cannot obtain without depriving somebody else of a share. But then
with these every man is soon satisfied. A king or an aristocracy
cannot spend any very large portion of the national wealth on the mere
pleasures of sense. With the pleasures which belong to us as reasoning
and imaginative beings we are never satiated, it is true: but then, on
the other hand, many of those pleasures can be obtained without injury
to any person, and some of them can be obtained only by doing good to

The Westminster Reviewer, in his former attack on us, laughed at us foil
saying that a king or an aristocracy could not be easily satiated with
the pleasures of sense, and asked why the same course was not tried with
thieves. We were not a little surprised at so silly an objection from
the pen, as we imagined, of Mr. Bentham. We returned, however, a very
simple answer. There is no limit to the number of thieves. Any man who
chooses can steal: but a man cannot become a member of the aristocracy
or a king whenever he chooses. To satiate one thief, is to tempt twenty
other people to steal. But by satiating one king or five hundred nobles
with bodily pleasures we do not produce more kings or more nobles. The
answer {113}of the Westminster Reviewer we have quoted above; and it
will amply repay our readers for the trouble of examining it. We never
read any passage which indicated notions so vague and confused. The
number of the thieves, says our Utilitarian, is not limited. For there
are the dependents and friends of the king and of the nobles. Is it
possible that he should not perceive that this comes under a different
head? The bodily pleasures which a man in power dispenses among his
creatures are bodily pleasures as respects his creatures, no doubt.
But the pleasure which he derives from bestowing them is not a bodily
pleasure. It is one of those pleasures which belong to him as a
reasoning and imaginative being. No man of common understanding can
have failed to perceive that, when we said that a king or an aristocracy
might easily be supplied to satiety with sensual Pleasures, we were
speaking of sensual pleasures directly enjoyed by themselves. But “it is
impossible,” says the Reviewer, “to define what are corporal pleasures.”
 Our brother would indeed, we suspect, find it a difficult task; nor, if
we are to judge of his genius for classification from the specimen which
immediately follows, would we advise him to make the attempt. “A Duchess
of Cleveland was a corporal pleasure.” And to this wise remark is
appended a note, setting forth that Charles the Second gave to the
Duchess of Cleveland the money which he ought to have spent on the war
with Holland. We scarcely know how to answer a man who unites so much
pretension to so much ignorance. There are, among the many Utilitarians
who talk about Hume, Condillac, and Hartley, a few who have read
those writers. Let the Reviewer ask one of these what he thinks on
the subject. We shall not undertake to whip {114}a pupil of so little
promise through his first course of metaphysics. We shall, therefore,
only say--leaving him to guess and wonder what we can mean--that, in
our opinion, the Duchess of Cleveland was not a merely corporal
pleasure,--that the feeling which leads a prince to prefer one woman to
all others, and to lavish the wealth of kingdoms on her, is a feeling
which can only be explained by the law of association.

But we are tired, and even more ashamed than tired, of exposing these
blunders. The whole article is of a piece. One passage, however, we must
select, because it contains a very gross misrepresentation.

“_They never alluded to the French Revolution for the purpose of proving
that the poor were inclined to rob the rich.’ They only said, ‘as soon
as the poor again began to compare their cottages and salads with the
hotels and banquets of the rich, there would have been another scramble
for property, another general confiscation,’ &c._”

We said that, _if Mr. Mill’s principles of human nature were correct_,
there would have been another scramble for property, and another
confiscation. We particularly pointed this out in our last article. We
showed the Westminster Reviewer that he had misunderstood us. We dwelt
particularly on the condition which was introduced into our statement.
We said that we had not given, and did not mean to give, any opinion
of our own. And, after this, the Westminster Reviewer thinks proper to
repeat his former misrepresentation, without taking the least notice of
that qualification to which we, in the most marked manner, called his

We hasten on to the most curious part of the article under our
consideration--the defence of the “greatest happiness principle.” The
Reviewer charges us with having quite mistaken its nature. {115}”_All
that they ave established is, that they do not understand it. Instead
of the truism of the Whigs, ‘that the greatest happiness is the greatest
happiness,’ what Mr. Bentham had demonstrated, or at all events had laid
Inch Inundations that there was no trouble in demonstrating, was, that
the greatest happiness of the individual was in the long run to be
obtained by pursuing the greatest happiness of the aggregate_.”

It was distinctly admitted by the Westminster Reviewer, as we remarked
in our last article, that he could give no answer to the question,--why
governments should attempt to produce the greatest possible happiness?
The Reviewer replies thus:--

“_Nothing of the kind will be admitted at all. In the passage thus
selected to be tacked to the other, the question started was, concerning
‘the object of government;’ in which government was spoken of as an
operation, not as anything that is capable of feeling pleasure or
pain. In this sense it is true enough, that ought is not predicable of

We will quote, once again, the passage which we quoted in our last
Number; and we really hope that our brother critic will feel something
like shame while he peruses it.

“_The real answer appeared to be, that men at large ought not to allow
a government to afflict them with more evil or less good, than they
can help. What a government ought to do is a mysterious and searching
question which those may answer who know what it means; but what other
men ought to do is a question of no mystery at all. The word ought,
if it means anything, must have reference to some kind of interest or
motives; and what interest a government has in doing right, when
it happens to be interested in doing wrong, is a question for the
schoolmen. The fact appears to be that ought is not predicable of
governments. The question is not, why governments are bound not to do
this or that, but why other men should let them if they can help it. The
point is not to determine why the lion should not eat sheep, but why
men should not eat their own mutton if they can._” {116}We defy the
Westminster Reviewer to reconcile this passage with the “general
happiness principle” as he now states it. He tells us that he meant by
government, not the people invested with the powers of government, but a
mere _operation_ incapable of feeling pleasure or pain. We say, that
he meant the people invested with the powers of government, and nothing
else. It is true that ought is not predicable of an operation. But
who would ever dream of raising any question about the duties of an
operation? What did the Reviewer mean by saying, that a government could
not be interested in doing right because it was interested in doing
wrong? Can an operation be interested in either? And what did he mean by
his comparison about the lion? Is a lion an operation incapable of pain
or pleasure? And what did he mean by the expression, “other men,” so
obviously opposed to the word “government”? But let the public judge
between us. It is superfluous to argue a point so clear.

The Reviewer does indeed seem to feel that his expressions cannot be
explained away, and attempts to shuffle out of the difficulty by owning,
that “the double meaning of the word government was not got clear of
without confusion.” He has now, at all events, he assures us, made
himself master of Mr. Bentham’s philosophy. The real and genuine
“greatest happiness principle” is, that the greatest happiness of every
individual is identical with the greatest happiness of society; and all
other “greatest happiness principles” whatever are counterfeits. “This,”
 says he, “is the spirit of Mr. Bentham’s principle; and if there is
anything opposed to it in any former statement it may be corrected by
the present.”

Assuredly, if a fair and honourable opponent had, {117}in discussing a
question so abstruse as that concerning the origin of moral obligation,
made some unguarded admission inconsistent with the spirit of his
doctrines, we should not be inclined to triumph over him. But no
tenderness is due to a writer who, in the very act of confessing his
blunders, insults those by whom his blunders have been detected,
and accuses them of misunderstanding what, in pet, he has himself

The whole of this transaction illustrates excellently the real character
of this sect. A paper comes forth, professing to contain a full
developement of the “greatest happiness principle,” with the latest
improvements of Mr. Bentham. The writer boasts that his article has
the honour of being the announcement and the organ of this wonderful
discovery, which is to make “the bones of sages and patriots stir
within their tombs.” This “magnificent principle” is then stated thus:
Mankind ought to pursue their greatest happiness. But there are persons
whose interest is opposed to the greatest happiness of mankind. _Ought_
is not predicable of such persons. For the word _ought_ has no meaning
unless it be used with reference to some interest.

We answered, with much more lenity than we should have shown to such
nonsense, had it not proceeded, as we supposed, from Mr. Bentham, that
interest was synonymous with greatest happiness; and that, therefore, if
the word ought has no meaning, unless used with reference to interest,
then, to say that mankind ought to pursue their greatest happiness, is
simply to say, that the greatest happiness is the greatest happiness;
that every individual pursues his own happiness; that either what he
thinks is happiness must coincide with the greatest happiness of
society or not; that, if what he thinks his happiness coincides with
the greatest {118}happiness of society, he will attempt to promote the
greatest happiness of society whether he ever heard of the “greatest
happiness principle” or not; and that, by the admission of the
Westminster Reviewer, if his happiness is inconsistent with the greatest
happiness of society, there is no reason why he should promote the
greatest happiness of society. Now, that there are individuals who think
that for their happiness which is not for the greatest happiness of
society is evident. The Westminster Reviewer allowed that some of these
individuals were in the right; and did not pretend to give any reason
which could induce any one of them to think himself in the wrong. So
that the “magnificent principle” turned out to be, either a truism or
a contradiction in terms; either this maxim--“Do what you do;” or this
maxim, “Do what you cannot do.”

The Westminster Reviewer had the wit to see that he could not defend
this palpable nonsense; but, instead of manfully owning that he had
misunderstood the whole nature of the “greatest happiness principle” in
the summer, and had obtained new light during the autumn, he attempts
to withdraw the former principle unobserved, and to substitute another,
directly opposed to it, in its place; clamouring all the time against
our unfairness, like one who, while changing the carol diverts the
attention of the table from his sleight of hand by vociferating charges
of foul play against other people.

The “greatest happiness principle” for the present quarter is then
this,--that every individual will best promote his own happiness in
this world, religious considerations being left out of the question,
by promoting the greatest happiness of the whole species. And
this principle, we are told, holds good with respect to kings and
aristocracies as well as with other people. {119}”_It is certain that
the individual operators in any government, if they were thoroughly
intelligent and entered into a perfect calculation of all existing
chances, would seek lor their own happiness in the promotion of the
general; which brings them, if they knew it, under Mr. Bentham’s rule.
The mistake of supposing the contrary, lies in confounding criminals
who have had the luck to escape punishment with those who have the
risk still before them. Suppose, for instance, a member of the House of
Commons were at this moment to debate within himself, whether it would
be for his ultimate happiness to begin, according to his ability, to
misgovern. If he could be sure of being as lucky as some that are dead
and gone, there might be difficulty in finding him an answer. But he is
not sure; and never can be, till he is dead. He does not know that he
is not close upon the moment when misgovernment such as he is tempted to
contemplate, will be made a terrible example of. It is not fair to pick
out the instance of the thief that has died unhanged. The question is,
whether thieving is at this moment an advisable trade to begin with all
the possibilities of hanging not got over? This is the spirit of Mr.
Bentham’s principle; and if there is any thing opposed to it in any
former statement, it may be corrected by the present_.”

We hope that we have now at last got to the real “magnificent
principle,”--to the principle which is really to make “the hones of the
sages and patriots stir.” What effect it may produce on the bones of
the dead we shall not pretend to decide; but we are sure that it will do
very little for the happiness of the living.

In the first place, nothing is more certain than this, that the
Utilitarian theory of government, as developed in Mr. Mill’s Essay and
in all the other works on the subject which have been put forth by the
sect, rests on these two principles,--that men follow their interest,
and that the interest of individuals may be, and in fact perpetually
is, opposed to the interest of society. Unless these two principles be
granted, Mr. Mill’s Essay does not contain one sound sentence. All his
arguments {120}against monarchy and aristocracy, all his arguments in
favour of democracy, nay, the very argument by which he shows that
there is any necessity for having government at all, must be rejected as
utterly worthless.

This is so palpable that even the Westminster Reviewer, though not the
most clear-sighted of men, could not help seeing it. Accordingly, he
attempts to guard himself against the objection, after the manner of
such reasoners, by committing two blunders instead of one. “All this,”
 says he, “only shows that the members of a government would do well if
they were all-wise;” and he proceeds to tell us that, as rulers are not
all-wise, they will invariably act against this principle wherever they
can, so that the democratical checks will still be necessary to produce
good government.

No form which human folly takes is so richly and exquisitely laughable
as the spectacle of an Utilitarian in a dilemma. What earthly good can
there be in a principle upon which no man will act until he is allwise?
A certain most important doctrine, we are told, has been demonstrated so
clearly that it ought to be the foundation of the science of government.
And yet the whole frame of government is to be constituted exactly as
if this fundamental doctrine were false, and on the supposition that no
human being will ever act as if he believed it to be true!

The whole argument of the Utilitarians in favour of universal suffrage
proceeds on the supposition that even the rudest and most uneducated men
cannot, for any length of time, be deluded into acting against their
own true interest. Yet now they tell us that, in all aristocratical
communities, the higher and more educated class will, not occasionally,
but invariably, act against {121}its own interest. Now, the only use of
proving anything, as far as we can see, is that people may believe it.
To say that a man does what he believes to be against his happiness is
a contradiction in terms. If, therefore, government and laws are to be
constituted on the supposition on which Mr. Mill’s Essay is founded,
that all individuals will, whenever they have power over others put
into their hands, act in opposition to the general happiness, then
government, and laws must be constituted on the supposition that no
individual believes, or ever will believe, his own happiness to be
identical with the happiness of society. That is to say, government and
laws are to be constituted on the supposition that no human being will
ever be satisfied by Mr. Bentham’s proof of his “greatest happiness
principle,”--a supposition which may be true enough, but which says
little, we think, for the principle in question.

But where has this principle been demonstrated? We are curious, we
confess, to see this demonstration which is to change the face of the
world and yet is to convince nobody. The most amusing circumstance is
that the Westminster Reviewer himself does not seem to know whether the
principle has been demonstrated or not. “Mr. Bentham,” he says, “has
demonstrated it, or at all events has laid such foundations that there
is no trouble in demonstrating it.” Surely it is rather strange that
such a matter should be left in doubt. The Reviewer proposed, in his
former article, a slight verbal emendation in the statement of the
principle; he then announced that the principle had received its last
improvement; and gloried in the circumstance that the Westminster Review
had been selected as the organ of that improvement. Did it never occur
to {122}him that one slight improvement to a doctrine is to prove it?

Mr. Bentham has not demonstrated the “greatest happiness principle,” as
now stated. He is far too wise a man to think of demonstrating any
such thing. In those sections of his _Introduction to the Principles of
Morals and Legislation_, to which the Reviewer refers us in his note,
there is not a word of the kind. Mr. Bentham says, most truly, that
there are no occasions in which a man has not _some_ motives for
consulting the happiness of other men; and he proceeds to set forth what
those motives are--sympathy on all occasions, and the love of reputation
on most occasions. This is the very doctrine which we have been
maintaining against Mr. Mill and the Westminster Reviewer. The principal
charge which we brought against Mr. Mill was, that those motives to
which Mr. Bentham ascribes so much influence were quite left out of
consideration in his theory. The Westminster Reviewer, in the very
article now before us, abuses us for saying, in the spirit, and almost
in the words of Mr. Bentham, that “there is a certain check to the
rapacity and cruelty of men in their desire of the good opinion of
others.” But does this principle, in which we fully agree with Mr.
Bentham, go the length of the new “greatest happiness principle?” The
question is, not whether men have _some_ motives for promoting the
greatest happiness, but whether the _stronger_ motives be those which
impel them to promote the greatest happiness. That this would always be
the case if men knew their own worldly interests is the assertion of
the Reviewer. As he expresses some doubt whether Mr. Bentham has
demonstrated this or not, we would advise him to set the point at rest
by giving his own demonstration. {123}The Reviewer has not attempted to
give a general confirmation of the “greatest happiness principle;” but
he has tried to prove that it holds good in one or two particular cases.
And even in those particular cases he has utterly failed. A man, says
he, who calculated the chances fairly would perceive that it would be
for his greatest happiness to abstain from stealing; for a thief runs a
greater risk of being hanged than an honest man.

It would have been wise, we think, in the Westminster Reviewer, before
he entered on a discussion of this sort, to settle in what human
happiness consists. Each of the ancient sects of philosophy held some
tenet on this subject which served for a distinguishing badge. The
_summum bonum_ of the Utilitarians, as far as we can Judge from the
passage which we are now considering, is the not being hanged.

That it is an unpleasant thing to be hanged, we most willingly concede
to our brother. But that the whole question of happiness or misery
resolves itself into this single point, we cannot so easily admit. We
must look at the thing purchased as well as the price paid for it. A
thief, assuredly, runs a greater risk of being hanged than a labourer;
and so an officer in the army runs a greater risk of being shot than a
banker’s clerk; and a governor of India runs a greater risk of lying of
cholera than a lord of the bedchamber. But does it therefore follow that
every man, whatever his habits or feelings may be, would, if he knew
his own happiness, become a clerk rather than a cornet, or goldstick in
waiting rather than governor of India?

Nothing can be more absurd than to suppose, like the Westminster
Reviewed that thieves steal only because they do not calculate the
chances of being {124}hanged as correctly as honest men. It never seems
to have occurred to him as possible that a man may so greatly prefer the
life of a thief to the life of a labourer that he may determine to brave
the risk of detection and punishment, though he may even think that risk
greater than it really is. And how, on Utilitarian principles, is such
a man to be convinced that he is in the wrong? “You will be found
out.”--“Undoubtedly.”--“You will be hanged within two years.”--“I expect
to be hanged within one year.”--“Then why do you pursue this lawless
mode of life?”--“Because I would rather live for one year with plenty
of money, dressed like a gentleman, eating and drinking of the best,
frequenting public places, and visiting a dashing mistress, than break
stones on the road, or sit down to the loom, with the certainty of
attaining a good old age. It is my humour. Are you answered?” “A king,
says the Reviewer again, would govern well, if he were wise, for fear of
provoking his subjects to insurrection. Therefore, the true happiness of
a king is identical with the greatest happiness of society. Tell Charles
II. that, if he will be constant to his queen, sober at table, regular
at prayers, frugal in his expenses, active in the transaction of
business, if he will drive the herd of slaves, buffoons, and procurers
from Whitehall, and make the happiness of his people the rule of his
conduct, he will have a much greater chance of reigning in comfort to
an advanced age; that his profusion and tyranny have exasperated his
subjects, and may, perhaps, bring him to an end as terrible as his
father’s.” He might answer, that he saw the danger, but that life was
not worth having without ease and vicious pleasures. And what has our
philosopher to say? Does he not see that it is no more possible to
{125}reason a man out of liking a short life and a merry one more than
a long life and a dull one than to reason a Greenlander out of his train
oil? We may say that the tastes of the thief and the tyrant differ from
ours; but what right have we to say, looking at this world alone, that
they do not pursue their greatest happiness very judiciously?

It is the grossest ignorance of human nature to suppose that another man
calculates the chances differently from us, merely because he does what,
in his place, we should not do. Every man has tastes and propensities,
which he is disposed to gratify at a risk and expense which people of
different temperaments and habits think extravagant. “Why,” says Horace,
“does one brother like to lounge in the forum, to play in the Campus,
and to anoint himself in the baths, so well, that he would not put
himself out of his way for all the wealth of the richest plantations of
the East; while the other toils from sunrise to sunset for the purpose
of increasing his fortune?” Horace attributes the diversity to the
influence of the Genius and the natal star: and eighteen hundred
years have taught us only to disguise our ignorance beneath a more
philosophical language.

We think, therefore, that the Westminster Reviewer, even if we admit his
calculation of the chances to be right, does not make out his case. But
he appears to us to miscalculate chances more grossly than any person
who ever acted or speculated in this world. “It is for the happiness,”
 says he, “of a member of the House of Commons to govern well; for he
never can tell that he is not close on the moment when misgovernment
will be terribly punished: if he was sure that he should be as lucky as
his predecessors, it might be {126}for his happiness to misgovern; but
he is not sure.” Certainly a member of Parliament is not sure that he
shall not be torn in pieces by a mob, or guillotined by a revolutionary
tribunal for his opposition to reform. Nor is the Westminster Reviewer
sure that he shall not be handed for writing in favour of universal

We may have democratical massacres. We may also have aristocratical
proscriptions. It is not very likely, thank God, that we should
see either. But the radical, we think, runs as much danger as the
aristocrat. As to our friend the Westminster Reviewer, he, it must
be owned, has as good a right as any man on his side, “Antoni gladios
conternnere.” But take the man whose votes, ever since he has sate in
Parliament, have been the most uniformly bad, and oppose him to the man
whose votes have been the most uniformly good. The Westminster Reviewer
would probably select Mr. Sadler and Mr. Hume. Now, does any rational
man think,--will the Westminster Reviewer himself say,--that Mr. Sadler
runs more risk of coming to a miserable end on account of his public
conduct than Mr. Hume? Mr. Sadler does not know that he is not close on
the moment when he will be made an example of; for Mr. Sadler knows, if
possible, less about the future than about the past. But he has no more
reason to expect that he shall be made an example of than to expect that
London will be swallowed up by an earthquake next spring; and it would
be as foolish in him to act on the former supposition as on the latter.
There is a risk; for there is a risk of every thing which does not
involve a contradiction; but it is a risk from which no man in his wits
would give a shilling to be insured. Yet our Westminster Reviewer tells
us that this risk alone, apart from all {127}considerations of religion,
honour, or benevolence, would, as a matter of mere calculation, induce a
wise member of the House of Commons to refuse any emoluments which might
be offered him as the price of his support to pernicious measures.

We have hitherto been examining cases proposed by our opponent. It is
now our turn to propose one; and we beg that he will spare no wisdom in
solving it.

A thief is condemned to be hanged. On the eve of the day fixed for the
execution a turnkey enters his cell and tells him that all is safe,
that he has only to slip out, that his friends are waiting in the
neighbourhood with disguises, and that a passage is taken for him in
an American packet. Now, it is clearly for the greatest happiness of
society that the thief should be hanged and the corrupt turnkey exposed
and punished. Will the Westminster Reviewer tell us that it is for the
greatest happiness of the thief to summon the head jailer and tell the
whole story? Now, either it is for the greatest happiness of a thief
to be hanged or it is not. If it is, then the argument, by which the
Westminster Reviewer attempts to prove that men do not promote their own
happiness by thieving, falls to the ground. If it is not, then there are
men whose greatest happiness is at variance with the greatest happiness
of the community.

To sum up our arguments shortly, we say that the “greatest happiness
principle,” as now stated, is diametrically opposed to the principle
stated in the Westminster Review three months ago.

We say that, if the “greatest happiness principle,” as now stated,
be sound, Mr. Mill’s Essay, and all other works concerning Government
which, like that Essay, proceed on the supposition that individuals may
have {128}an interest opposed to the greatest happiness of society, are
fundamentally erroneous.

We say that those who hold this principle to be sound must be prepared
to maintain, either that monarchs and aristocracies may be trusted to
govern the community, or else that men cannot be trusted to follow their
own interest when that interest is demonstrated to them.

We say that, if men cannot be trusted to follow their own interest
when that interest has been demonstrated to them, then the Utilitarian
arguments in favour of universal suffrage are good for nothing.

We say that the “greatest happiness principle” has not been proved;
that it cannot be generally proved; that even in the particular cases
selected by the Reviewer it is not clear that the principle is true;
and that many cases might be stated in which the common sense of mankind
would at once pronounce it to be false.

We now leave the Westminster Reviewer to alter and amend his
“magnificent principle” as he thinks best. Unlimited, it is false.
Properly limited, it will be barren. The “greatest happiness principle”
 of the 1st of July, as far as we could discern its meaning through
a cloud of rodomontade, was an idle truism. The “greatest happiness
principle” of the 1st of October is, in the phrase of the American
newspapers, “important if true.” But unhappily it is not true. It is not
our business to conjecture what new maxim is to make the bones of sages
and patriots stir on the 1st of December. We can only say that, unless
it be something infinitely more ingenious than its two predecessors, we
shall leave it unmolested. The Westminster Reviewer may, if he pleases,
indulge himself like {129}Sultan Schahriar with espousing a rapid
succession of virgin theories. But we must beg to be excused from
playing the part of the vizier who regularly attended on the day after
the wedding to strangle the new Sultana.

The Westminster Reviewer charges us with urging it as an objection to
the “greatest happiness principle” that “it is included in the Christian
morality.” This is a mere fiction of his own. We never attacked the
morality of the Gospel. We blamed the Utilitarians for claiming the
credit of a discovery, when they had merely stolen that morality, and
spoiled it in the stealing. They have taken the precept of Christ and
left the motive; and they demand the praise of a most wonderful and
beneficial invention, when all that they have done has been to make
a most useful maxim useless by separating it from its sanction. On
religious principles it is true that every individual will best promote
his own happiness by promoting the happiness of others. But if religious
considerations be left out of the question it is not true. If we do not
reason on the supposition of a future state, where is the motive? If we
do reason on that supposition, where is the discovery?

The Westminster Reviewer tells us that “we wish to see the science of
Government unsettled because we see no prospect of a settlement which
accords with our interests.” His angry eagerness to have questions
settled resembles that of a judge in one of Dryden’s plays--the
Amphitryon, we think--who wishes to decide a pause after hearing only
one party, and, when he has been at last compelled to listen to the
statement of the defendant, flies into a passion, and exclaims, “There
now, sir! See what you have done. The case was {130}quite dear a minute
ago; and you must come and puzzle it!” He is the zealot of a sect. We
are searchers after truth. He wishes to have the question settled. We
wish to have it sifted first. The querulous manner in which we have been
blamed for attacking Mr. Mill’s system, and propounding no system of
our own, reminds us of the horror with which that shallow dogmatist,
Epicurus, the worst parts of whose nonsense the Utilitarians have
attempted to revive, shrank from the keen and searching scepticism of
the second Academy.

It is not our fault that an experimental science of vast extent does not
admit of being settled by a short demonstration;--that the subtilty
of nature, in the moral as in the physical world, triumphs over the
subtilty of syllogism. The quack, who declares on affidavit that, by
using his pills and attending to his printed directions, hundreds who
had been dismissed incurable from the hospitals have renewed their youth
like the eagles, may, perhaps, think that Sir Henry Halford, when
he feels the pulses of patients, inquires about their symptoms, and
prescribes a different remedy to each, is unsettling the science of
medicine for the sake of a fee.

If, in the course of this controversy, we have refrained from expressing
any opinion respecting the political institutions of England, it is not
because we have not an opinion or because we shrink from avowing it. The
Utilitarians, indeed, conscious that their boasted theory of government
would not bear investigation, were desirous to turn the dispute about
Mr. Mill’s Essay into a dispute about the Whig party, rotten boroughs,
unpaid magistrates, and ex-officio informations. When we blamed them for
talking nonsense. {131}they cried out that they were insulted for being
reformers,--just as poor Ancient Pistol swore that the scars which he
had received from the cudgel of Fluellen were got in the Gallia wars.
We, however, did not think it desirable to mix up political questions,
about which the public mind is violently agitated, with a great problem
in moral philosophy.

Our notions about Government are not, however, altogether unsettled. We
have an opinion about parliamentary reform, though we have not arrived
at that opinion by the royal road which Mr. Mill has opened for the
explorers of political science. As we are taking leave, probably for the
last time, of this controversy, we will state very concisely what our
doctrines are. On some future occasion we may, perhaps, explain and
defend them at length.

Our fervent wish, and we will add our sanguine hope, is that we may
see such a reform of the House of Commons as may render its votes
the express image of the opinion of the middle orders of Britain. A
pecuniary qualification we think absolutely necessary; and, in settling
its amount, our object would be to draw the line in such a manner that
every decent farmer and shopkeeper might possess the elective franchise.
We should wish to see an end put to all the advantages which particular
forms of property possess over other forms, and particular portions of
property over other equal portions. And this would content us. Such a
reform would, according to Mr. Mill, establish an aristocracy of wealth,
and leave the community without protection and exposed to all the evils
of unbridled power. Most willingly would we stake the whole controversy
between us on the success of the experiment which we propose.


(_Edinburgh Review_, January 1830.)

It {132}would be scarcely possible for a man of Mr. Southey’s talents
and acquirements to write two volumes so large as those before us, which
should be wholly destitute of information and amusement. Yet we do not
remember to have read with so little satisfaction any equal quantity
of matter, written by any man of real abilities. We have, for some time
past, observed with great regret the strange infatuation which leads
the Poet Laureate to abandon those departments of literature in which he
might excel, and to lecture the public on sciences of which he has still
the very alphabet to learn. He has now, we think, done his worst. The
subject which he has at last undertaken to treat is one which demands
all the highest intellectual and moral qualities of a philosophical
statesman, an understanding at once comprehensive and acute, a heart
at once upright and charitable. Mr. Southey brings to the task two
faculties which were never, we believe, vouchsafed in measure so copious
to any human being, the faculty of believing without a reason, and the
faculty of hating without a provocation.

     (1) _Sir Thomas More; or, Colloquies on the Progress and
     Prospects of Society_. By Robert Southey, Esq., LL.D., Poet
     Laureate. 2 vols. 8vo, London: 1829.

{133}It is, indeed, most extraordinary, that a mind like Mr. Southey’s,
a mind richly endowed in many respects by nature, and highly cultivated
by study, a mind which has exercised considerable influence on the most
enlightened generation of the most enlightened people that ever existed,
should be utterly destitute of the power of discerning truth from
falsehood. Yet such is the fact. Government is to Mr. Southey one of the
fine arts. He judges of a theory, of a public measure, of a religion or
a political party, of a peace or a war, as men judge of a picture or
a statue, by the effect produced on his imagination. A chain of
associations is to him what a chain of reasoning is to other men; and
what he calls his opinions are in fact merely his tastes.

This description might perhaps apply to a much greater man,
Mr. Burke. But Mr. Burke assuredly possessed an understanding admirably
fitted for the investigation of truth, an understanding stronger than
that of any statesman, active or speculative, of the eighteenth century,
stronger than every thing, except his own fierce and ungovernable
sensibility. Hence he generally chose his side like a fanatic, and
defended it like a philosopher. His conduct on the most important
occasions of his life, at the time of the impeachment of Hastings for
example, and at the time of the French Revolution, seems to have been
prompted by those feelings and motives which Mr. Coleridge has so
happily described,

               “Stormy pity, and the cherish’d lure

               Of pomp, and proud precipitance of soul."

Hindostan, with its vast cities, its gorgeous pagodas, its infinite
swarms of dusky population, its long-descended dynasties, its stately
etiquette, excited in a mind so capacious, so imaginative, and so
susceptible, {134}the most intense interest. The peculiarities of the
costume, of the manners, and of the laws, the very mystery which hung
over the language and origin of the people, seized his imagination. To
plead under the ancient arches of Westminster Hall, in the name of the
English people, at the bar of the English nobles, for great nations and
kings separated from him by half the world, seemed to him the height of
human glory. Again, it is not difficult to perceive that his hostility
to the French Revolution principally arose from the vexation which he
felt at having all his old political associations disturbed, at seeing
the well known landmarks of states obliterated, and the liâmes and
distinctions with which the history of Europe had been filled for ages
at once swept away. He felt like an antiquary whose shield had been
scoured, or a connoisseur who found his Titian retouched. But, however
he came by an opinion, he had no sooner got it than he did his best
to make out a legitimate title to it. His reason, like a spirit in the
service of an enchanter, though spellbound, was still mighty. It did
whatever work his passions and his imagination might impose. But it did
that work, however arduous, with marvellous dexterity and vigour. His
course was not determined by argument; but he could defend the wildest
course by arguments more plausible than those by which common men
support opinions which they have adopted after the fullest deliberation.
Reason has scarcely ever displayed, even in those well constituted minds
of which she occupies the throne, so much power and energy as in the
lowest offices of that imperial servitude.

Now in the mind of Mr. Southey reason has no place at all, as either
leader or follower, as either sovereign or slave. He does not seem to
know what an {135}argument is. He never uses arguments himself. He never
troubles himself to answer the arguments of his opponents. It has never
occurred to him, that a man ought to be able to give some better account
of the way in which he has arrived at his opinions than merely that it
is his will and pleasure to hold them. It has never occurred to him that
there is a difference between assertion and demonstration, that a rumour
does not always prove a fact, that a single fact, when proved, is hardly
foundation enough for a theory, that two contradictory propositions
cannot be undeniable truths, that to beg the question is not the way to
settle it, or that when an objection is raised, it ought to be met with
something more convincing than “scoundrel” and “blockhead.”

It would be absurd to read the works of such a writer for political
instruction. The utmost that can be expected from any system promulgated
by him is that it may be splendid and affecting, that it may suggest
sublime and pleasing images. His scheme of philosophy is a mere
day-dream, a poetical creation, like the Domdaniel cavern, the Swerga,
or Padalon; and indeed it bears no inconsiderable resemblance to those
gorgeous visions. Like them, it has something of invention, grandeur,
and brilliancy. But, like them, it is grotesque and extravagant,
and perpetually violates even that conventional probability which is
essential to the effect of works of art.

The warmest admirers of Mr. Southey will scarcely, we think, deny that
his success has almost always borne an inverse proportion to the degree
in which his undertakings have required a logical head. His poems, taken
in the mass, stand far higher than his prose works. His official Odes
indeed, amoung which the {136}Vision of Judgment must be classed, are,
for the most part, worse than Pye’s and as bad as Cibber’s; nor do we
think him generally happy in short pieces. But his longer poems, though
full of faults, are nevertheless very extraordinary productions. We
doubt greatly whether they will be read fifty years hence; but that, if
they are read, they will be admired, we have no doubt whatever.

But, though in general we prefer Mr. Southey’s poetry to his prose, we
must make one exception. The Life of Nelson is, beyond all doubt, the
most perfect and the most delightful of his works. The fact is, as
his poems most abundantly prove, that he is by no means so skilful in
designing as in filling up. It was therefore an advantage to him to be
furnished with an outline of characters and events, and to have no other
task to perform than that of touching the cold sketch into life. No
writer, perhaps, ever lived, whose talents so precisely qualified him to
write the history of the great naval warrior. There were no fine riddles
of the human heart to read, no theories to propound, no hidden causes to
develope, no remote consequences to predict. The character of the hero
lay on the surface. The exploits were brilliant and picturesque. The
necessity of adhering to the real course of events saved Mr. Southey
from those faults which deform the original plan of almost every one of
his poems, and which even his innumerable beauties of detail scarcely
redeem. The subject did not require the exercise of those reasoning
powers the want of which is the blemish of his prose. It would not be
easy to find, in all literary history, an instance of a more exact hit
between wind and water. John Wesley and the Peninsular War were subjects
of a very different kind, subjects which required {137}all the qualities
of a philosophic historian. In Mr. Southey’s works on these subjects,
he has, on the whole, failed. Yet there are charming specimens of the
art of narration in both of them. The Life of Wesley will probably
live. Defective as it is, it contains the only popular account of a most
remarkable moral revolution, and of a man whose eloquence and logical
acuteness might have made him eminent in literature, whose genius for
government was not inferior to that of Richelieu, and who, whatever his
errors may-have been, devoted all his powers, in defiance of obloquy
and derision, to what he sincerely considered as the highest good of his
species. The History of the Peninsular War is already dead: indeed,
the second volume was dead-born. The glory of producing an imperishable
record of that great conflict seems to be reserved for Colonel Napier.

The Book of the Church contains some stories very prettily told. The
rest is mere rubbish. The adventure was manifestly one which could be
achieved only by a profound thinker, and one in which even a profound
thinker might have failed, unless his passions had been kept under
strict control. But in all those works in which Mr. Southey has
completely abandoned narration, and has undertaken to argue moral and
political questions, his failure has been complete and ignominious. On
such occasions his writings are rescued from utter contempt and derision
solely by the beauty and purity of the English. We find, we confess, so
great a charm in Mr. Southey’s style that, even when he writes nonsense,
we generally read it with pleasure, except indeed when he tries to be
droll. A more insufferable jester never existed. He very often attempts
to be humorous, and yet we do not remember a single {138}occasion on
which he has succeeded farther than to be quaintly and flippantly dull.
In one of his works he tells us that Bishop Spratt was very properly so
called, inasmuch as he was a very small poet. And in the book now before
us he cannot quote Francis Bugg, the renegade Quaker, without a remark
on his unsavoury name. A wise man might talk folly like this by his
own fireside; but that any human being, after having made such a joke,
should write it down, and copy it out, and transmit it to the printer,
and correct the proof-sheets, and send it forth into the world, is
enough to make us ashamed of our species.

The extraordinary bitterness of spirit which Mr. Southey manifests
towards his opponents is, no doubt, in a great measure to be attributed
to the manner in which he forms his opinions. Differences of taste, it
has often been remarked, produce greater exasperation than differences
on points of science. But this is not all. A peculiar austerity marks
almost all Mr. Southey’s judgments of men and actions. We are far from
blaming him for fixing on a high standard of morals, and for applying
that standard to every case. But rigour ought to be accompanied
by discernment; and of discernment Mr. Southey seems to be utterly
destitute. His mode of judging is monkish. It is exactly what we should
expect from a stern old Benedictine, who had been preserved from many
ordinary frailties by the restraints of his situation. No man out of a
cloister ever wrote about love, for example, so coldly and at the same
time so grossly. His descriptions of it are just what we should hear
from a recluse who knew the passion only from the details of the
confessional. Almost all his heroes make love either like Seraphim or
like cattle. He seems to have no notion of {139}any thing between
the Platonic passion of the Glendoveer who gazes with rapture on his
mistress’s leprosy, and the brutal appetite of Arvalan and Roderick. In
Roderick, indeed, the two characters are united. He is first all
clay, and then all spirit. He goes forth a Tarquin, and comes back too
ethereal to be married. The only love scene, as far as we can recollect,
in Madoc, consists of the delicate attentions which a savage, who has
drunk too much of the Prince’s excellent metheglin, offers to Goervyl.
It would be the labour of a week to find, in all the vast mass of Mr.
Southey’s poetry, a single passage indicating any sympathy with those
feelings which have consecrated the shades of Vaucluse and the locks of

Indeed, if we except some very pleasing images of paternal tenderness
and filial duty, there is scarcely any thing soft or humane in Mr.
Southey’s poetry. What theologians call the spiritual sins are his
cardinal virtues, hatred, pride, and the insatiable thirst of vengeance.
These passions he disguises under the name of duties; he purifies them
from the alloy of vulgar interests; he ennobles them by uniting them
with energy, fortitude, and a severe sanctity of manners; and he then
holds them up to the admiration of mankind. This is the spirit of
Thalaba, of Ladurlad, of Adosinda, of Roderick after his conversion. It
is the spirit which, in all his writings, Mr. Southey appears to affect.
“I do well to be angry,” seems to be the predominant feeling of his
mind. Almost the only mark of charity which he vouchsafes to his
opponents is to pray for their reformation; and this he does in terms
not unlike those in which we can imagine a Portuguese priest interceding
with Heaven for a Jew, delivered over to the secular arm after a
relapse. {140}We have always heard, and fully believe, that Mr. Southey
is a very amiable and humane man; nor do we intend to apply to him
personally any of the remarks which we have made on the spirit of
his writings. Such are the caprices of human nature. Even Uncle Toby
troubled himself very little about the French grenadiers who fell on the
glacis of Namur. And Mr. Southey, when he takes up his pen, changes his
nature as much as Captain Shandy, when he girt on his sword. The only
opponents to whom the Laureate gives quarter are those in whom he
finds something of his own character reflected. He seems to have an
instinctive antipathy for calm, moderate men, for men who shun extremes,
and who render reasons. He has treated Mr. Owen of Lanark, for example,
with infinitely more respect than he has shown to Mr. Hallam or to Dr.
Lingard; and this for no reason that we can discover, except that
Mr. Owen is more unreasonably and hopelessly in the wrong than any
speculator of our time.

Mr. Southey’s political system is just what we might expect from a man
who regards politics, not as matter of science, but as matter of taste
and feeling. All his schemes of government have been inconsistent with
themselves. In his youth he was a republican; yet, as he tells us in his
preface to these Colloquies, he was even then opposed to the Catholic
Claims. He is now a violent Ultra-Tory. Yet, while he maintains, with
vehemence approaching to ferocity, all the sterner and harsher parts of
the Ultra-Tory theory of government, the baser and dirtier part of that
theory disgusts him. Exclusion, persecution, severe punishments for
libellers and demagogues, proscriptions, massacres, civil war, if
necessary, rather than any concession to a discontented people; these
are the measures which {141}he seems inclined to recommend. A severe and
gloomy tyranny, crushing opposition, silencing remonstrance, drilling
the minds of the people into unreasoning obedience, has in it something
of grandeur which delights his imagination. But there is nothing fine in
the shabby tricks and jobs of office; and Mr. Southey, accordingly, has
no toleration for them. When a Jacobin, he did not perceive that his
system led logically, and would have led practically, to the removal of
religious distinctions. He now commits a similar error. He renounces
the abject and paltry part of the creed of his party, without perceiving
that it is also an essential part of that creed. He would have tyranny
and purity together; though the most superficial observation might have
shown him that there can be no tyranny without corruption.

It is high time, however, that we should proceed to the consideration
of the work which is our more immediate subject, and which, indeed,
illustrates in almost every page our general remarks on Mr.
Southey’s writings. In the preface, we are informed that the author,
notwithstanding some statements to the contrary, was always opposed to
the Catholic Claims. We fully believe this; both because we are sure
that Mr. Southey is incapable of publishing a deliberate falsehood, and
because his assertion is in itself probable. We should have expected
that, even in his wildest paroxysms of democratic enthusiasm, Mr.
Southey would have felt no wish to see a simple remedy applied to a
great practical evil. We should have expected that, the only measure
which all the great statesmen of two generations have agreed with each
other in supporting would be the only measure which Mr. Southey would
have agreed with himself in opposing. He has passed from {142}one
extreme of political opinion to another, as Satan in Milton went round
the globe, contriving constantly to “ride with darkness.” Wherever the
thickest shadow of the night may at any moment chance to fall, there is
Mr. Southey. It is not every body who could have so dexterously avoided
blundering on the daylight in the course of a journey to the antipodes.

Mr. Southey has not been fortunate in the plan of any of his fictitious
narratives. But he has never failed so conspicuously as in the work
before us; except, indeed, in the wretched Vision of Judgment. In
November, 1817, it seems the Laureate was sitting over his newspaper,
and meditating about the death of the Princess Charlotte. An elderly
person of very dignified aspect makes his appearance, announces himself
as a stranger from a distant country, and apologizes very politely for
not having provided himself with letters of introduction. Mr. Southey
supposes his visitor to be some American gentleman who has come to see
the lakes and the lake-poets, and accordingly proceeds to perform, with
that grace, which only long practice can give, all the duties which
authors owe to starers. He assures his guest that some of the most
agreeable visits which he has received have been from Americans, and
that he knows men among them whose talents and virtues would do honour
to any country. In passing we may observe, to the honour of Mr. Southey,
that, though he evidently has no liking for the American institutions,
he never speaks of the people of the United States with that pitiful
affectation of contempt by which some members of his party have done
more than wars or tariffs can do to excite mutual enmity between two
communities formed for mutual friendship. Great as the faults of his
mind are, paltry spite {143}like this has no place in it. Indeed it is
scarcely conceivable that a man of his sensibility and his imagination
should look without pleasure and national pride on the vigorous and
splendid youth of a great people, whose veins are filled with our blood,
whose minds are nourished with our literature, and on whom is entailed
the rich inheritance of our civilisation, our freedom, and our glory.

But we must return to Mr. Southey’s study at Keswick. The visitor
informs the hospitable poet that he is not an American but a spirit. Mr.
Southey, with more frankness than civility, tells him that he is a very
queer one. The stranger holds out his hand. It has neither weight nor
substance. Mr. Southey upon this becomes more serious; his hair stands
on end; and he adjures the spectre to tell him what he is, and why
he comes. The ghost turns out to be Sir Thomas More. The traces of
martyrdom, it seems, are worn in the other world, as stars and ribands
are worn in this. Sir Thomas shows the poet a red streak round his
neck, brighter than a ruby, and informs him that Cranmer wears a suit
of flames in paradise, the right hand glove, we suppose, of peculiar

Sir Thomas pays but a short visit on this occasion, but promises to
cultivate the new acquaintance which he has formed, and, after begging
that his visit may be kept secret from Mrs. Southey, vanishes into air.

The rest of the book consists of conversations between Mr. Southey and
the spirit about trade, currency, Catholic emancipation, periodical
literature, female nunneries, butchers, snuff, book-stalls, and a
hundred other subjects. Mr. Southey very hospitably takes an opportunity
to escort the ghost round the lakes, and directs his attention to the
most beautiful {144}points of view. Why a spirit was to be evoked for
the purpose of talking over such matters and seeing such sights, why the
vicar of the parish, a blue-stocking from London, or an American, such
as Mr. Southey at first supposed the aerial visitor to be, might not
have done as well, we are unable to conceive. Sir Thomas tells Mr.
Southey nothing about future events, and indeed absolutely disclaims the
gift of prescience. He has learned to talk modern English. He has read
all the new publications, and loves a jest as well as when he jested
with the executioner, though we cannot say that the quality of his wit
has materially improved in Paradise. His powers of reasoning, too, are
by no means in as great vigour as when he sate on the woolsack; and
though he boasts that he is “divested of all those passions which cloud
the intellects and warp the understandings of men,” we think him, we
must confess, far less stoical than formerly. As to revelations, he
tells Mr. Southey at the outset to expect none from him. The Laureate
expresses some doubts, which assuredly will not raise him in the
opinion of our modern millennarians, as to the divine authority of the
Apocalypse. But the ghost preserves an impenetrable silence. As far as
we remember, only one hint about the employment of disembodied spirits
escapes him. He encourages Mr. Southey to hope that there is a Paradise
Press, at which all the valuable publications of Mr. Murray and Mr.
Colburn are reprinted as regularly as at Philadelphia; and delicately
insinuates that Thalaba and the Curse of Kehama are among the number.
What a contrast does this absurd fiction present to those charming
narratives which Plato and Cicero prefixed to their dialogues! What cost
in machinery, yet what poverty of effect! A ghost brought in {145}to say
what any man might have said! The glorified spirit of a great statesman
and philosophe! dawdling, like a bilious old nabob at a watering place,
over quarterly reviews and novels, dropping in to pay long calls, making
excursions in search of the picturesque! The scene of St. George and St.
Dennis in the Pucelle is hardly more ridiculous. We know what Voltaire
meant. Nobody, however, can suppose that Mr. Southey means to make game
of the mysteries of a higher state of existence. The fact is that, in
the work before us, in the Vision of Judgement, and in some of his other
pieces, his mode of treating the most solemn subjects differs from
that of open scoffers only as the extravagant representations of sacred
persons and things in some grotesque Italian paintings differ from
the caricatures which Carlile exposes in the front of his shop. We
interpret the particular act by the general character. What in the
window of a convicted blasphemer we call blasphemous, we call only
absurd and ill judged in an altar-piece.

We now come to the conversations which pass between Mr. Southey and Sir
Thomas More, or rather between two Southeys, equally eloquent, equally
angry, equally unreasonable, and equally given to talking about what
they do not understand. (1) Perhaps we could not select a better
instance of the spirit which pervades the whole book than the passages
in which Mr. Southey gives his opinion of the manufacturing system.
There is nothing which he hates so bitterly. It is, according to him, a
system more tyrannical than that of the feudal ages, a system of actual
servitude, a system which destroys the bodies and degrades the

     (1) A passage in which some expressions used by Mr. Southey
     were misrepresented, certainly without any unfair intention,
     has been here omitted.

{146}minds of those who are engaged in it. He expresses a hope that the
competition of other nations may drive us out of the field; that our
foreign trade may decline; and that we may thus enjoy a restoration
of national sanity and strength. But he seems to think that the
extermination of the whole manufacturing population would be a blessing,
if the evil could be removed in no other way.

Mr. Southey does not bring forward a single fact in support of these
views; and, as it seems to us, there are facts which lead to a very
different conclusion. In the first place, the poor-rate is very
decidedly lower in the manufacturing than in the agricultural districts.
If Mr. Southey will look over the Parliamentary returns on this subject,
he will find that the amount of parochial relief required by the
labourers in the different counties of England is almost exactly in
inverse proportion to the degree in which the manufacturing system has
been introduced into those counties. The returns for the years ending in
March 1825, and in March 1828, are now before us. In the former year we
find the poor-rate highest in Sussex, about twenty shillings to every
inhabitant. Then come Buckinghamshire, Essex, Suffolk, Bedfordshire,
Huntingdonshire, Kent, and Norfolk. In all these the rate is above
fifteen shillings a head. We will not go through the whole. Even in
Westmoreland and the North Riding of Yorkshire, the rate is at more than
eight shillings. In Cumberland and Monmouthshire, the most fortunate of
all the agricultural districts, it is at six shillings. But in the West
Riding of Yorkshire, it is as low as five shillings; and when we come
to Lancashire, we find it at four shillings, one fifth of what it is in
Sussex. The returns of the year ending in March 1828 {147}are a little,
and but a little, more unfavourable to the manufacturing districts.
Lancashire, even in that season of distress, required a smaller
poor-rate than any other district, and little more than one fourth of
the poor-rate raised in Sussex. Cumberland alone, of the agricultural
districts, was as well off as the West Riding of Yorkshire. These facts
seem to indicate that the manufacturer is both in a more comfortable and
in a less dependent situation than the agricultural labourer.

As to the effect of the manufacturing system on the bodily health, we
must beg leave to estimate it by a standard far too low and vulgar for a
mind so imaginative as that of Mr. Southey, the proportion of births and
deaths. We know that, during the growth of this atrocious system, this
new misery, to use the phrases of Mr. Southey, this new enormity, this
birth of a portentous age, this pest which no man can approve whose
heart is not seared or whose understanding has not been darkened, there
has been a great diminution of mortality, and that this diminution has
been greater in the manufacturing towns than any where else. The
mortality still is, as it always was, greater in towns than in the
country. But the difference has diminished in an extraordinary degree.
There is the best reason to believe that the annual mortality of
Manchester, about the middle of the last century, was one in
twenty-eight. It is now reckoned at one in forty-five. In Glasgow and
Leeds a similar improvement has taken place. Nay, the rate of mortality
in those three great capitals of the manufacturing districts is now
considerably less than it was, fifty years ago, over England and Wales
taken together, open country and all. We might with some plausibility
maintain that the people {148}live longer because they are better fed,
better lodged, better clothed, and better attended in sickness, and that
these improvements are owing to that increase of national wealth which
the manufacturing system has produced.

Much more might be said on the subject. But to what end? It is not from
bills of mortality and statistical tables that Mr. Southey has learned
his political creed. He cannot stoop to study the history of the system
which he abuses, to strike the balance between the good and evil which
it has produced, to compare district with district, or generation with
generation. We will give his own reason for his opinion, the only reason
which he gives for it, in his own words:--

“_We remained awhile in silence looking upon the assemblage of dwellings
below. Here, and in the adjoining hamlet of Millbeck, the effects
of manufactures and of agriculture may be seen and compared. The old
cottages are such as the poet and the painter especially delight in
beholding. Substantially built of the native stone without mortar,
dirtied with no white lime, and their long low roofs covered with slate,
if they had been raised by the magic of some indigenous Amphion’s music,
the materials could not have adjusted themselves more beautifully in
accord with the surrounding scene; and time has still further harmonized
them with weather-stains, lichens, and moss, short grasses, and short
fern, and stone-plants of various kinds. The ornamented chimneys, round
or square, less adorned than those which, like little turrets, crest the
houses of the Portuguese peasantry; and yet not less happily suited to
their place, the hedge of dipt box beneath the windows, the rose-bushes
beside the door, the little patch of flower-ground, with its tall
holly-hocks in front; the garden beside, the bee-hives, and the
orchard with its bank of daffodils and snow-drops, the earliest and the
profusest in these parts, indicate in the owners some portion of ease
and leisure, some regard to neatness and comfort, some sense of
natural, and innocent, and healthful enjoyment. The new cottages of the
manufacturers are upon the manufacturing pattern--naked, and in a row._

{149}"’_How is it,’ said I, ‘that every thing which is connected with
manufactures presents such features of unqualified deformity? From
the largest of Mammon’s temples down to the poorest hovel in which his
helotry are stalled, these edifices have all one character. Time will
not mellow them; nature will neither clothe nor conceal them; and they
will remain always as offensive to the eye as to the mind_.”

Here is wisdom. Here are the principles on which nations are to be
governed. Rose-bushes and poor-rates, rather than steam-engines and
independence. Mortality and cottages with weather-stains, rather than
health and long life with edifices which time cannot mellow. We are
told, that our age has invented atrocities beyond the imagination of our
fathers; that society has been brought into a state compared with which
extermination would be a blessing; and all because the dwellings of
cotton-spinners are naked and rectangular. Mr. Southey has found out a
way, he tells us, in which the effects of manufactures and agriculture
may be compared. And what is this way? To stand on a hill, to look at
a cottage and a factory, and to see which is the prettier. Does air.
Southey think that the body of the English peasantry live, or ever
lived, in substantial or ornamented cottages, with box-hedges,
flower-gardens, bee-hives, and orchards? If not, what is his parallel
worth? We despise those mock philosophers, who think that they serve the
cause of science by depreciating literature and the fine arts. But if
any thing could excuse their narrowness of mind it would be such a
book as this. It is not strange that, when one enthusiast makes the
picturesque the test of political good, another should feel inclined to
proscribe altogether the pleasures of taste and imagination.

Thus it is that Mr. Southey reasons about matters {150}with which he
thinks himself perfectly conversant. We cannot, therefore, be surprised
to find that he commits extraordinary blunders when he writes on points
of which he acknowledges himself to be ignorant. He confesses that he
is not versed in political economy, and that he has neither liking
nor aptitude for it; and he then proceeds to read the public a lecture
concerning it which fully bears out his confession.

“All wealth,” says Sir Thomas More, “in former times was tangible. It
consisted in land, money, or chattels, which were either of real or
conventional value.”

Montesinos, as Mr. Southey somewhat affectedly calls himself, answers

“Jewels, for example, and pictures, as in Holland, where indeed at one
time tulip bulbs answered the same purpose.”

“That bubble,” says Sir Thomas, “was one of those contagious insanities
to which communities are subject. All wealth was real, till the extent
of commerce rendered a paper currency necessary; which differed from
precious stones and pictures in this important point, that there was no
limit to its production.”

“We regard it,” says Montesinos, “as the representative of real wealth;
and, therefore, limited always to the amount of what it represents.”

“Pursue that notion,” answers the ghost, “and you will be in the dark
presently. Your provincial banknotes, which constitute almost wholly the
circulating medium of certain districts, pass current to-day. Tomorrow
tidings may come that the house which issued them has stopt payment, and
what do they represent then? You will find them the shadow of a shade.”
 {151}We scarcely know at which end to begin to disentangle this knot of
absurdities. We might ask, why it should be a greater proof of insanity
in men to set a high value on rare tulips than on rare stones, which are
neither more useful nor more beautiful? We might ask how it can be said
that there is no limit to the production of paper money, when a man is
hanged if he issues any in the name of another, and is forced to cash
what he issues in his own? But Mr. Southey’s error lies deeper still.
“All wealth,” says he, “was tangible and real till paper currency was
introduced.” Now, was there ever, since men emerged from a state of
utter barbarism, an age in which there were no debts? Is not a debt,
while the solvency of the debtor is undoubted, always reckoned as part
of the wealth of the creditor? Yet is it tangible and real wealth?
Does it cease to be wealth, because there is the security of a written
acknowledgment for it? And what else is paper currency? Did Mr. Southey
ever read a bank-note? If he did, he would see that it is a written
acknowledgment of a debt, and a promise to pay that debt. The promise
may be violated: the debt may remain unpaid: those to whom it was due
may suffer: but this is a risk not confined to cases of paper currency:
it is a risk inseparable from the relation of debtor and creditor.
Every man who sells goods for any thing but ready money runs the risk of
finding that what he considered as part of his wealth one day is nothing
at all the next day. Mr. Southey refers to the picture-galleries of
Holland. The pictures were undoubtedly real and tangible possessions.
But surely it might happen that a burgomaster might owe a picture-dealer
a thousand guilders for a Teniers. What in this case corresponds to our
paper money is not the {152}picture, which is tangible, but the claim
of the picture-dealer on his customer for the price of the picture; and
this claim is not tangible. Now, would not the picture-dealer consider
this claim as part of his wealth? Would not a tradesman who knew of the
claim give credit to the picture-dealer the more readily on account
of the claim? The burgomaster might be ruined. If so, would not those
consequences follow which, as Mr. Southey tells us, were never heard
of till paper money came into use? Yesterday this claim was worth a
thousand guilders. To-day what is it? The shadow of a shade.

It is true that, the more readily claims of this sort are transferred
from hand to hand, the more extensive will be the Injury produced by a
single failure. The laws of all nations sanction, in certain cases, the
transfer of rights not yet reduced into possession. Mr. Southey would
scarcely wish, we should think, that all indorsements of bills and notes
should be declared invalid. Yet even if this were done, the transfer of
claims would imperceptibly take place, to a very great extent. When
the baker trusts the butcher, for example, he is in fact, though not in
form, trusting the butcher’s customers. A man who owes large bills
to tradesmen, and fails to pay them, almost always produces distress
through a very wide circle of people with whom he never dealt.

In short, what Mr. Southey takes for a difference in kind is only a
difference of form and degree. In every society men have claims on the
property of others. In every society there is a possibility that some
debtors may not be able to fulfil their obligations. In every society,
therefore, there is wealth which is not tangible, and which may become
the shadow of a shade. {153}Mr. Southey then proceeds to a dissertation
on the national debt, which he considers in a new and most consolatory
light, as a clear addition to the income of the country.

“You can understand,” says Sir Thomas, “that it constitutes a great
part of the national wealth.”

“So large a part,” answers Montesinos, “that the interest amounted,
during the prosperous time of agriculture, to as much as the rental
of all the land in Great Britain; and at present to the rental of all
lands, all houses, and all other fixed property put together.” The Ghost
and the Laureate agree that it is very desirable that there should be
so secure and advantageous a deposit for wealth as the funds afford. Sir
Thomas then proceeds:--

“Another and far more momentous benefit must not be overlooked; the
expenditure of an annual interest, equalling, as you have stated, the
present rental of all fixed property.”

“That expenditure,” quoth Montesinos, “gives employment to half the
industry in the kingdom, and feeds half the mouths. Take, indeed, the
weight of the national debt from this great and complicated social
machine, and the wheels must stop.”

From this passage we should have been inclined to think that Mr. Southey
supposes the dividends to be a free gift periodically sent down
from heaven to the fundholders, as quails and manna were sent to
the Israelites; were it not that he has vouchsafed, in the following
question and answer, to give the public some information which, we
believe, was very little needed.

“Whence comes the interest?” says Sir Thomas.

“It is raised,” answers Montesinos, “by taxation.” Now, has Mr. Southey
ever considered what would {154}be done with this sum if it were not
paid as interest to the national creditor? If he would think over this
matter for a short time, we suspect that the “momentous benefit” of
which he talks would appear to him to shrink strangely in amount. A
fundholder, we will suppose, spends dividends amounting to five hundred
pounds a year; and his ten nearest neighbours pay fifty pounds each to
the tax-gatherer, for the purpose of discharging the interest of the
national debt. If the debt were wiped out, a measure, be it understood,
which we by no means recommend, the fundholder would cease to spend
his five hundred pounds a year. He would no longer give employment to
industry, or put food into the mouths of labourers. This Mr. Southey
thinks a fearful evil. But is there no mitigating circumstances? Each of
the ten neighbours of our fundholder has fifty pounds a year more than
formerly. Each of them will, as it seems to our feeble understandings,
employ more industry and feed more mouths than formerly. The sum is
exactly the same. It is in different, hands. But on what grounds does
Mr. Southey call upon us to believe that it is in the hands of men who
will spend it less liberally or less judiciously? He seems to think that
nobody but a fundholder can employ the poor; that, if a tax is remitted,
those who formerly used to pay it proceed immediately to dig holes in
the earth, and to bury the sum which the government had been accustomed
to take; that no money can set industry in motion till such money has
been taken by the tax-gatherer out of one man’s pocket and put into
another man’s pocket. We really wish that Mr. Southey would try to prove
this principle, which is indeed the foundation of his whole theory of
finance: for we think it right to hint {155}to him that our hard-hearted
and unimaginative generation will expect some more satisfactory
reason than the only one with which he has yet favoured it, namely, a
similitude touching evaporation and dew.

Both the theory and the illustration, indeed, are old friends of ours.
In every season of distress which we can remember, Mr. Southey has been
proclaiming that it is not from economy, but from increased taxation,
that the country must expect relief; and he still, we find, places the
undoubting faith of a political Diafoirus, in his

                   “Iîesaignare, repurgare, et reclysterizare."

“A people,” he tells us, “may be too rich, but a government cannot be

“A state,” says he, “cannot have more wealth at its command than may be
employed for the general good, a liberal expenditure in national works
being one of the surest means of promoting national prosperity; and
the benefit being still more obvious, of an expenditure directed to the
purposes of national improvement. But a people may be too rich.”

We fully admit that a state cannot have at its command more wealth than
may be employed for the general good. But neither can individuals, or
bodies of individuals, have at their command more wealth than may be
employed for the general good. If there be no limit to the sum which
may be usefully laid out in public works and national improvement, then
wealth, whether in the hands of private men or of the government, may
always, if the possessors choose to spend it usefully, be usefully
spent. The only ground, therefore, on which Mr. Southey can possibly
maintain that a government cannot be too rich, but that a people may be
too rich, must be this, that governments are more {156}likely to spend
their money on good objects than private individuals.

But what is useful expenditure? “A liberal expenditure in national
works,” says Mr. Southey, “is one of the surest means for promoting
national prosperity.” What does he mean by national prosperity? Does he
mean the wealth of the state? If so, his reasoning runs thus: The more
wealth a state has the better; for the more wealth a state has the more
wealth it will have. This is surely something like that fallacy, which
is ungallantly termed a lady’s reason. If by national prosperity he
means the wealth of the people, of how gross a contradiction is Mr.
Southey guilty. A people, he tells us, may be too rich: a government
cannot: for a government can employ its riches in making the people
richer. The wealth of the people is to be taken from them, because they
have too much, and laid out in works, which will yield them more.

We are really at a loss to determine whether Mr. Southey’s reason for
recommending large taxation is that it will make the people rich, or
that it will make them poor. But we are sure that, if his object is
to make them rich, he takes the wrong course. There are two or three
principles respecting public works, which, as an experience of vast
extent proves, may be trusted in almost every case.

It scarcely ever happens that any private man or body of men will invest
property in a canal, a tunnel, or a bridge, but from an expectation
that the outlay will be profitable to them. No work of this sort can be
profitable to private speculators, unless the public be willing to pay
for the use of it. The public will not pay of their own accord for what
yields no profit or convenience to them. There is thus a direct and
{157}Previous connection between the motive which induces individuals to
undertake such a work, and the utility of the work.

Can we find any such connection in the case of a public work executed by
a government? If it is useful, are the individuals who rule the
country richer? If it is useless, are they poorer? A public man may be
solicitous for his credit. But is not he likely to gain more credit by
an useless display of ostentatious architecture in a great town than
by the best road or the best canal in some remote province? The fame
of public works is a much less certain test of their utility than the
amount of toll collected at them. In a corrupt age, there will be direct
embezzlement. In the purest age, there will be abundance of jobbing.
Never were the statesmen of any country more sensitive to public
opinion, and more spotless in pecuniary transactions, than those who
have of late governed England. Yet we have only to look at the buildings
recently erected in London for a proof of our rule. In a bad age, the
fate of the public is to be robbed outright. In a good age, it is merely
to have the dearest and the worst of every thing.

Buildings for state purposes the state must erect. And here we think
that, in general, the state ought to stop. We firmly believe that five
hundred thousand pounds subscribed by individuals for rail-roads or
canals would produce more advantage to the public than five millions
voted by Parliament for the same purpose. There are certain old saws
about the master’s eye and about every body’s business, in which we
place very great faith.

There is, we have said, no consistency in Mr. Southey’s political
system. But if there be in his political {158}system any leading
principle, any one error which diverges more widely and variously than
any other, it is that of which his theory about national works is a
ramification. He conceives that the business of the magistrate is, not
merely to see that the persons and property of the people are secure
from attack, but that he ought to be a jack-of-all-trades, architect,
engineer, schoolmaster, merchant, theologian, a Lady Bountiful in every
parish, a Paul Pry in every house, spying, eaves-dropping, relieving,
admonishing, spending our money for us, and choosing our opinions for
us. His principle is, if we understand it rightly, that no man can do
any thing so well for himself as his rulers, be they who they may, can
do it for him, and that a government approaches nearer and nearer to
perfection, in proportion as it interferes more and more with the habits
and notions of individuals.

He seems to be fully convinced that it is in the power of government to
relieve all the distresses under which the lower orders labour. Nay,
he considers doubt on this subject as impious. We cannot refrain from
quoting his argument on this subject. It is a perfect jewel of logic.

“‘_Many thousands in your metropolis,’ says Sir Thomas More, ‘rise every
morning without knowing how they are to subsist during the day; as many
of them, where they are to lay their heads at night. All men, even the
vicious themselves, know that wickedness leads to misery: but many, even
among the good and the wise, have yet to learn that misery is almost as
often the cause of wickedness.’

“‘There are many,’ says Montesinos, ‘who know this, but believe that it
is not in the power of human institutions to prevent this misery. They
see the effect, but regard the causes as inseparable from the condition
of human nature.’

“‘As surely as God is good,’ replies Sir Thomas, ‘so surely there is no
such thing as necessary evil. For, by the religious {159}mind, sickness,
and pain I and death, are not to be accounted evils._’”

Now if sickness, pain, and death, are not evils, we cannot understand
why it should be an evil that thousands should rise without knowing how
they are to subsist. The only evil of hunger is that it produces first
pain, then sickness, and finally death. If it did not produce these, it
would be no calamity. If these are not evils, it is no calamity. We will
propose a very plain dilemma: either physical pain is an evil, or it
is not an evil. If it is an evil, then there is necessary evil in the
universe: if it is not, why should the poor be delivered from it?

Mr. Southey entertains as exaggerated a notion of the wisdom of
governments as of their power. He speaks with the greatest disgust of
the respect now paid to public opinion. That opinion is, according to
him, to be distrusted and dreaded; its usurpation ought to be vigorously
resisted; and the practice of yielding to it is likely to ruin the
country. To maintain police is, according to him, only one of the ends
of government. The duties of a ruler are patriarchal and paternal.
He ought to consider the moral discipline of the people as his first
object, to establish a religion, to train the whole community in that
religion, and to consider all dissenters as his own enemies.

“‘_Nothing,’ says Sir Thomas, ‘is more certain, than that religion is
the basis upon which civil government rests; that from religion power
derives its authority, laws their efficacy, and both their zeal and
sanction; and it is necessary that this religion be established as for
the security of the state, and for the welfare of the people, who would
otherwise be moved to and fro with every wind of doctrine. A state is
secure in proportion as the people are attached to its institutions:
it is, therefore, the first and plainest rule of sound policy, that
the people be trained up in the way {160}they should go. The state that
neglects this prepares its own destruction; and they who train them in
any other way are undermining it. Nothing in abstract science can be
more certain than these positions are.’

“1 All of which,’ answers Montesinos, ‘are nevertheless denied by our
professors of the arts Babblative and Scribblative: some in the audacity
of evil designs, and others in the glorious assurance of impenetrable

The greater part of the two volumes before us is merely an amplification
of these paragraphs. What does Mr. Southey mean by saying that religion
is demonstrably the basis of civil government? He cannot surely
mean that men have no motives except those derived from religion for
establishing and supporting-civil government, that no temporal advantage
is derived from civil government, that men would experience no temporal
inconvenience from living in a state of anarchy? If he allows, as we
think he must allow, that it is for the good of mankind in this world
to have civil government, and that the great majority of mankind have
always thought it for their good In this world to have civil government,
we then have a basis for government quite distinct from religion. It is
true that the Christian religion sanctions government, as it sanctions
every thing which promotes the happiness and virtue of our species. But
we are at a loss to conceive in what sense religion can be said to be
the basis of government, in which religion is not also the basis of
the practices of eating, drinking, and lighting fires in cold weather.
Nothing in history is more certain than that government has existed,
has received some obedience, and has given some protection, in times in
which it derived no support from religion, in times in which there was
no religion that influenced the hearts and lives of men. It was not from
dread of Tartarus, or {161}from belief in the Elysian fields, that an
Athenian wished to have some institutions which might keep Orestes from
filching his cloak, or Aliclias from breaking his head. “It is from
religion,” says Mr. Southey, “that power derives its authority, and
laws their efficacy.” From what religion does our power over the Hindoos
derive its authority, or the law in virtue of which we hang Brahmins its
efficacy? For thousands of years civil government has existed in
almost every corner of the world, in ages of priestcraft, in ages of
fanaticism, in ages of Epicurean indifference, in ages of enlightened
piety. However pure or impure the faith of the people might be, whether
they adored a beneficent or a malignant power, whether they thought
the soul mortal or immortal, they have, as soon as they ceased to
be absolute savages, found out their need of civil government, and
instituted it accordingly. It is as universal as the practice of
cookery. Yet, it is as certain, says Mr. Southey, as any thing in
abstract science, that government is founded on religion. We should like
to know what notion Mr. Southey has of the demonstrations of abstract
science. A very vague one, we suspect.

The proof proceeds. As religion is the basis of government, and as
the state is secure in proportion as the people are attached to public
institutions, it is therefore, says Mr. Southey, the first rule of
policy, that the government should train the people in the way in which
they should go; and it is plain that those who train them in any other
way are undermining the state.

Now it does not appear to us to be the first object that people should
always believe in the established religion and be attached to the
established government. A religion may be false. A government may
be oppressive. And whatever support government gives to {162}false
religions, or religion to oppressive governments, Ive consider as a
clear evil.

The maxim, that governments ought to train the people in the way in
which they should go, sounds well. But is there any reason for believing
that a government is more likely to lead the people in the right way
than the people to fall into the right way of themselves? Have there not
been governments which were blind leaders of the blind? Are there not
still such governments? Can it be laid down as a general rule that the
movement of political and religious truth is rather downwards from the
government to the people than upwards from the people to the government?
These are questions which it is of importance to have clearly resolved.
Mr. Southey declaims against public opinion, which is now, he tells us,
usurping supreme power. Formerly, according to him, the laws governed;
now public opinion governs. What are laws but expressions of the opinion
of some class which has power over the rest of the community? By
what was the world ever governed but by the opinion of some person or
persons? By what else can it ever be governed? What are all systems,
religious, political, or scientific, but opinions resting on evidence
more or less satisfactory? The question is not between human opinion
and some higher and more certain mode of arriving at truth, but between
opinion and opinion, between the opinions of one man and another, or of
one class and another, or of one generation and another. Public opinion
is not infallible; but can Mr. Southey construct any institutions
which shall secure to us the guidance of an infallible opinion? Can
Mr. Southey select any family, any profession, any class, in short,
distinguished by any plain badge from the rest of the {163}community,
whose opinion is more likely to be just than this much abused public
opinion? Would he choose the peers, for example? Or the two hundred
tallest men in the country? Or the poor Knights of Windsor? Or children
who are born with cauls? Or the seventh sons of seventh sons? We cannot
suppose that he would recommend popular election; for that is merely an
appeal to public opinion. And to say that society ought to be governed
by the opinion of the wisest and best, though true, is useless. Whose
opinion is to decide, who are the wisest and best?

Mr. Southey and many other respectable people seem to think that, when
they have once proved the moral and religious training of the people to
be a most important object, it follows, of course, that it is an object
which the government ought to pursue. They forget that we have to
consider, not merely the goodness of the end, but also the fitness of
the means. Neither in the natural nor in the political body have all
members the same office. There is surely no contradiction in saying that
a certain section of the community may be quite competent to protect
the persons and property of the rest, yet quite unfit to direct our
opinions, or to superintend our private habits.

So strong is the interest of a ruler to protect his subjects against all
depredations and outrages except his own, so clear and simple are the
means by which this end is to be effected, that men are probably better
off under the worst governments in the world than they would be in a
state of anarchy. Even when the appointment of magistrates has been left
to chance, as in the Italian Republics, things have gone on far better
than if there had been no magistrates at all, and if every man had
done what seemed right in his own {164}eyes. But we see no reason for
thinking that the opinions of the magistrate on speculative question are
more likely to be right than those of any other man. None of the modes
by which a magistrate is appointed, popular election, the accident of
the lot, or the accident of birth, affords, as far as we can perceive,
much security for his being wiser than any of his neighbours. The chance
of his being wiser than all his neighbours together is still smaller.
Now we cannot understand how it can be laid down that it is the duty and
the right of one class to direct the opinions of another, unless it can
be proved that the former class is more likely to form just opinions
than the latter.

The duties of government would be, as Mr. Southey says that they are,
paternal, if a government were necessarily as much superior in wisdom
to a people as the most foolish father, for a time, is to the most
intelligent child, and if a government loved a people as fathers
generally love their children. But there is no reason to believe that
a government will have either the paternal warmth of affection or the
paternal superiority of intellect. Mr. Southey might as well say that
the duties of the shoemaker are paternal and that it is an usurpation in
any man not of the craft to say that his shoes are bad and to insist on
having better. The division of labour would be no blessing, if those by
whom a thing is done were to pay no attention to the opinion of
those for whom it is done. The shoemaker, in the Relapse, tells Lord
Foppington that his lordship is mistaken in supposing that his shoe
pinches. “It does not pinch; it cannot pinch; I know my business; and
I never made a better shoe.” This is the way in which Mr. Southey would
have a government treat a people who usurp the privilege of thinking.
Nay, the {165}shoemaker of Vanbrugh has the advantage in the comparison.

He contented himself with regulating his customer’s shoes, about which
he had peculiar means of information, and did not presume to dictate
about the coat and hat. But Mr. Southey would have the rulers of a
country prescribe opinions to the people, not only about politics, but
about matters concerning which a government has no peculiar sources of
information, and concerning which any man in the streets may know as
much and think as justly as the King, namely religion and morals.

Men are never so likely to settle a question rightly as when they
discuss it freely, A government can interfere in discussion only by
making it less free than it would otherwise be. Men are most likely to
form just opinions when they have no other wish than to know the truth,
and are exempt from all influence, either of hope or fear. Government,
as government, can bring nothing but the influence of hopes and fears to
support its doctrines. It carries on controversy, not with reasons,
but with threats and bribes. If it employs reasons, it does so, not in
virtue of any powers which belong to it as a government. Thus, instead
of a contest between argument and argument, we have a contest between
argument and force. Instead of a contest in which truth, from the
natural constitution of the human mind, has a decided advantage over
falsehood, we have a contest in which truth can be victorious only by

And what, after all, is the security which this training gives to
governments? Mr. Southey would scarcely propose that discussion should
be more effectually shackled, that public opinion should be more,
strictly disciplined into conformity with established {166}institutions,
than in Spain and Italy. Yet we know that the restraints which exist
in Spain and Italy have not prevented atheism from spreading among
the educated classes, and especially among those whose office it is to
minister at the altars of God. All our readers know how, at the time of
the French Revolution, priest after priest came forward to declare that
his doctrine, his ministry, his whole life, had been a lie, a mummery
during which he could scarcely compose his countenance sufficiently to
carry on the imposture. This was the case of a false, or at least of a
grossly corrupted religion. Let us take then the case of all others most
favourable to Mr. Southey’s argument. Let us take that form of religion
which he holds to be the purest, the system of the Arminian part of
the Church of England. Let us take the form of government which he most
admires and regrets, the government of England in the time of Charles
the First. Would he wish to see a closer connection between church and
state than then existed? Would he wish for more powerful ecclesiastical
tribunals? for a more zealous king? for a more active primate? Would he
wish to see a more complete monopoly of public instruction given to the
Established Church? Could any government do more to train the people
in the way in which he would have them? And in what did all this
training end? The Report of the state of the Province of Canterbury,
delivered by Laud to his master at the close of 1639, represents the
Church of England as in the highest and most palmy state. So effectually
had the government pursued that policy which Mr. Southey wishes to see
revived that there was scarcely the least appearance of dissent. Most of
the bishops stated that all was well amoung their flocks. Seven or eight
{167}persons in the diocese of Peterborough had seemed refractory to the
church, but had made ample submission. In Norfolk and Suffolk all whom
there had been reason to suspect had made profession of conformity, and
appeared to observe it strictly. It is confessed that there was a
little difficulty in bringing some of the vulgar in Suffolk to take the
sacrament at the rails in the chancel. This was the only open instance
of non-conformity which the vigilant eye of Laud could detect in all the
dioceses of his twenty-one suffragans, on the very eve of a revolution
in which primate, and church, and monarch, and monarchy were to perish
together. .

At which time would Mr. Southey pronounce the constitution more secure;
in 1639, when Laud presented this Report to Charles; or now, when
thousands of meetings openly collect millions of dissenters, when
designs against the tithes are openly avowed, when books attacking not
only the Establishment, but the first principles of Christianity, are
openly sold in the streets? The signs of discontent, he tells us, are
stronger in England now than in France when the States-General met: and
hence he would have us infer that a revolution like that of France
may be at hand. Does he not know that the danger of states is to be
estimated, not by what breaks out of the public mind, but by what stays
in it? Can he conceive any thing more terrible than the situation of a
government which rules without apprehension over a people of hypocrites,
which is flattered by the press and cursed in the inner chambers, which
exults in the attachment and obedience of its subjects, and knows not
that those subjects are leagued against it in a free-masonry of hatred,
the sign of which is every day conveyed in {168}the glance of ten
thousand eyes, the pressure of ten thousand hands, and the tone of ten
thousand voices? Profound and ingenious policy! Instead of curing the
disease, to remove those symptoms by which alone its nature can be
known! To leave the serpent his deadly sting, and deprive him only of
his warning rattle!

When the people whom Charles had so assiduously trained in the good way
had rewarded his paternal care by cutting off his head, a new kind of
training came into fashion. Another government arose which, like the
former, considered religion as its surest basis, and the religious
discipline of the people as its first duty. Sanguinary laws were enacted
against libertinism; profane pictures were burned: drapery was put on
indecorous statues; the theatres were shut up; fast-days were numerous;
and the Parliament resolved that no person should be admitted into any
public employment, unless the House should be first satisfied of his
vital godliness. We know what was the end of this training. We know
that it ended in impiety, in filthy and heartless sensuality, in the
dissolution of all ties of honour and morality. We know that at this
very day scriptural phrases, scriptural names, perhaps some scriptural
doctrines, excite disgust and ridicule, solely because they are
associated with the austerity of that period.

Thus has the experiment of training the people in established forms of
religion been twice tried in England on a large scale, once by Charles
and Laud, and once by the Puritans. The High Tories of our time still
entertain many of the feelings and opinions of Charles and Laud, though
in a mitigated form; nor is it difficult to see that the heirs of
the Puritans are still amongst us. It would be desirable that each of
{169}these parties should remember how little advantage or honour it
formerly derived from the closest alliance with power, that it fell by
the support of rulers, and rose by their opposition, that of the two
systems that in which the people were at any time drilled was always
at that time the unpopular system, that the training of the High
Church ended in the reign of the Puritans, and that the training of the
Puritans ended in the reign of the harlots.

This was quite natural. Nothing is so galling to a people not broken in
from the birth as a paternal, or, in other words, a meddling government,
a government which tells them what to read, and say, and eat, and drink,
and wear. Our fathers could not bear it two hundred years ago; and we
are not more patient than they. Mr. Southey thinks that the yoke of the
church is dropping off because it is loose. We feel convinced that it
is borne only because it is easy, and that, in the instant in which an
attempt is made to tighten it, it will be flung away. It will be neither
the first nor the strongest yoke that has been broken asunder and
trampled under foot in the day of the vengeance of England.

How far Mr. Southey would have the government carry its measures for
training the people in the doctrines of the church, we are unable to
discover. In one passage Sir Thomas More asks with great vehemence,
“Is it possible that your laws should suffer the unbelievers to exist as
a party? Vetitum est adeo sceleris nihil?”

Montesinos answers. “They avow themselves in defiance of the laws. The
fashionable doctrine which the press at this time maintains is, that
this is a matter in which the laws ought not to interfere, every man
{170}having a right, both to form what opinion he pleases upon religious
subjects, and to promulgate that opinion.”

It is clear, therefore, that Mr. Southey would not give full and perfect
toleration to infidelity. In another passage, however, he observes with
some truth, though too sweepingly, that “any degree of intolerance short
of that full extent which the Papal Church exercises where it has the
power, acts upon the opinions which it is intended to suppress, like
pruning upon vigorous plants; they grow the stronger for it.” These two
passages, put together, would lead us to the conclusion that, in Mr.
Southey’s opinion, the utmost severity ever employed by the Roman
Catholic Church in the days of its greatest power ought to be employed
against unbelievers in England; in plain words, that Carlile and his
shopmen ought to be burned in Smith-field, and that every person
who, when called upon, should decline to make a solemn profession of
Christianity ought to suffer the same fate. We do not, however, believe
that Mr. Southey would recommend such a course, though his language
would, according to all the rules of logic, justify us in supposing this
to be his meaning. His opinions form no system at all. He never sees, at
one glance, more of a question than will furnish matter for one flowing
and well turned sentence; so that it would be the height of unfairness
to charge him personally with holding a doctrine, merely because
that doctrine is deducible, though by the closest and most accurate
reasoning, from the premises which he has laid down. We are, therefore,
left completely in the dark as to Mr. Southey’s opinions about
toleration. Immediately after censuring the government for not punishing
infidels, he proceeds to discuss {171}the question of the Catholic
disabilities, now, thank God, removed, and defends them on the ground
that the Catholic doctrines tend to persecution, and that the Catholics
persecuted when they had power.

“They must persecute,” says he, “if they believe their own creed, for
conscience-sake; and if they do not believe it, they must persecute for
policy; because it is only by intolerance that so corrupt and injurious
a system can be upheld.”

That unbelievers should not be persecuted is an instance of national
depravity at which the glorified spirits stand aghast. Yet a sect of
Christians is to be excluded from power, because those who formerly held
the same opinions were guilty of persecution. We have said that we do
not very well know what Mr. Southey’s opinion about toleration is. But,
on the whole, we take it to be this, that everybody is to tolerate him,
and that he is to tolerate nobody.

We will not be deterred by any fear of misrepresentation from
expressing our hearty approbation of the mild, wise, and eminently
Christian manner in which the Church and the Government have lately
acted with respect to blasphemous publications. We praise them for not
having thought it necessary to encircle a religion pure, merciful,
and philosophical, a religion to the evidence of which the highest
intellects have yielded, with the defences of a false and bloody
superstition. The ark of God was never taken till it was surrounded by
the arms of earthly defenders. In captivity, its sanctity was sufficient
to vindicate it from insult, and to lay the hostile fiend prostrate on
the threshold of his own temple. The real security of Christianity is to
be found in its benevolent morality, in its exquisite adaptation to the
human heart, in the {172}facility with which its scheme accommodates
itself to the capacity of every human intellect, in the consolation
which it bears to the house of mourning, in the light with which it
brightens the great mystery of the grave. To such a system it can bring
no addition of dignity or of strength, that it is part and parcel of the
common law. It is not now for the first time left to rely on the force
of its own evidences and the attractions of its own beauty. Its sublime
theology confounded the Grecian schools in the fair conflict of reason
with reason. The bravest and wisest of the Cæsars found their arms
and their policy unavailing, when opposed to the weapons that were not
carnal and the kingdom that was not of this world. The victory which
Porphyry and Diocletian failed to gain is not, to all appearance,
reserved for any of those who have, in this age, directed their attacks
against the last restraint of the powerful and the last hope of the
wretched. The whole history of Christianity shows, that she is in far
greater danger of being corrupted by the alliance of power, than of
being crushed by its opposition. Those who thrust temporal sovereignty
upon her treat her as their prototypes treated her author. They bow the
knee, and spit upon her; they cry “Hail!” and smite her on the cheek;
they put a sceptre in her hand, but it is a fragile reed; they crown
her, but it is with thorns; they cover with purple the wounds which
their own hands have inflicted on her; and inscribe magnificent titles
over the cross on which they have fixed her to perish in ignominy and

The general view which Mr. Southey takes of the prospects of society is
very gloomy; but we comfort ourselves with the consideration that Mr.
Southey is no prophet. He foretold, we remember, on the very {173}eve of
the abolition of the Test and Corporation Acts, that these hateful laws
were immortal, and that pious minds would long be gratified by seeing
the most solemn religious rite of the Church profaned for the purpose of
upholding her political supremacy. In the book before us, he says that
Catholics cannot possibly be admitted into Parliament until those whom
Johnson called “the bottomless Whigs” come into power. While the book
was in the press, the prophecy was falsified: and a Tory of the Tories,
Mr. Southey’s own favourite hero, won and wore that noblest wreath, “Ob
cives servatos.”

The signs of the times, Mr. Southey tells us, are very threatening. His
fears for the country would decidedly preponderate over his hopes, but
for his firm reliance on the mercy of God. Now, as we know that God
has once suffered the civilised world to be overrun by savages, and the
Christian religion to be corrupted by doctrines which made it, for some
ages, almost as bad as Paganism, we cannot think it inconsistent with
his attributes that similar calamities should again befal mankind.

We look, however, on the state of the world, and of this kingdom in
particular, with much greater satisfaction and with better hopes. Mr.
Southey speaks with contempt of those who think the savage state happier
than the social. On this subject, he says, Rousseau never imposed on him
even in his youth. But he conceives that a community which has advanced
a little way in civilisation is happier than one which has made greater
progress. The Britons in the time of Cæsar were happier, he suspects,
than the English of the nineteenth century. On the whole, he selects
the generation which preceded the Reformation {174}as that in which the
people of this country were better off than at any time before or since.

This opinion rests on nothing, as far as we can see, except his own
individual associations. He is a man of letters; and a life destitute
of literary pleasures seems insipid to him. He abhors the spirit of the
present generation, the severity of its studies, the boldness of its
inquiries, and the disdain with which it regards some old prejudices
by which his own mind is held in bondage. He dislikes an utterly
unenlightened age: he dislikes an investigation; and reforming age. The
first twenty years of the sixteenth century would have exactly suited
him. They furnished just the quantity of intellectual excitement which
he requires. The learned few read and wrote largely. A scholar was held
in high estimation. But the rabble did not presume to think; and even
the most inquiring and independent of the educated classes paid more
reverence to authority, and less to reason, than is usual in our time.
This is a state of things in which Mr. Southey would have found himself
quite comfortable; and, accordingly, he pronounces it the happiest state
of things ever known in the world.

The savages were wretched, lays Mr. Southey: but the people in the time
of Sir Thomas More were happier than either they or we. Now we think it
quite certain that we have the advantage over the contemporaries of
Sir Thomas More, in every point in which they had any advantage over

Mr. Southey does not even pretend to maintain that the people in the
sixteenth century were better lodged or clothed than at present.
He seems to admit that in these respects there has been some little
improvement, it is indeed a matter about which scarcely any doubt
{175}can exist in the most perverse mind that the improvements of
machinery have lowered the price of manufactured articles, and have
brought within the reach of the poorest some conveniences which Sir
Thomas More or his master could not have obtained at any price.

The labouring classes, however, were, according to Mr. Southey, better
fed three hundred years ago than at present. We believe that he is
completely in error on this point. The condition of servants in noble
and wealthy families, and of scholars at the Universities must surely
have been better in those times than that of day-labourers; and we are
sure that it was not better than that of our workhouse paupers. From the
household book of the Northumberland family, we find that in one of the
greatest establishments of the kingdom the servants lived very much as
common sailors live now. In the reign of Edward the Sixth the state
of the students at Cambridge is described to us, on the very best
authority, as most wretched. Many of them dined on pottage made of a
farthing’s worth of beef with a little salt and oatmeal, and literally
nothing else. This account we have from a contemporary master of St.
John’s. Our parish poor now eat wheat bread. In the sixteenth century
the labourer was glad to get barley, and was often forced to content
himself with poorer fare. In Harrison’s introduction to Holinshed we
have an account of the state of our working population in the “golden
days,” as Mr. Southey calls them, “of good Queen Bess.”

“The gentilitie,” says he, “commonly provide themselves sufficiently
of wheat for their own tables, why lest their household and poore
neighbours in some shires are inforced to content themselves with rye or
barleie; yea, and in time of {176}dearth, many with bread made eyther
of beanes, peason, or otes, or of altogether, and some acornes among.
I will not say that this extremity is oft so well to be seen in time of
plentie as of dearth; but if I should I could easily bring my trial: for
albeit there be much more grounde eared nowe almost in everye place then
liathe beene of late yeares, yet such a price of corne continueth in
cache towne and markete, without any just cause, that the artificer
and poore labouring man is not able to reach unto it, but is driven to
content himself with horse-corne.” We should like to see what the
effect would be of putting any parish in England now on allowance of
“horse-corne.” The helotry of Mammon are not, in our day, so easily
enforced to content themselves as the peasantry of that happy period, as
Mr. Southey considers it, which elapsed between the fall of the feudal
and the rise of the commercial tyranny.

“The people,” says Mr. Southey, “are worse fed than when they were
fishers.” And yet in another place he complains that they will not eat
fish. “They have contracted,” says he, “I know not how, some obstinate
prejudice against a kind of food at once wholesome and delicate, and
every where to be obtained cheaply and in abundance, were the demand for
it as general as it ought to be.” It is true that the lower orders have
an obstinate prejudice against fish. But hunger has no such obstinate
prejudices. If what was formerly a common diet I now eaten only in times
of severe pressure, the inference is plain. The people must be fed with
what they at least think better food than that of their ancestors.

The advice and medicine which the poorest labourer {177}can now obtain,
in disease, or after an accident, is far superior to what Henry the
Eighth could have commanded. Scarcely any part of the country is out of
the reach of practitioners who are probably not so far inferior to Sir
Henry Halford as they are superior to Dr. Butts. That there has been a
great improvement in this respect, Mr. Southey allows. Indeed he could
not well have denied it. “But,” says he, “the evils for which these
sciences are the palliative, have increased since the time of the
Druids, in a proportion that heavily overweighs the benefit of improved
therapeutics.” We know nothing either of the diseases or the remedies of
the Druids. But we are quite sure that the improvement of medicine has
far more than kept pace with the increase of disease during the last
three centuries. This is proved by the best possible evidence. The term
of human life is decidedly longer in England than in any former age,
respecting which we possess any information on which we can Lely. All
the rants in the world about picturesque cottages and temples of Mammon
will not shake this argument. No test of the physical well-being of
society can be named so decisive as that which is furnished by bills
of mortality. That the lives of the people of this country have been
gradually lengthening during the course of several generations, is as
certain as any fact in statistics; and that the lives of men should
become longer and longer, while their bodily condition during life is
becoming worse and worse, is utterly incredible.

Let our readers think over these circumstances. Let them take into the
account the sweating sickness and the plague. Let them take into the
account that fearful disease which first made its appearance in the
{178}generation to which Mr. Southey assigns the palm of felicity, and
raged through Europe with a fury at which the physician stood aghast,
and before which the people were swept away by myriads. Let them
consider the state of the northern counties, constantly the scene of
robberies, rapes, massacres, and conflagrations. Let them add to all
this the fact that seventy-two thousand persons suffered death by the
hands of the executioner during the reign of Henry the Eighth, and judge
between the nineteenth and the sixteenth century.

We do not say that the lower orders in England do not suffer severe
hardships. But, in spite of Mr. Southey’s assertions, and in spite
of the assertions of a class of politicians, who, differing from Mr.
Southey in every other point, agree with him in this, we are inclined to
doubt whether the labouring classes here really suffer greater physical
distress than the labouring classes of the most flourishing countries of
the Continent.

It will scarcely be maintained that the lazzaroni who sleep under the
porticoes of Naples, or the beggars who besiege the convents of Spain,
are in a happier situation than the English commonalty. The distress
which has lately been experienced in the northern part of Germany, one
of the best governed and most prosperous regions of Europe, surpasses,
if we have been correctly informed, any thing which has of late years
been known among us. In Norway and Sweden the peasantry are constantly
compelled to mix bark with their bread; and even this expedient has
not always preserved whole families and neighbourhoods from perishing
together of famine. An experiment has lately been tried in the kingdom
of the Netherlands, which {179}has been cited to prove the possibility
of establishing agricultural colonies on the waste lands of England, but
which proves to our minds nothing so clearly as this, that the rate
of subsistence to which the labouring classes are reduced in the
Netherlands is miserably low, and very far inferior to that of the
English paupers. No distress which the people here have endured for
centuries approaches to that which has been felt by the French in our
own time. The beginning of the year 1817 was a time of great distress
in this island. But the state of the lowest classes here was luxury
compared with that of the people of France. We find in Magendie’s
“Journal de Physiologie Expérimentale” a paper on a point of physiology
connected with the distress of that season. It appears that the
inhabitants of six departments, Aix, Jura, Doubs, Haute Saone, Vosges,
and Saone-et-Loire, were reduced first to oatmeal and potatoes, and at
last to nettles, bean-stalks, and other kinds of herbage fit only for
cattle; that when the next harvest enabled them to eat barley-bread,
many of them died from intemperate indulgence in what they thought
an exquisite repast; and that a dropsy of a peculiar description was
produced by the hard fare of the year. Dead bodies were found on the
roads and in the fields. A single surgeon dissected six of these, and
found the stomach shrunk, and filled with the unwholesome aliments which
hunger had driven men to share with beasts. Such extremity of distress
as this is never heard of in England, or even in Ireland. We are, on
the whole, inclined to think, though we would speak with diffidence on a
point on which it would be rash to pronounce a positive judgment without
a much longer and closer investigation than we have bestowed upon it,
that the labouring {180}classes of this island, though they have their
grievances and distresses, some produced by their own improvidence,
some by the errors of their rulers, are on the whole better off as to
physical comforts than the inhabitants of any equally extensive district
of the old world. For this very reason, suffering is more acutely felt
and more loudly bewailed here than elsewhere. We must take into the
account the liberty of discussion, and the strong interest which the
opponents of a ministry always have to exaggerate the extent of the
public disasters. There are countries in which the people quietly endure
distress that here would shake the foundations of the state, countries
in which the inhabitants of a whole province turn out to eat grass
with less clamour than one Spitalfields weaver would make here, if the
overseers were to put him on barley-bread. In those new commonwealths
in which a civilised population has at its command a boundless extent of
the richest soil, the condition of the labourer is probably happier than
in any society which has lasted for many centuries. But in the old world
we must confess ourselves unable to find any satisfactory record of any
great nation, past or present, in which the working classes have been
in a more comfortable situation than in England during the last thirty
years. When this island was thinly peopled, it was barbarous: there was
little capital; and that little was insecure. It is now the richest
and the most highly civilised spot in the world; but the population is
dense. Thus we have never known that golden age which the lower orders
In the United States are now enjoying. We have never known an age of
liberty, of order, and of education, an age in which the mechanical
sciences were carried to a great height, yet in which the people were
not sufficiently {181}numerous to cultivate even the most fertile
valleys. But, ‘when we compare our own condition with that of our
ancestors, we think it clear that the advantages arising from the
progress of civilisation have far more than counterbalanced the
disadvantages arising from the progress of population. “While our
numbers have increased tenfold, our wealth has increased a hundred-fold.
Though there are so many more people to share the wealth now existing in
the country than there were in the sixteenth century, it seems certain
that a greater share falls to almost every individual than fell to the
share of any of the corresponding class in the sixteenth century. The
King keeps a more splendid court. The establishments of the nobles are
more magnificent. The esquires are richer; the merchants are richer;
the shopkeepers are richer. The serving-man, the artisan, and the
husbandman, have a more copious and palatable supply of food, better
clothing, and better furniture. This is no reason for tolerating abuses,
or for neglecting any means of ameliorating the condition of our poorer
countrymen. But it is a reason against telling them, as some of our
philosophers are constantly telling them, that they are the most
wretched people who ever existed on the face of the earth.

“We have already adverted to Mr. Southey’s amusing doctrine about
national wealth. A state, says he, cannot be too rich; but a people may
be too rich. His reason for thinking this is extremely curious.

“_A people may be too rich, because it is the tendency of the
commercial, and more especially of the manufacturing system, to collect
wealth rather than to diffuse it. Where wealth is necessarily employed
in any of the speculations of trade, its increase is in proportion to
its amount. Great capitalists become like pikes in a fish-pond, who
devour the weaker fish; and it is but too certain. {182}that the poverty
of one part of the people seems to increase in the same ratio as the
riches of another. There are examples of this in history. In Portugal,
when the high tide of wealth flowed in from the conquests in Africa and
the East, the effect of that great influx was not more visible in the
augmented splendour of the court, and the luxury of the higher ranks,
than in the distress of the people_.”

Mr. Southey’s instance is not a very fortunate one. The wealth which did
so little for the Portuguese was not the fruit either of manufactures or
of commerce carried on by private individuals. It was the wealth, not
of the people, but of the government and its creatures, of those who,
as Mr. Southey thinks, can never be too rich. The fact is that Mr.
Southey’s proposition is opposed to all history, and to the phænomena
which surround us on every side. England is the richest country
in Europe, the most commercial country, and the country in which
manufactures flourish most. Russia and Poland are the poorest countries
in Europe. They have scarcely any trade, and none but the rudest
manufactures. Is wealth more diffused in Russia and Poland than in
England? There are individuals in Russia and Poland whose incomes are
probably equal to those of our richest countrymen. It may be doubted
whether there are not, in those countries, as many fortunes of eighty
thousand a year as here. But are there as many fortunes of two thousand
a year, or of one thousand a year? There are parishes in England which
contain more people of between three hundred and three thousand pounds
a year than could be found in all the dominions of the Emperor Nicholas.
The neat and commodious houses which have been built in London and its
vicinity, for people of this class, within the last thirty years would
of themselves {183}form a city larger than the capitals of some
European kingdoms. And this is the state of society in which the great
proprietors have devoured a smaller!

The cure which Mr. Southey thinks that he has discovered is worthy of
the sagacity which he has shown in detecting the evil. The calamities
arising from the collection of wealth in the hands of a few capitalists
are to be remedied by collecting it in the hands of one great
capitalist, who has no conceivable motive to use it better than other
capitalists, the all-devouring state.

It is not strange that, differing so widely from Mr. Southey as to
the past progress of society, we should differ from him also as to its
probable destiny. He thinks, that to all outward appearance, the country
is hastening to destruction; but he relies firmly on the goodness
of God. We do not see either the piety or the rationality of thus
confidently expecting that the Supreme Being will interfere to disturb
the common succession of causes and effects. We, too, rely on
his goodness, on his goodness as manifested, not in extraordinary
interpositions, but in those general laws which it has pleased him to
establish in the physical and in the moral world. We rely on the natural
tendency of the human intellect to truth, and on the natural tendency
of society to improvement. We know no well authenticated instance of a
people which has decidedly retrograded in civilisation and prosperity,
except from the influence of violent and terrible calamities, such as
those which laid the Roman empire in ruins, or those which, about the
beginning of the sixteenth century, desolated Italy. We know of no
country which, at the end of fifty years of peace, and tolerably good
government, has been less prosperous than at the beginning of that
period. The political importance of a {184}state may decline, as the
balance of power is disturbed by the introduction of new forces. Thus
the influence of Holland and of Spain is much diminished. But are
Holland and Spain poorer than formerly? We doubt it. Other countries
have outrun them. But we suspect that they have been positively, though
not relatively, advancing. We suspect that Holland is richer than when
she sent her navies up the Thames, that Spain is richer than when a
French king was brought captive to the footstool of Charles the Fifth.

History is full of the signs of this natural progress of society. We
see in almost every part of the annals of mankind how the industry of
individuals, struggling up against wars, taxes, famines, conflagrations,
mischievous prohibitions, and more mischievous protections, creates
faster than governments can squander, and repairs whatever invaders can
destroy. We see the wealth of nations increasing, and all the arts
of life approaching nearer and nearer to perfection, in spite of the
grossest corruption and the wildest profusion on the part of rulers.

The present moment is one of great distress. But how small will that
distress appear when we think over the history of the last forty years;
a war, compared with which all other wars sink into insignificance;
taxation, such as the most heavily taxed people of former times could
not have conceived; a debt larger than all the public debts that ever
existed in the world added together; the food of the people studiously
rendered dear; the currency imprudently debased, and imprudently
restored. Yet is the country poorer than in 1790? We firmly believe
that, in spite of all the mis-government of her rulers, she has been
almost constantly becoming richer and richer. Now and then {185}there
has been a stoppage, now and then a short retrogression; but as to the
general tendency there can be no doubt. A single breaker may recede; but
the tide is evidently coming in.

If we were to prophesy that in the year 1980 a population of fifty
millions, better fed, clad, and lodged than the English of our time,
will cover these islands, that Sussex and Huntingdonshire will be
wealthier than the wealthiest parts of the West Riding of Yorkshire now
are, that cultivation, rich as that of a flower-garden, will be
carried up to the very tops of Ben Nevis and Helvellyn, that machines
constructed on principles yet undiscovered will be in every house, that
there will be no highways but railroads, no travelling but by
steam, that our debt, vast as it seems to us, will appear to our
great-grandchildren a trifling encumbrance, which might easily be paid
off in a year or two, many people would think us insane. We prophesy
nothing; but this we say: If any person had told the Parliament which
met in perplexity and terror after the crash in 1720 that in 1880 the
wealth of England would surpass all their wildest dreams, that the
annual revenue would equal the principal of that debt which they
considered as an intolerable burden, that for one man of ten thousand
pounds then living there would be five men of fifty thousand pounds,
that London would be twice as large and twice as populous, and that
nevertheless the rate of mortality would have diminished to one half
of what it then was, that the post-office would bring more into the
exchequer than the excise and customs had brought in together under
Charles the Second, that stage-coaches would run from London to York
in twenty-four hours, that men would be in the habit of sailing without
wind, and would be beginning {186}to ride without horses, our ancestors
would have given as much credit to the prediction as they gave to
Gulliver’s Travels. Yet the prediction would have been true; and they
would have perceived that it was not altogether absurd, if they had
considered that the country was then raising every year a sum which
would have purchased the fee-simple of the revenue of the Plantagenets,
ten times what supported the government of Elizabeth, three times what,
in the time of Oliver Cromwell, had been thought intolerably oppressive.
To almost all men the state of things under which they have been used
to live seems to be the necessary state of things. We have heard it said
that five per cent, is the natural interest of money, that twelve is
the natural number of a jury, that forty shillings is the natural
qualification of a county voter. Hence it is that, though in every age
everybody knows that up to his own time progressive improvement has been
taking place, nobody seems to reckon on any improvement during the next
generation. We cannot absolutely prove that those are in error who tell
us that society has reached a turning point, that we have seen our best
days. But so said all who came before us, and with just as much apparent
reason. “A million a year will beggar us,” said the patriots of 1640.
“Two millions a year will grind the country to powder,” was the cry in
1660, “Six millions a year, and a debt of fifty millions!” exclaimed
Swift; “the high allies have been the ruin of us.”

“A hundred and forty millions of debt!” said Junius; “well may we say
that we owe Lord Chatham more than we shall ever pay, if we owe him such
a load as this.”

“Two hundred and forty millions of debt!” cried all the statesmen of
1783 in chorus; “what abilities, or what {187}economy on the part of a
minister, can save a country so burdened?” We know that if, since 1783,
no fresh debt had been incurred, the increased resources of the country
would have enabled us to defray that debt at which Pitt, Fox, and Burke
stood aghast, nay, to defray it over and over again, and that with much
lighter taxation than what we have actually borne. On what principle is
it that, when we see nothing but improvement behind us, we are to expect
nothing but deterioration before us?

It is not by the intermeddling of Mr. Southey’s idol, the omniscient
and omnipotent State, but by the prudence and energy of the people, that
England has hitherto been carried forward in civilisation; and it is to
the same prudence and the same energy that we now look with comfort and
good hope. Our rulers will best promote the improvement of the nation by
strictly confining themselves to their own legitimate duties, by leaving
capital to find its most lucrative course, commodities their fair price,
industry and intelligence their natural reward, idleness and folly their
natural punishment, by maintaining peace, by defending property, by
diminishing the price of law, and by observing strict economy in every
department of the state. Let the Government do this: the People will
assuredly do the rest.


(_Edinburgh Review_, April 1830.)

The {188}wise men of antiquity loved to convey instruction under the
covering of apologue; and though this practice is generally thought
childish, we shall make no apology for adopting it on the present
occasion. A generation which has bought eleven editions of a poem by Mr.
Robert Montgomery may well condescend to listen to a fable of Pilpay.

A pious Brahmin, it is written, made a vow that on a certain day he
would sacrifice a sheep, and on the appointed morning he went forth to
buy one. There lived in his neighbourhood three rogues who knew of his
vow, and laid a scheme for profiting by it. The first met him and said,
“Oh Brahmin, wilt thou buy a sheep? I have one fit for sacrifice.”

“It is for that very purpose,” said the holy man, “that I came forth
this day.” Then the impostor opened a bag, and brought out of it an
unclean beast, an ugly dog, lame and blind. Thereon the Brahmin cried
out, “Wretch, who touchest things impure, and utterest things untrue,
callest thou that cur a sheep?” “Truly,” answered the other, “it is a
sheep of the finest fleece, and of the

     (1). _The Omnipresence of the Deity: a Poem_. By Robert
     Montgomery. Eleventh Edition. London: 1830.

     (2). _Satan: a Poem_. By Robert Montgomery. Second Edition.
     London: 1830.

{189}sweetest flesh. Oh Brahmin, it will be an offering most acceptable
to the gods.”

“Friend,” said the Brahmin, “either thou or I must be blind.”

Just then one of the accomplice’s came up. “Praised be the gods,” said
this second rogue, “that I have been saved the trouble of going to the
market for a sheep! This is such a sheep as I wanted. For how much wilt
thou sell it?” When the Brahmin heard this, his mind waved to and fro,
like one swinging in the air at a holy festival. “Sir,” said he to the
new comer, “take heed what thou dost; this is no sheep, but an unclean

“Oh Brahmin,” said the new comer, “thou art drunk or mad!”

At this time the third confederate drew near. “Let us ask this man,”
 said the Brahmin, “what the creature is, and I will stand by what he
shall say.” To this the others agreed; and the Brahmin called out, “Oh
stranger, what dost thou call this beast?”

“Surely, oh Brahmin,” said the knave, “it is a fine sheep.” Then the
Brahmin said, “Surely the gods have taken away my senses;” and he asked
pardon of him who carried the dog, and bought it for a measure of rice
and a pot of ghee, and offered it up to the gods, who, being wroth at
this unclean sacrifice, smote him with a sore disease in all his joints.

Thus, or nearly thus, if we remember rightly, runs the story of the
Sanscrit Æsop. The moral, like the moral of every fable that is worth
the telling, lies on the surface. The writer evidently means to caution
us against the practices of puffers, a class of people who have more
than once talked the public into the most absurd errors, but who surely
never played a more curious or a more difficult trick than when they
passed Mr. Robert Montgomery off upon the world as a great poet. {190}In
an age in which there are so few readers that a writer cannot subsist
on the sum arising from the sale of his works, no man who has not an
independent fortune can devote himself to literary pursuits, unless he
is assisted by patronage. In such an age, accordingly, men of letters
too often pass their lives in dangling at the heels of the wealthy and
powerful; and all the faults which dependence tends to produce, pass
into their character. They become the parasites and slaves of the great.
It is melancholy to think how many of the highest and most exquisitely
formed of human intellects have been condemned to the ignominious labour
of disposing the commonplaces of adulation in new forms and brightening
them into new splendour. Horace invoking Augustus in the most
enthusiastic language of religious veneration, Statius flattering a
tyrant, and the minion of a tyrant, for a morsel of bread, Ariosto
versifying the whole genealogy of a niggardly patron, Tasso extolling
the heroic virtues of the wretched creature who locked him up in a
mad-house, these are but a few of the instances which might easily be
given of the degradation to which those must submit who, not possessing
a competent fortune, are resolved to write when there are scarcely any
who read.

This evil the progress of the human mind tends to remove. As a taste for
books becomes more and more common, the patronage of individuals becomes
less and less necessary. In the middle of the last century a marked
change took place. The tone of literary men, both in this country and in
France, became higher and more independent. Pope boasted that he was
the “one poet” who had “pleased by manly ways;” he derided the
soft dedications with which Halifax had been fed, asserted his own
superiority over the pensioned Boileau, {191}and gloried in being not
the follower, but the friend, of nobles and princes. The explanation of
all this is very simple. Pope was the first Englishman who, by the
mere sale of his writings, realised a sum which enabled him to live
in comfort and in perfect independence. Johnson extols him for the
magnanimity which he showed in inscribing his Iliad not to a minister
or a peer, but to Congreve. In our time this would scarcely be a subject
for praise. Nobody is astonished when Mr. Moore pays a compliment of
this kind to Sir Walter Scott, or Sir Walter Scott to Mr. Moore. The
idea of either of those gentlemen looking out for some lord who would
be likely to give him a few guineas in return for a fulsome dedication
seems laughably incongruous. Yet this is exactly what Dryden or Otway
would have done; and it would be hard to blame them for it. Otway is
said to have been choked with a piece of bread which he devoured in the
rage of hunger; and, whether this story be true or false, he was beyond
all question miserably poor. Dryden, at near seventy, when at the head
of the literary men of England, without equal or second, received three
hundred pounds for his Fables, a collection of ten thousand verses,
and of such verses as no man then living, except himself, could have
produced. Pope, at thirty, had laid up between six and seven thousand
pounds, the fruits of his poetry. It was not, we suspect, because he had
a higher spirit or a more scrupulous conscience than his predecessors,
but because he had a larger income, that he kept up the dignity of the
literary character so much better than they had done.

From the time of Pope to the present day the readers have been
constantly becoming more and more numerous, and the writers,
consequently, more and more {192}independent. It is assuredly a great
evil that men, fitted by their talents and acquirements to enlighten and
charm the world, should be reduced to the necessity of flattering wicked
and foolish patrons in return for the sustenance of life. But, though
we heartily rejoice that this evil is removed, we cannot but see with
concern that another evil has succeeded to it. The public is now the
patron, and a most liberal patron. All that the rich and powerful
bestowed on authors from the the time of Mæcenas to that of Harley would
not, we apprehend, make up a sum equal to that which has been paid
by English booksellers to authors during the last fifty years. Men of
letters have accordingly ceased to court individuals, and have begun to
court the public. They formerly used flattery. They now use puffing.

Whether the old or the new vice be the worse, whether those who formerly
lavished insincere praise on others, or those who now contrive by
every art of beggary and bribery to stun the public with praises of
themselves, disgrace their vocation the more deeply, we shall not
attempt to decide. But of this we are sure, that it is high time to
make a stand against the new trickery. The puffing of books is now so
shamefully and so successfully carried on that it is the duty of all who
are anxious for the purity of the national taste, or for the honour of
the literary character, to join in discountenancing the practice. All
the pens that ever were employed in magnifying Bish’s lucky office,
Romanis’s fleecy hosiery, Packwood’s razor strops, and Rowland’s
Kalydor, all the placard-bearers of Dr. Eady, all the wall-chalkers of
Day and Martin, seem to have taken service with the poets and novelists
of this generation. Devices which in the lowest trades {193}are
considered as disreputable are adopted without scruple, and improved
upon with a despicable ingenuity, by people engaged in a pursuit which
never was and never will be considered as a mere trade by any man of
honour and virtue. A butcher of the higher class disdains to ticket his
meat. A mercer of the higher class would be ashamed to hang up papers in
his window inviting the passers-by to look at the stock of a bankrupt,
all of the first quality, and going for half the value. We expect some
reserve, some decent pride, in our hatter and our bootmaker. But no
artifice by which notoriety can be obtained is thought too abject for a
man of letters.

It is amusing to think over the history of most of the publications
which have had a run during the last few years. The publisher is often
the publisher of some periodical work. In this periodical work the first
flourish of trumpets is sounded. The peal is then echoed and re-echoed
by all the other periodical works over which the publisher, or the
author, or the author’s coterie, may have any influence. The newspapers
are for a fortnight filled with puffs of all the various kinds which
Sheridan enumerated, direct, oblique, and collusive. Sometimes the
praise is laid on thick for simple-minded people. “Pathetic,” “sublime,”
 “splendid,” “graceful,” “brilliant wit,” “exquisite humour,” and other
phrases equally flattering, fall, in a shower as thick and as sweet as
the sugar-plums at a Roman carnival. Sometimes greater art is used. A
sinecure has been offered to the writer if he would suppress his work,
or if he would even soften down a few of his incomparable portraits. A
distinguished military and political character has challenged the
inimitable satirist of the vices of the great; and the puffer is glad to
{194}learn that the parties have been bound over to keep the peace.
Sometimes it is thought expedient that the puffer should put on a grave
face, and utter his panegyric in the form of admonition. “Such attacks
on private character cannot be too much condemned. Even the exuberant
wit of our author, and the irresistible power of his withering sarcasm,
are no excuses for that utter disregard which he manifests for the
feelings of others. We cannot but wonder that a winter of such
transcendent talents, a writer who is evidently no stranger to the
kindly charities and sensibilities of our nature, should show so little
tenderness to the foibles of noble and distinguished individuals, with
whom it is clear, from every page of his work, that he must have been
constantly mingling in society.” These are but tame and feeble
imitations of the paragraphs with which the daily papers are filled
whenever an attorney’s clerk or an apothecary’s assistant undertakes to
tell the public in bad English and worse French, how people tie their
neckcloths and eat their dinners in Grosvenor Square. The editors of the
higher and more respectable newspapers usually prefix the words
“Advertisement,” or “From a Correspondent,” to such paragraphs. But this
makes little difference. The panegyric is extracted, and the significant
heading omitted. The fulsome eulogy makes its appearance on the covers
of all the Reviews and Magazines, with “Times” or “Globe” affixed,
though the editors of the Times and the Globe have no more to do with it
than with Mr. Goss’s way of making old rakes young again.

That people who live by personal slander should practise these arts is
not surprising. Those who stoop to write calumnious books may well stoop
to puff them; {195}and that the basest of all trades should be carried
on in the basest of all manners is quite proper and as it should be. But
how any man who has the least self-respect, the least regard for his
own personal dignity, can condescend to persecute the public with this
Rag-fair importunity, we do not understand. Extreme poverty may, indeed,
in some degree, be an excuse for employing these shifts, as it may be
an excuse for stealing a leg of mutton. But we really think that a man
of spirit and delicacy would quite as soon satisfy his wants in the one
way as in the other.

It is no excuse for an author that the praises of journalists are
procured by the money or influence of his publishers, and not by his
own. It is his business to take such precautions as may prevent others
from doing what must degrade him. It is for his honour as a gentleman,
and, if he is really a man of talents, it will eventually be for his
honour and interest as a writer, that his works should come before the
public recommended by their own merits alone, and should be discussed
with perfect freedom. If his objects be really such as he may own
without shame, he will find that they will, in the long run, be better
attained by suffering the voice of criticism to be fairly heard. At
present, we too often see a writer attempting to obtain literary fame as
Shakspeare’s usurper obtains sovereignty. The publisher plays Buckingham
to the author’s Richard. Some few creatures of the conspiracy are
dexterously disposed here and there in the crowd. It is the business of
these hirelings to throw up their caps, and clap their hands, and utter
their _vivas_. The rabble at first stare and wonder, and at last join in
shouting for shouting’s sake; and thus a crown is placed on a head which
has no right to it, by the huzzas of a few servile dependents. {196}The
opinion of the great body of the reading public is very materially
influenced even by the unsupported assertions of those who assume
a right to criticize. Nor is the public altogether to blame on this
account. Most even of those who have really a great enjoyment in reading
are in the same state, with respect to a book, in which a man who has
never given particular attention to the art of painting is with respect
to a picture. Every man who has the least sensibility or imagination
derives a certain pleasure from pictures. Yet a man of the highest and
finest intellect might, unless he had formed his taste by contemplating
the best pictures, be easily persuaded by a knot of connoisseurs that
the worst daub in Somerset House was a miracle of art. If he deserves
to be laughed at, it is not for his ignorance of pictures, but for his
ignorance of men. He knows that there is a delicacy of taste in
painting which he does not possess, that he cannot distinguish hands,
as practised judges distinguish them, that he is not familiar with the
finest models, that he has never looked at them with close attention,
and that, when the general effect of a piece has pleased him or
displeased him, he has never troubled himself to ascertain why. When,
therefore, people, whom he thinks more competent to judge than himself,
and of whose sincerity he entertains no doubt, assure him that a
particular work is exquisitely beautiful, he takes it for granted that
they must be in the right. He returns to the examination, resolved to
find or imagine beauties; and, if he can work himself up into something
like admiration, he exults in his own proficiency.

Just such is the manner in which nine readers out of ten judge of a
book. They are ashamed to dislike what men who speak as having authority
declare to be good. At present, however contemptible a poem {197}or a
novel may be, there is not the least difficulty in procuring favourable
notices of it from all sorts of publications, daily, weekly, and
monthly. In the mean time, little or nothing is said on the other side.
The author and the publisher are interested in crying up the book.
Nobody has any very strong interest in crying it down. Those who are
best fitted to guide the public opinion think it beneath them to expose
mere nonsense, and comfort themselves by reflecting that such popularity
cannot last. This contemptuous lenity has been carried too far. It is
perfectly true that reputations which have been forced into an unnatural
bloom fade almost as soon as they have expanded; nor have we any
apprehensions that puffing will ever raise any scribbler to the rank
of a classic. It is indeed amusing to turn over some late volumes of
periodical works, and to see how many immortal productions have, within
a few months, been gathered to the Poems of Blackmore and the novels
of Mrs. Behn; how many “profound views of human nature,” and “exquisite
delineations of fashionable manners,” and “vernal, and sunny, and
refreshing thoughts,” and “high imaginings,” and “young breathings,”
 and “embody-ings,” and “pinings,” and “minglings with the beauty of the
universe,” and “harmonies which dissolve the soul in a passionate sense
of loveliness and divinity,” the world has contrived to forget. The
names of the books and of the writers are buried in as deep an oblivion
as the name of the builder of Stonehenge. Some of the well puffed
fashionable novels of eighteen hundred and twenty-nine hold the pastry
of eighteen hundred and thirty; and others, which are now extolled in
language almost too high-flown for the merits of Don Quixote, will, we
have no doubt, line the trunks of eighteen {198}hundred and thirty-one.
But, though we have no apprehensions that puffing will ever confer
permanent reputation on the undeserving, we still think its influence
most pernicious. Men of real merit will, if they persevere, at last
reach the station to which they are entitled, and intruders will be
ejected with contempt and derision. But it is no small evil that the
avenues to fame should be blocked up by a swarm of noisy, pushing,
elbowing pretenders, who, though they will not ultimately be able to
make good their own entrance, hinder, in the mean time, those who have
a right to enter. All who will not disgrace themselves by joining in the
unseemly scuffle must expect to be at first hustled and shouldered back.
Some men of talents, accordingly, turn away in dejection from pursuits
in which success appears to bear no proportion to desert. Others
employ in self-defence the means by which competitors, far inferior to
themselves, appear for a time to obtain a decided advantage. There are
few who have sufficient confidence in their own powers and sufficient
elevation of mind to wait with secure and contemptuous patience, while
dunce after dunce presses before them. Those who will not stoop to the
baseness of the modern fashion are too often discouraged. Those who
stoop to it are always degraded.

We have of late observed with great pleasure some symptoms which lead us
to hope that respectable literary men of all parties are beginning to be
impatient of this insufferable nuisance. And we purpose to do what in
us lies for the abating of it. We do not think that we can more usefully
assist in this good work than by showing our honest countrymen what that
sort of poetry is which puffing can drive through eleven editions,
and how easy any bellman might, if a bellman {199}would stoop to the
necessary degree of meanness, become a “master-spirit of the age.” We
have no enmity to Mr. Robert Montgomery. We know nothing whatever about
him, except what we have learned from his books, and from the portrait
prefixed to one of them, in which he appears to be doing his very best
to look like a man of genius and sensibility, though with less success
than his strenuous exertions deserve. We select him, because his works
have received more enthusiastic praise, and have deserved more unmixed
contempt, than any which, as far as our knowledge extends, have appeared
within the last three or four years. His writing bears the same relation
to poetry which a Turkey carpet bears to a picture. There are colours in
a Turkey carpet out of which a picture might be made. There are words
in Mr. Montgomery’s writing which, when disposed in certain orders and
combinations, have made, and will again make, good poetry. But, as they
now stand, they seem to be put together on principle in such a manner
as to give no image of any thing “in the heavens above, or in the earth
beneath, or in the waters under the earth.”

The poem on the Omnipresence of the Deity commences with a description
of the creation, in which we can find only one thought which has the
least pretension to ingenuity, and that one thought is stolen from
Dryden, and marred in the stealing;

                   “Last, softly beautiful as music’s close,

                   Angelic woman into being rose."

The all-pervading influence of the Supreme Being is then described in
a few tolerable lines borrowed from Pope, and a great many intolerable
lines of Mr. Robert {200}Montgomery’s own. The following may stand as a

                   “But who could trace Thine unrestricted course,

                   Though Fancy follow’d with immortal force?

                   There’s not a blossom fondled by the breeze,

                   There’s not a fruit that beautifies the trees,

                   There’s not a particle in sea or air,

                   But nature owns thy plastic influence there!

                   With fearful gaze, still be it mine to see

                   How all is fill’d and vivified by Thee;

                   Upon thy mirror, earth’s majestic view,

                   To paint Thy Presence, and to feel it too."

The last two lines contain an excellent specimen of Mr. Robert
Montgomery’s Turkey-carpet style of writing. The majestic view of
earth is the mirror of God’s presence; and on this mirror Mr. Robert
Montgomery paints God’s presence. The use of a mirror, we submit, is not
to be painted upon.

A few more lines, as bad as those which we have quoted, bring us to one
of the most amusing instances of literary pilfering which we remember.
It might be of use to plagiarists to know, as a general rule, that what
they steal is, to employ a phrase common in advertisements, of no use to
any but the right owner. We never fell in, however, with any plunderer
who so little understood how to turn his booty to good account as Mr.
Montgomery. Lord Byron, in a passage which every body knows by heart,
has said, addressing the sea,

                   “Time writes no wrinkle on thine azure brow."

Mr. Robert Montgomery very coolly appropriates the image and reproduces
the stolen goods in the following form:

                   “And thou, vast Ocean, on whose awful face

                   Time’s iron feet can print no ruin-trace."

So may such ill got gains ever prosper! {201}The effect which the Ocean
produces on Atheists is then described in the following: lofty lines:

O v

                   “Oh! never did the dark-soul’d Atheist stand,

                   And watch the breakers boiling on the strand,

                   And, while Creation stagger’d at his nod,

                   Mock the dread presence of the mighty God!

                   We hear Him in the wind-heaved ocean’s roar,

                   Hurling her billowy crags upon the shore;

                   We hear Him in the riot of the blast,

                   And shake, while rush the raving whirlwinds past!”

If Mr. Robert Montgomery’s genius were not far too free and aspiring to
be shackled by the rules of syntax, we should suppose that it is at the
nod of the Atheist that creation staggers. But Mr. Robert Montgomery’s
readers must take such grammar as they can get, and be thankful.

A few more lines bring us to another instance of unprofitable theft. Sir
Walter Scott has these lines in the Lord of the Isles:

                        “The dew that on the violet lie?

                        Mocks the dark lustre of thine eyes.”

This is pretty taken separately, and, as is always the case with the
good things of good writers, much prettier in its place than can even
be conceived by those who see it only detached from the context. Now for
Mr. Montgomery:

                   “And the bright dew-bead on the bramble lies,

                   Like liquid rapture upon beauty’s eyes."

The comparison of a violet, bright with the dew, to a woman’s eyes, is
as perfect as a comparison can be. Sir Walter’s lines are part of a song
addressed to a woman at daybreak, when the violets are bathed in dew;
and the comparison is therefore peculiarly natural and graceful. Dew on
a bramble is no more like a woman’s eyes than dew anywhere else. There
is a very {202}pretty Eastern tale of which the fate of plagiarists
often reminds us. The slave of a magician saw his master wave his wand,
and heard him give orders to the spirits who arose at the summons. The
slave stole the wand, and waved it himself in the air; but he had
not observed that his master used the left hand for that purpose. The
spirits thus irregularly summoned tore the thief to pieces instead of
obeying his orders. There are very few who can safely venture to conjure
with the rod of Sir Walter; and Mr. Robert Montgomery is not one of

Mr. Campbell, in one of his most pleasing pieces, has this line,

                   “The sentinel stars set their watch in the sky."

The thought is good, and has a very striking propriety where Mr.
Campbell has placed it, in the mouth of a soldier telling his dream.
But, though Shakspeare assures us that “every true man’s apparel fits
your thief,” it is by no means the case, as we have already seen, that
every true poet’s similitude fits your plagiarist. Let us see how Mr.
Robert Montgomery uses the image:

                   "Ye quenchless stars! so eloquently bright,

                   Untroubled sentries of the shadowy night,

                   While half the world is lapp’d in downy dreams,

                   And round the lattice creep your midnight beams,

                   How sweet to gaze upon your placid eyes,

                   In lambent beauty looking from the skies."

Certainly the ideas of eloquence, of untroubled repose, of placid eyes,
on the lambent beauty of which it is sweet to gaze, harmonize admirably
with the idea of a sentry.

We would not be understood, however, to say, that Mr. Robert Montgomery
cannot make similitudes for himself. A very few lines further on, we
find one {203}which has every mark of originality, and on which, we will
be bound, none of the poets whom he has plundered will ever think of
making reprisals:

                   “The soul, aspiring, pants its source to mount,

                   As streams meander level with their fount."

We take this to be, on the whole, the worst similitude in the world. In
the first place, no stream meanders, or can possibly meander, level with
its fount. In the next place, if streams did meander level with
their founts, no two motions can be less like each other than that of
meandering level and that of mounting upwards.

We have then an apostrophe to the Deity, couched in terms which, in any
writer who dealt in meanings, we should call profane, but to which we
suppose Mr. Robert Montgomery attaches no idea whatever.

                   “Yes! pause and think, within one fleeting hour,

                   How vast a universe obeys Thy power;

                   Unseen, but felt, Thine interfused control

                   Works in each atom, and pervades the whole;

                   Expands the blossom, and erects the tree,

                   Conducts each vapour, and commands each sea,

                   Beams in each ray, bids whirlwinds be unfurl’d,

                   Unrolls the thunder, and upheaves a world!”

No field-preacher surely ever carried his irreverent familiarity so
far as to bid the Supreme Being stop and think on the importance of the
interests which are under his care. The grotesque indecency of such an
address throws into shade the subordinate absurdities of the passage,
the unfurling of whirlwinds, the unrolling of thunder, and the upheaving
of worlds.

Then comes a curious specimen of our poet’s English:

                        “Yet not alone created realms engage

                        Thy faultless wisdom, grand, primeval sage!

                        For all the thronging woes to life allied

                        Thy mercy tempers, and Thy cares provide."

{204}We should be glad to know what the word “For” means here. If it is
a preposition, it makes nonsense of the words, “Thy mercy tempers.” If
it is an adverb, it makes nonsense of the words, “Thy cares provide.”

These beauties we have taken, almost at random, from the first part of
the poem. The second part is a series of descriptions of various events,
a battle, a murder, an execution, a marriage, a funeral, and so forth.
Mr. Robert Montgomery terminates each of these descriptions by assuring
us that the Deity was present at the battle, murder, execution,
marriage, or funeral in question. And this proposition, which might be
safely predicated of every event that ever happened or ever will happen,
forms the only link which connects these descriptions with the subject
or with each other.

How the descriptions are executed our readers are probably by this time
able to conjecture. The battle is made up of the battles of all ages
and nations: “red-mouthed cannons, uproaring to the clouds,” and “hands
grasping firm the glittering shield.” The only military operations of
which this part of the poem reminds us, are those which reduced the
Abbey of Quedlinburgh to submission, the Templar with his cross, the
Austrian and Prussian grenadiers in full uniform, and Curtius and
Dentatus with their battering-ram. We ought not to pass unnoticed the
slain war-horse, who will no more

                   “Roll his red eye, and rally for the fight;"

or the slain warrior who, while “lying on his bleeding breast,”
 contrives to “stare ghastly and grimly on the skies.” As to this last
exploit, we can only say, as Dante did on a similar occasion,

                        “Forse per forza gia di’ parlasia

                        Si stravolse lost alenn del tutto:

                        Ma iô nol vidi, nè credo clie sia."

{205}The tempest is thus described:

               “But lo! around the marsh’lling clouds unite,

               Like thick battalions halting for the fight;

               The sun sinks back, the tempest spirits sweep

               Fierce through the air, and flutter on the deep.

               Till from their caverns rush the maniac blasts,

               Tear the loose sails, and split the creaking masts,

               And the lash’d billows, rolling in a train,

               Rear their white heads, and race along the main!”

What, we should like to know, is the difference between the two
operations which Mr. Robert Montgomery so accurately distinguishes from
each other, the fierce sweeping of the tempest-spirits through the air,
and the rushing of the maniac blasts from their caverns? And why does
the former operation end exactly when the latter commences?

We cannot stop over each of Mr. Robert Montgomery’s descriptions. We
have a shipwrecked sailor, who “visions a viewless temple in the air;”
 a murderer who stands on a heath, “with ashy lips, in cold convulsion
spread;” a pious man, to whom, as he lies in bed at night,

                   “The panorama of past life appears,

                   Warms his pure mind, and melts it into tears;"

a traveller, who loses his way, owing to the thickness of the
“cloud-battalion,” and the want of “heaven-lamps, to beam their holy
light.” We have a description of a convicted felon, stolen from that
incomparable passage in Crabbe’s Borough, which has made many a rough
and cynical reader cry like a child. We can, however, conscientiously
declare that persons of the most excitable sensibility may safely
venture upon Mr. {206}Robert Montgomery’s version. Then we have the
“poor, mindless, pale-faced maniac boy,” who

                             Rolls his vacant eye,

                   To greet the glowing fancies of the sky.”

What are the glowing fancies of the sky? And what is the meaning of the
two lines which almost immediately follow?

               “A soulless thing, a spirit of the woods,

               He loves to commune with the fields and floods."

How can a soulless thing be a spirit? Then comes a panegyric on the
Sunday. A baptism follows; after that a marriage: and we then proceed,
in due course, to the visitation of the sick, and the burial of the

Often as Death has been personified, Mr. Montgomery has found something
new to say about him.

               “O Death! though dreadless vanquisher of earth,

               The Elements shrank blasted at thy birth!

               Careering round the world like tempest wind,

               Martyrs before, and victims strew’d behind;

               Ages on ages cannot grapple thee,

               Dragging the world into eternity!”

If there be any one line in this passage about which we are more in the
dark than about the rest, it is the fourth. What the difference may
be between the victims and the martyrs, and why the martyrs are to lie
before Death, and the victims behind him, are to us great mysteries.

We now come to the third part, of which we may say with honest Cassio,
“Why, this is a more excellent song than the other.” Mr. Robert
Montgomery is very severe on the infidels, and undertakes to prove,
that, as he elegantly expresses it,

                One great Enchanter helm’d the harmonious whole"

What an enchanter has to do with helming, or what a {207}helm has to do
with harmony, he does not explain. He proceeds with his argument thus:

               “And dare men dream that dismal Chance has framed

               All that the eye perceives, or tongue has named;

               The spacious world, and all its wonders, born

               Designless, sell-created, and forlorn;

               Like to the flashing bubbles on a stream,

               Fire from the cloud, or phantom in a dream?"

We should be sorry to stake our faith in a higher Power on Mr. Robert
Montgomery’s logic. He informs us that lightning is designless and
self-created. If he can believe this, we cannot conceive why he may not
believe that the whole universe is designless and self-created. A few
lines before, he tells us that it is the Deity who bids “thunder rattle
from the skiey deep.” His theory is therefore this, that God made the
thunder, but that the lightning made itself.

But Mr. Robert Montgomery’s metaphysics are not at present our game. He
proceeds to set forth the fearful effects of Atheism.

               “Then, blood-stain’d Murder, bare thy hideous arm,

               And thou, Rebellion, welter in thy storm:

               Awake, ye spirits of avenging crime;

               Burst from your bonds, and battle with the time!”

Mr. Robert Montgomery is fond of personification, and belongs, we need
not say, to that school of poets who hold that nothing more is necessary
to a personification in poetry than to begin a word with a capital
letter. Murder may, without impropriety, bare her arm, as she did long
ago, in Mr. Campbell’s Pleasures of Hope. But what possible motive
Rebellion can have for weltering in her storm, what avenging crime may
be, who its spirits may be, why they should burst from their bonds, what
their bonds may be, why they should battle with the time, what the
time may be, and {208}what a battle between the time and the spirits of
avenging crime would resemble, we must confess ourselves quite unable to

                   “And here let Memory turn her tearful glance

                   On the dark horrors of tumultuous France,

                   When blood and blasphemy defiled her land,

                   And fierce Rebellion shook her savage hand."

Whether Rebellion shakes her own hand, shakes the hand of Memory, or
shakes the hand of France, or what any one of these three metaphors
would mean, we know no more than we know what is the sense of the
following passage:

               “Let the foul orgies of infuriate crime

               Picture the raging havoc of that time,

               When leagued Rebellion march’d to kindle man,

               Fright in her rear, and Murder in her van.

               And thou, sweet flower of Austria, slaughter’d Queen,

               Who dropp’d no tear upon the dreadful scene,

               When gush’d the life-blood from thine angel form,

               And martyr’d beauty perish’d in the storm,

               Once worshipp’d paragon of all who saw,

               Thy look obedience, and thy smile a law."

What is the distinction between the foul orgies and the raging havoc
which the foul orgies are to picture? Why does Fright go behind
Rebellion, and Murder before? Why should not Murder fall behind Fright?
Or why should not all the three walk abreast? We have read of a hero who

               “Amazement in his van, with flight combined,

               And Sorrow’s faded form, and Solitude behind."

Gray, we suspect, could have given a reason for disposing the
allegorical attendants of Edward thus. But to proceed, “Flower of
Austria” is stolen from Byron. “Dropp’d” is false English. “Perish’d
in the storm” means nothing at all; and “thy look obedience’’ means the
very reverse of what Mr. Robert Montgomery intends to say. {209}Our poet
then proceeds to demonstrate the immortality of the soul:

               “And shall the soul, the fount of reason, die,

               When dust and darkness round its temple lie?

               Did God breathe in it no ethereal fire,

               Dimless and quenchless, though the breath expire?"

The soul is a fountain; and therefore it is not to die, though dust
and darkness lie round its temple, because an ethereal fire has been
breathed into it, which cannot be quenched though its breath expire.
Is it the fountain, or the temple, that breathes, and has fire breathed
into it?

Mr. Montgomery apostrophizes the

                   “Immortal beacons,--spirits of the just,"

and describes their employments in another world, which are to be,
it seems, bathing in light, hearing fiery streams flow, and riding on
living cars of lightning. The deathbed of the sceptic is described with
what we suppose is meant for energy. We then have the deathbed of a
Christian made as ridiculous as false imagery and false English can make
it. But this is not enough. The Day of Judgment is to be described,
and a roaring cataract of nonsense is poured forth upon this tremendous
subject. Earth, we are told, is dashed into Eternity. Furnace blazes
wheel round the horizon, and burst into bright wizard phantoms. Racing
hurricanes unroll and whirl quivering fire-clouds. The white waves
gallop. Shadowy worlds career around. The red and raging eye of
Imagination is then forbidden to pry further. But further Mr. Robert
Montgomery persists in prying. The stars bound through the airy roar.
The unbosomed deep yawns on the ruin. The billows of Eternity then begin
to advance. {210}The world glares in fiery slumber. A car comes forward
driven by living thunder.

                   “Creation shudders with sublime dismay,

                   And in a blazing tempest whirls away."

And this is fine poetry! This is what ranks its writer with the
master-spirits of the age! This is what has been described, over and
over again, in terms which would require some qualification if used
respecting Paradise Lost! It is too much that this patchwork, made by
stitching together old odds and ends of what, when new, was but tawdry
frippery, is to be picked off the dunghill on which it ought to rot, and
to be held up to admiration as an inestimable specimen of art. And what
must we think of a system by means of which verses like those which we
have quoted, verses fit only for the poet’s corner of the Morning Post,
can produce emolument and fame? The circulation of this writer’s
poetry has been greater than that of Southey’s Roderick, and beyond all
comparison greater than that of Cary’s Dante or of the best works of
Coleridge. Thus encouraged Mr. Robert Montgomery has favoured the public
with volume after volume. We have given so much space to the examination
of his first and most popular performance that we have none to spare
for his Universal Prayer, and his smaller poems, which, as the puffing
journals tell us, would alone constitute a sufficient title to literary
immortality. We shall pass at once to his last publication, entitled

This poem was ushered into the world with the usual roar of acclamation.
But the thing was now past a joke. Pretensions so unfounded, so
impudent, and so successful, had aroused a spirit of resistance. In
several magazines and reviews, accordingly, Satan has been handled
somewhat roughly, and the arts of the {211}puffers have been exposed
with good sense and spirit. We shall, therefore, be very concise.

Of the two poems we rather prefer that on the Omnipresence of the Deity,
for the same reason which induced Sir Thomas More to rank one bad book
above another. “Marry, this is somewhat. This is rhyme. But the other
is neither rhyme nor reason.” Satan is a long soliloquy, which the Devil
pronounces in five or six thousand lines of bad blank verse, concerning
geography, polities, newspapers, fashionable society, theatrical
amusements, Sir Walter Scott’s novels, Lord Byron’s poetry, and Mr.
Martin’s pictures. The new designs for Milton have, as was natural,
particularly attracted the attention of a personage who occupies so
conspicuous a place in them. Mr. Martin must be pleased to learn that,
whatever may be thought of those performances on earth, they give full
satisfaction in Pandæmonium, and that he is there thought to have hit
off the likenesses of the various Thrones and Dominations very happily.

The motto to the poem of Satan is taken from the Book of Job: “Whence
comest thou? From going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and down
in it.” And certainly Mr. Robert Montgomery has not failed to make his
hero go to and fro, and walk up and down. With the exception, however,
of this propensity to locomotion, Satan has not one Satanic quality. Mad
Tom had told us that “the prince of darkness is a gentleman” but we
had yet to learn that he is a respectable and pious gentleman, whose
principal fault is that he is something of a twaddle and far too liberal
of his good advice. That happy change in his character which Origen
anticipated, and of which Tillotson did not despair, seems to be rapidly
taking {212}place. Bad habits are not eradicated in a moment.

It is not strange, therefore, that so old an offender should now and
then relapse for a short time into wrong dispositions. But to give him
his due, as the proverb recommends, we must say that he always returns,
after two or three lines of impiety, to his preaching style. We
would seriously advise Mr. Montgomery to omit or alter about a hundred
lines in different parts of this large volume, and to republish it under
the name of “Gabriel.” The reflections of which it consists would
come less absurdly, as far as there is a more and a less in extreme
absurdity, from a good than from a bad angel.

We can afford room only for a single quotation. We give one taken at
random, neither worse nor better, as far as we can perceive, than any
other equal number of lines in the book. The Devil goes to the play, and
moralises thereon as follows:

               “Music and Pomp their mingling spirits shed

               Around me; beauties in their cloud-like robes

               Shine forth,--a scenic paradise, it glares

               Intoxication through the reeling sense

               Of flush’d enjoyment. In the motley host

               Three prime gradations may be rank’d: the first,

               To mount upon the wings of Shakspeare’s mind,

               And win a flash of his Promethean thought,--

               To smile and weep, to shudder, and achieve

               A round of passionate omnipotence,

               Attend: the second, are a sensual tribe,

               Convened to hear romantic harlots sing,

               On forms to banquet a lascivious gaze,

               While the bright perfidy of wanton eyes

               Through brain and spirit darts delicious fire:

               The last, a throng most pitiful! who seem,

               With their corroded figures, rayless glance,

               And death-like struggle of decaying age,

               Like painted skeletons in charnel pomp

               Set forth to satirize the human kind!--

               How fine a prospect for demoniac view!

               ‘Creatures whose souls outbalance worlds awake!’

               Methinks I hear a pitying angel cry."

{213}Here we conclude. If our remarks give pain to Mr. Robert
Montgomery, we are sorry for it. But, at whatever cost of pain to
individuals, literature must be purified from this taint, And, to show
that we are not actuated by any feelings of personal enmity towards him,
we hereby give notice that, as soon as any book shall, by means of
puffing, reach a second edition, our intention is to do unto the writer
of it as we have done unto Mr. Robert Montgomery.


(_Edinburgh Review_, July 1830.)

We {214}did not expect a good book from Mr. Sadler: and it is well
that we did not; for he has given us a very bad one. The matter of his
treatise is extraordinary; the manner more extraordinary still. His
arrangement is confused, his repetitions endless, his style everything
which it ought not to be. Instead of saying what he has to say with the
perspicuity, the precision, and the simplicity in which consists the
eloquence proper to scientific writing, he indulges without measure in
vague, bombastic declamation, made up of those fine things which boys of
fifteen admire, and which everybody, who is not destined to be a boy
all his life, weeds vigorously out of his compositions after
five-and-twenty. That portion of his two thick volumes which is not
made up of statistical tables, consists principally of ejaculations,
apostrophes, metaphors, similes,--all the worst of their respective
kinds. His thoughts are dressed up in this shabby finery with so much
profusion and so little discrimination, that they remind us of a company
of wretched strolling players, who have huddled on suits of ragged and
faded tinsel, taken from a common wardrobe, and fitting neither their

     (1) _The Law of Population: a Treatise in Six Books, in
     Disproof of the Perfecundity of Human Beings, and
     developing the real Principle of their Increase_. By Michael
     Thomas Sadlek, M. P. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1830.

{215}nor their parts; and who then exhibit themselves to the laughing
and pitying spectators, in a state of strutting, ranting, painted,
gilded beggary. “Oh, rare Daniels!”

“Political economist, go and do thou likewise!”

“Hear, ye political economists and anti-populationists!” “Population, if
not proscribed and worried down by the Cerberean dogs of this wretched
and cruel system, really does press against the level of the means of
subsistence, and still elevating that level, it continues thus to
urge society through advancing stages, till at length the strong
and resistless hand of necessity presses the secret spring of human
prosperity, and the portals of Providence fly open, and disclose to the
enraptured gaze the promised land of contented and rewarded labour.”
 These are specimens, taken at random, of Mr. Sadler’s eloquence. We
could easily multiply them; but our readers, we fear, are already
inclined to cry for mercy.

Much blank verse and much rhyme is also scattered through these volumes,
sometimes rightly quoted, sometimes wrongly,--sometimes good, sometimes
insufferable,--sometimes taken from Shakspeare, and sometimes, for aught
we know, Mr. Sadler’s own. “Let man,” cries the philosopher, “take heed
how he rashly violates his trust;” and thereupon he breaks forth into
singing as follows:

               “What myriads wait in destiny’s dark womb,

               Doubtful of life or an eternal tomb!

               ’Tis his to blot them from the book of fate,

               Or, like a second Deity, create;

               To dry the stream of being in its source,

               Or bid it, widening, win its restless course;

               While, earth and heaven replenishing, the flood

               Rolls to its Ocean fount, and rests in God."

If these lines are not Mr. Sadler’s, we heartily beg {216}his pardon
for our suspicion--a suspicion which, we acknowledge, ought not to be
lightly entertained of any human being. We can only say that we never
met with them before, and that we do not much care how long it may be
before we meet with them, or with any others like them, again.

The spirit of this work is as bad as its style. We never met with a book
which so strongly indicated that the writer was in a good humour with
himself, and in a bad humour with everybody else; which contained so
much of that kind of reproach which is vulgarly said to be no slander,
and of that kind of praise which is vulgarly said to be no commendation.
Mr. Malthus is attacked in language which it would be scarcely decent to
employ respecting Titus Oates. “Atrocious,” “execrable,” “blasphemous,”
 and other epithets of the same kind, are poured forth against that able,
excellent, and honourable man, with a profusion which in the early part
of the work excites indignation, but, after the first hundred pages,
produces mere weariness and nausea. In the preface, Mr. Sadler excuses
himself on the plea of haste. Two-thirds of his book, he tells us, were
written in a few months. If any terms have escaped him which can be
construed into personal disrespect, he shall deeply regret that he had
not more time to revise them. We must inform him that the tone of his
book required a very different apology; and that a quarter of a year,
though it is a short time for a man to be engaged in writing a book, is
a very long time for a man to be in a passion.

The imputation of being in a passion Mr. Sadler will not disclaim. His
is a theme, he tells us, on which “it were impious to be calm;” and he
boasts that, “instead of conforming to the candour of the present age,
he has {217}imitated the honesty of preceding ones, in expressing
himself with the utmost plainness and freedom throughout.” If Mr. Sadler
really wishes that the controversy about his new principle of population
should be carried on with all the license of the seventeenth century, we
can have no personal objections. We are quite as little afraid of a
contest in which quarter shall be neither given nor taken as he can be.
But we would advise him seriously to consider, before he publishes the
promised continuation of his work, whether he be not one of that class
of writers who stand peculiarly in need of the candour which he insults,
and who would have most to fear from that unsparing severity which he
practises and recommends.

There is only one excuse for the extreme acrimony with which this book
is written; and that excuse is but a bad one. Mr. Sadler imagines that
the theory of Mr. Malthus is inconsistent with Christianity, and even
with the purer forms of Deism. Now, even had this been the case, a
greater degree of mildness and self-command than Mr. Sadler has shown
would have been becoming in a writer who had undertaken to defend the
religion of charity. But, in fact, the imputation which has been thrown
on Mr. Malthus and his followers is so absurd as scarcely to deserve
an answer. As it appears, however, in almost every page of Mr. Sadler’s
book, we will say a few words respecting it.

Mr. Sadler describes Mr. Malthus’s principle in the following words:--

“_It pronounces that there exists an evil in the principle of
population; an evil, not accidental, but inherent; not of occasional
occurrence, but in perpetual operation; not light, transient, or
mitigated, but productive of miseries, compared with which all those
inflicted by human institutions, that is to say, by the weakness
{218}and wickedness of man, however instigated, are ‘light: an evil,
finally, for which there is no remedy save one, which had been long
overlooked, and which is now enunciated in terms which evince anything
rather than confidence. It is a principle, moreover, pre-eminently bold,
as well as ‘clear.’ With a presumption, to call it by no fitter name,
of which it may be doubted whether literature, heathen or Christian,
furnishes a parallel, it professes to trace this supposed evil to its
source, ‘the laws of nature, which are those of God;’ thereby implying,
and indeed asserting, that the law by which the Deity multiplies his
offspring, and that by which he makes provision for their sustentation,
are different, and, indeed, irreconcilable_.”

“This theory,” he adds, “in the plain apprehension of the many, lowers
the character of the Deity in that attribute, which, as Rousseau has
well observed, is the most essential to him, his goodness; or otherwise,
impugns his wisdom.”

Now nothing is more certain than that there is physical and moral
evil in the world. Whoever, therefore, believes, as we do most
firmly believe, in the goodness of God must believe that there is
no incompatibility between the goodness of God and the existence
of physical and moral evil. If, then, the goodness of God be not
incompatible with the existence of physical and moral evil, on
what grounds does Mr. Sadler maintain that the goodness of God is
incompatible with the law of population laid down by Mr. Malthus?

Is there any difference between the particular form of evil which would
be produced by over-population, and other forms of evil which we know
to exist in the world? It is, says Mr. Sadler, not a light or transient
evil, but a great and permanent evil. What then? The question of the
origin of evil is a question of ay or no,--not a question of more
or less. If any explanation can be found by which the slightest
inconvenience {219}ever sustained by any sentient being can be
reconciled with the divine attribute of benevolence, that explanation
will equally apply to the most dreadful and extensive calamities that
can ever afflict the human race. The difficulty arises from an apparent
contradiction in terms; and that difficulty is as complete in the case
of a headache which lasts for an hour as in the case of a pestilence
which unpeoples an empire,--in the case, of the gust which makes us
shiver for a moment as in the case of the hurricane in which an Armada
is cast away.

It is, according to Mr. Sadler, an instance of presumption unparalleled
in literature, heathen or Christian, to trace an evil to “the laws of
nature, which are those of God,” as its source. Is not hydrophobia
an evil? And is it not a law of nature that hydrophobia should be
communicated by the bite of a mad dog? Is not malaria an evil? And is it
not a law of nature that in particular situations the human frame should
be liable to malaria? We know that there is evil in the world. If it is
not to be traced to the laws of nature, how did it come into the world?
Is it supernatural? And, if we suppose it to be supernatural, is not the
difficulty of reconciling it with the divine attributes as great as if
we suppose it to be natural? Or, rather, what do the words natural and
supernatural mean when applied to the operations of the Supreme Mind?

Mr. Sadler has attempted, in another part of his work, to meet these
obvious arguments, by a distinction without a difference.

“_The scourges of human existence, as necessary regulators of the
numbers of mankind, it is also agreed by some, are not inconsistent with
the wisdom or benevolence of the Governor of the {220}universe; though
such think that it is a mere after-concern to ‘reconcile the undeniable
state of the fact to the attributes we assign to the Deity.’ ‘The
purpose of the earthquake,’ say they, ‘the hurricane, the drought, or
the famine, by which thousands, and sometimes almost millions, of the
human race, are at once overwhelmed, or left the victims of lingering
want, is certainly inscrutable.’ How singular is it that a sophism like
this, so false, as a mere illustration, should pass for an argument,
as it has long done! The principle of population is declared to be
naturally productive of evils to mankind, and as having that constant
and manifest tendency to increase their numbers beyond the means
of their subsistence, which has produced the unhappy and disgusting
consequences so often enumerated. This is, then, its universal tendency
or rule. But is there in Nature the same constant tendency to these
earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts, and famines, by which so many
myriads, if not millions, are overwhelmed or reduced at once to ruin?
No; these awful events are strange exceptions to the ordinary course
of things; their visitations are partial, and they occur at distant
intervals of time. While Religion has assigned to them a very solemn
office, Philosophy readily refers them to those great and benevolent
principles of Nature by which the universe is regulated. But were there
a constantly operating tendency to these calamitous occurrences; did we
feel the earth beneath us tremulous, and giving ceaseless and certain
tokens of the coming catastrophe of nature; were the hurricane heard
mustering its devastating powers, and perpetually muttering around us;
were the skies ‘like brass,’ without a cloud to produce one genial drop
to refresh the thirsty earth, and famine, consequently, visibly on the
approach; I say, would such a state of things, as resulting from the
constant laws of Nature, be ‘reconcilable with the attributes we assign
to the Deity,’ or with any attributes which in these inventive days
could be assigned to him, so as to represent him as anything but the
tormentor, rather than the kind benefactor, of his creatures? Life, in
such a condition, would be like the unceasingly threatened and miserable
existence of Damocles at the table of Dionysius, and the tyrant himself
the worthy image of the Deity of the anti-populationists_.”

Surely this is wretched trifling. Is it on the number of bad harvests,
or of volcanic eruptions, that this {221}great question depends? Mr.
Sadler’s piety, it seems, would be proof against one rainy summer, but
would be overcome by three or four in succession. On the coasts of the
Mediterranean, where earthquakes are rare, he would be an optimist.
South America would make him a sceptic, and Java a decided Manichean,
To say that religion assigns a solemn office to these visitations is
nothing to the purpose. Why was man so constituted as to need such
warnings? It is equally unmeaning to say that philosophy refers these
events to benevolent general laws of nature. In so far as the laws of
nature produce evil, they are clearly not benevolent. They may produce
much good. But why is this good mixed with evil? The most subtle and
powerful intellects have been labouring for centuries to solve these
difficulties. The true solution, we are inclined to think, is that which
has been rather suggested, than developed, by Paley and Butler. But
there is not one solution which will not apply quite as well to the
evils of over population as to any other evil. Many excellent people
think that it is presumptuous to meddle with such high questions at all,
and that, though there doubtless is an explanation, our faculties are
not sufficiently enlarged to comprehend that explanation. This mode of
getting rid of the difficulty, again, will apply quite as well to the
evils of over-population as to any other evils. We are sure that those
who humbly confess their inability to expound the great enigma act more
rationally and more decorously than Mr. Sadler, who tells us, with the
utmost confidence, which are the means and which the ends,--which the
exceptions and which the rules, in the government of the universe;--who
consents to bear a little evil without denying the divine benevolence,
{222}but distinctly announces that a certain quantity of dry weather or
stormy weather would force him to regard the Deity as the tyrant of his

The great discovery by which Mr. Sadler has, as he conceives, vindicated
the ways of Providence is enounced with all the pomp of capital letters.
We must particularly beg that our readers will peruse it with attention.

“_No one fact relative to the human species is more clearly ascertained,
whether by general observation or actual proof, than that their
fecundity varies in different communities and countries. The principle
which effects this variation, without the necessity of those cruel
and unnatural expedients so frequently adverted to, constitutes what I
presume to call The Law of Population; and that law may be thus briefly

“The Prolificness of human beings, otherwise similarly CIRCUMSTANCED,

“The preceding definition may be thus amplified and explained.
Premising, as a mere truism, that marriages under precisely similar
circumstances will, on the average, be equally fruitful everywhere,
I proceed to state, first, that the prolificness of a given number
of marriages will, all other circumstances being the same, vary
in proportion to the condensation of the population, so that that
prolificness shall be greatest where the numbers on an equal space are
the fewest, and, on the contrary, the smallest where those numbers are
the largest_.”

Mr. Sadler, at setting out, abuses Mr. Malthus for enouncing his theory
in terms taken from the exact sciences. “Applied to the mensuration of
human fecundity,” he tells us, “the most fallacious of all things is
geometrical demonstration;” and he again informs us that those “act an
irrational and irreverent part who affect to measure the mighty depth
of God’s mercies by their arithmetic, and to demonstrate, by their
geometrical ratios, that it is inadequate to receive and {223}contain
the efflux of that fountain of life which is in Him.”

It appears, however, that it is not to the use of mathematical words,
but only to the use of those words in their right senses that Mr. Sadler
objects. The law of inverse variation, or inverse proportion, is as much
a part of mathematical science as the law of geometric progression. The
only difference in this respect between Mr. Malthus and Mr. Sadler is,
that Mr. Malthus knows what is meant by geometric progression, and
that Mr. Sadler has not the faintest notion of what is meant by inverse
variation. Had he understood the proposition which he has enounced with
so much pomp, its ludicrous absurdity must at once have flashed on his

Let it be supposed that there is a tract in the back settlements of
America, or in New South Wales, equal in size to London, with only a
single couple, a man and his wife, living upon it. The population of
London, with its immediate suburbs, is now probably about a million and
a half. The average fecundity of a marriage in London is, as Mr. Sadler
tells us, 2.35. How many children will the woman in the back settlements
bear according to Mr. Sadler’s theory? The solution of the problem is
easy. As the population in this tract in the back settlements is to
the population of London, so will be the number of children born from a
marriage in London to the number of children born from the marriage
of this couple in the back settlements. That is to say-- 2:1,500,000::

The lady will have 1,762,500 children: a large “efflux of the fountain
of life,” to borrow Mr. Sadler’s sonorous rhetoric, as the most
philoprogenitive parent could possibly desire. {224}But let us, instead
of putting cases of our own, look at some of those which Mr. Sadler has
brought forward in support of his theory. The following table, he tells
us, exhibits a striking proof of the truth of his main position. It
seems to us to prove only that Mr. Sadler does not know what inverse
proportion means.

[Illustration: 0230]

Is 1 to 160 as 3.66 to 5.48? If Mr. Sadler’s principle were just, the
number of children produced by a marriage at the Cape would be, not
5.48, but very near 600. Or take America and France. Is 4 to 140 as
4.22 to 5.22? The number of births to a marriage in North America ought,
according to this proportion, to be about 150.

Mr. Sadler states the law of population in England thus:--

“Where the inhabitants are found to be on the square mile, From 50 to
100 (2 counties) the births to 100 marriages are 420

     --100 to 150 (9 counties).... 396
     --150 to 200 (16 counties)... 390
     --200 to 250 (4 counties).... 388
     --250 to 300 (5 counties).... 378
     --300 to 350 (3 counties).... 353
     --500 to 600 (2 counties).... 331
     --4000 and upwards (1 county) 246

“Now, I think it quite reasonable to conclude, that, were there {225}not
another document in existence relative to this subject, the facts thus
deduced from the census of England are fully sufficient to demonstrate
the position, that the fecundity of human beings varies inversely as
their numbers. How, I ask, can it be evaded?”

What, we ask, is there to evade? Is 246 to 420 as 50 to 4000? Is 331 to
396 as 100 to 500? If the law propounded by Mr. Sadler were correct,
the births to a hundred marriages in the least populous part of England,
would be, 246 X 4000 50, that is 19,680,--nearly two hundred children to
every mother. But we will not carry on these calculations. The absurdity
of Mr. Sadler’s proposition is so palpable that it is unnecessary
to select particular instances. Let us see what are the extremes of
population and fecundity in well-known countries. The space which Mr.
Sadler generally takes is a square mile. The population at the Cape of
Good Hope is, according to him, one to the square mile. That of London
is two hundred thousand to the square mile. The number of children at
the Cape, Mr. Sadler informs us, is 5.48 to a marriage. In London,
he states it at 2.35 to a marriage. Now how can that of which all the
variations lie between 2.35 and 5.48 vary, either directly or inversely,
as that which admits of all the variations between one and two hundred
thousand? Mr. Sadler evidently does not know the meaning of the word
proportion. A million is a larger quantity than ten. A hundred is a
larger quantity than five. Mr. Sadler thinks, therefore, that there is
no impropriety in saying that a hundred is to five as a million is to
ten, or in the inverse ratio of ten to a million. He proposes to prove
that the fecundity of marriages varies in inverse proportion to the
density of the population. But all that {226}he attempts to prove is
that, while the population increases from one to a hundred and sixty on
the square mile, the fecundity will diminish from 5.48 to 3.66; and that
again, while the population increases from one hundred and sixty to two
hundred thousand on the square mile, the fecundity will diminish from
3.66 to 2.35.

The proposition which Mr. Sadler enounces, without understanding the
words which he uses, would indeed, if it could be proved, set us at ease
as to the dangers of over-population. But it is, as we have shown, a
proposition so grossly absurd that it is difficult for any man to keep
his countenance while he repeats it. The utmost that Mr. Sadler has
ever attempted to prove is this,--that the fecundity of the human
race diminishes as population becomes more condensed,--but that the
diminution of fecundity bears a very small ratio to the increase
of population,--so that, while the population on a square mile is
multiplied two hundred-thousand-fold, the fecundity decreases by little
more than one-half.

Does this principle vindicate the honour of God? Does it hold out any
new hope or comfort to man? Not at all. We pledge ourselves to
show, with the utmost strictness of reasoning, from Mr. Sadler’s own
principles, and from facts of the most notorious description, that every
consequence which follows from the law of geometrical progression,
laid down by Mr. Mal-thus, will follow from the law, miscalled a law of
inverse variation, which has been laid down by Mr. Sadler.

London is the most thickly peopled spot of its size in the known world.
Therefore the fecundity of the population of London must, according to
Mr. Sadler, {227}be less than the fecundity of human beings living on
any other spot of equal size. Mr. Sadler tells us, that “the ratios
of mortality are influenced by the different degrees in which the
population is condensated; and that, other circumstances being;
similar, the relative number of deaths in a thinly-populated, or country
district, is less than that which takes place in towns, and in towns of
a moderate size less again than that which exists in large and populous
cities.” Therefore the mortality in London must, according to him, be
greater than in other places. But, though, according to Mr. Sadler, the
fecundity is less in London than elsewhere, and though the mortality is
greater there than elsewhere, we find that even in London the number of
births greatly exceeds the number of deaths. During the ten years which
ended with 1820, there were fifty thousand more baptisms than burials
within the bills of mortality. It follows, therefore, that, even within
London itself, an increase of the population is taking place by internal

Now, if the population of a place in which the fecundity is less and
the mortality greater than in other places still goes on increasing
by propagation, it follows that in other places the population will
increase, and increase still faster. There is clearly nothing in Mr.
Sadler’s boasted law of fecundity which will keep the population from
multiplying till the whole earth is as thick with human beings as St.
Giles’s parish. If Mr. Sadler denies this, he must hold that, in places
less thickly peopled than London, marriages may be less fruitful than
in London, which is directly contrary to his own principles; or that in
places less thickly peopled than London, and similarly situated, people
will die faster than in London, which is again directly contrary {228}to
his own principles. Now, if it follows, as it clearly does follow, from
Mr. Sadler’s own doctrines, that the human race might he stowed together
by three or four hundred to the acre, and might still, as far as the
principle of propagation is concerned, go on increasing, what advantage,
in a religious or moral point of view, has his theory over that of
Mr. Malthus? The principle of Mr. Malthus, says Mr. Sadler, leads to
consequences of the most frightful description. Be it so. But do not
all these consequences spring equally from his own principle? Revealed
religion condemns Mr. Malthus. Be it so. But Mr. Sadler must share in
the reproach of heresy. The theory of Mr. Malthus represents the Deity
as a Dionysius hanging the sword over the heads of his trembling slaves.
Be it so. But under what rhetorical figure are we to represent the Deity
of Mr. Sadler?

A man who wishes to serve the cause of religion ought to hesitate long
before he stakes the truth of religion on the event of a controversy
respecting facts in the physical world. For a time he may succeed in
making a theory which he dislikes unpopular by persuading the public
that it contradicts the Scriptures and is inconsistent with the
attributes of the Deity. But, if at last an overwhelming force of
evidence proves this maligned theory to be true, what is the effect of
the arguments by which the objector has attempted to prove that it is
irreconcilable with natural and revealed religion? Merely this, to make
men infidels. Like the Israelites, in their battle with the Philistines,
he has presumptuously and without warrant brought down the ark of God
into the camp as a means of ensuring victory:--and the consequence of
this profanation is that, when the battle is lost, the ark is taken.
{229}In every age the Church has been cautioned against this fatal
and impious rashness by its most illustrious members,--by the fervid
Augustin, by the subtle Aquinas, by the all-accomplished Pascal. The
warning has been given in vain. That close alliance which, under
the disguise of the most deadly enmity, has always subsisted between
fanaticism and atheism is still unbroken. At one time, the cry was,--“If
you hold that the earth moves round the sun, you deny the truth of the
Bible.” Popes, conclaves, and religious orders, rose up against the
Copernican heresy. But, as Pascal said, they could not prevent the earth
from moving, or themselves from moving along with it. One Bing, however,
they could do, and they did. They could teach numbers to consider the
Bible as a collection of old women’s stories which the progress of
civilisation and knowledge was refuting one by one. They had attempted
to show that the Ptolemaic system was as much a part of Christianity
as the resurrection of the dead. Was it strange, then, that, when the
Ptolemaic system became an object of ridicule to every man of education
in Catholic countries, the doctrine of the resurrection should be in
peril? In the present generation, and in our own country, the prevailing
system of geology has been, with equal folly, attacked on the ground
that it is inconsistent with the Mosaic dates. And here we have Mr.
Sadler, out of his especial zeal for religion, first proving that the
doctrine of superfecundity is irreconcilable with the goodness of God,
and then laying down principles, and stating facts, from which the
doctrine of superfecundity necessarily follows. This blundering piety
reminds us of the adventures of a certain missionary who went to convert
the inhabitants of Madagascar. The good father had {230}an audience of
the king, and began to instruct his majesty in the history of the human
race as given in the Scriptures. “Thus, sir,” said he, “was woman made
out of the rib of man, and ever since that time a woman has had one rib
more than a man.”

“Surely, father, you must be mistaken there,” said the king. “Mistaken!”
 said the missionary. “It is an indisputable fact. My faith upon it! My
life upon it!” The good man had heard the fact asserted by his nurse
when he was a child,--had always considered it as a strong confirmation
of the Scriptures, and fully believed it without having ever thought of
verifying it. The king ordered a man and woman, the leanest that could
be found, to be brought before him, and desired his spiritual instructor
to count their ribs. The father counted over and over, upward and
downward, and still found the same number in both. He then cleared his
throat, stammered, stuttered, and began to assure the king that, though
he had committed a little error in saving that a woman had more ribs
than a man, he was quite right in saying that the first woman was made
out of the rib of the first man. “How can I tell that?” said the king.
“You come to me with a strange story, which you say is revealed to you
from heaven. I have already made you confess that one half of it is a
lie: and how can you have the face to expect that I shall believe the
other half?”

We have shown that Mr. Sadler’s theory, if it be true, is as much a
theory of superfecundity as that of Mr. Malthus. But it is not true. And
from Mr. Sadler’s own tables we will prove that it is not true.

The fecundity of the human race in England Mr. Sadler rates as

[Illustration: 0237]

{231}"Where the inhabitants are found to be on the square mile--From 50
to 100 (2 counties) the births to 100 marriages are 420

     -- 100 to 150 (9 counties) ....396

     -- 150 to 200 (16 counties) ...390

     -- 200 to 250 (4 counties) ....388

     -- 250 to 300 (5 counties).....378

     -- 300 to 350 (3 counties) ....353

     -- 500 to 600 (2 counties) ....331

     -- 4000 and upwards (1 county).246

Having given this table, he begins, as usual, to boast and triumph.
“Were there not another document on the subject in existence,” says he,
“the facts thus deduced from the census of England are sufficient to
demonstrate the position, that the fecundity of human beings varies
inversely as their numbers.” In no case would these facts demonstrate
that the fecundity of human beings varies inversely as their numbers
in the right sense of the words inverse variation. But certainly
they would, “if there were no other document in existence,” appear to
indicate something like what Mr. Sadler means by inverse variation.
Unhappily for him, however, there are other documents in existence; and
he has himself furnished us with them. We will extract another of his

The result of his inquiries with respect to France he presents in the
following table:--

[Illustration: 0238]

Then comes the shout of exultation as regularly as the _Gloria Patri_
at the end of a Psalm. “Is there any possibility of gainsaying the
conclusions these facts force upon us; namely that the fecundity of
marriages is regulated by the density of the population, and inversely
to it?”

Certainly these tables, taken separately, look well for Mr. Sadler’s
theory. He must be a bungling gamester who cannot win when he is
suffered to pack the cards his own way. We must beg leave to shuffle
them a little; and we will venture to promise our readers that some
curious results will follow from the operation. In nine counties of
England, says Mr. Sadler, in which the population is from 100 to 150
on the square mile, the births to 100 marriages are 396. He afterwards
expresses some doubts as to the accuracy of the documents from which
this estimate has been formed, and rates the number of births as high as
414. Let him take his choice. We will allow him every advantage. {233}In
the table which we have quoted, numbered lxiv., he tells us that in
Almondness, where the population is 267 to the square mile, there are
415 births to 100 marriages. The population of Almondness is twice as
thick as the population of the nine counties referred to in the other
table. Yet the number of births to a marriage is greater in Almondness
than in those counties.

Once more, he tells us that in three counties, in which the population
was from 300 to 350 on the square mile, the births to 100 marriages were
353. He afterwards rates them at 375. Again we say, let him take his
choice. But from his table of the population of Lancashire it appears
that, in the hundred of Ley-land, where the population is 354 to the
square mile, the number of births to 100 marriages is 391. Here again
we have the marriages becoming more fruitful as the population becomes

Let us now shuffle the censuses of England and France together. In two
English counties which contain from fifty to 100 inhabitants on the
square mile, the births to 100 marriages are, according to Mr. Sadler,
420. But in forty-four departments of France, in which there are from
one to two hecatares to each inhabitant, that is to say, in which the
population is from 125 to 250, or rather more, to the square mile, the
number of births to 100 marriages is 423 and a fraction.

Again, in five departments of France in which there is less than one
hecatare to each inhabitant, that is to sav, in which the population is
more than 250 to the square mile, the number of births to 100 marriages
is 414 and a fraction. But, in the four counties of England in which the
population is from 200 to 250 on the square mile, the number of births
to 100 marriages is, {234}according to one of Mr. Sadler’s tables, only
388, and by his very highest estimate no more than 402.

Mr. Sadler gives us a long table of all the towns of England and
Ireland, which, he tells us, irrefragably demonstrates his principle. We
assert, and will prove, that these tables are alone sufficient to upset
his whole theory.

It is very true that in the great towns the number of births to a
marriage appears to be smaller than in the less populous towns. But we
learn some other facts from these tables which we should be glad to
know how Mr. Sadler will explain. We find that the fecundity in towns of
fewer than 3,000 inhabitants is actually much greater than the average
fecundity of the kingdom, and that the fecundity in towns of between
3,000 and 4,000 inhabitants is at least as great as the average
fecundity of the kingdom. The average fecundity of a marriage in towns
of fewer than 3,000 inhabitants is about four; in towns of between 3,000
and 4,000 inhabitants it is 3.60. Now the average fecundity of England,
when it contained only 160 inhabitants to a square mile, and when,
therefore, according to the new law of population, the fecundity must
have been greater than it now is, was only, according to Mr. Sadler,
3.66 to a marriage. To proceed,--the fecundity of a marriage in the
English towns of between 4,000 and 5,000 inhabitants is stated at 3.56.
But, when we turn to Mr. Sadler’s table of the counties, we find the
fecundity of a marriage in Warwickshire and Staffordshire rated at only
3.48, and in Lancashire and Surrey at only 3.41.

These facts disprove Mr. Sadler’s principle; and the fact on which he
lays so much stress--that the fecundity is less in the great towns
than in the small {235}towns--does not tend in any degree to prove his
principle. There is not the least reason to believe that the population
is more dense, _on a given space_, in London or Manchester than in a
town of 4,000 inhabitants. But it is quite certain that the population
is more dense in a town of 4,000 inhabitants than in Warwickshire or
Lancashire. That the fecundity of Manchester is less than the fecundity
of Sandwich or Guildford is a circumstance which has nothing whatever
to do with Mr. Sadler’s theory. But that the fecundity of Sandwich
is greater than the average fecundity of Kent,--that the fecundity of
Guildford is greater than the average fecundity of Surrey,--as from his
own tables appears to be the case,--these are facts utterly inconsistent
with his theory.

We need not here examine why it is that the human race is less fruitful
in great cities than in small towns or in the open country. The fact has
long been notorious. We are inclined to attribute it to the same causes
which tend to abridge human life in great cities,--to general sickliness
and want of tone, produced by close air and sedentary employments. Thus
far, and thus far only, we agree with Mr. Sadler, that, when population
is crowded together in such masses that the general health and energy of
the frame are impaired by the condensation, and by the habits attending
on the condensation, then the fecundity of the race diminishes. But this
is evidently a check of the same class with war, pestilence, and famine.
It is a check for the operation of which Mr. Malthus has allowed.

That any condensation which does not affect the general health will
affect fecundity, is not only not proved--it is disproved--by Mr.
Sadler’s own tables. {236}Mr. Sadler passes on to Prussia, and sums up
his information respecting that country as follows:--

[Illustration: 0242]

After the table comes the boast as usual:

“_Thus is the law of population deduced from the registers of Prussia
also; and were the argument to pause here, it is conclusive. The
results obtained from the registers of this and the preceding countries
exhibiting, as they do most clearly, the principle of human increase,
it is utterly impossible should have been the work of chance; on the
contrary, the regularity with which the facts class themselves in
conformity with that principle, and the striking analogy which the whole
of them bear to each other, demonstrate equally the design of Nature,
and the certainty of its accomplishment._”

We are sorry to disturb Mr. Sadler’s complacency. But, in our opinion,
this table completely disproves his whole principle. If we read the
columns perpendicularly, indeed, they seem to be in his favour. But how
stands the case if we read horizontally? Does Mr. Sadler believe
that, during the thirty years which elapsed between 1754 and 1784, the
population of Prussia had been diminishing? No fact in history is better
ascertained than that, during the long peace which followed the seven
years’ war, it increased with great rapidity. Indeed, if the fecundity
were what Mr. Sadler states it to have been, it must have increased with
great {237}rapidity. Yet, the ratio of births to marriages is greater
in 1784 than in 1754, and that in every province. It is, therefore,
perfectly clear that the fecundity does not diminish whenever the
density of the population increases.

We will try another of Mr. Sadler’s tables:

[Illustration: 0243]

Standing by itself, this table, like most of the others, seems to
support Mr. Sadler’s theory. But surely London, at the close of the
seventeenth century, was far more thickly peopled than the kingdom
of England now is. Yet the fecundity in London at the close of the
seventeenth century was 4; and the average fecundity of the whole
kingdom now is not more, according to Mr. Sadler, than 3.5 Then, again,
the large towns in 1700 were far more thickly peopled than Westmorland
and the North Riding of Yorkshire now are. Yet the fecundity in those
large towns was then 4.5. And Mr. Sadler tells us that it is now only
4.2 in Westmorland and the North Riding.

It is scarcely necessary to say any thing about the {238}censuses of
the Netherlands, as Mr. Sadler himself confesses that there is some
difficulty in reconciling them with his theory, and helps out his
awkward explanation by supposing, quite gratuitously, as it seems to us,
that the official documents are inaccurate. The armament which he has
drawn from the United States will detain us but for a very short time.
He has not told us,--perhaps he had not the means of telling us,--what
proportion the number of births in the different parts of that country
bears to the number of marriages. He shows that in the thinly-peopled
states the number of children bears a greater proportion to the number
of grown-up people than in the old states; and this, he conceives, is a
sufficient proof that the condensation of the population is unfavourable
to fecundity. We deny the inference altogether. Nothing can be more
obvious than the explanation of the phenomenon. The back settlements
are for the most part peopled by emigration from the old states; and
emigrants are almost always breeders. They are almost always vigorous
people in the prime of life. Mr. Sadler himself, in another part of
his book, in which he tries very unsuccessfully to show that, the
rapid multiplication of the people of America is principally owing to
emigration from Europe, states this fact in the plainest manner:

“_Nothing is more certain, than that emigration is almost universally
supplied by ‘single persons in the beginning of mature life;’ nor,
secondly, that such persons, as Dr. Franklin long ago asserted, ‘marry
and raise families.’

“Nor is this all. It is not more true, that emigrants, generally
speaking, consist of individuals in the prime of life’, than that ‘they
are the most active and vigorous’ of that age, as Dr. Sey-bert describes
them to be. They are, as it respects the principle at issue, a select
class, even compared with that of their own age generally considered.
Their very object in leaving their native {239}countries is to settle
in life, a phrase that needs no explanation; and they do so. No equal
number of human beings, therefore, have ever given so large or rapid an
increase to a community as ‘settlers’ have invariably done_.”

It is perfectly clear that children are more numerous in the back
settlements of America than in the maritime states, not because
unoccupied land makes people prolific, but because the most prolific
people go to the unoccupied laud.

Mr. Sadler having, as he conceives, fully established his theory of
population by statistical evidence, proceeds to prove, “that it is
in unison, or rather required by the principles of physiology.” The
difference between himself and his opponents he states as follows:--

“_In pursuing this part of my subject, I must begin by reminding the
reader of the difference between those who hold the superfecundity of
mankind and myself, in regard to those principles which will form the
basis of the present argument. They contend, that production precedes
population; I, on the contrary, maintain that population precedes, and
is indeed the cause of, production. They teach that man breeds up to the
capital, or in proportion to the abundance of the food, he possesses; I
assert, that he is comparatively sterile when he is wealthy, and that
he breeds in proportion to his poverty; not meaning, however, by that
poverty, a state of privation approaching to actual starvation, any more
than, I suppose, they would contend, that extreme and culpable excess
is the grand patron of population. In a word, they hold that a state
of ease and affluence is the great promoter of prolificness: I maintain
that a considerable degree of labour, and even privation, is a more
efficient cause of an increased degree of human fecundity._”

To prove this point he quotes Aristotle, Hippocrates, Dr. Short, Dr.
Gregory, Dr. Perceval, M. Villermi, Lord Bacon, and Rousseau. We will
not dispute about it; for it seems quite clear to us that if he succeeds
{240}in establishing it he overturns his own theory. If men breed in
proportion to their poverty, as he tells us here,--and at the same time
breed in inverse proportion to their numbers, as he told us before,--it
necessarily follows that the poverty of men must be in inverse
proportion to their numbers. Inverse proportion, indeed, as we have
shown, is not the phrase which expresses Mr. Sadler’s meaning. To
speak more correctly, it follows, from his own positions, that, if one
population be thinner than another, it will also be poorer. Is this the
fact? Mr. Sadler tells us, in one of those tables which we have already
quoted, that in the United States the population is four to a square
mile, and the fecundity 5,22 to a marriage, and that in Russia the
population is twenty-three to a square mile, and the fecundity 4.94 to
a marriage. Is the North American labourer poorer than the Russian boor?
If not, what becomes of Mr. Sadler’s argument?

The most decisive proof of Mr. Sadler’s theory, according to him, is
that which he has kept for the last. It is derived from the registers of
the English Peerage. The Peers, he says, and says truly, are the
class with respect to whom we possess the most accurate statistical

“_Touching their number, this has been accurately known and recorded
ever since the order has existed in the country. For several centuries
past, the addition to it of a single individual has been a matter of
public interest and notoriety: this hereditary honour conferring not
personal dignity merely, but important privileges, and being almost
always identified with great wealth and influence. The records relating
to it are kept with the most scrupulous attention, not only by heirs
and expectants, but they are appealed to by more distant connections, as
conferring distinction on all who can claim such affinity. Hence there
are few disputes concerning successions to this rank, but such as go
back {241}to very remote periods. In later times, the marriages, births,
and deaths, of the nobility, have not only been registered by and known
to those personally interested, but have been published periodically,
and, consequently, subject to perpetual correction and revision; while
many of the most powerful motives which can influence the human mind
conspire to preserve these records from the slightest falsification.
Compared with these, therefore, all other registers, or reports, whether
of sworn searchers or others, are incorrectness itself_.”

Mr. Sadler goes on to tell us that the Peers are a marrying class, and
that their general longevity proves them to be a healthy class. Still
peerages often become extinct;--and from this fact he infers that they
are a sterile class. So far, says he, from increasing in geometrical
progression, they do not even keep up their numbers. “Nature interdicts
their increase.”

“_Thus,” says he, “in all ages of the world, and in every nation of it,
have the highest ranks of the community been the most sterile, and
the lowest the most prolific. As it respects our own country, from the
lowest grade of society, the Irish peasant, to the highest, the British
peer, this remains a conspicuous truth; and the regulation of the degree
of fecundity conformably to this principle, through the intermediate
gradations of society, constitutes one of the features of the system
developed in these pages._”

We take the issue which Mr. Sadler has himself offered. W agree with
him, that the registers of the English Peerage are of far higher
authority than any other statistical documents. We are content that
by those registers his principles should be judged. And we meet him by
positively denying his facts. We assert that the English nobles are not
only not a sterile, but an eminently prolific, part of the community.
Mr. Sadler concludes that they are sterile, merely because peerages
often become extinct. Is this the proper way of ascertaining the
point? Is it thus that he avails {242}himself of those registers on the
accuracy and fulness of which he descants so largely? Surely his right
course would have been to count the marriages, and the number of births
in the Peerage. This he has not done;--but we have done it. And what is
the result?

It appears from the last edition of Debrett’s _Peerage_, published in
1828, that there were at that time 287 peers of the United Kingdom,
who had been married once or oftener. The whole number of marriages
contracted by these 287 peers was 388. The number of children by these
marriages was 1437,--more than five to a peer,--more than 4.3 to a
marriage,--more, that is to sav, than the average number in those
counties of England in which, according to Mr. Sadler’s own statement,
the fecundity is the greatest.

But this is not all. These marriages had not, in 1828, produced their
full effect. Some of them had been very lately contracted. In a very
large proportion of them there was every probability of additional
issue. To allow for this probability, we may safely add one to the
average which we have already obtained, and rate the fecundity of a
noble marriage in England at 5.3;--higher than the fecundity which Mr.
Sadler assigns to the people of the United States. Even if we do not
make this allowance, the average fecundity of the marriages of peers is
higher by one-fifth than the average fecundity of marriages throughout
the kingdom. And this is the sterile class! This is the class which
“nature has interdicted from increasing!” The evidence to which Mr.
Sadler has himself appealed proves that his principle is false,--utterly
false,--wildly and extravagantly false. It proves that a class.
{243}living during half of every year in the most crowded population
in the world, breeds faster than those who live in the country;--that
the class which enjoys the greatest degree of luxury and ease breeds
faster than the class which undergoes labour and privation. To talk
a little in Mr. Sadler’s style, we must own that we are ourselves
surprised at the results which our examination of the peerage has
brought out. We certainly should have thought that the habits of
fashionable life, and long residence even in the most airy parts of
so great a city as London, would have been more unfavourable to the
fecundity of the higher orders than they appear to be.

Peerages, it is true, often become extinct. But it is quite clear, from
what we have stated, that this is not because peeresses are barren.
There is no difficulty in discovering what the causes really are. In the
first place, most of the titles of our nobles are limited to heirs male;
so that, though the average fecundity of a noble marriage is upwards
of five, yet, for the purpose of keeping up a peerage, it cannot be
reckoned at much more than two and a half. Secondly, though the peers
are, as Mr. Sadler says, a marrying class, the younger sons of peers are
decidedly not a marrying class; so that a peer, though he has at least
as great a chance of having a son as his neighbours, has less chance
than they of having a collateral heir.

We have now disposed, we think, of Mr. Sadler’s principle of population.
Our readers must, by this time, be pretty well satisfied as to his
qualifications for setting up theories of his own. We will, therefore,
present them with a few instances of the skill and fairness which he
shows when he undertakes to null down the theories of other men. The
doctrine {244}of Mr. Malthus, that population, if not checked by want,
by vice, by excessive mortality, or by the prudent self-denial of
individuals, would increase in a geometric progression, is, in Mr.
Sadler’s opinion, at once false and atrocious.

“It may at once be denied,” says he, “that human increase proceeds
geometrically; and for this simple but decisive reason, that the
existence of a geometrical ratio of increase in the works of nature,
is neither true nor possible. It would fling into utter confusion all
order, time, magnitude, and space.”

This is as curious a specimen of reasoning as any that has been offered
to the world since the days when theories were founded on the principle
that nature abhors a vacuum. We proceed a few pages farther, however;
and we then find that geometric progression is unnatural only in those
cases in which Mr. Malthus conceives that it exists; and that, in all
cases in which Mr. Malthus denies the existence of a geometric ratio,
nature changes sides, and adopts that ratio as the rule of increase.

Mr. Malthus holds that subsistence will increase only in an arithmetical
ratio. “As far as nature has to do with the question,” says Mr. Sadler,
“men might, for instance, plant twice the number of peas, and breed
from a double number of the same animals, with equal prospect of their
multiplication.” Now, if Mr. Sadler thinks that, as far as nature is
concerned, four sheep will double as fast as two, and eight as fast as
four, how can he deny that the geometrical ratio of increase does
exist in the works of nature? Or has he a definition of his own for
geometrical progression, as well as for inverse proportion?

Mr. Malthus, and those who agree with him, have {245}generally referred
to the United States, as a country in which the human race increases in
a ‘geometrical ratio, and have fixed on twenty-five years as the term in
which the population of that country doubles itself. Mr. Sadler contends
that it is physically impossible for a people to double in twenty-five
years; nay, that thirty-five years is far too short a period,--that
the Americans do not double by procreation in less than forty-seven
years,--and that the rapid increase of their numbers is produced by
emigration from Europe.

Emigration has certainly had some effect in increasing the population of
the United States. But so great has the rate of that increase been that,
after making frill allowance for the effect of emigration, there win be
a residue, attributable to procreation alone, amply sufficient to double
the population in twenty-five years.

Mr. Sadler states the results of the four censuses as follows:--

“_There were, of white inhabitants, in the whole of the United States
in 1790, 3,093,111; in 1800, 4,309,656; in 1810, 5,862,093; and in 1820,
7,861,710. The increase, in the first term, being 39 per cent.; that in
the second, 36 per cent.; and that in the third and last, 33 per cent.
It is superfluous to say, that it is utterly impossible to deduce
the geometric theory of human increase, whatever be the period of
duplication, from such terms as these._”

Mr. Sadler is a bad arithmetician. The increase in the last term is
not, as he states it, 33 per cent., but more than 34 per cent. Now, an
increase of 32 per cent, in ten years, is more than sufficient to double
the population in twenty-five years. And there is, we think, very strong
reason to believe that the white population of the United States does
increase by 32 per cent, every ten years. {246}Our reason is this.
There is in the United States a class of persons whose numbers are not
increased by emigration,--the negro slaves. During the interval which
elapsed between the census of 1810 and the census of 1820, the change in
their numbers must have been produced by procreation, and by procreation
alone. Their situation, though much happier than that of the wretched
beings who cultivate the sugar plantations of Trinidad and Demerara,
cannot be supposed to be more favourable to health and fecundity than
that of free labourers. In 1810, the slave trade had been but recently
abolished; and there were in consequence many more male than female
slaves,--a circumstance, of course, very unfavourable to procreation.
Slaves are perpetually passing into the class of freemen; but no freeman
ever descends into servitude; so that the census will not exhibit the
whole effect of the procreation which really takes place.

We find, by the census of 1810, that the number of slaves in the Union
was then 1,191,000. In 1820, they had increased to 1,538,000. That is
to say, in ten years, they had increased 29 per cent.--within three
per cent of that rate of increase which would double their numbers
in twenty-five years. We may, we think, fairly calculate that, if the
female slaves had been as numerous as the males, and if no manumissions
had taken place, the census of the slave population would have exhibited
an increase of 32 per cent, in ten years.

If we are right in fixing on 32 per cent, as the rate at which the white
population of America increases by procreation in ten years, it will
follow that, during the last ten years of the eighteenth century, nearly
one-sixth of the increase was the effect of emigration; from {247}1800
to 1810, about one-ninth; and from 1810 to 1820, about one-seventeenth.
This is what we should have expected; for it is clear that, unless the
number of emigrants be constantly increasing, it must, as compared with
the resident population, be relatively decreasing. The number of persons
added to the population of the United States by emigration, between 1810
and 1820, would be nearly 120,000. From the data furnished by Mr.
Sadler himself, we should be inclined to think that this would be a fair

“_Dr. Seybert says, that the passengers to ten of the principal ports of
the United States, in the year 1817, amounted to 22,235; of whom 11,977
were from Great Britain and Ireland; 4,164 from Germany and Holland:
1,245 from France; 58 from Italy; 2,901 from the British possessions in
North America; 1,569 from the West Indies; and from all other countries,
321. These, however, we may conclude, with the editor of Styles’s
Register, were far short of the number that arrived_.”

We have not the honour of knowing either Dr. Seybert or the editor of
Styles’s Register. We cannot, therefore, decide on their respective
claims to our confidence so peremptorily as Mr. Sadler thinks fit to do.
Nor can we agree to what Mr. Sadler very gravely assigns as a reason for
disbelieving Dr. Seybert’s testimony. “Such accounts,” he says, “if not
wilfully exaggerated, must always fall short of the truth.” It would be
a curious question of casuistry to determine what a man ought to do in a
case in which he cannot tell the truth except by being guilty of wilful
exaggeration. We will, however, suppose, with Mr. Sadler, that Dr.
Seybert, finding himself compelled to choose between two sins, preferred
telling a falsehood to exaggerating; and that he has consequently
underrated the number of emigrants. We will take it at double of the
{248}Doctor’s estimate, and suppose that, in 1817, 45,000 Europeans
crossed to the United States. Now, it must be remembered that the year
1817 was a year of the severest and most general distress over all
Europe,--a year of scarcity everywhere, and of cruel famine in some
places. There can, therefore, be no doubt that the emigration of 1817
was very far above the average, probably more than three times that
of an ordinary year. Till the year 1815, the war rendered it almost
impossible to emigrate to the United States either from England or from
the Continent. If we suppose the average emigration of the remaining
years to have been 16,000, we shall probably not be much mistaken. In
1818 and 1819, the number was certainly much beyond that average; in
1815 and 1816, probably much below it. But, even if we were to suppose
that, in every year from the peace to 1820, the number of emigrants
had been as high as we have supposed it to be in 1817, the increase by
procreation among the white inhabitants of the United States would still
appear to be about 30 per cent, in ten years.

Mr. Sadler acknowledges that Cobbett exaggerates the number of emigrants
when he states it at 150,000 a year. Yet even this estimate, absurdly
great as it is, would not be sufficient to explain the increase of the
population of the United States on Mr. Sadler’s principles. He is,
he tells us, “convinced that doubling in 35 years is a far more rapid
duplication than ever has taken place in that country from procreation
only.” An increase of 20 per cent, in ten years, by procreation, would
therefore be the very utmost that he would allow to be possible. We have
already shown, by reference to the census of the slave population, that
this doctrine is quite absurd. And, if we suppose it to {249}be sound,
we shall be driven to the conclusion that above eight hundred thousand
people emigrated from Europe to the United States in a space of little
more than five years. The whole increase of the white population from
1810 to 1820 was within a few hundreds of 2,000,000. If we are to
attribute to procreation only 20 per cent, on the number returned by the
census of 1810, we shall have about 830,000 persons to account for in
some other way;--and to suppose that the emigrants who went to America
between the peace of 1815 and the census of 1820, with the children who
were born to them there, would make up that number, would be the height
of absurdity.

We could say much more; but we think it quite unnecessary at present. We
have shown that Mr. Sadler is careless in the collection of facts,--that
he is incapable of reasoning on facts when he has collected them,--that
he does not understand the simplest terms of science,--that he has
enounced a proposition of which he does not know the meaning,--that
the proposition which he means to enounce, and which he tries to prove,
leads directly to all those consequences which he represents as impious
and immoral,--and that, from the very documents to which he has himself
appealed, it may be demonstrated that his theory is false. We may,
perhaps, resume the subject when his next volume appears. Meanwhile, we
hope that he will delay its publication until he has learned a little
arithmetic, and unlearned a great deal of eloquence.


(_Edinburgh Review_, December 1830.)

This {250}is an eminently beautiful and splendid edition of a book
which well deserves all that the printer and the engraver can do for it.
The Life of Bunyan is, of course, not a performance which can add much
to the literary reputation of such a writer as Mr. Southey. But it is
written in excellent English, and, for the most part, in an excellent
spirit. Mr. Southey propounds, we need not say, many opinions from which
we altogether dissent; and his attempts to excuse the odious persecution
to which Bunyan was subjected have sometimes moved our indignation. But
we will avoid this topic. We are at present much more inclined to
join in paying homage to the genius of a great man than to engage in a
controversy concerning church-government and toleration.

We must not pass without notice the engravings with which this volume
is decorated. Some of Mr. Heath’s wood-cuts are admirably designed and
executed. Mr. Martin’s illustrations do not please us quite so well. His
Valley of the Shadow of Death is not that Valley of the Shadow of Death
which Bunyan imagined. At all events, it is not that dark and

     (1) _The Pilgrim’s Progress, with a Life of John Bunyan_. By
     Robert Southey, Esq., LL.D. Poet Laureate. Illustrated with
     Engravings. 8vo. London: 1830.

{251}horrible glen which has from childhood been in our mind’s eye.
The valley is a cavern: the quagmire is a lake: the straight path
runs zigzag: and Christian appears like a speck in the darkness of the
immense vault. We miss, too, those hideous forms which make so striking
a part of the description of Bunyan, and which Salvator Rosa would
have loved to draw. It is with unfeigned diffidence that we pronounce
judgment on any question relating to the art of painting. But it appears
to us that Mr. Martin has not of late been fortunate in his choice of
subjects. He should never have attempted to illustrate the Paradise
Lost. There can be no two manners more directly opposed to each other
than the manner of his painting and the manner of Milton’s poetry.
Those things which are mere accessories in the description! become the
principal objects in the pictures; and those figures which are most
prominent in the descriptions can be detected in the pictures only by a
very close scrutiny. Mr. Martin has succeeded perfectly in representing
the pillars and candelabra of Pandæimonium. But he has forgotten that
Milton’s Pandæmonium is merely the background to Satan. In the picture,
the Archangel is scarcely visible amidst the endless colonnades of his
infernal palace. Milton’s Paradise, again, is merely the background
to his Adam and Eve. But in Mr. Martin’s picture! the landscape is
everything. Adam, Eve, and Raphael attract much less notice than the
lake and the mountains, the gigantic flowers, and the giraffes which
feed upon them. We read that James the Second sat to Varelst, the great
flower-painter. When the performance was finished, his Majesty appeared
in the midst of a bower of sun-flowers and tulips, which completely drew
away all attention from the central figure. {252}All who looked at the
portrait took it for a flower-piece. Mr. Martin, we think, introduces
his immeasurable spaces, his innumerable multitudes, his gorgeous
prodigies of architecture and landscape, almost as unseasonably as
Varelst introduced his flower-pots and nosegays. If Mr. Martin were to
paint Lear in the storm, we suspect that the blazing sky, the sheets of
rain, the swollen torrents, and the tossing forest, would draw away all
attention from the agonies of the insulted king and father. If he were
to paint the death of Lear, the old man, asking the by-standers to undo
his button, would be thrown into the shade by a vast blaze of pavilions,
standards, armour, and heralds’ coats. Mr. Martin would illustrate the
Orlando Furioso well, the Orlando Innamorato still better, the Arabian
Nights best of all. Fairy palaces and gardens, porticoes of agate, and
groves flowering with emeralds and rubies, inhabited by people for whom
nobody cares, these are his proper domain. He would succeed admirably in
the enchanted ground of Alcina, or the mansion of Aladdin. But he should
avoid Milton and Bunyan.

The characteristic peculiarity of the Pilgrim’s Progress is that it is
the only work of its kind which possesses a strong human interest. Other
allegories only amuse the fancy. The allegory of Bunyan has been read by
many thousands with tears. There are some good allegories in Johnson’s
works, and some of still higher merit by Addison. In these performances
there is, perhaps, as much wit and ingenuity as in the Pilgrim’s
Progress. But the pleasure which is produced by the Vision of Mirza, the
Vision of Theodore, the genealogy of Wit, or the contest between Rest
and Labour, is exactly similar to the pleasure which we derive {253}from
one of Cowley’s odes or from a canto of Hudibras. It is a pleasure which
belongs wholly to the understanding, and in which the feelings have no
part whatever. Nay, even Spenser himself, though assuredly one of the
greatest poets that ever lived, could not succeed in the attempt to make
allegory interesting. It was in vain that he lavished the riches of his
mind on the House of Pride and the House of Temperance. One unpardonable
fault, the fault of tediousness, pervades the whole of the Fairy Queen.
We become sick of cardinal virtues and deadly sins, and long for the
society of plain men and women. Of the persons who read the first canto,
not one in ten reaches the end of the first book, and not one in a
hundred perseveres to the end of the poem. Very few and very weary are
those who are in at the death of the Blatant Beast. If the last six
books, which are said to have been destroyed in Ireland, had been
preserved. We doubt whether any heart less stout than that of a
commentator would have held out to the end.

It is not so with the Pilgrim’s Progress. That wonderful book, while it
obtains admiration from the most fastidious critics, is loved by those
who are too simple to admire it. Dr. Johnson, all whose studies were
desultory, and who hated, as he said, to read books through, made an
exception in favour of the Pilgrim’s Progress. That work was one of the
two or three works which he wished longer. It was by no common merit
that the illiterate sectary extracted praise like this from the most
pedantic of critics and the most bigoted of Tories. In the wildest parts
of Scotland the Pilgrim’s Progress is the delight of the peasantry: In
every nursery the Pilgrim’s Progress is a greater favourite than Jack
the Giant-killer. Every reader knows the {254}straight and narrow path
as well as he knows a road in which he has gone backward and forward a
hundred times. This is the highest miracle of genius, that things which
are not should he as though they were, that the imaginations of one mind
should become the personal recollections of another. And this
miracle the tinker has wrought. There is no ascent, no declivity,
no resting-place, no turn-stile, with which we are net perfectly
acquainted. The wicket gate, and the desolate swamp which separates it
from the City of Destruction, the long line of road, as straight as a
rule can make it, the Interpreter’s house and all its fair shows, the
prisoner in the iron cage, the palace, at the doors of which armed men
kept guard, and on the battlements of which walked persons clothed all
in gold, the cross and the sepulchre, the steep hill and the pleasant
arbour, the stately front of the House Beautiful by the wayside,
the chained lions crouching in the porch, the low green valley of
Humiliation, rich with grass and covered with flocks, all are as well
known to us as the sights of our own street. Then we come to the narrow
place where Apollyon strode right across the whole breadth of the way,
to stop the journey of Christian, and where afterwards the pillar was
set up to testify how bravely the pilgrim had fought the good fight.
As we advance, the valley becomes deeper and deeper. The shade of the
precipices on both sides falls blacker and blacker. The clouds gather
overhead. Doleful voices, the clanking of chains, and the rushing of
many feet to and fro, are heard through the darkness. The way, hardly
discernible in gloom, runs close by the mouth of the burning pit, which
sends forth its flames, its noisome smoke, and its hideous shapes, to
terrify the adventurer. Thence he goes on, {255}amidst the snares and
pitfalls, with the mangled bodies of those who have perished lying in
the ditch by his side. At the end of the long dark valley he passes the
dens in which the old giants dwelt, amidst the bones of those whom they
had slain.

Then the road passes straight on through a waste moor, till at length
the towers of a distant city appear before the traveller; and soon he is
in the midst of the innumerable multitudes of Vanity Fair. There are the
jugglers and the apes, the shops and the puppet-shows. There are Italian
Row, and French Row, and Spanish Row, and Britain Row, with their crowds
of buyers, sellers, and loungers, jabbering all the languages of the

Thence we go on by the little hill of the silver mine, and through
the meadow of lilies, along the bank of that pleasant river which is
bordered on both sides by fruit-trees. On the left branches off the path
leading to the horrible castle, the court-yard of which is paved with
the skulls of pilgrims; and right onward are the sheepfolds and orchards
of the Delectable Mountains.

From the Delectable Mountains, the way lies through the fogs and briers
of the Enchanted Ground, with here and there a bed of soft cushions
spread under a green arbour. And beyond is the land of Beulah, where the
flowers, the grapes, and the songs of birds never cease, and where the
sun shines night and day. Thence are plainly seen the golden pavements
and streets of pearl, on the other side of that black and cold river
over which there is no bridge.

All the stages of the journey, all the forms which cross or overtake the
pilgrims, giants, and hobgoblins, ill-favoured ones, and shining ones,
the tall, comely, swarthy Madame Bubble, with her great purse by her
side, {256}and her fingers playing with the money, the black man in the
bright vesture, Mr. Worldly Wiseman and my Lord Hategood, Mr. Talkative,
and Mrs. Timorous, all are actually existing beings to us. We follow the
travellers through their allegorical progress with interest not inferior
to that with which we follow Elizabeth from Siberia to Moscow, or Jeanie
Deans from Edinburgh to London. Bunyan is almost the only writer who
ever gave to the abstract the interest of the concrete. In the works of
many celebrated authors, men are mere personifications. We have not a
jealous man, but jealousy; not a traitor, but perfidy; not a patriot,
but patriotism. The mind of Bunyan, on the contrary, was so imaginative
that personifications, when he dealt with them, became men. A dialogue
between two qualities, in his dream, has more dramatic effect than a
dialogue between two human beings in most plays. In this respect the
genius of Bunyan bore a great resemblance to that of a man who had
very little else in common with him, Percy Bysshe Shelley. The strong
imagination of Shelley made him an idolater in his own despite. Out of
the most indefinite terms of a hard, cold, dark, metaphysical system,
he made a gorgeous Pantheon, full of beautiful, majestic, and lifelike
forms. He turned atheism itself into a mythology, rich with visions as
glorious as the gods that live in the marble of Phidias, or the virgin
saints that smile on us from the canvass of Murillo. The Spirit of
Beauty, the Principle of Good, the Principle of Evil, when he treated of
them, ceased to be abstractions. They took shape and colour. They were
no longer mere words; but “intelligible forms;” “fair humanities;”
 objects of love, of adoration, or of fear. As there can be no stronger
sign of a mind destitute of {257}the poetical faculty than that tendency
which was so common among the writers of the French school to turn
images Into abstractions, Venus, for example, into Love, Minerva into
Wisdom, Mars into War, and Bacchus into Festivity, so there can be no
stronger sign of a mind truly poetical than a disposition to reverse
this abstracting process, and to make individuals out of generalities.
Some of the metaphysical and ethical theories of Shelley were certainly
most absurd and pernicious. But we doubt whether any modern poet has
possessed in an equal degree some of the highest qualities of the great
ancient masters. The words bard and inspiration, which seem so cold and
affected when applied to other modern writers, have a perfect propriety
when applied to him. He was not an author, but a bard. His poetry seems
not to have been an art, but an inspiration. Had he lived to the full
age of man, he might not improbably have given to the world some great
work of the very highest rank in design and execution. But, alas!

[Illustration: 0263]

But we must return to Bunyan. The Pilgrim’s Progress undoubtedly is not
a perfect allegory. The types are often inconsistent with each other;
and sometimes the allegorical disguise is altogether thrown off. The
river, for example, is emblematic of death; and we are told that every
human being must pass through the river. But Faithful does not pass
through it. He is martyred, not in shadow, but in reality, at Vanity
Fair Hopeful talks to Christian about Esau’s birthright and about his
own convictions of sin as Bunyan might have talked with one of his own
congregation. The damsels at the House Beautiful catechize Christiana’s
{258}boys, as any good ladies might catechize any boys at a Sunday
School. But we do not believe that any man, whatever might be his
genius, and whatever his good luck, could long continue a figurative
history without falling into many inconsistencies. We are sure that
inconsistencies, scarcely less gross than the worst into which Bunyan
has fallen, may be found in the shortest and most elaborate allegories
of the Spectator and the Rambler. The Tale of a Tub and the History
of John Bull swarm with similar errors, if the name of error can be
properly applied to that which is unavoidable. It is not easy to make
a simile go on all-fours. But we believe that no human ingenuity could
produce such a centipede as a long allegory in which the correspondence
between the outward sign and the thing signified should be exactly
preserved. Certainly no writer, ancient or modern, has yet achieved the
adventure. The best thing, on the whole, that an allego-rist can do, is
to present to his readers a succession of analogies, each of which may
separately be striking and happy, without looking very nicely to see
whether they harmonize with each other. This Bunyan has done; and,
though a minute scrutiny may detect inconsistencies in every page of his
Tale, the general effect which the Tale produces on all persons, learned
and unlearned, proves that he has done well. The passages which it is
most difficult to defend are those in which he altogether drops the
allegory, and puts into the mouth of his pilgrims religious ejaculations
and disquisitions, better suited to his own pulpit at Bedford or Reading
than to the Enchanted Ground or to the Interpreter’s Garden. Yet even
these passages, though we will not undertake to defend them against the
objections of critics, we feel that we could ill spare. We {259}feel
that the story owes much of its charm to these occasional glimpses of
solemn and effecting subjects, which will not be hidden, which force
themselves through the veil, and appear before us in their native
aspect. The effect is not unlike that which is said to have been
produced on the ancient stage, when the eyes of the actor were seen
flaming through his mask, and giving life and expression to what would
else have been an inanimate and uninteresting disguise.

It is very amusing and very instructive to compare the Pilgrim’s
Progress with the Grace Abounding. The latter work is indeed one of the
most remarkable pieces of autobiography in the world. It is a full
and open confession of the fancies which passed through the mind of an
illiterate man, whose affections were warm, whose nerves were irritable,
whose imagination was ungovernable, and who was under the influence of
the strongest religious excitement. In whatever age Bunyan had lived,
the history of his feelings would, in all probability, have been very
curious. But the time in which his lot was cast was the time of a
great stirring of the human mind. A tremendous burst of public feeling,
produced by the tyranny of the hierarchy, menaced the old ecclesiastical
institutions with destruction. To the gloomy regularity of one
intolerant Church had succeeded the license of innumerable sects,
drunk with the sweet and heady must of their new liberty. Fanaticism,
engendered by persecution, and destined to engender persecution in turn,
spread rapidly through society. Even the strongest and most commanding
minds were not proof against this strange taint. Any time might have
produced George Fox and James Naylor. But to one time alone belong the
frantic delusions of such a statesman {260}as Vane, and the hysterical
tears of such a soldier as Cromwell.

The history of Bunyan is the history of a most excitable mind in an age
of excitement. By most of his biographers he has been treated with gross
injustice. They have understood in a popular sense all those strong
terms of self-condemnation which he employed in a theological sense.
They have, therefore, represented him as an abandoned wretch reclaimed
by means almost miraculous, or, to use their favourite metaphor, “as
a brand plucked from the burning.” Mr. Ivimey calls him the depraved
Bunyan and the wicked tinker of Elstow. Surely Mr. Ivimey ought to
have been too familiar with the bitter accusations which the most pious
people are in the habit, of bringing against themselves, to understand
literally all the strong expressions which are to be found in the Grace
Abounding. It is quite clear, as Mr. Southey most justly remarks, that
Bunyan never was a vicious man. He married very early; and he solemnly
declares that he was strictly faithful to his wife. He does not appear
to have been a drunkard. He owns, indeed, that, when a boy, he never
spoke without an oath. But a single admonition cured him of this bad
habit for life; and the cure must have been wrought early; for at
eighteen he was in the army of the Parliament; and, if he had
carried the vice of profaneness into that service, he would
doubtless have received something more than an admonition from
Serjeant Bind-their-kings-in-chains, or Captain
Hew-Agag-in-pieces-before-the-Lord. Bell-ringing and playing at hockey
on Sundays seem to have been the worst vices of this depraved tinker.
They would have passed for virtues with Archbishop Laud. It is quite
clear that, from a very early age, Bunyan was a man of a {261}strict
life and of a tender conscience. “He had been,” says Mr. Southey, “a
blackguard.” Even this we think too hard a censure. Bunyan was not, we
admit, so fine a gentleman as Lord Digby; but he was a blackguard
no otherwise than as every labouring man that ever lived has been a
blackguard. Indeed Mr. Southey acknowledges this. “Such he might have
been expected to be by his birth, breeding, and vocation. Scarcely
indeed, by possibility, could he have been otherwise.” A man whose
manners and sentiments are decidedly below those of his class deserves
to be called a blackguard. But it is surely unfair to apply so strong
a word of reproach to one who is only what the great mass of every
community must inevitably be.

Those horrible internal conflicts which Bunyan has described with so
much power of language prove, not that he was a worse man than his
neighbours, but that his mind was constantly occupied by religious
considerations, that his fervour exceeded his knowledge, and that his
imagination exercised despotic power over his body and mind. He heard
voices from heaven. He saw strange visions of distant hills, pleasant
and sunny as his own Delectable Mountains. From those abodes he was shut
out, and placed in a dark and horrible wilderness, where he wandered
through ice and snow, striving to make his way into the happy region of
light. At one time he was seized with an inclination to work miracles.
At another time he thought himself actually possessed by the devil. He
could distinguish the blasphemous whispers. He felt his infernal enemy
pulling at his clothes behind him. He spurned with his feet and struck
with his hands at the destroyer. Sometimes he was tempted to sell his
part in the salvation {262}of mankind. Sometimes a violent impulse urged
him to start up from his food, to fall on his knees, and to break forth
into prayer. At length he fancied that he had committed the unpardonable
sin. His agony convulsed his robust frame. He was, he says, as if his
breastbone would split; and this he took for a sign that he was destined
to burst asunder like Judas. The agitation of his nerves made all his
movements tremulous; and this trembling, he supposed, was a visible mark
of his reprobation, like that which had been set on Cain. At one time,
indeed, an encouraging voice seemed to rush in at the window, like the
noise of wind, but very pleasant, and commanded, as he says, a great
calm in his soul. At another time, a word of comfort “was spoke
loud unto him; it showed a great word; it seemed to be writ in great
letters.” But these intervals of ease were short: His state, during two
years and a half, was generally the most horrible that the human mind
can imagine. “I walked,” says he, with his own peculiar eloquence, “to
a neighbouring town; and sat down upon a settle in the street, and fell
into a very deep pause about the most fearful state my sin had brought
me to; and, after long musing, I lifted up my head; but methought I saw
as if the sun that shineth in the heavens did grudge to give me light;
and as if the very stones in the street, and tiles upon the houses, did
band themselves against me. Methought that they all combined together to
banish me out of the world. I was abhorred of them, and unfit to dwell
among them, because I had sinned against the Saviour. Oh, how happy now
was every creature over I! for they stood fast, and kept their station.
But I was gone and lost.” Scarcely any madhouse could produce an
instance of delusion so strong, or of misery so acute. {263}It was
through this Valley of the Shadow of Death, overhung by darkness,
peopled with devils, resounding with blasphemy and lamentation, and
passing amidst quagmires, snares, and pitfalls, close by the very mouth
of hell, that Bunyan journeyed to that bright and fruitful land
of Beulah, in which he sojourned during the latter period of his
pilgrimage. The only trace which his cruel sufferings and temptations
seem to have left behind them was an affectionate compassion for those
who were still in the state in which he had once been. Religion has
scarcely ever worn a form so calm and soothing as in his allegory.
The feeling which predominates through the whole book is a feeling of
tenderness for weak, timid, and harassed minds. The character of Mr.
Fearing, of Mr. Feeble-Mind, of Mr. Despondency and his daughter Miss
Muchafraid, the account of poor Littlefaith who was robbed by the three
thieves, of his spending money, the description of Christian’s terror in
the dungeons of Giant Despair and in his passage through the river, all
clearly show how strong a sympathy Runyan felt, after his own mind
had become clear and cheerful, for persons afflicted with religious

Mr. Southey, who has no love for the Calvinists, admits that, if
Calvinism had never worn a blacker appearance than in Bunyan’s works,
it would never have become a term of reproach. In fact, those works of
Bunyan with which we are acquainted are by no means more Calvinistic
than the articles and homilies of the Church of England. The moderation
of his opinions on the subject of predestination gave offence to some
zealous persons. We have seen an absurd allegory, the heroine of which
is named Hephzibah, written by some raving supralapsarian preacher
{264}who was dissatisfied with the mild theology of the Pilgrim’s
Progress. In this foolish hook, if we recollect rightly, the Interpreter
is called the Enlightener, and the House Beautiful is Castle Strength.
Mr. Southey tells us that the Catholics had also their Pilgrim’s
Progress, without a Giant Pope, in which the Interpeter is the Director,
and the House Beautiful Grace’s Hall. It is surely a remarkable proof of
the power of Bunyan’s genius, that two religious parties, both of which
regarded his opinions as heterodox, should have had recourse to him for

There are, we think, some characters and scenes in the Pilgrim’s
Progress, which can be fully comprehended and enjoyed only by persons
familiar with the history of the times through which Bunyan lived. The
character of Mr. Greatheart, the guide, is an example. His fighting is,
of course, allegorical; but the allegory is not strictly preserved. He
delivers a sermon on imputed righteousness to his companions; and, soon
after, he gives battle to Giant Grim, who had taken upon him to back the
lions. He expounds the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah to the household
and guests of Gaius; and then he sallies out to attack Slaygood, who was
of the nature of flesh-eaters, in his den. These are inconsistencies;
but they are inconsistencies which add, we think, to the interest of
the narrative. We have not the least doubt that Bunyan had in view some
stout old Greatheart of Naseby and Worcester, who prayed with his men
before he drilled them, who knew the spiritual state of every dragoon
in his troop, and who, with the praises of God in his mouth, and a
two-edged sword in his hand, had turned to flight, on many fields of
battle, the swearing, drunken bravoes of Rupert and Lunsford.
{265} Every age produces such men as By-ends. But the middle of the
seventeenth century was eminently prolific of such men. Mr. Southey
thinks that the satire was aimed at some particular individual; and this
seems by no means improbable. At all events, Bunyan must have known many
of those hypocrites who followed religion only when religion walked
in silver slippers, when the sun shone, and when the people applauded.
Indeed he might have easily found all the kindred of By-ends among the
public men of his time. He might have found among the peers my Lord
Turnabout, my Lord Time-server, and my Lord Fair-speech; in the House
of Commons, Mr. Smooth-man, Mr. Anything, and Mr. Facing-both-ways; nor
would “the parson of the parish, Mr. Two-tongues,” have been wanting.
The town of Bedford probably contained more than one politician who,
after contriving to raise an estate by seeking the Lord during the reign
of the saints, contrived to keep what he had got by persecuting the
saints during the reign of the strumpets, and more than one priest who,
during repeated changes in the discipline and doctrines of the church,
had remained constant to nothing but his benefice.

One of the most remarkable passages in the Pilgrim’s Progress is that in
which the proceedings against Faithful are described. It is impossible
to doubt that Bunyan intended to satirise the mode in whieh state
trials were conducted under Charles the Second. The license given to the
witnesses for the prosecution, the shameless partiality and ferocious
insolence of the judge, the precipitancy and the blind rancour of the
jury, remind us of those odious mummeries which, from the Restoration to
the Revolution, were merely forms preliminary to hanging, drawing, and
quartering. {266}Lord Hategood performs the office of counsel for the
prisoners as well as Scroggs himself could have performed it.

“_Judge. Thou runagate, heretic, and traitor, hast thou heard what these
honest gentlemen have witnessed against thee?

“Faithful. May I speak a few words in my own defence?

“Judge. Sirrah, sirrah! thou deservest to live no longer, but to
be slain immediately upon the place; yet, that all men may see our
gentleness to thee, let us hear what thou, vile runagate, hast to say._”

No person who knows the state trials can be at a loss for parallel
cases. Indeed, write what Bunyan would, the baseness and cruelty of the
lawyers of those times “sinned up to it still,” and even went beyond it.
The imaginary trial of Faithful, before a jury composed of personified
vices, was just and merciful, when compared with the real trial of Alice
Lisle before that tribunal where all the vices sat in the person of

The style of Bunyan is delightful to every reader, and invaluable as
a study to every person who wishes to obtain a wide command over the
English language. The vocabulary is the vocabulary of the common people.
There is not an expression, if we except a few technical terms of
theology, which would puzzle the rudest peasant. We have observed
several pages which do not contain a single word of more than two
syllables. Yet no writer has said more exactly what he meant to say.
For magnificence, for pathos, for vehement exhortation, for subtle
disquisition, for every purpose of the poet, the orator, and the divine,
this homely dialect, the dialect of plain working men, was perfectly
sufficient. There is no book in our literature on which we would so
readily stake the fame of {267}the old unpolluted English language, no
book which shows so well how rich that language is in its own proper
wealth, and how little it has been improved by all that it has borrowed.

Cowper said, forty or fifty years ago, that he dared not name John
Bunyan in his verse, for fear of moving a sneer. To our refined
forefathers, we suppose, Lord Roscommon’s Essay on Translated Verse,
and the Duke of Buckinghamshire’s Essay on Poetry, appeared to be
compositions infinitely superior to the allegory of the preaching
tinker. We live in better times; and we are not afraid to say, that,
though there were many clever men in England during the latter half of
the seventeenth century, there were only two minds which possessed
the imaginative faculty in a very eminent degree. One of those minds
produced the Paradise Lost, the other the Pilgrim’s Progress.


(_Edinburg Review_, January 1831.)

We {268}have, in violation of our usual practice, transcribed Mr.
Sadler’s title-page from top to bottom, motto and all. The parallel
implied between the Essay on the Human Understanding and the Essay on
Superfecundity is exquisitely laughable. We can match it, however, with
mottoes as ludicrous. We remember to have heard of a dramatic piece,
entitled “News from Camperdown,” written soon after Lord Duncan’s
victory, by a man once as much in his own good graces as Mr. Sadler is,
and now as much forgotten as Mr. Sadler will soon be, Robert Heron. His
piece was brought upon the stage, and damned, “as it is phrased,” in
the second act; but the author, thinking that it had been unfairly and
unjustly “run down,” published it, in order to put his critics to shame,
with this motto from Swift:--“When a true genius appears in the

     (1) _A Refutation of an Article in the Edinburgh Review (No.
     CII.) entitled, “Sadler’s Law of Population, and Disproof of
     Human Superfecundity;” containing also Additional Proofs of
     the Principle enunciated in that Treatise, founded on the
     Censuses of different Countries recently published_. By
     Michael Thomas Sadler, M.P. 8vo. London: 1830.

     “Before anything came out against my Essay, I was told I
     must prepare myself for a storm coming against it, it being
     resolved by some men that it was necessary that book of mine
     should, as it is phrased, be run down.”--_John Locke_.

{269}world, you may know him by this mark--that the dunces are all
in confederacy against him.” We remember another anecdote, which may
perhaps be acceptable to so zealous a churchman as Mr. Sadler. A certain
Antinomian preacher, the oracle of a barn, in a county of which we do
not think it proper to mention the name, finding that divinity was not
by itself a sufficiently lucrative profession, resolved to combine with
it that of dog-stealing. He was, by ill-fortune, detected in several
offences of this description, and was in consequence brought before
two justices, who, in virtue of the powers given them by an act of
parliament, sentenced him to a whipping for each theft. The degrading
punishment inflicted on the pastor naturally thinned the flock; and
the poor man was in danger of wanting bread. He accordingly put forth a
handbill, solemnly protesting his innocence, describing his sufferings,
and appealing to the Christian charity of the public; and to his
pathetic address he prefixed this most appropriate text: “Thrice was I
beaten with rods.--_St. Paul’s Epistle to the Corinthians_.” He did
not perceive that, though St. Paul had been scourged, no number of
whippings, however severe, will of themselves entitle a man to be
considered as an apostle. Mr. Sadler seems to us to have fallen into a
somewhat similar error. He should remember that, though Locke may have
been laughed at, so has Sir Claudius Hunter; and that it takes something
more than the laughter of all the world to make a Locke.

The body of this pamphlet by no means justifies the parallel so modestly
insinuated on the title-page. Yet we must own that, though Mr. Sadler
has not risen to the level of Locke, he has done what was almost as
difficult, if not as honourable--he has fallen below his {270}own. He
is at best a bad writer. His arrangement is an elaborate confusion.
His style has been constructed, with great care, in such a manner as
to produce the least possible effect by means of the greatest possible
number of words. Aspiring to the exalted character of a Christian
philosopher, he can never preserve through a single paragraph either the
calmness of a philosopher or the meekness of a Christian. His ill-nature
would make a very little wit formidable. But, happily, his efforts to
wound resemble those of a juggler’s snake. The bags of poison are full,
but the fang is wanting. In this foolish pamphlet, all the unpleasant
peculiarities of his style and temper are brought out in the strongest
manner. He is from the beginning to the end in a paroxysm of rage, and
would certainly do us some mischief if he knew how. We will give a
single instance for the present. Others will present themselves as we
proceed. We laughed at some doggerel verses which he cited, and which
we, never having seen them before, suspected to be his own. We are now
sure that, if the principle on which Solomon decided a famous case of
filiation were correct, there can be no doubt as to the justice of our
suspicion. Mr. Sadler, who, whatever elements of the poetical character
he may lack, possesses the poetical irritability in an abundance which
might have sufficed for Homer himself, resolved to retaliate on the
person, who, as he supposed, had reviewed him. He has, accordingly,
ransacked some collection of college verses, in the hope of finding,
among the performances of his supposed antagonist, something as bad
as his own. And we must in fairness admit that he has succeeded pretty
well. We must admit that the gentleman in question sometimes put into
his exercises, at seventeen. {271}almost as great nonsense as Mr. Sadler
is in the habit of putting into his books at sixty.

Mr. Sadler complains that we have devoted whole pages to mere abuse of
him. We deny the charge. We have, indeed, characterised, in terms of
just reprehension, that spirit which shows itself in every part of his
prolix work. Those terms of reprehension we are by no means inclined
to retract; and we conceive that we might have used much stronger
expressions, without the least offence either to truth or to decorum.
There is a limit prescribed to us by our sense of what is due to
ourselves. But we think that no indulgence is due to Mr. Sadler. A
writer who distinctly announces that he has not conformed to the candour
of the age--who makes it his boast that he expresses himself throughout
with the greatest plainness and freedom--and whose constant practice
proves that by plainness and freedom he means coarseness and
rancour--has no right to expect that others shall remember courtesies
which he has forgotten, or shall respect one who has ceased to respect

Mr. Sadler declares that he has never vilified Mr. Malthus personally,
and has confined himself to attacking the doctrines which that gentleman
maintains. We should wish to leave that point to the decision of all
who have read Mr. Sadler’s book, or any twenty pages of it. To quote
particular instances of a temper which penetrates and inspires the whole
work, is to weaken our charge. Yet, that we may not be suspected of
flinching, we will give two specimens,--the two first which occur to our
recollection. “Whose minister is it that speaks thus?” says Mr. Sadler,
after misrepresenting in a most extraordinary manner, though, we are
willing to believe, unintentionally, one of the positions {272}of Mr.
Malthus. “Whose minister is it that speaks thus? That of the lover and
avenger of little children?” Again, Mr. Malthus recommends, erroneously
perhaps, but assuredly from humane motives, that alms, when given,
should be given very sparingly. Mr. Sadler quotes the recommendation,
and adds the following courteous comment:--“The tender mercies of the
wicked are cruel.” We cannot think that a writer who indulges in these
indecent and unjust attacks on professional and personal character has
any right to complain of our sarcasms on his metaphors and rhymes.

We will now proceed to examine the reply which Mr. Sadler has thought
fit to make to our arguments. He begins by attacking our remarks on the
origin of evil. They are, says he, too profound for common apprehension;
and he hopes that they are too profound for our own. That they seem
profound to him we can well believe. Profundity, in its secondary as in
its primary sense, is a relative term. When Grihlrig was nearly drowned
in the Brobdignagian cream-jug he doubtless thought it very deep. But
to common apprehension our reasoning would, we are persuaded, appear
perfectly simple.

The theory of Mr. Malthus, says Mr. Sadler, cannot be true, because it
asserts the existence of a great and terrible evil, and is therefore
inconsistent with the goodness of God. We answer thus. We know that
there are in the world great and terrible evils. In spite of these
evils, we believe in the goodness of God. Why may we not then continue
to believe in his goodness, though another evil should be added to the

How does Mr. Sadler answer this? Merely by telling {273}us that we are
too wicked to be reasoned with. He completely shrinks from the question;
a question, be it remembered, not raised by us--a question which we
should have felt strong objections to raising unnecessarily--a question
put forward by himself, as intimately connected with the subject of
his two ponderous volumes. He attempts to carp at detached parts of our
reasoning on the subject. “With what success he carries on this guerilla
war after declining a general action with the main body of our argument
our readers shall see.

“_The reviewer sends me to Paley, who is, I confess, rather more
intelligible on the subject, and who, fortunately, has decided the very
point in dispute. I will first give the words of the reviewer, who, when
speaking of my general argument regarding the magnitude of the evils,
moral and physical, implied in the theory I oppose, sums up his ideas
thus:--‘Mr. Sadler says, that it is not a light or transient evil, but a
great and permanent evil. What then? The question of the origin of evil
is a question of av or no,--not a question of more or less.’ But what
says Paley? His express rule is this, that ‘when we cannot resolve all
appearances into benevolence of design, we make the few give place to
the many, the little to the great; that we take our judgment from a
large and decided preponderancy.’ Now in weighing these two authorities,
directly at issue on this point, I think there will be little trouble
in determining which we shall make ‘to give place or, if we ‘look to
a large and decided preponderance’ of either talent, learning, or
benevolence, from whom we shall ‘take our judgment.’ The effrontery, or,
to speak more charitably, the ignorance of a reference to Paley on this
subject, and in this instance is really marvellous._”

Now, does not Mr. Sadler see that the very words which he quotes from
Paley contain in themselves a refutation of his whole argument? Paley
says, indeed, as every man in his senses would say, that in a certain
case, which he has specified, the more and the less {274}come into
question. But in what case? “When we _cannot_ resolve all appearances
into the benevolence of design.” It is better that there should be a
little evil than a great deal of evil. This is self-evident. But it is
also self-evident that no evil is better than a little evil. Why, then,
is there any evil? It is a mystery which we cannot solve. It is a
mystery which Paley, by the very words which Mr. Sadler has quoted,
acknowledges himself unable to solve; and it is because he cannot solve
that mystery that he proceeds to take into consideration the more and
the less. Believing in the divine goodness, we must necessarily believe
that the evils which exist are necessary to avert greater evils. But
what those greater evils are we do not know. How the happiness of any
part of the sentient creation would be in any respect diminished if, for
example, children cut their teeth without pain, we cannot understand.
The case is exactly the same with the principle of Mr. Malthus. If
superfecundity exists, it exists, no doubt, because it is a less evil
than some other evil which otherwise would exist. Can Mr. Sadin his
senses would say, that in a certain
case, which he has specified, the more and the less {274}come into
question. But in what case? “When we
_cannot_ resolve all appearances into the benevolence of design.” It
is better that there should be a little evil than a great deal of evil.
This is self-evident. But it is also self-evident that no evil is better
than a little evil. Why, then, is there any evil? It is a mystery which
we cannot solve. It is a mystery which Paley, by the very words which
Mr. Sadler has quoted, acknowledges himself unable to solve; and it
is because he cannot solve that mystery that he proceeds to take into
consideration the more and the less. Believing in the divine goodness,
we must necessarily believe that the evils which exist are necessary to
avert greater evils. But what those greater evils are we do not know.
How the happiness of any part of the sentient creation would be in any
respect diminished if, for example, children cut their teeth without
pain, we cannot understand. The case is exactly the same with the
principle of Mr. Malthus. If superfecundity exists, it exists, no doubt,
because it is a less evil than some other evil which otherwise would
exist. Can Mr. Sadler prove that this is an impossibility?

One single expression which Mr. Sadler employs on this subject is
sufficient to show how utterly incompetent he is to discuss it. “On the
Christian hypothesis,” says he, “no doubt exists as to the origin of
evil.” He does not, we think, understand what is meant by the origin
of evil. The Christian Scriptures profess to give no solution of that
mystery. They relate facts; but they leave the metaphysical question
undetermined. They tell us that man fell; but why he was not so
constituted as to be incapable of falling, or why the Supreme Being has
not mitigated the consequences of the Fall more than they actually have
been mitigated, the {275}Scriptures did not tell us, and, it may without
presumption be said, could not tell us, unless we had been creatures
different from what we are. There is something, either in the nature of
our faculties or in the nature of the machinery employed by us for the
purpose of reasoning, which condemns us, on this and similar subjects,
to hopeless ignorance. Man can understand these high matters only by
ceasing to be man, just as a fly can understand a lemma of Newton only
by ceasing to be a fly. To make it an objection to the Christian system
that it gives us no solution of these difficulties, is to make it an
objection to the Christian system that it is a system formed for human
beings. Of the puzzles of the Academy, there is not one which does not
apply as strongly to Deism as to Christianity, and to Atheism as to
Deism. There are difficulties in everything. Yet we are sure that
something must be true.

If revelation speaks on the subject of the origin of evil it speaks
only to discourage dogmatism and temerity. In the most ancient, the most
beautiful, and the most profound of all works on the subject, the Book
of Job, both the sufferer who complains of the divine government, and
the injudicious advisers who attempt to defend it on wrong principles,
are silenced by the voice of supreme wisdom, and reminded that the
question is beyond the reach of the human intellect. St. Paul silences
the supposed objector, who strives to force him into controversy, in
the same manner. The church has been, ever since the apostolic times,
agitated by this question, and by a question which is inseparable from
it, the question of fate and free-will. The greatest theologians and
philosophers have acknowledged that these things were too high for them,
and have contented {276}themselves with hinting at what seemed to be
the most probable solution. What says Johnson? “All our effort ends
in belief that for the evils of life there is some good reason, and in
confession that the reason cannot be found.” What says Paley? “Of the
origin of evil no universal solution has been discovered. I mean no
solution which reaches to all cases of complaint.--The consideration of
general laws, although it may concern the question of the origin of evil
very nearly, which I think it does, rests in views disproportionate to
our faculties, and in a knowledge which we do not possess. It serves
rather to account for the obscurity of the subject, than to supply
us with distinct answers to our difficulties.” What says presumptuous
ignorance? “No doubt whatever exists as to the origin of evil.” It is
remarkable that Mr. Sadler does not tell us what his solution is. The
world, we suspect, will lose little by his silence.

He falls on the reviewer again.

“_Though I have shown,” says he, “and on authorities from which none
can lightly differ, not only the cruelty and immorality which this
system necessarily involves, but its most revolting feature, its gross
partiality, he has wholly suppressed this, the most important part of my
argument; as even the bare notice of it would have instantly exposed
the sophistry to which he has had recourse. If, however, he would Fairly
meet the whole question, let him show me that ‘hydrophobia,’ which he
gives as an example of the laws of God and nature, is a calamity to
which the poor alone are liable; or that ‘malaria,’ which, with singular
infelicity, he has chosen as an illustration of the fancied evils of
population, is a respecter of persons._”

We said nothing about this argument, as Mr. Sadler calls it, merely
because we did not think it worth while; and we are half ashamed to say
anything about it now. But, since Mr. Sadler is so urgent for an answer,
{277}he shall have one. If there is evil, it must be either partial or
universal. Which is the better of the two? Hydrophobia, says this great
philosopher, is no argument against the divine goodness, because mad
dogs bite rich and poor alike; but, if the rich were exempted, and
only nine people suffered for ten who suffer now, hydrophobia would
forthwith, simply because it would produce less evil than at present,
become an argument against the divine goodness! To state such a
proposition, is to refute it. And is not the malaria a respecter of
persons? It infests Rome. Does it infest London? There are complaints
peculiar to the tropical countries. There are others which are found
only in mountainous districts; others which are confined to marshy
regions; others again which run in particular families. Is not this
partiality? Why is it more inconsistent with the divine goodness that
poor men should suffer an evil from which rich men are exempt, than that
a particular portion of the community should inherit gout, scrofula,
insanity, and other maladies? And are there no miseries under which, in
fact, the poor alone are suffering? Mr. Sadler himself acknowledges,
in this very paragraph, that there are such; but he tells us that
these calamities are the effects of misgovernment, and that this
misgovernment is the effect of political economy. Be it so. But does he
not see that he is only removing the difficulty one step farther?
Why does Providence suffer men, whose minds are filled with false and
pernicious notions, to have power in the state? For good ends, we doubt
not, if the fact be so; but for ends inscrutable to us, who see only a
small part of the vast scheme, and who see that small part only for a
short period. Does Mr. Sadler doubt that the Supreme Being has power as
absolute {278}over the revolutions of political as over the organisation
of natural bodies? Surely not: and, if not, we do not see that he
vindicates the ways of Providence by attributing the distresses, which
the poor, as he confesses, endure, to an error in legislation rather
than to a law of physiology. Turn the question as we may, disguise it
as we may, we shall find that it at last resolves itself into the same
great enigma,--the origin of physical and moral evil: an enigma which
the highest human intellects have given up in despair, but which Mr.
Sadler thinks himself perfectly able to solve.

He next accuses us of having paused long on verbal criticism. We
certainly did object to his improper use of the words, “inverse
variation.” Mr. Sadler complains of this with his usual bitterness.

“_Now what is the Reviewer’s quarrel with me on this occasion? That he
does not understand the meaning of my terms? No. He acknowledges the
contrary. That I have not fully explained the sense in which I lave used
them? No. An explanation, he knows, is immediately subjoined, though
he has carefully suppressed it. That I have varied the sense in which I
have applied them? No. I challenge him to show it. But he nevertheless
goes on for many pages together in arguing against what he knows, and,
in fact, acknowledges, I did not mean; and then turns round and argues
again, though much more feebly, indeed, against what he says I did mean!
Now, even had I been in error as to the use of a word, I appeal to the
reader whether such an unworthy and disingenuous course would not, if
generally pursued, make controversy on all subjects, however important,
that into which, in such hands, it always degenerates--a dispute about

The best way to avoid controversies about words is to use words in their
proper senses. Mr. Sadler may think our objection captious; but how
he can think it disingenuous we do not well understand. If we had
{279}represented him as meaning what we knew that he did not mean, we
should have acted in a disgraceful manner. But we did not represent him,
and he allows that we did not represent him, as meaning what he did not
mean. We blamed him, and with perfect justice and propriety, for saying
what he did not mean. Every man has in one sense a right to define his
own terms; that is to say, if he chooses to call one two, and two seven,
it would be absurd to charge him with false arithmetic for saying that
seven is the double of one. But it would be perfectly fair to blame
him for changing the established sense of words. The words, “inverse
variation,” in matters not purely scientific, have often been used
in the loose way in which Mr. Sadler has used them. But we shall be
surprised if he can find a single instance of their having been so used
in a matter of pure arithmetic.

We will illustrate our meaning thus. Lord Thur-low, in one of his
speeches about Indian affairs, said that one Hastings was worth twenty
Macartneys. He might, with equal propriety, have said ten Macartneys, or
a hundred Macartneys. Nor would there have been the least inconsistency
in his using all the three expressions in one speech. But would this be
an excuse for a financier who, in a matter of account, should reason as
if ten, twenty, and a hundred were the same number?

Mr. Sadler tells us that he purposely avoided the use of the word
proportion in stating his principle. He seems, therefore, to allow that
the word proportion would have been improper. Yet he did in fact employ
it in explaining his principle, accompanied with an awkward explanation
intended to signify that, though he said proportion, he meant something
quite different {280}from proportion. We should not have said so much
on this subject, either in our former article, or at present, but that
there is in all Mr. Sadler’s writings an air of scientific pedantry,
which renders his errors fair game. We will now let the matter rest;
and, instead of assailing Mr. Sadler with our verbal criticism, proceed
to defend ourselves against his literal criticism.

“_The Reviewer promised his readers that some curious results should
follow from his shuffling. We will enable him to keep his word.

“‘In two English counties,’ says he, ‘which contain from 50 to 100
inhabitants on the square mile, the births to 100 marriages are,
according to Mr. Sadler, 420; but in 44 departments of France, in which
there are from one to two hecatares [hectares] to each inhabitant, that
is to say, in which the population is from 125 to 250, or rather more,
to the square mile, the number of births to one hundred marriages is 423
and a fraction.’

“The first curious result is, that our Reviewer is ignorant, not only of
the name, but of the extent, of a French hectare; otherwise he is guilty
of a practice which, even if transferred to the gambling-table, would,
I presume, prevent him from being allowed ever to shuffle, even there,
again. He was most ready to pronounce upon a mistake of one per cent, in
a calculation of mine, the difference in no wise affecting the argument
in hand; but here I must inform him, that his error, whether wilfully or
ignorantly put forth, involves his entire argument.

“The French hectare I had calculated to contain 107708 67/100 English
square feet, or 247265 acres; Dr. Kelly takes it, on authority which
he gives, at 107644 English square feet. The last French Annuaires,
however, state it, I perceive, as being equal to 2473914 acres. The
difference is very trifling, and will not in the slightest degree
cover our critic’s error. When, therefore, the Reviewer calculates the
population of the departments of France thus: ‘from one to two hectares
to each inhabitant, that is to say, in which the population is from 125
to 250, or rather more, to the square mile; his ‘that {281}is to say’ is
that which he ought not to have said--no rare case with him, as we shall
show throughout.”_

We must inform Mr. Sadler, in the first place, that we inserted the
vowel which amuses him so much, not from ignorance or from carelessness,
but advisedly, and in conformity with the practice of several
respectable writers. He will find the word hecatare in Rees’s
Cyclopaedia. He will find it also in Dr. Young. We prefer the form which
we have employed, because it is etymologically correct. Mr. Sadler seems
not to know that a hecatare is so called, because it contains a hundred

We were perfectly acquainted with the extent as well as with the name of
a hecatare. Is it at all strange that we should use the words “250,
or rather more,” in speaking of 258 and a fraction? Do not people
constantly employ round numbers with still greater looseness, in
translating foreign distances and foreign money? If indeed, as Mr.
Sadler says, the difference which he chooses to call an error involved
the entire argument, or any part of the argument, we should have been
guilty of gross unfairness. But it is not so. The difference between 258
and 250, as even Mr. Sadler would see if he were not blind with fury,
was a difference to his advantage. Our point was this. The fecundity of
a dense population in certain departments of France is greater than that
of a thinly scattered population in certain counties of England. The
more dense, therefore, the population in those departments of
France, the stronger was our case. By putting 250, instead of 258, we
understated our case. Mr. Sadler’s correction of our orthography
leads us to suspect that he knows very little of Greek; and his
{282}correction of our calculation quite satisfies us that he knows very
little of logic.

But, to come to the gist of the controversy. Our argument, drawn from
Mr. Sadler’s own Tables, remains absolutely untouched. He makes excuses
indeed; for an excuse is the last thing that Mr. Sadler will ever want.
There is something half laughable and half provoking in the facility
with which he asserts and retracts, says and unsays, exactly as suits
his argument. Sometimes the register of baptisms is imperfect, and
sometimes the register of burials. Then again these registers become all
at once exact almost to an unit. He brings forward a census of Prussia
in proof of his theory. We show that it directly confutes his theory;
and it forthwith becomes “notoriously and grossly defective.” The census
of the Netherlands is not to be easily dealt with; and the census of the
Netherlands is therefore pronounced inaccurate. In his book on the Law
of Population, he tells us that “in the slave-holding States of America,
the male slaves constitute a decided majority of that unfortunate
class.” This fact, we turned against him; and, forgetting that he had
himself stated it, he tells that “it is as erroneous as many other ideas
which we entertain,” and that “he will venture to assert that the female
slaves were, at the nubile age, as numerous as the males.” The increase
of the negroes in the United States puzzles him; and he creates a
vast slave trade to solve it. He confounds together things perfectly
different; the slave-trade carried on under the American flag, and
the slave-trade carried on for the supply of the American soil,--the
slave-trade with Africa, and the internal slave-trade between the
different States. He exaggerates a few occasional acts of smuggling into
{283}an immense and regular importation, and makes his escape as
well as he can under cover of this hubbub of words. Documents are
authentic and facts true precisely in proportion to the support which
they afford to his theory. This is one way, undoubtedly, of making
books: but we question much whether it be the way to make discoveries.

As to the inconsistencies which we pointed out between his theory and
his own tables, he finds no difficulty in explaining them away or facing
them out. In one case there would have been no contradiction if, instead
of taking one of his tables, we had multiplied the number of three
tables together, and taken the average. Another would never have existed
if there had not been a great migration of people into Lancashire.
Another is not to be got over by any device. But then it is very small,
and of no consequence to the argument.

Here, indeed, he is perhaps right. The inconsistencies which we noticed
were, in themselves, of little moment. We gave them as samples,--as
mere hints, to caution those of our readers who might also happen to
be readers of Mil Sadler against being deceived by his packing. He
complains of the word packing. We repeat it; and, since he has defied
us to the proof, we will go fully into the question which, in our last
article, we only glanced at, and prove, in such a manner as shall not
leave even to Mr. Sadler any shadow of excuse, that his theory owes its
speciousness to packing, and to packing alone.

That our readers may fully understand our reasoning, we will again state
what Mr. Sadler’s proportion is. He asserts that, on a given space,
the number of children to a marriage becomes less and {284}less as the
population becomes more and more numerous.

We will begin with the censuses of France given by Mr. Sadler. By
joining the departments together in combinations which suit his purpose,
he has contrived to produce three tables, which he presents as decisive
proofs of his theory.

The first is as follows:--

“The legitimate births are, in those departments where there are to each

[Illustration: 0290]

These tables, as we said in our former article, certainly look well
for Mr. Sadler’s theory. “Do they?” says he. “Assuredly they do; and in
admitting this, the Reviewer has admitted the theory to be proved.” We
cannot absolutely agree to this. A theory is not proved, we must tell
Mr. Sadler, merely because the {285}evidence in its favour looks well
at first sight. There is an old proverb, very homely in expression, but
well deserving to be had in constant remembrance by all men, engaged
either in action or in speculation--“One story is good till another is

We affirm, then, that the results which these tables present, and which
seem so favourable to Mr. Sadler’s theory, are produced by packing, and
by packing alone.

In the first place, if we look at the departments singly, the whole is
in disorder. About the department in which Paris is situated there is
no dispute: Mr. Malthas distinctly admits that great cities prevent
propagation. There remain eighty-four departments; and of these there
is not, we believe, a single one in the place which, according to Mr.
Sadler’s principle, it ought to occupy.

That which ought to be highest in fecundity is tenth in one table,
fourteenth in another, and only thirty-first according to the third.
That which ought to be third is twenty-second by the table, which places
it highest. That which ought to be fourth is fortieth by the table,
which places it highest. That which ought to be eighth is fiftieth or
sixtieth. That which ought to be tenth from the top is at about the same
distance from the bottom. On the other hand, that which, according to
Mr. Sadler’s principle, ought to be last but two of all the eighty-four
is third in two of the tables, and seventh in that which places it
lowest; and that which ought to be last is, in one of Mr. Sadler’s
tables, above that which ought to be first, in two of them, above that
which ought to be third, and, in all of them, above that which ought to
be fourth.

By dividing the departments in a particular manner, {286}Mr. Sadler has
produced results which he contemplates with great satisfaction. But, if
we draw the lines a little higher up or a little lower down, we shall
find that all his calculations are thrown into utter confusion; and
that the phenomena, if they indicate any thing, indicate a law the very
reverse of that which he has propounded.

Let us take, for example, the thirty-two departments, as they stand in
Mr. Sadler’s table, from Lozère to Meuse inclusive, and divide them into
two sets of sixteen departments each. The set from Lozère and Loiret
inclusive consists of those departments in which the space to each
inhabitant is from 3.8 hecatares to 2.42. The set from Cantal to Meuse
inclusive consists of those departments in which the space to each
inhabitant is from 2.42 hecatares to 2.07. That is to say, in the
former set the inhabitants are from 68 to 107 on the square mile, or
thereabouts. In the latter they are from 107 to 125. Therefore, on Mr.
Sadler’s principle, the fecundity ought to be smaller in the latter set
than in the former. It is, however, greater, and that in every one of
Mr. Sadler’s three tables.

Let us now go a little lower down, and take another set of sixteen
departments--those which lie together in Mr. Sadler’s tables, from
Hérault to Jura inclusive. Here the population is still thicker than
in the second of those sets which we before compared. The fecundity,
therefore, ought, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, to be less than in that
set. But it is again greater, and that in all Mr. Sadler’s three tables.
We have a regularly ascending series, where, if his theory had any truth
in it, we ought to have a regularly descending series. We will give the
results of our calculation.

The number of children to 1000 marriages is--

[Illustration: 0293]

First Table. Second Table. Third Table. In the sixteen departments where
there are from 68 to 107 people on a square mile 4188 4226 3780 In the
sixteen departments where there are from 107 to 125 people on a square
mile 4374 4332 3855 In the sixteen departments where there are from 134
to 125 people on a square mile 4484 4416 3914 {287}We will give another
instance, if possible still more decisive. We will take the three
departments of France which ought, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, to be the
lowest in fecundity of all the eighty-five, saving only that in which
Paris stands; and we will compare them with the three departments in
which the fecundity ought, according to him, to be greater than in any
other department of France, two only excepted. We will compare Bas Rhin,
Rhone, and Nord, with Lozère, Landes, and Indre. In Lozère, Landes, and
Indre, the population is from 68 to 84 on the square mile, or nearly so.
In Bas Rhin, Rhone, and Nord, it is from 300 to 417 on the square mile.
There cannot be a more overwhelming answer to Mr. Sadler’s theory than
the table which we subjoin:

The number of births to 1000 marriages is--

Take the whole of the third, fourth, and fifth divisions into which Mr.
Sadler has portioned out the French departments. These three divisions
make up almost the whole kingdom of France. They contain seventy-nine
out of the eighty-five departments. Mr. Sadler has contrived to divide
them in such a manner that, to a person who looks merely at his
averages, the fecundity seems to diminish as the population thickens. We
will separate them into two parts instead of three. We will draw the
line between the department of Gironde and that of Hérault. On the one
side are the thirty-two departments from Cher to Gironde inclusive. On
the other side are the forty-six departments from Hérault to Nord
inclusive. In all the departments of the former set, the population is
under 132 on the square mile. In all the departments of the latter set,
it is above 132 on the square mile. It is clear that, if there be one
word of truth in MV. Sadler’s theory, the fecundity in the latter of
these divisions must be very decidedly smaller than in the former. Is it
so? It is, on the contrary, greater in all the three tables. We give the

The number of births to 1000 marriages is--

[Illustration: 0294]

In the thirty-two departments in whieh there are from 86 to 13.2
people on the square mile 4210 4199 3760 In the forty-seven departments
in whieh there are from 132 to 41.7 people on the square mile....

This fact is alone enough to decide the question. Yet it is only one of
a crowd of similar facts. If the {289}line between Mr. Sadler’s second
and third divisions be drawn six departments lower down, the third and
fourth divisions will, in all the tables, be above the second. If the
line between the third and fourth divisions he drawn two departments
lower down, the fourth division will be above the third in all the
tables. If the line between the fourth and fifth divisions be drawn two
departments lower down, the fifth will, in all the tables, be above the
fourth, above the third, and even above the second. How then has Mr.
Sadler obtained his results? By packing solely. By placing in one
compartment a district no larger than the Isle of Wight; in another,
a district somewhat less than Yorkshire; in a third, a territory much
larger than the island of Great Britain.

By the same artifice it is that he has obtained from the census of
England those delusive averages which he brings forward with the
utmost ostentation in proof of his principle. We will examine the facts
relating to England, as we have examined those relating to F rance.

If we look at the counties one by one, Mr. Sadler’s principle utterly
fails. Hertfordshire with 251 on the square mile; Worcestershire
with 258; and Kent with 282, exhibit a far greater fecundity than the
East-Riding of York, which has 151 on the square mile; Monmouthshire,
which has 145; or Northumberland, which has 108. The fecundity of
Staffordshire, which has more than 300 on the square mile, is as high as
the average fecundity of the counties which have from 150 to 200 on
the square mile. But, instead of confining ourselves to particular
instances, we will try masses.

Take the eight counties of England which stand together in {290}Mr.
Sadler’s list, from Cumberland to Dorset inclusive. In these the
population is from 107 to 150 on the square mile. Compare with these the
eight counties from Berks to Durham inclusive, in which the population
is from 175 to 200 on the square mile. Is the fecundity in the latter
counties smaller than in the former? On the contrary, the result stands

The number of children to 100 marriages is--

In the eight counties of England, in which there are from 107 to 146
people on the square mile 388 In the eight counties of England, in which
there are from 175 to 200 people on the square mile 402 Take the
six districts from the East-Riding of York to the County of Norfolk
inclusive. Here the population is from 150 to 170 on the square mile.
To these oppose the six counties from Derby to Worcester inclusive. The
population is from 200 to 260. Here again we find that a law, directly
the reverse of that which Mr. Sadler has laid down, appears to regulate
the fecundity of the inhabitants.

The number of children to 100 marriages is--

In the six counties in which there are from 150 to 170 people on the
square mile. . . 392

In the six counties in which there are from 200 to 260 people on the
square mile. . . 399

But we will make another experiment on Mr. Sadler’s tables, if possible
more decisive than any of those which we have hitherto made. We will
take the four largest divisions into which he has distributed the
English counties, and which follow each other in regular order. That
our readers may fully comprehend the nature of that packing by which his
theory is supported, we will set before them this part of his table.

[Illustration: 0297]

The number of children to 100 marriages is--

In the seventeen counties of England in which there are from 100 to 177
people on the square mile...... 387

In the seventeen counties in which there are from 177 to 282 people on
the square mile. 389

The difference is small, but not smaller than differences which Mr.
Sadler has brought forward as proofs of his theory. We say, that
these English tables no more prove that fecundity increases with the
population than that it diminishes with the population. The thirty-four
counties which we have taken make up, at least, four-fifths of the
kingdom: and we see that, through those thirty-four counties, the
phenomena are directly opposed to Mr. Sadler’s principle. That in the
capital, and in great manufacturing towns, marriages are less prolific
than in the open country, we admit, and Mr. Malthus admits. But that any
condensation of the population, short of that which injures all physical
energies, will diminish the prolific powers of man, is, from these very
tables of Mr. Sadler, completely disproved.

It is scarcely worth while to proceed with instances, after proofs so
overwhelming as those which we have given. Yet we will show that Mr.
Sadler has formed his averages on the census of Prussia by an artifice
exactly similar to that which we have already exposed.

[Illustration: 0298]

The number of births to a marriage is--

[Illustration: 0299]

We will go no farther with this examination. In fact, we have nothing
more to examine. The tables which we have scrutinised constitute the
whole strength of Mr. Sadler’s case; and we confidently leave it to our
readers to say, whether we have not shown that the strength of his case
is weakness.

Be it remembered too that we are reasoning on data furnished by Mr.
Sadler himself. We have not made collections of facts to set against
his, as we easily might have done. It is on his own showing, it is out
of his own mouth, that his theory stands condemned.

That packing which we have exposed is not the only sort of packing which
Mr. Sadler has practised. We mentioned in our review some facts relating
to the towns of England, which appear from Mr. Sadler’s tables, and
which it seems impossible to explain if his principles be sound. The
average fecundity of a marriage in towns of fewer than 3000 inhabitants
is greater than the average fecundity of the kingdom. The average
fecundity in towns of from 4000 to 5000 inhabitants is greater than the
average fecundity of Warwickshire, Lancashire, or Surrey. How is it, we
asked, {295}if Mr. Sadler’s principle be correct, that the fecundity of
Guildford should be greater than the average fecundity of the county in
which it stands?

Mr. Sadler, in reply, talks about “the absurdity of comparing the
fecundity in the small towns alluded to with that In the counties of
Warwick and Stafford, or those of Lancaster and Surrey.” He proceeds

“_In Warwickshire, far above half the population is comprised in large
towns, including, of course, the immense metropolis of one great branch
of oui’ manufactures, Birmingham. In the county of Stafford, besides
the large and populous towns in its iron districts, situated so close
together as almost to form, for considerable distances, a continuous
street; there is, in its potteries, a great population, recently
accumulated, not included, indeed, in the towns distinctly enumerated in
the censuses, but vastly exceeding in its condensation that found in the
places to which the Reviewer alludes. In Lancashire again, to which
he also appeals, one-fourth of the entire population is made up of the
inhabitants of two only of the towns of that county; far above half of
it is contained in towns, compared with which those he refers to are
villages; even the hamlets of the manufacturing parts of Lancashire are
often far more populous than the places he mentions. But he presents
us with a climax of absurdity in appealing lastly to the population of
Surrey as quite rural compared with that of the twelve towns, having
less than 5000 inhabitants in their respective jurisdictions, such as
Saffron-Walden, Monmouth, &c. Now, in the last census, Surrey numbered
398,658 inhabitants, and, to say not a word about the other towns of the
county, much above two hundred thousands of these are within the Bills
of mortality! ‘We should, therefore, be glad to know’ how it is utterly
inconsistent with my principle that the fecundity of Guildford, which
numbers about 3000 inhabitants, should be greater than the average
fecundity of Surrey, made up, as the bulk of the population of Surrey
is, of the inhabitants of some of the worst parts of the metropolis? Or
why the fecundity of a given number of marriages in the eleven little
rural towns he alludes to, being somewhat higher than that of an
equal number, half taken for instance, from the heart of Birmingham
or Manchester, and half from the populous districts by which they are
surrounded, is inconsistent with my theory_?”

{296}”_Had the Reviewer’s object, in this instance, been to discover the
truth, or had he known how to pursue it, it is perfectly clear, at first
sight, that he would not have instituted a comparison between the
prolificness which exists in the small towns he has alluded to, and that
in certain districts, the population of which is made up, partly of
rural inhabitants and partly of accumulations of people in immense
masses, the prolificness of which, if he will allow me still the use of
the phrase, is inversely as their magnitude; but he would have compared
these small towns with the country places properly so called, and then
again the different classes of towns with each other; this method would
have led hint to certain conclusions on the subject._”

Now, this reply shows that Mr. Sadler does not in the least understand
the principle which he has himself laid down. What is that principle?
It is this, that the fecundity of human beings _on given spaces_, varies
inversely as their numbers. We know what he means by inverse variation.
But we must suppose that he uses the words, “given spaces” in the proper
sense. Given spaces are equal spaces. Is there any reason to believe,
that in those parts of Surrey which lie within the bills of mortality
there is any space, equal in area to the space on which Guildford
stands, which is more thickly peopled than the space on which Guildford
stands? We do not know that there is any such. We are sure that there
are not many. Why, therefore, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, should the
people of Guildford be more prolific than the people who live within
the bills of mortality? And, if the people of Guildford ought, as on
Mr. Sadler’s principle they unquestionably ought, to stand as low in the
scale of fecundity as the people of Southwark itself, it follows, most
clearly, that they ought to stand far lower than the average obtained by
taking all the people of Surrey together.

The same remark applies to the case of Birmingham, {297}and to all the
other eases which Mr. Sadler mentions. “Towns of 5000 inhabitants may
be, and often are, as thickly peopled, on a given space,” as Birmingham.
They are, in other words, as thickly peopled as a portion of Birmingham,
equal to them in area. If so, on Mr. Sadler’s principle, they ought to
be as low in the scale of fecundity as Birmingham. But they are not so.
On the contrary, they stand higher than the average obtained by taking
the fecundity of Birmingham in combination with the fecundity of the
rural districts of Warwickshire.

The plain fact is, that Mr. Sadler has confounded the population of
a city with its population “on a given space,”--a mistake which, in a
gentleman who assures us that mathematical science was one of his early
and favourite studies, is somewhat curious. It is as absurd, on his
principle, to say that the fecundity of London ought to be less than
the fecundity of Edinburgh, because London has a greater population than
Edinburgh, as to say that the fecundity of Russia ought to be greater
than that of England, because Russia has a greater population than
England. He cannot say that the spaces on which towns stand are too
small to exemplify the truth of his principle. For he has himself
brought forward the scale of fecundity in towns, as a proof of his
principle. And, in the very passage which we quoted above, he tells us
that, if we knew how to pursue truth, or wished to find it, we “should
have compared these small towns with country places, and the different
classes of towns with each other.” That is to say, we ought to compare
together such unequal spaces as give results favourable to his theory,
and never to compare such equal spaces as give results opposed to it.
Does he mean {298}any thing by “a given space?” Or does he mean merely
such a space as suits his argument? It is perfectly clear that, if he
is allowed to take this course, he may prove any thing. No fact can
come amiss to him. Suppose, for example, that the fecundity of New York
should prove to be smaller than the fecundity of Liverpool. “That,” says
Mr. Sadler, “makes for my theory. For there are more people within two
miles of the Broadway of New York, than within two miles of the Exchange
of Liverpool.” Suppose, on the other hand, that the fecundity of New
York should be greater than the fecundity of Liverpool. “This,” says Mr.
Sadler again, “is an unanswerable proof of my theory. For there are many
more people within forty miles of Liverpool than within forty miles
of New York.” In order to obtain his numbers, he takes spaces in any
combinations which may suit him. In order to obtain his averages, he
takes numbers in any combinations which may suit him. And then he tells
us that, because his tables, at the first, glance, look well for his
theory, his theory is irrefragably proved.

We will add a few words respecting the argument which we drew from the
peerage. Mr. Sadler asserted that the Peers were a class condemned by
nature to sterility. We denied this, and showed, from the last edition
of Debrett, that the Peers of the United Kingdom have considerably more
than the average number of children to a marriage. Mr. Sadler’s answer
has amused us much. He denies the accuracy of our counting, and, by
reckoning all the Scotch and Irish Peers as Peers of the United Kingdom,
certainly makes very different numbers from those which we gave. A
member of the Parliament of the United Kingdom might have been expected,
we think, to {299}know Letter what a Peer of the United Kingdom is.

By taking the Scotch and Irish Peers, Mr. Sadler has altered the
average. But it is considerably higher than the average fecundity of
England, and still, therefore, constitutes an unanswerable argument
against his theory.

The shifts to which, in this difficulty, he has recourse, are
exceedingly diverting. “The average fecundity of the marriages of
Peers,” said we, “is higher by one-fifth than the average fecundity of
marriages throughout the kingdom.”

“Where, or by whom did the Reviewer find it supposed,” answers Mr.
Sadler, “that the registered baptisms expressed the full fecundity of
the marriages of England?”

Assuredly, if the registers of England are so defective as to explain
the difference which, on our calculation, exists between the fecundity
of the peers and the fecundity of the people, no argument against Mr.
Sadler’s theory can be drawn from that difference. But what becomes
of all the other arguments which Mr. Sadler has founded on these
very registers? Above all, what becomes of his comparison between the
censuses of England and France? In the pamphlet before us, he dwells
with great complacency on a coincidence which seems to him to support
his theory, and which to us seems, of itself, sufficient to overthrow

“_In my table of the population of France, in the forty-four departments
in which there, are from one to two hectares to each inhabitant, the
fecundity of 100 marriages, calculated on the average of the results of
the three computations relating to different periods given in my table,
is 406.7. In the twenty-two counties of England, in which there is from
one to two hectares to each inhabitant, or {300}from 129 to 259 on the
square mile,--beginning, therefore, with Huntingdonshire, and ending
with Worcestershire,--the whole number of marriages during ten years
will be found to amount to 379,024, and the whole number of the births
during the same term to 1,545,549--or 407 births to 100 marriages!
A difference of one in one thousand only, compared with the French

Does not Mr. Sadler see that, if the registers of England, which are
notoriously very defective, give a result exactly corresponding almost
to an unit with that obtained from the registers of France, which are
notoriously very full and accurate, this proves the very reverse of what
he employs it to prove? The correspondence of the registers proves that
there is no correspondence in the facts. In order to l’aise the average
fecundity of England even to the level of the average fecundity of
the peers of the three kingdoms, which is 3.81 to a marriage, it is
necessary to add nearly six per cent, to the number of births given in
the English registers. But, if this addition be made, we shall have,
in the counties of England, from Huntingdonshire to Worcestershire
inclusive, 4.30 births to a marriage or thereabouts; and the boasted
coincidence between the phenomena of propagation in France and
England disappears at once. This is a curious specimen of Mr. Sadler’s
proficiency in the art of making excuses. In the same pamphlet he
reasons as if the same registers were accurate to one in a thousand, and
as if they were wrong at the very least by one in eighteen.

He tries to show that we have not taken a fair criterion of the
fecundity of the peers. We are not quite sure that we understand his
reasoning on this subject. The order of his observations is more than
usually confused, and the cloud of words moi-e than usually {301}thick.
We will give the argument on which he seems to lay most stress in his
own words:

“_But I shall first notice a far more obvious and important Linn der
into which the Reviewer has fallen; or into which, I rather fear, he
knowingly wishes to precipitate his readers, since I have distinctly
pointed ont what ought to have preserved him from it in the very chapter
he is criticising and contradicting It is this:--he has entirely omitted
“counting” the sterile marriages of all those peerages which have become
extinct during the very period his counting embraces he counts, for
instance, Bar. Fitzwilliam, his marriages, and heir; but has he not
omitted to enumerate the marriages of those branches of the same
noble house, which have become extinct since that venerable individual
possessed his title? He talks of my having appealed merely to the
extinction of peerages in my argument; but, on his plan of computation,
extinctions are perpetually and wholly lost sight of. In computing the
average! prolificness of the marriages of the nobles, he positively
counts from a select class of them only, one from which the unprolific
are constantly weeded, and regularly disappear; and he thus comes to the
conclusion, that the peers are ‘an eminently prolific class!’ Just
as though a farmer should compute the rate of increase, not from the
quantity of seed sown, but from that part of it only which comes to
perfection, entirely omitting all which had failed to spring up or come
to maturity. Upon this principle the most scanty crop ever obtained, in
which the husbandman should fail to receive ‘seed again,’ as the phrase
is, might be so ‘counted as to appear ‘eminently prolific’ indeed_.”

If we understand this passage rightly, it decisively proves that Mr.
Sadler is incompetent to perform even the lowest offices of statistical
research. What shadow of reason is there to believe that the peers who
were alive in the year 1828 differed as to their prolificness from any
other equally numerous set of peers taken at random? In what sense were
the peers who were alive in 1828 analogous to that part of the seed
which comes to perfection? Did we entirely omit all that failed? On the
contrary, we counted the sterile as {302}well as the fruitful marriages
of all the peers of the United Kingdom living at one time. In what way
were the peers who were alive in 1828 a select class? In what way were
the sterile weeded from among them? Did every peer who had been married
without having issue die in 1827? What shadow of reason is there to
suppose that there was not the ordinary proportion of barren marriages
among the marriages contracted by the noblemen whose names are in
Debrett’s last edition? But we ought, says Mr. Sadler, to have counted
all the sterile marriages of all the peers “whose titles had become
extinct during the period which our counting embraced;” that is to say,
since the earliest marriage contracted by any peer living in 1828. Was
such a proposition ever heard of before? Surely we were bound to do no
such thing, unless at the same time we had counted also the children
born from all the fruitful marriages contracted by peers during the same
period. Mr. Sadler would have us divide the number of children born to
peers living in 1828, not by the number of marriages which those peers
contracted, but by the number of marriages which those peers contracted
added to a crowd of marriages selected, on account of their sterility,
from among the noble marriages which have taken place during the last
fifty years. Is this the way to obtain fair averages? We might as well
require that all the noble marriages which during the last fifty years
have produced ten children apiece should be added to those of the peers
living in 1828. The proper way to ascertain whether a set of people be
prolific or sterile is, not to take marriages selected from the
mass either on account of their fruitfulness or on account of their
sterility, but to take a collection of marriages which {303}there is no
reason to think either more or less fruitful than others. What reason is
there to think that the marriages contracted by the peers who were alive
in 1828 were more fruitful than those contracted by the peers who were
alive in 1800 or in 1700?

We will add another passage from Mr. Sadler’s pamphlet on this subject.
We attributed the extinction of peerages partly to the fact that those
honours are for the most part limited to heirs male.

“_This is a discovery indeed!’ Peeresses, ‘eminently prolific, do not,
as Macbeth conjured his spouse, ‘bring forth men-children only;’ they
actually produce daughters as well as sons!! Why, does not the Reviewer
see, that so long as the rule of nature, which proportions the sexes so
accurately to each other, continues to exist, a tendency to a diminution
in one sex proves, as certainly as the demonstration of any mathematical
problem, a tendency to a diminution in both; but to talk of ‘eminently
prolific’ peeresses, and still maintain that the rapid extinction in
peerages is owing to their not bearing male children exclusively, is
arrant nonsense._”

Now, if there be any proposition on the face of the earth which we
should not have expected to hear characterised as arrant nonsense, it
is this,--that an honour limited to males alone is more likely to
become extinct than an honour which, like the crown of England, descends
indifferently to sons and daughters. We have heard, nay, we actually
know families, in which, much as Mr. Sadler may marvel at it, there are
daughters and no sons. Nay, we know many such families. We are as much
inclined as Mr. Sadler to trace the benevolent and wise arrangements of
Providence in the physical world, when once we are satisfied as to
the facts on which we proceed. And we have always considered it as an
arrangement deserving of the highest {304}admiration, that, though in
families the number of males and females differs widely, yet in great
collections of human beings the disparity almost disappears. The chance
undoubtedly is, that in a thousand marriages the number of daughters
will not very much exceed the number of sons. But the chance also is,
that several of those marriages will produce daughters, and daughters
only. In every generation of the peerage there are several such cases.
When a peer whose title is limited to male heirs dies, leaving
only daughters, his peerage must expire, unless he have, not only
a collateral heir, but a collateral heir descended through an
uninterrupted line of males from the first possessor of the honour. If
the deceased peer was the first nobleman of his family, then, by the
supposition, his peerage will become extinct. If he was the second, it
will become extinct, unless he leaves a brother or a brother’s son. If
the second peer had a brother, the first peer must have had at least two
sons; and this is more than the average number of sons to a marriage in
England. When, therefore, it is considered how many peerages are in the
first and second generation, it will not appear strange that extinctions
should frequently take place. There are peerages which descend to
females as well as males. But, in such cases, if a peer dies, leaving
only daughters, the very fecundity of the marriage is a cause of the
extinction of the peerage. If there were only one daughter, the honour
would descend. If there are several, it falls into abeyance.

But it is needless to multiply words in a case so clear; and indeed it
is needless to say anything more about Mr. Sadler’s book. We have, if
we do not deceive ourselves, completely exposed the calculations on
{305}which his theory rests; and we do not think that we should either
amuse our readers or serve the cause of science if we were to rebut in
succession a series of futile charges brought in the most angry spirit
against ourselves; ignorant imputations of ignorance, and unfair
complaints of unfairness,--conveyed in long, dreary, declamations, so
prolix that we cannot find space to quote them, and so confused that we
cannot venture to abridge them.

There is much indeed in this foolish pamphlet to laugh at, from the
motto in the first page down to some wisdom about cows in the last. One
part of it indeed is solemn enough, we mean a certain _jeu d’esprit_ of
Mr. Sadler’s touching a tract of Dr. Arbuthnot’s. This is indeed “very
tragical mirth,” as Peter Quince’s playbill has it; and we would not
advise any person who reads for amusement to venture on it as long as he
can procure a volume of the Statutes at Large. This, however, to do
Mr. Sadler justice, is an exception. His witticisms, and his tables of
figures, constitute the only parts of his work which can be perused with
perfect gravity. His blunders are diverting, his excuses exquisitely
comic. But his anger is the most grotesque exhibition that we ever saw.
He foams at the mouth with the love of truth, and vindicates the Divine
benevolence with a most edifying heartiness of hatred. On this subject
we will give him one word of parting advice. If he raves in this way to
ease his mind, or because he thinks that he does himself credit by it,
or from a sense of religious duty, far be it from us to interfere. His
peace, his reputation, and his religion are his own concern; and he,
like the nobleman to whom his treatise is dedicated, has a right to
do what he will with his own. But, if he has adopted his {306} abusive
style from a notion that it would hurt our feelings, we must inform him
that he is altogether mistaken; and that he would do well in future to
give us his arguments, if he has any, and to keep his anger for those
who fear it.


(_Edinburgh Review_, January 1831.)

The {307}distinguished member of the House of Commons who, towards
the close of the late Parliament, brought forward a proposition for the
relief of the Jews, has given notice of his intention to renew it. The
force of reason, in the last session, carried the measure through one
stage, in spite of the opposition of power. Reason and power are now
on the same side; and we have little doubt that they will conjointly
achieve a decisive victory. In order to contribute our share to the
success of just principles, we propose to pass in review, as rapidly as
possible, some of the arguments, or phrases claiming to be arguments,
which have been employed to vindicate a system full of absurdity and

The constitution, it is said, is essentially Christian; and therefore
to admit Jews to office is to destroy the constitution. Nor is the Jew
injured by being excluded from political power. For no man has any right
to power. A man has a right to his property; a man has a right to be
protected from personal injury. These rights the law allows to the Jew;
and with these rights it would be atrocious to interfere. But it is a
mere matter of favour to admit any man to political

     (1) _Statement of the Civil Disabilities and Privations
     affecting Jews in England_. 8 vo. London: 1829.

{308}power; and no man can justly complain that he is shut out from it.
We cannot but admire the ingenuity of this contrivance for shifting
the burden of the proof from those to whom it properly belongs, and who
would, we suspect, find it rather cumbersome. Surely no Christian
can deny that every human being has a right to be allowed every
gratification which produces no harm to others, and to be spared every
mortification which produces no good to others. Is it not a source of
mortification to a class of men that they are excluded from political
power? If it be, they have, on Christian principles, a right to be freed
from that mortification, unless it can be shown that their exclusion
is necessary for the averting of some greater evil. The presumption is
evidently in favour of toleration. It is for the prosecutor to make out
his case.

The strange argument which we are considering would prove too much even
for those who advance it. If no mail has a right to political power,
then neither Jew nor Gentile has such a right. The whole foundation of
government is taken away. But if government be taken away, the property
and the persons of men are insecure; and it is acknowledged that men
have a right to their property and to personal security. If it be right
that the property of men should be protected, and if this can only
be done by means of government, then it must be right that government
should exist. Now there cannot be government unless some person or
persons possess political power. Therefore it is right that some person
or persons should possess political power. That is to say, some person
or persons must have a right to political power.

It is because men are not in the habit of considering {309}what the end
of government is, that Catholic disabilities and Jewish disabilities
have been suffered to exist so long. We hear of essentially Protestant
governments and essentially Christian governments, words which mean
just as much as essentially Protestant cookery, or essentially Christian
horsemanship. Government exists for the purpose of keeping the peace,
for the purpose of compelling us to settle our disputes by arbitration
instead of settling them by blows, for the purpose of compelling us to
supply our wants by industry instead of supplying them by rapine.
This is the only operation for which the machinery of government is
peculiarly adapted, the only operation which wise governments ever
propose to themselves as their chief object. If there is any class
of people who are not interested, or who do not think themselves
interested, in the security of property and the maintenance of order,
that class ought to have no share of the powers which exist for the
purpose of securing property and maintaining order. But why a man should
be less fit to exercise those powers because he wears a beard, because
he does not eat ham, because he goes to the synagogue on Saturdays
instead of going to the church on Sundays, we cannot conceive.

The points of difference between Christianity and Judaism have very much
to do with a man’s fitness to be a bishop or a rabbi. But they have
no more to do with his fitness to be a magistrate, a legislator, or a
minister of finance, than with his fitness to be a cobbler. Nobody has
ever thought of compelling cobblers to make any declaration on the true
faith of a Christian. Any man would rather have his shoes mended by
a heretical cobbler than by a person who had subscribed all the
thirty-nine articles, but had never handled an {310}awl. Men act thus,
not because they are indifferent to religion, but because they do
not see what religion has to do with the mending of their shoes. Yet
religion has as much to do with the mending of shoes as with the budget
and the army estimates. We have surely had several signal proofs within
the last twenty years that a very good Christian may be a very bad
Chancellor of the Exchequer.

But it would be monstrous, say the persecutors, that Jews
should legislate for a Christian community. This is a palpable
misrepresentation. What is proposed is, not that the Jews should
legislate for a Christian community, but that a legislature composed
of Christians and Jews should legislate for a community composed of
Christians and Jews. On nine hundred and ninety-nine questions out of a
thousand, on all questions of police, of finance, of civil and criminal
law, of foreign policy, the Jew, as a Jew, has no interest hostile to
that of the Christian, or even to that of the Churchman. On questions
relating to the ecclesiastical establishment, the Jew and the Churchman
may differ. But they cannot differ more widely than the Catholic and
the Churchman, or the Independent and the Churchman. The principle that
Churchmen ought to monopolize the whole power of the state would at
least have an intelligible meaning. The principle that Christians ought
to monopolize it has no meaning at all. For no question connected with
the ecclesiastical institutions of the country can possibly come before
Parliament, with respect to which there will not be as wide a difference
between Christians as there can be between any Christian and any Jew.

In fact, the Jews are not now excluded from political power. They
possess it; and as long as they are {311}allowed to accumulate large
fortunes, they must possess it. The distinction which is sometimes made
between civil privileges and political power is a distinction without
a difference. Privileges are power. Civil and political are synonymous
words, the one derived from the Latin, the other from the Greek. Nor is
this mere verbal quibbling. If we look for a moment at the facts of the
case, we shall see that the things are inseparable, or rather identical.

That a Jew should be a judge in a Christian country would be most
shocking. But he may be a juryman. He may try issues of fact; and no
harm is done. But if he should be suffered to try issues of law, there
is an end of the constitution. He may sit in a box plainly dressed, and
return verdicts. But that he should sit on the bench in a black gown
and white wig, and grant new trials, would be an abomination not to
be thought of among baptized people. The distinction is certainly most

What power in civilised society is so great as that of the creditor over
the debtor? If we take this away from the Jew, we take away from him the
security of his property. If we leave it to him, we leave to him a power
more despotic by far than that of the king and all his cabinet.

It would be impious to let a Jew sit in Parliament. But a Jew may make
money; and money may make members of Parliament. Gattan and Old Sarum
may be the property of a Hebrew. An elector of Penryn will take ten
pounds from Shylock rather than nine pounds nineteen shillings and
eleven pence three farthings from Antonio. To this no objection is made.
That a Jew should possess the substance of legislative power, that he
should command eight votes on every {312}division as if he were the
great Duke of Newcastle himself, is exactly as it should be. But that he
should pass the bar and sit down on those mysterious cushions of green
leather, that he should cry “hear” and “order,” and talk about being on
his legs, and being, for one, free to say this and to say that, would be
a profanation sufficient to bring ruin on the country.

That a Jew should be privy-councillor to a Christian king would be an
eternal disgrace to the nation. But the Jew may govern the money-market,
and the money-market may govern the world. The minister may be in doubt
as to his scheme of finance till he has been closeted with the Jew.
A congress of sovereigns may be forced to summon the Jew to their
assistance. The scrawl of the Jew on the back of a piece of paper may be
worth more than the royal word of three kings, or the national faith of
three new American republics. But that he should put Right Honourable
before his name would be the most frightful of national calamities.

It was in this way that some of our politicians reasoned about the Irish
Catholics. The Catholics ought to have no political power. The sun of
England is set for ever if the Catholics exercise political power. Give
the Catholics every thing else; but keep political power from them.
These wise men did not see that, when every thing else had been given,
political power had been given. They continued to repeat their cuckoo
song, when it was no longer a question whether Catholics should
have political power or not, when a Catholic Association bearded the
Parliament, when a Catholic agitator exercised infinitely more authority
than the Lord Lieutenant.

If it is our duty as Christians to exclude the Jews

0-10 {313}from political power, it must be our duty to treat them as our
ancestors treated them, to murder them, and banish them, and rob them.
For in that way, and in that way alone, can we really deprive them of
political power. If we do not adopt this course, we may take away the
shadow, but we must leave them the substance. We may do enough to pain
and irritate them; but we shall not do enough to secure ourselves from
danger, if danger really exists. Where wealth is, there power must
inevitably be.

The English Jews, we are told, are not Englishmen. They are a
separate people, living locally in this island, but living morally and
politically in communion with their brethren who are scattered over all
the world. An English Jew looks on a Dutch or a Portuguese Jew as his
countryman, and on an English Christian as a stranger. This want of
patriotic feeling, it is said, renders a Jew unfit to exercise political

The argument has in it something plausible; but a close examination
shows it to be quite, unsound. Even if the alleged facts are admitted,
still the Jews are not the only people who have preferred their sect to
their country. The feeling of patriotism, when society is in a healthful
state, springs up, by a natural and inevitable association, in the minds
of citizens who know that they owe all their comforts and pleasures to
the bond which unites them in one community. But, under a partial and
oppressive government, these associations cannot acquire that strength
which they have in a better state of things. Men are compelled to seek
from their party that protection which they ought to receive from their
country, and they, by a natural consequence, transfer to their party
that affection which they would otherwise have felt for their country.
The {314}Huguenots of France called in the help of England against their
Catholic kings. The Catholics of France called in the help of Spain
against a Huguenot king. Would it be fair to infer, that at present the
French Protestants would wish to see their religion made dominant by the
help of a Prussian or English army? Surely not. And why is it that
they are not willing, as they formerly were willing, to sacrifice
the interests of their country to the interests of their religious
persuasion? The reason is obvious: they were persecuted then, and are
not persecuted now. The English Puritans, under Charles the First,
prevailed on the Scotch to invade England. Do the Protestant Dissenters
of our time wish to see the Church put down by an invasion of foreign
Calvinists? If not, to what cause are we to attribute the change? Surely
to this, that the Protestant Dissenters are far better treated now than
in the seventeenth century. Some of the most illustrious public men that
England ever produced were inclined to take refuge from the tyranny of
Laud in North America. Was this because Presbyterians and Independents
are incapable of loving their country? But it is idle to multiply
instances. Nothing is so offensive to a man who knows any thing of
history or of human nature as to hear those who exercise the powers
of government accuse any sect of foreign attachments. If there be
any proposition universally true in politics it is this, that foreign
attachments are the fruit of domestic misrule. It has always been the
trick of bigots to make their subjects miserable at home, and then to
complain that they look for relief abroad; to divide society, and to
wonder that it is not united; to govern as if a section of the state
were the whole, and to censure the other sections of the state for their
{315}want of patriotic spirit. If the Jews have not felt towards England
like children, it is because she has treated them like a step-mother.
There is no feeling which more certainly developes itself in the minds
of men living under tolerably good government than the feeling of
patriotism. Since the beginning of the world, there never was any
nation, or any large portion of any nation, not cruelly oppressed, which
was wholly destitute of that feeling. To make it therefore ground of
accusation against a class of men, that they are not patriotic, is the
most vulgar legerdemain of sophistry. It is the logic which the wolf
employs against the lamb. It is to accuse the mouth of the stream of
poisoning the source.

If the English Jews really felt a deadly hatred to England, if the
weekly prayer of their synagogues were that all the curses denounced
by Ezekiel on Tyre and Egypt might fall on London, if, in their solemn
feasts, they called down blessings on those who should dash our children
to pieces on the stones, still, we say, their hatred to their countrymen
would not be more intense than that which sects of Christians have often
borne to each other. But in fact the feeling of the Jews is not such. It
is precisely what, in the situation in which they are placed, we should
expect it to be. They are treated far better than the French Protestants
were treated in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, or than our
Puritans were treated in the time of Laud. They, therefore, have no
rancour against the government or against their countrymen. It will
not be denied that they are far better affected to the state than the
followers of Coligni or Vane. But they are not so well treated as the
dissenting sects of Christians are now treated in England; and on this
account, and, we {316}firmly believe, on this account alone, they have
a more exclusive spirit. Till we have carried the experiment farther,
we are not entitled to conclude that they cannot be made Englishmen
altogether. The statesman who treats them as aliens, and then
abuses them for not entertaining all the feelings of natives, is as
unreasonable as the tyrant who punished their fathers for not making
bricks without straw.

Rulers must not be suffered thus to absolve themselves of their solemn
responsibility. It does not lie in their mouths to say that a sect is
not patriotic. It is their business to make it patriotic. History and
reason clearly indicate the means. The English Jews are, as far as we
can see, precisely what our government has made them. They are precisely
what any sect, what any class of men, treated as they have been treated,
would have been. If all the red-haired people in Europe had, during
centuries, been outraged and oppressed, banished from this place,
imprisoned in that, deprived of their money, deprived of their teeth,
convicted of the most improbable crimes on the feeblest evidence,
dragged at horses’ tails, hanged, tortured, burned alive, if, when
manners became milder, they had still been subject to debasing
restrictions and exposed to vulgar insults, locked up in particular
streets in some countries, pelted and ducked by the rabble in others,
excluded every where from magistracies and honours, what would be the
patriotism of gentlemen with red hair? And if, under such circumstances,
a proposition were made for admitting red-haired men to office, how
striking a speech might an eloquent admirer of our old institutions
deliver against so revolutionary a measure! “These men,” he might
say, “scarcely consider themselves as Englishmen. They think a
{317}red-haired Frenchman or a red-haired German more closely connected
with them than a man with brown hair born in their own parish. If a
foreign sovereign patronises red hair, they love him better than their
own native king. They are not Englishmen: they cannot be Englishmen:
nature has forbidden it: experience proves it to be impossible. Right
to political power they have none; for no man has a right to political
power. Let them enjoy personal security; let their property be under the
protection of the law. But if they ask for leave to exercise power
over a community of which they are only half members, a community the
constitution of which is essentially darkhaired, let us answer them in
the words of our wise ancestors, _Nolumus leges Anglice mutari_.”

But, it is said, the Scriptures declare that the Jews are to be restored
to their own country; and the whole nation looks forward to that
restoration. They are, therefore, not so deeply interested as others in
the prosperity of England. It is not their home, but merely the place
of their sojourn, the house of their bondage. This argument, which first
appeared in the Times newspaper, and which has attracted a degree of
attention proportioned not so much to its own intrinsic force as to the
general talent with which that journal is conducted, belongs to a
class of sophisms by which the most hateful persecutions may easily
be justified. To charge men with practical consequences which they
themselves deny is disingenuous in controversy; it is atrocious in
government. The doctrine of predestination, in the opinion of many
people, tends to make those who hold it utterly immoral. And certainly
it would seem that a man who believes his eternal destiny to be already
irrevocably fixed is likely to indulge his passions {318}without
restraint and to neglect his religious duties. If he is an heir of
wrath, his exertions must be unavailing. If he is preordained to life,
they must be superfluous. But would it be wise to punish every man who
holds the higher doctrines of Calvinism, as if he had actually committed
all those crimes which we know some Antinomians to have committed?
Assuredly not. The fact notoriously is that there are many Calvinists as
moral in their conduct as any Arminian, and many Arminians as loose as
any Calvinist.

It is altogether impossible to reason from the opinions which a man
professes to his feelings and his actions; and in fact no person is
ever such a fool as to reason thus, except when he wants a pretext
for persecuting his neighbours. A Christian is commanded, under the
strongest sanctions, to be just in all his dealings. Yet to how many of
the twenty-four millions of professing Christians in these islands would
any man in his senses lend a thousand pounds without security? A man who
should act, for one day, on the supposition that all the people about
him were influenced by the religion which they professed, would
find himself ruined before night; and no man ever does act on that
supposition in any of the ordinary concerns of life, in borrowing, in
lending, in buying, or in selling. But when any of our fellow-creatures
are to be oppressed, the case is different. Then we represent those
motives which we know to be so feeble for good as omnipotent for evil.
Then we lay to the charge of our victims all the vices and follies to
which their doctrines, however remotely, seem to tend. We forget that
the same weakness, the same laxity, the same disposition to prefer the
present to the future, which make men worse than a good religion, make
them better than a bad one. {319}It was in this way that our ancestors
reasoned, and that some people in our own time still reason, about the
Catholics. A Papist believes himself bound to obey the pope. The pope
has issued a bull deposing Queen Elizabeth. Therefore every Papist will
treat her grace as an usurper. Therefore every Papist is a traitor.
Therefore every Papist ought to be hanged, drawn, and quartered. To
this logic we owe some of the most hateful laws that ever disgraced our
history. Surely the answer lies on the surface. The Church of Rome may
have commanded these men to treat the queen as an usurper. But she has
commanded them to do many other things which they have never done. She
enjoins her priests to observe strict purity. You are always taunting
them with their licentiousness. She commands all her followers to fast
often, to be charitable to the poor, to take no interest for money, to
fight no duels, to see no plays. Do they obey these injunctions? If it
be the fact that very few of them strictly observe her precepts, when
her precepts are opposed to their passions and interests, may not
loyalty, may not humanity, may not the love of ease, may not the fear of
death, be sufficient to prevent them from executing those wicked orders
which she has issued against the sovereign of England? When we know
that many of these people do not care enough for their religion to go
without beef on a Friday for it, why should we think that they will run
the risk of being racked and hanged for it?

People are now reasoning about the Jews as our fathers reasoned about
the Papists. The law which is inscribed on the wails of the synagogues
prohibits covetousness. But if we were to say that a Jew mortgagee
would not foreclose because God had commanded {320}him not to covet his
neighbour’s house, every body would think us out of our wits. Yet it
passes for an argument to say that a Jew will take no interest in the
prosperity of the country in which he lives, that he will not care how
bad its laws and police may he, how heavily it may be taxed, how often
it may be conquered and given up to spoil, because God has promised
that, by some unknown means, and at some undetermined time, perhaps ten
thousand years hence, the Jews shall migrate to Palestine. Is not this
the most profound ignorance of human nature? Do we not know that what
is remote and indefinite affects men far less than what is near and
certain? The argument too applies to Christians as strongly as to Jews.
The Christian believes as well as the Jew, that at some future period
the present order of things will come to an end. Nay, many Christians
believe that the Messiah will shortly establish a kingdom on the earth,
and reign visibly over all its inhabitants. Whether this doctrine be
orthodox or not we shall not here inquire. The number of people who hold
it is very much greater than the number of Jews residing in England.
Many of those who hold it are distinguished by rank, wealth, and
ability. It is preached from pulpits, both of the Scottish and of the
English church. Noblemen and members of Parliament have written in
defence of it. Now wherein does this doctrine differ, as far as its
political tendency is concerned, from the doctrine of the Jews? If a Jew
is unfit to legislate for us because he believes that he or his remote
descendants will be removed to Palestine, can we safely open the
House of Commons to a fifth-monarchy man, who expects that before
this generation shall pass away, all the kingdoms of the earth will be
swallowed up in one divine empire? {321}Does a Jew engage less eagerly
than a Christian in any competition which the law leaves open to him? Is
he less active and regular in his business than his neighbours? Does he
furnish his house meanly, because he is a pilgrim and sojourner in
the land? Does the expectation of being restored to the country of his
fathers make him insensible to the fluctuations of the stock-exchange?
Does he, in arranging his private affairs, ever take into the account
the chance of his migrating to Palestine? If not, why are we to suppose
that feelings which never influence his dealings as a merchant, or his
dispositions as a testator, will acquire a boundless influence over him
as soon as he becomes a magistrate or a legislator?

There is another argument which we would not willingly treat with
levity, and which yet we scarcely know how to treat seriously.
Scripture, it is said, is full of terrible denunciations against the
Jews. It is foretold that they are to be wanderers. Is it then right to
give them a home? It is foretold that they are to be oppressed. Can we
with propriety suffer them to be rulers? To admit them to the rights of
citizens is manifestly to insult the Divine oracles.

We allow that to falsify a prophecy inspired by Divine Wisdom would be
a most atrocious crime. It is, therefore, a happy circumstance for our
frail species, that it is a crime which no man can possibly commit. If
we admit the Jews to seats in Parliament, we shall, by so doing, prove
that the prophecies in question, whatever they may mean, do not mean
that the Jews shall be excluded from Parliament.

In fact it is already clear that the prophecies do not bear the meaning
put upon them by the respectable persons whom we are now answering. In
France and {322}in the United States the Jews are already admitted to
all the rights of citizens. A prophecy, therefore, which should mean
that the Jews would never, during the course of their wanderings, he
admitted to all the rights of citizens in the places of their sojourn,
would be a false prophecy. This, therefore, is not the meaning of the
prophecies of Scripture.

But we protest altogether against the practice of confounding prophecy
with precept, of setting up predictions which are often obscure against
a morality which is always clear. If actions are to be considered as
just and good merely because they have been predicted, what action was
ever more laudable than that crime which our bigots are now, at the end
of eighteen centuries, urging us to avenge on the Jews, that crime
which made the earth shake and blotted out the sun from heaven? The same
reasoning which is now employed to vindicate the disabilities imposed on
our Hebrew countrymen will equally vindicate the kiss of Judas and the
judgment of Pilate. “The Son of man goeth, as it is written of him; but
woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed.” And woe to those
who in any age or in any country, disobey his benevolent commands under
pretence of accomplishing his predictions. If this argument justifies
the laws now existing against the Jews, it justifies equally all the
cruelties which have ever been committed against them, the sweeping
edicts of banishment and confiscation, the dungeon, the rack, and the
slow fire. How can we excuse ourselves for leaving property to people
who are to “serve their enemies in hunger, and in thirst, and in
nakedness, and in want of all things;” for giving protection to the
persons of those who are to “fear day and night, and to have none
assurance of their {323}life;” for not seizing on the children of a race
whose “sons and daughters are to be given unto another people?”

We have not so learned the doctrines of Him who commanded us to love our
neighbour as ourselves, and who, when he was called upon to explain what
He meant by a neighbour, selected as an example a heretic and an alien.
Last year, we remember, it was represented by a pious writer in the
John Bull newspaper, and by some other equally fervid Christians, as a
monstrous indecency, that the measure for the relief of the Jews should
be brought forward In Passion week. One of these humorists ironically
recommended that it should be read a second time on Good Friday. We
should have had no objection; nor do we believe that the day could
be commemorated in a more worthy manner. We know of no day fitter for
terminating long hostilities, and repairing cruel wrongs, than the day
on which the religion of mercy was founded. We know of no day fitter for
blotting out from the statute-book the last traces of intolerance than
the day on which the spirit of intolerance produced the foulest of
all judicial murders, the day on which the list of the victims of
intolerance, that noble list wherein Socrates and Mole are enrolled, was
glorified by a yet greater and holier name.


(_Edinburgh Review_, June 1831.)

We {324}have read this book with the greatest pleasure. Considered
merely as a composition, it deserves to be classed among the best
specimens of English prose which our age has produced. It contains,
indeed, no single passage equal to two or three which we could select
from the Life of Sheridan. But, as a whole, it is immeasurably superior
to that work. The style is agreeable, clear, and manly, and when it
rises into eloquence, rises without effort or ostentation. Nor is the
matter inferior to the manner. It would be difficult to name a book
which exhibits more kindness, fairness, and modesty. It has evidently
been written, not for the purpose of showing, what, however, it
often shows, how well its author can write, but for the purpose of
vindicating, as far as truth will permit; the memory of a celebrated
man who can no longer vindicate himself. Mr. Moore never thrusts himself
between Lord Byron and the public. With the strongest temptations to
egotism, he has said no more about himself than the subject absolutely

A great part, indeed the greater part, of these volumes, consists of
extracts from the Letters and Journals

     (1) _Letters and Journals of Lord Byron; with Notices of his
     Life_. By Thomas Mooke, Esq. 2 vols. 4to. London: 1830.

{325}of Lord Byron; and it is difficult to speak too highly of the skill
which has been shown in the selection and arrangement. We will not say
that we have not occasionally remarked in these two large quartos an
anecdote which should have been omitted, a letter which should have been
suppressed, a name which should have been concealed by asterisks, or
asterisks which do not answer the purpose of concealing the name. But
it is impossible, on a general survey, to deny that the task has been
executed with great judgment and great humanity. When we consider the
life which Lord Byron had led, his petulance, his irritability, and his
communicativeness, we cannot but admire the dexterity with which Mr.
Moore has contrived to exhibit so much of the character and opinions of
his friend, with so little pain to the feelings of the living.

The extracts from the journals and correspondence of Lord Byron are in
the highest degree valuable, not merely on account of the information
which they contain respecting the distinguished man by whom they were
written, but on account also of their rare merit as compositions. The
Letters, at least those which were sent from Italy, are among the best
in our language. They are less affected than those of Pope and Walpole;
they have more matter in them than those of Cowper. Knowing that many of
them were not written merely for the person to whom they were directed,
but were general epistles, meant to be read by a large circle, we
expected to find them clever and spirited, but deficient in ease. We
looked with vigilance for instances of stiffness in the language and
awkwardness in the transitions. We have been agreeably disappointed;
and we must confess that, if the epistolary style of Lord Byron was
artificial, it was a {326}rare and admirable instance of that highest
art which cannot be distinguished from nature.

Of the deep and painful interest which this book excites no abstract can
give a just notion. So sad and dark a story is scarcely to be found in
any work of fiction; and we are little disposed to envy the moralist who
can read it without being softened.

The pretty fable by which the Duchess of Orleans illustrated the
character of her son the Regent might, with little change, be applied to
Byron. All the fairies, save one, had been bidden to his cradle. All
the gossips had been profuse of their gifts. One had bestowed nobility,
another genius, a third beauty. The malignant elf who had been uninvited
came last, and, unable to reverse what her sisters had done for their
favourite, had mixed up a curse with every blessing. In the rank of Lord
Byron, in his understanding, in his character, in his very person, there
was a strange union of opposite extremes. He was born to all that men
covet and admire. But in every one of those eminent advantages which he
possessed over others was mingled something of misery and debasement.
He was sprung from a house, ancient indeed and noble, but degraded and
impoverished by a series of crimes and follies which had attained a
scandalous publicity. The kinsman whom he succeeded had died poor, and,
but for merciful judges, would have died upon the gallows. The young
peer had great intellectual powers; yet there was an unsound part in his
mind. He had naturally a generous and feeling heart: but his temper was
wayward and irritable. He had a head which statuaries loved to copy,
and a foot the deformity of which the beggars in the streets mimicked.
Distinguished {327}at once by the strength and by the weakness of
his intellect, affectionate yet perverse, a poor lord, and a handsome
cripple, he required, if ever man required, the firmest and the most
judicious training. But, capriciously as nature had dealt with him, the
parent to whom the office of forming his character was intrusted was
more capricious still. She passed from paroxysms of rage to paroxysms
of tenderness. At one time she stifled him with her caresses: at another
time she insulted his deformity. He came into the world; and the world
treated him as his mother had treated him, sometimes with fondness,
sometimes with cruelty, never with justice. It indulged him without
discrimination, and punished him without discrimination. He was truly
a spoiled child, not merely the spoiled child of his parent, but the
spoiled child of nature, the spoiled child of fortune, the spoiled child
of fame, the spoiled child of society. His first poems were received
with a contempt which, feeble as they were, they did not absolutely
deserve. The poem which he published on his return from his travels was,
on the other hand, extolled far above its merit. At twenty-four he
found himself on the highest pinnacle of literary fame, with Scott,
Wordsworth, Southey, and a crowd of other distinguished writers beneath
his feet. There is scarcely an instance in history of so sudden a rise
to so dizzy an eminence.

Every thing that could stimulate, and every thing that could gratify
the strongest propensities of our nature, the gaze of a hundred
drawing-rooms, the acclamations of the whole nation, the applause of
applauded men, the love of lovely women, all this world and all the
glory of it were at once offered to a youth to whom nature had given
violent passions, and to {328}whom education had never taught to control
them. He lived as many men live who have no similar excuse to plead for
their fruits. But his countrymen and his countrywomen would love him and
admire him. They were resolved to see in his excesses only the flash and
outbreak of that same fiery mind which glowed in his poetry. He attacked
religion; yet in religious circles his name was mentioned with
fondness, and in many religious publications his works were censured with
singular tenderness. He lampooned the Prince Regent; yet he could not
alienate the Tories. Every thing, it seemed, was to be forgiven to
youth, rank, and genius.

Then came the reaction. Society, capricious in its indignation as it had
been capricious in its fondness, flew into a rage with its froward and
petted darling. He had been worshipped with an irrational idolatry.
He was persecuted with an irrational fury. Much has been written about
those unhappy domestic occurrences which decided the fate of his life.
Yet nothing is, nothing ever was, positively known to the public, but
this, that he quarrelled with his lady, and that she refused to live
with him. There have been hints in abundance, and shrugs and shakings of
the head, and “Well, well, we know,” and “We could an if we would,” and
“If we list to speak,” and “There be that might an they list.” But we
are not aware that there is before the world substantiated by credible,
or even by tangible evidence, a single fact indicating that Lord Byron
was more to blame than any other man who is on bad terms with his wife.
The professional men whom Lady Byron consulted were undoubtedly of
opinion that she ought not to live with her husband. But it is to be
remembered {329}that they formed that opinion without hearing both
sides. We do not say, we do not mean to insinuate, that Lady Byron was
in any respect to blame. We think that those who condemn her on the
evidence which is now before the public are as rash as those who condemn
her husband. We will not pronounce any judgment, we cannot, even in our
own minds, form any judgment, on a transaction which is so imperfectly
known to us. It would have been well if, at the time of the separation,
all those who knew as little about the matter then as we know about it
now had shown that forbearance which, under such circumstances, is but
common justice.

We know no spectacle so ridiculous as the British public in one of
its periodical fits of morality. In general, elopements, divorces, and
family quarrels, pass with little notice. We read the scandal, talk
about it for a day, and forget it. But once in six or seven years our
virtue becomes outrageous. We cannot suffer the laws of religion and
decency to be violated. We must make a stand against vice. We must teach
libertines that the English people appreciate the importance of domestic
ties. Accordingly some unfortunate man, in no respect more depraved than
hundreds whose offences have been treated with lenity, is singled out
as an expiatory sacrifice. If he has children, they are to be taken from
him. If he has a profession, he is to be driven from it. He is cut by
the higher orders, and hissed by the lower. He is, in truth, a sort of
whipping-boy, by whose vicarious agonies all the other transgressors of
the same class are, it is supposed, sufficiently chastised. We reflect,
very complacently on our own severity, and compare with great pride the
high standard of morals established in England with {330}the Parisian
laxity. At length our anger is satiated. Our victim is ruined and
heart-broken. And our virtue goes quietly to sleep for seven years more.

It is clear that those vices which destroy domestic happiness ought to
be as much as possible repressed. It is equally clear that they cannot
be repressed by penal legislation. It is therefore right and desirable
that public opinion should be directed against them. But it should
be directed against them uniformly, steadily, and temperately, not by
sudden fits and starts. There should be one weight and one measure.
Decimation is always an objectionable mode of punishment. It is the
resource of judges too indolent and hasty to investigate facts and
to discriminate nicely between shades of guilt. It is an irrational
practice, even when adopted by military tribunals. When adopted by the
tribunal of public opinion, it is infinitely more irrational. It is good
that a certain portion of disgrace should constantly attend on certain
bad actions. But it is not good that the offenders should merely have
to stand the risks of a lottery of infamy, that ninety-nine out of every
hundred should escape, and that the hundredth, perhaps the most innocent
of the hundred, should pay for all. We remember to have seen a mob
assembled in Lincoln’s Inn to hoot a gentleman against whom the most
oppressive proceeding known to the English law was then in progress. He
was hooted because he had been an unfaithful husband, as if some of
the most popular men of the age, Lord Nelson for example, had not been
unfaithful husbands. We remember a still stronger case. Will posterity
believe that, in an age in which men whose gallantries were universally
known, and had been legally proved, filled some of the highest offices
in the state and in the army, {331}presided at the meetings of religious
and benevolent institutions, were the delight of every society, and the
favourites of the multitude, a crowd of moralists went to the theatre,
in order to pelt a poor actor for disturbing the conjugal felicity of an
alderman? What there was in the circumstances either of the offender or
of the sufferer to vindicate the zeal of the audience, we could never
conceive. It has never been supposed that the situation of an actor is
peculiarly favourable to the rigid virtues, or that an alderman enjoys
any special immunity from injuries such as that which on this occasion
roused the anger of the public. But such is the justice of mankind.

In these cases the punishment was excessive; but the offence was known
and proved. The case of Lord Byron was harder. True Jedwood justice was
dealt out to him. First came the execution, then the investigation, and
last of all, or rather not at all, the accusation. The public, without
knowing any thing whatever about the transactions in his family, flew
into a violent passion with him, and proceeded to invent stories
which might justify its anger. Ten or twenty different accounts of the
separation, inconsistent with each other, with themselves, and with
common sense, circulated at the same time. What evidence there might be
for any one of these, the virtuous people who repeated them neither
knew nor cared. For in fact these stories were not the causes, but
the effects of the public indignation. They resembled those loathsome
slanders which Lewis Goldsmith, and other abject libellers of the same
class, were in the habit of publishing about Bonaparte; such as that he
poisoned a girl with arsenic when he was at the military school, that he
hired a grenadier to shoot Dessaix at Marengo, that {332}he filled St.
Cloud with all the pollutions of Capreæ. There was a time when anecdotes
like these obtained some credence from persons who, hating the French
emperor without knowing why, were eager to believe any thing which might
justify their hatred. Lord Byron fared in the same way. His countrymen
were in a bad humour with him. His writings and his character had lost
the charm of novelty. He had been guilty of the offence which, of all
offences, is punished most severely; he had been over-praised; he had
excited too warm an interest; and the public, with its usual justice,
chastised him for its own folly. The attachments of the multitude bear
no small resemblance to those of the wanton enchantress in the Arabian
Tales, who, when the forty days of her fondness were over, was not
content with dismissing her lovers, but condemned them to expiate, in
loathsome shapes, and under cruel penances, the crime of having once
pleased her too well.

The obloquy which Byron had to endure was such as might well have shaken
a more constant mind. The newspapers were filled with lampoons. The
theatres shook with execrations. He was excluded from circles where he
had lately been the observed of all observers. All those creeping things
that riot in the decay of nobler natures hastened to their repast; and
they were right; they did after their kind. It is not every day that
the savage envy of aspiring dunces is gratified by the agonies of such a
spirit, and the degradation of such a name.

The unhappy man left his country for ever. The howl of contumely
followed him across the sea, up the Rhine, over the Alps; it gradually
waxed fainter; it died away; those who had raised it began to ask each
{333}other, what, after all, was the matter about which they had been
so clamorous, and wished to invite back the criminal whom they had just
chased from them. His poetry became more popular than it had ever
been; and his complaints were read with tears by thousands and tens of
thousands who had never seen his face.

He had fixed his home on the shores of the Adriatic, in the most
picturesque and interesting of cities, beneath the brightest of skies,
and by the brightest of seas. Censoriousness was not the vice of the
neighbours whom he had chosen. They were a race corrupted by a bad
government and a bad religion, long renowned for skill in the arts of
voluptuousness, and tolerant of all the caprices of sensuality. From the
public opinion of the country of his adoption, he had nothing to dread.
With the public opinion of the country of his birth, he was at open war.
He plunged into wild and desperate excesses, ennobled by no generous
or tender sentiment. From his Venetian harem he sent forth volume after
volume, full of eloquence, of wit, of pathos, of ribaldry, and of bitter
disdain. His health sank under the effects of his intemperance. His hair
turned grey. His food ceased to nourish him. A hectic fever withered him
up. It seemed that his body and mind were about to perish together.

From this wretched degradation he was in some measure rescued by a
connection, culpable indeed, yet such as, if it were judged by the
standard of morality established in the country where he lived, might
be called virtuous. But an imagination polluted by vice, a temper
embittered by misfortune, and a frame habituated to the fatal excitement
of intoxication, prevented him from fully enjoying the happiness which
he might have derived from the purest and most tranquil of his {334}many
attachments. Midnight draughts of ardent spirits and Rhenish wines had
begun to work the ruin of his fine intellect. His verse lost much of
the energy and condensation which had distinguished it. But he would not
resign, without a struggle, the empire which he had exercised over the
men of his generation. A new dream of ambition arose before him; to be
the chief of a literary party; to be the great mover of an intellectual
revolution; to guide the public mind of England from his Italian
retreat, as Voltaire had guided the public mind of France from the
villa of Ferney. With this hope, as it should seem, he established the
Liberal. But, powerfully as he had affected the imaginations of his
contemporaries, he mistook his own powers if he hoped to direct their
opinions; and he still more grossly mistook his own disposition, if he
thought that he could long act in concert with other men of letters. The
plan failed, and failed ignominiously. Angry with himself, angry with
his coadjutors, he relinquished it, and turned to another project, the
last and noblest of his life.

A nation, once the first among the nations, preeminent in knowledge,
preeminent in military glory, the cradle of philosophy, of eloquence,
and of the fine arts, had been for ages bowed down under a cruel yoke.
All the vices which oppression generates, the abject vices which it
generates in those who submit to it, the ferocious vices which it
generates in those who struggle against it, had deformed the character
of that miserable race. The valour which had won the great battle of
human civilisation, which had saved Europe, which had subjugated
Asia, lingered only among pirates and robbers. The ingenuity, once
so conspicuously displayed in every department of physical and moral
science, had {335}been depraved into a timid and servile cunning. On
a sudden this degraded people had risen on their oppressors.
Discountenanced or betrayed by the surrounding potentates, they had
found in themselves something of that which might well supply the place
of all foreign assistance, something of the energy of their fathers.

As a man of letters, Lord Byron conld not but be interested in the event
of this contest. His political opinions, though, like all his opinions,
unsettled, leaned strongly towards the side of liberty. He bad assisted
the Italian insurgents with his purse, and, if their struggle against
the Austrian government had been prolonged, would probably have assisted
them with his sword. But to Greece he was attached by peculiar ties. He
had when young resided in that country. Much of his most splendid and
popular poetry had been inspired by its scenery and by its history. Sick
of inaction, degraded in his own eyes by his private vices and by
his literary failures, pining for untried excitement and honourable
distinction, he carried his exhausted body and his wounded spirit to the
Grecian camp.

His conduct in his new situation showed so much vigour and good sense
as to justify us in believing that, if his life had been prolonged,
he might have distinguished himself as a soldier and a politician. But
pleasure and sorrow had done the work of seventy years upon his delicate
frame. The hand of death was upon him: he knew it; and the only wish
which he uttered was that he might die sword in hand.

This was denied to him. Anxiety, exertion, exposure, and those fatal
stimulants which had become indispensable to him, soon stretched him on
a sick bed, in a strange land, amidst strange faces, without one human
{336}being that he loved near him. There, at thirty-six, the most
celebrated Englishman of the nineteenth century closed his brilliant and
miserable career.

We cannot even now retrace those events without feeling something of
what was felt by the nation, when it was first known that the grave had
closed over so much sorrow and so much glory; something of what was felt
by those who saw the hearse, with its long train of coaches, turn slowly
northward, leaving behind it that cemetery which had been consecrated
by the dust of so many great poets, but of which the doors were closed
against all that remained of Byron. We well remember that on that day,
rigid moralists could not refrain from weeping for one so young, so
illustrious, so unhappy, gifted with such rare gifts, and tried by
such strong temptations. It is unnecessary to make any reflections. The
history carries its moral with it. Our age has indeed been fruitful of
warnings to the eminent, and of consolations to the obscure. Two men
have died within our recollection, who, at a time of life at which many
people have hardly completed their education, had raised themselves,
each in his own department, to the height of glory. One of them died at
Longwood; the other at Missolonghi.

It is always difficult to separate the literary character of a man who
lives in our own time from his personal character. It is peculiarly
difficult to make this separation in the case of Lord Byron. For it
is scarcely too much to say, that Lord Byron never wrote without some
reference, direct or indirect, to himself. The interest excited by the
events of his life mingles itself in our minds, and probably in the
minds of almost all our readers, with the interest which properly
belongs to his works. A generation must pass away before it will be
{337}possible to form a fair judgment of his books, considered merely as
books. At present they are not only books, but relics. We will however
venture, though with unfeigned diffidence, to offer some desultory
remarks on his poetry.

His lot was cast in the time of a great literary revolution. That
poetical dynasty which had dethroned the successors of Shakspeare and
Spenser was, in its turn, dethroned by a race who represented themselves
as heirs of the ancient line, so long dispossessed by usurpers. The real
nature of this revolution has not, we think, been comprehended by the
great majority of those who concurred in it.

Wherein especially does the poetry of our times differ from that of the
last century? Ninety-nine persons out of a hundred would answer that
the poetry of the last century was correct, but cold and mechanical, and
that the poetry of our time, though wild and irregular, presented far
more vivid images, and excited the passions far more strongly than that
of Parnell, of Addison, or of Pope. In the same manner we constantly
hear it said, that the poets of the age of Elizabeth had far more
genius, but far less correctness, than those of the age of Anne. It
seems to be taken for granted, that there is some incompatibility, some
antithesis between correctness and creative power. We rather suspect
that this notion arises merely from an abuse of words, and that it has
been the parent of many of the fallacies which perplex the science of

What is meant by correctness in poetry? If by correctness be meant the
conforming to rules which have their foundation in truth and in the
principles of human nature, then correctness is only another name
{339}for excellence. If by correctness be meant the conforming to
rules purely arbitrary, correctness may be another name for dulness and

A writer who describes visible objects falsely and violates the
propriety of character, a writer who makes the mountains “nod their
drowsy heads” at night, or a dying man take leave of the world with a
rant like that of Maximin, may be said in the high and just sense of
the phrase, to write incorrectly. He violates the first great law of
his art. His imitation is altogether unlike the thing imitated. The four
poets who are most eminently free from incorrectness of this description
are Homer, Dante, Shakspeare, and Milton. They are, therefore, in one
sense, and that the best sense, the most correct of poets.

When it is said that Virgil, though he had less genius than Homer, was a
more correct writer, what sense is attached to the word correctness? Is
it meant that the story of the Æneid is developed more skilfully than
that of the Odyssey? that the Roman describes the face of the external
world, or the emotions of the mind, more accurately than the Greek? that
the characters of Achates and Mnestheus are more nicely discriminated,
and more consistently supported, than those of Achilles, of Nestor, and
of Ulysses? The fact incontestably is that, for every violation of the
fundamental laws of poetry which can be found in Homer, it would be easy
to find twenty in Virgil.

Troilus and Cressida is perhaps of all the plays of Shakspeare that
which is commonly considered as the most incorrect. Yet it seems to us
infinitely more correct, in the sound sense of the term, than what are
called the most correct plays of the most correct dramatists. Compare
it, for example, with the Iphigenie {339}of Racine. We are sure that the
Greeks of Shakspeare bear a for greater resemblance than the Greeks of
Racine to the real Greeks who besieged Troy; and for this reason, that
the Greeks ol Shakspeare are human beings, and the Greeks of Racine
mere names, mere words printed in capitals at the head of paragraphs of
declamation. Racine, it is true, would have shuddered at the thought of
making a warrior at the siege of Troy quote Aristotle. But of what
use is it to avoid a single anachronism, when the whole play is one
anachronism, the sentiments and phrases of Versailles in the camp of

In the sense in which we are now using the word correctness, we think
that Sir Walter Scott, Mr. Wordsworth, Mr. Coleridge, are for more
correct poets than those who are commonly extolled as the models of
correctness, Pope, for example, and Addison. The single description of
a moonlight night in Pope’s Iliad contains more inaccuracies than can
be found in all the Excursion. There is not a single scene in Cato,
in which all that conduces to poetical illusion, all the propriety of
character, of language, of situation, is not more grossly violated than
in any part of the Lay of the last Minstrel. No man can possibly think
that the Romans of Addison resemble the real Romans so closely as the
moss-troopers of Scott resemble the real mosstroopers. Wat Tinlinn and
William of Deloraine are not, it is true, persons of so much dignity
as Cato. But the dignity of the persons represented has as little to do
with the correctness of poetry as with the correctness of painting. We
prefer a gipsy by Reynolds to his Majesty’s head on a sign-post, and a
Borderer by Scott to a Senator by Addison.

In what sense, then, is the word correctness used {340}by those who say,
with the author of the Pursuits of Literature, that Pope was the most
correct of English Poets, and that next to Pope came the late Mr.
Gifford? What is the nature and value of that correctness, the praise
of which is denied to Macbeth, to Lear, and to Othello, and given
to Hoole’s translations and to all the Seatonian prize-poems? We can
discover no eternal rule, no rule founded in reason and in the nature of
things, which Shakspeare does not observe much more strictly than Pope.
But if by correctness be meant the conforming to a narrow legislation
which, while lenient to the _mala in se_, multiplies, without the shadow
of a reason, the _mala prohibita_, if by correctness be meant a
strict attention to certain ceremonious observances, which are no more
essential to poetry than etiquette to good government, or than the
washings of a Pharisee to devotion, then, assuredly, Pope may be a more
correct poet than Shakspeare; and, if the code were a little altered,
Colley Cibber might be a more correct poet than Pope. But it may well be
doubted whether this kind of correctness be a merit, nay, whether it be
not an absolute fault.

It would be amusing to make a digest of the irrational laws which bad
critics have framed for the government of poets. First in celebrity
and in absurdity stand the dramatic unities of place and time. No human
being has ever been able to find any thing that could, even by courtesy,
be called an argument for these unities, except that they have been
deduced from the general practice of the Greeks. It requires no very
profound examination to discover that the Greek dramas, often admirable
as compositions, are, as exhibitions of human character and human life,
far inferior to the English plays of the age of Elizabeth. {341}Every
scholar knows that the dramatic part of the Athenian tragedies was at
first subordinate to the lyrical part. It would, therefore, have been
little less than a miracle if the laws of the Athenian stage had been
found to suit plays in which there was no chorus.

All the greatest masterpieces of the dramatic art have been composed in
direct violation of the unities, and could never have been composed if
the unities had not been violated. It is clear, for example, that such
a character as that of Hamlet could never have been developed within the
limits to which Alfieri confined himself. Yet such was the reverence of
literary men during the last century for these unities that Johnson who,
much to his honour, took the opposite side, was, as he says, “frightened
at his own temerity,” and “afraid to stand against the authorities which
might be produced against him.”

There are other rules of the same kind without end. “Shakspeare,” says
Rymer, “ought not to have made Othello black; for the hero of a tragedy
ought always to be white.”

“Milton,” says another critic, “ought not to have taken Adam for his
hero; for the hero of an epic poem ought always to be victorious.”

“Milton,” says another, “ought not to have put so many similes into his
first book; for the first book of an epic poem ought always to be the
most unadorned. There are no similes in the first book of the Iliad.”

“Milton,” says another, “ought not to have placed in an epic poem such
lines as these."

               “'While thus I called, and strayed I knew not whither.’”

And why not? The critic is ready with a reason, a lady’s reason. “Such
lines,” says he, “are not, it must be allowed, unpleasing to the ear;
but the redundant {342}syllable ought to be confined to the drama, and
not admitted into epic poetry.” As to the redundant syllable in heroic
rhyme on serious subjects, it has been, from the time of Pope downward,
proscribed by the general consent of all the correct school. No magazine
would have admitted so incorrect a couplet as that of Drayton;

               “As when we lived untouch’d with these disgraces,

               When as our kingdom was our dear embraces."

Another law of heroic rhyme, which, fifty years ago, was considered as
fundamental, was, that there should be a pause, a comma at least, at the
end of every couplet. It was also provided that there should never be a
full stop except at the end of a line. Well do we remember to have heard
a most correct judge of poetry revile Mr. Rogers for the incorrectness
of that most sweet and graceful passage,

                   “Such grief was ours,--it seems but yesterday,--

                   When in thy prime, wishing so much to stay,

                   ’Twas thine, Maria, thine without a sigh

                   At midnight in a sister’s arms to die.

                   Oh thou wert lovely; lovely was thy frame,

                   And pure thy spirit as from heaven it came:

                   And when recalled to join the blest above

                   Thou diedst a victim to exceeding love,

                   Nursing the young to health. In happier hours,

                   When idle Fancy wove luxuriant flowers,

                   Once in thy mirth thou badst me write on thee;

                   And now I write what thou shalt never see."

Sir Roger Newdigate is fairly entitled, we think, to be ranked among
the great critics of this school. He made a law that none of the poems
written for the prize which he established at Oxford should exceed
fifty lines. This law seems to us to have at least as much foundation in
reason as any of those which we {343}have mentioned; nay, much more,
for the world, we believe, is pretty well agreed in thinking that the
shorter a prize-poem is, the better.

We do not see why we should not make a few more rules of the same kind;
why we should not enact that the number of scenes in every act shall be
three or some multiple of three, that the number of lines in every scene
shall be an exact square, that the _dramatis personae_ shall never
be more or fewer than sixteen, and that, in heroic rhymes, every
thirty-sixth line shall have twelve syllables. If we were to lay down
these canons, and to call Pope, Goldsmith, and Addison incorrect writers
for not having complied with our whims, we should act precisely as those
critics act who find incorrectness in the magnificent imagery and the
varied music of Coleridge and Shelley.

The correctness which the last century prized so much resembles the
correctness of those pictures of the garden of Eden which we see in old
Bibles. We have an exact square, enclosed by the rivers Pison, Gihon,
Hiddekel, and Euphrates, each with a convenient bridge in the centre,
rectangular beds of flowers, a long canal, neatly bricked and railed
in, the tree of knowledge, clipped like one of the limes behind the
Tuilleries, standing in the centre of the grand alley, the snake twined
round it, the man on the right hand, the woman on the left, and the
beasts drawn up in an exact circle round them. In one sense the picture
is correct enough. That is to say, the squares are correct; the circles
are correct; the man and the woman are in a most correct line with the
tree; and the snake forms a most correct spiral.

But if there were a painter so gifted that he could place on the canvass
that glorious paradise, seen by the {344}interior eye of him whose
outward sight had failed with long watching and labouring for liberty
and truth, if there were a painter who could set before us the mazes
of the sapphire brook, the lake with its fringe of myrtles, the flowery
meadows, the grottoes overhung by vines, the forests shining with
Hesperian fruit and with the plumage of gorgeous birds, the massy shade
of that nuptial bower which showered down roses on the sleeping lovers,
what should we think of a connoisseur who should tell us that this
painting, though finer than the absurd picture in the old Bible, was not
so correct? Surely we should answer, It is both finer and more correct;
and it is finer because it is more correct. It is not made up of
correctly drawn diagrams; but it is a correct painting, a worthy
representation of that which it is intended to represent.

It is not in the fine arts alone that this false correctness is prized
by narrow-minded men, by men who cannot distinguish means from ends,
or what is accidental from what is essential. M. Jourdain admired
correctness in fencing. “You had no business to hit me then. You must
never thrust in quart till you have thrust in tierce.” M. Tomes liked
correctness in medical practice. “I stand up for Artemius. That he
killed his patient is plain enough. But still he acted quite according
to rule. A man dead is a man dead; and there is an end of the matter.
But if rules are to be broken, there is no saying what consequences may
follow.” We have heard of an old German officer, who was a great admirer
of correctness in military operations. He used to revile Bonaparte for
spoiling the science of war, which had been carried to such exquisite
perfection by Marshal {345}Daun. “In my youth we used to march and
countermarch all the summer without gaining or losing a square league,
and then we went into winter quarters. And now comes an ignorant,
hot-headed young man, who flies about from Bologne to Ulm, and from
Ulm to the middle of Moravia, and fights battles in December. The
whole system of his tactics is monstrously incorrect.” The world is of
opinion, in spite of critics like these, that the end of fencing is
to hit, that the end of medicine is to cure, that the end of war is to
conquer, and that those means are the most correct which best accomplish
the ends.

And has poetry no end, no eternal and immutable principles? Is poetry,
like heraldry, mere matter of arbitrary regulation? The heralds tell us
that certain scutcheons and bearings denote certain conditions, and that
to put colours on colours, or metals on metals, is false blazonry.
If all this were reversed, if every coat of arms in Europe were new
fashioned, if it were decreed that or should never be placed but on
argent, or argent but on or, that illegitimacy should be denoted by a
lozenge, and widowhood by a bend, the new science would be just as good
as the old science, because both the new and the old would be good for
nothing. The mummery of Portcullis and Rouge Dragon, as it has no other
value than that which caprice has assigned to it, may well submit to any
laws which caprice may impose on it. But it is not so with that great
imitative art, to the power of which all ages, the rudest and the most
enlightened, bear witness. Since its first great masterpieces were
produced, every thing that is changeable in this world has been changed.
Civilisation has been gained, lost, gained again. Religions, and
languages, and forms of government, and usages of private {346}life, and
modes of thinking, all have undergone a succession of revolutions. Every
thing has passed away but the great features of nature, and the heart of
man, and the miracles of that art of which it is the office to reflect
back the heart of man and the features of nature. Those two strange
old poems, the wonder of ninety generations, still retain all their
freshness. They still command the veneration of minds enriched by the
literature of many nations and ages. They are still, even in wretched
translations, the delight of schoolboys. Having survived ten thousand
capricious fashions, having seen successive codes of criticism become
obsolete, they still remain to us, immortal with the immortality of
truth, the same when perused in the study of an English scholar, as when
they were first chanted at the banquets of the Ionian princes.

Poetry is, as was said more than two thousand years ago, imitation. It
is an art analogous in many respects to the art of painting, sculpture,
and acting. The imitations of the painter, the sculptor, and the actor,
are indeed, within certain limits, more perfect than those of the poet.
The machinery which the poet employs consists merely of words; and words
cannot, even when employed by such an artist as Homer or Dante, present
to the mind images of visible objects quite so lively and exact as
those which we carry away from looking on the works of the brush and the
chisel. But, on the other hand, the range of poetry is infinitely wider
than that of any other imitative art, or than that of all the other
imitative arts together. The sculptor can imitate only form; the painter
only form and colour; the actor, until the poet supplies him with words,
only form, colour, and motion. Poetry holds the outer world in common
with the other arts. The {347}heart of man is the province, of poetry,
and of poetry alone. The painter, the sculptor, and the actor can
exhibit no more of human passion and character than that small portion
which overflows into the gesture and the face, always an imperfect,
often a deceitful, sign of that which is within. The deeper and more
complex parts of human nature can be exhibited by means of words alone.
Thus the objects of the imitation of poetry are the whole external and
the whole internal universe, the face of nature, the vicissitudes of
fortune, man as he is in himself, man as he appears in society, all
things which really exist, all things of which we can form an image in
our minds by combining together parts of things which really exist.
The domain of this Imperial art is commensurate with the imaginative

An art essentially imitative ought not surely to be subjected to rules
which tend to make its imitations less perfect than they otherwise would
be; and those who obey such rules ought to be called, not correct, but
incorrect artists. The true way to judge of the rules by which English
poetry was governed during the last century is to look at the effects
which they produced.

It was in 1780 that Johnson completed his Lives of the Poets. He tells
us in that work that, since the time of Dryden, English poetry had shown
no tendency to relapse into its original savageness, that its language
had been refined, its numbers tuned, and its sentiments improved. It may
perhaps be doubted whether the nation had any great reason to exult in
the refinements and improvements which gave it Douglas for Othello, and
the Triumphs of Temper for the Fairy Queen.

It was during the thirty years which preceded the {348}appearance of
Johnson’s Lives that the diction and versification of English poetry
were, in the sense in which the word is commonly used, most correct.
Those thirty years are, as respects poetry, the most deplorable part
of our literary history. They have indeed bequeathed to us scarcely any
poetry which deserves to be remembered. Two or three hundred lines of
Gray, twice as many of Goldsmith, a few stanzas of Beattie and Collins,
a few strophes of Mason, and a few clever prologues and satires, were
the masterpieces of this age of consummate excellence. They may all be
printed in one volume, and that volume would be by no means a volume
of extraordinary merit. It would contain no poetry of the very highest
class, and little which could be placed very high in the second class.
The Paradise Regained or Comus would outweigh it all.

At last, when poetry had fallen into such utter decay that Mr. Hayley
was thought a great poet, it began to appear that the excess of the evil
was about to work the cure. Men became tired of an insipid conformity to
a standard which derived no authority from nature or reason. A shallow
criticism had taught them to ascribe a superstitious value to the
spurious correctness of poetasters. A deeper criticism brought them back
to the true correctness of the first great masters. The eternal laws
of poetry regained their power, and the temporary fashions which had
superseded those laws went after the wig of Lovelace and the hoop of

It was in a cold and barren season that the seeds of that rich harvest
which we have reaped were first sown. While poetry was every year
becoming more feeble and more mechanical, while the monotonous
versification {349}which Pope had introduced, no longer redeemed by his
brilliant wit and his compactness of expression, palled on the ear of
the public, the great works of the old masters were every day attracting
more and more of the admiration which they deserved. The plays of
Shakspeare were better acted, better edited, and better known than they
had ever been. Our fine ancient ballads were again read with pleasure,
and it became a fashion to imitate them. Many of the imitations were
altogether contemptible. But they showed that men had at least begun to
admire the excellence which they could not rival. A literary revolution
was evidently at hand. There was a ferment in the minds of men, a vague
craving for something new, a disposition to hail with delight any
thing which might at first sight wear the appearance of originality. A
reforming age is always fertile of impostors. The same excited state of
public feeling which produced the great separation from the see of Rome
produced also the excesses of the Anabaptists. The same stir in the
public mind of Europe which overthrew the abuses of the old French
government, produced the Jacobins and Theophilanthropists.

Macpherson and Della Crusca were to the true reformers of English poetry
what Knipperdoling was to Luther, or Clootz to Turgot. The success of
Chatterton’s forgeries and of the far more contemptible forgeries of
Ireland showed that people had begun to love the old poetry well,
though not wisely. The public was never more disposed to believe stories
without evidence, and to admire books without merit. Any thing which
could break the dull monotony of the correct school was acceptable.

The forerunner of the great restoration of our literature was Cowper.
His literary career began and {350}ended at nearly the same time with
that of Alfieri. A comparison between Alfieri and Cowper may, at first
sight, appear as strange as that which a loyal Presbyterian minister is
said to have made in 1745 between George the Second and Enoch. It may
seem that the gentle, shy, melancholy Calvinist, whose spirit had been
broken by fagging at school, who had not courage to earn a livelihood by
reading the titles of bills in the House of Lords, and whose favourite
associates were a blind old lady and an evangelical divine, could have
nothing in common with the haughty, ardent, and voluptuous nobleman, the
horse-jockey, the libertine, who fought Lord Ligonier in Hyde Park, and
robbed the Pretender of his queen. But though the private lives of
these remarkable men present scarcely any points of resemblance, their
literary lives bear a close analogy to each other. They both found
poetry in its lowest state of degradation, feeble, artificial, and
altogether nerveless. They both possessed precisely the talents which
fitted them for the task of raising it from that deep abasement. They
cannot, in strictness, be called great poets. They had not in any very
high degree the creative power,

                        “The vision and the faculty divine;"

but they had great vigour of thought, great warmth of feeling, and what,
in their circumstances, was above all things important, a manliness of
taste which approached to roughness. They did not deal in mechanical
versification and conventional phrases. They wrote concerning things the
thought of which set their hearts on fire; and thus what they wrote,
even when it wanted every other grace, had that inimitable grace which
sincerity and strong passion impart to the rudest and most homely
compositions. Each of them sought {351}for inspiration in a noble and
affecting subject, fertile of images which had not yet been hackneyed.
Liberty was the muse of Alfieri, Religion was the muse of Cowper. The
same truth is found in their lighter pieces. They were not among those
who deprecated the severity, or deplored the absence, of an unreal
mistress in melodious commonplaces. Instead of raving about imaginary
Chloes and Sylvias, Cowper wrote of Mrs. Unwin’s knitting-needles. The
only love-verses of Alfieri were addressed to one whom he truly and
passionately loved. “Tutte le rime amorose che se-guono,” says he,
“tutte sono per essa, e ben sue, e di lei solamente; poiche mai d” altra
donna per certo non canterô.”

These great men were not free from affectation. But their affectation
was directly opposed to the affectation which generally prevailed. Each
of them expressed, in strong and bitter language, the contempt which he
felt for the effeminate poetasters who were in fashion both in England
and in Italy. Cowper complains that

                   “Manner is all in all, whate’er is writ,

                   The substitute for genius, taste, and wit."

He praised Pope; yet he regretted that Pope had

                   “Made poetry a mere mechanic art,

                   And every warbler had his tune by heart."

Alfieri speaks with similar scorn of the tragedies of his predecessors.
“Mi eadevano dalle mani per la languidezza, triviality e prolissit’i dei
modi e del verso, senza parlare poi della snervatezza dei pensieri. Or
perche mai questa nostra divina lingua, si maschia aneo, ed energica, e
feroce, in boeca di Dante, dovra, ella farsi cost sbiadata ed eunuca nel
dialogo tragico?”

To men thus sick of the languid manner of their {352}contemporaries
ruggedness seemed a venial fault, or rather a positive merit. In their
hatred of meretricious ornament, and of what Cowper calls “creamy
smoothness,” they erred on the opposite side. Their style was too
austere, their versification too harsh. It is not easy, however, to
overrate the service which they rendered to literature. The intrinsic
value of their poems is considerable. But the example which they set
of mutiny against an absurd system was invaluable. The part which they
performed was rather that of Moses than that of Joshua. They opened the
house of bondage; but they did not enter the promised land.

During the twenty years which followed the death of Cowper, the
revolution in English poetry was fully consummated. None of the writers
of this period, not even Sir Walter Scott, contributed so much to
the consummation as Lord Byron. Yet Lord Byron contributed to it
unwillingly, and with constant self-reproach and shame. All his tastes
and inclinations led him to take part with the school of poetry which
was going out against the school which was coming in. Of Pope himself
he spoke with extravagant admiration. He did not venture directly to say
that the little man of Twickenham was a greater poet than Shakspeare
or Milton; but he hinted pretty clearly that he thought so. Of his
contemporaries, scarcely any had so much of his admiration as Mr.
Gifford, who, considered as a poet, was merely Pope, without Pope’s
wit and fancy, and whose satires are decidedly inferior in vigour and
poignancy to the very imperfect juvenile performance of Lord Byron
himself. He now and then praised Mr. Wordsworth and Mr. Coleridge, but
ungraciously and without cordiality. When he attacked them, he
brought his whole soul to the work. {353}Of the most elaborate of
Mr. Wordsworth’s poems he could find nothing to say, but that it was
“clumsy, and frowsy, and his aversion.” Peter Bell excited his spleen to
such a degree that he evoked the shades of Pope and Dryden, and demanded
of them whether it were possible that such trash could evade contempt?
In his heart he thought his own Pilgrimage of Harold inferior to his
Imitation of Horace’s Art of Poetry, la feeble echo of Pope and Johnson.
This insipid performance he repeatedly designed to publish, and was
withheld only by the solicitations of his friends. He has distinctly
declared his approbation of the unities, the most absurd laws by which
genius was ever held in servitude. In one of his works, we think in his
letter to Mr. Bowles, he compares the poetry of the eighteenth century
to the Parthenon, and that of the nineteenth to a Turkish mosque, and
boasts that, though he had assisted his contemporaries in building their
grotesque and barbarous edifice, he had never joined them in defacing
the remains of a chaster and more graceful architecture. In another
letter he compares the change which had recently passed on English
poetry to the decay of Latin poetry after the Augustan age. In the
time of Pope, he tells his friend, it was all Horace with us. It is all
Claudian now.

For the great old masters of the art he had no very enthusiastic
veneration. In his letter to Mr. Bowles he uses expressions which
clearly indicate that he preferred Pope’s Iliad to the original.
Mr. Moore confesses that his friend was no very fervent admirer of
Shakspeare. Of all the poets of the first class, Lord Byron seems to
have admired Dante and Milton most. Yet in the fourth canto of Childe
Harold, he places Tasso, a writer not merely inferior to them, but of
{354}quite a different order of mind, on at least a footing of equality
with them. Mr. Hunt is, we suspect, quite correct in saying that Lord
Byron could see little or no merit in Spenser.

But Byron the critic and Byron the poet were two very different men. The
effects of the noble writer’s theory may indeed often be traced in his
practice. But his disposition led him to accommodate himself to the
literary taste of the age in which he lived; and his talents would have
enabled him to accommodate himself to the taste of any age. Though he
said much of his contempt for mankind, and though he boasted that amidst
the inconstancy of fortune and of fame he was all-sufficient to himself,
his literary career indicated nothing of that lonely and unsocial pride
which he affected. We cannot conceive him, like Milton or Wordsworth,
defying the criticism of his contemporaries, retorting their scorn, and
labouring on a poem in the full assurance that it would be unpopular,
and in the full assurance that it would be immortal. He has said, by the
mouth of one of his heroes, in speaking of political greatness, that “he
must serve who fain would sway;” and this he assigns as a reason for not
entering into political life. He did not consider that the sway which
he had exercised in literature had been purchased by servitude, by the
sacrifice of his own taste to the taste of the public.

He was the creature of his age; and whenever he had lived he would have
been the creature of his age. Under Charles the First Byron would have
been more quaint than Donne. Under Charles the Second the rants of
Byron’s rhyming plays would have pitted it, boxed it, and galleried it,
with those of any Bays or Bilboa. Under George the First the monotonous
{355}smoothness of Byron’s versification and the terseness of his
expression would have made Pope himself envious.

As it was, he was the man of the last thirteen years of the eighteenth
century, and of the first twenty-three years of the nineteenth century.
He belonged half to the old, and half to the new school of poetry.
His personal taste led him to the former; his thirst of praise to the
latter; his talents were equally suited to both. His fame was a common
ground on which the zealots of both sides, Gifford, for example, and
Shelley, might meet. He was the representative, not of either literary
party, but of both at once, and of their conflict, and of the victory
by which that conflict was terminated. His poetry fills and measures the
whole of the vast interval through which our literature has moved since
the time of Johnson. It touches the Essay on Man at the one extremity,
and the Excursion at the other.

There are several parallel instances in literary history. Voltaire,
for example, was the connecting link between the France of Lewis the
Fourteenth and the France of Lewis the Sixteenth, between Racine and
Boileau on the one side, and Condorcet and Beaumarchais on the other.
He, like Lord Byron, put himself at the head of an intellectual
revolution, dreading it all the time, murmuring at it, sneering at it,
yet choosing rather to move before his age in any direction than to be
left behind and forgotten. Dryden was the connecting link between the
literature of the age of James the First, and the literature of the age
of Anne. Oromasdes and Arimanes fought for him. Arimanes carried him
off. But his heart was to the last with Oromasdes. Lord Byron was, in
the same manner. {356}the mediator between two generations, between two
hostile poetical sects. Though always sneering at Mr. Wordsworth, he
was yet, though perhaps unconsciously, the interpreter between Mr.
Wordsworth and the multitude. In the Lyrical Ballads and the Excursion
Mr. Wordsworth appeared as the high priest of a worship, of which nature
was the idol. No poems have ever indicated a more exquisite perception
of the beauty of the outer world, or a more passionate love and
reverence for that beauty. Yet they were not popular; and it is not
likely that they ever will be popular as the poetry of Sir Walter Scott
is popular. The feeling which pervaded them was too deep for
general sympathy. Their style was often too mysterious for general
comprehension. They made a few esoteric disciples, and many scoffers.
Lord Byron founded what may be called an exoteric Lake school; and all
the readers of verse in England, we might say in Europe, hastened to
sit at his feet. What Mr. Wordsworth had said like a recluse, Lord Byron
said like a man of the world, with less profound feeling, but with more
perspicuity, energy, and conciseness. We would refer our readers to
the last two cantos of Childe Harold and to Manfred, in proof of these

Lord Byron, like Mr. Wordsworth, had nothing dramatic in his genius. He
was indeed the reverse of a great dramatist, the very antithesis to a
great dramatist. All his characters, Harold looking on the sky, from
which his country and the sun are disappearing together, the Giaour,
standing apart in the gloom of the side aisle, and casting a haggard
scowl from under his long hood at the crucifix and the censer, Conrad
leaning on his sword by the watch-tower, Lara smiling on the dancers,
Alp gazing steadily on the fatal cloud {357}as it passes before the
moon, Manfred wandering among the precipices of Berne, Azzo on the
judgment-seat, Ugo at the bar, Lambrol frowning on the siesta of his
daughter and Juan, Cain presenting his unacceptable offering, are
essentially the same. The varieties are varieties merely of age,
situation, and outward show. If ever Lord Byron attempted to exhibit men
of a different kind, he always made them either insipid or unnatural.
Selim is nothing. Bonnivart is nothing. Don Juan, in the first and best
cantos, is a feeble copy of the Page in the Marriage of Figaro. Johnson,
the man whom Juan meets in the slave-market, is a most striking failure.
How differently would Sir Walter Scott have drawn a bluff, fearless
Englishman, in such a situation! The portrait would have seemed to walk
out of the canvass.

Sardanapalus is more coarsely drawn than any dramatic personage that we
can remember. His heroism and his effeminacy, his contempt of death and
his dread of a weighty helmet, his kingly resolution to be seen in the
foremost ranks, and the anxiety with which he calls for a looking-glass,
that he may be seen to advantage, are contrasted, it is true, with all
the point of Juvenal. Indeed the hint of the character seems to have
been taken from what Juvenal says of Otho:

               “Speculum civilis sarcina belli.

               Nimirum summi ducis est occidere Galbam,

               Et curare cutem summi constantia civis,

               Bedriaci in campo spolium affectare l’alati,

               Et pressum in faciem digitis extendere panem."

These are excellent lines in a satire. But it is not the business of the
dramatist to exhibit characters in this sharp antithetical way. It is
not thus that Shakspeare makes Prince Hal rise from the rake of
{358}Eastcheap into the hero of Shrewsbury, and sink again into the Bike
of Eastcheap. It is not thus that Shakspeare has exhibited the union
of effeminacy and valour in Antony. A dramatist cannot commit a greater
error than that of following those pointed descriptions of character in
which satirists and historians indulge so much. It is by rejecting what
is natural that satirists and historians produce these striking
characters. Their great object generally is to ascribe to every man as
many contradictory qualities as possible: and this is an object easily
attained. By judicious selection and judicious exaggeration, the
intellect and the disposition of any human being might be described as
being made up of nothing but startling contrasts. If the dramatist
attempts to create a being answering to one of these descriptions, he
fails, because he reverses an imperfect analytical process. He produces,
not a man, but a personified epigram. Very eminent writers have fallen
into this snare. Ben Jonson has given us a Hermogenes, taken from the
lively lines of Horace; but the inconsistency which is so amusing in the
satire appears unnatural and disgusts us in the play. Sir Walter Scott
has committed a far more glaring error of the same kind in the novel of
Peveril. Admiring, as every judicious reader must admire, the keen and
vigorous lines in which Dryden satirised the Duke of Buckingham,
Sir Walter attempted to make a Duke of Buckingham to suit them, a
real living Zimri; and he made, not a man, but the most grotesque of
all monsters. A writer who should attempt to introduce into a play or a
novel such a Wharton as the Wharton of Pope, or a Lord Hervey answering
to Sporus, would fail in the same manner.

But to return to Lord Byron; his women, like his men, {359}are all
of one breed. Haidee is a half-savage and girlish Julia; Julia is a
civilised and matronly Haidee. Leila is a wedded Zuleika, Zuleika a
virgin Leila. Gulnare and Medora appear to have been intentionally
opposed to each other. Yet the difference is a difference of situation
only. A slight change of circumstances would, it should seem, have sent
Gulnare to the lute of Medora, and armed Medora with the dagger of

It is hardly too much to say, that Lord Byron could exhibit only one man
and only one woman, a man proud, moody, cynical, with defiance on his
brow, and misery in his heart, a scorner of his kind, implacable in
revenge, yet capable of deep and strong affection: a woman all softness
and gentleness, loving to caress and to be caressed, but capable of
being transformed by passion into a tigress.

Even these two characters, his only two characters, he could not exhibit
dramatically. He exhibited them in the manner, not of Shakspeare, but of
Clarendon. He analysed them; he made them analyse themselves; but he did
not make them show themselves. We are told, for example, in many
lines of great force and spirit, that the speech of Lara was bitterly
sarcastic, that he talked little of his travels, that if he was much
questioned about them, his answers became short, and his brow gloomy.
But we have none of Lara’s sarcastic speeches or short answers. It is
not thus that the great masters of human nature have portrayed human
beings. Homer never tells us that Nestor loved to relate long stories
about his youth. Shakspeare never tells us that in the mind of Iago
every thing that is beautiful and endearing was associated with some
filthy and debasing idea. {360}It is curious to observe the tendency
which the dialogue of Lord Byron always has to lose its character of a
dialogue, and to become soliloquy. The scenes between Manfred and the
Chamois-hunter, between Manfred and the Witch of the Alps, between
Manfred and the Abbot, are instances of this tendency. Manfred, after
a few unimportant speeches, has all the talk to himself. The other
interlocutors are nothing more than good listeners. They drop an
occasional question or ejaculation which sets Manfred off again on the
inexhaustible topic of his personal feelings. If we examine the fine
passages in Lord Byron’s dramas, the description of Rome, for example,
in Manfred, the description of a Venetian revel in Marino Faliero, the
concluding invective which the old doge pronounces against Venice, we
shall find that there is nothing dramatic in these speeches, that they
derive none of their effect from the character or situation of the
speaker, and that they would have been as fine, or finer, if they had
been published as fragments of blank verse by Lord Byron. There is
scarcely a speech in Shakspeare of which the same could be said. No
skilful reader of the plays of Shakspeare can endure to see what are
called the fine things taken out, under the name of “Beauties” or of
“Elegant Extracts,” or to hear any single passage, “To be or not to be,”
 for example, quoted as a sample of the great poet. “To be or not to be”
 has merit undoubtedly as a composition. It would have merit if put into
the mouth of a chorus. But its merit as a composition vanishes when
compared with its merit as belonging to Hamlet. It is not too much to
say that the great plays of Shakspeare would lose less by being deprived
of all the passages which are commonly called the fine passages, than
those passages {361}lose by being read separately from the play. This is
perhaps the highest praise which can be given to a dramatist.

On the other hand, it may be doubted whether there is, in all Lord
Byron’s plays, a single remarkable passage which owes any portion of its
interest or effect to its connection with the characters or the action.
He has written only one scene, as far as we can recollect, which
is dramatic even in manner, the scene between Lucifer and Cain. The
conference is animated, and each of the interlocutors has a fair share
of it. But this scene, when examined, will be found to be a confirmation
of our remarks. It is a dialogue only in form. It is a soliloquy in
essence. It is in reality a debate carried on within one single unquiet
and sceptical mind. The questions and the answers, the objections and
the solutions, all belong to the same character.

A writer who showed so little dramatic skill in works professedly
dramatic was not likely to write narrative with dramatic effect.
Nothing conld indeed be more rude and careless than the structure of
his narrative poems. He seems to have thought, with the hero of the
Rehearsal, that the plot was good for nothing but to bring in fine
things. His two longest works, Childe Harold and Don Juan, have no plan
whatever. Either of them might have been extended to any length, or cut
short at any point. The state in which the Giaour appears illustrates
the manner in which all Byron’s poems were constructed. They are all,
like the Giaour, collections of fragments; and, though there may be no
empty spaces marked by asterisks, it is still easy to perceive, by the
clumsiness of the joining, where the parts for the sake of which
the whole was composed end and begin. {362}It was in description and
meditation that Byron excelled. “Description,” as he said in Don
Juan, “was his forte.” His manner is indeed peculiar, and is almost
unequalled; rapid, sketchy, full of vigour; the selection happy; the
strokes few and bold. In spite of the reverence which we feel for the
genius of Mr. Wordsworth we cannot but think that the minuteness of his
descriptions often diminishes their effect, He has accustomed himself to
gaze on nature with the eye of a lover, to dwell on every feature, and
to mark every change of aspect. Those beauties which strike the most
negligent observer, and those which only a close attention discovers,
are equally familiar to him and are equally prominent in his poetry.
The proverb of old Hesiod, that half is often more than the whole, is
eminently applicable to description. The policy of the Dutch who cut
down most of the precious trees in the Spice Islands, in order to raise
the value of what remained, was a policy which poets would do well
to imitate. It was a policy which no poet understood better than Lord
Byron. Whatever his faults might be, he was never, while his mind
retained its vigour, accused of prolixity.

His descriptions, great as was their intrinsic merit, derived their
principal interest from the feeling which always mingled with them.
He was himself the beginning, the middle, and the end, of all his own
poetry, the hero of every tale, the chief object in every landscape.
Harold, Lara, Manfred, and a crowd of other characters, were universally
considered merely as loose incognitos of Byron; and there is every
reason to believe that he meant them to be so considered. The wonders of
the outer world, the Tagus, with the mighty fleets of England riding on
its bosom, the towers of {363}Cintra overhanging the shaggy forest of
cork-trees and willows, the glaring marble of Pentelicus, the banks of
the Rhine, the glaciers of Clarens, the sweet Lake of Leman, the dell of
Egeria with its summer-birds and rustling lizards, the shapeless ruins
of Rome overgrown with ivy and wall-flowers, the stars, the sea, the
mountains, all were mere accessaries, the background to one dark and
melancholy figure.

Never had any writer so vast a command of the whole eloquence of scorn,
misanthropy and despair. That Marah was never dry. No art could sweeten,
no draughts could exhaust, its perennial waters of bitterness. Never was
there such variety in monotony as that of Byron. From maniac laughter
to piercing lamentation, there was not a single note of human anguish
of which he was not master. Year after year, and month after month, he
continued to repeat that to be wretched is the destiny of all; that
to be eminently wretched is the destiny of the eminent; that all the
desires by which we are cursed lead alike to misery, if they are not
gratified, to the misery of disappointment, if they are gratified, to
the misery of satiety. His heroes are men who have arrived by different
roads at the same goal of despair, who are sick of life, who are at
war with society, who are supported in their anguish only by an
unconquerable pride resembling that of Prometheus on the rock or of
Satan in the burning marl, who can master their agonies by the force
of their will, and who, to the last, defy the whole power of earth and
heaven. He always described himself as a man of the same kind with
his favourite creations, as a man whose heart had been withered, whose
capacity for happiness was gone and could not be restored, but whose
invincible spirit dared the worst that could befall him here or
hereafter. {364}How much of this morbid feeling sprang from an original
disease of the mind, how much from real misfortune, how much from the
nervousness of dissipation, how much was fanciful, how much was
merely affected, it is impossible for us, and would probably have been
impossible for the most intimate friends of Lord Byron, to decide.
Whether there ever existed, or can ever exist, a person answering to the
description which he gave of himself may be doubted; but that he was not
such a person is beyond all doubt. It is ridiculous to imagine that
a man whose mind was really imbued with scorn of his fellow-creatures
would have published three or four books every year in order to tell
them so; or that a man who could say with truth that he neither sought
sympathy nor needed it would have admitted all Europe to hear his
farewell to his wife, and his blessings on his child. In the second
canto of Childe Harold, he tells us that he is insensible to fame and

               “Ill may such contest now the spirit move,

               Which heeds nor keen reproof nor partial praise."

Yet we know on the best evidence that, a day or two before he
published these lines, he was greatly, indeed childishly, elated by the
compliments paid to his maiden speech In the House of Lords.

We are far, however, from thinking that his sadness was altogether
feigned. He was naturally a man of great sensibility; he had been ill
educated; his feelings had been early exposed to sharp trials; he had
been crossed in his boyish love; he had been mortified by the failure
of his first literary efforts; he was straitened in pecuniary
circumstances; he was unfortunate in his domestic relations; the public
treated him with cruel injustice: his health and spirits suffered from
his {365}dissipated habits of life; he was, on the whole, an unhappy
man. He early discovered that, by parading his unhappiness before the
multitude, he produced an immense sensation. The world gave him every
encouragement to talk about his mental sufferings. The interest which
his first confessions excited induced him to affect much that he did not
feel; and the affectation probably reacted on his feelings. How far
the character in which he exhibited himself was genuine, and how far
theatrical, it would probably have puzzled himself to say.

There can be no doubt that this remarkable man owed the vast influence
which he exercised over his contemporaries at least as much to his
gloomy egotism as to the real power of his poetry. We never could very
clearly understand how it is that egotism, so unpopular in conversation,
should be so popular in writing; or how it is that men who affect in
their compositions qualities and feelings which they have not, impose so
much more easily on their contemporaries than on posterity. The interest
which the loves of Petrarch excited in his own time, and the pitying
fondness with which half Europe looked upon Rousseau, are well known. To
readers of our age, the love of Petrarch seems to have been love of
that kind which breaks no hearts, and the sufferings of Rousseau to have
deserved laughter rather than pity, to have been partly counterfeited,
and partly the consequences of his own perverseness and vanity.

What our grandchildren may think of the character of Lord Byron, as
exhibited in his poetry, we will not pretend to guess. It is certain,
that the interest which he excited during his life is without a parallel
in literary history The feeling with which young readers of {366}poetry
regarded him can be conceived only by those who have experienced it. To
people who are unacquainted with real calamity, “nothing is so dainty
sweet as lovely melancholy.” This faint image of sorrow has in all
ages been considered by young gentlemen as an agreeable excitement. Old
gentlemen and middle-aged gentlemen have so many real causes of
sadness that they are rarely inclined “to be as sad as night only
for wantonness.” Indeed they want the power almost as much as the
inclination. We know very few persons engaged in active life who, even
if they were to procure stools to be melancholy upon, and were to sit
down with all the premeditation of Master Stephen, would be able to
enjoy much of what somebody calls the “ecstasy of woe.”

Among that large class of young persons whose reading is almost entirely
confined to works of imagination, the popularity of Lord Byron was
unbounded. They bought pictures of him; they treasured up the smallest
relics of him; they learned his poems by heart, and did their best to
write like him, and to look like him. Many of them practised at the
glass in the hope of catching the curl of the upper lip, and the scowl
of the brow, which appear in some of his portraits. A few discarded
their neckcloths in imitation of their great leader. For some years
the Minerva press sent forth no novel without a mysterious, unhappy,
Lara-like peer. The number of hopeful under-graduates and medical
students who became things of dark imaginings, on whom the freshness
of the heart ceased to fall like dew, whose passions had consumed
themselves to dust, and to whom the relief of tears was denied, passes
all calculation. This was not the worst. There was created in the minds
of {367}many of these enthusiasts a pernicious and absurd association
between intellectual power and moral depravity. From the poetry of
Lord Byron they drew a system of ethics, compounded of misanthropy and
voluptuousness, a system in which the two great commandments were, to
hate your neighbour, and to love your neighbour’s wife.

This affectation has passed away; and a few more years will destroy
whatever yet remains of that magical potency which once belonged to the
name of Byron. To us he is still a man, young, noble, and unhappy. To
our children he will be merely a writer; and their impartial judgment
will appoint his place among writers, without regard to his rank or to
his private history. That his poetry will undergo a severe sifting, that
much of what has been admired by his contemporaries will be rejected
as worthless, we have little doubt. But we have as little doubt, that,
after the closest scrutiny, there will still remain much that can only
perish with the English language.


(_Edinburgh Review_, September 1831.)

This {368}work has greatly disappointed us. Whatever faults we may
have been prepared to find in it, we fully expected that it would be
a valuable addition to English literature; that it would contain many
curious facts, and many judicious remarks; that the style of the notes
would be neat, clear, and precise; and that the typographical execution
would be, as in new editions of classical works it ought to be, almost
faultless. We are sorry to be obliged to say that the merits of Mr.
Croker’s performance are on a par with those of a certain leg of mutton
on which Dr. Johnson dined, while travelling from London to Oxford, and
which he, with characteristic energy, pronounced to be “as bad as bad
could be, ill fed, ill killed, ill kept, and ill dressed.” This edition
is ill compiled, ill arranged, ill written, and ill printed.

Nothing in the work has astonished us so much as the ignorance or
carelessness of Mr. Croker with respect to facts and dates. Many of his
blunders are such as we should be surprised to hear any well educated

     (1) _The Life of Samuel Johnson, LL.D. Including a Journal
     of a Tour to the Hebrides, by James Boswell, Esq. A new
     Edition, with numerous Additions and Notes_. By John Wilson
     Croker, LL.D. F.R.S. Five volumes 8vo. London: 1831.

{369}gentleman commit, even in conversation. The notes absolutely swarm
with misstatements into which the editor never would have fallen, if
he had taken the slightest pains to investigate the truth of his
assertions, or if he had even been well acquainted with the book on
which he undertook to comment. We will give a few instances.

Mr. Croker tells us in a note that Derrick, who was master of the
ceremonies at Bath, died very poor in 1760. (1) We read on; and, a
few pages later, we find Dr. Johnson and Boswell talking of this same
Derrick as still living and reigning, as having retrieved his character,
as possessing so much power over his subjects at Bath, that his
opposition might be fatal to Sheridan’s lectures on oratory. (2) And all
this is In 1763. The fact is, that Derrick died in 1769.

In one note we read, that Sir Herbert Croft, the author of that pompous
and foolish account of Young, which appears among the Lives of the
Poets, died in 1805. (3) Another note in the same volume states, that
this same Sir Herbert Croft died at Paris, after residing abroad for
fifteen years, on the 27th of April 1816. (4) Mr. Croker informs us,
that Sir William Forbes of Pitsligo, the author of the Life of Beattie,
died in 1816. (5) A Sir William Forbes undoubtedly died in that year,
but not the Sir William Forbes in question, whose death took place in
1806. It is notorious, indeed, that the biographer of Beattie lived just
long enough to complete the history of his friend. Eight or nine years
before the date which Mr. Croker has assigned for Sir William’s death,
Sir Walter Scott

     (1) I. 394.

     (2) I. 404.

     (3) IV. 321

     (4) IV. 428.

     (5) II. 262.

{370}lamented that event in the introduction to the fourth canto of
Marmion. Every school-girl knows the lines:

                        “Scarce had lamented Forbes paid

                        The tribute to his Minstrel’s shade;

                        The tale of friendship scarce was told,

                        Ere the narrator’s heart was cold:

                        Far may we search before we find

                        A heart so manly and so kind!”

In one place, we are told, that Allan Ramsay, the painter, was born in
1709, and died in 1784; (1) in another, that he died in 1784, in the
seventy-first year of his age. (2)

In one place, Mr. Croker says, that at the commencement of the intimacy
between Dr. Johnson and Mrs. Thrale, in 1765, the lady was twenty-five
years old. (3) In other places he says, that Mrs. Thrale’s thirty-fifth
year coincided with Johnson’s seventieth.(4) Johnson was born in 1709.
If, therefore, Mrs. Thrale’s thirty-fifth year coincided with Johnson’s
seventieth, she could have been only twenty-one years old in 1765. This
is not all. Mr. Croker, in another place, assigns the year 1777 as the
date of the complimentary lines which Johnson made on Mrs. Thrale’s
thirty-fifth birth-day. (5) If this date be correct, Mrs. Thrale must
have been born in 1742, and could have been only twenty-three when her
acquaintance with Johnson commenced. Mr. Croker therefore gives us three
different statements as to her age. Two of the three must be incorrect.
We will not decide between them; we will only say, that the reasons
which Mr. Croker gives for thinking that Mrs. Thrale was exactly
thirty-five years old when Johnson was seventy, appear to us utterly

     (1)  IV. 105.

     (2) V. 281.

     (3) I. 510.

     (4) IV. 271. 322.

     (5) III. 463. {371}Again, Mil Croker informs his readers
     that “Lord Mansfield survived Johnson full ten years.” (1)
     Lord Mansfield survived Dr. Johnson just eight years and a

Johnson found in the Library of a French lady, whom he visited during
his short visit to Paris, some works which he regarded with great
disdain. “I looked,” says he, “into the books in the lady’s closet, and,
in contempt, showed them to Mr. Thrale. Prince Titi, Bibliothèque des
Fées, and other books.” (2) “The History of Prince Titi,” observes Mr.
Croker, “was said to be the autobiography of Frederick Prince of Wales,
but was probably written by Ralph his secretary.” A more absurd note
never was penned. The history of Prince Titi, to which Mr. Croker
refers, whether written by Prince Frederick or by Ralph, was certainly
never published. If Mr. Croker had taken the trouble to read with
attention that very passage in Park’s Royal and Noble Authors which he
cites as his authority, he would have seen that the manuscript was given
up to the government. Even if this memoir had been printed, it is not
very likely to find its way into a French lady’s bookcase. And would any
man in his senses speak contemptuously of a French lady, for having in
her possession an English work, so curious and interesting as a Life
of Prince Frederick, whether written by himself or by a confidential
secretary, must have been? The history at which Johnson laughed was a
very proper companion to the Bibliothèque des Fées, a fairy tale about
good Prince Titi and naughty Prince Violent. Mr. Croker may find it in
the Magasin des Enfans, the first French book which the little girls of
England read to their governesses.

     (1) II. 151.

     (2) III. 271.

{372}Mr. Croker states that Mr. Henry Bate, who afterwards assumed the
name of Dudley, was proprietor of the Morning Herald, and fought a duel
with George Robinson Stoney, in consequence of some attacks on Lady
Strathmore which appeared in that paper.(1) Now Mr. Bate was then
connected, not with the Morning Herald, but with the Morning Post; and
the dispute took place before the Morning Herald was in existence. The
duel was fought in January, 1777. The Chronicle of the Annual Register
for that year contains an account of the transaction, and distinctly
states that Mr. Bate was editor of the Morning Post. The Morning
Herald, as any person may see by looking at any number of it, was not
established till some years after this affair. For this blunder there
is, we must acknowledge, some excuse: for it certainly seems almost
incredible to a person living in our time that any human being should
ever have stooped to fight with a writer in the Morning Post.

“James de Duglas,” says Mr. Croker, “was requested by King Robert Bruce,
in his last hours, to repair, with his heart to Jerusalem, land humbly
to deposit it at the sepulchre of our Lord, which he did in 1329."(2)
Now, it is well known that he did no such thing, and for a very
sufficient reason, because he was killed by the way. Nor was it in
1329 that he set out. Robert Bruce died in 1329, and the expedition of
Douglas took place in the following year, “Quand le printems vint et
la saison,” says Froissart, in June, 1330, says Lord Hailes, whom Mr.
Croker cites as the authority for his statement.

Mr. Croker tells us that the great Marquis of Montrose was beheaded at
Edinburgh in 1650.(3) There is not

     (1) V. 196.

     (2) IV. 29.

     (3) II. 526.

a {373}forward boy at any school in England who does not know that the
marquis was hanged. The account of the execution is one of the finest
passages in Lord Clarendon’s History. We can scarcely suppose that Mr.
Croker has never read that passage; and yet we can scarcely suppose that
any person who has ever perused so noble and pathetic a story can have
utterly forgotten all its most striking circumstances.

“Lord Townshend,” says Mr. Croker, “was not secretary of state till
1720."(1) Can Mr. Croker possibly be ignorant that Lord Townshend was
made secretary of state at the accession of George I. in 1714, that
he continued to be secretary of state till he was displaced by the
intrigues of Sunderland and Stanhope at the close of 1710, and that he
returned to the office of secretary of state, not in 1720, but in 1721?

Mr. Croker, indeed, is generally unfortunate in his statements
respecting the Townshend family. He tells us that Charles Townshend, the
chancellor of the exchequer, was “nephew of the prime minister, and son
of a peer who was secretary of state, and leader of the House of Lords.”
 (2) Charles Townshend was not nephew, but grandnephew, of the Duke
of Newcastle, not son, but grandson, of the Lord Townshend who was
secretary of state, and leader of the House of Lords.

“General Burgoyne surrendered at Saratoga,” says Mr. Croker, “in March,
1778.” (3) General Burgoyne surrendered on the 17th of October, 1777.

“Nothing,” says Mr. Croker, “can be more unfounded than the assertion
that Byng fell a martyr _to political party_. By a strange coincidence
of circumstances, it happened that there was a total change of
administration between his condemnation and his death:

     (1) III. 52.

     (2) III. 368.

     (3) IV. 222.

{374}so that one party presided at his trial, and another at his
execution: there can be no stronger proof that he was _not_ a political
martyr.” (1) Now what will our readers think of this writer, when we
assure them that this statement, so confidently made, respecting events
so notorious, is absolutely untrue? One and the same administration was
in office when the court-martial on Byng commenced its sittings, through
the whole trial, at the condemnation, and at the execution. In the month
of November, 1756, the Duke of Newcastle and Lord Hardwicke resigned;
the Duke of Devonshire became first lord of the treasury, and Mr. Pitt,
secretary of state. This administration lasted till the month of April,
1757. Byng’s court-martial began to sit on the 28th of December, 1756.
He was shot on the 14th of March, 1757. There is something at once
diverting and provoking in the cool and authoritative manner in which
Mr. Croker makes these random assertions. We do not suspect him of
intentionally falsifying history. But of this high literary misdemeanour
we do without hesitation accuse him, that he has no adequate sense of
the obligation which a writer, who professes to relate facts, owes to
the public. We accuse him of a negligence and an ignorance analogous to
that _crassa negligentia,_ and that _crassa ignorantia_, on which
the law animadverts in magistrates and surgeons, even when malice and
corruption are not imputed. We accuse him of having undertaken a work
which, if not performed with strict accuracy, must be very much worse
than useless, and of having performed it as if the difference between
an accurate and an inaccurate statement was not worth the trouble of
looking into the most common book of reference.

     (1) 1. 298.

{375}But we must proceed. These volumes contain mistakes more gross, if
possible, than any that we have yet mentioned. Boswell has recorded some
observations made by Johnson on the changes which had taken place in
Gibbon’s religious opinions. That Gibbon when a lad at Oxford turned
Catholic is well known.

“It is said,” cried Johnson, laughing, “that he has been a Mahommedan.”

“This sarcasm,” says the editor, “probably alludes to the tenderness
with which Gibbon’s malevolence to Christianity induced him to treat
Mahommedanism in his history.” Now the sarcasm was uttered in 1770; and
that part of the History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire
which relates to Mahommedanism was not published till 1788, twelve years
after the date of this conversation, and near four years after the death
of Johnson. (1)

“It was in the year 1701,” says Mr. Croker, “that Goldsmith published
his Vicar of Wakefield. This

     (1) _A defence of this blunder was attempted. That the
     celebrated chapters in which Gibbon has traced the progress
     of Mahommedanism were not written in 1776 could not be
     denied. But it was confidently asserted that his partiality
     to Mahommedanism appeared in his first volume. This
     assertion is untrue. No passage which can by any art be
     construed into the faintest indication of the faintest
     partiality for Mahommedanism has ever been quoted or ever
     will be quoted from the first volume of the History of the
     Decline and Fall of the Woman Empire.

     To what then, it has been asked, could Johnson allude?
     Possibly to some anecdote or some conversation of which all
     trace is lost. One conjecture may be offered, though with
     diffidence. Gibbon tells us in his memoirs, that at Oxford
     he took a fancy for studying Arabic, and was prevented from
     doing so by the remonstrances of his tutor. Soon after this,
     the young man fell in with Bossuet’s controversial writings,
     and was speedily converted by them to the Roman Catholic
     faith. The apostasy of a gentleman commoner would of course
     be for a time the chief subject of conversation in the
     common room of Magdalene. His whim about Arabic learning
     would naturally be mentioned, and would give occasion to
     some jokes about the probability of his turning Mussulman.
     If such jokes were made, Johnson, who frequently visited
     Oxford, was very likely to hear of them._

{376}leads the editor to observe a more serious inaccuracy of Mrs.
Piozzi, than Mr. Boswell notices, when he says Johnson left her table
to go and sell the Vicar of Wakefield for Goldsmith. Now Dr. Johnson was
not acquainted with the Thrales till 1765, four years after the book had
been published.” (1) Mr. Croker, in reprehending the fancied inaccuracy
of Mrs. Thrale, has himself shown a degree of inaccuracy, or, to speak
more properly, a degree of ignorance, hardly credible. In the first
place, Johnson became acquainted with the Thrales, not in 1765, but in
1764, and during the last weeks of 1764 dined with them every Thursday,
as is written in Mrs. Piozzi’s anecdotes. In the second place, Goldsmith
published the Vicar of Wakefield, not in 1761, but in 1766. Mrs. Thrale
does not pretend to remember the precise date of the summons which
called Johnson from her table to the help of his friend. She says only
that it was near the beginning of her acquaintance with Johnson, and
certainly not later than 1766. Her accuracy is therefore completely
vindicated. It was probably after one of her Thursday dinners in 1764
that the celebrated scene of the landlady, the sheriff’s officer, and
the bottle of Madeira, took place. (2)

The very page which contains this monstrous blunder, contains another
blunder, if possible, more monstrous still. Sir Joseph Mawbey, a foolish
member of Parliament, at whose speeches and whose pig-styes the wits
of Brookes’s were, fifty years ago, in the habit of laughing most
unmercifully, stated, on the authority of Garrick, that Johnson, while
sitting in a coffee-house

     (1)  V. 409.

     (2) This paragraph has been altered; and a slight inaccuracy
     immaterial to the argument, has been removed.

{377}at Oxford, about the time of his doctor’s degree, used some
contemptuous expressions respecting Home’s play and Macpherson’s Ossian.
“Many men,” he said, “many women, and many children, might have written
Douglas.” Mr. Croker conceives that he has detected an inaccuracy, and
glories over poor Sir Joseph in a most characteristic manner. “I have
quoted this anecdote solely with the view of showing to how little
credit hearsay anecdotes are in general entitled. Here is a story
published by Sir Joseph Mawbey, a member of the House of Commons, and a
person every way worthy of credit, who says he had it from Garrick. Now
mark: Johnson’s visit to Oxford, about the time of his doctor’s
degree, was in 1754, the first time he had been there since he left
the university. But Douglas was not acted till 1750, and Ossian not
published till 1760. All, therefore, that is new in Sir Joseph Mawbey’s
story is false.” (1) Assuredly we need not go far to find ample proof
that a member of the House of Commons may commit a very gross error. Now
mark, say we, in the language of Mr. Croker. The fact is, that Johnson
took his Master’s degree in 1754 (2) and his Doctor’s degree in 1775.
(3) In the spring of 1776, (4) he paid a visit to Oxford, and at this
visit a conversation respecting the works of Home and Macpherson might
have taken place, and, in all probability, did take place. The only real
objection to the story Mr. Croker has missed. Boswell states, apparently
on the best authority, that as early at least as the year 1703, Johnson,
in conversation with Blair, used the same expressions respecting Ossian,
which Sir Joseph represents him as having used respecting Douglas. (5)
Sir Joseph, or Garrick, confounded,

     (1) V. 109.

     (2) I. 262.

     (3) III. 205.

     (4) III. 326.

     (5) I. 405.

{378}we suspect, the two stories. But their error is venial, compared
with that of Mr. Croker.

We will not multiply instances of this scandalous inaccuracy. It is
clear that a writer who, even when warned by the text on which he
is commenting, falls into such mistakes as these, is entitled to no
confidence whatever. Mr. Croker has committed an error of five years
with respect to the publication of Goldsmith’s novel, an error of twelve
years with respect to the publication of part of Gibbon’s History, an
error of twenty-one years with respect to an event in Johnson’s life
so important as the taking of the doctoral degree. Two of these three
errors he has committed, while ostentatiously displaying his own
accuracy, and correcting what he represents as the loose assertions of
others. How can his readers take on trust his statements concerning
the births, marriages, divorces, and deaths of a crowd of people, whose
names are scarcely known to this generation? It is not likely that a
person who is ignorant of what almost every body knows can know that of
which almost every body is ignorant. We did not open this book with any
wish to find blemishes in it. We have made no curious researches. The
work itself, and a very common knowledge of literary and political
history, have enabled us to detect the mistakes which we have pointed
out, and many other mistakes of the same kind. We must say, and we say
it with regret, that we do not consider the authority of Mr. Croker,
unsupported by other evidence, as sufficient to justify any writer who
may follow him in relating a single anecdote or in assigning a date to a
single event.

Mr. Croker shows almost as much ignorance and heedlessness in his
criticisms as in his statements concerning {379}facts. Dr. Johnson said,
very reasonably as it appears to us, that some of the satires of Juvenal
are too gross for imitation. Mr. Croker, who, by the way, is angry with
Johnson for defending Prior’s tales against the charge of indecency,
resents this aspersion on Juvenal, and indeed refuses to believe that
the doctor can have said any thing so absurd. He probably said--some
_passages_ of them--for there are none of Juvenal’s satires to which
the same objection may be made as to one of Horace’s, that it is
_altogether_ gross and licentious. (1) Surely Mr. Croker can never have
read the second and ninth satires of Juvenal.

Indeed the decisions of this editor on points of classical learning,
though pronounced in a very authoritative tone, are generally such that,
if a schoolboy under our care were to utter them, our soul assuredly
should not spare for his crying. It is no disgrace to a gentleman who
has been engaged during near thirty years in political life that he has
forgotten his Greek and Latin. But he becomes justly ridiculous if,
when no longer able to construe a plain sentence, he affects to sit in
judgment on the most delicate questions of style and metre. From one
blunder, a blunder which no good scholar would have made, Mr. Croker
was saved, as he informs us, by Sir Robert Peel, who quoted a passage
exactly in point from Horace. We heartily wish that Sir Robert,
whose classical attainments are well known, had been more frequently
consulted. Unhappily he was not always at his friend’s elbow; and we
have therefore a rich abundance of the strangest errors. Boswell has
preserved a poor epigram by Johnson, inscribed “Ad Lan ram parituram.”
 Mr. Croker censures the poet for applying the word puella to a lady in

     (1) I. 167

{380}Laura’s situation, and for talking of the beauty of Lucina.
“Lucina,” he says, “was never lamed for her beauty.” (1) If Sir Robert
Peel had seen this note, he probably would have again refuted Mr.
Croker’s criticisms by an appeal to Horace. In the secular ode, Lucina
is used as one of the names of Diana, and the beauty of Diana is
extolled by all the most orthodox doctors of the ancient mythology, from
Homer in his Odyssey, to Claudian in his Rape of Proserpine. In another
ode, Horace describes Diana as the goddess who assists the “laborantes
utero paellas.” But we are ashamed to detain our readers with this
fourth-form learning.

Boswell found, in his tour to the Hebrides, an inscription written by
a Scotch minister. It runs thus: “Joannes Macleod, &c., gentis suæ
Philarchus, &c., Floræ Macdonald matrimoniali vinculo conjugatus turrem
hanc Beganodunensem proævorum habitaculum longe vetustissimum, diu
penitus labefactatam, anno æræ vulgaris mdcdxxxvi. instauravit.”--“The
minister,” says Mr. Croker, “seems to have been no contemptible
Latinist. Is not Philarchus a very happy term to express the paternal
and kindly authority of the head of a clan?” (2) The composition of this
eminent Latinist, short as it is, contains several words that are just
as much Coptic as Latin, to say nothing of the incorrect structure
of the sentence. The word Philarchus, even if it were a happy term
expressing a paternal and kindly authority, would prove nothing for the
minister’s Latin, whatever it might prove for his Greek. But it is clear
that the word Philarchus means, not a man who rules by love, but a man
who loves rule. The Attic writers of the best age used

(1) I. 133.

(II.) 458.

[Illustration: 0387]

{381}the word [Greek] in the sense which we assign to it. Would Mr.
Croker translate [Greek], a man who acquires wisdom by means of love, or
[Greek], a man who makes money by means of love? In fact, it requires no
Bentley or Casaubon to perceive, that Philarchus is merely a false
spelling for Phylarchus, the chief of a tribe.

Mr. Johnson was not a first-rate Greek scholar; but he knew more Greek
than most boys when they leave school; and no schoolboy could venture to
use the word [Greek] in the sense which Mr. Croker ascribes to it
without imminent danger of a flogging.

Mr. Croker has also given us a specimen of his skill in translating
Latin. Johnson wrote a note in which he consulted his friend Dr.
Lawrence, on the propriety of losing some blood. The note contains these
words:--“Si per te licet, imperatur nuncio Holderum ad me deducere.”
 Johnson should rather have written “imperatum est.” But the meaning of
the words is perfectly clear. “If you say yes, the messenger has orders
to bring Holder to me.” Mr. Broker translates the words as follows: “If
you consent, pray tell the

     1 IV. 251.

{382}messenger to bring Holder to me.” (1) If Mr. Croker is resolved to
write on points of classical learning, we would advise him to begin by
giving an hour every morning to our old friend Corderius.

Indeed we cannot open any volume of this work in any place, and turn it
over for two minutes in any direction, without lighting on a blunder.
Johnson, in his Life of Tickell, stated that the poem entitled The Royal
Progress, which appears in the last volume of the Spectator, was
written on the accession of George I. The word “arrival” was afterwards
substituted for “accession.”

“The reader will observe,” says Mr. Croker, “that the Whig term
_accession_, which might imply legality, was altered into a statement of
the simple fact of King George’s _arrival_.’” (2) Now Johnson, though
a bigoted Tory, was not quite such a fool as Mr. Croker here represents
him to be. In the Life of Granville, Lord Lansdowne, which stands a very
few pages from the Life of Tickell, mention is made of the accession of
Anne, and of the accession of George I. The word arrival was used in the
Life of Tickell for the simplest of all reasons. It was used because
the subject of the poem called The Royal Progress was the arrival of the
king, and not his accession, which took place near two months before his

The editor’s want of perspicacity is indeed very amusing. He is
perpetually telling us that he cannot understand something in the text
which is as plain as language can make it. “Mattaire,” said Dr. Johnson,
“wrote Latin verses from time to time, and published a set in his old
age, which he called Senilia, in which he shows so little learning or
taste in writing, as to make Carteret a dactyl.” (3) Hereupon we have

     (1) V. 17.

     (2) IV. 425.

     (3) IV. 335.

{383}note: “The editor does not understand this objection, nor the
following observation.” The following observation, which Mr. Croker
cannot understand, is simply this: “In matters of genealogy,” says
Johnson, “it is necessary to give the bare names as they are. But in
poetry and in prose of any elegance in the writing, they require to have
inflection given to them.” If Mr. Croker had told Johnson that this was
unintelligible, the doctor would probably have replied, as he replied
on another occasion, “I have found you a reason, sir; I am not bound to
find you an understanding.” Every body who knows any thing of Latinity
knows that, in genealogical tables, Joannes Baro de Carteret, or
Vice-comes de Carteret, may be tolerated, but that in compositions which
pretend to elegance, Carteretus, or some other form which admits of
inflection, ought to be used.

All our readers have doubtless seen the two distichs of Sir William
Jones, respecting the division of the time of a lawyer. One of the
distichs is translated from some old Latin lines; the other is original.
The former runs thus:

                   “Six hours to sleep, to law’s grave study six,

                   Four spend in prayer, the rest on nature fix."

“Rather,” says Sir William Jones,

                        “Six hours to law, to soothing slumbers seven,

                        Ten to the world allot, and all to heaven.”

The second couplet puzzles Mr. Croker strangely. “Sir William,” says he,
“has shortened his day to twenty-three hours, and the general advice of
‘all to heaven,’ destroys the peculiar appropriation of a certain period
to religious exercises.” (1) Now, we did

     (1) V. 233.

{384}not think that it was in human dulness to miss the meaning of the
lines so completely. Sir William distributes twenty-three hours among
various employments. One hour is thus left for devotion. The reader
expects that the verse will end with “and one to heaven.” The whole
point of the lines consists in the unexpected substitution of “all” for
“one.” The conceit is wretched enough; but it is perfectly intelligible,
and never, we will venture to say, perplexed man, woman, or child

Poor Tom Davies, after failing in business, tried to live by his
pen. Johnson called him “an author generated by the corruption of a
bookseller.” This is a very obvious, and even a commonplace allusion
to the famous dogma of the old physiologists. Dryden made a similar
allusion to that dogma before Johnson was born. Mr. Croker, However, is
unable to understand what the doctor meant. “The expression,” he says,
“seems not quite clear.” And he proceeds to talk about the generation of
insects, about bursting into gaudier life, and Heaven knows what. (1)

There is still a stranger instance of the editor’s talent for finding
out difficulty in what is perfectly plain. “No man,” said Johnson, “can
now be made a bishop for his learning and piety.”

“From this too just observation,” says Boswell, “there are some eminent
exceptions.” Mr. Croker is puzzled by Boswell’s very natural and simple
language. “That a general observation should be pronounced _too just_,
by the very person who admits that it is not universally just, is not a
little odd.” (2)

A very large proportion of the two thousand five hundred notes which the
editor boasts of having added

     1 IV. 323.

     2 III. 228.

{385}to those of Boswell and Malone consists of the flattest and poorest
reflections, reflections such as the least intelligent reader is quite
competent to make for himself, and such as no intelligent reader would
think it worth while to utter aloud. They remind us of nothing so much
as of those profound and interesting annotations which are penciled by
sempstresses and apothecaries’ boys on the dog-eared margins of novels
borrowed from circulating libraries; “How beautiful!” “Cursed prosy!”

“I don’t like Sir Reginald Malcolm at all.”

“I think Pelham is a sad dandy.” Mr. Croker is perpetually stopping us
in our progress through the most delightful narrative in the language,
to observe that really Dr. Johnson was very rude, that he talked more for
victory than for truth, that his taste for port wine with capillaire in
it was very odd, that Boswell was impertinent, that it was foolish in
Mrs. Thrale to blame the music-master; and so forth.

We cannot speak more favourably of the manner in which the notes are
written than of the matter of which they consist. We find in every
page words used in wrong senses, and constructions which violate the
plainest rules of grammar. We have the vulgarism of “mutual friend,” for
“common friend.” We have “fallacy” used as synonymous with “falsehood.”
 We have many such inextricable labyrinths of pronouns as that which
follows: “Lord Erskine was fond of this anecdote; he told it to the
editor the first time that he had the honour of being in his company.”
 Lastly, we have a plentiful supply of sentences resembling those which
we subjoin. “Markland, _who_, with Jortin and Thirlby, Johnson calls
three contemporaries of great eminence.” (1) “Warburton himself did not
feel, as Mr.

     (1)  IV. 377.

{386}Boswell was disposed to think he did, kindly or gratefully _of
Johnson_.” (1) “It was _him_ that Horace Walpole called a man who never
made a bad figure but as an author.” (2) One or two of these solecisms
should perhaps be attributed to the printer, who has certainly done his
best to fill both the text and the notes with all sorts of blunders. In
truth, he and the editor have between them made the book so bad, that we
do not well see how it could have been worse.

When we turn from the commentary of Mr. Croker to the work of our old
friend Boswell, we find it not only worse printed than in any other
edition with which we are acquainted, but mangled in the most wanton
manner. Much that Boswell inserted in his narrative is, without the
shadow of a reason, degraded to the appendix. The editor has also taken
upon himself to alter or omit passages which he considers as indecorous.
This prudery is quite unintelligible to us. There is nothing immoral
in Boswell’s book, nothing which tends to inflame the passions. He
sometimes uses plain words. But if this be a taint which requires
expurgation, it would be desirable to begin by expurgating the morning
and evening lessons. The delicate office which Mr. Croker has
undertaken he has performed in the most capricious manner. One strong,
old-fashioned, English word, familiar to all who read their Bibles, is
changed for a softer synonyme in some passages, and suffered to stand
unaltered in others. In one place a faint allusion made by Johnson to
an indelicate subject, an allusion so faint that, till Mr. Croker’s note
pointed it out to us, we had never noticed it, and of which we are quite
sure that the meaning would never be discovered by any of those

     (1) IV. 415

     (2) II. 461.

{387}for whose sake books are expurgated, is altogether omitted. In
another place, a coarse and stupid jest of Dr. Taylor on the same
subject, expressed in the broadest language, almost the only passage,
as far as we remember, in all Boswell’s book, which we should have been
inclined to leave out, is suffered to remain.

We complain, however, much more of the additions than of the omissions.
We have half of Mrs. Thrale’s book, scraps of Mr. Tyers, scraps of Mr.
Murphy, scraps of Mr. Cradock, long prosings of Sir John Hawkins, and
connecting observations by Mr. Croker himself, inserted into the midst
of Boswell’s text. To this practice we most decidedly object. An
editor might as well publish Thucydides with extracts from Diodorus
interspersed, or incorporate the Lives of Suetonius with the History and
Annals of Tacitus. Mr. Croker tells us, indeed, that he has done only
what Boswell wished to do, and was prevented from doing by the law of
copyright. We doubt this greatly. Boswell has studiously abstained
from availing himself of the information given by his rivals, on many
occasions on which he might have cited them without subjecting himself
to the charge of piracy. Mr. Croker has himself, on one occasion,
remarked very justly that Boswell was unwilling to owe any obligation to
Hawkins. But, be this as it may, if Boswell had quoted from Sir John
and from Mrs. Thrale, he would have been guided by his own taste and
judgment in selecting his quotations. On what Boswell quoted he would
have commented with perfect freedom; and the borrowed passages, so
selected, and accompanied by such comments, would have become original.
They would have dove-tailed into the work. No hitch, no crease,
{388}would have been discernible. The whole would appear one and

                        “Ut per læve severos

               Effundat junctura ungues."

This is not the case with Mr. Croker’s insertions. They are not chosen
as Boswell would have chosen them. They are not introduced as Boswell
would have introduced them. They differ from the quotations scattered
through the original Life of Johnson, as a withered bough stuck in the
ground differs from a tree skilfully transplanted with all its life
about it.

Not only do these anecdotes disfigure Boswell’s book; they are
themselves disfigured by being inserted in his book. The charm of Mrs.
Thrale’s little volume is utterly destroyed. The feminine quickness
of observation, the feminine softness of heart, the colloquial
incorrectness and vivacity of style, the little amusing airs of a
half-learned lady, the delightful garrulity, the “dear Doctor Johnson,”
 the “it was so comical,” all disappear in Mr. Croker’s quotations. The
lady ceases to speak in the first person; and her anecdotes, in the
process of transfusion, become as flat as Champagne in decanters,
or Herodotus in Beloe’s version. Sir John Hawkins, it is true, loses
nothing; and for the best of reasons. Sir John had nothing to lose.

The course which Mr. Croker ought to have taken is quite clear. He
should have reprinted Boswell’s narrative precisely as Boswell wrote
it; and in the notes or the appendix he should have placed any anecdotes
which he might have thought it advisable to quote from other writers.
This would have been a much more convenient course for the reader, who
has now constantly to keep his eye on the margin in order {389}to see
whether he is perusing Boswell, Mrs. Thrale, Murphy, Hawkins, Tyers,
Cradock, or Mr. Croker. We greatly doubt whether even the Tour to the
Hebrides ought to have been inserted in the midst of the Life. There is
one marked distinction between the two works. Most of the Tour was seen
by Johnson in manuscript. It does not appear that he ever saw any part
of the Life.

We love, we own, to read the great productions of the human mind as
they were written. We have this feeling even about scientific treatises;
though we know that the sciences are always in a state of progression,
and that the alterations made by a modern editor in an old book on any
branch of natural or political philosophy are likely to be improvements.
Some errors have been detected by writers of this generation in the
speculations of Adam Smith. A short cut has been made to much knowledge
at which Sir Isaac Newton arrived through arduous and circuitous paths.
Yet we still look with peculiar veneration on the Wealth of Nations and
on the Principia, and should regret to see either of those great works
garbled even by the ablest hands. But in works which owe much of their
interest to the character and situation of the writers the case
is infinitely stronger. What man of taste and feeling can endure
_rifacimenti_, harmonies, abridgments, expurgated editions? Who ever
reads a stage-copy of a play when he can procure the original? Who ever
cut open All’s. Siddons’s Milton? Who ever got through ten pages of Mr.
Gilpin’s translation of John Bun-yan’s Pilgrim into modern English? Who
would lose, in the confusion of a Diatessaron, the peculiar charm which
belongs to the narrative of the disciple whom Jesus loved? The feeling
of a reader who has become {390}intimate with any great original work is
that which Adam expressed towards his bride:

                   “Should God create another Eve, and I

                   Another rib afford, yet loss of thee

               Would never from my heart.’”

No substitute, however exquisitely formed, will fill the void left by
the original. The second beauty may be equal or superior to the first;
but still it is not she.

The reasons which Mr. Croker has given for incorporating passages from
Sir John Hawkins and Mrs. Thrale with the narrative of Boswell would
vindicate the adulteration of half the classical works in the language.
If Pepys’s Diary and Mrs. Hutchinson’s Memoirs had been published a
hundred years ago, no human being can doubt that Mr. Hume would have
made great use of those books in his History of England. But would it,
on that account, be judicious in a writer of our times to publish an
edition of Hume’s History of England, in which large extracts from
Pepys and Mrs. Hutchinson should be incorporated with the original text?
Surely not. Hume’s history, be its faults what they may, is now one
great entire work, the production of one vigorous mind, working on such
materials as were within its reach. Additions made by another hand may
supply a particular deficiency, but would grievously injure the general
effect. With Boswell’s book the case is stronger. There is scarcely,
in the whole compass of literature, a book which bears interpolation so
ill. We know no production of the human mind which has so much of what
may be called the race, so much of the peculiar flavour of the soil from
which it sprang. The work could never have been written if the writer
had not been precisely what he was. His character is displayed in every
page, and {391}this display of character gives a delightful interest to
many passages which have no other interest.

The Life of Johnson is assuredly a great, a very great work. Homer is
not more decidedly the first of heroic poets, Shakspeare is not more
decidedly the first of dramatists, Demosthenes is not more decidedly the
first of orators, than Boswell is the first of biographers. He has no
second. He has distanced all his competitors so decided that it is not
worth while to place them. Eclipse r first, and the rest nowhere.

We are not sure that there is in the whole history of the human
intellect so strange a phænomenon as this book. Many of the greatest men
that ever lived have written biography. Boswell was one of the smallest
men that ever lived, and he has beaten them all. He was, if we are to
give any credit to his own account or to the united testimony of all who
knew him, a man of the meanest and feeblest intellect. Johnson described
him as a fellow who had missed his only chance of immortality by not
having been alive when the Dunciad was written. Beauclerk used his name
as a proverbial expression for a bore. He was the laughing stock of the
whole of that brilliant society which has owed to him the greater part
of its fame. He was always laying himself at the feet of some eminent
man, and begging to be spit upon and trampled upon. He was always
earning some ridiculous nickname, and then “binding it as a crown unto
him,” not merely in metaphor, but literally. He exhibited himself, at
the Shakspeare Jubilee, to all the crowd which filled Stratford-on-won,
with a placard round his hat bearing the inscription of Corsica Boswell.
In his Tour, he proclaimed to all the world that at Edinburgh he was
known by the appellation of {392}Paoli Boswell. Servile and impertinent
shallow and pedantic, a bigot and a sot, bloated with family pride, and
eternally blustering about the dignity of a born gentleman, yet stooping
to be a talebearer, an eavesdropper, a common butt in the taverns of
London, so curious to know every body who was talked about, that, Tory
and high Churchman as he was, he manoeuvred, we have been told, for an
introduction to Tom Paine, so vain of the most childish distinctions,
that when he had been to court, he drove to the office where his
book was printing without changing his clothes, and summoned all the
printer’s devils to admire his new ruffles and sword; such was this man,
and such he was contented and proud to be. Every thing which another man
would have hidden, every thing the publication of which would have made
another man hang himself, was matter of gay and clamorous exultation
to his weak and diseased mind. What silly things he said, what bitter
retorts he provoked, how at one place he was troubled with evil
presentiments which came to nothing, how at another place, on waking
from a drunken doze, he read the prayerbook and took a hair of the
dog that had bitten him, how he went to see men hanged and came away
maudlin, how he added five hundred pounds to the fortune of one of his
babies because she was not scared at Johnson’s ugly face, how he was
frightened out of his wits at sea, and how the sailors quieted him as
they would have quieted a child, how tipsy he was at Lady Cork’s one
evening and how much his merriment annoyed the ladies, how impertinent
he was to the Duchess of Argyle and with what stately contempt she put
down his impertinence, how Colonel Macleod sneered to his face at
his impudent obtrusiveness, how his father and the very wife of his
{393}bosom laughed and fretted at his fooleries; all these things he
proclaimed to all the world, as if they had been subjects for pride
and ostentations rejoicing. All the caprices of his temper, all the
illusions of his vanity, all his hypochondriac whimsies, all his castles
in the air, he displayed with a cool self-complacency, a perfect
unconsciousness that he was making a fool of himself, to which it is
impossible to find a parallel in the whole history of mankind. He
has used many people ill; but assuredly he has used nobody so ill as

That such a man should have written one of the best books in the world
is strange enough. But this is not all. Many persons who have conducted
themselves foolishly in active life, and whose conversation has
indicated no superior powers of mind, have left us valuable works.
Goldsmith was very justly described by one of his contemporaries as an
inspired idiot, and by another as a being

               “Who wrote like an angel, and talked like poor Poll."

La Fontaine was in society a mere simpleton. His blunders would not come
in amiss among the stories of Hierocles. But these men attained literary
eminence in spite of their weaknesses. Boswell attained it by reason
of his weaknesses. If he had not been a great fool, he would never have
been a great writer. Without all the qualities which made him the jest
and the torment of those among whom he lived, without the officiousness,
the inquisitiveness, the effrontery, the toadeating, the insensibility
to all reproof, he never could have produced so excellent a book. He
was a slave, proud of his servitude, a Paul Pry, convinced that his
own curiosity and garrulity were virtues, an unsafe companion who
never scrupled to repay the most {394}liberal hospitality by the basest
violation of confidence, a man without delicacy, without shame, without
sense enough to know when he was hurting the feelings of others or when
he was exposing himself to derision; and because he was all this, he
has, in an important department of literature, immeasurably surpassed
such writers as Tacitus, Clarendon, Alfieri, and his own idol Johnson.

Of the talents which ordinarily raise men to eminence as writers,
Boswell had absolutely none. There is not in all his books a single
remark of his own on literature, politics, religion, or society, which
is not either commonplace or absurd. His dissertations on hereditary
gentility, on the slave-trade, and on the entailing of landed estates,
may serve as examples. To say that these passages are sophistical would
be to pay them an extravagant compliment. They have no pretence to
argument, or even to meaning. He has reported innumerable observations
made by himself in the course of conversation. Of those observations we
do not remember one which is above the intellectual capacity of a boy of
fifteen. He has printed many of his own letters, and in these letters he
is always ranting or twaddling. Logic, eloquence, wit, taste, all those
things which are generally considered as making a book valuable, were
utterly wanting to him. He had, indeed, a quick observation and a
retentive memory. These qualities, if he had been a man of sense
and virtue, would scarcely of themselves have sufficed to make him
conspicuous; but, because he was a dunce, a parasite, and a coxcomb,
they have made him immortal.

Those parts of his book which, considered abstractedly, are most utterly
worthless, are delightful when we read them as illustrations of
the character of the {395}writer. Bad in themselves, they are good
dramatically, like the nonsense of Justice Shallow, the clipped
English of Dr. Cains, or the misplaced consonants of Fluellen. Of all
confessors, Boswell is the most candid. Other men who have pretended to
lay open their own hearts, Rousseau, for example, and Lord Byron, have
evidently written with a constant view to effect, and are to be then
most distrusted when they seem to be most sincere. There is scarcely any
man who would not rather accuse himself of great crimes and of dark
and tempestuous passions than proclaim all his little vanities and wild
fancies. It would be easier to find a person who would avow actions like
those of Cæsar Borgia or Danton, than one who would publish a daydream
like those of Alnaschar and Malvolio. Those weaknesses which most
men keep covered up in the most secret places of the mind, not to
be disclosed to the eve of friendship or of love, were precisely the
weaknesses which Boswell paraded before all the world. He was perfectly
frank, because the weakness of his understanding and the tumult of his
spirits prevented him from knowing when he made himself ridiculous. His
book resembles nothing so much as the conversation of the inmates of the
Palace of Truth.

His fame is great; and it will, we have no doubt, be lasting; but it is
fame of a peculiar kind, and indeed marvellously resembles infamy.
We remember no other case in which the world has made so great a
distinction between a book and its author. In general, the book and
the author are considered as one. To admire the book is to admire
the author. The case of Boswell is an exception, we think the only
exception, to this rule. His work is universally allowed to be
interesting, instructive, eminently original: yet it has {396}brought
him nothing but contempt. All the world reads it: all the world delights
in it: yet we do not remember ever to have read or ever to have heard
any expression of respect and admiration for the man to whom we owe so
much instruction and amusement. While edition after edition of his book
was coming forth, his son, as Mr. Croker tells us, was ashamed of it,
and hated to hear it mentioned. This feeling was natural and reasonable.
Sir Alexander saw that, in proportion, to the celebrity of the work,
was the degradation of the author. The very editors of this unfortunate
gentleman’s books have forgotten their allegiance, and, like those
Puritan casuists who took arms by the authority of the king against his
person, have attacked the writer while doing homage to the writings. Mr.
Croker, for example, has published two thousand five Mildred notes on
the life of Johnson, and yet scarcely ever mentions the biographer whose
performance he has taken such pains to illustrate without some
expression of contempt.

An ill-natured man Boswell certainly was not. Yet the malignity of the
most malignant satirist could scarcely cut deeper than his thoughtless
loquacity. Having himself no sensibility to derision and contempt, he
took it for granted that all others were equally callous. He was not
ashamed to exhibit himself to the whole world as a common spy, a common
tattler, a humble companion without the excuse of poverty, and to tell a
hundred stories of his own pertness and folly, and of the insults which
his pertness and folly brought upon him. It was natural that he should
show little discretion in cases in which the feelings or the honour of
others might be concerned. No man, surely, ever published such stories
respecting persons whom he professed {397}to love and revere. He would
infallibly have made his hero as contemptible as he has made himself,
had not his hero really possessed some moral and intellectual qualities
of a very high order. The best proof that Johnson was really an
extraordinary man is that his character, instead of being degraded, has,
on the whole, been decidedly raised by a work in which all his vices and
weaknesses are exposed more unsparingly than they ever were exposed by
Churchill or by Ken-rick.

Johnson grown old, Johnson in the fulness of his fame and in the
enjoyment of a competent fortune, is better known to us than any other
man in history. Every thing about him, his coat, his wig, his figure,
his face, his scrofula, his St. Vitus’s dance, his rolling walk, his
blinking eye, the outward signs which too clearly marked his approbation
of his dinner, his insatiable appetite for fish-sauce and veal-pie with
plums, his inextinguishable thirst for tea, his trick of touching the
posts as he walked, his mysterious practice of treasuring up scraps
of orange-peel, his morning slumbers, his midnight disputations, his
contortions, his mutter-ings, his gruntings, his puffings, his vigorous,
acute, and ready eloquence, his sarcastic wit, his vehemence, his
insolence, his fits of tempestuous rage, his queer inmates, old Mr.
Levett and blind Mrs. Williams, the cat Hodge and the negro Frank, all
are as familiar to us as the objects by which we have been surrounded
from childhood. But we have no minute information respecting those years
of Johnson’s life during which his character and his manners became
immutably fixed. We know him, not as he was known to the men of his own
generation, but as he was known to men whose father he might have been.
That celebrated club of {398}which he was the most distinguished member
contained few persons who could remember a time when his fame was not
fully established and his habits completely formed. He had made himself
a name in literature while Reynolds and the Wartons were still boys. He
was about twenty years older than Burke, Goldsmith, and Gerard Hamilton,
about thirty years older than Gibbon, Beauclerk, and Langton, and about
forty years older than Lord Stowell, Sir William Jones, and Windham.
Boswell and Mrs. Thrale, the two writers from whom we derive most of
our knowledge respecting him, never saw him till long after he was fifty
years old, till most of his great works had become classical, and till
the pension bestowed on him by the Crown had placed him above poverty.
Of those eminent men who were his most intimate associates towards the
close of his life, the only one, as far as we remember, who knew him
during the first ten or twelve years of his residence in the capital,
was David Garrick; and it does not appear that, during those years,
David Garrick saw much of his fellow-townsman.

Johnson came up to London precisely at the time when the condition of
a man of letters was most miserable and degraded. It was a dark night
between two sunny days. The age of patronage had passed away. The age
of general curiosity and intelligence had not arrived. The number of
readers is at present so great that a popular author may subsist in
comfort and opulence on the profits of his works. In the reigns of
William the Third, of Anne, and of George the First, even such men
as Congreve and Addison would scarcely have been able to live like
gentlemen by the mere sale of their writings. But the deficiency of the
natural demand for literature was, at the close of the {399}seventeenth
and at the beginning of the eighteenth century, more than made up by
artificial encouragement, by a vast system of bounties and premiums.
There was, perhaps, never a time at which the rewards of literary merit
were so splendid, at which men who could write well found such easy
admittance into the most distinguished society, and to the highest
honours of the state. The chiefs of both the great parties into which
the kingdom was divided patronised literature with emulous munificence.
Congreve, when he had scarcely attained his majority, was rewarded for
his first comedy with places which made him independent for life. Smith,
though his Hippolytus and Phædra failed, would have been consoled with
three hundred a year but for his own folly. Rowe was not only Poet
Laureate, but also land-surveyor of the customs in the port of London,
clerk of the council to the Prince of Wales, and secretary of the
Presentations to the Lord Chancellor. Hughes was secretary to the
Commissions of the Peace. Ambrose Philips was judge of the Prerogative
Court in Ireland. Locke was Commissioner of Appeals and of the Board of
Trade. Newton was Master of the Mint. Stepney and Prior were employed
in embassies of high dignity and importance. Gay, who commenced life
as apprentice to a silk mercer, became a secretary of legation at
five-and-twenty. It was to a poem on the Death of Charles the Second,
and to the City and Country Mouse, that Montague owed his introduction
into public life, his earldom, his garter, and his Auditorship of the
Exchequer. Swift, but for the unconquerable prejudice of the queen,
would have been a bishop. Oxford, with his white staff in his hand,
passed through the crowd of his suitors to welcome Parnell, when that
ingenious {400}writer deserted the Whigs. Steele was a commissioner of
stamps and a member of Parliament. Arthur Mainwaring was a commissioner
of the customs, and auditor of the imprest. Tickell was secretary to the
Lords Justices of Ireland. Addison was secretary of state.

This liberal patronage was brought into fashion, as it seems, by the
magnificent Dorset, almost the only noble versifier in the court of
Charles the Second who possessed talents for composition which were
independent of the aid of a coronet. Montague owed his elevation to the
favour of Dorset, and imitated through the whole course of his life
the liberality to which he was himself so greatly indebted. The Tory
leaders, Harley and Bolingbroke in particular, vied with the chiefs of
the Whig party in zeal for the encouragement of letters. But soon after
the accession of the house of Hanover a change took place. The supreme
power passed to a man who cared little for poetry or eloquence. The
importance of the House of Commons was constantly on the increase.
The government was under the necessity of bartering for Parliamentary
support much of that patronage which had been employed in fostering
literary merit; and Walpole was by no means inclined to divert any part
of the fund of corruption to purposes which he considered as idle.
He had eminent talents for government and for debate. But he had paid
little attention to books, and felt little respect for authors. One of
the coarse jokes of his friend, Sir Charles Hanbury Williams, was far
more pleasing to him than Thomson’s Seasons or Richardson’s Pamela. He
had observed that some of the distinguished writers whom the favour of
Halifax had turned into statesmen had been mere encumbrances {401}to
their party, dawdlers in office, and mutes in Parliament. During the
whole course of his administration, therefore, he scarcely befriended a
single man of genius. The best writers of the age gave all their support
to the opposition, and contributed to excite that discontent which,
after plunging the nation into a foolish and unjust war, overthrew
the minister to make room for men less able and equally immoral. The
opposition could reward its eulogists with little more than promises and
caresses. St. James’s would give nothing: Leicester house had nothing to

Thus, at the time when Johnson commenced his literary career, a writer
had little to hope from the patronage of powerful individuals. The
patronage of the public did not yet furnish the means of comfortable
subsistence. The prices paid by booksellers to authors were so low that
a man of considerable talents and unremitting industry could do little
more than provide for the day which was passing over him. The lean kine
had eaten up the fat kine. The thin and withered ears had devoured
the good ears. The season of rich harvests was over, and the period of
famine had begun. All that is squalid and miserable might now be
summed up in the word Poet. That word denoted a creature dressed like
a scarecrow, familiar with compters and spunging-houses, and perfectly
qualified to decide on the comparative merits of the Common Side in
the King’s Bench prison and of Mount Scoundrel in the Fleet. Even the
poorest pitied him; and they well might pity him. For if their condition
was equally abject, their aspirings were not equally high, nor their
sense of insult equally acute. To lodge in a garret up four pairs of
stairs, to dine in a cellar among footmen out of place, to translate ten
hours a day for {402}the wages of a ditcher, to be hunted by bailiffs
from one haunt of beggary and pestilence to another, from Grub Street to
St. George’s Fields, and from St. George’s Fields to the alleys behind
St. Martin’s church, to sleep on a bulk in June and amidst the ashes of
a glass-house in December, to die in an hospital and to be buried in a
parish vault, was the fate of more than one writer who, if he had lived
thirty years earlier, would have been admitted to the sittings of the
Kitcat or the Scriblerus club, would have sat in Parliament, and would
have been entrusted with embassies to the High Allies; who, if he
had lived in our time, would have found encouragement scarcely less
munificent in Albemarle Street or in Paternoster Row.

As every climate has its peculiar diseases, so every walk of life has
its peculiar temptations. The literary character, assuredly, has always
had its share of faults, vanity, jealousy, morbid sensibility. To these
faults were now superadded the faults which are commonly found in men
whose livelihood is precarious, and whose principles are exposed to the
trial of severe distress. All the vices of the gambler and of the
beggar were blended with those of the author. The prizes in the wretched
lottery of book-making were scarcely less ruinous than the blanks. If
good fortune came, it came in such a manner that it was almost certain
to be abused. After months of starvation and despair, a full third night
or a well-received dedication filled the pocket of the lean, ragged,
unwashed poet with guineas. He hastened to enjoy those luxuries with the
images of which his mind had been haunted while he was sleeping amidst
the cinders and eating potatoes at the Irish ordinary in Shoe Lane. A
week of taverns soon qualified him for another year of night-cellars.
{403}Such was the life of Savage, of Boyse, and of a crowd of others.
Sometimes blazing in gold-laced hats and waistcoats; sometimes lying
in bed because their coats had gone to pieces, or wearing paper cravats
because their linen was in pawn; sometimes drinking Champagne and Tokay
with Betty Careless; sometimes standing at the window of an eating-house
in Porridge island, to snuff up the scent of what they could not afford
to taste; they knew luxury; they knew beggary; but they never knew
comfort. These men were irreclaimable. They looked on a regular and
frugal life with the same aversion which an old gipsy or a Mohawk hunter
feels for a stationary abode, and for the restraints and securities of
civilised communities. They were as untameable, as much wedded to their
desolate freedom, as the wild ass. They could no more be broken into
the offices of social man than the unicorn could be trained to serve and
abide by the crib. It was well if they did not, like beasts of a still
fiercer race, tear the hands which ministered to their necessities. To
assist them was impossible; and the most benevolent of mankind at length
became weary of giving relief which was dissipated with the wildest
profusion as soon as it had been received. If a sum was bestowed on the
wretched adventurer, such as, properly husbanded, might have supplied
him for six months, it was instantly spent in strange freaks of
sensuality, and, before forty-eight hours had elapsed, the poet was
again pestering all his acquaintance for twopence to get a plate of shin
of beef at a subterraneous cook-shop. If his friends gave him an asylum
in their houses, those houses were forthwith turned into bagnios and
taverns. All order was destroyed; all business was suspended. The most
good-natured host {404}began to repent of his eagerness to serve a man
of genius in distress when he heard his guest roaring for fresh punch at
five o’clock in the morning.

A few eminent writers were more fortunate. Pope had been raised above
poverty by the active patronage which, in his youth, both the great
political parties had extended to his Homer. Young had received the only
pension ever bestowed, to the best of our recollection, by Sir Robert
Walpole, as the reward of mere literary merit. One or two of the many
poets who attached themselves to the opposition, Thomson in particular
and Mallet, obtained, after much severe suffering, the means of
subsistence from their political friends. Richardson, like a man of
sense, kept his shop; and his shop kept him, which his novels, admirable
as they are, would scarcely have done. But nothing could be more
deplorable than the state even of the ablest men, who at that time
depended for subsistence on their writings. Johnson, Collins, Fielding,
and Thomson, were certainly four of the most distinguished persons that
England produced during the eighteenth century. It is well known that
they were all four arrested for debt.

Into calamities and difficulties such as these Johnson plunged in his
twenty-eighth year. From that time till he was three or four and fifty,
we have little information respecting him; little, we mean, compared
with the full and accurate information which we possess respecting his
proceedings and habits towards the close of his life. He emerged at
length from cock-lofts and sixpenny ordinaries into the society of the
polished and the opulent. His fame was established. A pension sufficient
for his wants had been conferred on him: and he came forth to astonish
a generation with which {405}he had almost as little in common as with
Frenchmen or Spaniards.

In his early years he had occasionally seen the great: hut he had seen
them as a beggar. He now came among them as a companion. The demand for
amusement and instruction had, during the course of twenty years, been
gradually increasing. The price of literary labour had risen; and those
rising men of letters with whom Johnson was henceforth to associate were
for the most part persons widely different from those who had walked
about with him all night in the streets for want of a lodging. Burke,
Robertson, the Wartons, Gray, Mason, Gibbon, Adam Smith, Beattie, Sir
William Jones, Goldsmith, and Churchill, were the most distinguished
writers of what may be called the second generation of the Johnsonian
age. Of these men Churchill was the only one in whom we can trace the
stronger lineaments of that character which, when Johnson first came up
to London, was common among authors. Of the rest, scarcely any had felt
the pressure of severe poverty. Almost all had been early admitted into
the most respectable society on an equal footing. They were men of quite
a different species from the dependents of Curll and Osborne.

Johnson came among them the solitary specimen of a past age, the last
survivor of the genuine race of Grub Street hacks; the last of that
generation of authors whose abject misery and whose dissolute manners
had furnished inexhaustible matter to the satirical genius of Pope. From
nature, he had received an uncouth figure, a diseased constitution,
and an irritable temper. The manner in which the earlier years of his
manhood had been passed had given to his demeanour, and even to his
moral character, some peculiarities appalling {406}to the civilised
beings who were the companions of his old age. The perverse irregularity
of his hours, the slovenliness of his person, his fits of strenuous
exertion, interrupted by long intervals of sluggishness, his strange
abstinence, and his equally strange voracity, his active benevolence,
contrasted with the constant rudeness and the occasional ferocity of his
manners In society, made him, in the opinion of those with whom he
lived during the last twenty years of his life, a complete original. An
original he was, undoubtedly, in some respects. But if we possessed full
information concerning those who shared his early hardships, we should
probably find that what we call his singularities of manner were, for
the most part, failings which he had in common with the class to which
he belonged. He ate at Streatham Park as he had been used to eat behind
the screen at St. John’s Gate, when he was ashamed to show his ragged
clothes. He ate as it was natural that a man should eat, who, during
a great part of his life, had passed the morning in doubt whether he
should have food for the afternoon. The habits of his early life had
accustomed him to bear privation with fortitude, but not to taste
pleasure with moderation. He could fast; but, when he did not fast, he
tore his dinner like a famished wolf, with the veins swelling on his
forehead, and the perspiration running down his cheeks. He scarcely
ever took wine. But when he drank it, he drank it greedily and in large
tumblers. These were, in fact, mitigated symptoms of that same moral
disease which raged with such deadly malignity in his friends Savage and
Boyse. The roughness and violence which he showed in society were to be
expected from a man whose temper, not naturally gentle, had been long
tried by the bitterest {407}calamities, by the want of meat, of fire,
and of clothes, by the importunity of creditors, by the insolence of
booksellers, by the derision of fools, by the insincerity of patrons, by
that bread which is the bitterest of all food, by those stairs which are
the most toilsome of all paths, by that deferred hope which makes the
heart sick. Through all these things the ill-dressed, coarse, ungainly
pedant had struggled manfully up to eminence and command. It was natural
that, in the exercise of his power, he should be “eo immitior, quia
tolera-verat,” that, though his heart was undoubtedly generous and
humane, his demeanour in society should be harsh and despotic. For
severe distress he had sympathy, and not only sympathy, but munificent
relief. But for the suffering which a harsh world inflicts upon a
delicate mind he had no pity; for it was a kind of suffering which he
could scarcely conceive. He would carry home on his shoulders a sick
and starving girl from the streets. He turned his house into a place
of refuge for a crowd of wretched old creatures who could find no other
asylum; nor could all their peevishness and ingratitude weary out his
benevolence. But the pangs of wounded vanity seemed to him ridiculous;
and he scarcely felt sufficient compassion even for the pangs of wounded
affection. He had seen and felt so much of sharp misery, that he was
not affected by paltry vexations; and he seemed to think that every body
ought to be as much hardened to those vexations as himself. He was
angry with Boswell for complaining of a headache, with Mrs. Thrale for
grumbling about the dust on the road, or the smell of the kitchen. These
were, in his phrase, “foppish lamentations,” which people ought to be
ashamed to utter in a world so full of sin and sorrow. Goldsmith crying
because the Good-natured {408}Man had failed, inspired him with no
pity. Though his own health was not good, he detested and despised
valetudinarians. Pecuniary losses, unless they reduced the loser
absolutely to beggary, moved him very little. People whose hearts had
been softened by prosperity might weep, he said, for such events; but
all that could be expected of a plain man was not to laugh. He was not
much moved even by the spectacle of Lady Tavistock dying of a broken
heart for the loss of her lord. Such grief he considered as a luxury
reserved for the idle and the wealthy. A washerwoman, left a widow with
nine small children, would not have sobbed herself to death.

A person who troubled himself so little about small or sentimental
grievances was not likely to be very attentive to the feelings of others
in the ordinary intercourse of society. He could not understand how
a sarcasm or a reprimand could make any man really unhappy. “My dear
doctor,” said he to Goldsmith, “what harm does it do to a man to call
him Holofernes?”

“Pooh, ma’am,” he exclaimed to Mrs. Carter, “who is the worse for being
talked of uncharitably?” Politeness has been well defined as
benevolence in small things. Johnson was impolite, not because he wanted
benevolence, but because small things appeared smaller to him than to
people who had never known what it was to live for fourpence halfpenny a

The characteristic peculiarity of his intellect was the union of great
powers with low prejudices. If we judged of him by the best parts of
his mind, we should place him almost as high as he was placed by the
idolatry of Boswell; if by the worst parts of his mind, we should
place him even below Boswell himself. Where {409}he was not under the
influence of some strange scruple, or some domineering passion, which
prevented him from boldly investigating a subject, he was a
wary and acute reasoner, a little too much inclined to scepticism, and a
little too fond of paradox. No man was less likely to be imposed upon
by fallacies in argument or by exaggerated statements of fact. But if,
while he was beating down sophisms and exposing false testimony, some
childish prejudices, such as would excite laughter in a well managed
nursery, came across him, he was smitten as if by enchantment. His
mind dwindled away under the spell from gigantic elevation to dwarfish
littleness. Those who had lately been admiring its amplitude and
its force were now as much astonished at its strange narrowness and
feebleness as the fisherman in the Arabian tale, when he saw the Genie,
whose stature had overshadowed the whole sea-coast, and whose might
seemed equal to a contest with armies, contract himself to the
dimensions of his small prison, and lie there the helpless slave of the
charm of Solomon.

Johnson was in the habit of sifting with extreme severity the evidence
for all stories which were merely odd. But when they were not only odd
but miraculous, his severity relaxed. He began to be credulous precisely
at the point where the most credulous people begin to be sceptical. It
is curious to observe, both in his writings and in his conversation,
the contrast between the disdainful manner in which he rejects
unauthenticated anecdotes, even when they are consistent with the
general laws of nature, and the respectful manner in which he mentions
the wildest stories relating to the invisible world. A man who told him
of a water-spout or a meteoric stone generally had the lie {410}direct
given him for his pains. A man who told him of a prediction or a dream
wonderfully accomplished was sure of a courteous hearing. “Johnson,”
 observed Hogarth, “like King David, says in his haste that all men are

“His incredulity,” says Mrs. Thrale, “amounted almost to disease.”
 She tells us how he browbeat a gentleman, who gave him an account of a
hurricane in the West Indies, and a poor quaker who related some strange
circumstance about the red-hot balls fired at the siege of Gibraltar.
“It is not so. It cannot be true. Don’t tell that story again. You
cannot think how poor a figure you make in telling it.” He once said,
half jestingly we suppose, that for six months he refused to credit the
fact of the earthquake at Lisbon, and that he still believed the extent
of the calamity to be greatly exaggerated. Yet he related with a grave
face how old Mr. Cave of St. John’s Gate saw a ghost, and how this ghost
was something of a shadowy being. He went himself on a ghost-hunt, to
Cock Lane, and was angry with John Wesley for not following up another
scent of the same kind with proper spirit and perseverance. He rejects
the Celtic genealogies and poems without the least hesitation; yet he
declares himself willing to believe the stories of the second sight. If
he had examined the claims of the Highland seers with half the severity
with which he sifted the evidence for the genuineness of Fingal, he
would, we suspect, have come away from Scotland with a mind fully made
up. In his Lives of the Poets, we find that he is unwilling to give
credit to the accounts of Lord Roscommon’s early proficiency in his
studies; but he tells with great solemnity an absurd romance about some
intelligence preternaturally impressed on the mind of that nobleman. He
avows {411}himself to be in great doubt about the truth of the story,
and ends by warning his readers not wholly to slight such impressions.

Many of his sentiments on religious subjects are worthy of a liberal and
enlarged mind. He could discern clearly enough the folly and meanness
of all bigotry except his own. When he spoke of the scruples of the
Puritans, he spoke like a person who had really obtained an insight
into the divine philosophy of the New Testament, and who considered
Christianity as a noble scheme of government, tending to promote the
happiness and to elevate the moral nature of man. The horror which the
sectaries felt for cards, Christmas ale, plum-porridge, mince-pies, and
dancing bears, excited his contempt. To the arguments urged by some very
worthy people against showy dress he replied with admirable sense and
spirit, “Let us not be found, when our Master calls us, stripping the
lace off our waistcoats, but the spirit of contention from our souls and
tongues. Alas! sir, a man who cannot get to heaven in a green coat will
not find his way thither the sooner in a grey one.” Yet he was himself
under the tyranny of scruples as unreasonable as those of Hudibras
or Ralpho, and carried his zeal for ceremonies and for ecclesiastical
dignities to lengths altogether inconsistent with reason or with
Christian charity. He has gravely noted down in his diary that he once
committed the sin of drinking coffee on Good Friday. In Scotland, he
thought it his duty to pass several months without joining in public
worship, solely because the ministers of the kirk had not been ordained
by bishops. His mode of estimating the piety of his neighbours was
somewhat singular. “Campbell,” said he, “is a good {412}man, a pious
man. I am afraid he has not been in the inside of a church for many
years; but he never passes a church without pulling off his hat: this
shows he has good principles.” Spain and Sicily must surely contain many
pious robbers and well-principled assassins. Johnson could easily see
that a Roundhead who named all his children after Solomon’s singers,
and talked in the House of Commons about seeking the Lord, might be
an unprincipled villain whose religious mummeries only aggravated
his guilt. But a man who took off his hat when he passed a church
episcopally consecrated must be a good man, a pious man, a man of good
principles. Johnson could easily see that those persons who looked on
a dance or a laced waistcoat as sinful, deemed most ignobly of the
attributes of God and of the ends of revelation. But with what a storm
of invective he would have overwhelmed any man who had blamed him for
celebrating the redemption of mankind with sugarless tea and butterless

Nobody spoke more contemptuously of the cant of patriotism. Nobody saw
more clearly the error of those who regarded liberty, not as a means,
but as an end, and who proposed to themselves, as the object of their
pursuit, the prosperity of the state as distinct from the prosperity
of the individuals who compose the state. His calm and settled opinion
seems to have been that forms of government have little or no influence
on the happiness of society. This opinion, erroneous as it is, ought
at least to have preserved him from all intemperance on political
questions. It did not, however, preserve him from the lowest, fiercest,
and most absurd extravagances of party-spirit, from rants which, in
every thing but the diction, resembled those of Squire {413}Western.
He was, as a politician, half ice and half fire. On the side of his
intellect he was a mere Pococurante, far too apathetic about public
affairs, far too sceptical as to the good or evil tendency of any form
of polity. His passions, on the contrary, were violent even to slaying
against all who leaned to Whiggish principles. The well-known lines
which he inserted in Goldsmith’s Traveller express what seems to have
been his deliberate judgment:

                   “How small, of all that human hearts endure,

                   That part which kings or laws can cause or cure!”

He had previously put expressions very similar into the mouth of
Rasselas. It is amusing to contrast these passages with the torrents of
raving abuse which he poured forth against the Long Parliament and the
American Congress. In one of the conversations reported by Boswell this
inconsistency displays itself in the most ludicrous manner.

“Sir Adam Ferguson,” says Boswell, “suggested that luxury corrupts a
people, and destroys the spirit of liberty. Johnson: ‘Sir, that is all
visionary. I would not give half a guinea to live under one form of
government rather than another. It is of no moment to the happiness of
an individual. Sir, the danger of the abuse of power is nothing to
a private man. What Frenchman is prevented passing his life as he
pleases?’ Sir Adam: ‘But, sir, in the British constitution it is surely
of importance to keep up a spirit in the people, so as to preserve a
balance against the crown.’ Johnson: ‘Sir, I perceive you are a vile
Whig. Why all this childish jealousy of the power of the crown? The
crown has not power enough.’”

One of the old philosophers, Lord Bacon tells us, used to say that life
and death were just the same to {414}him. “Why then,” said an objector,
“do you not kill yourself?” The philosopher answered, “Because it is
just the same.” If the difference between two forms of government be
not worth half a guinea, it is not easy to see how Whiggism can he
viler than Toryism, or how the crown can have too little power. If the
happiness of individuals is not affected by political abuses, zeal for
liberty is doubtless ridiculous. But zeal for monarchy must be equally
so. No person would have been more quick-sighted than Johnson to such a
contradiction as this in the logic of an antagonist.

The judgments which Johnson passed on books were, in his own time,
regarded with superstitious veneration, and, in our time, are generally
treated with indiscriminate contempt. They are the judgments of a strong
but enslaved understanding. The mind of the critic was hedged round
by an uninterrupted fence of prejudices and superstitions. Within his
narrow limits, he displayed a vigour and an activity which ought to have
enabled him to clear the barrier that confined him.

How it chanced that a man who reasoned on his premises so ably, should
assume his premises so foolishly, is one of the great mysteries of human
nature. The same inconsistency may be observed in the schoolmen of the
middle ages. Those writers show so much acuteness and force of mind in
arguing on their wretched data, that a modern reader is perpetually at
a loss to comprehend how such minds came by such data. Not a flaw in
the superstructure of the theory which they are rearing escapes
their vigilance. Yet they are blind to the obvious unsoundness of the
foundation. It is the same with some eminent lawyers. {415}Their legal
arguments are intellectual prodigies, abounding with the happiest
analogies and the most refined distinctions. The principles of their
arbitrary science being once admitted, the statute-book and the reports
being once assumed as the foundations of reasoning, these men must be
allowed to be perfect masters of logic. But if a question arises as to
the postulates on which their whole system rests, if they are called
upon to vindicate the fundamental maxims of that system which they have
passed their lives in studying, these very men often talk the language
of savages or of children. Those who have listened to a man of this
class in his own court, and who have witnessed the skill with which he
analyses and digests a vast mass of evidence, or reconciles a crowd of
precedents which at first sight seem contradictory, scarcely know him
again when, a few hours later, they hear him speaking on the other side
of Westminster Hall in his capacity of legislator. They can scarcely
believe that the paltry quirks which are faintly heard through a storm
of coughing, and which do not impose on the plainest country gentleman,
can proceed from the same sharp and vigorous intellect which had excited
their admiration under the same roof, and on the same day.

Johnson decided literary questions like a lawyer, not like a legislator.
He never examined foundations where a point was already ruled. His whole
code of criticism rested on pure assumption, for which he sometimes
quoted a precedent or an authority, but rarely troubled himself to give
a reason drawn from the nature of things. He took it for granted that
the kind of poetry which flourished in his own time, which he had been
accustomed to hear praised from his childhood, and which he had
himself written with success, {416}was the best kind of poetry. In
his biographical work he has repeatedly laid it down as an undeniable,
proposition that during the latter part of the seventeenth century,
and the earlier part of the eighteenth, English poetry had been in a
constant progress of improvement. Waller, Denham, Dryden, and Pope, had
been, according to him, the great reformers. He judged of all works
of the imagination by the standard established among his own
contemporaries. Though he allowed Homer to have been a greater man
than Virgil, he seems to have thought the Æneid a greater poem than the
Iliad. Indeed he well might have thought so; for he preferred Pope’s
Iliad to Homer’s. He pronounced that, after Hoole’s translation of
Tasso, Fairfax’s would hardly be reprinted. He could see no merit, in
our fine old English ballads, and always spoke with the most provoking
contempt of Percy’s fondness for them. Of the great original works of
imagination which appeared during his time, Richardson’s novels alone
excited his admiration. He could see little or no merit in Tom Jones,
in Gulliver’s Travels, or in Tristram Shandy. To Thomson’s Castle
of Indolence, he vouchsafed only a line of cold commendation, of
commendation much colder than what he has bestowed on the Creation of
that portentous bore, Sir Richard Blackmore. Gray was, in his dialect, a
barren rascal. Churchill was a blockhead. The contempt which he felt for
the trash of Macpherson was indeed just; but it was, we suspect, just by
chance. He despised the Fingal for the very reason which led many men
of genius to admire it. He despised it, not because it was essentially
common-place, but because it had a superficial air of originality.

He was undoubtedly an excellent judge of compositions {417}fashioned on
his own principles. But when a deeper philosophy was required, when he
undertook to pronounce judgment on the works of those great minds which
“yield homage only to eternal laws,” his failure was ignominious.
He criticized Pope’s Epitaphs excellently. But his observations on
Shakspeare’s plays and Milton’s poems seem to us for the most part as
wretched as if they had been written by Rymer himself, whom we take to
have been the worst critic that ever lived.

Some of Johnson’s whims on literary subjects can be compared only to
that strange nervous feeling which made him uneasy if he had not
touched every post between the Mitre tavern and his own lodgings. Hiss
preference of Latin epitaphs to English epitaphs is an instance. An
English epitaph, he said, would disgrace Smollett. He declared that he
would not pollute the walls of Westminster Abbey with an English epitaph
on Goldsmith. What reason there can be for celebrating a British writer
in Latin, which there was not for covering the Roman arches of triumph
with Greek inscriptions, or for commemorating the deeds of the heroes of
Thermopylæ in Egyptian hieroglyphics, we are utterly unable to imagine.

On men and manners, at least on the men and manners of a particular
place and a particular age, Johnson had certainly looked with a most
observant and discriminating eye. His remarks on the education of
children, on marriage, on the economy of families, on the rules of
society, are always striking, and generally sound. In his writings,
indeed, the knowledge of life which he possessed in an eminent degree is
very imperfectly exhibited. Like those unfortunate chiefs of the middle
ages who were suffocated by their own chain-mail and cloth of gold,
his maxims perish under that {418}load of words which was designed! for
their defence and their ornament. But it is clear from the remains of
his conversation, that he had more of that homely wisdom which nothing
but experience and observation can give than any writer since the time
of Swift. If he had been content to write as he talked, he might have
left books on the practical art of living superior to the Directions to

Yet even his remarks on society, like his remarks on literature,
indicate a mind at least as remarkable for narrowness as for strength.
He was no master of the great science of human nature. He had studied,
not the genus man, but the species Londoner. Nobody was ever so
thoroughly conversant with all the forms of life and all the shades of
moral and intellectual character which were to be seen from Islington
to the Thames, and from Hyde-Park corner to Mile-end green. But his
philosophy stopped at the first turnpike-gate. Of the rural life of
England he knew nothing; and he took it for granted that every body
who lived in the country was either stupid or miserable. “Country
gentlemen,” said he, “must be unhappy; for they have not enough to keep
their lives in motion;” as if all those peculiar habits and associations
which made Fleet Street and Charing Cross the finest views in the world
to himself had been essential parts of human nature. Of remote countries
and past times he talked with wild and ignorant presumption. “The
Athenians of the age of Demosthenes,” he said to Mrs. Thrale, “were a
people of brutes, a barbarous people.” In conversation with Sir Adam
Ferguson he used similar language. “The boasted Athenians,” he said,
“were barbarians. The mass of every people must be barbarous where there
is no printing.” The fact was {419}this: he saw that a Londoner who
could not read was a very stupid and brutal fellow: he saw that great
refinement of taste and activity of intellect were rarely found in a
Londoner who had not read much; and, because it was by means of books
that people acquired almost all their knowledge in the society with
which he was acquainted, he concluded, in defiance of the strongest and
clearest evidence, that the human mind can be cultivated by means of
books alone. An Athenian citizen might possess very few volumes; and the
largest library to which he had access might be much less valuable than
Johnson’s bookcase in Bolt Court. But the Athenian might pass every
morning in conversation with Socrates, and might hear Pericles speak
four or five times every month. He saw the plays of Sophocles and
Aristophanes: he walked amidst the friezes of Phidias and the paintings
of Zeuxis: he knew by heart the choruses of Æschylus: he heard the
rhapsodist at the corner of the street reciting the shield of Achilles
or the Death of Argus: he was a legislator, conversant with high
questions of alliance, revenue, and war: he was a soldier, trained under
a liberal and generous discipline: he was a judge, compelled every
day to weigh the effect of opposite arguments. These things were in
themselves an education, an education eminently fitted, not, indeed,
to farm exact or profound thinkers, but to give quickness to the
perceptions, delicacy to the taste, fluency to the expression, and
politeness to the manners. All this was overlooked. An Athenian who did
not improve his mind by reading was, in Johnson’s opinion, much such a
person as a Cockney who made his mark, much such a person as black
Frank before he went to school, and far inferior to a parish clerk or a
printer’s devil. {420}Johnson’s friends have allowed that he carried to
a ridiculous extreme his unjust contempt for foreigners. He pronounced
the French to be a very silly people, much behind us, stupid, ignorant
creatures. And this judgment he formed after having been at Paris about
a month, during which he would not talk French, for fear of giving the
natives an advantage over him in conversation. He pronounced them, also,
to be an indelicate people, because a French footman touched the sugar
with his fingers. That ingenious and amusing traveller, M. Simond, has
defended his countrymen very successfully against Johnson’s accusation,
and has pointed out some English practices which, to an impartial
spectator, would seem at least as inconsistent with physical cleanliness
and social decorum as those which Johnson so bitterly reprehended. To
the sage, as Boswell loves to call him, it never occurred to doubt that
there must be something eternally and immutably good in the usages to
which he had been accustomed. In fact, Johnson’s remarks on society
beyond the bills of mortality, are generally of much the same kind with
those of honest Tom Dawson, the English footman in Dr. Moore’s Zeluco.
“Suppose the king of France has no sons, but only a daughter, then, when
the king dies, this here daughter, according to that there law, cannot
be made queen, but the next near relative, provided he is a man, is
made king, and not the last king’s daughter, which, to be sure, is very
unjust. The French footguards are dressed in blue, and all the marching
regiments in white, which has a very foolish appearance for soldiers;
and as for blue regimentals, it is only fit for the blue horse or the

Johnson’s visit to the Hebrides introduced him to a state of society
completely new to him; and a salutary {421}suspicion of his own
deficiencies seems on that occasion to have crossed his mind for the
first time. He confessed, in the last paragraph of his Journey, that his
thoughts on national manners were the thoughts of one who had seen but
little, of one who had passed his time almost wholly in cities. This
feeling, however, soon passed away. It is remarkable that to the last
he entertained a fixed contempt for all those modes of life and those
studies which tend to emancipate the mind from the prejudices of a
particular age or a particular nation. Of foreign travel and of history
he spoke with the fierce and boisterous contempt of ignorance. “What
does a man learn by travelling? Is Beauclerk the better for travelling?
What did Lord Charlemont learn in his travels, except that there was a
snake in one of the pyramids of Egypt?” History was, in his opinion, to
use the fine expression of Lord Plunkett, an old almanack: historians
could, as he conceived, claim no higher dignity than that of
almanack-makers; and his favourite historians were those who, like Lord
Hailes, aspired to no higher dignity. He always spoke with contempt of
Robertson. Hume he would not even read. He affronted one of his friends
for talking to him about Catiline’s conspiracy, and declared that he
never desired to hear of the Punic war again as long as he lived.

Assuredly one fact which does not directly affect our own interests,
considered in itself, is no better worth knowing than another fact.
The fact that there is a snake in a pyramid, or the fact that Hannibal
crossed the Alps, are in themselves as unprofitable to us as the fact
that there is a green blind in a particular house in Threadneedle
Street, or the fact {422}that a Mr. Smith comes into the city every
morning on the top of one of the Blackwall stages. But it is certain
that those who will not crack the shell of history will never get at the
kernel. Johnson, with hasty arrogance, pronounced the kernel worthless,
because he saw no value in the shell. The real use of travelling
to distant countries and of studying the annals of past times is to
preserve men from the contraction of mind which those can hardly escape
whose whole communion is with one generation and one neighbourhood, who
arrive at conclusions by means of an induction not sufficiently copious,
and who therefore constantly confound exceptions with rules, and
accidents with essential properties. In short, the real use of
travelling and of studying history is to keep men from being what Tom
Dawson was in fiction, and Samuel Johnson in reality.

Johnson, as Mr. Burke most justly observed, appears far greater in
Boswell’s books than in his own. His conversation appears to have been
quite equal to his writings in matter, and far superior to them in
manner. When he talked, he clothed his wit and his sense in forcible and
natural expressions. As soon as he took his pen in his hand to write for
the public, his style became systematically vicious. All his books are
written in a learned language, in a language which nobody hears from
his mother or his nurse, in a language in which nobody ever quarrels,
or drives bargains, or makes love, in a language in which nobody ever
thinks. It is clear that Johnson himself did not think in the dialect
in which he wrote. The expressions which came first to his tongue were
simple, energetic, and picturesque. When he wrote for publication, he
did his sentences out of English into {423}Johnsonese. His letters from
the Hebrides to Mrs. Thrale are the original of that work of which the
Journey to the Hebrides is the translation; and it is amusing to compare
the two versions. “When we were taken up stairs,” says he in one of his
letters, “a dirty fellow bounced out of the bed on which one of us was
to lie.” This incident is recorded in the Journey as follows: “Out of
one of the beds on which we were to repose started up, at our entrance,
a man black as a Cyclops from the forge.” Sometimes Johnson translated
aloud. “The Rehearsal,” he said, very unjustly, “has not wit enough
to keep it sweet;” then, after a pause, “it has not vitality enough to
preserve it from putrefaction.”

Mannerism is pardonable, and is sometimes even agreeable, when the
manner, though vicious, is natural. Few readers, for example, would
be willing to part with the mannerism of Milton or of Burke. But a
mannerism which does not sit easy on the mannerist, which has been
adopted on principle, and which can be sustained only by constant
effort, is always offensive. And such is the mannerism of Johnson.

The characteristic faults of his style are so familiar to all
our readers, and have been so often burlesqued, that it is almost
superfluous to point them out. It is well known that he made less use
than any other eminent writer of those strong plain words, Anglo-Saxon
or Norman-French, of which the roots lie in the inmost depths of our
language; and that he felt a vicious partiality for terms which, long
after our own speech had been fixed, were borrowed from the Greek and
Latin, and which, therefore, even when lawfully naturalised, must be
considered as born aliens, not entitled to rank with the king’s English.
His constant practice {424}of padding out a sentence with useless
epithets, till it became as stiff as the bust of an exquisite, his
antithetical forms of expression, constantly employed even where there
is no opposition in the ideas expressed, his big words wasted on little
things, his harsh inversions, so widely different from those graceful
and easy inversions which give variety, spirit, and sweetness to the
expression of our great old writers, all these peculiarities have been
imitated by his admirers and parodied by his assailants, till the public
has become sick of the subject.

Goldsmith said to him, very wittily and very justly, “If you were to
write a fable about little fishes, doctor, you would make the little
fishes talk like whales.” No man surely ever had so little talent
for personation as Johnson. Whether he wrote in the character of a
disappointed legacy-hunter or an empty town fop, of a crazy virtuoso or
a flippant coquette, he wrote in the same pompous and unbending style.
His speech, like Sir Piercy Shafton’s Euphuistic eloquence, bewrayed him
under every disguise. Euphelia and Rhodoclea talk as finely as Imlac
the poet, or Seged, Emperor of Ethiopia. The gay Cornelia describes her
reception at the country-house of her relations, in such terms as these:
“I was surprised, after the civilities of my first reception, to find,
instead of the leisure and tranquillity which a rural life always
promises, and, if well conducted, might always afford, a confused
wildness of care, and a tumultuous hurry of diligence, by which every
face was clouded, and every motion agitated.” The gentle Tranquica
informs us, that she “had not passed the earlier part of life without
the flattery of courtship, and the joys of triumph; but had danced the
round of gaiety amidst the murmurs of envy and {425}the gratulations of
applause, had been attended from pleasure to pleasure by the great,
the sprightly, and the vain, and had seen her regard solicited by the
obsequiousness of gallantry, the gaiety of wit, and the timidity of
love.” Surely Sir John Falstaff himself did not wear his petticoats with
a worse grace. The reader may well cry out, with honest Sir Hugh Evans,
“I like not when a ‘oman has a great peard: I spy a great peard under
her muffler.” (1)

We had something more to say. But our article is already too long; and
we must close it. We would fain part in good humour from the hero, from
the biographer, and even from the editor, who, ill as he has performed
his task, has at least this claim to our gratitude, that he has induced
us to read Boswell’s book again. As we close it, the club-room is before
us, and the table on which stands the omelet for Nugent, and the lemons
for Johnson. There are assembled those heads which live for ever on the
canvass of Reynolds. There are the spectacles of Burke and the tall thin
form of Langton, the courtly sneer of Beauclerk and the beaming smile of
Garrick, Gibbon tapping his snuff-box and Sir Joshua with his trumpet in
his ear. In the foreground is that strange figure which is as familiar
to us as the figures of those among whom we have been brought up, the
gigantic body, the huge massy face, seamed with the scars of disease,
the brown coat, the black worsted stockings, the grey wig with the
scorched foretop, the dirty hands, the nails bitten and pared to the
quick. We see the eyes and mouth moving with convulsive twitches; we see
the heavy

     (1) It is proper to observe that this passage bears a very
     close resemblance to a passage in the Rambler (No. 20). The
     resemblance may possibly be the effect of unconscious

{426}form rolling; we hear it puffing; and then comes the “Why, sir!”
 and the “What then, sir?” and the “No, sir!” and the “You don’t see your
way through the question, sir!”

What a singular destiny has been that of this remarkable man! To be
regarded in his own time as a classic, and in ours as a companion. To
receive from his contemporaries that full homage which men of genius
have in general received only from posterity! To be more intimately
known to posterity than other men are known to their contemporaries!
That kind of fame which is commonly the most transient is, in his case,
the most durable. The reputation of those writings, which he probably
expected to be immortal, is every day fading; while those peculiarities
of manner and that careless table-talk the memory of which, he probably
thought, would die with him, are likely to be remembered as long as the
English language is spoken in any quarter of the globe.


(_Edinburgh Review_, December 1831.)

We {427}have read this book with great pleasure, though not exactly
with that kind of pleasure which we had expected. We had hoped that Lord
Nugent would have been able to collect, from family papers and local
traditions, much new and interesting information respecting the life and
character of the renowned leader of the Long Parliament, the first of
those great English commoners whose plain addition of Mister has, to our
ears, a more majestic sound than the proudest of the feudal titles. In
this hope we have been disappointed; but assuredly not from any want of
zeal or diligence on the part of the noble biographer. Even at
Hampden, there are, it seems, no important papers relating to the
most illustrious proprietor of that ancient domain. The most valuable
memorials of him which still exist, belong to the family of his friend,
Sir John Eliot. Lord Eliot has furnished the portrait which is engraved
for this work, together with some very interesting letters. The portrait
is undoubtedly an original, and probably the only original now in
existence. The intellectual forehead, the mild penetration of the eye,
and the inflexible resolution expressed by the

     (1)  _Some Memorials of John Hampden, his Party, and his
     Times_. By Lord Nugext. 2 vols. 8vo. London: 1&31.

{428}lines of the month, sufficiently guarantee the likeness. We shall
probably make some extracts from the letters. They contain almost all
the new information that Lord Nugent has been able to procure respecting
the private pursuits of the great man whose memory he worships with an
enthusiastic, but not extravagant, veneration.

The public life of Hampden is surrounded by no obscurity. His history,
more particularly from the year 1640 to his death, is the history of
England. These Memoirs must be considered as Memoirs of the history of
England; and, as such, they well deserve to be attentively perused. They
contain some curious facts which, to us at least, are new, much spirited
narrative, many judicious remarks, and much eloquent declamation.

We are not sure that even the want of information respecting the private
character of Hampden is not in itself a circumstance as strikingly
characteristic as any which the most minute chronicler, O’Meara, Mrs.
Thrale, or Boswell himself, ever recorded concerning their heroes. The
celebrated Puritan leader is an almost solitary instance of a great man
who neither sought nor shunned greatness, who found glory only because
glory lay in the plain path of duty. During more than forty years he was
known to his country neighbours as a gentleman of cultivated mind, of
high principles, of polished address, happy in his family, and active
in the discharge of local duties; and to political men, as an honest,
industrious, and sensible member of Parliament, not eager to display
his talents, stanch to his party, and attentive to the interests of his
constituents. A great and terrible crisis came. A direct attack was made
by an arbitrary government on a sacred right of Englishmen, on a right
which was the {429}chief security for all their other rights. The nation
looked round for a defender. Calmly and unostentatiously the plain
Buckinghamshire Esquire placed himself at the head of his countrymen,
and right before the face and across the path of tyranny. The times grew
darker and more troubled. Public service, perilous, arduous, delicate,
was required; and to every service the Intellect and the courage of this
wonderful man were found fully equal. He became a debater of the first
order, a most dexterous manager of the House of Commons, a negotiator, a
soldier. He governed a fierce and turbulent assembly, abounding in
able men, as easily as he had governed his family. He showed himself as
competent to direct a campaign as to conduct the business of the petty
sessions. We can scarcely express the admiration which we feel for
a mind so great, and, at the same time, so healthful and so well
proportioned, so willingly contracting itself to the humblest duties,
so easily expanding itself to the Highest, so contented in repose, so
powerful in action. Almost every part of this virtuous and blameless
life which is not hidden from us in modest privacy is a precious and
splendid portion of our national history. Had the private conduct of
Hampden afforded the slightest pretence for censure, he would have
been assailed by the same blind malevolence which, in defiance of the
clearest proofs, still continues to call Sir John Eliot an assassin.
Had there been even any weak part in the character of Hampden, had his
manners been in any respect open to ridicule, we may be sure that no
mercy would have been shown to him by the writers of Charles’s faction.
Those writers have carefully preserved every little circumstance which
could tend to make their opponents odious or contemptible. {430}They
have made themselves merry with the cant of injudicious zealots. They
have told us that Pym broke down in a speech, that Ireton had his
nose pulled by Hollis, that the Earl of Northumberland cudgelled Henry
Marten, that St. John’s manners were sullen, that Vane had an ugly face,
that Cromwell had a red nose. But neither the artful Clarendon nor the
scurrilous Denham could venture to throw the slightest imputation on
the morals or the manners of Hampden. What was the opinion entertained
respecting him by the best men of his time, we learn from Baxter. That
eminent person, eminent not only for his piety and his fervid devotional
eloquence, but for his moderation, his knowledge of political affairs,
and his skill in judging of characters, declared in the Saint’s Rest
that one of the pleasures which he hoped to enjoy in heaven was the
society of Hampden. In the editions printed after the Restoration, the
name of Hampden was omitted. “But I must tell the reader,” says Baxter,
“that I did blot it out, not as changing my opinion of the person....
Mr. John Hampden was one that friends and enemies acknowledged to be
most eminent for prudence, piety, and peaceable counsels, having the
most universal praise of any gentleman that I remember of that age.
I remember a moderate, prudent, aged gentleman, far from him, but
acquainted with him, whom I have heard saying, that if he might choose
what person he would be then in the world, he would be John Hampden.” We
cannot but regret that we have not fuller memorials of a man who, after
passing through the most severe temptations by which human virtue can be
tried, after acting a most conspicuous part in a revolution and a civil
war, could yet deserve such praise as this from such authority. {431}Yet
the want of memorials is surely the best proof that hatred itself could
find no blemish on his memory.

The story of his early life is soon told. He was the head of a family
which had been settled in Buckinghamshire before the Conquest. Part of
the estate which he inherited had been bestowed by Edward the Confessor
on Baldwyn de Hampden, whose name seems to indicate that he was one of
the Norman favourites of the last Saxon king. During the contest between
the houses of York and Lancaster, the Hampdens adhered to the party of
the Red Rose, and were, consequently, persecuted by Edward the Fourth,
and favoured by Henry the Seventh. Under the Tudors, the family
was great and flourishing. Griffith Hampden, high sheriff of
Buckinghamshire, entertained Elizabeth with great magnificence at his
seat. His son, William Hampden, sate in the Parliament which that Queen
summoned in the year 1593. William married Elizabeth Cromwell, aunt of
the celebrated man who afterwards governed the British islands with more
than regal power; and from this marriage sprang John Hampden.

He was born in 1594. In 1597 his father died, and left him heir to a
very large estate. After passing some years at the grammar school of
Thame, young Hampden was sent, at fifteen, to Magdalene College, in
the University of Oxford. At nineteen, he was admitted a student of
the Inner Temple, where he made himself master of the principles of the
English law. In 1619, he married Elizabeth Symeon, a lady to whom he
appears to have been fondly attached. In the following year he was
returned to parliament by a borough which has in our time obtained a
miserable celebrity, the borough of Grampound. {432}Of his private life
during his early years little is known beyond what Clarendon has told
us. “In his entrance into the world,” says that great historian, “he
indulged himself in all the license in sports, and exercises, and
company, which were used by men of the most jolly conversation.” A
remarkable change, however, passed on his character. “On a sudden,” says
Clarendon, “from a life of great pleasure and license, he retired to
extraordinary sobriety and strictness, to a more reserved and melancholy
society.” It is probable that this change took place when Hampden was
about twenty-five years old. At that age he was united to a woman whom
he loved and esteemed. At that age he entered into political life.
A mind so happily constituted as his would naturally, under such
circumstances, relinquish the pleasures of dissipation for domestic
enjoyments and public duties.

His enemies have allowed that he was a man in whom virtue showed itself
in its mildest and least austere form. With the morals of a Puritan, he
had the manners of an accomplished courtier. Even after the change
in his habits, “he preserved,” says Clarendon, “his own natural
cheerfulness and vivacity, and, above all, a flowing courtesy to all
men.” These qualities distinguished him from most of the members of his
sect and his party, and, in the great crisis in which he afterwards took
a principal part, were of scarcely less service to the country than his
keen sagacity and his dauntless courage.

In January, 1621, Hampden took his seat in the House of Commons. His
mother was exceedingly desirous that her son should obtain a peerage.
His family, his possessions, and his personal accomplishments were such,
as would, in any age, have justified {433}him in pretending to that
honour. But in the reign of James the First there was one short cut to
the House of Lords. It was but to ask, to pay, and to have. The sale of
titles was carried on as openly as the sale of boroughs in our times.
Hampden turned away with contempt from the degrading honours with which
his family desired to see him invested, and attached himself to the
party which was in opposition to the court.

It was about this time, as Lord Nugent has justly remarked, that
parliamentary opposition began to take a regular form. From a very early
age, the English had enjoyed a far larger share of liberty than had
fallen to the lot of any neighbouring people. How it chanced that a
country conquered and enslaved by invaders, a country of which the soil
had been portioned out among foreign adventurers and of which the laws
were written in a foreign tongue, a country given over to that worst
tyranny, the tyranny of caste over caste, should have become the seat
of civil liberty, the object of the admiration and envy of surrounding
states, is one of the most obscure problems in the philosophy of
history. But the fact is certain. Within a century and a half after the
Norman conquest, the Great Charter was conceded. Within two centuries
after the Conquest, the first House of Commons met. Froissart tells us,
what indeed his whole narrative sufficiently proves, that, of all the
nations of the fourteenth century, the English were the least disposed
to endure oppression. “C’est le plus périlleux peuple qui soit au monde,
et plus outrageux et orgueilleux.” The good canon probably did not
perceive that all the prosperity and internal peace which this dangerous
people enjoyed were the fruits of the spirit which he designates as
proud {434}and outrageous. He has, however, borne ample testimony
to the effect, though he was not sagacious enough to trace it to its
cause. “En le royaume d’Angleterre,” says he, “toutes gens, laboureurs
et marchands, ont appris de vivre en paix, et à mener leurs marchandises
paisiblement, et les laboureurs labourer.” In the fifteenth century,
though England was convulsed by the struggle between the two branches
of the royal family, the physical and moral condition of the people
continued to improve. Villenage almost wholly disappeared. The
calamities of war were little felt, except by those who bore arms.
The oppressions of the government were little felt, except by the
aristocracy. The institutions of the country, when compared with
the institutions of the neighbouring kingdoms, seem to have been not
undeserving of the praises of Fortescue. The government of Edward the
Fourth, though we call it cruel and arbitrary, was humane and liberal
when compared with that of Lewis the Eleventh, or that of Charles the
Bold. Comines, who had lived amidst the wealthy cities of Flanders, and
who had visited Florence and Venice, had never seen a people so well
governed as the English. “Or selon mon advis,” says he, “entre toutes
les seigneuries du monde, dont j’ay connoissance, ou la chose publique
est mieulx traitée, et ou régné moins de violence sur le peuple, et ou
il n’y an uls édifices abbatus ny démolis pour guerre, c’est Angleterre;
et tombe le sort et le malheur sur ceulx qui font la guerre.”

About the close of the fifteenth and the commencement of the sixteenth
century, a great portion of the influence which the aristocracy had
possessed passed to the crown. No English king has ever enjoyed
such absolute power as Henry the Eighth. But while the {435}royal
prerogatives were acquiring strength at the expense of the nobility,
two great revolutions took place, destined to be the parents of many
revolutions, the invention of Printing, and the reformation of the

The immediate effect of the Reformation in England was by no means
favourable to political liberty. The authority which had been exercised
by the Popes was transferred almost entire to the King. Two formidable
powers which had often served to check each other were united in a
single despot. If the system on which the founders of the Church of
England acted could have been permanent, the Reformation would have
been, in a political sense, the greatest curse that ever fell on our
country. But that system carried within it the seeds of its own death.
It was possible to transfer the name of Head of the Church from Clement
to Henry; but it was impossible to transfer to the new establishment
the veneration which the old establishment had inspired. Mankind had not
broken one yoke in pieces only in order to put on another. The supremacy
of the Bishop of Rome had been for ages considered as a fundamental
principle of Christianity. It had for it every thing that could make a
prejudice deep and strong, venerable antiquity, high authority, general
consent. It had been taught in the first lessons of the nurse. It was
taken for granted in all the exhortations of the priest. To remove it
was to break innumerable associations, and to give a great and perilous
shock to the principles. Yet this prejudice, strong as it was, could not
stand in the great day of the deliverance of the human reason. And it
was not to be expected that the public mind, just after freeing itself
by an unexampled effort, from a bondage {436}which it had endured
for ages, would patiently submit to a tyranny which could plead
no ancient’title. Rome had at least prescription on its side. But
Protestant intolerance, despotism in an upstart sect, infallibility
claimed by guides who acknowledged that they had passed the greater part
of their lives in error, restraints imposed on the liberty of private
judgment at the pleasure of rulers who could vindicate their own
proceedings only by asserting the liberty of private judgment, these
things could not long be borne. Those who had pulled down the crucifix
could not long continue to persecute for the surplice. It required no
great sagacity to perceive the inconsistency and dishonesty of men who,
dissenting from almost all Christendom, would suffer none to dissent
from themselves, who demanded freedom of conscience, yet refused to
grant it, who execrated persecution, yet persecuted, who urged reason
against the authority of one opponent, and authority against the reasons
of another. Bonner acted at least in accordance with his own principles.
Cranmer could vindicate himself from the charge of being a heretic only
by arguments which made him out to be a murderer.

Thus the system on which the English Princes acted with respect to
ecclesiastical affairs for some time after the Reformation was a system
too obviously unreasonable to be lasting. The public mind moved while
the government moved, but would not stop where the government stopped.
The same impulse which had carried millions away from the Church of Rome
continued to carry them forward in the same direction. As Catholics
had become Protestants, Protestants became Puritans; and the Tudors and
Stuarts were as unable to avert the latter change as the Popes had been
to {437}avert the former. The dissenting party increased and became
strong under every kind of discouragement and oppression. They were a
sect. The government persecuted them; and they became an opposition. The
old constitution of England furnished to them the means of resisting the
sovereign without breaking the law. They were the majority of the House
of Commons. They had the power of giving or withholding supplies; and,
by a judicious exercise of this power, they might hope to take from the
Church its usurped authority over the consciences of men, and from the
Crown some part of the vast prerogative which it had recently acquired
at the expense of the nobles and of the Pope.

The faint beginnings of this memorable contest may be discerned early in
the reign of Elizabeth. The conduct of her last Parliament made it clear
that one of those great revolutions which policy may guide but cannot
stop was in progress. It was on the question of monopolies that the
House of Commons gained its first great victory over the Throne. The
conduct of the extraordinary woman who then governed England is an
admirable study for politicians who live in unquiet times. It shows how
thoroughly she understood the people whom she ruled, and the crisis in
which she was called to act. What she held she held firmly. What she
gave she gave graciously. She saw that it was necessary to make a
concession to the nation; and she made it, not grudgingly, not tardily,
not as a matter of bargain and sale, not, in a word, as Charles the
First would have made it, but promptly and cordially. Before a bill
could be framed or an address presented, she applied a remedy to the
evil of which the nation complained. She expressed in the {438}warmest
terms her gratitude to her faithful Commons for detecting abuses
which interested persons had concealed from her. If her successors had
inherited her wisdom with her crowd, Charles the First might have died
of old age, and James the Second would never have seen St. Germain’s.

She died; and the kingdom passed to one who was, in his own opinion, the
greatest master of king-craft that ever lived, but who was, in truth,
one of those kings whom God seems to send for the express purpose of
hastening revolutions. Of all the enemies of liberty whom Britain has
produced, he was at once the most harmless and the most provoking. His
office resembled that of the man who, in a Spanish bullfight, goads the
torpid savage to fury, by shaking a red rag in the air, and by now and
then throwing a dart, sharp enough to sting, but too small to injure.
The policy of wise tyrants has always been to cover their violent acts
with popular forms. James was always obtruding his despotic theories
on his subjects without the slightest necessity. His foolish talk
exasperated them infinitely more than forced loans or benevolences would
have done. Yet, in practice, no king ever held his prerogatives less
tenaciously. He neither gave way gracefully to the advancing spirit of
liberty nor took vigorous measures to stop it, but retreated before
it with ludicrous haste, blustering and insulting as he retreated. The
English people had been governed during near a hundred and fifty years
by Princes who, whatever might be their frailties or their vices, had
all possessed great force of character, and who, whether beloved or
hated, had always been feared. Now, at length, for the first time since
the day when the sceptre of Henry the Fourth dropped {439}from the hand
of his lethargic grandson, England had a king whom she despised.

The follies and vices of the man increased the contempt which was
produced by the feeble policy of the sovereign. The indecorous
gallantries of the Court, the habits of gross intoxication in which even
the ladies indulged, were alone sufficient to disgust a people whose
manners were beginning to be strongly tinctured with austerity.
But these were trifles. Crimes of the most frightful kind had been
discovered; others were suspected. The strange story of the Gowries was
not forgotten. The ignominious fondness of the King for his minions, the
perjuries, the sorceries, the poisonings, which his chief favourites
had planned within the walls of his palace, the pardon which, in direct
violation of his duty and of his word, he had granted to the mysterious
threats of a murderer, made him an object of loathing to many of his
subjects. What opinion grave and moral persons residing at a distance
from the Court entertained respecting him, we learn from Mrs.
Hutchinson’s Memoirs. England was no place, the seventeenth century no
time, for Sporus and Locusta.

This was not all. The most ridiculous weaknesses seemed to meet in the
wretched Solomon of Whitehall, pedantry, buffoonery, garrulity,
low curiosity, the most contemptible personal cowardice. Nature and
education had done their best to produce a finished specimen of all that
a king ought not to be. His awkward figure, his rolling eye, his rickety
walk, his nervous tremblings, his slobbering mouth, his broad Scotch
accent, were imperfections which might have been found in the best and
greatest man. Their effect, however, was to make James and his office
objects of contempt, and to dissolve those associations which had
{440}been created by the noble bearing of preceding mon-arclis, and
which were in themselves no inconsiderable fence to royalty.

The sovereign whom James most resembled was, we think, Claudius Cæsar.
Both had the same feeble vacillating temper, the same childishness, the
same coarseness, the same poltroonery. Both were men of learning; both
wrote and spoke, not, indeed, well, but still in a manner in which
it seems almost incredible that men so foolish should have written or

The follies and indecencies of James are well described in the words
which Suetonius uses respecting Claudius:

“Multa talia, etiam privatis deformia, nedum prilcipi, neque infacundo,
neque indocto, immo etiam pertinaciter liberalibus studiis dedito.” The
description given by Suetonius of the manner in which the Roman prince
transacted business exactly suits the Briton.

“In comioscendo ac decernendo mira varietate animi fuit, modo
circumspectus et sagax, modo inconsultus ac præceps, nonnunquam frivolus
amentique similis.” Claudius was ruled successively by two bad women:
James successively by two bad men. Even the description of the person of
Claudius, which we find in the ancient memoirs, might, in many points,
serve for that of James. “Ceterum et ingredientem destituebant poplités
minus firmi, et remisse quid vel serio agentem multa dehonestabant,
risus indecens, ira turpior, spumante rictu, præterea linguæ

The Parliament which James had called soon after his accession had been
refractory. His second Parliament, called in the spring of 1614, had
been more refractory still. It had been dissolved after a session of
two months; and during six years the King had governed without having
recourse to the legislature. {441}During those six years, melancholy
and disgraceful events, at home and abroad, had followed one another in
rapid succession; the divorce of Lady Essex, the murder of Overbury, the
elevation of Villiers, the pardon of Somerset, the disgrace of Coke,
the execution of Raleigh, the battle of Prague, the invasion of the
Palatinate by Spinola, the ignominious flight of the son-in-law of the
English king, the depression of the Protestant interest all over the
continent. All the extraordinary modes by which James could venture to
raise money had been tried. His necessities were greater than ever;
and he was compelled to summon the Parliament in which Hampden first
appeared as a public man.

This Parliament lasted about twelve months. During that time it visited
with deserved punishment several of those who, during the preceding six
years, had enriched themselves by peculation and monopoly. Michell, one
of the grasping patentees who had purchased of the favourite the power
of robbing the nation, was fined and imprisoned for life. Mompesson,
the original, it is said, of Massinger’s Overreach, was outlawed and
deprived of his ill gotten wealth. Even Sir Edward Villiers, the brother
of Buckingham, found it convenient to leave England. A greater name is
to be added to the ignominious list. By this Parliament was brought
to justice that illustrious philosopher whose memory genius has half
redeemed from the infamy due to servility, to ingratitude, and to

After redressing internal grievances, the Commons proceeded to take into
consideration the state of Europe. The King flew into a rage with them
for meddling with such matters, and, with characteristic {442}judgment,
drew them into a controversy about the origin of their House and of its
privileges. When he found that he could not convince them, he dissolved
them in a passion, and sent some of the leaders of the Opposition to
ruminate on his logic in prison.

During the time which elapsed between this dissolution and the meeting
of the next Parliament, took place the celebrated negotiation respecting
the Infanta. The would-be despot was unmercifully browbeaten. The
would-be Solomon was ridiculously overreached. Steenie, in spite of the
begging and sobbing of his dear dad and gossip, carried off baby Charles
in triumph to Madrid. The sweet lads, as James called them, came back
safe, but without their errand. The great master of king-craft, in
looking for a Spanish match, had found a Spanish war. In February, 1624,
a Parliament met, during the whole sitting of which, James was a mere
puppet in the hands of his baby, and of his poor slave and dog. The
Commons were disposed to support the King in the vigorous policy which
his favourite urged him to adopt. But they were not disposed to place
any confidence in their feeble sovereign and his dissolute courtiers,
or to relax in their efforts to remove public grievances. They
therefore lodged the money which they voted for the war in the hands
of Parliamentary Commissioners. They impeached the treasurer, Lord
Middlesex, for corruption, and they passed a bill by which patents of
monopoly were declared illegal.

Hampden did not, during the reign of James, take any prominent part in
public affairs. It is certain, however, that he paid great attention to
the details of Parliamentary business, and to the local interests of his
own country. It was in a great measure owing to {443}his exertions that
Wendover and some other boroughs on which the popular party could depend
recovered the elective franchise, in spite of the opposition of the

The health of the King had for some time been declining. On the
twenty-seventh of March, 1025, he expired. Under his weak rule, the
spirit of liberty had grown strong, and had become equal to a great
contest. The contest was brought on by the policy cf his successor.
Charles bore no resemblance to his father. He was not a driveller, or
a pedant, or a buffoon, or a coward. It would be absurd to deny that
he was a scholar and a gentleman, a man of exquisite taste in the fine
arts, a man of strict morals in private life. His talents for business
were respectable; his demeanour was kingly. But he was false, imperious,
obstinate, narrow-minded, ignorant of the temper of his people,
unobservant of the signs of his times. The whole principle of his
government was resistance to public opinion; nor did he make any real
concession to that opinion till it mattered not whether he resisted or
conceded, till the nation, which had long ceased to love him or to trust
him, had at last ceased to fear him.

His first Parliament met in June, 1625. Hampden sat in it as burgess for
Wendover. The King wished for money. The commons wished for the redress
of grievances. The war, however, could not be carried on without funds.
The plan of the Opposition was, it should seem, to dole out supplies by
small sums, in order to prevent a speedy dissolution. They gave the King
two subsidies only, and proceeded to complain that his ships had been
employed against the Huguenots in France, and to petition in behalf of
the Puritans who were persecuted in England. The King {444}dissolved
them, and raised money by Letters under his Privy Seal. The supply
fell far short of what he needed; and, in the spring of 1620, he called
together another Parliament. In this Parliament, Hampden again sat for

The Commons resolved to grant a very liberal supply, but to defer the
final passing of the act for that purpose till the grievances of the
nation should be redressed. The struggle which followed far exceeded in
violence any that had yet taken place. The Commons impeached Buckingham.
The King threw the managers of the impeachment into prison. The Commons
denied the right of the King to levy tonnage and poundage without their
consent. The King dissolved them. They put forth a remonstrance. The
King circulated a declaration vindicating his measures, and committed
some of the most distinguished members of the Opposition to close
custody. Money was raised by a forced loan, which was apportioned among
the people according to the rate at which they had been respectively
assessed to the last subsidy. On this occasion it was, that Hampden
made his first stand for the fundamental principle of the English
constitution. He positively refused to lend a farthing. He was required
to give his reasons. He answered, “that he could be content to lend
as well as others, but feared to draw upon himself that curse in Magna
Charta which should be read twice a year against those who infringe it.”
 For this spirited answer, the Privy Council committed him close prisoner
to the Gate House. After some time, he was again brought up; but he
persisted in his refusal, and was sent to a place of confinement in

The government went on, oppressing at home, and blundering in all its
measures abroad. A war was {445}foolishly undertaken against France, and
more foolishly conducted. Buckingham led an expedition against Rhe, and
failed ignominiously. In the mean time soldiers were billeted on the
people. Crimes of which ordinary justice should have taken cognisance
were punished by martial law. Near eighty gentlemen were imprisoned for
refusing to contribute to the forced loan. The lower people who showed
any signs of insubordination were dressed into the fleet, or compelled
to serve in the army. Money, however, came in slowly; and the King was
compelled to summon another Parliament. In the hope of conciliating
his subjects, he set at liberty the persons who had been imprisoned
for refusing to comply with his unlawful demands. Hampden regained his
freedom, and was immediately reelected burgess for Wendover.

Early in 1628 the Parliament met. During its first session, the Commons
prevailed on the King, after many delays and much equivocation, to
give, in return for five subsidies, his full and solemn assent to that
celebrated instrument, the second great charter of the liberties of
England, known by the name of the Petition of Right. By agreeing to this
act, the King bound himself to raise no taxes without the consent of
Parliament, to imprison no man except by legal process, to billet no
more soldiers on the people, and to leave the cognisance of offences to
the ordinary tribunals.

In the summer, this memorable Parliament was prorogued. It met again in
January, 1629. Buckingham was no more. That weak, violent, and dissolute
adventurer, who, with no talents or acquirements but those of a mere
courtier, had, in a great crisis of foreign and domestic politics,
ventured on the part of {446}prime minister, had fallen, during the
recess of Parliament, by the hand of an assassin. Both before and after
his death the war had been feebly and unsuccessfully conducted. The King
had continued, in direct violation of the Petition of Righ, to raise
tonnage and poundage without the consent of Parliament. The troops had
again been billeted on the people; and it was clear to the Commons that
the five subsidies which they had given as the price of the national
liberties had been given in vain.

They met accordingly in no complying humour. They took into their most
serious consideration the measures of the government concerning tonnage
and poundage. They summoned the officers of the custom-house to their
bar. They interrogated the barons of the exchequer. They committed one
of the sheriffs of London. Sir John Eliot, a distinguished member of
the Opposition, and an intimate friend of Hampden, proposed a resolution
condemning the unconstitutional imposition. The Speaker said that
the King had commanded him to put no such question to the vote. This
decision produced the most violent burst of feeling ever seen within
the walls of Parliament. Hayman remonstrated vehemently against the
disgraceful language which had been heard from the chair. Eliot dashed
the paper which contained his resolution on the floor of the House.
Valentine and Hollis held the Speaker down in his seat by main force,
and read the motion amidst the loudest shouts. The door was locked. The
key was laid on the table. Black Rod knocked for admittance in vain.
After passing several strong resolutions, the House adjourned. On the
day appointed for its meeting it was dissolved by the King, and several
of its most eminent members, among {447}whom were Hollis and Sir John
Eliot, were committed to prison.

Though Hampden had as yet taken little part in the debates of the House,
he had been a member of many very important committees, and had read and
written much concerning the law of Parliament. A manuscript volume uf
Parliamentary cases, which is still in existence, contains many extracts
from his notes.

He now retired to the duties and pleasures of a rural life. During the
eleven years which followed the dissolution of the Parliament of 1628,
he resided at his seat in one of the most beautiful parts of the county
of Buckingham. The house, which has since his time been greatly altered,
and which is now, we believe, almost entirely neglected, was an old
English mansion, built in the days of the Plantagenets and the Tudors.
It stood on the brow of a hill which overlooks a narrow valley. The
extensive woods which surround it were pierced by long avenues. One of
those avenues the grandfather of the great statesman had cut for the
approach of Elizabeth; and the opening, which is still visible for many
miles, retains the name of the Queen’s Gap. In this delightful retreat,
Hampden passed several years, performing with great activity all the
duties of a landed gentleman and a magistrate, and amusing himself with
books and with field sports.

He was not in his retirement unmindful of his persecuted friends. In
particular, he kept up a close correspondence with Sir John Eliot, who
was confined in the Tower. Lord Nugent has published several of the
Letters. We may perhaps be fanciful; but it seems to us that every one
of them is an admirable illustration {448}of some part of the character
of Hampden which Clarendon has drawn.

The correspondence relates to the two sons of Sir John Eliot.
These young men were wild and unsteady; and their father, who was now
separated from them, was naturally anxious about their conduct. He at
length resolved to send one of them to France, and the other to serve
a campaign in the Low Countries. The letter which we subjoin shows that
Hampden, though rigorous towards himself, was not uncharitable towards
others, and that his puritanism was perfectly compatible with the
sentiments and the tastes of an accomplished gentleman. It also
illustrates admirably what has been said of him by Clarendon: “He was of
that rare affability and temper in debate, and of that seeming humility
and submission of judgment, as if he brought no opinion of his own with
him, but a desire of information and instruction. Yet he had so subtle
a way of interrogating, and, under cover of doubts, insinuating his
objections, that he infused his own opinions into those from whom he
pretended to learn and receive them.”

The letter runs thus: “I am so perfectly acquainted with your clear
insight into the dispositions of men, and ability to fit them with
courses suitable, that, had you bestowed sons of mine as you have
done your own, my judgment durst hardly have called it into question,
especially when, in laying the design, you have prevented the
objections to be made against it. For if Mr. Richard Eliot will, in the
intermissions of action, add study to practice, and adorn that lively
spirit with flowers of contemplation, he will raise our expectations
of another Sir Edward Vere, that had this character--all summer in
the field, all winter in his study--{449}in whose fall fame makes this
kingdom a great loser; and, having taken this resolution from counsel
with the highest wisdom, as I doubt not you have, I hope and pray that
the same power will crown it with a blessing answerable to our wish. The
way you take with my other friend shows you to be none of the Bishop of
Exeter’s converts; (1) of whose mind neither am I superstitiously. But
had my opinion been asked, I should, as vulgar conceits use to do, have
showed my power rather to raise objections than to answer them. A temper
between France and Oxford, might have taken away his scruples, with more
advantage to his years......... For although he be one of those that, if
his age were looked for in no other book but that of the mind, would be
found no ward if you should die to-morrow, yet it is a great hazard,
methinks, to see so sweet a disposition guarded with no more, amongst a
people whereof many make it their religion to be superstitious in
impiety, and their behaviour to be affected in ill manners. But God, who
only knoweth the periods of life and opportunities to come, hath
designed him, I hope, for his own service betime, and stirred up your
providence to husband him so early for great affairs. Then shall he be
sure to find Him in France that Abraham did in Sechem and Joseph in
Egypt, under whose wing alone is perfect safety.”

Sir John Eliot employed himself, during his imprisonment, in writing a
treatise on government, which he transmitted to his friend. Hampden’s
criticisms are strikingly characteristic. They are written with all that
“flowing courtesy” which is ascribed to him by Clarendon. The objections
are insinuated with so

     (1) Hall, Bishop of Exeter, had written strongly, both in
     verse and in prose, against the fashion of sending young men
     of quality to travel.

{450}much delicacy that they could scarcely gall the most irritable
author. We see too how highly Hampden valued in the writings of others
that conciseness which was one of the most striking peculiarities of his
own eloquence. Sir John Eliot’s style was, it seems, too diffuse, and it
is impossible not to admire the skill with which this is suggested. “The
piece,” says Hampden, “is as complete an image of the pattern as can be
drawn by lines, a lively character of a large mind, the subject,
method, and expression, excellent and homogeneal, and, to say truth,
sweetheart, somewhat exceeding my commendations. My words cannot render
them to the life. Yet, to show my ingenuity rather than wit, would not
a less model have given a full representation of that subject, not by
diminution but by contraction of parts? I desire to learn. I dare not
say. The variations upon each particular seem many; all, I confess,
excellent. The fountain was full, the channel narrow; that may be the
cause; or that the author resembled Virgil, who made more verses by many
than he intended to write. To extract a just number, had I seen all his,
I could easily have bid him make fewer; but if he had bade me tell him
which he should have spared, I had been posed.” This is evidently the
writing not only of a man of good sense and natural good taste, but of a
man of literary habits. Of the studies of Hampden little is known. But,
as it was at one time in contemplation to give him the charge of
the education of the Prince of Wales, it cannot be doubted that his
acquirements were considerable. Davila, it is said, was one of
his favourite writers. The moderation of Davila’s opinions and the
perspicuity and manliness of his style could not but recommend him to so
judicious a reader. {451}It is not improbable that the parallel between
France and England, the Huguenots and the Puritans, had struck the mind
of Hampden, and that he already-found within himself powers not unequal
to the lofty part of Coligni.

While he was engaged in these pursuits, a heavy domestic calamity fell
on him. His wife, who had borne him nine children, died in the summer
of 1634. She lies in the parish church of Hampden, close to the
manor-house. The tender and energetic language of her epitaph still
attests the bitterness of her husband’s sorrow, and the consolation
which he found in a hope full of immortality.

In the mean time, the aspect of public affairs grew darker and darker.
The health of Eliot had sunk under an unlawful imprisonment of several
years. The brave sufferer refused to purchase liberty, though liberty
would to him have been life, by recognising the authority which had
confined him. In consequence of the representations of his physicians,
the severity of restraint was somewhat relaxed. But it was in vain. He
languished and expired a martyr to that good cause for which his friend
Hampden was destined to meet a more brilliant, but not a more honourable

All the promises of the King were violated without scruple or shame.
The Petition of Right, to which he had, in consideration of monies duly
numbered, given a solemn assent, was set at nought. Taxes were raised by
the royal authority. Patents of monopoly were granted. The old usages of
feudal times were made pretexts for harassing the people with exactions
unknown during many years. The Puritans were persecuted with cruelty
worthy of the Holy Office. They were forced to fly from the country.
They {452}were imprisoned. They were whipped. Their ears were cut off.
Their noses were slit. Their cheeks were branded with red-hot iron. But
the cruelty of the oppressor could not tire out the fortitude of the
victims. The mutilated defenders of liberty again defied the vengeance
of the Star Chamber, came back with undiminished resolution to the place
of their glorious infamy, and manfully presented the stumps of their
ears to be grubbed out by the hangman’s knife. The hardy sect grew up
and flourished in spite of every thing that seemed likely to stunt it,
struck its roots deep into a barren soil, and spread its branches wide
to an inclement sky. The multitude thronged round Prynne in the pillory
with more respect than they paid to Mainwaring in the pulpit, and
treasured up the rags which the blood of Burton had soaked, with a
veneration such as mitres and surplices had ceased to inspire.

For the misgovernment of this disastrous period Charles himself is
principally responsible. After the death of Buckingham, he seems to
have been his own prime minister. He had, however, two counsellors who
seconded him, or went beyond him, in intolerance and lawless violence,
the one a superstitious driveller, as honest as a vile temper would
suffer him to be, the other a man of great valour and capacity, but
licentious, faithless, corrupt, and cruel.

Never were faces more strikingly characteristic of the individuals to
whom they belonged, than those of Laud and Strafford, as they still
remain portrayed by the most skilful hand of that age. The mean
forehead, the pinched features, the peering eyes, of the prelate, suit
admirably with his disposition. They mark him out as a lower kind of
Saint Dominic, differing {453}from the fierce and gloomy enthusiast
who founded the Inquisition, as we might imagine the familiar imp of a
spiteful witch to differ from an archangel of darkness. When we read
His Grace’s judgments, when we read the report which he drew up, setting
forth that he had sent some separatists to prison, and imploring the
royal aid against others, we feel a movement of indignation. We turn to
his Diary, and we are at once as cool as contempt can make us. There we
learn how his picture fell down, and how fearful he was lest the fall
should be an omen; how he dreamed that the Duke of Buckingham came to
bed to him, that King James walked past him, that he saw Thomas Flaxney
in green garments, and the Bishop of Worcester with his shoulders
wrapped in linen. In the early part of 1627, the sleep of this great
ornament of the church seems to have been much disturbed. On the fifth
of January, he saw a merry old man with a wrinkled countenance, named
Grove, lying on the ground. On the fourteenth of the same memorable
month, he saw the Bishop of Lincoln jump on a horse and ride away. A
lay or two after this he dreamed that he gave the King drink in a silver
cup, and that the King refused it, and called for glass. Then he dreamed
that he had turned Papist; of all his dreams the only one, we suspect,
which came through the gate of horn. But of these visions our favourite
is that which, as he has recorded, he enjoyed on the night of Friday,
the ninth of February, 1627. “I dreamed,” says he, “that I had the
scurvy; and that forthwith all my teeth became loose. There was one in
especial in my lower jaw, which I could scarcely keep in with my finger
till I had called for help.” Here was a man to have the superintendence
of the opinions of a great nation! {454}But Wentworth,--who ever names
him without thinking of those harsh dark features, ennobled by their
expression into more than the majesty of an antique Jupiter; of that
brow, that eye, that cheek, that lip, wherein, as in a chronicle, are
written the events of many stormy and disastrous years, high enterprise
accomplished, frightful dangers braved, power unsparingly exercised,
suffering unshrinkingly borne; of that fixed look, so full of severity,
of mournful anxiety, of deep thought, of dauntless resolution, which
seems at once to forebode and to defy a terrible fate, as it lowers on
us from the living canvass of Vandyke? Even at this day the haughty earl
overawes posterity as he overawed his contemporaries, and excites the
same interest when arraigned before the tribunal of history which he
excited at the bar of the House of Lords. In spite of ourselves, we
sometimes feel towards his memory a certain relenting similar to that
relenting which his defence, as Sir John Denham tells us, produced in
Westminster Hall.

This great, brave, bad man entered the House of Commons at the same time
with Hampden, and took the same side with Hampden. Both were among the
richest and most powerful commoners in the kingdom. Both were equally
distinguished by force of character, and by personal courage. Hampden
had more judgment and sagacity than Wentworth. But no orator of that
time equalled Wentworth in force and brilliancy of expression. In 1626
both these eminent men were committed to prison by the King, Wentworth,
who was among the leaders of the Opposition, on account of his
parliamentary conduct, Hampden, who had not as yet taken a prominent
part in debate, for refusing to pay taxes illegally imposed.

Here their path separated. After the death of {455}Buckingham, the King
attempted to seduce some of the chiefs of the Opposition from their
party; and Wentworth was among those who yielded to the seduction. He
abandoned his associates, and hated them ever after with the deadly
hatred of a renegade. High titles and great employments were heaped upon
him. He became Earl of Strafford, Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, President
of the Council of the North; and he employed all his power for the
purpose of crushing those liberties of which he had been the most
distinguished champion. His counsels respecting public affairs were
fierce and arbitrary. His correspondence with Laud abundantly proves
that government without parliaments, government by the sword, was his
favourite scheme. He was angry even that the course of justice between
man and man should be unrestrained by the royal prerogative. He grudged
to the Courts of King’s Bench and Common Pleas even that measure
of liberty which the most absolute of the Bourbons allowed to the
Parliaments of France. In Ireland, where he stood in the place of the
King, his practice was in strict accordance with his theory. He set up
the authority of the executive government over that of the courts of
law. He permitted no person to leave the island without his licence.
He established vast monopolies for his own private benefit. He imposed
taxes arbitrarily. He levied them by military force. Some of his acts
are described even by the partial Clarendon as powerful acts, acts which
marked a nature excessively imperious, acts which caused dislike and
terror in sober and dispassionate persons, high acts uf oppression.
Upon a most frivolous charge, he obtained a capital sentence from a
court-martial against a man of high rank who had given him offence, he
debauched {456}the daughter-in-law of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland,
and then commanded that nobleman to settle his estate according to the
wishes of the lady. The Chancellor refused. The Lord Lieutenant turned
him out of office, and threw him into prison. When the violent acts
of the Long Parliament are blamed, let it not be forgotten from what a
tyranny they rescued the nation.

Among the humbler tools of Charles were Chief-Justice Finch and Noy
the Attorney-General. Noy had, like Wentworth, supported the cause of
liberty in Parliament, and had, like Wentworth, abandoned that cause for
the sake of office. He devised, in conjunction with Finch, a scheme
of exaction which made the alienation of the people from the throne
complete. A writ was issued by the King, commanding the city of London
to equip and man ships of war for his service. Similar writs were sent
to the towns along the coast. These measures, though they were direct
violations of the Petition of Right, had at least some show of precedent
in their favour. But, after a time, the government took a step for
which no precedent could be pleaded, and sent writs of ship-money to the
inland counties. This was a stretch of power on which Elizabeth herself
had not ventured, even at a time when all laws might with propriety
have been made to bend to that highest law, the safety of the state. The
inland counties had not been required to furnish ships, or money in
the room of ships, even when the Armada was approaching our shores. It
seemed intolerable that a prince who, by assenting to the Petition of
Right, had relinquished the power of levying ship-money even in the
out-ports, should be the first to levy it on parts of the kingdom
where it had been unknown under the most absolute of his predecessors.
{457}Clarendon distinctly admits that this tax was intended, not only
for the support of the navy, but “for a spring and magazine that should
have no bottom, and for an everlasting supply of all occasions.” The
nation well understood this; and from one end of England to the other
the public mind was strongly excited.

Buckinghamshire was assessed at a ship of four hundred and fifty tons,
or a sum of four thousand five hundred pounds. The share of the tax
which fell to Hampden was very small; so small, indeed, that the sheriff
was blamed for setting so wealthy a man at so low a rate. But, though
the sum demanded was a trifle, the principle involved was fearfully
important. Hampden, after consulting the most eminent constitutional
lawyers of the time, refused to pay the few shillings at which he was
assessed, and determined to incur all the certain expense, and the
probable danger, of bringing to a solemn hearing this great controversy
between the people and the Crown. “Till this time,” says Clarendon, “he
was rather of reputation in his own country than of public discourse or
fame in the kingdom; but then he grew the argument of all tongues, every
man inquiring who and what he was that durst, at his own charge, support
the liberty and prosperity of the kingdom.”

Towards the close of the year 1636, this great cause came on in the
Exchequer Chamber before all the judges of England. The leading counsel
against the writ was the celebrated Oliver St. John, a man whose temper
was melancholy, whose manners were reserved, and who was as yet little
known in Westminster Hall, but whose great talents had not escaped the
penetrating eye of Hampden. The Attorney-General and Solicitor-General
appeared for the Crown. {458}The arguments of the counsel occupied
many days; and the Exchequer Chamber took a considerable time for
deliberation. The opinion of the bench was divided. So clearly was the
law in favour of Hampden that, though the judges held their situations
only during the royal pleasure, the majority against him was the least
possible. Five of the twelve pronounced in his favour. The remaining
seven gave their voices for the writ.

The only effect of this decision was to make the public indignation
stronger and deeper. “The judgment,” says Clarendon, “proved of more
advantage and credit to the gentleman condemned than to the King’s
service.” The courage which Hampden had shown on this occasion, as
the same historian tells us, “raised his reputation to a great height
generally throughout the kingdom.” Even courtiers and crown-lawyers
spoke respectfully of him. “His carriage,” says Clarendon, “throughout
that agitation, was with that rare temper and modesty, that they who
watched him narrowly to find some advantage against his person, to
make him less resolute in his cause, were compelled to give him a just
testimony.” But his demeanour, though it impressed Lord Falkland
with the deepest respect, though it drew forth the praises of
Solicitor-General Herbert, only kindled into a fiercer flame the
ever-burning hatred of Strafford. That minister, in his letters to Laud,
murmured against the lenity with which Hampden was treated. “In good
faith,” he wrote, “were such men rightly served, they should be whipped
into their right wits” Again he says, “I still wish Mr. Hampden, and
others to his likeness, were well whipped into their right senses. And
if the rod be so used that it smart not, I am the more sorry.” {459}The
person of Hampden was now scarcely safe. His prudence and moderation
had hitherto disappointed those who would gladly have had a pretence for
sending him to the prison of Eliot. But he knew that the eye of a tyrant
was on him. In the year 1637 mis-government had reached its height.
Eight years had passed without a Parliament. The decision of the
Exchequer Chamber had placed at the disposal of the Crown the whole
property of the English people. About the time at which that decision
was pronounced, Prynne, Bastwick, and Burton were mutilated by the
sentence of the Star Chamber, and sent to rot in remote dungeons. The
estate and the person of every man who had opposed the court were at its

Hampden determined to leave England. Beyond the Atlantic Ocean, a few of
the persecuted Puritans had formed, in the wilderness of Connecticut, a
settlement which has since become a prosperous commonwealth, and which,
in spite of the lapse of time and of the change of government, still
retains something of the character given to it by its first founders.
Lord Saye and Lord Brooke were the original projectors of this scheme of
emigration. Hampden had been early consulted respecting it. He was now,
it appears, desirous to withdraw himself beyond the reach of oppressors
who, as he probably suspected, and as we know, were bent on punishing
his manful resistance to their tyranny. He was accompanied by his
kinsman, Oliver Cromwell, over whom he possessed great influence, and in
whom he alone had discovered, under an exterior appearance of coarseness
and extravagance, those great and commanding talents which were
afterwards the admiration and the dread of Europe.

The cousins took their passage in a vessel which lay {460}in the Thames,
and which was bound for North America. They were actually on board,
when an order of council appeared, by which the ship was prohibited from
sailing. Seven other ships, filled with emigrants, were stopped at the
same time.

Hampden and Cromwell remained; and with them remained the Evil Genius
of the House of Stuart. The tide of public affairs was even now on the
turn. The King had resolved to change the ecclesiastical constitution
of Scotland, and to introduce into the public worship of that kingdom
ceremonies which the great body of the Scots regarded as popish. This
absurd attempt produced, first discontents, then riots, and at length
open rebellion. A provisional government was established at Edinburgh,
and its authority was obeyed throughout the kingdom. This government
raised an army, appointed a general, and summoned an Assembly of the
Kirk. The famous instrument called the Covenant was put forth at this
time, and was eagerly subscribed by the people.

The beginnings of this formidable insurrection were strangely neglected
by the King and his advisers. But towards the close of the year 1638 the
danger became pressing. An army was raised; and early in the following
spring Charles marched northward at the head of a force sufficient, as
it seemed, to reduce the Covenanters to submission.

But Charles acted at this conjuncture as he acted at every important
conjuncture throughout his life. After oppressing, threatening, and
blustering, he hesitated and failed. He was bold in the wrong place, and
timid in the wrong place. He would have shown his wisdom by being afraid
before the liturgy was read in St. Giles’s church. He put off his fear
till he had {461}reached the Scottish border with his troops. Then,
after a feeble campaign, he concluded a treaty with the insurgents, and
withdrew his army. But the terms of the pacification were not observed.
Each party charged the other with foul play. The Scots refused to
disarm. The King found great difficulty in re-assembling his forces. His
late expedition had drained his treasury. The revenues of the next year
had been anticipated. At another time, he might have attempted to make
up the deficiency by illegal expedients; but such a course would clearly
have been dangerous when part of the island was in rebellion. It was
necessary to call a Parliament. After eleven years of suffering, the
voice of the nation was to be heard once more.

In April, 1640, the Parliament met; and the King had another chance
of conciliating his people. The new House of Commons was, beyond all
comparison, the least refractory House of Commons that had been known
for many years. Indeed, we have never been able to understand how, after
so long a period of mis-government, the representatives of the nation
should have shown so moderate and so loyal a disposition. Clarendon
speaks with admiration of their dutiful temper. “The House, generally,”
 says he, “was exceedingly disposed to please the King, and to do him

“It could never be hoped,” he observes elsewhere, “that more sober or
dispassionate men would ever meet together in that place, or fewer who
brought ill purposes with them.”

In this Parliament Hampden took his seat as member for Buckinghamshire,
and thenceforward, till the day of his death, gave himself up, with
scarcely any intermission, to public affairs. He took lodgings in
{462}Gray’s Inn Lane, near the house occupied by Pym, with whom he lived
in habits of the closest intimacy. He was now decidedly the most popular
man in England. The Opposition looked to him as their leader, and the
servants of the King treated him with marked respect.

Charles requested the Parliament to vote an immediate supply, and
pledged his word that, if they would gratify him in this request, he
would afterwards give them time to represent their grievances to him.
The grievances under which the nation suffered were so serious, and
the royal word had been so shamefully violated, that the Commons could
hardly be expected to comply with this request. During the first week of
the session, the minutes of the proceedings against Hampden were laid on
the table by Oliver St. John, and a committee reported that the case was
matter of grievance. The King; sent a message to the Commons, offering,
if they would vote him twelve subsidies, to give up the prerogative
of ship-money. Many years before, he had received five subsidies in
consideration of his assent to the Petition of Right. By assenting to
that petition, he had given up the right of levying ship-money, if he
ever possessed it. How he had observed the promises made to his third
Parliament, all England knew; and it was not strange that the Commons
should be somewhat unwilling to buy from him, over and over again, their
own ancient and undoubted inheritance.

His message, however, was not unfavourably received. The Commons were
ready to give a large supply; but they were not disposed to give it
in exchange for a prerogative of which they altogether denied the
existence. If they acceded to the proposal {463}of the King, they
recognised the legality of the writs of ship-money.

Hampden, who was a greater master of parliamentary tactics than any
man of his time, saw that this was the prevailing feeling, and availed
himself of it with great dexterity. He moved that the question should
be put, “Whether the House would consent to the proposition made by the
King, as contained in the message.” Hyde interfered, and proposed that
the question should be divided; that the sense of the House should be
taken merely on the point whether there should be a supply or no
supply; and that the manner and the amount should be left for subsequent

The majority of the House was for granting a supply, but against
granting it in the manner proposed by the King! If the House had divided
on Hampden’s question, the court would have sustained a defeat; if on
Hyde’s, the court would have gained an apparent victory. Some members
called for Hyde’s motion, others for Hampden’s. In the midst of the
uproar, the secretary of state, Sir Harry Vane, rose and stated that the
supply would not be accepted unless it were voted according to the tenor
of the message. Vane was supported by Herbert, the Solicitor-General.
Hyde’s motion was therefore no further pressed, and the debate on the
general question was adjourned till the next day.

On the next day the King came down to the House of Lords, and dissolved
the Parliament with an angry speech. His conduct on this occasion has
never been defended by any of his apologists. Clarendon condemns it
severely. “No man,” says he, “could imagine what offence the Commons
had given.” The {464}offence which they had given is plain. They had,
indeed, behaved most temperately and most respectfully. But they had
shown a disposition to redress wrongs and to vindicate the laws; and
this was enough to make them hateful to a king whom no law could bind,
and whose whole government was one system of wrong.

The nation received the intelligence of the dissolution with sorrow
and indignation. The only persons to whom this event gave pleasure were
those few discerning men who thought that the maladies of the state were
beyond the reach of gentle remedies. Oliver St. John’s joy was too great
for concealment. It lighted up his dark and melancholy features, and
made him, for the first time, indiscreetly communicative. He told Hyde
that things must be worse before they could be better, and that the
dissolved Parliament would never have done all that was necessary. St.
John, we think, was in the right. No good could then have been done by
any Parliament which did not fully understand that no confidence could
safely be placed in the King, and that, while he enjoyed more than the
shadow of power, the nation would never enjoy more than the shadow of

As soon as Charles had dismissed the Parliament, he threw several
members of the House of Commons into prison. Ship-money was exacted
more rigorously than ever; and the Mayor and Sheriffs of London
were prosecuted before the Star Chamber for slackness in levying it.
Wentworth, it is said, observed, with characteristic insolence and
cruelty, that things would never go right till the Aldermen were hanged.
Large sums were raised by force on those counties in which the troops
were quartered. All the wretched shifts of a {465}beggared exchequer
were tried. Forced loans were raised. Great quantities of goods were
bought on long credit and sold for ready-money. A scheme for debasing
the currency was under consideration. At length, in August, the King
again marched northward.

The Scots advanced into England to meet him. It is by no means
improbable that this bold step was taken by the advice of Hampden, and
of those with whom he acted; and this has been made matter of grave
accusation against the English Opposition. It is said that to call in
the aid of foreigners in a domestic quarrel is the worst of treasons,
and that the Puritan leaders, by taking this course, showed that they
were regardless of the honour and independence of the nation, and
anxious only for the success of their own faction. We are utterly unable
to see any distinction between the case of the Scotch invasion in
1640, and the case of the Dutch invasion in 1688; or rather, we see
distinctions which are to the advantage of Hampden and his friends. We
believe Charles to have been a worse and more danserons king than his
son. The Dutch were strangers to us, the Scots a kindred people speaking
the same language, subjects of the same prince, not aliens in the eye of
the law. If, indeed, it had been possible that a Scotch army or a Dutch
army could have enslaved England, those who persuaded Leslie to cross
the Tweed, and those who signed the invitation to the Prince of Orange,
would have been traitors to their country. But such a result was out of
the question. All that either a Scotch or a Dutch invasion could do was
to give the public feeling of England an opportunity to show
itself. Both expeditions would have ended in complete and ludicrous
{466}discomfiture, had Charles and James been supported by their
soldiers and their people. In neither case, therefore, was the
independence of England endangered; in both cases her liberties were

The second campaign of Charles against the Scots was short and
ignominious. His soldiers, as soon as they saw the enemy, ran away as
English soldiers have never run either before or since. It can scarcely
be doubted that their flight was the effect, not of cowardice, but of
disaffection. The four northern counties of England were occupied by the
Scotch army, and the King retired to York.

The game of tyranny was now up. Charles had risked and lost his last
stake. It is not easy to retrace the mortifications and humiliations
which the tyrant now had to endure, without a feeling of vindictive
pleasure. His army was munitions; his treasury was empty; his people
clamoured for a Parliament; addresses and petitions against the
government were presented. Strafford was for shooting the petitioners by
martial law; but the King could not trust the soldiers. A great council
of Peers was called at York; but the King could not trust even the
Peers. He struggled, evaded, hesitated, tried every shift, rather than
again face the representatives of his injured people. At length no shift
was left. He made a truce with the Scots, and summoned a Parliament.

The leaders of the popular party had, after the late dissolution,
remained in London for the purpose of organizing a scheme of opposition
to the court. They now exerted themselves to the utmost. Hampden, in
particular, rode from county to county, exhorting the electors to give
their votes to men worthy of their confidence. The great majority of
the returns was on the side {467}of the Opposition. Hampden was himself
chosen member both for Wendover and Buckinghamshire. He made his
election to serve for the county.

On the third of November, 1640, a day to be long remembered, met that
great Parliament, destined to every extreme of fortune, to empire and
to servitude, to glory and to contempt; at one time the sovereign of its
sovereign, at another time the servant of its servants. From the first
day of meeting the attendance was great; and the aspect of the members
was that of men not disposed to do the work negligently. The dissolution
of the late Parliament had convinced most of them that half measures
would no longer suffice. Clarendon tells us, that “the same men who, six
months before, were observed to be of very moderate tempers, and to wish
that gentle remedies might be applied, talked now in another dialect
both of kings and persons; and said that they must now be of another
temper than they were the last Parliament.” The debt of vengeance was
swollen by all the usury which had been accumulating during many years;
and payment was made to the full.

This memorable crisis called forth parliamentary abilities such as
England had never before seen. Among the most distinguished members
of the House of Commons were Falkland, Hyde, Digby, young Harry Vane,
Oliver St. John, Denzil Hollis, Nathaniel Fiennes. But two men exercised
a paramount influence over the legislature and the country, Pym and
Hampden; and, by the universal consent of friends and enemies, the first
place belonged to Hampden.

On occasions which required set speeches Pym generally took the lead.
Hampden very seldom rose till late in a debate. His speaking was of that
kind which {468}has, in every age, been held in the highest estimation
by English Parliaments, ready, weighty, perspicuous, condensed. His
perception of the feelings of the House was exquisite, his temper
unalterably placid, his manner eminently courteous and gentlemanlike.
“Even with those,” says Clarendon, “who are able to preserve themselves
from his infusions, and who discerned those opinions to be fixed in him
with which they could not comply, he always left the character of an
ingenious and conscientious person.” His talents for business were as
remarkable as his talents for debate. “He was,” says Clarendon, “of
an industry and vigilance not to be tired out or wearied by the most
laborious, and of parts not to be imposed upon by the most subtle
and sharp.” Yet it was rather to his moral than to his intellectual
qualities that he was indebted for the vast influence which
he possessed. “When this parliament began,”--we again quote
Clarendon,--“the eyes of all men were fixed upon him, as their _patriae
pater_, and the pilot that must steer the vessel through the tempests
and rocks which threatened it. And I am persuaded his power and interest
at that time were greater to do good or hurt than any man’s in the
kingdom, or than any man of his rank hath had in any time; for his
reputation of honesty was universal, and his affections seemed so
publicly guided, that no corrupt or private ends could bias them.. . .
He was indeed a very wise man, and of great parts, and possessed with
the most absolute spirit of popularity, and the most absolute faculties
to govern the people, of any man I ever knew.”

It is sufficient to recapitulate shortly the acts of the Long Parliament
during its first session. Strafford and Laud were impeached and
imprisoned. Strafford {469}was afterwards attainted by Bill, and
executed. Lord Keeper Finch fled to Holland, Secretary Windebank to
France. All those whom the King had, during the last twelve years,
employed for the oppression of his people, from the servile judges
who had pronounced in favour of the crown against Hampden, down to
the sheriffs who had distrained for ship-money, and the custom-house
officers who had levied tonnage and poundage, were summoned to answer
for their conduct. The Star Chamber, the High Commission Court, the
Council of York, were abolished. Those unfortunate victims of Laud who,
after undergoing ignominious exposure and cruel manglings, had been
sent to languish in distant prisons, were set at liberty, and conducted
through London in triumphant procession. The King was compelled to give
the judges patents for life or during good behaviour. He was deprived
of those oppressive powers which were the last relics of the old feudal
tenures. The Forest Courts and the Stannary Courts were reformed. It
was provided that the Parliament then sitting should not be prorogued or
dissolved without its own consent, and that a Parliament should be held
at least once every three years.

Many of these measures Lord Clarendon allows to have been most salutary;
and few persons will, in our times, deny that, in the laws passed
during this session, the good greatly preponderated over the evil. The
abolition of those three hateful courts, the Northern Council, the
Star Chamber, and the High Commission, would alone entitle the Long
Parliament to the lasting gratitude of Englishmen.

The proceeding against Strafford undoubtedly seems hard to people living
in our days. It would probably have seemed merciful and moderate to
people living in {470}the sixteenth century. It is curious to compare
the trial of Charles’s minister with the trial, if it can be so called,
of Lord Seymour of Sudeley, in the blessed reign of Edward the Sixth.
None of the great reformers of our Church doubted the propriety of
passing an act of Parliament for cutting off Lord Seymour’s head without
a legal conviction. The pious Cranmer voted for that act; the pious
Latimer preached for it; the pious Edward returned thanks for it; and
all the pious Lords of the council together exhorted their victim
to what they were pleased facetiously to call “the quiet and patient
suffering of justice.”

But it is not necessary to defend the proceedings against Strafford by
any such comparison. They are justified, in our opinion, by that which
alone justifies capital punishment or any punishment, by that which
alone justifies war, by the public danger. That there is a certain
amount of public danger which will justify a legislature in sentencing
a man to death by retrospective law, few people, we suppose, will
deny. Few people, for example, will deny that the French Convention was
perfectly justified in placing Robespierre, St. Just, and Couthon under
the ban of the law, without a trial. This proceeding differed from the
proceeding against Strafford only in being much more rapid and violent.
Strafford was fully heard. Robespierre was not suffered to defend
himself. Was there, then, in the case of Strafford, a danger sufficient
to justify an act of attainder? We believe that there was. We believe
that the contest in which the Parliament was engaged against the King
was a contest for the security of our property, for the liberty of our
persons, for every thing which makes us to differ from the subjects of
Don Miguel. We believe that the cause of the {471}Commons was such as
justified them in resisting the King, in raising an army, in sending
thousands of brave men to kill and to be killed. An act of attainder is
surely not more a departure from the ordinary course of law than a civil
war. An act of attainder produces much less suffering than a civil
war. We are, therefore, unable to discover on what principle it can be
maintained that a cause which justifies a civil war will not justify an
act of attainder.

Many specious arguments have been urged against the retrospective law by
which Strafford was condemned to death. But all these arguments proceed
on the supposition that the crisis was an ordinary crisis. The attainder
was, in truth, a revolutionary measure. It was part of a system of
resistance which oppression had rendered necessary. It is as unjust to
judge of the conduct pursued by the Long Parliament towards Strafford on
ordinary principles, as it would have been to indict Fairfax for murder
because he cut down a cornet at Naseby. From the day on which the Houses
met, there was a war waged by them against the King, a war for all that
they held dear, a war carried on at first by means of parliamentary
forms, at last by physical force; and, as in the second stage of that
war, so in the first, they were entitled to do many things which, in
quiet times, would have been culpable.

We must not omit to mention that those who were afterwards the most
distinguished ornaments of the King’s party supported the bill of
attainder. It is almost certain that Hyde voted for it. It is quite
certain that Falkland both voted and spoke for it. The opinion of
Hampden, as far as it can be collected from a very obscure note of one
of his speeches, seems to have been that the proceeding by Bill was
unnecessary, {472}and that it would be a better course to obtain
judgment on the impeachment.

During this year the Court opened a negotiation with the leaders of the
Opposition. The Earl of Bedford was invited to form an administration on
popular principles. St. John was made solicitor-general. Hollis was to
have been secretary of state, and Pym chancellor of the exchequer. The
post of tutor to the Prince of Wales was designed for Hampden. The death
of the Earl of Bedford prevented this arrangement from being carried
into effect; and it may be doubted whether, even if that nobleman’s
life had been prolonged, Charles would ever have consented to surround
himself with counsellors whom he could not but hate and fear.

Lord Clarendon admits that the conduct of Hampden during this year was
mild and temperate, that he seemed disposed rather to soothe than to
excite the public mind, and that, when violent and unreasonable motions
were made by his followers, he generally left the House before the
division, lest he should seem to give countenance to their extravagance.
His temper was moderate. He sincerely loved peace. He felt also great
fear lest too precipitate a movement should produce a reaction. The
events which took place early in the next session clearly showed that
this fear was not unfounded.

During the autumn the Parliament adjourned for a few weeks. Before the
recess, Hampden was despatched to Scotland by the House of Commons,
nominally as a commissioner, to obtain security for a debt which the
Scots had contracted during the late invasion; but in truth that he
might keep watch over the King, who had now repaired to Edinburgh, for
the {473}purpose of finally adjusting the points of difference which
remained between him and his northern subjects. It was the business of
Hampden to dissuade the Covenanters from making their peace with the
Court, at the expense of the popular party in England.

While the King was in Scotland, the Irish rebellion broke out. The
suddenness and violence of this terrible explosion excited a strange
suspicion in the public mind. The Queen was a professed Papist. The King
and the Archbishop of Canterbury had not indeed been reconciled to the
See of Rome; but they had, while acting towards the Puritan party with
the utmost rigour, and speaking of that party with the utmost contempt,
shown great tenderness and respect towards the Catholic religion and
its professors. In spite of the wishes of successive Parliaments, the
Protestant separatists had been cruelly persecuted. And at the same
time, in spite of the wishes of those very Parliaments, laws which were
in force against the Papists, and which, unjustifiable as they were,
suited the temper of that age, had not been carried into execution. The
Protestant nonconformists had not yet learned toleration in the school
of suffering. They reprobated the partial lenity which the government
showed towards idolaters, and, with some show of reason, ascribed to bad
motives conduct which, in such a king as Charles, and such a prelate
as Laud, could not possibly be ascribed to humanity or to liberality
of sentiment. The violent Arminianism of the Archbishop, his childish
attachment to ceremonies, his superstitious veneration for altars,
vestments, and painted windows, his bigoted zeal for the constitution
and the privileges of his order, his known opinions respecting the
celibacy of the clergy, had excited great disgust {474}throughout that
large party which was every day becoming more and more hostile to Rome,
and more and more inclined to the doctrines and the discipline of
Geneva. It was believed by many that the Irish rebellion had been
secretly encouraged by the Court; and, when the Parliament met again in
November, after a short recess, the Puritans were more intractable than

But that which Hampden had feared had come to pass. A reaction had taken
place. A large body of moderate and well-meaning men, who had heartily
concurred in the strong measures adopted before the recess, were
inclined to pause. Their opinion was that, during many years, the
country had been grievously misgoverned, and that a great reform
had been necessary; but that a great reform had been made, that the
grievances of the nation had been fully redressed, that sufficient
vengeance had been exacted for the past, that sufficient security had
been provided for the future, and that it would, therefore, be
both ungrateful and unwise to make any further attacks on the royal
prerogative. In support of this opinion many plausible arguments have
been used. But to all these arguments there is one short answer. The
King could not be trusted.

At the head of those who may be called the Constitutional Royalists
were Falkland, Hyde, and Culpeper. All these eminent men had, during the
former year, been in very decided opposition to the Court. In some of
those very proceedings with which their admirers reproach Hampden, they
had taken a more decided part than Hampden. They had all been concerned
in the impeachment of Strafford. They had all, there is reason to
believe, voted for the Bill of Attabuler. {475}Certainly none of them
voted against it. They had all agreed to the act which made the consent
of the Parliament necessary to a dissolution or prorogation. Hyde had
been among the most active of those who attacked the Council of York.
Falkland had voted for the exclusion of the bishops from the Upper
House. They were now inclined to halt in the path of reform, perhaps to
retrace a few of their steps.

A direct collision soon took place between the two parties into which
the House of Commons, lately at almost perfect unity with itself, was
now divided. The opponents of the government moved that celebrated
address to the King which is known by the name of the Grand
Remonstrance. In this address all the oppressive acts of the preceding
fifteen years were set forth with great energy of language; and, in
conclusion, the King was entreated to employ no ministers in whom the
Parliament could not confide.

The debate on the Remonstrance was long and stormy. It commenced at nine
in the morning of the twenty-first of November, and lasted till after
midnight. The division showed that a great change had taken place in the
temper of the House. Though many members had retired from exhaustion,
three hundred voted; and the Remonstrance was carried by a majority
of only nine. A violent debate followed, on the question whether
the minority should be allowed to protest against this decision. The
excitement was so great that several members were on the point of
proceeding to personal violence. “We had sheathed our swords in each
other’s bowels,” says an eye-witness, “had not the sagacity and great
calmness of Mr. Hampden, by a short speech, prevented it.” The House
did not rise till two in the morning. {476}The situation of the Puritan
leaders was now difficult and full of peril. The small majority which
they still had might soon become a minority. Out of doors, their
supporters in the higher and middle classes were beginning to fall off.
There was a growing opinion that the King had been hardly used. The
English are always inclined to side with a weak party which is in the
wrong, rather than with a strong party which is in the right. This may
be seen in all contests, from contests of boxers to contests of faction.
Thus it was that a violent reaction took place in favour of Charles the
Second against the Whigs in 1681. Thus it was that an equally violent
reaction took place in favour of George the Third against the coalition
in 1784. A similar reaction was beginning to take place during the
second year of the Long Parliament. Some members of the Opposition “had
resumed,” says Clarendon, “their old resolution of leaving the kingdom.”
 Oliver Cromwell openly declared that he and many others would have
emigrated if they had been left in a minority on the question of the

Charles had now a last chance of regaining the affection of his people.
If he could have resolved to give his confidence to the leaders of the
moderate party in the House of Commons, and to regulate his proceedings
by their advice, he might have been, not, indeed, as he had been, a
despot, but the powerful and respected king of a free people. The nation
might have enjoyed liberty and repose under a government with Falkland
at its head, checked by a constitutional Opposition under the conduct
of Hampden. It was not necessary that, in order to accomplish this happy
end, the King should sacrifice any part of his lawful prerogative, or
submit to any conditions inconsistent {477}with his dignity. It was
necessary only that he should abstain from treachery, from violence,
from gross breaches of the law. This was all that the nation was then
disposed to require of him. And even this was too much.

For a short time he seemed inclined to take a wise and temperate course.
He resolved to make Falkland secretary of state, and Culpeper chancellor
of the exchequer. He declared his intention of conferring in a short
time some important office on Hyde. He assured these three persons that
he would do nothing relating to the House of Commons without their joint
advice, and that he would communicate all his designs to them in the
most unreserved manner. This resolution, had he adhered to it, would
have averted many years of blood and mourning. But “in very few days,”
 says Clarendon, “he did fatally swerve from it.”

On the third of January 1642, without giving the slightest hint of his
intention to those advisers whom he had solemnly promised to consult, he
sent down the attorney-general to impeach Lord Kimbolton, Hampden, Pym,
Hollis, and two other members of the House of Commons, at the bar of the
Lords, on a charge of High Treason. It is difficult to find in the whole
history of England such an instance of tyranny, perfidy, and folly. The
most precious and ancient rights of the subject were violated by this
act. The only way in which Hampden and Pym could legally be tried for
treason at the suit of the King, was by a petty jury on a bill found
by a grand jury. The attorney-general had no right to impeach them. The
House of Lords had no right to try them.

The Commons refused to surrender their members. The Peers showed no
inclination to usurp the unconstitutional {478}jurisdiction which the
King attempted to force on them. A contest began, in which violence and
weakness were on the one side, law and resolution on the other. Charles
sent an officer to seal up the lodgings and trunks of the accused
members. The Commons sent their sergeant to break the seals. The tyrant
resolved to follow up one outrage by another. In making: the charge,
he had struck at the institution of juries. In executing the arrest, he
struck at the privileges of Parliament. He resolved to go to the House
in person with an armed force, and there to seize the leaders of the
Opposition, while engaged in the discharge of their parliamentary

What was his purpose? Is it possible to believe that he had no definite
purpose, that he took the most important step of his whole reign without
having for one moment considered what might be its effects? Is it
possible to believe that he went merely for the purpose of making
himself a laughing-stock, that he intended, if he had found the accused
members, and if they had refused, as it was their right and duty to
refuse, the submission which he illegally demanded, to leave the House
without bringing them away? If we reject both these suppositions, we
must believe, and we certainly do believe, that he went fully determined
to carry his unlawful design into effect by violence, and, if necessary,
to shed the blood of the chiefs of the Opposition on the very floor of
the Parliament House. Lady Carlisle conveyed intelligence of the design
to Pym. The five members had time to withdraw before the arrival of
Charles. They left the House as he was entering New Palace Yard. He was
accompanied by about two hundred halberdiers of his guard, and by many
gentlemen of the Court armed {479}with swords. He walked up Westminster
Hall. At the southern end of the Hall his attendants divided to the
right and left, and formed a lane to the door of the House of Commons.
He knocked, entered, darted a look towards the place which Pym usually
occupied, and, seeing it empty, walked up to the table. The Speaker
fell on his knee. The members rose and uncovered their heads in profound
silence, and the King took his seat in the chair. He looked round the
House. But the five members were nowhere to be seen. He interrogated
the Speaker. The Speaker answered, that he was merely the organ of the
House, and had neither eyes to see, nor tongue to speak, but according
to their direction. The King muttered a few feeble sentences about his
respect for the laws of the realm, and the privileges of Parliament, and
retired. As he passed along the benches, several resolute voices called
out audibly “Privilege!” He returned to Whitehall with his company of
bravoes, who, while he was in the House, had been impatiently waiting
in the lobby for the word, cocking their pistols, and crying “Fall on.”
 That night he put forth a proclamation, directing that the ports should
be stopped, and that no person should, at his peril, venture to harbour
the accused members.

Hampden and his friends had taken refuge in Coleman Street. The city
of London was indeed the fastness of public liberty, and was, in those
times, a place of at least as much importance as Paris during the
French Revolution. The city, properly so called, now consists in a great
measure of immense warehouses and counting-houses, which are frequented
by traders and their clerks during the day, and left in almost total
solitude during the night. It was then closely inhabited {480}by three
hundred thousand persons, to whom it was not merely a place of business,
but a place of constant residence. This great capital had as complete
a civil and military organization as if it had been an independent
republic. Each citizen had his company; and the companies, which now
seem to exist only for the sake of epicures and of antiquaries, were
then formidable brotherhoods, the members of which were almost as
closely bound together as the members of a Highland clan. How strong
these artificial ties were, the numerous and valuable legacies anciently
bequeathed by citizens to their corporations abundantly prove. The
municipal offices were filled by the most opulent and respectable
merchants of the kingdom. The pomp of the magistracy of the capital was
inferior only to that which surrounded the person of the sovereign. The
Londoners loved their city with that patriotic love which is found only
in small communities, like those of ancient Greece, or like those which
arose in Italy during the middle ages. The numbers, the intelligence,
the wealth of the citizens, the democratical form of their local
government, and their vicinity to the Court and to the Parliament, made
them one of the most formidable bodies in the kingdom. Even as soldiers
they were not to be despised. In an age in which war is a profession,
there is something ludicrous in the idea of battalions composed of
apprentices and shopkeepers, and officered by aldermen. But, in the
early part of the seventeenth century, there was no standing army in the
island; and the militia of the metropolis was not inferior in training
to the militia of other places. A city which could furnish many
thousands of armed men, abounding in natural courage, and not absolutely
untinctured with military discipline, {481}was a formidable auxiliary in
times of internal dissension. On several occasions during the civil war,
the train-bands of London distinguished themselves highly; and at the
battle of Newbury, in particular, they repelled the fiery onset of
Rupert, and saved the army of the Parliament from destruction.

The people of this great city had long been thoroughly devoted to the
national cause. Many of them had signed a protestation in which they
declared their resolution to defend the privileges of Parliament. Their
enthusiasm had, indeed, of late begun to cool. But the impeachment
of the five members, and the insult offered to the House of Commons,
inflamed them to fury. Their houses, their purses, their pikes, were at
the command of the representatives of the nation. London was in arms all
night. The next day the shops were closed; the streets were filled
with immense crowds; the multitude pressed round the King’s coach, and
insulted him with opprobrious cries. The House of Commons, in the mean
time, appointed a committee to sit in the city, for the purpose of
inquiring into the circumstances of the late outrage. The members of the
committee were welcomed by a deputation of the common council. Merchant
Tailors’ Hall, Goldsmiths’ Hall, and Grocers’ Hall, were fitted up for
their sittings. A guard of respectable citizens, duly relieved twice a
day, was posted at their doors. The sheriffs were charged to watch over
the safety of the accused members, and to escort them to and from the
committee with every mark of honour.

A violent and sudden revulsion of feeling, both in the House and out of
it, was the effect of the late proceedings of the King. The Opposition
regained in a few hours all the ascendency which it had lost. The
{482}constitutional royalists were filled with shame and sorrow. They
saw that they had been cruelly deceived by Charles. They saw that they
were, unjustly, but not unreasonably, suspected by the nation. Clarendon
distinctly says that they perfectly detested the counsels by which the
King had been guided, and were so much displeased and dejected at the
unfair manner in which he had treated them that they were inclined to
retire from his service. During the debates on the breach of privilege,
they preserved a melancholy silence. To this day, the advocates of
Charles take care to say as little as they can about his visit to the
House of Commons, and, when they cannot avoid mention of it, attribute
to infatuation an act which, on any other supposition, they must admit
to have been a frightful crime.

The Commons, in a few days, openly defied the King, and ordered the
accused members to attend in their places at Westminster and to resume
their parliamentary duties. The citizens resolved to bring back the
champions of liberty in triumph before the windows of Whitehall. Vast
preparations were made both by land and water for this great festival.

The King had remained in his palace, humbled, dismayed, and bewildered,
“feeling,” says Clarendon, “the trouble and agony which usually attend
generous and magnanimous minds upon their having committed errors;”
 feeling, we should say, the despicable repentance which attends the
man who, having attempted to commit a crime, finds that he has only
committed a folly. The populace hooted and shouted all day before the
gates of the royal residence. The tyrant could not bear to see
the triumph of those whom he had destined to the gallows and the
quartering-block. {483}On the day preceding that which was fixed for
their return, he fled, with a few attendants, from that palace which he
was never to see again till he was led through it to the scaffold.

On the eleventh of January, the Thames was covered with boats, and its
shores with the gazing multitude.

Armed vessels, decorated with streamers, were ranged in two lines from
London Bridye to Westminster Hall. The members returned upon the river
in a ship manned by sailors who had volunteered their services. The
train-bands of the city, under the command of the sheriffs, marched
along the Strand, attended by a vast crowd of spectators, to guard
the avenues to the House of Commons; and thus, with shouts and loud
discharges of ordnance, the accused patriots were brought back by the
people whom they had served and for whom they had suffered. The restored
members, as soon as they had entered the House, expressed, in the
warmest terms, their gratitude to the citizens of London. The sheriffs
were warmly thanked by the Speaker in the name of the Commons; and
orders were given that a guard selected from the train-bands of the
city, should attend daily to watch over the safety of the Parliament.

The excitement had not been confined to London. When intelligence of the
danger to which Hampden was exposed reached Buckinghamshire, it excited
the alarm and indignation of the people. Four thousand freeholders of
that county, each of them wearing in his hat a copy of the protestation
in favour of the privileges of Parliament, rode up to London to defend
the person of their beloved representative. They came in a body to
assure Parliament of their full resolution to defend its privileges.
Their petition was {484}couched in the strongest terms. “In respect,”
 said they, “of that latter attempt upon the honourable House of Commons,
we are now come to offer our service to that end, and resolved, in their
just defence, to live and die.”

A great struggle was clearly at hand. Hampden had returned to
Westminster much changed. His influence had hitherto been exerted rather
to restrain than to animate the zeal of his party. But the treachery,
the contempt of law, the thirst for blood, which the King had now shown,
left no hope of a peaceable adjustment. It was clear that Charles must
be either a puppet or a tyrant, that no obligation of law or of honour
could bind him, and that the only way to make him harmless was to make
him powerless.

The attack which the King had made on the five members was not merely
irregular in manner. Even if the charges had been preferred legally,
if the Grand Jury of Middlesex had found a true bill, if the accused
persons had been arrested under a proper warrant and at a proper time
and place, there would still have been in the proceeding enough of
perfidy and injustice to vindicate the strongest measures which the
Opposition could take. To Impeach Pym and Hampden was to impeach the
House of Commons. It was notoriously on account of what they had done as
members of that House that they were selected as objects of vengeance;
and in what they had done as members of that House the majority had
concurred. Most of the charges brought against them were common between
them and the Parliament. They were accused, indeed, and it may be with
reason, of encouraging the Scotch army to invade England. In doing this,
they had committed what was, in strictness of law, a high offence, the
{485}same offence which Devonshire and Shrewsbury committed in 1688.
But the King had promised pardon and oblivion to those who had been
the principals in the Scotch insurrection. Did it then consist with his
honour to punish the accessaries? He had bestowed marks of his favour on
the leading Covenanters. He had given the great seal of Scotland to one
chief of the rebels, a marquisate to another, an earldom to Leslie, who
had brought the Presbyterian army across the Tweed. On what principle
was Hampden to be attainted for advising what Leslie was ennobled
for doing? In a court of law, of course, no Englishman could plead an
amnesty granted to the Scots. But, though not an illegal, it was
surely an inconsistent and a most unkingly course, after pardoning and
promoting the heads of the rebellion in one kingdom, to hang, draw, and
quarter their accomplices in another.

The proceedings of the King against the five members, or rather against
that. Parliament which had concurred in almost all the acts of the
five members, was the cause of the civil war. It was plain that either
Charles or the House of Commons must be stripped of all real power In
the state. The best course which the Commons could have taken would
perhaps have been to depose the King, as their ancestors had deposed
Edward the Second and Richard the Second, and as their children
afterwards deposed James. Had they done this, had they placed on the
throne a prince whose character and whose situation would have been a
pledge for his good conduct, they might safely have left to that prince
all the old constitutional prerogatives of the Crown, the command of the
armies of the state, the power of making peers, the power of appointing
ministers, a veto on bills passed by the two Houses. {486}Such a prince,
reigning by their choice, would have been under the necessity of acting
in conformity with their wishes. But the public mind was not ripe for
such a measure. There was no Duke of Lancaster, no Prince of Orange, no
great and eminent person, near in blood to the throne, yet attached to
the cause of the people. Charles was then to remain King; and it was
therefore necessary that he should be king only in name. A William the
Third, or a George the First, whose title to the crown was identical
with the title of the people to their liberty, might safely be trusted
with extensive powers. But new freedom could not exist in safety under
the old tyrant. Since he was not to be deprived of the name of king,
the only course which was left was to make him a mere trustee, nominally
seised of prerogatives of which others had the use, a Grand Lama, a _Roi
Fainéant_, a phantom resembling those Dagoberts and Childeberts who wore
the badges of royalty, while Ebroin and Charles Martel held the real
sovereignty of the state.

The conditions which the Parliament propounded were hard, but, we are
sure, not harder than those which even the Tories, in the Convention of
1689, would have imposed on James, if it had been resolved that James
should continue to be king. The chief condition was that the command of
the militia and the conduct of the war in Ireland should be left to the
Parliament. On this point was that great issue joined, whereof the two
parties put themselves on God and on the Sword.

We think, not only that the Commons were justified in demanding for
themselves the power to dispose of the military force, but that it would
have been absolute insanity in them to leave that force at the disposal
of {487}the King. From the very beginning of his reign, it had
evidently been his object to govern by an army. His third Parliament had
complained, in the Petition of Right, of his fondness for martial law,
and of the vexations manner in which he billeted his soldiers on the
people. The wish nearest the heart of Strafford was, as his letters
prove, that the revenue might be brought into such a state as would
enable the King to keep a standing military establishment. In 1640,
Charles had supported an army in the northern counties by lawless
exactions. In 1641 he had engaged in an intrigue, the object of which
was to bring that army to London for the purpose of overawing the
Parliament. His late conduct had proved that, if he were suffered to
retain even a small body-guard of his own creatures near his person, the
Commons would be in danger of outrage, perhaps of massacre. The Houses
were still deliberating under the protection of the militia of London.
Could the command of the whole armed force of the realm have been, under
these circumstances, safely confided to the King? Would it not have been
frenzy in the Parliament to raise and pay an army of fifteen or twenty
thousand men for the Irish war, and to give to Charles the absolute
control of this army, and the power of selecting, promoting, and
dismissing officers at his pleasure? Was it not probable that this army
might become, what it is the nature of armies to become, what so many
armies formed under much more favourable circumstances have become,
what the army of the Roman republic became, what the army of the French
republic became, an instrument of despotism? Was it not probable that
the soldiers might forget that they were also citizens, and might be
ready to serve their general against their {488}country? Was it not
certain that, on the very first day on which Charles could venture to
revoke his concessions, and to punish his opponents, he would establish
an arbitrary government, and exact a bloody revenge?

Our own times furnish a parallel case. Suppose that a revolution
should take place in Spain, that the Constitution of Cadiz should be
reestablished, that the Cortes should meet again, that the Spanish
Prynnes and Burtons, who are now wandering in rags round Leicester
Square, should be restored to their country. Ferdinand the Seventh
would, in that case, of course repeat all the oaths and promises which
he made in 1820, and broke in 1828. But would it not be madness in the
Cortes, even if they were to leave him the name of King, to leave him
more than the name? Would not all Europe scoff at them, if they were
to permit him to assemble a large army for an expedition to America, to
model that army at his pleasure, to put it under the command of
officers chosen by himself? Should we not say that every member of
the Constitutional party who might concur in such a measure would most
richly deserve the fate which he would probably meet, the fate of
Riego and of the Empecinado? We are not disposed to pay compliments to
Ferdinand; nor do we conceive that we pay him any compliment, when we
say that, of all sovereigns in history, he seems to us most to resemble,
in some very important points, King Charles the First. Like Charles,
he is pious after a certain fashion; like Charles, he has made large
concessions to his people after a certain fashion. It is well for him
that he has had to deal with men who bore very little resemblance to the
English Puritans. {489}The Commons would have the power of the sword;
the King would not part with it; and nothing remained but to try the
chances of war. Charles still had a strong party in the country. His
august office, his dignified manners, his solemn protestations that he
would for the time to come respect the liberties of his subjects, pity
for fallen greatness, fear of violent innovation, secured to him many
adherents. He had with him the Church, the Universities, a majority of
the nobles and of the old landed gentry. The austerity of the Puritan
manners drove most of the gay and dissolute youth of that age to the
royal standard. Many good, brave, and moderate men, who disliked
his former conduct, and who entertained doubts touching his present
sincerity, espoused his cause unwillingly and with many painful
misgivings, because, though they dreaded his tyranny much, they dreaded
democratic violence more.

On the other side was the great body of the middle orders of England,
the merchants, the shopkeepers, the yeomanry, headed by a very large and
formidable minority of the peerage and of the landed gentry. The Earl of
Essex, a man of respectable abilities and of some military experience,
was appointed to the command of the parliamentary army.

Hampden spared neither his fortune nor his person in the cause.
He subscribed two thousand pounds to the public service. He took a
colonel’s commission in the army, and went into Buckinghamshire to
raise a regiment of infantry. His neighbours eagerly enlisted under
his command. His men were known by their green uniform, and by their
standard, which bore on one side the watchword of the Parliament, “God
with us,” and on the other the device of Hampden, “Vestigia {490}nulla
retrorsum.” This motto well described the line of conduct which he
pursued. No member of his party had been so temperate, while there
remained a hope that legal and peaceable measures might save the
country. No member of his party showed so much energy and vigour when it
became necessary to appeal to arms. He made himself thoroughly master
of his military duty, and “performed it,” to use the words of Clarendon,
“upon all occasions most punctually.” The regiment which he had raised
and trained was considered as one of the best in the service of the
Parliament. He exposed his person in every action, with an intrepidity
which made him conspicuous even among thousands of brave men. “He was,”
 says Clarendon, “of a personal courage equal to his best parts; so that
he was an enemy not to be wished wherever he might have been made a
friend, and as much to be apprehended where he was so, as any man could
deserve to be.” Though his military career was short, and his military
situation subordinate, he fully proved that he possessed the talents of
a great general, as well as those of a great statesman.

We shall not attempt to give a history of the war. Lord Nugent’s account
of the military operations is very animated and striking. Our abstract
would be dull, and probably unintelligible. There was, in fact, for some
time no great and connected system of operations on either side. The war
of the two parties was like the war of Arimanes and Oromasdes, neither
of whom, according to the Eastern theologians, has any exclusive domain,
who are equally omnipresent, who equally pervade all space, who carry on
their eternal strife within every particle of matter. There was a
petty war in almost every county. A town furnished {491}troops to the
Parliament while the manor-house of the neighbouring peer was garrisoned
for the King. The combatants were rarely disposed to march far from
their own homes. It was reserved for Fairfax and Cromwell to terminate
this desultory warfare, by moving one overwhelming force successively
against all the scattered fragments of the royal party.

It is a remarkable circumstance that the officers who had studied
tactics in what were considered as the best schools, under Vere in the
Netherlands, and under Gustavus Adolphus in Germany, displayed far less
skill than those commanders who had been bred to peaceful employments,
and who never saw even a skirmish till the civil war broke out. An
unlearned person might hence be inclined to suspect that the military
art is no very profound mystery, that its principles are the principles
of plain good sense, and that a quick eye, a cool head, and a stout
heart, will do more to make a general than all the diagrams of Jomini.
This, however, is certain, that Hampden showed himself a far better
officer than Essex, and Cromwell than Leslie.

The military errors of Essex were probably in some degree produced by
political timidity. He was honestly, but not warmly, attached to the
cause of the Parliament; and next to a great defeat he dreaded a great
victory. Hampden, on the other hand, was for vigorous and decisive
measures. When he drew the sword, as Clarendon has well said, he threw
away the scabbard. He had shown that he knew better than any public
man of his time how to value and how to practise moderation. But he
knew that the essence of war is violence, and that moderation in war
is imbecility. On several occasions, particularly during the operations
{492}in the neighbourhood of Brentford, he remonstrated earnestly with
Essex. Wherever he commanded separately, the boldness and rapidity of
his movements presented a striking contrast to the sluggishness of his

In the Parliament he possessed boundless influence. His employments
towards the close of 1642 have been described by Denham in some lines
which, though intended to be sarcastic, convey in truth the highest
eulogy. Hampden is described in this satire as perpetually passing
and repassing between the military station at Windsor and the House of
Commons at Westminster, as overawing the general, and as giving law to
that Parliament which knew no other law. It was at this time that he
organised that celebrated association of counties, to which his party
was principally indebted for its victory over the King.

In the early part of 1643, the shires lying in the neighbourhood
of London, which were devoted to the cause of the Parliament, were
incessantly annoyed by Rupert and his cavalry. Essex had extended his
lines so far that almost every point was vulnerable. The young prince,
who, though not a great general, was an active and enterprising
partisan, frequently surprised posts, burned villages, swept away
cattle, and was again at Oxford before a force sufficient to encounter
him could be assembled.

The languid proceedings of Essex were loudly condemned by the troops.
All the ardent and daring spirits in the parliamentary party were eager
to have Hampden at their head. Had his life been prolonged, there
is every reason to believe that the supreme command would have been
intrusted to him. But it was decreed, that at this conjuncture, England
should lose {493}the only man who united perfect disinterestedness to
eminent talents, the only man who, being capable of gaining the victory
for her, was incapable of abusing that victory when gained.

In the evening of the seventeenth of June, Rupert darted out of Oxford
with his cavalry on a predatory expedition. At three in the morning
of the following day, he attacked and dispersed a few parliamentary
soldiers who lay at Postcombe. He then flew to Chinnor, burned the
village, killed or took all the troops who were quartered there, and
prepared to hurry back with his booty and his prisoners to Oxford.

Hampden had, on the preceding day, strongly represented to Essex
the danger to which this part of the line was exposed. As soon as he
received intelligence of Rupert’s incursion, he sent off a horseman with
a message to the General. The cavaliers, he said, could return only by
Chiselhampton Bridge. A force ought to be instantly despatched in that
direction for the purpose of intercepting them. In the mean time, he
resolved to set out with all the cavalry that he could muster, for
the purpose of impeding the march of the enemy till Essex could take
measures for cutting off their retreat. A considerable body of horse and
dragoons volunteered to follow him. He was not their commander. He did
not even belong to their branch of the service. But “he was,” says Lord
Clarendon, “second to none but the General himself in the observance
and application of all men.” On the field of Chalgrove he came up with
Rupert. A fierce skirmish ensued. In the first charge, Hampden was
struck in the shoulder by two bullets, which broke the bone, and lodged
in his body. The troops of the Parliament lost heart and gave way.
Rupert, after pursuing them for {494}a short time, hastened to cross the
bridge, and made his retreat unmolested to Oxford.

Hampden, with his head drooping, and his hands leaning on his horse’s
neck, moved feebly out of the battle. The mansion which had been
inhabited by his father-in-law, and from which in his youth he had
carried home his bride Elizabeth, was in sight. There still remains an
affecting tradition that he looked for a moment towards that beloved
house, and made an effort to go thither to die. But the enemy lay in
that direction. He turned his horse towards Thame, where he arrived
almost fainting with agony. The surgeons dressed his wounds. But there
was no hope. The pain which he suffered was most excruciating. But he
endured it with admirable firmness and resignation. His first care
was for his country. He wrote from his bed several letters to London
concerning public affairs, and sent a last pressing message to the
head-quarters, recommending that the dispersed forces should be
concentrated. When his public duties were performed, he calmly prepared
himself to die. He was attended by a clergyman of the Church of England,
with whom he had lived in habits of intimacy, and by the chaplain of
the Buckinghamshire Green-coats, Dr. Spurton, whom Baxter describes as a
famous and excellent divine.

A short time before Hampden’s death the sacrament was administered to
him. He declared that, though he disliked the government of the Church
of England, he yet agreed with that Church as to all essential matters
of doctrine. His intellect remained unclouded. When all was nearly over,
he lay murmuring faint prayers for himself, and for the cause in which
he died. “Lord Jesus,” he exclaimed, in the moment of the {495}last
agony, “receive my soul. O Lord, save my country. O Lord, be merciful
to----.” In that broken ejaculation passed away his noble and fearless

He was buried in the parish church of Hampden. His soldiers, bareheaded,
with reversed arms and muffled drums and colours, escorted his body to
the grave, singing, as they marched, that lofty and melancholy psalm in
which the fragility’ of human life is contrasted with the immutability
of Him to whom a thousand years are as yesterday when it is passed, and
as a watch in the night.

The news of Hampden’s death produced as great a consternation in his
party, according to Clarendon, as if their whole army had been cut off.
The journals of the time amply prove that the Parliament and all its
friends were filled with grief and dismay. Lord Nugent has quoted a
remarkable passage from the next Weekly Intelligencer. “The loss of
Colonel Hampden goeth near the heart of every man that loves the good
of his king and country, and makes some conceive little content to be
at the army now that he is gone. The memory of this deceased colonel is
such, that in no age to come but it will more and more be held in honour
and esteem; a man so religious, and of that prudence, judgment, temper,
valour, and integrity, that he hath left few his like behind.”

He had indeed left none his like behind him. There still remained,
indeed, in his party, many acute intellects, many eloquent tongues,
many brave and honest hearts. There still remained a rugged and clownish
soldier, half fanatic, half buffoon, whose talents, discerned as yet
only by one penetrating eye, were equal to all the highest duties of the
soldier and the prince. {496}But in Hampden, and in Hampden alone, were
united all the qualities which, at such a crisis, were necessary to
save the state, the valour and energy of Cromwell, the discernment and
eloquence of Vane, the humanity and moderation of Manchester, the stern
integrity of Hale, the ardent public spirit of Sydney. Others might
possess the qualities which were necessary to save the popular party in
the crisis of danger; he alone had both the power and the inclination to
restrain its excesses in the hour of triumph. Others could conquer; he
alone could reconcile. A heart as bold as his brought up the cuirassiers
who turned the tide of battle on Marston Moor. As skilful an eye as his
watched the Scotch army descending from the heights over Dunbar. But
it was when to the sullen tyranny of Laud and Charles had succeeded
the fierce conflict of sects and factions, ambitious of ascendency and
burning for revenge, it was when the vices and ignorance which the old
tyranny had generated threatened the new freedom with destruction, that
England missed the sobriety, the self-command, the perfect soundness of
judgment, the perfect rectitude of intention, to which the history of
revolutions furnishes no parallel, or furnishes a parallel in Washington


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