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Title: Addresses in America, 1919
Author: Galsworthy, John
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Addresses in America, 1919" ***
1919 ***


  VILLA RUBEIN, and Other Stories

       *       *       *       *       *

  THE LITTLE MAN, and Other Satires

       *       *       *       *       *

  PLAYS: FIRST SERIES _and Separately_

  PLAYS: SECOND SERIES _and Separately_

  PLAYS: THIRD SERIES _and Separately_
      THE MOB


       *       *       *       *       *

  MEMORIES. Illustrated

                         ADDRESSES IN AMERICA



_From a photograph, copyright, 1919, by Eugene Hutchinson._

                           John Galsworthy]

                         ADDRESSES IN AMERICA

                            JOHN GALSWORTHY

                               NEW YORK
                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

                          COPYRIGHT, 1919, BY
                        CHARLES SCRIBNER’S SONS

                        Published August, 1919




   I. AT THE LOWELL CENTENARY                                  1

  II. AMERICAN AND BRITON                                     11


        NEW YORK                                              51

   V. ADDRESS AT COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY                          54


 VII. TALKING AT LARGE                                        73

                         ADDRESSES IN AMERICA



                        AT THE LOWELL CENTENARY

We celebrate to-night the memory of a great man of Letters. What strikes
me most about that glorious group of New England writers――Emerson and
Longfellow, Hawthorne, Whittier, Thoreau, Motley, Holmes, and Lowell――is
a certain measure and magnanimity. They were rare men and fine writers,
of a temper simple and unafraid.

I confess to thinking more of James Russell Lowell as a critic and
master of prose than as a poet. His single-hearted enthusiasm for
Letters had a glowing quality which made it a guiding star for the
frail barque of culture. His humour, breadth of view, sagacity, and the
all-round character of his activities has hardly been equalled in your
country. Not so great a thinker or poet as Emerson, not so creative as
Hawthorne, so original in philosophy and life as Thoreau, so racy and
quaint as Holmes, he ran the gamut of those qualities as none of the
others did; and as critic and analyst of literature surpassed them all.

But I cannot hope to add anything of value to American estimate and
praise of Lowell――critic, humorist, poet, editor, reformer, man of
Letters, man of State affairs. I may, perhaps, be permitted however to
remind you of two sayings of his: “I am never lifted up to any peak of
vision――but that when I look down in hope to see some valley of the
Beautiful Mountains I behold nothing but blackened ruins, and the moans
of the down-trodden the world over.... Then it seems as if my heart
would break in pouring out one glorious song that should be the Gospel
of Reform, full of consolation and strength to the oppressed――that
way my madness lies.” That was one side of the youthful Lowell, the
generous righter of wrongs, the man. And this other saying: “The
English-speaking nations should build a monument to the misguided
enthusiasts of the plains of Shinar, for as the mixture of many bloods
seems to have made them the most vigorous of modern races, so has the
mingling of divers speeches given them a language which is perhaps
the noblest vehicle of poetic thought that ever existed.” That was the
other side of Lowell, the enthusiast for Letters; and that the feeling
he had about our language.

I am wondering, indeed, Mr. President, what those men who in the
fourteenth, fifteenth, sixteenth centuries were welding the English
language would think if they could visit this hall to-night, if
suddenly we saw them sitting here among us in their monkish dress,
their homespun, or their bright armour, having come from a greater Land
even than America――the Land of the Far Shades. What expression should
we see on the dim faces of them, the while they took in the marvellous
fact that the instrument of speech they forged in the cottages,
courts, cloisters, and castles of their little misty island had become
the living speech of half the world, and the second tongue for all
the nations of the other half! For even so it is now――this English
language, which they made, and Shakespeare crowned, which you speak and
we speak, and men speak under the Southern Cross, and unto the Arctic

I do not think that you Americans and we English are any longer
strikingly alike in physical type or general characteristics, no
more than I think there is much resemblance between yourselves and
the Australians. Our link is now but community of language――_and the
infinity which this connotes_.

Perfected language――and ours and yours had come to flower before white
men began to seek these shores――is so much more than a medium through
which to exchange material commodities; it is cement of the spirit,
mortar linking the bricks of our thoughts into a single structure of
ideals and laws, painted and carved with the rarities of our fancy, the
manifold forms of Beauty and Truth. We who speak American and you who
speak English are conscious of a community which no differences can
take from us. Perhaps the very greatest result of the grim years we
have just been passing through is the promotion of our common tongue
to the position of the universal language. The importance of the
English-speaking peoples is now such that the educated man in every
country will perforce, as it were, acquire a knowledge of our speech.
The second-language problem, in my judgment, has been solved. Numbers,
and geographical and political accident have decided a question which
I think will never seriously be reopened, unless madness descends on
us and we speakers of English fight among ourselves. That fate I, at
least, cannot see haunting the future.

Lowell says in one of his earlier writings: “We are the furthest
from wishing to see what many are so ardently praying for, namely,
a National Literature; for the same mighty lyre of the human heart
answers the touch of the master in all ages and in every clime, and any
literature in so far as it is national is diseased in so much as it
appeals to some climatic peculiarity rather than to universal nature.”
That is very true, but good fortune has now made of our English speech
a medium of _internationality_.

Henceforth you and we are the inhabitants and guardians of a great
Spirit-City, to which the whole world will make pilgrimage. They will
make that pilgrimage primarily because our City is a market-place.
It will be for us to see that they who come to trade remain to
worship. What is it we seek in this motley of our lives, to what end
do we ply the multifarious traffic of civilisation? Is it that we
may become rich and satisfy a material caprice ever growing with the
opportunity of satisfaction? Is it that we may, of set and conscious
purpose, always be getting the better of one another? Is it even,
that of no sort of conscious purpose we may pound the roads of life
at top speed, and blindly use up our little energies? I cannot think
so. Surely, in dim sort we are trying to realise human happiness,
trying to reach a far-off goal of health and kindliness and beauty;
trying to live so that those qualities which make us human beings――the
sense of proportion, the feeling for beauty, pity, and the sense of
humour――should be ever more exalted above the habits and passions that
we share with the tiger, the ostrich, and the ape.

And so I would ask what will become of all our reconstruction in
these days if it be informed and guided solely by the spirit of the
market-place? Do Trade, material prosperity, and the abundance
of creature comforts guarantee that we advance towards our real
goal? Material comfort in abundance is no bad thing; I confess to a
considerable regard for it. But for true progress it is but a flighty
consort. I can well see the wreckage from the world-storm completely
cleared away, the fields of life ploughed and manured, and yet no wheat
grown there which can feed the spirit of man, and help its stature.

Lest we suffer such a disillusion as that, what powers and influence
can we exert? There is one at least: The proper and exalted use of this
great and splendid instrument, our common language. In a sophisticated
world speech is action, words are deeds; we cannot watch our winged
words too closely. Let us at least make our language the instrument of
Truth; prune it of lies and extravagance, of perversions and all the
calculated battery of partizanship; train ourselves to such sobriety of
speech, and penmanship, that we come to be trusted at home and abroad;
so making our language the medium of honesty and fair-play, that
meanness, violence, sentimentality, and self-seeking become strangers
in our Lands. Great and evil is the power of the lie, of the violent
saying, and the calculated appeal to base or dangerous motive; let us,
then, make them fugitives among us, outcast from our speech!

I have often thought during these past years what an ironical eye
Providence must have been turning on National Propaganda――on all the
disingenuous breath which has been issued to order, and all those miles
of patriotic writings dutifully produced in each country, to prove to
other countries that they are its inferiors! A very little wind will
blow those ephemeral sheets into the limbo of thin air. Already they
are decomposing, soon they will be dust. To my thinking there are but
two forms of National Propaganda, two sorts of evidence of a country’s
worth, which defy the cross-examination of Time: The first and most
important is the rectitude and magnanimity of a Country’s conduct; its
determination not to take advantage of the weakness of other countries,
nor to tolerate tyranny within its own borders. And the other lasting
form of Propaganda is the work of the thinker and the artist, of men
whose unbidden, unfettered hearts are set on the expression of Truth
and Beauty as best they can perceive them. Such Propaganda the old
Greeks left behind them, to the imperishable glory of their Land.
By such Propaganda Marcus Aurelius, Plutarch; Dante, St. Francis;
Cervantes, Spinoza; Montaigne, Racine; Chaucer, Shakespeare; Goethe,
Kant; Turgenev, Tolstoi; Emerson, Lowell――a thousand and one more, have
exalted their countries in the sight of all, and advanced the stature
of mankind.

You may have noticed in life that when we assure others of our virtue
and the extreme rectitude of our conduct, we make on them but a sorry
impression. If on the other hand we chance to perform some just act
or kindness, of which they hear, or to produce a beautiful work which
they can see, we become exalted in their estimation though we did not
seek to be. And so it is with Countries. They may proclaim their powers
from the housetops――they will but convince the wind; but let their
acts be just, their temper humane, the speech and writings of their
peoples sober, the work of their thinkers and their artists true and
beautiful――and those Countries shall be sought after and esteemed.

We, who possess in common the English language――“best result of the
confusion of tongues” Lowell called it――that most superb instrument
for the making of word-music, for the telling of the truth, and the
expression of the imagination, may well remember this: That, in the use
we make of it, in the breadth, justice, and humanity of our thoughts,
the vigour, restraint, clarity, and beauty of the setting we give to
them, we have our greatest chance to make our Countries lovely and
beloved, to further the happiness of mankind, and to keep immortal the
priceless comradeship between us.


                          AMERICAN AND BRITON

On the mutual understanding of each other by Americans and Britons, the
future happiness of nations depends more than on any other world cause.
Ignorance in Central Europe of the nature of American and Englishman
tipped the balance in favour of war; and the course of the future will
surely be improved by right comprehension of their characters.

Well, I know something at least of the Englishman, who represents
four-fifths of the population of the British Isles.

And, first, there exists no more unconsciously deceptive person on
the face of the globe. The Englishman does not know himself; outside
England he is only guessed at.

Racially the Englishman is so complex and so old a blend that no one
can say precisely what he is. In character he is just as complex.
Physically, there are two main types; one inclining to length of limb,
bony jaws, and narrowness of face and head (you will nowhere see such
long and narrow heads as in our island); the other approximating more
to the legendary John Bull. The first type is gaining on the second.
There is little or no difference in the main mental character behind
these two.

In attempting to understand the real nature of the Englishman, certain
salient facts must be borne in mind.

THE SEA. To be surrounded generation after generation by the sea has
developed in him a suppressed idealism, a peculiar impermeability, a
turn for adventure, a faculty for wandering, and for being sufficient
unto himself in far and awkward surroundings.

THE CLIMATE. Whoso weathers for centuries a climate that, though
healthy and never extreme, is, perhaps, the least reliable and one of
the wettest in the world, must needs grow in himself a counterbalance
of dry philosophy, a defiant humour, an enforced medium temperature of
soul. The Englishman is no more given to extremes than his climate; and
against its damp and perpetual changes he has become coated with a sort
of protective bluntness.

THE POLITICAL AGE OF HIS COUNTRY. This is by far the oldest settled
Western power politically speaking. For 850 years England has known
no serious military incursion from without; for nearly 200 years she
has known no serious political turmoil within. This is partly the
outcome of her isolation, partly the happy accident of her political
constitution, partly the result of the Englishman’s habit of looking
before he leaps, which comes, no doubt, from the climate and the
mixture of his blood. This political stability has been a tremendous
factor in the formation of English character, has given the Englishman
of all ranks a certain deep, quiet sense of form and order, an
ingrained culture which makes no show, being in the bones of the man as
it were.

LIFE. Taken in conjunction with generations of political stability,
this is the main cause of a growing, inarticulate humaneness, of which
however the Englishman appears to be rather ashamed.

The other chief factors have been:



THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND THE PRESS (at present rather under a cloud).


All these, the outcome of the quiet and stable home life of an island
people, have helped to make the Englishman a deceptive personality to
the outside eye. He has for centuries been licensed to grumble. There
is no such confirmed grumbler――until he really has something to grumble
at; and then, no one perhaps who grumbles less. An English soldier was
sitting in a trench, in the act of lighting his pipe, when a shell
burst close by, and lifted him bodily some yards away. He picked
himself up, bruised and shaken, and went on lighting his pipe, with the
words: “These French matches aren’t ’alf rotten.”

Confirmed carper though the Englishman is at the condition of his
country, no one perhaps is so profoundly convinced that it is the best
in the world. A stranger might well think from his utterances that
he was spoiled by the freedom of his life, unprepared to sacrifice
anything for a land in such a condition. If that country be threatened,
and with it his liberty, you find that his grumbles have meant less
than nothing. You find, too, that behind the apparent slackness of
every arrangement and every individual, are powers of adaptability to
facts, elasticity, practical genius, a spirit of competition amounting
almost to disease, and great determination. Before this war began, it
was the fashion among a number of English to lament the decadence of
their race. Such lamentations, which plentifully deceived the outside
ear, were just English grumbles. All this democratic grumbling, and
habit of “going as you please,” serve a deep purpose. Autocracy,
censorship, compulsion destroy the salt in a nation’s blood, and
elasticity in its fibre; they cut at the very mainsprings of a nation’s
vitality. Only if reasonably free from control can a man really arrive
at what is or is not national necessity and truly identify himself with
a national ideal, by simple conviction from within.

Two words of caution to strangers trying to form an estimate of
the Englishman: He must not be judged from his Press, which, manned
(with certain exceptions) by those who are not typically English,
is too hectic to illustrate the true English spirit; nor can he be
judged entirely from his literature. The Englishman is essentially
inexpressive, unexpressed; and his literary men have been for the most
part sports――Nature’s attempt to redress the balance. Further, he
must not be judged by the evidence of his wealth. England may be the
richest country in the world in proportion to its population, but not
ten per cent of that population have any wealth to speak of, certainly
not enough to have affected their hardihood; and, with few exceptions,
those who have enough wealth are brought up to worship hardihood.

I have never held a whole-hearted brief for the British character.
There is a lot of good in it, but much which is repellent. It has a
kind of deliberate unattractiveness, setting out on its journey with
the words: “Take me or leave me.” One may respect a person of this
sort, but it’s difficult either to know or to like him. An American
officer said recently to a British Staff Officer in a friendly voice:
“So we’re going to clean up Brother Boche together!” and the British
Staff Officer replied: “Really!” No wonder Americans sometimes say:
“I’ve got no use for those fellows!”

The world is consecrate to strangeness and discovery, and the attitude
of mind concreted in that: “Really!” seems unforgivable till one
remembers that it is _manner rather than matter_ which divides the
hearts of American and Briton.

In your huge, still half-developed country, where every kind of
national type and habit comes to run a new thread into the rich
tapestry of American life and thought, people must find it almost
impossible to conceive the life of a little old island where traditions
persist generation after generation without anything to break them
up; where blood remains undoctored by new strains; demeanour becomes
crystallised for lack of contrasts; and manner gets set like a
plaster mask. Nevertheless the English manner of to-day, of what are
called the classes, is the growth of only a century or so. There was
probably nothing at all like it in the days of Elizabeth or even of
Charles II. The English manner was still racy not to say rude when
the inhabitants of Virginia, as we are told, sent over to ask that
there might be despatched to them some hierarchical assistance for
the good of their souls, and were answered: “D――――n your souls, grow
tobacco!” The English manner of to-day could not even have come into
its own when that epitaph of a Lady, quoted somewhere by Gilbert
Murray, was written: “Bland, passionate, and deeply religious, she
was second cousin to the Earl of Leitrim; of such are the Kingdom of
Heaven.” About that gravestone motto you will admit there was a certain
lack of self-consciousness; that element which is now the foremost
characteristic of the English manner.

But this English self-consciousness is no mere fluffy gaucherie; it
is our special form of what Germans would call “Kultur.” Behind every
manifestation of thought or emotion, the Briton retains control of
self, and is thinking: “That’s all I’ll let myself feel; at all events
all I’ll let myself show.” This stoicism is good in its refusal to be
foundered; bad in that it fosters a narrow outlook; starves emotion,
spontaneity, and frank sympathy; destroys grace and what one may
describe roughly as the lovable side of personality. The English hardly
ever say just what comes into their heads. What we call “good form,”
the unwritten law which governs certain classes of the Briton, savours
of the dull and glacial; but there lurks within it a core of virtue. It
has grown up like callous shell round two fine ideals――suppression of
the ego lest it trample on the corns of other people; and exaltation of
the maxim: ‘Deeds before words.’ Good form, like any other religion,
starts well with some ethical truth, but in due time gets commonised,
twisted, and petrified till at last we can hardly trace its origin, and
watch with surprise its denial and contradiction of the root idea.

Without doubt, before the war, good form had become a kind of disease
in England. A French friend told me how he witnessed in a Swiss Hotel
the meeting between an Englishwoman and her son, whom she had not
seen for two years; she was greatly affected――by the fact that he had
not brought a dinner-jacket. The best manners are no “manners,” or at
all events no mannerisms; but many Britons who have even attained to
this perfect purity are yet not free from the paralytic effects of
“good form”; are still self-conscious in the depths of their souls,
and never do or say a thing without trying not to show how much they
are feeling. All this guarantees perhaps a certain decency in life;
but in intimate intercourse with people of other nations who have not
this particular cult of suppression, we English disappoint, and jar,
and often irritate. Nations have their differing forms of snobbery.
At one time, if we are to believe Thackeray, the English all wanted
to be second cousins to the Earl of Leitrim, like that lady bland and
passionate. Now-a-days it is not so simple. The Earl of Leitrim has
become etherialised. We no longer care how a fellow is born, so long
as he behaves as the Earl of Leitrim would have; never makes himself
conspicuous or ridiculous, never shows too much what he’s really
feeling, never talks of what he’s going to do, and always “plays the
game.” The cult is centred in our Public Schools and Universities.

At a very typical and honoured old Public School, he to whom you are
listening passed on the whole a happy time; but what an odd life
educationally speaking! We lived rather like young Spartans; and were
not encouraged to think, imagine, or see anything we learned, in
relation to life at large. It’s very difficult to teach boys, because
their chief object is not to be taught anything; but I should say we
were crammed, not taught. Living as we did the herd-life of boys with
little or no intrusion from our elders, and they men who had been
brought up in the same way as ourselves, we were debarred from any real
interest in philosophy, history, art, literature, and music, or any
advancing notions in social life or politics. We were reactionaries
almost to a boy. I remember one summer term Gladstone came down to
speak to us, and we repaired to the Speech Room with white collars and
dark hearts, muttering what we would do to that Grand Old Man if we
could have our way. But, after all, he contrived to charm us. Boys
are not difficult to charm. In that queer life we had all sorts of
unwritten rules of suppression. You must turn up your trousers; must
not go out with your umbrella rolled. Your hat must be worn tilted
forward; you must not walk more than two abreast till you reached a
certain form; nor be enthusiastic about anything, except such a supreme
matter as a drive over the pavilion at cricket, or a run the whole
length of the ground at football. You must not talk about yourself
or your home people; and for any punishment you must assume complete

I dwell on these trivialities, because every year thousands of British
boys enter these mills which grind exceeding small; and because these
boys constitute in after life the great majority of the official,
military, academic, professional, and a considerable proportion of
the business classes of Great Britain. They become the Englishmen
who say: “Really!” and they are for the most part the Englishmen who
travel and reach America. The great defence I have always heard put
up for our Public Schools is that they form character. As oatmeal is
supposed to form bone in the bodies of Scotsmen, so our Public Schools
are supposed to form good sound moral fibre in British boys. And there
is much in this plea. The life does make boys enduring, self-reliant,
good-tempered, and honourable, but it most carefully endeavours to
destroy all original sin of individuality, spontaneity, and engaging
freakishness. It implants, moreover, in the great majority of those who
have lived it the mental attitude of that swell, who when asked where
he went for his hats, replied: “Blank’s; is there another fellow’s?”

To know all is to excuse all――to know all about the bringing-up of
English Public School boys makes one excuse much. The atmosphere and
tradition of those places is extraordinarily strong, and persists
through all modern changes. Thirty-eight years have gone since I was a
new boy, but cross-examining a young nephew who left not long ago, I
found almost precisely the same features and conditions. The War, which
has changed so much of our social life, will have some, but no very
great, effect on this particular institution. The boys still go there
from the same kind of homes and preparatory schools and come under the
same kind of masters. And the traditional unemotionalism, the cult of
a dry and narrow stoicism, is rather fortified than diminished by the
times we live in.

Our Universities, on the other hand, have lately been but the ghosts of
their old selves. At my old College in Oxford last year they had only
two English students. In the Chapel under the Joshua Reynolds window,
through which the sun was shining, hung a long “roll of honour,” a
hundred names and more. In the College garden an open-air hospital was
ranged under the old City wall, where we used to climb and go wandering
in the early summer mornings after some all-night spree. Down on the
river the empty College barges lay stripped and stark. From the top of
one of them an aged custodian broke into words: “Ah! Oxford’ll never
be the same again in my time. Why, who’s to teach ’em rowin’? When we
do get undergrads again, who’s to teach ’em? All the old ones gone,
killed, wounded and that. No! Rowin’ll never be the same again――not in
my time.” That was _the_ tragedy of the War for him. Our Universities
will recover faster than he thinks, and resume the care of our
particular ‘Kultur,’ and cap the products of our public schools with
the Oxford accent and the Oxford manner.

An acute critic tells me that Americans hearing such deprecatory words
as these from an Englishman about his country’s institutions would say
that this is precisely an instance of what an American means by the
Oxford manner. Americans whose attitude towards their own country seems
to be that of a lover to his lady or a child to its mother, cannot――he
says――understand how Englishmen can be critical of their own country,
and yet love her. Well, the Englishman’s attitude to his country is
that of a man to himself; and the way he runs her down is rather a
part of that special English bone-deep self-consciousness of which I
have been speaking. Englishmen (the speaker amongst them) love their
Country as much as the French love France, and the Americans America;
but she is so much a part of us that to speak well of her is like
speaking well of ourselves, which we have been brought up to regard
as impossible. When Americans hear Englishmen speaking critically of
their own country I think they should note it for a sign of complete
identification with their country rather than of detachment from it.
But to return to English Universities: They have, on the whole, a
broadening influence on the material which comes to them so set and
narrow. They do a little to discover for their children that there are
many points of view, and much which needs an open mind in this world.
They have not precisely a democratic influence, but taken by themselves
they would not be inimical to democracy. And when the War is over
they will surely be still broader in philosophy and teaching. Heaven
forefend that we should see vanish all that is old, all that has as it
were the virginia-creeper, the wistaria bloom of age upon it; there is
a beauty in age and a health in tradition, ill dispensed with. But what
is hateful in age is its lack of understanding and of sympathy; in a
word――its intolerance. Let us hope this wind of change may sweep out
and sweeten the old places of my country, sweep away the cobwebs and
the dust, our narrow ways of thought, our mannikinisms. But those who
hate intolerance dare not be intolerant with the foibles of age; they
should rather see them as comic, and gently laugh them out.

The educated Briton may be self-sufficient, but he has grit; and at
bottom grit is, I fancy, what Americans at any rate appreciate more
than anything. If the motto of my old Oxford College: “Manners makyth
man,” were true, I should often be sorry for the Briton. But his
manners don’t make him, they mar him. His goods are all absent from
the shop window; he is not a man of the world in the wider meaning
of that expression. And there is, of course, a particularly noxious
type of travelling Briton, who does his best, unconsciously, to take
the bloom off his country wherever he goes. Selfish, coarse-fibred,
loud-voiced――the sort which thanks God he is a Briton――I suppose
because nobody else will do it for him!

We live in times when patriotism is exalted above all other virtues,
because there have happened to lie before the patriotic tremendous
chances for the display of courage and self-sacrifice. Patriotism ever
has that advantage as the world is now constituted; but patriotism and
provincialism of course are pretty close relations, and they who can
only see beauty in the plumage of their own kind, who prefer the bad
points of their countrymen to the good points of foreigners, merely
write themselves down blind of an eye, and panderers to herd feeling.
America is advantaged in this matter. She lives so far away from other
nations that she might well be excused for thinking herself the only
country in the world; but in the many strains of blood which go to make
up America, there is as yet a natural corrective to the narrower kind
of patriotism. America has vast spaces and many varieties of type and
climate, and life to her is still a great adventure.

I pretend to no proper knowledge of the American people. It takes
more than two visits of two months each to know the American
people; there is just one thing, however, I can tell you: You seem
easy, but are difficult to know. Americans have their own form of
self-absorption; but they appear to be free as yet from the special
competitive self-centrement which has been forced on Britons through
long centuries by countless continental rivalries and wars. Insularity
was driven into the very bones of our people by the generation-long
wars of Napoleon. A Frenchman, André Chevrillon, whose book: “England
and the War” I commend to anyone who wishes to understand British
peculiarities, justly, subtly studied by a Frenchman, used these words
in a recent letter to me: “You English are so strange to us French;
you are so utterly different from any other people in the world.”
It is true; we are a lonely race. Deep in our hearts, I think, we
feel that only the American people could ever really understand us.
And being extraordinarily self-conscious, perverse, and proud, we do
our best to hide from Americans that we have any such feeling. It
would distress the average Briton to confess that he wanted to be
understood, had anything so natural as a craving for fellowship or for
being liked. We are a weird people, though we look so commonplace. In
looking at photographs of British types among photographs of other
European nationalities, one is struck at once by something which is
in no other of those races――exactly as if we had an extra skin; as
if the British animal had been tamed longer than the rest. And so he
has. His political, social, legal life was fixed long before that of
any other Western country. He was old before the _Mayflower_ touched
American shores and brought there avatars, grave and civilised as ever
founded nation. There is something touching and terrifying about our
character, about the depth at which it keeps its real yearnings, about
the perversity with which it disguises them, and its inability to show
its feelings. We are, deep down, under all our lazy mentality, the most
combative and competitive race in the world, with the exception perhaps
of the American. This is at once a spiritual link with America, and
yet one of the great barriers to friendship between the two peoples.
Whether we are better than Frenchmen, Germans, Russians, Italians,
Chinese, or any other race, is of course more than a question; but
those peoples are all so different from us that we are bound, I
suppose, secretly to consider ourselves superior. But between Americans
and ourselves under all differences there is some mysterious deep
kinship which causes us to doubt, and makes us irritable, as if we
were continually being tickled by that question: Now am I really a
better man than he? Exactly what proportion of American blood at this
time of day is British, I know not; but enough to make us definitely
cousins――always an awkward relationship. We see in Americans a sort
of image of ourselves; feel near enough, yet far enough, to criticise
and carp at the points of difference. It is as though a man went out
and encountered, in the street, what he thought for the moment was
himself; and, decidedly disturbed in his self-love, instantly began to
disparage the appearance of that fellow. Probably community of language
rather than of blood accounts for our sense of kinship, for a common
means of expression cannot but mould thought and feeling into some
kind of unity. Certainly one can hardly overrate the intimacy which a
common literature brings. The lives of great Americans, Washington and
Franklin, Lincoln and Lee and Grant are unsealed for us, just as to
Americans are the lives of Marlborough and Nelson, Pitt and Gladstone,
and Gordon. Longfellow and Whittier and Whitman can be read by the
British child as simply as Burns and Shelley and Keats. Emerson and
William James are no more difficult to us than Darwin and Spencer to
Americans. Without an effort we rejoice in Hawthorne and Mark Twain,
Henry James and Howells, as Americans can in Dickens and Thackeray,
Meredith and Thomas Hardy. And, more than all, Americans own with
ourselves all literature in the English tongue before the _Mayflower_
sailed; Chaucer and Spenser and Shakespeare, Raleigh, Ben Jonson, and
the authors of the English Bible Version are their spiritual ancestors
as much as ever they are ours. The tie of language is all-powerful――for
language is the food formative of minds. Why! a volume could be written
on the formation of character by literary humour alone. It has, I am
sure, had a say in planting in American and Briton, especially the
British townsman, a kind of bone-deep defiance of Fate, a readiness
for anything which may turn up, a dry, wry smile under the blackest
sky, an individual way of looking at things, which nothing can shake.
Americans and Britons both, we must and will think for ourselves, and
know why we do a thing before we do it. We have that ingrained respect
for the individual conscience, which is at the bottom of all free
institutions. Some years before the War, an intelligent and cultivated
Austrian who had lived long in England, was asked for his opinion of
the British. “In many ways,” he said, “I think you are inferior to us;
but one great thing I have noticed about you which we have not. You
think and act and speak for yourselves.” If he had passed those years
in America instead of in England he must needs have pronounced the very
same judgment of Americans. Free speech, of course, like every form of
freedom, goes in danger of its life in war time. In 1917 an Englishman
in Russia came on a street meeting shortly after the first revolution
had begun. An Extremist was addressing the gathering and telling them
that they were fools to go on fighting, that they ought to refuse and
go home, and so forth. The crowd grew angry, and some soldiers were for
making a rush at him; but the Chairman, a big burly peasant, stopped
them with these words: “Brothers, you know that our country is now a
country of free speech. We must listen to this man, we must let him say
anything he will. But, brothers, when he’s finished, we’ll bash his
head in!”

I cannot assert that either Britons or Americans are incapable in times
like these of a similar interpretation of “free speech.” Things have
been done in my country, and perhaps in America, which should make us
blush. But so strong is the free instinct in both countries, that it
will survive even this War. Democracy, in fact, is a sham unless it
means the preservation and development of this instinct of thinking for
oneself throughout a people. “Government of the people by the people
for the people” means nothing unless the individuals of a people keep
their consciences unfettered, and think freely. Accustom the individual
to be nose-led and spoon-fed, and democracy is a mere pretence. The
measure of democracy is the measure of the freedom and sense of
individual responsibility in its humblest citizens. And democracy is
still in the evolutionary stage.

An English scientist, Dr. Spurrell, in a recent book, “Man and
his Forerunners,” thus diagnoses the growth of civilisations: A
civilisation begins with the enslavement by some hardy race of a
tame race living a tame life in more congenial natural surroundings.
It is built up on slavery, and attains its maximum vitality in
conditions little removed therefrom. Then, _as individual freedom
gradually grows_, disorganisation sets in and the civilisation slowly
dissolves away in anarchy. Dr. Spurrell does not dogmatise about
our present civilisation, but suggests that it will probably follow
the civilisations of the past into dissolution. I am not convinced
of that, because of certain factors new to the history of man.
Recent discoveries have so unified the world, that such old isolated
successful swoops of race on race are not now possible. In our great
Industrial States, it is true, a new form of slavery has arisen (the
enslavement of men by their machines), but it is hardly of the nature
on which the civilisations of the past were reared. Moreover, all
past civilisations have been more or less Southern, and subject to
the sapping influence of the sun. Modern civilisation is essentially
Northern. The individualism, however, which according to Dr. Spurrell,
dissolved the Empires of the past, exists already, in a marked degree,
in every modern State; and the problem before us is to discover
how democracy and liberty of the subject can be made into enduring
props rather than dissolvents. It is, in fact, the problem of making
democracy genuine. If that cannot be achieved and perpetuated, then I
agree there is nothing to prevent democracy drifting into an anarchism
which will dissolve modern States, till they are the prey of pouncing
Dictators, or of other States not so far gone in dissolution――the same
process in kind though different in degree from the old descents of
savage races on their tamer neighbours.

Ever since the substantial introduction of democracy, nearly a century
and a half ago with the American War of Independence, I would point out
that Western Civilisation has been living on two planes or levels――the
autocratic plane with which is bound up the idea of nationalism, and
the democratic, to which has become conjoined in some sort the idea
of internationalism. Not only little wars, but great wars such as
this, come because of inequality in growth, dissimilarity of political
institutions between States; because this State or that is basing its
life on different principles from its neighbours.

We fall into glib usage of words like democracy, and make fetiches
of them without due understanding. Democracy is certainly inferior
to autocracy from the aggressively national point of view; it is not
necessarily superior to autocracy as a guarantee of general well-being;
it might even turn out to be inferior unless we can improve it.
But democracy is the rising tide; it may be dammed or delayed but
cannot be stopped. It seems to be a law in human nature that where,
in any corporate society, the idea of self-government sets foot it
refuses ever to take that foot up again. State after State, copying
the American example, has adopted the democratic principle; and the
world’s face is that way set. Autocracy has, practically speaking,
vanished from the western world. It is my belief that only in a world
thus uniform in its principles of government, and freed from the
danger of pounce by autocracies, have States any chance to develop
the individual conscience to a point which shall make democracy proof
against anarchy, and themselves proof against dissolution; and only in
such a world can a League of Nations to enforce peace succeed.

But though we have now secured a single plane for Western civilisation
and ultimately, I hope, for the world, there will be but slow and
difficult progress in the lot of mankind. And for this progress the
solidarity of the English-speaking races is vital; for without that
there is but sand on which to build.

The ancestors of the American people sought a new country, because
they had in them a reverence for the individual conscience; they came
from Britain, the first large State in the Christian era to build
up the idea of political freedom. The instincts and ideals of our
two races have ever been the same. That great and lovable people
the French, with their clear thought and expression, and their quick
blood, have expressed those ideals more vividly than either of us.
But the phlegmatic tenacity of the English and the dry tenacity
of the American temperament have ever made our countries the most
settled and safe homes of the individual conscience. And we must look
to our two countries to guarantee its strength and activity. If we
English-speaking races quarrel and become disunited, civilisation will
split up again and go its way to ruin. The individual conscience is the
heart of democracy. Democracy is the new order; of the new order the
English-speaking nations are the ballast.

I don’t believe in formal alliances, or in grouping nations to exclude
and keep down other nations. Friendships between countries should have
the only true reality of common sentiment, _and be animated by desire
for the general welfare of mankind_. We need no formal bonds, but we
have a sacred charge in common, to let no petty matters, differences
of manner, divergencies of material interest, destroy our spiritual
agreement. Our pasts, our geographical positions, our temperaments
make us beyond all other races, the hope and trustees of mankind’s
advance along the only line now open――democratic internationalism. It
is childish to claim for Americans or Britons virtues beyond those of
other nations, or to believe in the superiority of one national culture
to another; they are different, that is all. It is by accident that
we find ourselves in this position of guardianship to the main line
of human development; no need to pat ourselves on the back about it.
But we are at a great and critical moment in the world’s history――how
critical, none of us alive will ever realise to the full. The
civilisation slowly built since the fall of Rome has either to break up
and dissolve into jagged and isolated fragments through a century of
revolutions and wars; or, unified and reanimated by a single idea, to
move forward on one plane and attain greater height and breadth.

Under the pressure of this War there has often been, beneath the
lip-service we pay to democracy, a disposition to lose faith in it,
because of its undoubted weakness and inconvenience in a struggle with
States autocratically governed; there has even been a sort of secret
reaction towards autocracy. On those lines there is no way out of a
future of bitter rivalries, chicanery, and wars, and the probable total
failure of our civilisation. The only cure which I can see, lies in
democratising the whole world, and removing the present weaknesses and
shams of democracy by education of the individual conscience in every
country. Goodbye to that chance, if Americans and Britons fall foul of
each other, refuse to make common cause of their thoughts and hopes,
and to keep the general welfare of mankind in view. They have got to
stand together, not in aggressive and jealous policies, but in defence
and championship of the self-helpful, self-governing, ‘live and let
live’ philosophy of life.

Who would not desire, rushing through the thick dark of the future, to
stand on the cliffs of vision――two hundred years, say――hence――and view
this world?

Will there then be this League for War, this caldron where, beneath
the thin crust, a boiling lava bubbles, and at any minute may break
through and leap up, as of late, jet high? Will there still be reek and
desolation, and man at the mercy of the machines he has made; still
be narrow national policies and rancours, and such mutual fear, that
no country dare be generous? Or will there be over the whole world
something of the glamour that each one of us now sees hovering over his
own country; and men and women――all――feel they are natives of one land?
Who dare say?

The guns have ceased fire and all is still; from the woods and fields
and seas, from the skeleton towns of ravaged countries the wistful dead
rise, and with their eyes question us. In this hour we have for answer
only this: We fought for a better Future for Mankind!

Did we? Do we? That is the great question. Is our gaze really fixed on
the far horizon? Or do we only dream it; and have the slain no comfort
in their untimely darkness; the maimed, the ruined, the bereaved, no
shred of consolation? Is it all to be for nothing but the salving of
national prides? And shall the Ironic Spirit fill the whole world with
his laughter?

The House of the Future is always dark. There are few cornerstones to
be discerned in the Temple of our Fate. But, of these few, one is the
brotherhood and bond of the English-speaking races; not for narrow
purposes, but that mankind may yet see Faith and Good Will enshrined,
yet breathe a sweeter air, and know a life where Beauty passes, with
the sun on her wings.

We want in the lives of men a “Song of Honour,” as in Ralph Hodgson’s

    “The song of men all sorts and kinds
     As many tempers, moods and minds
     As leaves are on a tree,
     As many faiths and castes and creeds
     As many human bloods and breeds
     As in the world may be.”

In the making of that song the English-speaking races will assuredly
unite. What set this world in motion we know not; the Principle of
Life is inscrutable and will for ever be; but we do know, that Earth
is yet on the upgrade of existence, the mountain top of man’s life not
reached, that many centuries of growth are yet in front of us before
Time begins to chill this planet, till it swims, at last, another
moon, in space. In the climb to that mountain top, of a happy life
for mankind, our two great nations are as guides who go before, roped
together in perilous ascent. On their nerve, loyalty, and wisdom, the
adventure now hangs. What American or British knife would sever the

He who ever gives a thought to the life of man at large, to his
miseries, and disappointments, to the waste and cruelty of existence,
will remember that if American or Briton fail in this climb, there can
but be for us both, and for all other peoples, a hideous slip, a swift
and fearful fall into an abyss, whence all shall be to begin over again.

We shall not fail――neither ourselves, nor each other. Our comradeship
will endure.



I wonder whether you in America can realise what an entrancing voyage
of discovery you represent to us primeval Anglo-Britons. I prefer that
term to Anglo-Saxon, for even if we English glory in the thought that
our seaborne ancestors were extremely bloodthirsty, we have no evidence
that they brought their own women to Britain in any quantities, or had
the power of reproducing themselves without aid from the other sex!

Can you, I say, realise how much more enticing to my English mind
America is, than the Arabian Nights were to your fascinating fabulist,
O. Henry? One longs to unriddle to oneself the significance and sense
of America. In the English-speaking world to-day we need understanding
of each others’ natures, aims, sympathies, and dislikes. For without
understanding we become doctrinaire and partizan, building our ship in
compartments very watertight, and getting into them and shutting the
doors when the ship threatens to go down.

We English have a reputation for self-sufficiency. But speaking for
myself, who find no name that is not English in my genealogy, I never
can get up quite the interest in my own race that I can in others. We
English are so set and made, you Americans are yet in the making. We at
most experience modification of type; you are in process of creating
one. I have often asked Americans: What is now the American type? and
have been answered by――a smile. When I go back home my countrymen will
ask me the same question. I would I could sit down and listen to you
telling me what it is.

It will not have escaped you, at all events, that for four years the
various branches of the English-speaking peoples have been credited
with all the virtues――a love of liberty, humanity, and justice has,
as it were, been patented for them on both sides of the Atlantic, and
under the Southern Cross, till one has come to listen with a sort of
fascinated terror for those three words to tinkle from the tongue. I
am prepared to sacrifice a measure of the truth sooner than pronounce
them to-night. Let me rather speak of those lower qualities which I
think we English-speaking peoples possess in a conspicuous degree:
Commonsense and Energy. From those vulgar attributes, I am sure, the
historian of the far future will say that the English-speaking era has
germinated; and that by those vulgar attributes it will flourish. Deep
in the American spirit and in the English spirit is a curious intense
realism――sometimes very highly camouflaged by hot air――an instinct
for putting the finger on the button of life, and pressing it there
till the bell rings. We are so extraordinarily successful that we may
expect the historian of the far future to write: ‘The English-speaking
races were so rapid in their subjugation of the forces of Nature, so
prodigal of inventions, so eager in their use of them, so extremely
practical, and altogether so successful, that the only thing they
missed was――happiness.’

When I read of some great new American invention, or of a Lord
Leverhulme converting an island of Lewis into a commercial Paradise,
I confess to trembling. Gentlemen, it is a melancholy fact that the
complete man does not live by invention and trade alone. At the risk of
being laughed out of Paradise, I dare put in a plea for Beauty. Both
our peoples, indeed, are so severely practical that I do feel we run
the risk of getting machine-made, and coming actually to look down on
those who give themselves to anything so unpractical as the love of
Beauty. Now, I venture to think that the spirit of the old builders
of Seville cathedral: ‘Let us make us a church such as the world has
never seen before!’ ought to inspire us in these days too. ‘But it
does, my dear Sir.’ I shall be answered: ‘We make flying machines, and
iron foundries, Palace hotels, stock-yards, self-playing pianos, film
pictures, cocktails, and ladies’ hats, such as the world has never seen
before. A fig for the Giralda, the Sphynx, Shakespeare, and Michael
Angelo! They did not elevate the lot of man. We are for invention,
industry, and trade.’ Far be it from me to run down any of those
things, so excellent in moderation; but since I solemnly aver that
man’s greatest quality is the sense of proportion, I feel that if he
neglects Beauty (which is but proportion elegantly cooked)――the ‘result
of perfect economy’ Emerson had it――he sags backwards, no matter how
inventive and commercially successful he may be.

But this is to become grave, which is detestable, even in a country
which has just been taking its ticket for the Garden of Eden.

I believe I shall yet see (unless I perish of public speaking) America
taking the long cut to Beauty――for there are no short cuts to Her, no
cheap nostrums by which she can be conjured from the blue. Beauty and
Simplicity are the natural antidotes to the feverish industrialism of
our age. If only America will begin to take them freely she has it in
her power to re-inspire in us older peoples, just now rather breathless
and exhausted, the belief in Beauty, and a new fervour for the creation
of fine and rare things. If on the other hand America turns Beauty
down as a dangerous ‘bit of fluff’ and Simplicity as an impecunious
alien, we over there, one behind the other, will sink into a soup of
utilitarianism so thick that we may never get out.

Gentlemen, I long to see established between the English-speaking
peoples a fellowship, not only in matters political and commercial,
important as these are, but in philosophy and art. For after all those
laughing-stocks, philosophy and art――the beautiful expression of our
highest thoughts and fancies――are the lanterns of a nation’s life, and
we ought to hang them in each others’ houses.



I do not know what your chief thought is now; for me the overmastering
thought is that of Creation――Re-creation. You know when we look at a
bit of moorland where the gorse and heather have been burned――swaled
we call it in Devon――how we delight in the green, pushing up among
the black shrivelled roots. I long to see the green pushing up, the
creative impulse at work in its thousand ways all over the world again;
each of us on both continents in his own line doing creative work; and
not so much that wealth and comfort, as that health and beauty may be
born again.

But, confronting as I do to-night, the Arts and Sciences, let me
divide my words. You sciences have no need to listen. You have never
had such a heyday as this; in engineering, in chemistry, in surgery,
in every branch except perhaps ‘star-gazing,’ you have been shooting
ahead, earning fresh laurels, putting new discoveries at the service
of bewildered Man. Science drags no lame foot, it dances along like
the Pied Piper of Hamelin. I had better not pursue the simile. But the
Arts, with faces muffled to the eyes, stand against the walls of life,
and gaze a little enviously, a little mournfully at the passing rout.
This is not their time for carnival; their lovers sleep, heavy with war
and toil. It is to those poor wallflowers the Arts, that I would speak:
Drop your veils, have the courage of your charms; you shall break many
a heart yet, make many a lover happy.

Ladies and gentlemen, you have all noticed as I have the difference
between a town by daylight and a town by night; well, the daylight
town belongs to the Sciences, the night-lit town to the Arts. I don’t
mean that artists are night-birds, though I have heard of such a case;
I mean that the Arts live on Mystery and Imagination. Have you ever
thought how we should get through if we had to live in a town which
never put on the filmy dark robe of night, so that hour-in, hour-out
we had to stare at things garbed in the efficient overalls of Science,
with their prices properly pinned on? How long would it be before we
found ourselves in Coney Hatch? Well, we are in a fair way to abolish
Night――Mystery and Imagination are ‘off,’ as they say, and that way
sooner or later madness lies.

It is time the Arts left off leaning against the wall, and took their
share of the dance again. We want them to be as creative, nay, as
seductive as the Sciences. We have seen Science work miracles of late;
now let Art work her miracles in turn.

People are inclined to smile at me when I suggest that you in America
are at the commencement of a period of fine and vigorous Art. The
signs, they say, are all the other way. Of course you ought to know
best; all the same, I stick to my opinion with British obstinacy, and I
believe I shall see it justified.



A doubter of the general divinity of our civilisation is labelled
‘pedant.’ Anyone who questions modern progress is tabooed. And yet
there is no doubt, I think, that we are getting feverish, rushed,
complicated, and have multiplied conveniences to such an extent that we
do little with them but scrape the surface of life.

We were rattling into a species of barbarism when the war came, and
unless we check ourselves shall continue to rattle now that it is over.
The underlying cause in every country is the increase of herd-life,
based on machines, money-getting, and the dread of being dull. Everyone
knows how fearfully strong that dread is. But to be capable of being
dull is in itself a disease.

And most of modern life seems to be a process of creating disease,
then finding a remedy, which in its turn creates another disease,
demanding fresh remedy, and so on. We pride ourselves, for example, on
scientific sanitation; but what is scientific sanitation if not one
huge palliative of evils which have arisen from herd-life enabling
herd-life to be intensified, so that we shall presently need even more
scientific sanitation? The true elixirs vitæ――for there be two, I
think――are open-air life, and a proud pleasure in one’s work, but we
have evolved a mode of existence in which it is comparatively rare to
find these two conjoined. In old countries such as mine, the evils of
herd-life are at present vastly more acute than in a new country such
as yours. On the other hand, the further one is from hades, the faster
one drives towards it, and machines are beginning to run along with
America even more violently than with Europe.

When our Tanks first appeared, they were described as snouting monsters
creeping at their own sweet will. I confess that this is how my
inflamed eye sees all our modern machines――monsters running on their
own, dragging us along, and very often squashing us.

We are, I believe, awakening to the dangers of this ‘Gadarening,’ of
rushing down the high cliff into the sea, possessed and pursued by the
devils of――machinery. But if any would see how little alarmed he really
is――let him ask himself how much of his present mode of existence he is
prepared to alter. Altering the modes of other people is delightful;
one would have great hope of the future if we had nothing before us but
that. The mediæval Irishman, indicted for burning down the cathedral
at Armagh, together with the Archbishop, defended himself thus: “As
for the cathedral, ’tis true I burned it; but indeed an’ I wouldn’t
have, only they told me himself was inside.” We are all ready to alter
our opponents, if not to burn them. But even if we were as ardent
reformers as that Irishman, we could hardly force men to live in the
open, or take a proud pleasure in their work, or enjoy beauty, or not
concentrate themselves on making money. No amount of legislation will
make us “lilies of the field” or “birds of the air,” or prevent us from
worshipping false gods, or neglecting to reform ourselves.

I once wrote the unpopular sentence: “Democracy at present offers the
spectacle of a man running down a road followed at a more and more
respectful distance by his own soul.” For democracy read rather the
words modern civilisation which prides itself on redress after the
event, foresees nothing and avoids less; is purely empirical if one may
use so high brow a word.

I look very eagerly and watchfully to America in many ways. After the
war she will be more emphatically than ever, in material things, the
most important and powerful nation of the earth. We British have a
legitimate and somewhat breathless interest in the use she will make
of her strength, and in the course of her national life, for this will
greatly influence the course of our own. But power for real light and
leading in America will depend, not so much on her material wealth,
or her armed force, as on what her attitude towards life, and what
the ideals of her citizens are going to be. Americans have a certain
eagerness for knowledge; they have also, for all their absorption in
success, the aspiring eye. They do want the good thing. They don’t
always know when they see it, but they want it. These qualities, in
combination with material strength, give America her chance. Yet, if
she does not set her face against “Gadarening,” we are all bound for
downhill. If she goes in for spreadeagleism, if her aspirations are
towards quantity, not quality, we shall all go on being commonised.
If she should get that purse-and-power-proud fever which comes from
national success, we are all bound for another world flare-up. The
burden of proving that democracy can be real and yet live up to an
ideal of health and beauty will be on America’s shoulders, and on ours.
What are we and Americans going to make of our inner life, of our
individual habits of thought? What are we going to reverence, and what
despise? Do we mean to lead, in spirit and in truth, not in mere money
and guns? Britain is an old country, though still in her prime, I hope;
America is yet on the threshold. Is she to step out into the sight of
the world as a great leader? That is for America the long decision, to
be worked out, not so much in her Senate and her Congress, as in her
homes and schools. On America, now that the war is over, the destiny
of civilisation may hang for the next century. If she mislays, indeed
if she does not improve the power of self-criticism――that special dry
American humour which the great Lincoln had――she might soon develop
the intolerant provincialism which has so often been the bane of the
earth and the undoing of nations. Above all, if she does not solve the
problems of town life, of Capital and Labour, of the distribution of
wealth, of national health, and attain to a mastery over inventions
and machinery――she is in for a cycle of mere anarchy, disruption, and
dictatorships, into which we shall all follow. The motto “noblesse
oblige” applies as much to democracy as ever it did to the old-time
aristocrat. It applies with terrific vividness to America. Ancestry and
Nature have bestowed on her great gifts. Behind her stand Conscience,
Enterprise, Independence, and Ability――such were the companions of the
first Americans, and are the comrades of American citizens to this day.
She has abounding energy, an unequalled spirit of discovery, a vast
territory not half developed, and great natural beauty. I remember
sitting on a bench overlooking the Grand Canyon of Arizona; the sun was
shining into it, and a snow storm was whirling down there. All that
most marvellous work of Nature was flooded to the brim with rose and
tawny-gold, with white, and wine-dark shadows; the colossal carvings
as of huge rock-gods and sacrificial altars, and great beasts along
its sides, were made living by the very mystery of light and darkness,
on that violent day of Spring; I remember sitting there, and an old
gentleman passing close behind, leaning towards me and saying in a sly,
gentle voice: “How are you going to tell it to the folks at home?”
America has so much, that one despairs of telling to the folks at home,
so much grand beauty to be to her an inspiration and uplift towards
high and free thought and vision. Great poems of Nature she has,
wrought in the large, to make of her and keep her a noble people. In my
beloved Britain――all told, not half the size of Texas――there is a quiet
beauty of a sort which America has not. I walked not long ago from
Worthing to the little village of Steyning, in the South Downs. It was
such a day as one seldom gets in England; when the sun was dipping and
there came on the cool chalky hills the smile of late afternoon, and
across a smooth valley on the rim of the Downs one saw a tiny group
of trees, one little building, and a stack, against the clear-blue,
pale sky――it was like a glimpse of heaven, so utterly pure in line and
colour so removed, and touching. The tale of loveliness in our land is
varied and unending, but it is not in the grand manner. America has the
grand manner in her scenery and in her blood, for in America all are
the children of adventure, every single man an emigrant himself or a
descendant of one who had the pluck to emigrate. She has already had
past-masters in dignity, but she has still to reach as a nation the
grand manner in achievement. She knows her own dangers and failings;
her qualities and powers; but she cannot realise the intense concern
and interest, deep down behind our provoking stolidities, with which
we of the old country watch her, feeling that what she does reacts on
us above all nations, and will ever react more and more. Underneath
surface differences and irritations we English-speaking peoples are
fast bound together. May it not be in misery and iron! If America walks
upright, so shall we; if she goes bowed under the weight of machines,
money, and materialism, we too shall creep our ways. We run a long
race, we nations; a generation is but a day. But in a day a man may
leave the track, and never again recover it! Nations depend for their
health and safety on the behaviour of the individuals who compose them.

Modern man is a very new and marvellous creature. Without quite
realising it, we have evolved a fresh species of stoic――even more
stoical, I suspect, than were the old Stoics. Modern man stands on
his own feet. His religion is to take what comes without flinching
or complaint, as part of the day’s work, which an unknowable God,
Providence, Creative Principle, has appointed. By courage and kindness
modern man exists, warmed by the glow of the great human fellowship. He
has re-discovered the old Greek saying: “God is the helping of man by
man”; has found out in his unselfconscious way that if he does not help
himself, and help his fellows, he cannot reach that inner peace which
satisfies. To do his bit; and to be kind! It is by that creed, rather
than by any mysticism, that he finds the salvation of his soul, for, of
a truth, the religion of this age is conduct.

After all, does not the only real spiritual warmth, not tinged by
Pharisaism, egotism, or cowardice, come from the feeling of doing your
work well and helping others; is not all the rest embroidery, luxury,
pastime, pleasant sound and incense? Modern man is a realist with too
romantic a sense, perhaps, of the mystery which surrounds existence, to
pry into it. And, like modern civilisation itself, he is the creature
of West and North, of those atmospheres, climates, manners, of life,
which foster neither inertia, reverence, nor mystic meditation.
Essentially man of action, in ideal action he finds his only true
comfort. I am sure that padres at the front have seen that the men
whose souls they have gone out to tend, are living the highest form
of religion; that in their comic courage, unselfish humanity, their
endurance without whimper of things worse than death, they have gone
beyond all pulpit-and-deathbed teaching. And who are these men? Just
the early manhood of the race, just modern man as he was before the war
began, and will be now that the war is over.

This modern world, of which we English and Americans are perhaps the
truest types, stands revealed from beneath its froth, frippery, and
vulgar excrescences, sound at core――a world whose implicit motto
is: “The good of all humanity.” But the herd-life which is its
characteristic, brings many evils, has many dangers; and to preserve
a sane mind in a healthy body is the riddle before us. Somehow we
must free ourselves from the driving domination of machines and
money-getting, not only for our own sakes but for that of all mankind.

And there is another thing of the most solemn importance: We
English-speaking nations are by chance as it were, the ballast of the
future. It is _absolutely necessary_ for the happiness of the world
that we should remain united. The comradeship that we now feel must and
surely shall abide. For unless we work together, and in no selfish or
exclusive spirit――Goodbye to Civilisation! It will vanish like the dew
off grass. The betterment not only of the British nations and America,
but of all mankind is and must be our object.

From all our hearts a great weight has been lifted; in those fields
death no longer sweeps his scythe, and our ears at last are free
from the rustling thereof――now comes the test of magnanimity, in all
countries. Will modern man rise to the ordering of a sane, a free, a
generous life? Each of us loves his own country best, be it a little
land or the greatest on earth; but jealousy is the dark thing, the
creeping poison. Where there is true greatness, let us acclaim it;
where there is true worth, let us prize it――as if it were our own.

This earth is made too subtly, of too multiple warp and woof, for
prophecy. When he surveys the world around――“the wondrous things
which there abound,” the prophet closes foolish lips. Besides, as the
historian tells us: “Writers have that undeterminateness of spirit
which commonly makes literary men of no use in the world.” So I, for
one, prophesy not. Still, we do know this: All English-speaking peoples
will go to this adventure of Peace with something of big purpose and
spirit in their hearts, with something of free outlook. The world is
wide and Nature bountiful enough for all, if we keep sane minds. The
earth is fair and meant to be enjoyed, if we keep sane bodies. Who dare
affront this world of beauty with mean views? There is no darkness but
what the ape in us still makes, and in spite of all his monkey-tricks
modern man is at heart further from the ape than man has yet been.

To do our jobs really well and to be brotherly! To seek health and
ensue Beauty! If, in Britain and America, in all the English-speaking
nations, we can put that simple faith into real and thorough practice,
what may not this century yet bring forth? Shall man, the highest
product of creation, be content to pass his little day in a house like
unto Bedlam?

When the present great task in which we have joined hands is really
ended; when once more from the shuttered mad-house the figure of Peace
steps forth and stands in the risen sun, and we may go our ways again
in the wonder of a new morning――let it be with this vow in our hearts:
“No more of Madness――in War, or in Peace!”



Standing here, privileged to address my betters――I, the least
politically educated person in the world, have two thoughts to leave on
the air. They arise from the title of your League.

I wish I did not feel, speaking in the large, that politics and
education have but a bowing acquaintanceship in the modern State; and I
wish I did feel that either education or politics had any definite idea
of what they were out to attain; in other words, had a clear image of
the ideal State. It seems to me that their object at present is just to
keep the heads of the citizens of the modern State above water; to keep
them alive, without real concern as to what kind of life they are being
preserved for. We seem, in fact, to be letting our civilisation run
us, instead of running our civilisation. If a man does not know where
he wants to go, he goes where circumstances and the telephone take
him. Where do we want to go? Can you answer me? Have you any definite
idea? What is the Ultima Thule of our longings? I suppose one ought to
say, roughly, that the modern ideal is: Maximum production of wealth
to the square mile of a country――an ideal which, seeing that a man
normally produces wealth in surplus to his own requirements, signifies
logically a maximum head of population to the square mile. And it seems
to me that the great modern fallacy is the identification of the word
wealth with the word welfare. Granted that demand creates supply, and
that it is impossible to stop human nature from demanding, the problem
is surely to direct demand into the best channels for securing health
and happiness. And I venture to say that the mere blind production of
wealth and population by no means fills that bill. We ought to produce
wealth only in such ways and to such an extent as shall make us all
good, clean, healthy, intelligent, and beautiful to look at. That is
the end, and production whether of wealth or population only the means
to that end, to be regulated accordingly. As things are, we confuse the
means with the end, and make of production a fetich.

Let me take a parallel from the fields of Art. What kind of good in
the world is an artist who sets to work to cover the utmost possible
acreage of canvas, or to spoil the greatest possible number of reams
of paper, in deference to the call from a vulgar and undiscriminating
market for all he can produce? Do we admire him――a man whose ideal is
blind supply to meet blind demand?

The most urgent need of the world to-day is to learn――or is it to
re-learn?――the love of quality. And how are we to learn that in a
democratic age, unless we so perfect our electoral machineries as to be
sure that we secure for our leaders, and especially for our leaders of
education, men and women who, themselves worshipping quality, will see
that the love of quality is instilled into the boys and girls of the

After all, we have some common sense, and we really cannot contemplate
much longer the grimy, grinding monster of modern industrialism without
feeling that we are becoming disinherited, instead of――as we are
brought up to think――heirs to an ever-increasing fortune.

It seems to me that no amount of political evolution or revolution
is going to do us any good unless it is accompanied by evolution or
revolution in ideals. What does it matter whether one class holds the
reins, or another class holds the reins, if the dominant impulse in
the population remains the craving for wealth without the power of
discriminating whether or not that wealth is taking forms which promote
health and happiness.

A new educational charter――a charter of taste, affirming the rule of
dignity, beauty, and simplicity, is wanted before political change can
turn out to be anything but cheap-jack nostrums, and a mere shuffling

I would just cite three of the many changes necessary for any advance:

 (1) The reduction of working hours to a point that would enable
     men and women to live lives of wider interest.

 (2) The abolition of smoke――which surely should not be beyond
     attainment in this scientific age.

 (3) The rescue of educational forces from the grip of vested

I would have all educational institutions financed by the State, but
give all the _directing_ power to heads of education elected by the
main body of teachers themselves. I would not have education dependent
on advertisement or on charity. I would not even have newspapers,
which are an educational force――though you might not always think
so――dependent on advertisements. A newspaper man told me the other
day that his paper had printed an article drawing attention to the
deleteriousness of a certain product. The manufacturers of that product
sent an ultimatum drawing the editor’s attention to the deleteriousness
of their advertising in a journal which printed such articles. The
result was perfect peace. What chance is there of rescuing newspapers,
for instance, until education has implanted in the rising generation
the feeling that to accept money for what you know is doing harm to
your neighbours, is not playing the game. Or take another instance:
Not long ago in England a College for the training of school-teachers
desired to make certain excellent advances in their curriculum, which
did not meet with the approval of the municipal powers controlling the
College. A short, sharp fight, and again perfect peace.

I suppose it would be too sweeping to say that a vested interest never
yet held an enlightened view, but I think one may fairly say that their
enlightened views are rare birds.

How, then, is any emancipation to come? I know not, unless we take to
looking on Education as the hub of the wheel――the Schools, the Arts,
the Press; and concentrate our thoughts on the best means of manning
these agencies with men and women of real honesty and vision, and
giving them real power to effect in the rising generation the evolution
of ethics and taste, in accordance with the rules of dignity, beauty,
and simplicity.


                           TALKING AT LARGE

It is of the main new factors which have come into the life of the
civilised world that I would speak.

The division deep and subtle between those who have fought and those
who have not――concerns us in Europe far more than you in America;
for in proportion to your population the number of your soldiers
who actually fought has been small, compared with the number in any
belligerent European country. And I think that so far as you are
concerned the division will soon disappear, for the iron had not time
to enter into the souls of your soldiers. For us in Europe, however,
this factor is very tremendous, and will take a long time to wear away.
In my country the, as it were, professional English dislike to the
expression of feeling, which strikes every American so forcibly, covers
very deep hearts and highly sensitive nerves. The average Briton is
now not at all stolid underneath; I think he has changed a great deal
in this last century, owing to the town life which seven-tenths of our
population lead. Perhaps only of the Briton may one still invent the
picture which appeared in _Punch_ in the autumn of 1914――of the steward
on a battleship asking the naval lieutenant: “Will you take your bath
before or after the engagement, sir?” and only among Britons overhear
one stoker say to another in the heat of a sea-fight: “Well, wot I
say is――’E ought to ’ave married ’er.” For all that, the Briton feels
deeply; and on those who have fought the experiences of the battlefield
have had an effect which almost amounts to metamorphosis. There are
now two breeds of British people――such as have been long in the danger
zones, and such as have not; shading, of course, into each other
through the many who have just smelled powder and peril, and the very
few whose imaginations are vibrant enough to have lived the two lives,
while only living one.

In a certain cool paper called: “The Balance-sheet of the Soldier
Workman” I tried to come at the effect of the war; but purposely
pitched it in a low and sober key; and there is a much more poignant
tale of change to tell of each individual human being.

Take a man who, when the war broke out (or had been raging perhaps a
year), was living the ordinary Briton’s life, in factory, shop, and
home. Suppose that he went through that deep, sharp struggle between
the pull of home love and interests, and the pull of country (for
I hope it will never be forgotten that five million Britons were
volunteers) and came out committed to his country. That then he had to
submit to being rattled at great speed into the soldier-shape which we
Britons and you Americans have been brought up to regard as but the
half of a free man; that then he was plunged into such a hideous hell
of horrible danger and discomfort as this planet has never seen; came
out of it time and again, went back into it time and again; and finally
emerged, shattered or unscathed, with a spirit at once uplifted and
enlarged, yet bruised and ungeared for the old life of peace. Imagine
such a man set back among those who have not been driven and grilled
and crucified. What would he feel, and how bear himself? On the surface
he would no doubt disguise the fact that he felt different from his
neighbours――he would conform; but something within him would ever be
stirring, a sort of superiority, an impatient sense that he had been
through it and they had not; the feeling, too, that he had seen the
bottom of things, that nothing he could ever experience again would
give him the sensations he had had out there; that he had lived, and
there could be nothing more to it. I don’t think that we others quite
realise what it must mean to those men, most of them under thirty, to
have been stretched to the uttermost, to have no illusions left, and
yet have, perhaps, forty years still to live. There is something gained
in them, but there’s something gone from them. The old sanctions, the
old values won’t hold; are there any sanctions and values which can be
made to hold? A kind of unreality must needs cling about their lives
henceforth. This is a finespun way of putting it, but I think, at
bottom, true.

The old professional soldier lived for his soldiering. At the end of
a war (however terrible) there was left to him a vista of more wars,
more of what had become to him the ultimate reality――his business in
life. For these temporary soldiers of what has been not so much a war
as a prolonged piece of very horrible carnage, there succeeds something
so mild in sensation that it simply will not fill the void. When the
dish of life has lost its savour, by reason of violent and uttermost
experience, wherewith shall it be salted?

The American Civil War was very long and very dreadful, but it was
a human and humane business compared to what Europe has just come
through. There is no analogy in history for the present moment. An
old soldier of that Civil War, after hearing these words, wrote me
an account of his after-career which shows that in exceptional cases
a life so stirring, full, and even dangerful may be lived that no
void is felt. But one swallow does not make a summer, nor will a few
hundreds or even thousands of such lives leaven to any extent the vast
lump of human material used in this war. The spiritual point is this:
In front of a man in ordinary civilised existence there hovers ever
that moment in the future when he expects to prove himself more of a
man than he has yet proved himself. For these soldiers of the Great
Carnage the moment of probation is already in the past. They _have_
proved themselves as they will never have the chance to do again,
and secretly they know it. One talks of their powers of heroism and
sacrifice being wanted just as much in time of Peace; but that cannot
really be so, because Peace times do not demand men’s lives――which is
the ultimate test――with every minute that passes. No, the great moment
of their existence lies behind them, young though so many of them are.
This makes them at once greater than us, yet in a way smaller, because
they have lost the power and hope of expansion. They have lived their
masterpiece already. Human nature is elastic, and hope springs eternal;
but a _climax_ of experience and sensation cannot be repeated; I think
these have reached and passed the uttermost climax; and in Europe they
number millions.

This is a veritable portent, and I am glad that in America you will
not have it to any great extent.

Now how does this affect the future? Roughly speaking it must, I think,
have a diminishing effect on what I may call loosely――Creative ability.
People have often said to me: “We shall have great writings and
paintings from these young men when they come back.” We shall certainly
have poignant expression of their experiences and sufferings; and the
best books and paintings of the war itself are probably yet to come.
But, taking the long view, I do not believe we shall have from them, in
the end, as much creative art and literature as we should have had if
they had not been through the war. Illusion about life, and interest
in ordinary daily experience and emotion, which after all, are to be
the stuff of their future as of ours, has in a way been blunted or
destroyed for them. And in the other provinces of life, in industry, in
trade, in affairs, how can we expect from men who have seen the utter
uselessness of money or comfort or power in the last resort, the same
naïve faith in these things, or the same driving energy towards the
attaining of them that we others exhibit?

It may be cheering to assume that those who have been almost superhuman
these last four years in one environment will continue to be almost
superhuman under conditions the very opposite. But alack! it is not

On the other hand I think that those who have had this great and
racking experience will be left, for the most part, with a real passion
for Justice; and that this will have a profoundly modifying effect on
social conditions. I think, too, that many of them will have a sort of
passion for humaneness, which will, if you will suffer me to say so,
come in very handy; for I have observed that the rest of us, through
reading about horrors, have lost the edge of our gentleness, and have
got into the habit of thinking that it is the business of women and
children to starve, if they happen to be German; of creatures to be
underfed and overworked if they happen to be horses; of families to be
broken up if they happen to be aliens; and that a general carelessness
as to what suffering is necessary and what is not, has set in. And,
queer as it may seem, I look to those who have been in the thick of
the worst suffering the world has ever seen, to set us in the right
path again, and to correct the vitriolic sentiments engendered by the
armchair and the inkpot, in times such as we have been and are still
passing through. A cloistered life in times like these engenders bile;
in fact, I think it always does. For sheer ferocity there is no place,
you will have noticed, like a club full of old gentlemen. I expect the
men who have come home from killing each other to show us the way back
to brotherliness! And not before it’s wanted. Here is a little true
story of war-time, when all men were supposed to be brothers if they
belonged to the same nation. In the fifth year of the war two men sat
alone in a railway carriage. One, pale, young, and rather worn, had an
unlighted cigarette in his mouth. The other, elderly, prosperous, and
of a ruddy countenance, was smoking a large cigar.

The young man, who looked as if his days were strenuous, took his
unlighted cigarette from his mouth, gazed at it, searched his pockets,
and looked at the elderly man. His nose twitched, vibrated by the scent
of the cigar, and he said suddenly:

“Could you give me a light, sir?”

The elderly man regarded him for a moment, drooped his eyelids, and

“I’ve no matches.”

The young man sighed, mumbling the cigarette in his watering lips, then
said very suddenly:

“Perhaps you’ll kindly give me a light from your cigar, sir.”

The elderly man moved throughout his body as if something very sacred
had been touched within him.

“I’d rather not,” he said; “if you don’t mind.”

A quarter of an hour passed, while the young man’s cigarette grew
moister, and the elder man’s cigar shorter. Then the latter stirred,
took it from under his grey moustache, looked critically at it, held
it out a little way towards the other with the side which was least
burned-down foremost, and said:

“Unless you’d like to take it from the edge.”

On the other hand one has often travelled in these last years with
extreme embarrassment because our soldiers were so extraordinarily
anxious that one should smoke their cigarettes, eat their apples, and
their sausages. The marvels of comradeship they have performed would
fill the libraries of the world.

The second main new factor in the world’s life is the disappearance of
the old autocracies.

In 1910, walking in Hyde Park with a writer friend, I remember saying:
“It’s the hereditary autocracies in Germany, Austria, and Russia
which make the danger of war.” He did not agree――but no two writers
agree with each other at any given moment. “If only autocracies go
down in the wreckage of this war!” was almost the first thought I
put down in writing when the war broke out. Well, they are gone!
They were an anachronism, and without them and the bureaucracies and
secrecy which buttressed them we should not, I think, have had this
world catastrophe. But let us not too glibly assume that the forms
of government which take their place can steer the battered ships
of the nations in the very troubled waters of to-day, or that they
will be truly democratic. Even highly democratic statesmen have been
known to resort to the way of the headmaster at my old school, who
put a motion to the masters’ meeting and asked for a show of hands
in its favour. Not one hand was held up. “Then,” he said, “I shall
adopt it with the greater regret.” Nevertheless, the essential new
factor is, that, whereas in 1914 civilisation was on two planes, it is
now, theoretically, at least, on the one democratic plane or level.
That is a great easing of the world-situation, and removes a chief
cause of international misunderstanding. The rest depends on what we
can now make of democracy. Surely no word can so easily be taken in
vain; to have got rid of the hereditary principle in government is by
no means to have made democracy a real thing. Democracy is neither
government by rabble, nor government by caucus. Its measure as a
beneficent principle is the measure of the intelligence, honesty,
public spirit, and independence of the average voter. The voter who
goes to the poll blind of an eye and with a cast in the other, so that
he sees no issue clear, and every issue only in so far as it affects
him personally, is not precisely the sort of ultimate administrative
power we want. Intelligent, honest, public-spirited, and independent
voters guarantee an honest and intelligent governing body. The best men
the best government is a truism which cannot be refuted. Democracy to
be real and effective must succeed in throwing up into the positions
of administrative power the most trustworthy of its able citizens.
In other words it must incorporate and make use of the principle of
aristocracy; government by the best――_best in spirit_, not best-born.
Rightly seen, there is no tug between democracy and aristocracy;
aristocracy should be the means and machinery by which democracy works
itself out. What then can be done to increase in the average voter
intelligence and honesty, public spirit and independence? Nothing
save by education. The Arts, the Schools, the Press. It is impossible
to overestimate the need for vigour, breadth, restraint, good taste,
enlightenment, and honesty in these three agencies. The artist, the
teacher (and among teachers one includes, of course, religious
teachers in so far as they concern themselves with the affairs of this
world), and the journalist have the future in their hands. As they
are fine the future will be fine; as they are mean the future will be
mean. The burden is very specially on the shoulders of Public Men,
and that most powerful agency the Press, which reports them. Do we
realise the extent to which the modern world relies for its opinions on
public utterances and the Press? Do we realise how completely we are
all in the power of report? Any little lie or exaggerated sentiment
uttered by one with a bee in his bonnet, with a principle, or an end
to serve, can, if cleverly expressed and distributed, distort the
views of thousands, sometimes of millions. Any wilful suppression of
truth for Party or personal ends can so falsify our vision of things
as to plunge us into endless cruelties and follies. Honesty of thought
and speech and written word is a jewel, and they who curb prejudice
and seek honourably to know and speak the truth are the only true
builders of a better life. But what a dull world if we can’t chatter
and write irresponsibly, can’t slop over with hatred, or pursue our
own ends without scruple! To be tied to the apron-strings of truth, or
coiffed with the nightcap of silence; who in this age of cheap ink and
oratory will submit to such a fate? And yet, if we do not want another
seven million violent deaths, another eight million maimed and halt
and blind, and if we do not want anarchy, our tongues must be sober,
and we must tell the truth. Report, I would almost say, now rules the
world and holds the fate of man on the sayings of its many tongues.
If the good sense of mankind cannot somehow restrain utterance and
cleanse report, Democracy, so highly vaunted, will not save us; and
all the glib words of promise spoken might as well have lain unuttered
in the throats of orators. We are always in peril under Democracy of
taking the line of least resistance and immediate material profit.
The gentleman, for instance, whoever he was, who first discovered
that he could sell his papers better by undercutting the standard of
his rivals, and, appealing to the lower tastes of the Public under
the flag of that convenient expression “what the Public wants,” made
a most evil discovery. The Press is for the most part in the hands
of men who know what is good and right. It can be a great agency for
levelling up. But whether on the whole it is so or not, one continually
hears doubted. There ought to be no room for doubt in any of our minds
that the Press is on the side of the angels. It can do as much as
any other single agency to raise the level of honesty, intelligence,
public spirit, and taste in the average voter, in other words, to build
Democracy on a sure foundation. This is a truly tremendous trust; for
the safety of civilisation and the happiness of mankind hangs thereby.
The saying about little children and the kingdom of heaven was meant
for the ears of all those who have it in their power to influence
simple folk. To be a good and honest editor, a good and honest
journalist is in these days to be a veritable benefactor of mankind.

Now take the function of the artist, of the man who in stone, or music,
marble, bronze, paint, or words, can express himself, and his vision
of life, truly and beautifully. Can we set limit to his value? The
answer is in the affirmative. We set such limitation to his value that
he has been known to die of it. And I would only venture to say here
that if we don’t increase the store we set by him, we shall, in this
reach-me-down age of machines and wholesale standardisations, emulate
the Goths who did their best to destroy the art of Rome, and all these
centuries later, by way of atonement, have filled the Thiergarten at
Berlin and the City of London with peculiar brands of statuary, and are
always writing their names on the Sphynx.

I suppose the hardest lesson we all have to learn in life is that we
can’t have things both ways. If we want to have beauty, that which
appeals not merely to the stomach and the epidermis (which is the
function of the greater part of industrialism), but to what lies
deeper within the human organism, the heart and the brain, we must
have conditions which permit and even foster the production of beauty.
The artist, unfortunately, no less than the rest of mankind, must eat
to live. Now, if we insist that we will pay the artist only for what
fascinates the popular uneducated instincts, he will either produce
beauty, remain unpaid and starve; or he will give us shoddy, and fare
sumptuously every day. My experience tells me this: An artist who is by
accident of independent means can, if he has talent, give the Public
what he, the artist, wants, and sooner or later the public will take
whatever he gives it, at his own valuation. But very few artists, _who
have no independent means_, have enough character to hold out until
they can sit on the Public’s head and pull the Public’s beard, to use
the old Sikh saying. How many times have I not heard over here――and
it’s very much the same over there――that a man must produce this or
that kind of work or else of course he can’t live. My advice――at all
events to young artists and writers――is: ‘Sooner than do that and have
someone sitting on _your_ head and pulling your beard all the time,
go out of business――there are other means of making a living, besides
faked or degraded art. Become a dentist and revenge yourself on the
Public’s teeth――even editors and picture dealers go to the dentist!’
The artist has got to make a stand against being exploited, and he has
got, also, to live the kind of life which will give him a chance to
see clearly, to feel truly, and to express beautifully. He, too, is a
trustee for the future of mankind. Money has one inestimable value――it
guarantees independence, the power of going your own way and giving out
the best that’s in you. But, generally speaking, we don’t stop there in
our desire for money; and I would say that any artist who doesn’t stop
there is not ‘playing the game,’ neither towards himself nor towards
mankind; he is not standing up for the faith that is in him, and the
future of civilisation.

And now what of the teacher? One of the discouraging truths of life is
the fact that a man cannot raise himself from the ground by the hair
of his own head. And if one took Democracy logically, one would have
to give up the idea of improvement. But things are not always what
they seem, as somebody once said; and fortunately, government ‘of the
people by the people for the people’ does not in practice prevent the
people from using those saving graces――Commonsense and Selection. In
fact, only by the use of those graces will democracy work at all. When
twelve men get together to serve on a jury, their commonsense makes
them select the least stupid among them to be their foreman. Each of
them, of course, feels that he is that least stupid man, but since a
man cannot vote for himself, he votes for the least dense among his
neighbours, and the foreman comes to life. The same principle applied
thoroughly enough throughout the social system produces government by
the best. And it is more vital to apply it _thoroughly_ in matters
of education than in other branches of human activity. But when we
have secured our best heads of education, we must trust them and give
them real power, for they are the hope――well nigh the only hope――of
our future. They alone, by the selection and instruction of their
subordinates and the curricula which they lay down, can do anything
substantial in the way of raising the standard of general taste,
conduct, and learning. They alone can give the starting push towards
greater dignity and simplicity; promote the love of proportion, and
the feeling for beauty. They alone can gradually instil into the body
politic the understanding that education is not a means towards
wealth as such, or learning as such, but towards the broader ends of
health and happiness. The first necessity for improvement in modern
life is that our teachers should have the wide view, and be provided
with the means and the curricula which make it possible to apply this
enlightenment to their pupils. Can we take too much trouble to secure
the best men as heads of education――that most responsible of all
positions in the modern State? The child is father to the man. We think
too much of politics and too little of education. We treat it almost
as cavalierly as the undergraduate treated the Master of Balliol.
“Yes,” he said, showing his people round the quadrangle, “that’s the
Master’s window;” then, picking up a pebble, he threw it against the
window pane. “And that,” he said, as a face appeared, “is the Master!”
Democracy has come, and on education Democracy hangs; the thread as yet
is slender.

It is a far cry to the third new factor: Exploitation of the air. We
were warned, by Sir Hiram Maxim about 1910 that a year or so of war
would do more for the conquest of the air than many years of peace. It
has. We hear of a man flying 260 miles in 90 minutes; of the Atlantic
being flown in 24 hours; of airships which will have a lifting capacity
of 300 tons; of air mail-routes all over the world. The time will
perhaps come when we shall live in the air, and come down to earth on

I confess that, mechanically marvellous as all this is, it interests
me chiefly as a prime instance of the way human beings prefer the
shadow of existence to its substance. Granted that we speed up
everything, that we annihilate space, that we increase the powers of
trade, leave no point of the earth unsurveyed, and are able to perform
air-stunts which people will pay five dollars apiece to see――how shall
we have furthered human health, happiness, and virtue, speaking in
the big sense of these words? It is an advantage, of course, to be
able to carry food to a starving community in some desert; to rescue
shipwrecked mariners; to have a letter from one’s wife four days
sooner than one could otherwise; and generally to save time in the
swopping of our commodities and the journeys we make. But how does
all this help human beings to inner contentment of spirit, and health
of body? Did the arrival of motor-cars, bicycles, telephones, trains,
and steamships do much for them in that line? Anything which serves to
stretch human capabilities to the utmost, would help human happiness,
if each new mechanical activity, each new human toy as it were, did not
so run away with our sense of proportion as to debauch our energies.
A man, for instance, takes to motoring, who used to ride or walk; it
becomes a passion with him, so that he now never rides or walks――and
his calves become flabby and his liver enlarged. A man puts a telephone
into his house to save time and trouble, and is straightway a slave
to the tinkle of its bell. The few human activities in themselves and
of themselves pure good are just eating, drinking, sleeping, and the
affections――in moderation; the inhaling of pure air, exercise in most
of its forms, and interesting creative work――in moderation; the study
and contemplation of the arts and Nature――in moderation; thinking of
others and not thinking of yourself――in moderation; doing kind acts and
thinking kind thoughts. All the rest seems to be what the prophet had
in mind when he said: ‘Vanity, vanity, all is vanity!’ Ah! but the one
great activity――adventure and the craving for sensation! It is that
for which the human being really lives, and all his restless activity
is caused by the desire for it. True; yet adventure and sensation
without rhyme or reason lead to disharmony and disproportion. We may
take civilisation to the South Sea Islands, but it would be better
to leave the islanders naked and healthy than to improve them with
trousers and civilisation off the face of the earth. We may invent new
cocktails, but it would be better to stay dry. In mechanical matters I
am reactionary, for I cannot believe in inventions and machinery unless
they can be so controlled as to minister definitely to health and
happiness――and how difficult that is! In my own country the townsman
has become physically inferior to the countryman (speaking in the
large), and I infer from this that we British――at all events――are not
so in command of ourselves and our wonderful inventions and machines
that we are putting them to uses which are really beneficent. If we had
proper command of ourselves no doubt we could do this, but we haven’t;
and if you look about you in America, the same doubt may possibly
attack you.

But there is another side to the exploitation of the air which
does not as yet affect you in America as it does us in Europe――the
destructive side. Britain, for instance, is no longer an island. In
five or ten years it will, I think, be impossible to guarantee the
safety of Britain and Britain’s commerce, by sea-power; and those who
continue to pin faith to that formula will find themselves nearly as
much back-numbered as people who continued to prefer wooden ships to
iron, when the iron age came in. Armaments on land and sea will be
limited; not, I think, so much by a League of Nations, if it comes,
as by the commonsense of people who begin to observe that with the
development of the powers of destruction and of transport from the
air, land and sea armaments are becoming of little use. We may all
disarm completely, and yet――so long as there are flying-machines and
high explosives――remain almost as formidably destructive as ever.
So difficult to control, so infinite in its possibilities for evil
and so limited in its possibilities for good do I consider this
exploitation of the air that, personally, I would rejoice to see the
nations in solemn conclave agree this very minute to ban the use of
the air altogether, whether for trade, travel, or war; destroy every
flying-machine and every airship, and forbid their construction. That,
of course, is a consummation which will remain devoutly to be wished.
Every day one reads in one’s paper that some country or other is to
take the lead in the air. What a wild-goose chase we are in for! I
verily believe mankind will come one day in their underground dwellings
to the annual practice of burning in effigy the Guy (whoever he was)
who first rose off the earth. After I had talked in this strain once
before, a young airman came up to me and said: “Have you been up?” I
shook my head. “You wait!” he said. When I do go up I shall take great
pains not to go up with that one.

We come now to the fourth great new factor――Bolshevism, and the social
unrest. But I am shy of saying anything about it, for my knowledge
and experience are insufficient. I will only offer one observation.
Whatever philosophic cloak may be thrown over the shoulders of
Bolshevism, it is obviously――like every revolutionary movement of the
past――an aggregation of individual discontents, the sum of millions
of human moods of dissatisfaction with the existing state of things;
and whatever philosophic cloak we drape on the body of liberalism,
if by that name we may designate our present social and political
system――that system has clearly not yet justified its claim to the
word evolutionary, so long as the disproportion between the very rich
and the very poor continues (as hitherto it has) to grow. No system
can properly be called evolutionary which provokes against it the
rising of so formidable a revolutionary wave of discontent. One hears
that co-operation is now regarded as _vieux jeu_. If that be so, it
is because co-operation in its true sense of spontaneous friendliness
between man and man, has never been tried. Perhaps human nature in the
large can never rise to that ideal. But if it cannot, if industrialism
cannot achieve a change of heart, so that in effect employers would
rather their profits (beyond a quite moderate scale) were used for the
amelioration of the lot of those they employ, it looks to me uncommonly
like being the end of the present order of things, after an era of
class-struggle which will shake civilisation to its foundations. Being
myself an evolutionist, who fundamentally distrusts violence, and
admires the old Greek saying: “God is the helping of man by man,” I
yet hope it will not come to that; I yet believe we may succeed in
striking the balance, without civil wars. But I feel that (speaking
of Europe) it is touch and go. In America, in Canada, in Australia,
the conditions are different, the powers of expansion still large, the
individual hopefulness much greater. There is little analogy with the
state of things in Europe; but, whatever happens in Europe must have
its infectious influence in America. The wise man takes Time by the
forelock――and goes in front of events.

Let me turn away to the fifth great new factor: The impetus towards a
League of Nations.

This, to my thinking, so wholly advisable, would inspire more
hopefulness, if the condition of Europe was not so terribly confused,
and if the most salient characteristics of human nature were not
elasticity, bluntness of imagination, and shortness of memory. Those
of us who, while affirming the principle of the League, are afraid
of committing ourselves to what obviously cannot at the start be
a perfect piece of machinery, seem inclined to forget that if the
assembled Statesmen fail to _place in running order, now_, some
definite machinery for the consideration of international disputes,
the chance will certainly slip. We cannot reckon on more than a very
short time during which the horror of war will rule our thoughts and
actions. And during that short time it is essential that the League
should have had some tangible success in preventing war. Mankind puts
its faith in facts, not theories; in proven, and not in problematic,
success. One can imagine with what profound suspicion and contempt the
armed individualists of the Neolithic Age regarded the first organised
tribunal; with what surprise they found that it actually worked so well
that they felt justified in dropping their habit of taking the lives
and property of their neighbours first and thinking over it afterwards.
Not till the Tribunal of the League of Nations has had successes of
conciliation, visible to all, will the armed individualist nations of
to-day begin to rub their cynical and suspicious eyes, and to sprinkle
their armour with moth-powder. No one who, like myself, has recently
experienced the sensation of landing in America after having lived
in Europe throughout the war, can fail to realise the reluctance of
Americans to commit themselves, and the difficulty Americans have
in realising the need for doing so. But may I remind Americans that
during the first years of the war there was practically the same
general American reluctance to interfere in an old-world struggle;
and that in the end America found that it was not an old-world but
a world-struggle. It is entirely reasonable to dislike snatching
chestnuts out of the fire for other people, and to shun departure from
the letter of cherished tradition; but things do not stand still in
this world; storm centres shift; and live doctrine often becomes dead

The League of Nations is but an incorporation of the co-operative
principle in world affairs. We have seen to what the lack of that
principle leads both in international and national life. Americans seem
almost unanimously in favour of a League of Nations, so long as it is
sufficiently airy――perhaps one might say ‘hot-airy’; but when it comes
to earth, many of them fear the risk. I would only say that no great
change ever comes about in the lives of men unless they take risks; no
progress can be made. As to the other objection taken to the League,
not only by Americans――that it won’t work, well we shall never know
the rights of that unless we try it. The two chief factors in avoiding
war are Publicity and Delay. If there is some better plan for bringing
these two factors into play than the machinery of a League of Nations,
I have yet to learn of it. The League which, I think, will come in
spite of all our hesitations, may very likely make claims larger than
its real powers; and there is, of course, danger in that; but there
is also wisdom and advantage, for the success of the League must
depend enormously on how far it succeeds in riveting the imaginations
of mankind in its first years. The League should therefore make bold
claims. After all, there is solidity and truth in this notion of a
Society of Nations. The world is really growing towards it beneath
all surface rivalries. We must admit it to be in the line of natural
development, unless we turn our back on all analogy. Don’t then let
us be ashamed of it, as if it were a piece of unpractical idealism.
It is much more truly real than the state of things which has led to
the misery of these last four years. The soldiers who have fought and
suffered and known the horrors of war, desire it. The objections come
from those who have but watched them fight and suffer. Like every
other change in the life of mankind, and like every new development in
industry or art, the League needs faith. Let us have faith and give it
a good ‘send-off.’

I have left what I deem the greatest new factor till the
last――Anglo-American unity. Greater it is even than the impetus
towards a League of Nations, because without it the League of Nations
has surely not the chance of a lost dog.

I have been reading a Life of George Washington, which has filled me
with admiration of your stand against our Junkers of those days. And I
am familiar with the way we outraged the sentiment of both the North
and the South, in the days of your Civil War. No wonder your history
books were not precisely Anglophile, and that Americans grew up in a
traditional dislike of Great Britain! I am realist enough to know that
the past will not vanish like a ghost――just because we have fought side
by side in this war; and realist enough to recognise the other elements
which make for patches of hearty dislike between our peoples. But,
surveying the whole field, I believe there are links and influences
too strong for the disruptive forces; and I am sure that the first
duty of English and American citizens to-day is to be fair and open to
understanding about each other. If anyone will take down the map of the
world and study it, he will see at once how that world is ballasted by
the English-speaking countries; how, so long as they remain friends,
holding as they do the trade routes and the main material resources of
the world under their control, the world must needs sail on an even
keel. And if he will turn to the less visible chart of the world’s
mental qualities, he will find a certain reassuring identity of ideals
between the various English-speaking races, which form a sort of
guarantee of stable unity. Thirdly, in community of language we have a
factor promoting unity of ethics, potent as blood itself; for community
of language is ever unconsciously producing unity of traditions and
ideas. Americans and Britons, we are both, of course, very competitive
peoples, and I suppose consider our respective nations the chosen
people of the earth. That is a weakness which, though natural, is
extremely silly, and merely proves that we have not yet outgrown
provincialism. But competition is possible without reckless rivalry.
There was once a bootmaker who put over his shop: ‘Mens conscia
recti’ (‘A mind conscious of right’). He did quite well, till a rival
bootmaker came along, established himself opposite, and put over _his_
shop the words: ‘Men’s, Women’s, and Children’s conscia recti,’ and did
even better. The way nations try to cut each other’s commercial throats
is what makes the stars twinkle――that smile on the face of the heavens.
It has the even more ruinous effect of making bad blood in the veins of
the nations. Let us try playing the game of commerce like sportsmen,
and respect each other’s qualities and efforts. Sportsmanship has been
rather ridiculed of late, yet I dare make the assertion that she will
yet hold the field, both in your country and in mine; and if in our
countries――then in the world.

It is ignorance of each other, not knowledge, which has always made
us push each other off――the habit, you know, is almost endemic in
strangers, so that they do it even in their sleep. There were once two
travellers, a very large man and a very little man, strangers to each
other, whom fate condemned to share a bed at an inn. In his sleep the
big man stirred, and pushed the little man out on to the floor. The
little man got up in silence, climbed carefully over the big man who
was still asleep, got his back against the wall and his feet firmly
planted against the small of the big man’s back, gave a tremendous
revengeful push and――pushed the bed away from the wall and fell down
in between. Such is the unevenness of fate, and the result of taking
things too seriously. America and England must not push each other
out, even in their sleep, nor resent the unconscious shoves they give
each other, too violently. Since we have been comrades in this war we
have taken to speaking well of each other, even in public print. To
cease doing that now will show that we spoke nicely of each other only
because we were afraid of the consequences if we did not. Well, we both
have a sense of humour.

But not only self-preservation and the fear of ridicule guard our
friendship. We have, I hope, also the feeling that we stand, by
geographical and political accident, trustees for the health and
happiness of all mankind. The magnitude of this trust cannot be
exaggerated, and I would wish that every American and British boy and
girl could be brought up to reverence it――not to believe that they are
there to whip creation. We are here to _serve_ creation, that creation
may be ever better all over the earth, and life more humane, more just,
more free. The habit of being charitable to each other will grow if we
give it a little chance. If we English-speaking peoples bear with each
other’s foibles, help each other over the stiles we come on, and keep
the peace of the world, there is still hope that some day that world
may come to be God’s own.

Let us be just and tolerant; let us stand fast and stand together――for
light and liberty, for humanity and Peace!

                   *       *       *       *       *

 Transcriber’s Notes:

 ――Text in italics is enclosed by underscores (_italics_).

 ――Punctuation and spelling inaccuracies were silently corrected.

 ――Archaic and variable spelling has been preserved.

 ――Variations in hyphenation and compound words have been preserved.

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "Addresses in America, 1919" ***

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