Infomotions, Inc.Sir Thomas More, or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society / Southey, Robert, 1774-1843



Author: Southey, Robert, 1774-1843
Title: Sir Thomas More, or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society
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Title: Colloquies on Society

Author: Robert Southey

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COLLOQUIES ON SOCIETY.




INTRODUCTION.



It was in 1824 that Robert Southey, then fifty years old, published
"Sir Thomas More, or Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of
Society," a book in two octavo volumes with plates illustrating lake
scenery.  There were later editions of the book in 1829, and in
1831, and there was an edition in one volume in 1837, at the
beginning of the reign of Queen Victoria.

These dialogues with a meditative and patriotic ghost form separate
dissertations upon various questions that concern the progress of
society.  Omitting a few dissertations that have lost the interest
they had when the subjects they discussed were burning questions of
the time, this volume retains the whole machinery of Southey's book.
It gives unabridged the Colloquies that deal with the main
principles of social life as Southey saw them in his latter days;
and it includes, of course, the pleasant Colloquy that presents to
us Southey himself, happy in his library, descanting on the course
of time as illustrated by the bodies and the souls of books.  As
this volume does not reproduce all the Colloquies arranged by
Southey under the main title of "Sir Thomas More," it avoids use of
the main title, and ventures only to describe itself as "Colloquies
on Society, by Robert Southey."

They are of great interest, for they present to us the form and
character of the conservative reaction in a mind that was in youth
impatient for reform.  In Southey, as in Wordsworth, the reaction
followed on experience of failure in the way taken by the
revolutionists of France, with whose aims for the regeneration of
Europe they had been in warmest accord.  Neither Wordsworth nor
Southey ever lowered the ideal of a higher life for man on earth.
Southey retains it in these Colloquies, although he balances his own
hope with the questionings of the ghost, and if he does look for a
crowning race, regards it, with Tennyson, as a


"FAR OFF divine event
To which the whole Creation moves."


The conviction brought to men like Wordsworth and Southey by the
failure of the French Revolution to attain its aim in the sudden
elevation of society was not of vanity in the aim, but of vanity in
any hope of its immediate attainment by main force.  Southey makes
More say to himself upon this question (page 37), "I admit that such
an improved condition of society as you contemplate is possible, and
that it ought always to be kept in view; but the error of supposing
it too near, of fancying that there is a short road to it, is, of
all the errors of these times, the most pernicious, because it
seduces the young and generous, and betrays them imperceptibly into
an alliance with whatever is flagitious and detestable."  All strong
reaction of mind tends towards excess in the opposite direction.
Southey's detestation of the excesses of vile men that brought shame
upon a revolutionary movement to which some of the purest hopes of
earnest youth had given impulse, drove him, as it drove Wordsworth,
into dread of everything that sought with passionate energy
immediate change of evil into good.  But in his own way no man ever
strove more patiently than Southey to make evil good; and in his own
home and his own life he gave good reason to one to whom he was as a
father, and who knew his daily thoughts and deeds, to speak of him
as "upon the whole the best man I have ever known."

In the days when this book was written, Southey lived at Greta Hall,
by Keswick, and had gathered a large library about him.  He was Poet
Laureate.  He had a pension from the Civil List, worth less than 200
pounds a year, and he was living at peace upon a little income
enlarged by his yearly earnings as a writer.  In 1818 his whole
private fortune was 400 pounds in consols.  In 1821 he had added to
that some savings, and gave all to a ruined friend who had been good
to him in former years.  Yet in those days he refused an offer of
2,000 pounds a year to come to London and write for the Times.  He
was happiest in his home by Skiddaw, with his books about him and
his wife about him.

Ten years after the publishing of these Colloquies, Southey's wife,
who had been, as Southey said, "for forty years the life of his
life," had to be placed in a lunatic asylum.  She returned to him to
die, and then his gentleness became still gentler as his own mind
failed.  He died in 1843.  Three years before his death his friend
Wordsworth visited him at Keswick, and was not recognised.  But when
Southey was told who it was, "then," Wordsworth wrote, "his eyes
flashed for a moment with their former brightness, but he sank into
the state in which I had found him, patting with both his hands his
books affectionately, like a child."

Sir Thomas More, whose ghost communicates with Robert Southey, was
born in 1478, and at the age of fifty-seven was beheaded for
fidelity to conscience, on the 6th of July, 1535.  He was, like
Southey, a man of purest character, and in 1516, when his age was
thirty-eight, there was published at Louvain his "Utopia," which
sketched wittily an ideal commonwealth that was based on practical
and earnest thought upon what constitutes a state, and in what
direction to look for amendment of ills.  More also withdrew from
his most advanced post of opinion.  When he wrote "Utopia" he
advocated absolute freedom of opinion in matters of religion; in
after years he believed it necessary to enforce conformity.  King
Henry VIII., stiff in his own opinions, had always believed that;
and because More would not say that he was of one mind with him in
the matter of the divorce of Katherine he sent him to the scaffold.

H. M.



COLLOQUY I.--THE INTRODUCTION.



"Posso aver certezza, e non paura,
Che raccontando quel che m' e accaduto,
Il ver diro, ne mi sara creduto."
"Orlando Innamorato," c. 5. st. 53.

It was during that melancholy November when the death of the
Princess Charlotte had diffused throughout Great Britain a more
general sorrow than had ever before been known in these kingdoms; I
was sitting alone at evening in my library, and my thoughts had
wandered from the book before me to the circumstances which made
this national calamity be felt almost like a private affliction.
While I was thus musing the post-woman arrived.  My letters told me
there was nothing exaggerated in the public accounts of the
impression which this sudden loss had produced; that wherever you
went you found the women of the family weeping, and that men could
scarcely speak of the event without tears; that in all the better
parts of the metropolis there was a sort of palsied feeling which
seemed to affect the whole current of active life; and that for
several days there prevailed in the streets a stillness like that of
the Sabbath, but without its repose.  I opened the newspaper; it was
still bordered with broad mourning lines, and was filled with
details concerning the deceased Princess.  Her coffin and the
ceremonies at her funeral were described as minutely as the order of
her nuptials and her bridal dress had been, in the same journal,
scarce eighteen months before.  "Man," says Sir Thomas Brown, "is a
noble animal, splendid in ashes, and pompous in the grave;
solemnising nativities and deaths with equal lustre, nor omitting
ceremonies of bravery in the infamy of his nature."  These things
led me in spirit to the vault, and I thought of the memorable dead
among whom her mortal remains were now deposited.  Possessed with
such imaginations I leaned back upon the sofa and closed my eyes.

Ere long I was awakened from that conscious state of slumber in
which the stream of fancy floweth as it listeth by the entrance of
an elderly personage of grave and dignified appearance.  His
countenance and manner were remarkably benign, and announced a high
degree of intellectual rank, and he accosted me in a voice of
uncommon sweetness, saying, "Montesinos, a stranger from a distant
country may intrude upon you without those credentials which in
other cases you have a right to require."  "From America!" I
replied, rising to salute him.  Some of the most gratifying visits
which I have ever received have been from that part of the world.
It gives me indeed more pleasure than I can express to welcome such
travellers as have sometimes found their way from New England to
those lakes and mountains; men who have not forgotten what they owe
to their ancient mother; whose principles, and talents, and
attainments would render them an ornament to any country, and might
almost lead me to hope that their republican constitution may be
more permanent than all other considerations would induce me either
to suppose or wish.

"You judge of me," he made answer, "by my speech.  I am, however,
English by birth, and come now from a more distant country than
America, wherein I have long been naturalised."  Without explaining
himself further, or allowing me time to make the inquiry which would
naturally have followed, he asked me if I were not thinking of the
Princess Charlotte when he disturbed me.  "That," said I, "may
easily be divined.  All persons whose hearts are not filled with
their own grief are thinking of her at this time.  It had just
occurred to me that on two former occasions when the heir apparent
of England was cut off in the prime of life the nation was on the
eve of a religious revolution in the first instance, and of a
political one in the second."

"Prince Arthur and Prince Henry," he replied.  "Do you notice this
as ominous, or merely as remarkable?"

"Merely as remarkable," was my answer.  "Yet there are certain moods
of mind in which we can scarcely help ascribing an ominous
importance to any remarkable coincidence wherein things of moment
are concerned."

"Are you superstitious?" said he.  "Understand me as using the word
for want of a more appropriate one--not in its ordinary and
contemptuous acceptation."

I smiled at the question, and replied, "Many persons would apply the
epithet to me without qualifying it.  This, you know, is the age of
reason, and during the last hundred and fifty years men have been
reasoning themselves out of everything that they ought to believe
and feel.  Among a certain miserable class, who are more numerous
than is commonly supposed, he who believes in a First Cause and a
future state is regarded with contempt as a superstitionist.  The
religious naturalist in his turn despises the feebler mind of the
Socinian; and the Socinian looks with astonishment or pity at the
weakness of those who, having by conscientious inquiry satisfied
themselves of the authenticity of the Scriptures, are contented to
believe what is written, and acknowledge humility to be the
foundation of wisdom as well as of virtue.  But for myself, many, if
not most of those even who agree with me in all essential points,
would be inclined to think me superstitious, because I am not
ashamed to avow my persuasion that there are more things in heaven
and earth than are dreamt of in their philosophy."

"You believe, then, in apparitions," said my visitor.

Montesinos.--Even so, sir.  That such things should be is probable a
priori; and I cannot refuse assent to the strong evidence that such
things are, nor to the common consent which has prevailed among all
people, everywhere, in all ages a belief indeed which is truly
catholic, in the widest acceptation of the word.  I am, by inquiry
and conviction, as well as by inclination and feeling, a Christian;
life would be intolerable to me if I were not so.  "But," says Saint
Evremont, "the most devout cannot always command their belief, nor
the most impious their incredulity."  I acknowledge with Sir Thomas
Brown that, "as in philosophy, so in divinity, there are sturdy
doubts and boisterous objections, wherewith the unhappiness of our
knowledge too nearly acquainteth us;" and I confess with him that
these are to be conquered, "not in a martial posture, but on our
knees."  If then there are moments wherein I, who have satisfied my
reason, and possess a firm and assured faith, feel that I have in
this opinion a strong hold, I cannot but perceive that they who have
endeavoured to dispossess the people of their old instinctive belief
in such things have done little service to individuals and much
injury to the community.

Stranger.--Do you extend this to a belief in witchcraft?

Montesinos.--The common stories of witchcraft confute themselves, as
may be seen in all the trials for that offence.  Upon this subject I
would say with my old friend Charles Lamb -


"I do not love to credit tales of magic!
Heaven's music, which is order, seems unstrung.
And this brave world
(The mystery of God) unbeautified,
Disordered, marred, where such strange things are acted."


The only inference which can be drawn from the confession of some of
the poor wretches who have suffered upon such charges is, that they
had attempted to commit the crime, and thereby incurred the guilt
and deserved the punishment.  Of this indeed there have been recent
instances; and in one atrocious case the criminal escaped because
the statute against the imaginary offence is obsolete, and there
exists no law which could reach the real one.

Stranger.--He who may wish to show with what absurd perversion the
forms and technicalities of law are applied to obstruct the purposes
of justice, which they were designed to further, may find excellent
examples in England.  But leaving this allow me to ask whether you
think all the stories which are related of an intercourse between
men and beings of a superior order, good or evil, are to be
disbelieved like the vulgar tales of witchcraft

Montesinos.--If you happen, sir, to have read some of those ballads
which I threw off in the high spirits of youth you may judge what my
opinion then was of the grotesque demonology of the monks and middle
ages by the use there made of it.  But in the scale of existences
there may be as many orders above us as below.  We know there are
creatures so minute that without the aid of our glasses they could
never have been discovered; and this fact, if it were not notorious
as well as certain, would appear not less incredible to sceptical
minds than that there should be beings which are invisible to us
because of their subtlety.  That there are such I am as little able
to doubt as I am to affirm anything concerning them; but if there
are such, why not evil spirits, as well as wicked men?  Many
travellers who have been conversant with savages have been fully
persuaded that their jugglers actually possessed some means of
communication with the invisible world, and exercised a supernatural
power which they derived from it.  And not missionaries only have
believed this, and old travellers who lived in ages of credulity,
but more recent observers, such as Carver and Bruce, whose testimony
is of great weight, and who were neither ignorant, nor weak, nor
credulous men.  What I have read concerning ordeals also staggers
me; and I am sometimes inclined to think it more possible that when
there has been full faith on all sides these appeals to divine
justice may have been answered by Him who sees the secrets of all
hearts than that modes of trial should have prevailed so long and so
generally, from some of which no person could ever have escaped
without an interposition of Providence.  Thus it has appeared to me
in my calm and unbiassed judgment.  Yet I confess I should want
faith to make the trial.  May it not be, that by such means in dark
ages, and among blind nations, the purpose is effected of preserving
conscience and the belief of our immortality, without which the life
of our life would be extinct?  And with regard to the conjurers of
the African and American savages, would it be unreasonable to
suppose that, as the most elevated devotion brings us into
fellowship with the Holy Spirit, a correspondent degree of
wickedness may effect a communion with evil intelligences?  These
are mere speculations which I advance for as little as they are
worth.  My serious belief amounts to this, that preternatural
impressions are sometimes communicated to us for wise purposes:  and
that departed spirits are sometimes permitted to manifest
themselves.

Stranger.--If a ghost, then, were disposed to pay you a visit, you
would be in a proper state of mind for receiving such a visitor?

Montesinos.--I should not credit my senses lightly; neither should I
obstinately distrust them, after I had put the reality of the
appearance to the proof, as far as that were possible.

Stranger.--Should you like to have an opportunity afforded you?

Montesinos.--Heaven forbid!  I have suffered so much in dreams from
conversing with those whom even in sleep I knew to be departed, that
an actual presence might perhaps be more than I could bear.

Stranger.--But if it were the spirit of one with whom you had no
near ties of relationship or love, how then would it affect you?

Montesinos.--That would of course be according to the circumstances
on both sides.  But I entreat you not to imagine that I am any way
desirous of enduring the experiment.

Stranger.--Suppose, for example, he were to present himself as I
have done; the purport of his coming friendly; the place and
opportunity suiting, as at present; the time also considerately
chosen--after dinner; and the spirit not more abrupt in his
appearance nor more formidable in aspect than the being who now
addresses you?

Montesinos.--Why, sir, to so substantial a ghost, and of such
respectable appearance, I might, perhaps, have courage enough to say
with Hamlet,


"Thou com'st in such a questionable shape,
That I will speak to thee!"


Stranger.--Then, sir, let me introduce myself in that character, now
that our conversation has conducted us so happily to the point.  I
told you truly that I was English by birth, but that I came from a
more distant country than America, and had long been naturalised
there.  The country whence I come is not the New World, but the
other one:  and I now declare myself in sober earnest to be a ghost.

Montesinos.--A ghost!

Stranger.--A veritable ghost, and an honest one, who went out of the
world with so good a character that he will hardly escape
canonisation if ever you get a Roman Catholic king upon the throne.
And now what test do you require?

Montesinos.--I can detect no smell of brimstone; and the candle
burns as it did before, without the slightest tinge of blue in its
flame.  You look, indeed, like a spirit of health, and I might be
disposed to give entire belief to that countenance, if it were not
for the tongue that belongs to it.  But you are a queer spirit,
whether good or evil!

Stranger.--The headsman thought so, when he made a ghost of me
almost three hundred years ago.  I had a character through life of
loving a jest, and did not belie it at the last.  But I had also as
general a reputation for sincerity, and of that also conclusive
proof was given at the same time.  In serious truth, then, I am a
disembodied spirit, and the form in which I now manifest myself is
subject to none of the accidents of matter.  You are still
incredulous!  Feel, then, and be convinced!

My incomprehensible guest extended his hand toward me as he spoke.
I held forth mine to accept it, not, indeed, believing him, and yet
not altogether without some apprehensive emotion, as if I were about
to receive an electrical shock.  The effect was more startling than
electricity would have produced.  His hand had neither weight nor
substance; my fingers, when they would have closed upon it, found
nothing that they could grasp:  it was intangible, though it had all
the reality of form.

"In the name of God," I exclaimed, "who are you, and wherefore are
you come?"

"Be not alarmed," he replied.  "Your reason, which has shown you the
possibility of such an appearance as you now witness, must have
convinced you also that it would never be permitted for an evil end.
Examine my features well, and see if you do not recognise them.
Hans Holbein was excellent at a likeness."

I had now for the first time in my life a distinct sense of that
sort of porcupinish motion over the whole scalp which is so
frequently described by the Latin poets.  It was considerably
allayed by the benignity of his countenance and the manner of his
speech, and after looking him steadily in the face I ventured to
say, for the likeness had previously struck me, "Is it Sir Thomas
More?"

"The same," he made answer, and lifting up his chin, displayed a
circle round the neck brighter in colour than the ruby.  "The marks
of martyrdom," he continued, "are our insignia of honour.  Fisher
and I have the purple collar, as Friar Forrest and Cranmer have the
robe of fire."

A mingled feeling of fear and veneration kept me silent, till I
perceived by his look that he expected and encouraged me to speak;
and collecting my spirits as well as I could, I asked him wherefore
he had thought proper to appear, and why to me rather than to any
other person?

He replied, "We reap as we have sown.  Men bear with them from this
world into the intermediate state their habits of mind and stores of
knowledge, their dispositions and affections and desires; and these
become a part of our punishment, or of our reward, according to
their kind.  Those persons, therefore, in whom the virtue of
patriotism has predominated continue to regard with interest their
native land, unless it be so utterly sunk in degradation that the
moral relationship between them is dissolved.  Epaminondas can have
no sympathy at this time with Thebes, nor Cicero with Rome, nor
Belisarius with the imperial city of the East.  But the worthies of
England retain their affection for their noble country, behold its
advancement with joy, and when serious danger appears to threaten
the goodly structure of its institutions they feel as much anxiety
as is compatible with their state of beatitude.

Montesinos.--What, then, may doubt and anxiety consist with the
happiness of heaven?

Sir Thomas More.--Heaven and hell may be said to begin on your side
the grave.  In the intermediate state conscience anticipates with
unerring certainty the result of judgment.  We, therefore, who have
done well can have no fear for ourselves.  But inasmuch as the world
has any hold upon our affections we are liable to that anxiety which
is inseparable from terrestrial hopes.  And as parents who are in
bliss regard still with parental love the children whom they have
left on earth, we, in like manner, though with a feeling different
in kind and inferior in degree, look with apprehension upon the
perils of our country.


      "sub pectore forti
Vivit adhuc patriae pietas; stimulatque sepultum
Libertatis amor:  pondus mortale necari
Si potuit, veteres animo post funera vires
Mansere, et prisci vivit non immemor aevi."


They are the words of old Mantuan.

Montesinos.--I am to understand, then, that you cannot see into the
ways of futurity?

Sir Thomas More.--Enlarged as our faculties are, you must not
suppose that we partake of prescience.  For human actions are free,
and we exist in time.  The future is to us therefore as uncertain as
to you; except only that having a clearer and more comprehensive
knowledge of the past, we are enabled to reason better from causes
to consequences, and by what has been to judge of what is likely to
be.  We have this advantage also, that we are divested of all those
passions which cloud the intellects and warp the understandings of
men.  You are thinking, I perceive, how much you have to learn, and
what you should first inquire of me.  But expect no revelations!
Enough was revealed when man was assured of judgment after death,
and the means of salvation were afforded him.  I neither come to
discover secret things nor hidden treasures; but to discourse with
you concerning these portentous and monster-breeding times; for it
is your lot, as it was mine, to live during one of the grand
climacterics of the world.  And I come to you, rather than to any
other person, because you have been led to meditate upon the
corresponding changes whereby your age and mine are distinguished;
and because, notwithstanding many discrepancies and some dispathies
between us (speaking of myself as I was, and as you know me), there
are certain points of sympathy and resemblance which bring us into
contact, and enable us at once to understand each other.

Montesinos.--Et in Utopia ego.

Sir Thomas More.--You apprehend me.  We have both speculated in the
joys and freedom of our youth upon the possible improvement of
society; and both in like manner have lived to dread with reason the
effects of that restless spirit which, like the Titaness Mutability
described by your immortal master, insults heaven and disturbs the
earth.  By comparing the great operating causes in the age of the
Reformation, and in this age of revolutions, going back to the
former age, looking at things as I then beheld them, perceiving
wherein I judged rightly, and wherein I erred, and tracing the
progress of those causes which are now developing their whole
tremendous power, you will derive instruction, which you are a fit
person to receive and communicate; for without being solicitous
concerning present effect, you are contented to cast your bread upon
the waters.  You are now acquainted with me and my intention.  To-
morrow you will see me again; and I shall continue to visit you
occasionally as opportunity may serve.  Meantime say nothing of what
has passed--not even to your wife.  She might not like the thoughts
of a ghostly visitor:  and the reputation of conversing with the
dead might be almost as inconvenient as that of dealing with the
devil.  For the present, then, farewell!  I will never startle you
with too sudden an apparition; but you may learn to behold my
disappearance without alarm.

I was not able to behold it without emotion, although he had thus
prepared me; for the sentence was no sooner completed than he was
gone.  Instead of rising from the chair he vanished from it.  I know
not to what the instantaneous disappearance can be likened.  Not to
the dissolution of a rainbow, because the colours of the rainbow
fade gradually till they are lost; not to the flash of cannon, or to
lightning, for these things are gone as so on as they are come, and
it is known that the instant of their appearance must be that of
their departure; not to a bubble upon the water, for you see it
burst; not to the sudden extinction of a light, for that is either
succeeded by darkness or leaves a different hue upon the surrounding
objects.  In the same indivisible point of time when I beheld the
distinct, individual, and, to all sense of sight, substantial form--
the living, moving, reasonable image--in that self-same instant it
was gone, as if exemplifying the difference between to BE and NOT to
BE.  It was no dream, of this I was well assured; realities are
never mistaken for dreams, though dreams may be mistaken for
realities.  Moreover I had long been accustomed in sleep to question
my perceptions with a wakeful faculty of reason, and to detect their
fallacy.  But, as well may be supposed, my thoughts that night,
sleeping as well as waking, were filled with this extraordinary
interview; and when I arose the next morning it was not till I had
called to mind every circumstance of time and place that I was
convinced the apparition was real, and that I might again expect it.



COLLOQUY II.--THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE WORLD.



On the following evening when my spiritual visitor entered the room,
that volume of Dr. Wordsworth's ecclesiastical biography which
contains his life was lying on the table beside me.  "I perceive,"
said he, glancing at the book, "you have been gathering all you can
concerning me from my good gossiping chronicler, who tells you that
I loved milk and fruit and eggs, preferred beef to young meats, and
brown bread to white; was fond of seeing strange birds and beasts,
and kept an ape, a fox, a weasel, and a ferret."

"I am not one of those fastidious readers," I replied, "who quarrel
with a writer for telling them too much.  But these things were
worth telling:  they show that you retained a youthful palate as
well as a youthful heart; and I like you the better both for your
diet and your menagerie.  The old biographer, indeed, with the best
intentions, has been far from understanding the character which he
desired to honour.  He seems, however, to have been a faithful
reporter, and has done as well as his capacity permitted.  I observe
that he gives you credit for 'a deep foresight and judgment of the
times,' and for speaking in a prophetic spirit of the evils, which
soon afterwards were 'full heavily felt.'"

"There could be little need for a spirit of prophecy," Sir Thomas
made answer, to "foresee troubles which were the sure effect of the
causes then in operation, and which were actually close at hand.
When the rain is gathering from the south or west, and those flowers
and herbs which serve as natural hygrometers close their leaves, men
have no occasion to consult the stars for what the clouds and the
earth are telling them.  You were thinking of Prince Arthur when I
introduced myself yesterday, as if musing upon the great events
which seem to have received their bias from the apparent accident of
his premature death."

Montesinos.--I had fallen into one of those idle reveries in which
we speculate upon what might have been.  Lord Bacon describes him as
"very studious, and learned beyond his years, and beyond the custom
of great princes."  As this indicates a calm and thoughtful mind, it
seems to show that he inherited the Tudor character.  His brother
took after the Plantagenets; but it was not of their nobler
qualities that he partook.  He had the popular manners of his
grandfather, Edward IV., and, like him, was lustful, cruel, and
unfeeling.

Sir Thomas More.--The blood of the Plantagenets, as your friends the
Spaniards would say, was a strong blood.  That temper of mind which
(in some of his predecessors) thought so little of fratricide might
perhaps have involved him in the guilt of a parricidal war, if his
father had not been fortunate enough to escape such an affliction by
a timely death.  We might otherwise be allowed to wish that the life
of Henry VII. had been prolonged to a good old age.  For if ever
there was a prince who could so have directed the Reformation as to
have averted the evils wherewith that tremendous event was
accompanied, and yet to have secured its advantages, he was the man.
Cool, wary, far-sighted, rapacious, politic, and religious, or
superstitious if you will (for his religion had its root rather in
fear than in hope), he was peculiarly adapted for such a crisis both
by his good and evil qualities.  For the sake of increasing his
treasures and his power, he would have promoted the Reformation; but
his cautious temper, his sagacity, and his fear of Divine justice
would have taught him where to stop.

Montesinos.--A generation of politic sovereigns succeeded to the
race of warlike ones, just in that age of society when policy became
of more importance in their station than military talents.
Ferdinand of Spain, Joam II. whom the Portuguese called the perfect
prince, Louis XI. and Henry VII. were all of this class.  Their
individual characters were sufficiently distinct; but the
circumstances of their situation stamped them with a marked
resemblance, and they were of a metal to take and retain the strong,
sharp impress of the age.

Sir Thomas More.--The age required such characters; and it is worthy
of notice how surely in the order of providence such men as are
wanted are raised up.  One generation of these princes sufficed.  In
Spain, indeed, there was an exception; for Ferdinand had two
successors who pursued the same course of conduct.  In the other
kingdoms the character ceased with the necessity for it.  Crimes
enough were committed by succeeding sovereigns, but they were no
longer the acts of systematic and reflecting policy.  This, too, is
worthy of remark, that the sovereigns whom you have named, and who
scrupled at no means for securing themselves on the throne, for
enlarging their dominions and consolidating their power, were each
severally made to feel the vanity of human ambition, being punished
either in or by the children who were to reap the advantage of their
crimes.  "Verily there is a God that judgeth the earth!"

Montesinos.--An excellent friend of mine, one of the wisest, best,
and happiest men whom I have ever known, delights in this manner to
trace the moral order of Providence through the revolutions of the
world; and in his historical writings keeps it in view as the pole-
star of his course.  I wish he were present, that he might have the
satisfaction of hearing his favourite opinion confirmed by one from
the dead.

Sir Thomas More.--His opinion requires no other confirmation than
what he finds for it in observation and Scripture, and in his own
calm judgment.  I should differ little from that friend of yours
concerning the past; but his hopes for the future appear to me like
early buds which are in danger of March winds.  He believes the
world to be in a rapid state of sure improvement; and in the ferment
which exists everywhere he beholds only a purifying process; not
considering that there is an acetous as well as a vinous
fermentation; and that in the one case the liquor may be spilt, in
the other it must be spoilt.

Montesinos.--Surely you would not rob us of our hopes for the human
race!  If I apprehended that your discourse tended to this end I
should suspect you, notwithstanding your appearance, and be ready to
exclaim, "Avaunt, tempter!"  For there is no opinion from which I
should so hardly be driven, and so reluctantly part, as the belief
that the world will continue to improve, even as it has hitherto
continually been improving; and that the progress of knowledge and
the diffusion of Christianity will bring about at last, when men
become Christians in reality as well as in name, something like that
Utopian state of which philosophers have loved to dream--like that
millennium in which saints as well as enthusiasts have trusted.

Sir Thomas More.--Do you hold that this consummation must of
necessity come to pass; or that it depends in any degree upon the
course of events--that is to say, upon human actions?  The former of
these propositions you would be as unwilling to admit as your friend
Wesley, or the old Welshman Pelagius himself.  The latter leaves you
little other foundation for your opinion than a desire, which, from
its very benevolence, is the more likely to be delusive.  You are in
a dilemma.

Montesinos.--Not so, Sir Thomas.  Impossible as it may be for us to
reconcile the free will of man with the foreknowledge of God, I
nevertheless believe in both with the most full conviction.  When
the human mind plunges into time and space in its speculations, it
adventures beyond its sphere; no wonder, therefore, that its powers
fail, and it is lost.  But that my will is free, I know feelingly:
it is proved to me by my conscience.  And that God provideth all
things I know by His own Word, and by that instinct which He hath
implanted in me to assure me of His being.  My answer to your
question, then, is this:  I believe that the happy consummation
which I desire is appointed, and must come to pass; but that when it
is to come depends upon the obedience of man to the will of God,
that is, upon human actions.

Sir Thomas More.--You hold then that the human race will one day
attain the utmost degree of general virtue, and thereby general
happiness, of which humanity is capable.  Upon what do you found
this belief?

Montesinos.--The opinion is stated more broadly than I should choose
to advance it.  But this is ever the manner of argumentative
discourse:  the opponent endeavours to draw from you conclusions
which you are not prepared to defend, and which perhaps you have
never before acknowledged even to yourself.  I will put the
proposition in a less disputable form.  A happier condition of
society is possible than that in which any nation is existing at
this time, or has at any time existed.  The sum both of moral and
physical evil may be greatly diminished both by good laws, good
institutions, and good governments.  Moral evil cannot indeed be
removed, unless the nature of man were changed; and that renovation
is only to be effected in individuals, and in them only by the
special grace of God.  Physical evil must always, to a certain
degree, be inseparable from mortality.  But both are so much within
the reach of human institutions that a state of society is
conceivable almost as superior to that of England in these days, as
that itself is superior to the condition of the tattooed Britons, or
of the northern pirates from whom we are descended.  Surely this
belief rests upon a reasonable foundation, and is supported by that
general improvement (always going on if it be regarded upon the
great scale) to which all history bears witness.

Sir Thomas More.--I dispute not this:  but to render it a reasonable
ground of immediate hope, the predominance of good principles must
be supposed.  Do you believe that good or evil principles
predominate at this time?

Montesinos.--If I were to judge by that expression of popular
opinion which the press pretends to convey, I should reply without
hesitation that never in any other known age of the world have such
pernicious principles been so prevalent


"Qua terra patet, fera regnat Erinnys;
In facinus jurasse putes."


Sir Thomas More.--Is there not a danger that these principles may
bear down everything before them? and is not that danger obvious,
palpable, imminent?  Is there a considerate man who can look at the
signs of the times without apprehension, or a scoundrel connected
with what is called the public press, who does not speculate upon
them, and join with the anarchists as the strongest party?  Deceive
not yourself by the fallacious notion that truth is mightier than
falsehood, and that good must prevail over evil!  Good principles
enable men to suffer, rather than to act.  Think how the dog, fond
and faithful creature as he is, from being the most docile and
obedient of all animals, is made the most dangerous, if he becomes
mad; so men acquire a frightful and not less monstrous power when
they are in a state of moral insanity, and break loose from their
social and religious obligations.  Remember too how rapidly the
plague of diseased opinions is communicated, and that if it once
gain head, it is as difficult to be stopped as a conflagration or a
flood.  The prevailing opinions of this age go to the destruction of
everything which has hitherto been held sacred.  They tend to arm
the poor against the rich; the many against the few:  worse than
this, for it will also be a war of hope and enterprise against
timidity, of youth against age.

Montesinos.--Sir Ghost, you are almost as dreadful an alarmist as
our Cumberland cow, who is believed to have lately uttered this
prophecy, delivering it with oracular propriety in verse:


"Two winters, a wet spring,
A bloody summer, and no king."


Sir Thomas More.--That prophecy speaks the wishes of the man,
whoever he may have been, by whom it was invented:  and you who talk
of the progress of knowledge, and the improvement of society, and
upon that improvement build your hope of its progressive
melioration, you know that even so gross and palpable an imposture
as this is swallowed by many of the vulgar, and contributes in its
sphere to the mischief which it was designed to promote.  I admit
that such an improved condition of society as you contemplate is
possible, and hath ought always to be kept in view:  but the error
of supposing it too near, of fancying that there is a short road to
it, is, of all the errors of these times, the most pernicious,
because it seduces the young and generous, and betrays them
imperceptibly into an alliance with whatever is flagitious and
detestable.  The fact is undeniable that the worst principles in
religion, in morals, and in politics, are at this time more
prevalent than they ever were known to be in any former age.  You
need not be told in what manner revolutions in opinion bring about
the fate of empires; and upon this ground you ought to regard the
state of the world, both at home and abroad, with fear, rather than
with hope.

Montesinos.--When I have followed such speculations as may allowably
be indulged, respecting what is hidden in the darkness of time and
of eternity, I have sometimes thought that the moral and physical
order of the world may be so appointed as to coincide; and that the
revolutions of this planet may correspond with the condition of its
inhabitants; so that the convulsions and changes whereto it is
destined should occur, when the existing race of men had either
become so corrupt as to be unworthy of the place which they hold in
the universe, or were so truly regenerate by the will and word of
God, as to be qualified for a higher station in it.  Our globe may
have gone through many such revolutions.  We know the history of the
last; the measure of its wickedness was then filled up.  For the
future we are taught to expect a happier consummation.

Sir Thomas More.--It is important that you should distinctly
understand the nature and extent of your expectations on that head.
Is it upon the Apocalypse that you rest them?

Montesinos.--If you had not forbidden me to expect from this
intercourse any communication which might come with the authority of
revealed knowledge, I should ask in reply, whether that dark book is
indeed to be received for authentic Scripture?  My hopes are derived
from the prophets and the evangelists.  Believing in them with a
calm and settled faith, with that consent of the will and heart and
understanding which constitutes religious belief, and in them the
clear annunciation of that kingdom of God upon earth, for the coming
of which Christ himself has taught and commanded us to pray.

Sir Thomas More.--Remember that the Evangelists, in predicting that
kingdom, announce a dreadful advent!  And that, according to the
received opinion of the Church, wars, persecutions, and calamities
of every kind, the triumph of evil, and the coming of Antichrist are
to be looked for, before the promises made by the prophets shall be
fulfilled.  Consider this also, that the speedy fulfilment of those
promises has been the ruling fancy of the most dangerous of all
madmen, from John of Leyden and his frantic followers, down to the
saints of Cromwell's army, Venner and his Fifth-Monarchy men, the
fanatics of the Cevennes, and the blockheads of your own days, who
beheld with complacency the crimes of the French Revolutionists, and
the progress of Bonaparte towards the subjugation of Europe, as
events tending to bring about the prophecies; and, under the same
besotted persuasion, are ready at this time to co-operate with the
miscreants who trade in blasphemy and treason!  But you who neither
seek to deceive others nor yourself, you who are neither insane nor
insincere, you surely do not expect that the millennium is to be
brought about by the triumph of what are called liberal opinions;
nor by enabling the whole of the lower classes to read the
incentives to vice, impiety, and rebellion which are prepared for
them by an unlicensed press; nor by Sunday schools, and religious
tract societies; nor by the portentous bibliolatry of the age!  And
if you adhere to the letter of the Scriptures, methinks the thought
of that consummation for which you look, might serve rather for
consolation under the prospect of impending evils, than for a hope
upon which the mind can rest in security with a calm and contented
delight.

Montesinos.--To this I must reply, that the fulfilment of those
calamitous events predicted in the Gospels may safely be referred,
as it usually is, and by the best Biblical scholars, to the
destruction of Jerusalem.  Concerning the visions of the Apocalypse,
sublime as they are, I speak with less hesitation, and dismiss them
from my thoughts, as more congenial to the fanatics of whom you have
spoken than to me.  And for the coming of Antichrist, it is no
longer a received opinion in these days, whatever it may have been
in yours.  Your reasoning applies to the enthusiastic millenarians
who discover the number of the beast, and calculate the year when a
vial is to be poured out, with as much precision as the day and hour
of an eclipse.  But it leaves my hope unshaken and untouched.  I
know that the world has improved; I see that it is improving; and I
believe that it will continue to improve in natural and certain
progress.  Good and evil principles are widely at work:  a crisis is
evidently approaching; it may be dreadful, but I can have no doubts
concerning the result.  Black and ominous as the aspects may appear,
I regard them without dismay.  The common exclamation of the poor
and helpless, when they feel themselves oppressed, conveys to my
mind the sum of the surest and safest philosophy.  I say with them,
"God is above," and trust Him for the event.

Sir Thomas More.--God is above--but the devil is below.  Evil
principles are, in their nature, more active than good.  The harvest
is precarious, and must be prepared with labour, and cost, and care;
weeds spring up of themselves, and flourish and seed whatever may be
the season.  Disease, vice, folly, and madness are contagious; while
health and understanding are incommunicable, and wisdom and virtue
hardly to be communicated!  We have come, however, to some
conclusion in our discourse.  Your notion of the improvement of the
world has appeared to be a mere speculation, altogether inapplicable
in practice; and as dangerous to weak heads and heated imaginations
as it is congenial to benevolent hearts.  Perhaps that improvement
is neither so general nor so certain as you suppose.  Perhaps, even
in this country there may be more knowledge than there was in former
times and less wisdom, more wealth and less happiness, more display
and less virtue.  This must be the subject of future conversation.
I will only remind you now, that the French had persuaded themselves
this was the most enlightened age of the world, and they the most
enlightened people in it--the politest, the most amiable, and the
most humane of nations--and that a new era of philosophy,
philanthropy, and peace, was about to commence under their auspices,
when they were upon the eve of a revolution which, for its
complicated monstrosities, absurdities, and horrors, is more
disgraceful to human nature than any other series of events in
history.  Chew the cud upon this, and farewell



COLLOQUY III.--THE DRUIDICAL STONES.--VISITATIONS OF PESTILENCE.



Inclination would lead me to hibernate during half the year in this
uncomfortable climate of Great Britain, where few men who have
tasted the enjoyments of a better would willingly take up their
abode, if it were not for the habits, and still more for the ties
and duties which root us to our native soil.  I envy the Turks for
their sedentary constitutions, which seem no more to require
exercise than an oyster does or a toad in a stone.  In this respect,
I am by disposition as true a Turk as the Grand Seignior himself;
and approach much nearer to one in the habit of inaction than any
person of my acquaintance.  Willing however, as I should be to
believe, that anything which is habitually necessary for a sound
body, would be unerringly indicated by an habitual disposition for
it, and that if exercise were as needful as food for the
preservation of the animal economy, the desire of motion would recur
not less regularly than hunger and thirst, it is a theory which will
not bear the test; and this I know by experience.

On a grey sober day, therefore, and in a tone of mind quite
accordant with the season, I went out unwillingly to take the air,
though if taking physic would have answered the same purpose, the
dose would have been preferred as the shortest, and for that reason
the least unpleasant remedy.  Even on such occasions as this, it is
desirable to propose to oneself some object for the satisfaction of
accomplishing it, and to set out with the intention of reaching some
fixed point, though it should be nothing better than a mile-stone,
or a directing post.  So I walked to the Circle of Stones on the
Penrith road, because there is a long hill upon the way which would
give the muscles some work to perform; and because the sight of this
rude monument which has stood during so many centuries, and is
likely, if left to itself, to outlast any edifice that man could
have erected, gives me always a feeling, which, however often it may
be repeated, loses nothing of its force.

The circle is of the rudest kind, consisting of single stones,
unhewn and chosen without any regard to shape or magnitude, being of
all sizes, from seven or eight feet in height, to three or four.
The circle, however, is complete, and is thirty-three paces in
diameter.  Concerning this, like all similar monuments in Great
Britain, the popular superstition prevails, that no two persons can
number the stones alike, and that no person will ever find a second
counting confirm the first.  My children have often disappointed
their natural inclination to believe this wonder, by putting it to
the test and disproving it.  The number of the stones which compose
the circle, is thirty-eight, and besides these there are ten which
form three sides of a little square within, on the eastern side,
three stones of the circle itself forming the fourth; this being
evidently the place where the Druids who presided had their station;
or where the more sacred and important part of the rites and
ceremonies (whatever they may have been) were performed.  All this
is as perfect at this day as when the Cambrian bards, according to
the custom of their ancient order, described by my old
acquaintances, the living members of the Chair of Glamorgan, met
there for the last time,


"On the green turf and under the blue sky,
Their heads in reverence bare, and bare of foot."


The site also precisely accords with the description which Edward
Williams and William Owen give of the situation required for such
meeting places:


"--a high hill top,
Nor bowered with trees, nor broken by the plough:
Remote from human dwellings and the stir
Of human life, and open to the breath
And to the eye of Heaven."


The high hill is now enclosed and cultivated; and a clump of larches
has been planted within the circle, for the purpose of protecting an
oak in the centre, the owner of the field having wished to rear one
there with a commendable feeling, because that tree was held sacred
by the Druids, and therefore, he supposed, might be appropriately
placed there.  The whole plantation, however, has been so miserably
storm-stricken that the poor stunted trees are not even worth the
trouble of cutting them down for fuel, and so they continue to
disfigure the spot.  In all other respects this impressive monument
of former times is carefully preserved; the soil within the
enclosure is not broken, a path from the road is left, and in latter
times a stepping-stile has been placed to accommodate Lakers with an
easier access than by striding over the gate beside it.

The spot itself is the most commanding which could be chosen in this
part of the country, without climbing a mountain.  Derwentwater and
the Vale of Keswick are not seen from it, only the mountains which
enclose them on the south and west.  Lattrigg and the huge side of
Skiddaw are on the north; to the east is the open country towards
Penrith expanding from the Vale of St. John's, and extending for
many miles, with Mellfell in the distance, where it rises alone like
a huge tumulus on the right, and Blencathra on the left, rent into
deep ravines.  On the south-east is the range of Helvellyn, from its
termination at Wanthwaite Crags to its loftiest summits, and to
Dunmailraise.  The lower range of Nathdalefells lies nearer, in a
parallel line with Helvellyn; and the dale itself, with its little
streamlet, immediately below.  The heights above Leatheswater, with
the Borrowdale mountains, complete the panorama.

While I was musing upon the days of the Bards and Druids, and
thinking that Llywarc Hen himself had probably stood within this
very circle at a time when its history was known, and the rites for
which it was erected still in use, I saw a person approaching, and
started a little at perceiving that it was my new acquaintance from
the world of spirits.  "I am come," said he, "to join company with
you in your walk:  you may as well converse with a ghost as stand
dreaming of the dead.  I dare say you have been wishing that these
stones could speak and tell their tale, or that some record were
sculptured upon them, though it were as unintelligible as the
hieroglyphics, or as an Ogham inscription."

"My ghostly friend," I replied, "they tell me something to the
purport of our last discourse.  Here upon ground where the Druids
have certainly held their assemblies, and where not improbably,
human sacrifices have been offered up, you will find it difficult to
maintain that the improvement of the world has not been unequivocal,
and very great."

Sir Thomas More.--Make the most of your vantage ground!  My position
is, that this improvement is not general; that while some parts of
the earth are progressive in civilisation, others have been
retrograde; and that even where improvement appears the greatest, it
is partial.  For example; with all the meliorations which have taken
place in England since these stones were set up (and you will not
suppose that I who laid down my life for a religious principle,
would undervalue the most important of all advantages), do you
believe that they have extended to all classes?  Look at the
question well.  Consider your fellow-countrymen, both in their
physical and intellectual relations, and tell me whether a large
portion of the community are in a happier or more hopeful condition
at this time, than their forefathers were when Caesar set foot upon
the island?

Montesinos.--If it be your aim to prove that the savage state is
preferable to the social, I am perhaps the very last person upon
whom any arguments to that end could produce the slightest effect.
That notion never for a moment deluded me:  not even in the
ignorance and presumptuousness of youth, when first I perused
Rousseau, and was unwilling to feel that a writer whose passionate
eloquence I felt and admired so truly could be erroneous in any of
his opinions.  But now, in the evening of life, when I know upon
what foundation my principles rest, and when the direction of one
peculiar course of study has made it necessary for me to learn
everything which books could teach concerning savage life, the
proposition appears to me one of the most untenable that ever was
advanced by a perverse or a paradoxical intellect.

Sir Thomas More.--I advanced no such paradox, and you have answered
me too hastily.  The Britons were not savages when the Romans
invaded and improved them.  They were already far advanced in the
barbarous stage of society, having the use of metals, domestic
cattle, wheeled carriages, and money, a settled government, and a
regular priesthood, who were connected with their fellow-Druids on
the Continent, and who were not ignorant of letters.  Understand me!
I admit that improvements of the utmost value have been made, in the
most important concerns:  but I deny that the melioration has been
general; and insist, on the contrary, that a considerable portion of
the people are in a state, which, as relates to their physical
condition, is greatly worsened, and, as touching their intellectual
nature, is assuredly not improved.  Look, for example, at the great
mass of your populace in town and country--a tremendous proportion
of the whole community!  Are their bodily wants better, or more
easily supplied?  Are they subject to fewer calamities?  Are they
happier in childhood, youth, and manhood, and more comfortably or
carefully provided for in old age, than when the land was
unenclosed, and half covered with woods?  With regard to their moral
and intellectual capacity, you well know how little of the light of
knowledge and of revelation has reached them.  They are still in
darkness, and in the shadow of death!

Montesinos.--I perceive your drift:  and perceive also that when we
understand each other there is likely to be little difference
between us.  And I beseech you, do not suppose that I am disputing
for the sake of disputation; with that pernicious habit I was never
infected, and I have seen too many mournful proofs of its perilous
consequences.  Towards any person it is injudicious and offensive;
towards you it would be irreverent.  Your position is undeniable.
Were society to be stationary at its present point, the bulk of the
people would, on the whole, have lost rather than gained by the
alterations which have taken place during the last thousand years.
Yet this must be remembered, that in common with all ranks they are
exempted from those dreadful visitations of war, pestilence, and
famine by which these kingdoms were so frequently afflicted of old.

The countenance of my companion changed upon this, to an expression
of judicial severity which struck me with awe.  "Exempted from these
visitations!" he exclaimed; "mortal man! creature of a day, what art
thou, that thou shouldst presume upon any such exemption!  Is it
from a trust in your own deserts, or a reliance upon the forbearance
and long-suffering of the Almighty, that this vain confidence
arises?"

I was silent.

"My friend," he resumed, in a milder tone, but with a melancholy
manner, "your own individual health and happiness are scarcely more
precarious than this fancied security.  By the mercy of God, twice
during the short space of your life, England has been spared from
the horrors of invasion, which might with ease have been effected
during the American war, when the enemy's fleet swept the Channel,
and insulted your very ports, and which was more than once seriously
intended during the late long contest.  The invaders would indeed
have found their graves in that soil which they came to subdue:  but
before they could have been overcome, the atrocious threat of
Buonaparte's general might have been in great part realised, that
though he could not answer for effecting the conquest of England, he
would engage to destroy its prosperity for a century to come.  You
have been spared from that chastisement.  You have escaped also from
the imminent danger of peace with a military tyrant, which would
inevitably have led to invasion, when he should have been ready to
undertake and accomplish that great object of his ambition, and you
must have been least prepared and least able to resist him.  But if
the seeds of civil war should at this time be quickening among you--
if your soil is everywhere sown with the dragon's teeth, and the
fatal crop be at this hour ready to spring up--the impending evil
will be a hundredfold more terrible than those which have been
averted; and you will have cause to perceive and acknowledge, that
the wrath has been suspended only that it may fall the heavier!"

"May God avert this also!" I exclaimed.

"As for famine," he pursued, "that curse will always follow in the
train of war:  and even now the public tranquillity of England is
fearfully dependent upon the seasons.  And touching pestilence, you
fancy yourselves secure, because the plague has not appeared among
you for the last hundred and fifty years:  a portion of time, which
long as it may seem when compared with the brief term of mortal
existence, is as nothing in the physical history of the globe.  The
importation of that scourge is as possible now as it was in former
times:  and were it once imported, do you suppose it would rage with
less violence among the crowded population of your metropolis, than
it did before the fire, or that it would not reach parts of the
country which were never infected in any former visitation?  On the
contrary, its ravages would be more general and more tremendous, for
it would inevitably be carried everywhere.  Your provincial cities
have doubled and trebled in size; and in London itself, great part
of the population is as much crowded now as it was then, and the
space which is covered with houses is increased at least fourfold.
What if the sweating-sickness, emphatically called the English
disease, were to show itself again?  Can any cause be assigned why
it is not as likely to break out in the nineteenth century as in the
fifteenth?  What if your manufactures, according to the ominous
opinion which your greatest physiologist has expressed, were to
generate for you new physical plagues, as they have already produced
a moral pestilence unknown to all preceding ages?  What if the
small-pox, which you vainly believed to be subdued, should have
assumed a new and more formidable character; and (as there seems no
trifling grounds for apprehending) instead of being protected by
vaccination from its danger, you should ascertain that inoculation
itself affords no certain security?  Visitations of this kind are in
the order of nature and of providence.  Physically considered, the
likelihood of their recurrence becomes every year more probable than
the last; and looking to the moral government of the world, was
there ever a time when the sins of this kingdom called more cryingly
for chastisement?

Montesinos.--[Greek text which cannot be reproduced]

Sir Thomas More.--I denounce no judgments.  But I am reminding you
that there is as much cause for the prayer in your Litany against
plague, pestilence, and famine, as for that which entreats God to
deliver you all from sedition, privy conspiracy, and rebellion; from
all false doctrine, heresy, and schism.  In this, as in all things,
it behoves the Christian to live in a humble and grateful sense of
his continual dependence upon the Almighty:  not to rest in a
presumptuous confidence upon the improved state of human knowledge,
or the altered course of natural visitations.

Montesinos.--Oh, how wholesome it is to receive instruction with a
willing and a humble mind!  In attending to your discourse I feel
myself in the healthy state of a pupil, when without one hostile or
contrarient prepossession, he listens to a teacher in whom he has
entire confidence.  And I feel also how much better it is that the
authority of elder and wiser intellects should pass even for more
than it is worth, than that it should be undervalued as in these
days, and set at nought.  When any person boasts that he is -


"Nullias addictus jurare in verba magistri,"


the reason of that boast may easily be perceived; it is because he
thinks, like Jupiter, that it would be disparaging his own all-
wiseness to swear by anything but himself.  But wisdom will as
little enter into a proud or a conceited mind as into a malicious
one.  In this sense also it may be said, that he who humbleth
himself shall be exalted.

Sir Thomas More.--It is not implicit assent that I require, but
reasonable conviction after calm and sufficient consideration.
David was permitted to choose between the three severest
dispensations of God's displeasure, and he made choice of pestilence
as the least dreadful.  Ought a reflecting and religious man to be
surprised, if some such punishment were dispensed to this country,
not less in mercy than in judgment, as the means of averting a more
terrible and abiding scourge?  An endemic malady, as destructive as
the plague, has naturalised itself among your American brethren, and
in Spain.  You have hitherto escaped it, speaking with reference to
secondary causes, merely because it has not yet been imported.  But
any season may bring it to your own shores; or at any hour it may
appear among you homebred.

Montesinos.--We should have little reason, then, to boast of our
improvements in the science of medicine; for our practitioners at
Gibraltar found themselves as unable to stop its progress, or
mitigate its symptoms, as the most ignorant empirics in the
peninsula.

Sir Thomas More.--You were at one time near enough that pestilence
to feel as if you were within its reach?

Montesinos.--It was in 1800, the year when it first appeared in
Andalusia.  That summer I fell in at Cintra with a young German, on
the way from his own country to his brothers at Cadiz, where they
were established as merchants.  Many days had not elapsed after his
arrival in that city when a ship which was consigned to their firm
brought with it the infection; and the first news which reached us
of our poor acquaintance was that the yellow fever had broken out in
his brother's house, and that he, they, and the greater part of the
household, were dead.  There was every reason to fear that the
pestilence would extend into Portugal, both governments being, as
usual, slow in providing any measures of precaution, and those
measures being nugatory when taken.  I was at Faro in the ensuing
spring, at the house of Mr. Lempriere, the British Consul.
Inquiring of him upon the subject, the old man lifted up his hands,
and replied in a passionate manner, which I shall never forget, "Oh,
sir, we escaped by the mercy of God; only by the mercy of God!"  The
governor of Algarve, even when the danger was known and
acknowledged, would not venture to prohibit the communication with
Spain till he received orders from Lisbon; and then the prohibition
was so enforced as to be useless.  The crew of a boat from the
infected province were seized and marched through the country to
Tavira:  they were then sent to perform quarantine upon a little
insulated ground, and the guards who were set over them, lived with
them, and were regularly relieved.  When such were the precautionary
measures, well indeed might it be said, that Portugal escaped only
by the mercy of God!  I have often reflected upon the little effect
which this imminent danger appeared to produce upon those persons
with whom I associated.  The young, with that hilarity which belongs
to thoughtless youth, used to converse about the places whither they
should retire, and the course of life and expedients to which they
should be driven in case it were necessary for them to fly from
Lisbon.  A few elder and more considerate persons said little upon
the subject, but that little denoted a deep sense of the danger, and
more anxiety than they thought proper to express.  The great
majority seemed to be altogether unconcerned; neither their business
nor their amusements were interrupted; they feasted, they danced,
they met at the card-table as usual; and the plague (for so it was
called at that time, before its nature was clearly understood) was
as regular a topic of conversation as the news brought by the last
packet.

Sir Thomas More.--And what was your own state of mind?

Montesinos.--Very much what it has long been with regard to the
moral pestilence of this unhappy age, and the condition of this
country more especially.  I saw the danger in its whole extent and
relied on the mercy of God.

Sir Thomas More.--In all cases that is the surest reliance:  but
when human means are available, it becomes a Mahommedan rather than
a Christian to rely upon Providence or fate alone, and make no
effort for its own preservation.  Individuals never fall into this
error among you, drink as deeply as they may of fatalism; that
narcotic will sometimes paralyse the moral sense, but it leaves the
faculty of worldly prudence unimpaired.  Far otherwise is it with
your government:  for such are the notions of liberty in England,
that evils of every kind--physical, moral, and political, are
allowed their free range.  As relates to infectious diseases, for
example, this kingdom is now in a less civilised state than it was
in my days, three centuries ago, when the leper was separated from
general society; and when, although the science of medicine was at
once barbarous and fantastical, the existence of pesthouses showed
at least some approaches towards a medical police.

Montesinos.--They order these things better in Utopia.

Sir Thomas More.--In this, as well as in some other points upon
which we shall touch hereafter, the difference between you and the
Utopians is as great as between the existing generation and the race
by whom yonder circle was set up.  With regard to diseases and
remedies in general, the real state of the case may be consolatory,
but it is not comfortable.  Great and certain progress has been made
in chirurgery; and if the improvements in the other branch of
medical science have not been so certain and so great, it is because
the physician works in the dark, and has to deal with what is hidden
and mysterious.  But the evils for which these sciences are the
palliatives have increased in a proportion that heavily overweighs
the benefit of improved therapeutics.  For as the intercourse
between nations has become greater, the evils of one have been
communicated to another.  Pigs, Spanish dollars, and Norway rats,
are not the only commodities and incommodities which have performed
the circumnavigation, and are to be found wherever European ships
have touched.  Diseases also find their way from one part of the
inhabited globe to another, wherever it is possible for them to
exist.  The most formidable endemic or contagious maladies in your
nosology are not indigenous; and as far as regards health therefore,
the ancient Britons, with no other remedies than their fields and
woods afforded them, and no other medical practitioners than their
deceitful priests, were in a better condition than their
descendants, with all the instruction which is derived from Sydenham
and Heberden, and Hunter, and with all the powers which chemistry
has put into their hands.

Montesinos.--You have well said that there is nothing comfortable in
this view of the case:  but what is there consolatory in it?

Sir Thomas More.--The consolation is upon your principle of
expectant hope.  Whenever improved morals, wiser habits, more
practical religion, and more efficient institutions shall have
diminished the moral and material causes of disease, a thoroughly
scientific practice, the result of long experience and accumulated
observations, will then exist, to remedy all that is within the
power of human art, and to alleviate what is irremediable.  To
existing individuals this consolation is something like the
satisfaction you might feel in learning that a fine estate was
entailed upon your family at the expiration of a lease of ninety-
nine years from the present time.  But I had forgotten to whom I am
talking.  A poet always looks onward to some such distant
inheritance.  His hopes are usually in nubibus, and his expectations
in the paulo post futurum tense.

Montesinos.--His state is the more gracious then because his
enjoyment is always to come.  It is however a real satisfaction to
me that there is some sunshine in your prospect.

Sir Thomas More.--More in mine than in yours, because I command a
wider horizon:  but I see also the storms which are blackening, and
may close over the sky.  Our discourse began concerning that portion
of the community who form the base of the pyramid; we have unawares
taken a more general view, but it has not led us out of the way.
Returning to the most numerous class of society, it is apparent that
in the particular point of which we have been conversing, their
condition is greatly worsened:  they remain liable to the same
indigenous diseases as their forefathers, and are exposed moreover
to all which have been imported.  Nor will the estimate of their
condition be improved upon farther inquiry.  They are worse fed than
when they were hunters, fishers, and herdsmen; their clothing and
habitations are little better, and, in comparison with those of the
higher classes, immeasurably worse.  Except in the immediate
vicinity of the collieries, they suffer more from cold than when the
woods and turbaries were open.  They are less religious than in the
days of the Romish faith; and if we consider them in relation to
their immediate superiors, we shall find reason to confess that the
independence which has been gained since the total decay of the
feudal system, has been dearly purchased by the loss of kindly
feelings and ennobling attachments.  They are less contented, and in
no respect more happy--that look implies hesitation of judgment, and
an unwillingness to be convinced.  Consider the point; go to your
books and your thoughts; and when next we meet, you will feel little
inclination to dispute the irrefragable statement.



COLLOQUY IV.--FEUDAL SLAVERY.--GROWTH OF PAUPERISM.



The last conversation had left a weight upon me, which was not
lessened when I contemplated the question in solitude.  I called to
mind the melancholy view which Young has taken of the world in his
unhappy poem:


"A part how small of the terraqueous globe
Is tenanted by man! the rest a waste,
Rocks, deserts, frozen seas and burning sands,
Wild haunts of monsters, poisons, stings, and death.
Such is earth's melancholy map!  But, far
More sad, this earth is a true map of man."


Sad as this representation is, I could not but acknowledge that the
moral and intellectual view is not more consolatory than the poet
felt it to be; and it was a less sorrowful consideration to think
how large a portion of the habitable earth is possessed by savages,
or by nations whom inhuman despotisms and monstrous superstitions
have degraded in some respects below the savage state, than to
observe how small a part of what is called the civilised world is
truly civilised; and in the most civilised parts to how small a
portion of the inhabitants the real blessings of civilisation are
confined.  In this mood how heartily should I have accorded with
Owen of Lanark if I could have agreed with that happiest and most
beneficent and most practical of all enthusiasts as well concerning
the remedy as the disease!

"Well, Montesinos," said the spirit, when he visited me next, "have
you recollected or found any solid arguments for maintaining that
the labouring classes, who form the great bulk of the population,
are in a happier condition, physical, moral, or intellectual, in
these times, than they were in mine?"

Montesinos.--Perhaps, Sir Thomas, their condition was better
precisely during your age than it ever has been either before or
since.  The feudal system had well-nigh lost all its inhuman parts,
and the worse inhumanity of the commercial system had not yet shown
itself.

Sir Thomas More.--It was, indeed, a most important age in English
history, and, till the Reformation so fearfully disturbed it, in
many respects a happy and an enviable one.  But the process was then
beginning which is not yet completed.  As the feudal system relaxed
and tended to dissolution the condition of the multitude was
changed.  Let us trace it from earlier times!  In what state do you
suppose the people of this island to have been when they were
invaded by the Romans?

Montesinos.--Something worse than the Greeks of the Homeric age:
something better than the Sandwich or Tonga islanders when they were
visited by Captain Cook.  Inferior to the former in arts, in polity,
and, above all, in their domestic institutions; superior to the
latter as having the use of cattle and being under a superstition in
which, amid many abominations, some patriarchal truths were
preserved.  Less fortunate in physical circumstances than either,
because of the climate.

Sir Thomas More.--A viler state of morals than their polyandrian
system must have produced can scarcely be imagined; and the ferocity
of their manners, little as is otherwise known of them, is
sufficiently shown by their scythed war-chariots, and the fact that
in the open country the path from one town to another was by a
covered way.  But in what condition were the labouring classes?

Montesinos.--In slavery, I suppose.  When the Romans first attacked
the island it was believed at Rome that slaves were the only booty
which Britain could afford; and slaves, no doubt, must have been the
staple commodity for which its ports were visited.  Different tribes
had at different times established themselves here by conquest, and
wherever settlements are thus made slavery is the natural
consequence.  It was a part of the Roman economy; and when the
Saxons carved out their kingdoms with the sword, the slaves, and
their masters too, if any survived, became the property of the new
lords of the land, like the cattle who pastured upon it.  It is not
likely even that the Saxons should have brought artificers of any
kind with them, smiths perhaps alone excepted.  Trades of every
description must have been practised by the slaves whom they found.
The same sort of transfer ensued upon the Norman conquest.  After
that event there could have been no fresh supply of domestic slaves,
unless they were imported from Ireland, as well as carried thither
for sale.  That trade did not continue long.  Emancipation was
promoted by the clergy, and slavery was exchanged for vassalage,
which in like manner gradually disappeared as the condition of the
people improved.

Sir Thomas More.--You are hurrying too fast to that conclusion.
Hitherto more has been lost than gained in morals by the transition;
and you will not maintain that anything which is morally injurious
can be politically advantageous.  Vassalage I know is a word which
bears no favourable acceptation in this liberal age; and slavery is
in worse repute.  But we must remember that slavery implies a very
different state in different ages of the world, and in different
stages of society.

Montesinos.--In many parts of the East, and of the Mohammedan world,
as in the patriarchal times, it is scarcely an evil.  Among savages
it is as little so.  In a luxurious state more vices are called into
action, the condition of the slave depends more upon the temper of
the owner, and the evil then predominates.  But slavery is nowhere
so bad as in commercial colonies, where the desire of gain hardens
the heart--the basest appetites have free scope there; and the worst
passions are under little restraint from law, less from religion,
and none from public opinion.

Sir Thomas More.--You have omitted in this enumeration that kind of
slavery which existed in England.

Montesinos.--The slavery of the feudal ages may perhaps be classed
midway between the best description of that state and the worst.  I
suppose it to have been less humane than it generally is in Turkey,
less severe than it generally was in Rome and Greece.  In too many
respects the slaves were at the mercy of their lords.  They might be
put in irons and punished with stripes; they were sometimes branded;
and there is proof that it has been the custom to yoke them in teams
like cattle.

Sir Thomas More.--Are you, then, Montesinos, so much the dupe of
words as to account among their grievances a mere practice of
convenience?

Montesinos.--The reproof was merited.  But I was about to say that
there is no reason to think their treatment was generally rigorous.
We do not hear of any such office among them as that of the Roman
Lorarii, whose office appears by the dramatists to have been no
sinecure.  And it is certain that they possessed in the laws, in the
religion, and probably in the manners of the country, a greater
degree of protection than existed to alleviate the lot of the
Grecian and Roman slaves.

Sir Thomas More.--The practical difference between the condition of
the feudal slave, and of the labouring husbandman who succeeded to
the business of his station, was mainly this, that the former had
neither the feeling nor the insecurity of independence.  He served
one master as long as he lived; and being at all times sure of the
same sufficient subsistence, if he belonged to the estate like the
cattle, and was accounted with them as part of the live stock, he
resembled them also in the exemption which he enjoyed from all cares
concerning his own maintenance and that of his family.  The feudal
slaves, indeed, were subject to none of those vicissitudes which
brought so many of the proudest and most powerful barons to a
disastrous end.  They had nothing to lose, and they had liberty to
hope for; frequently as the reward of their own faithful services,
and not seldom from the piety or kindness of their lords.  This was
a steady hope depending so little upon contingency that it excited
no disquietude or restlessness.  They were therefore in general
satisfied with the lot to which they were born, as the Greenlander
is with his climate, the Bedouin with his deserts, and the Hottentot
and the Calmuck with their filthy and odious customs; and going on
in their regular and unvaried course of duty generation after
generation, they were content.

Montesinos.--"Fish, fish, are you in your duty?" said the young lady
in the Arabian tales, who came out of the kitchen wall clad in
flowered satin, and with a rod in her hand.  The fish lifted up
their heads and replied, "Yes, yes; if you reckon, we reckon; if you
pay your debts we pay ours; if you fly we overcome, and are
content."  The fish who were thus content, and in their duty, had
been gutted, and were in the frying-pan.  I do not seek, however, to
escape from the force of your argument by catching at the words.  On
the other hand, I am sure it is not your intention to represent
slavery otherwise than as an evil, under any modification.

Sir Thomas More.--That which is a great evil in itself become
relatively a good when it prevents or removes a greater evil; for
instance, loss of a limb when life is preserved by the sacrifice, or
the acute pain of a remedy by which a chronic disease is cured.
Such was slavery in its origin:  a commutation for death, gladly
accepted as mercy under the arm of a conqueror in battle, or as the
mitigation of a judicial sentence.  But it led immediately to
nefarious abuses; and the earliest records which tell us of its
existence show us also that men were kidnapped for sale.  With the
principles of Christianity, the principles of religious philosophy--
the only true policy, to which mankind must come at last, by which
alone all the remediable ills of humanity are to be remedied, and
for which you are taught to pray when you entreat that your Father's
kingdom may come--with those principles slavery is inconsistent, and
therefore not to be tolerated, even in speculation.

Montesinos.--Yet its fitness, as a commutation for other
punishments, is admitted by Michaelis (though he decides against it)
to be one of the most difficult questions connected with the
existing state of society.  And in the age of the Revolution, one of
the sturdiest Scotch republicans proposed the reestablishment of
slavery, as the best or only means for correcting the vices and
removing the miseries of the poor.

Sir Thomas More.--The proposal of such a remedy must be admitted as
full proof of the malignity of the disease.  And in further excuse
of Andrew Fletcher, it should be remembered that he belonged to a
country where many of the feudal virtues (as well as most of the
feudal vices) were at that time in full vigour.  But let us return
to our historical view of the subject.  In feudal servitude there
was no motive for cruelty, scarcely any for oppression.  There were
no needy slave-owners, as there are in commercial colonies; and
though slaves might sometimes suffer from a wicked, or even a
passionate master, there is no reason to believe that they were
habitually over-tasked, or subjected to systematic ill-treatment;
for that, indeed, can only arise from avarice, and avarice is not
the vice of feudal times.  Still, however, slavery is intolerable
upon Christian principles; and to the influence of those principles
it yielded here in England.  It had ceased, so as even to be
forgotten in my youth; and villenage was advancing fast towards its
natural extinction.  The courts decided that a tenant having a lease
could not be a villein during its term, for if his labour were at
the command of another how could he undertake to pay rent?
Landholders had thus to choose between rent and villenage, and
scarcely wanted the Field of the Cloth of Gold at Ardres to show
them which they stood most in need of.  And as villenage
disappeared, free labourers of various descriptions multiplied; of
whom the more industrious and fortunate rose in society, and became
tradesmen and merchants; the unlucky and the reprobate became
vagabonds.

Montesinos.--The latter class appears to have been far more numerous
in your age than in mine.

Sir Thomas More.--Waiving for the present the question whether they
really were so, they appear to have been so partly in consequence of
the desperate wars between the houses of York and Lancaster, partly
because of the great change in society which succeeded to that
contest.  During those wars both parties exerted themselves to bring
into the field all the force they could muster.  Villeins in great
numbers were then emancipated, when they were embodied in arms; and
great numbers emancipated themselves, flying to London and other
cities for protection from the immediate evils of war, or taking
advantage of the frequent changes of property, and the precarious
tenure by which it was held, to exchange their own servile condition
for a station of freedom with all its hopes and chances.  This took
place to a great extent, and the probabilities of success were
greatly in their favour; for whatever may have been practised in
earlier and ruder times, in that age they certainly were not branded
like cattle, according to the usage of your sugar islands.

Montesinos.--A planter, who notwithstanding this curious specimen of
his taste and sensibility, was a man of humane studies and humane
feelings, describes the refined and elegant manner in which the
operation is performed, by way of mitigating the indignation which
such a usage ought to excite.  He assures us that the stamp is not a
branding iron, but a silver instrument; and that it is heated not in
the fire, but over the flame of spirits of wine.

Sir Thomas More.--Excellent planter! worthy to have been flogged at
a gilt whipping-post with a scourge of gold thread!  The practice of
marking slaves had fallen into disuse; probably it was only used at
first with captives, or with those who were newly-purchased from a
distant country, never with those born upon the soil.  And there was
no means of raising a hue and cry after a runaway slave so
effectually as is done by your colonial gazettes, the only
productions of the British colonial press.

Montesinos.--Include, I pray you, in the former part of your censure
the journals of the United States, the land of democracy and equal
rights.

Sir Thomas More.--How much more honourable was the tendency of our
laws, and of national feeling in those days, which you perhaps as
well as your trans-Atlantic brethren have been accustomed to think
barbarous, when compared with this your own age of reason and
liberality!  The master who killed his slave was as liable to
punishment as if he had killed a freeman.  Instead of impeding
enfranchisement, the laws, as well as the public feeling, encouraged
it.  If a villein who had fled from his lord remained a year and a
day unclaimed upon the King's demesne lands, or in any privileged
town, he became free.  All doubtful cases were decided in favorem
libertatis.  Even the established maxim in law, partus sequitur
ventrem, was set aside in favour of liberty; the child of a neif was
free if the father were a freeman, or if it were illegitimate, in
which case it was settled that the free condition of the father
should always be presumed.

Montesinos.--Such a principle must surely have tended to increase
the illegitimate population.

Sir Thomas More.--That inference is drawn from the morals of your
own age, and the pernicious effect of your poor laws as they are now
thoroughly understood and deliberately acted upon by a race who are
thinking always of their imaginary rights, and never of their
duties.  You forget the efficacy of ecclesiastical discipline; and
that the old Church was more vigilant, and therefore more efficient
than that which rose upon its ruins.  And you suppose that personal
liberty was more valued by persons in a state of servitude than was
actually the case.  For if in earlier ages emancipation was an act
of piety and benevolence, afterwards, when the great crisis of
society came on, it proceeded more frequently from avarice than from
any worthier motive; and the slave who was set free sometimes found
himself much in the situation of a household dog that is turned into
the streets.

Montesinos.--Are you alluding to the progress of inclosures, which
from the accession of the Tudors to the age of the Stuarts were
complained of as the great and crying evil of the times?

Sir Thomas More.--That process originated as soon as rents began to
be of more importance than personal services, and money more
convenient to the landlords than payments in kind.

Montesinos.--And this I suppose began to be the case under Edward
III.  The splendour of his court, and the foreign wars in which he
was engaged, must have made money more necessary to the knights and
nobles than it had ever been before, except during the Crusades.

Sir Thomas More.--The wars of York and Lancaster retarded the
process; but immediately after the termination of that fierce
struggle it was accelerated by the rapid growth of commerce, and by
the great influx of wealth from the new found world.  Under a
settled and strong and vigilant government men became of less value
as vassals and retainers, because the boldest barons no longer dared
contemplate the possibility of trying their strength against the
crown, or attempting to disturb the succession.  Four-legged animals
therefore were wanted for slaughter more than two-legged ones; and
moreover, sheep could be shorn, whereas the art of fleecing the
tenantry was in its infancy, and could not always be practised with
the same certain success.  A trading spirit thus gradually
superseded the rude but kindlier principle of the feudal system:
profit and loss became the rule of conduct; in came calculation, and
out went feeling.

Montesinos.--I remember your description (for indeed who can forget
it?) how sheep, more destructive than the Dragon of Wantley in those
days, began to devour men and fields and houses.  The same process
is at this day going on in the Highlands, though under different
circumstances; some which palliate the evil, and some which
aggravate the injustice.

Sir Thomas More.--The real nature of the evil was misunderstood by
my contemporaries, and for some generations afterward.  A decrease
of population was the effect complained of, whereas the greater
grievance was that a different and worse population was produced.

Montesinos.--I comprehend you.  The same effect followed which has
been caused in these days by the extinction of small farms.

Sir Thomas More.--The same in kind, but greater in degree; or at
least if not greater, or so general in extent, it was more directly
felt.  When that ruinous fashion prevailed in your age there were
many resources for the class of people who were thus thrown out of
their natural and proper place in the social system.  Your fleets
and armies at that time required as many hands as could be supplied;
and women and children were consumed with proportionate rapidity by
your manufactures.

Moreover, there was the wholesome drain of emigration open


"Facta est immensi copia mundi."


But under the Tudors there existed no such means for disposing of
the ejected population, and except the few who could obtain places
as domestic servants, or employment as labourers and handicraftsmen
(classes, it must be remembered, for all which the employ was
diminished by the very ejectment in question), they who were turned
adrift soon found themselves houseless and hopeless, and were
reduced to prey upon that society which had so unwisely as well as
inhumanly discarded them.

Montesinos.--Thus it is that men collectively as well as
individually create for themselves so large a part of the evils they
endure.

Sir Thomas More.--Enforce upon your contemporaries that truth which
is as important in politics as in ethics, and you will not have
lived in vain!  Scatter that seed upon the waters, and doubt not of
the harvest!  Vindicate always the system of nature, in other and
sounder words, the ways of God, while you point out with all
faithfulness


      "what ills
Remediable and yet unremedied
   Afflict man's wretched race,"


and the approbation of your own heart will be sufficient reward on
earth.

Montesinos.--The will has not been wanting.

Sir Thomas More.--There are cases in which the will carries with it
the power; and this is of them.  No man was ever yet deeply
convinced of any momentous truth without feeling in himself the
power as well as the desire of communicating it.

Montesinos.--True, Sir Thomas; but the perilous abuse of that
feeling by enthusiasts and fanatics leads to an error in the
opposite extreme.

We sacrifice too much to prudence; and, in fear of incurring the
danger or the reproach of enthusiasm, too often we stifle the
holiest impulses of the understanding and the heart.


      "Our doubts are traitors,
And make us lose the good we oft might win,
By fearing to attempt."


- But I pray you, resume your discourse.  The monasteries were
probably the chief palliatives of this great evil while they
existed.

Sir Thomas More.--Their power of palliating it was not great, for
the expenditure of those establishments kept a just pace with their
revenues.  They accumulated no treasures, and never were any incomes
more beneficially employed.  The great abbeys vied with each other
in architectural magnificence, in this more especially, but likewise
in every branch of liberal expenditure, giving employment to great
numbers, which was better than giving unearned food.  They provided,
as it became them, for the old and helpless also.  That they
prevented the necessity of raising rates for the poor by the copious
alms which they distributed, and by indiscriminately feeding the
indigent, has been inferred, because those rates became necessary
immediately after the suppression of the religious houses.  But this
is one of those hasty inferences which have no other foundation than
a mere coincidence of time in the supposed cause and effect.

Montesinos.--For which you have furnished a proverbial illustration
in your excellent story of Tenterden Steeple and Goodwin Sands.

Sir Thomas More.--That illustration would have been buried in the
dust if it had not been repeated by Hugh Latimer at St. Paul's
Cross.  It was the only thing in my writings by which he profited.
If he had learnt more from them he might have died in his bed, with
less satisfaction to himself and less honour from posterity.  We
went different ways, but we came to the same end, and met where we
had little expectation of meeting.  I must do him the justice to say
that when he forwarded the work of destruction it was with the hope
and intention of employing the materials in a better edifice; and
that no man opposed the sacrilegious temper of the age more bravely.
The monasteries, in the dissolution of which he rejoiced as much as
he regretted the infamous disposal of their spoils, delayed the
growth of pauperism, by the corrodies with which they were charged;
the effect of these reservations on the part of the founders and
benefactors being, that a comfortable and respectable support was
provided for those who grew old in the service of their respective
families; and there existed no great family, and perhaps no wealthy
one, which had not entitled itself thus to dispose of some of its
aged dependants.  And the extent of the depopulating system was
limited while those houses endured:  because though some of the
great abbots were not less rapacious than the lay lords, and more
criminal, the heads in general could not be led, like the nobles,
into a prodigal expenditure, the burthen of which fell always upon
the tenants; and rents in kind were to them more convenient than in
money, their whole economy being founded upon that system, and
adapted to it.

Montesinos.--Both facts and arguments were indeed strongly on your
side when you wrote against the supplication of beggars; but the
form in which you embodied them gave the adversary an advantage, for
it was connected with one of the greatest abuses and absurdities of
the Romish Church.

Sir Thomas More.--Montesinos, I allow you to call it an abuse; but
if you think any of the abuses of that church were in their origin
so unreasonable as to deserve the appellation of absurdities, you
must have studied its history with less consideration and a less
equitable spirit than I have given you credit for.  Both Master Fish
and I had each our prejudices and errors.  We were both sincere;
Master Fish would undoubtedly have gone to the stake in defence of
his opinions as cheerfully as I laid down my neck upon the block;
like his namesake in the tale which you have quoted, he too when in
Nix's frying-pan would have said he was in his duty, and content.
But withal he cannot be called an honest man, unless in that sort of
liberal signification by which, in these days, good words are so
detorted from their original and genuine meaning as to express
precisely the reverse of what was formerly intended by them.  More
gross exaggerations and more rascally mis-statements could hardly be
made by one of your own thorough-paced revolutionists than those
upon which the whole argument of his supplication is built.

Montesinos.--If he had fallen into your hands you would have made a
stock-fish of him.

Sir Thomas More.--Perhaps so.  I had not then I learnt that laying
men by the heels is not the best way of curing them of an error in
the head.  But the King protected him.  Henry had too much sagacity
not to perceive the consequences which such a book was likely to
produce, and he said, after perusing it, "If a man should pull down
an old stone wall, and begin at the bottom, the upper part thereof
might chance to fall upon his head."  But he saw also that it tended
to serve his immediate purpose.

Montesinos.--I marvel that good old John Fox, upright, downright man
as he was, should have inserted in his "Acts and Monuments" a libel
like this, which contains no arguments except such as were adapted
to ignorance, cupidity, and malice.

Sir Thomas More.--Old John Fox ought to have known that, however
advantageous the dissolution of the monastic houses might be to the
views of the Reformers, it was every way injurious to the labouring
classes.  As far as they were concerned, the transfer of property
was always to worse hands.  The tenantry were deprived of their best
landlords, artificers of their best employers, the poor and
miserable of their best and surest friends.  There would have been
no insurrections in behalf of the old religion if the zeal of the
peasantry had not been inflamed by a sore feeling of the injury
which they suffered in the change.  A great increase of the vagabond
population was the direct and immediate consequence.  They who were
ejected from their tenements or deprived of their accustomed
employment were turned loose upon society; and the greater number,
of course and of necessity, ran wild.

Montesinos.--Wild, indeed!  The old chroniclers give a dreadful
picture of their numbers and of their wickedness, which called forth
and deserved the utmost severity of the law.  They lived like
savages in the woods and wastes, committing the most atrocious
actions, stealing children, and burning, breaking, or otherwise
disfiguring their limbs for the purpose of exciting compassion, and
obtaining alms by this most flagitious of all imaginable crimes.
Surely we have nothing so bad as this.

Sir Thomas More.--The crime of stealing children for such purposes
is rendered exceedingly difficult by the ease and rapidity with
which a hue and cry can now be raised throughout the land, and the
eagerness and detestation with which the criminal would be pursued;
still, however, it is sometimes practised.  In other respects the
professional beggars of the nineteenth century are not a whit better
than their predecessors of the sixteenth; and your gipsies and
travelling potters, who, gipsy-like, pitch their tents upon the
common, or by the wayside, retain with as much fidelity the manners
and morals of the old vagabonds as they do the cant, or pedlar's
French, which this class of people are said to have invented in the
age whereof we are now speaking.

Montesinos.--But the number of our vagabonds has greatly diminished.
In your Henry's reign it is affirmed that no fewer than 72,000
criminals were hanged; you have yourself described them as strung up
by scores upon a gibbet all over the country.  Even in the golden
days of good Queen Bess the executions were from three to four
hundred annually.  A large allowance must be made for the increased
humanity of the nation, and the humaner temper with which the laws
are administered:  but the new crimes which increased wealth and a
system of credit on one hand, and increased ingenuity, and new means
of mischief on the part of the depredators have produced, must also
be taken into the account.  And the result will show a diminution in
the number of those who prey upon society either by open war or
secret wiles.

Sir Thomas More.--Add your paupers to the list, and you will then
have added to it not less than an eighth of your whole population.
But looking at the depredators alone, perhaps it will be found that
the evil is at this time more widely extended, more intimately
connected with the constitution of society, like a chronic and
organic disease, and therefore more difficult of cure.  Like other
vermin they are numerous in proportion as they find shelter; and for
this species of noxious beast large towns and manufacturing
districts afford better cover than the forest or the waste.  The
fault lies in your institutions, which in the time of the Saxons
were better adapted to maintain security and order than they are
now.  No man in those days could prey upon society unless he were at
war with it as an outlaw, a proclaimed and open enemy.  Rude as the
laws were, the purposes of law had not then been perverted:  it had
not been made a craft; it served to deter men from committing
crimes, or to punish them for the commission; never to shield
notorious, acknowledged, impudent guilt from condign punishment.
And in the fabric of society, imperfect as it was, the outline and
rudiments of what it ought to be were distinctly marked in some main
parts, where they are now well-nigh utterly effaced.  Every person
had his place.  There was a system of superintendence everywhere,
civil as well as religious.  They who were born in villenage were
born to an inheritance of labour, but not of inevitable depravity
and wretchedness.  If one class were regarded in some respects as
cattle they were at least taken care of; they were trained, fed,
sheltered and protected; and there was an eye upon them when they
strayed.  None were wild, unless they ran wild wilfully, and in
defiance of control.  None were beneath the notice of the priest,
nor placed out of the possible reach of his instruction and his
care.  But how large a part of your population are like the dogs at
Lisbon and Constantinople, unowned, unbroken to any useful purpose,
subsisting by chance or by prey, living in filth, mischief, and
wretchedness, a nuisance to the community while they live, and dying
miserably at last!  This evil had its beginning in my days; it is
now approaching fast to its consummation.



COLLOQUY V.--DECAY OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM.--EDWARD VI.--ALFRED.



I had retired to my library as usual after dinner, and while I was
wishing for the appearance of my ghostly visitor he became visible.
"Behold me to your wish!" said he.  "Thank you," I replied, "for
those precious words."

Sir Thomas More.--Wherefore precious?

Montesinos.--Because they show that spirits who are in bliss
perceive our thoughts;--that that communion with the departed for
which the heart yearns in its moods of intensest feeling is in
reality attained when it is desired.

Sir Thomas More.--You deduce a large inference from scanty premises.
As if it were not easy to know without any super-human intuition
that you would wish for the arrival of one whose company you like,
at a time when you were expecting it.

Montesinos.--And is this all?

Sir Thomas More.--All that the words necessarily imply.  For the
rest, crede quod habeas et habes, according to the scurvy tale which
makes my friend Erasmus a horse-stealer, and fathers Latin rhymes
upon him.  But let us take up the thread of our discourse, or, as we
used to say in old times, "begin it again and mend it, for it is
neither mass nor matins."

Montesinos.--You were saying that the evil of a vagrant and
brutalised population began in your days, and is approaching to its
consummation at this time.

Sir Thomas More.--The decay of the feudal system produced it.  When
armies were no longer raised upon that system soldiers were
disbanded at the end of a war, as they are now:  that is to say,
they were turned adrift to fare as they could--to work if they could
find employment; otherwise to beg, starve, live upon the alms of
their neighbours, or prey upon a wider community in a manner more
congenial to the habits and temper of their old vocation.  In
consequence of the gains which were to be obtained by inclosures and
sheep-farming, families were unhoused and driven loose upon the
country.  These persons, and they who were emancipated from
villenage, or who had in a more summary manner emancipated
themselves, multiplied in poverty and wretchedness.  Lastly, owing
to the fashion for large households of retainers, great numbers of
men were trained up in an idle and dissolute way of life, liable at
any time to be cast off when age or accident invalided them, or when
the master of the family died; and then if not ashamed to beg, too
lewd to work, and ready for any kind of mischief.  Owing to these
co-operating causes, a huge population of outcasts was produced,
numerous enough seriously to infest society, yet not so large as to
threaten its subversion.

Montesinos.--A derangement of the existing system produced them
then; they are a constituent part of the system now.  With you they
were, as you have called them, outcasts:  with us, to borrow an
illustration from foreign institutions, they have become a caste.
But during two centuries the evil appears to have decreased.  Why
was this?

Sir Thomas More.--Because it was perceived to be an evil, and could
never at any time be mistaken for a healthful symptom.  And because
circumstances tended to suspend its progress.  The habits of these
unhappy persons being at first wholly predatory, the laws proclaimed
a sort of crusade against them, and great and inhuman riddance was
made by the executioner.  Foreign service opened a drain in the
succeeding reigns:  many also were drawn off by the spirit of
maritime adventure, preferring the high seas to the high way, as a
safer course of plundering.  Then came an age of civil war, with its
large demand for human life.  Meanwhile as the old arrangements of
society crumbled and decayed new ones were formed.  The ancient
fabric was repaired in some parts and modernised in others.  And
from the time of the Restoration the people supposed their
institutions to be stable because after long and violent convulsions
they found themselves at rest, and the transition which was then
going on was slow, silent, and unperceived.  The process of
converting slaves and villeins into servants and free peasantry had
ended; that of raising a manufacturing populace and converting
peasantry into poor was but begun; and it proceeded slowly for a
full hundred years.

Montesinos.--Those hundred years were the happiest which England has
ever known.

Sir Thomas More.--Perhaps so:  [Greek text which cannot be
reproduced]

Montesinos.--With the exception of the efforts which were made for
restoring the exiled family of the Stuarts they were years of quiet
uniform prosperity and advancement.  The morals of the country
recovered from the contagion which Charles II. imported from France,
and for which Puritanism had prepared the people.  Visitations of
pestilence were suspended.  Sectarians enjoyed full toleration, and
were contented.  The Church proved itself worthy of the victory
which it had obtained.  The Constitution, after one great but short
struggle, was well balanced and defined; and if the progress of art,
science, and literature was not brilliant, it was steady, and the
way for a brighter career was prepared.

Sir Thomas More.--The way was prepared meantime for evil as well as
for good.  You were retrograde in sound policy, sound philosophy and
sound learning.  Our business at present is wholly with the first.
Because your policy, defective as it was at the best, had been
retrograde, discoveries in physics, and advances in mechanical
science which would have produced nothing but good in Utopia, became
as injurious to the weal of the nation as they were instrumental to
its wealth.  But such had your system imperceptibly become, and such
were your statesmen, that the wealth of nations was considered as
the sole measure of their prosperity.

Montesinos.--In feudal ages the object of those monarchs who had any
determinate object in view was either to extend their dominions by
conquest from their neighbours, or to increase their authority at
home by breaking the power of a turbulent nobility.  In commercial
ages the great and sole object of government, when not engaged in
war, was to augment its revenues, for the purpose of supporting the
charges which former wars had induced, or which the apprehension of
fresh ones rendered necessary.  And thus it has been, that of the
two main ends of government, which are the security of the subjects
and the improvement of the nation, the latter has never been
seriously attempted, scarcely indeed taken into consideration; and
the former imperfectly attained.

Sir Thomas More.--Fail not, however, I entreat you, to bear in mind
that this has not been the fault of your rulers at any time.  It has
been their misfortune--an original sin in the constitution of the
society wherein they were born.  Circumstances which they did not
make and could not control have impelled them onward in ways which
neither for themselves nor the nation were ways of pleasantness and
peace.

Montesinos.--There is one beautiful exception--Edward VI.


"That blessed Prince whose saintly name might move
The understanding heart to tears of reverent love."


He would have struck into the right course.

Sir Thomas More.--You have a Catholic feeling concerning saints,
Montesinos, though you look for them in the Protestant calendar.
Edward deserves to be remembered with that feeling.  But had his
life been prolonged to the full age of man it would not have been in
his power to remedy the evil which had been done in his father's
reign and during his own minority.  To have effected that would have
required a strength and obduracy of character incompatible with his
meek and innocent nature.  In intellect and attainments he kept pace
with his age, a more stirring and intellectual one than any which
had gone before it:  but in the wisdom of the heart he was far
beyond that age, or indeed any that has succeeded it.  It cannot be
said of him as of Henry of Windsor, that he was fitter for a
cloister than a throne, but he was fitter for a heavenly crown than
a terrestrial one.  This country was not worthy of him!--scarcely
this earth!

Montesinos.--There is a homely verse common in village churchyards,
the truth of which has been felt by many a heart, as some
consolation in its keenest afflictions:-


"God calls them first whom He loves best."


But surely no prince ever more sedulously employed himself to learn
his office.  His views in some respects were not in accord with the
more enlarged principles of trade, which experience has taught us.
But on the other hand he judged rightly what "the medicines were by
which the sores of the commonwealth might be healed."  His
prescriptions are as applicable now as they were then, and in most
points as needful:  they were "good education, good example, good
laws, and the just execution of those laws:  punishing the vagabond
and idle, encouraging the good, ordering well the customers, and
engendering friendship in all parts of the commonwealth."  In these,
and more especially in the first of these, he hoped and purposed to
have "shown his device."  But it was not permitted.  Nevertheless,
he has his reward.  It has been more wittily than charitably said
that Hell is paved with good intentions:  they have their place in
Heaven also.  Evil thoughts and desires are justly accounted to us
for sin; assuredly therefore the sincere goodwill will be accounted
for the deed, when means and opportunity have been wanting to bring
it to effect.  There are feelings and purposes as well as "thoughts,


- whose very sweetness yieldeth proof
That they were born for immortality."


Sir Thomas More.--Those great legislative measures whereby the
character of a nation is changed and stamped are more practicable in
a barbarous age than in one so far advanced as that of the Tudors;
under a despotic government, than under a free one; and among an
ignorant, rather than inquiring people.  Obedience is then either
yielded to a power which is too strong to be resisted, or willingly
given to the acknowledged superiority of some commanding mind,
carrying with it, as in such ages it does, an appearance of
divinity.  Our incomparable Alfred was a prince in many respects
favourably circumstanced for accomplishing a great work like this,
if his victory over the Danes had been so complete as to have
secured the country against any further evils from that tremendous
enemy.  And had England remained free from the scourge of their
invasion under his successors, it is more than likely that his
institutions would at this day have been the groundwork of your
polity.

Montesinos.--If you allude to that part of the Saxon law which
required that all the people should be placed under borh, I must
observe that even those writers who regard the name of Alfred with
the greatest reverence always condemn this part of his system of
government.

Sir Thomas More.--It is a question of degree.  The just medium
between too much superintendence and too little:  the mystery
whereby the free will of the subject is preserved, while it is
directed by the fore purpose of the State (which is the secret of
true polity), is yet to be found out.  But this is certain, that
whatever be the origin of government, its duties are patriarchal,
that is to say, parental:  superintendence is one of those duties,
and is capable of being exercised to any extent by delegation and
sub-delegation.

Montesinos.--The Madras system, my excellent friend Dr. Bell would
exclaim if he were here.  That which, as he says, gives in a school
to the master, the hundred eyes of Argus, and the hundred hands of
Briareus, might in a state give omnipresence to law, and omnipotence
to order.  This is indeed the fair ideal of a commonwealth.

Sir Thomas More.--And it was this at which Alfred aimed.  His means
were violent, because the age was barbarous.  Experience would have
shown wherein they required amendment, and as manners improved the
laws would have been softened with them.  But they disappeared
altogether during the years of internal warfare and turbulence which
ensued.  The feudal order which was established with the Norman
conquest, or at least methodised after it, was in this part of its
scheme less complete:  still it had the same bearing.  When that
also went to decay, municipal police did not supply its place.
Church discipline then fell into disuse; clerical influence was
lost; and the consequence now is, that in a country where one part
of the community enjoys the highest advantages of civilisation with
which any people upon this globe have ever in any age been favoured,
there is among the lower classes a mass of ignorance, vice, and
wretchedness, which no generous heart can contemplate without grief,
and which, when the other signs of the times are considered, may
reasonably excite alarm for the fabric of society that rests upon
such a base.  It resembles the tower in your own vision, its
beautiful summit elevated above all other buildings, the foundations
placed upon the sand, and mouldering.

Montesinos.

"Rising so high, and built so insecure,
Ill may such perishable work endure!"

You will not, I hope, come to that conclusion!  You will not, I
hope, say with the evil prophet -


"The fabric of her power is undermined;
   The Earthquake underneath it will have way,
And all that glorious structure, as the wind
   Scatters a summer cloud, be swept away!"


Sir Thomas More.--Look at the populace of London, and ask yourself
what security there is that the same blind fury which broke out in
your childhood against the Roman Catholics may not be excited
against the government, in one of those opportunities which accident
is perpetually offering to the desperate villains whom your laws
serve rather to protect than to punish!

Montesinos.--It is an observation of Mercier's, that despotism loves
large cities.  The remark was made with reference to Paris only a
little while before the French Revolution!  But even if he had
looked no farther than the history of his own country and of that
very metropolis, he might have found sufficient proof that
insubordination and anarchy like them quite as well.

Sir Thomas More.--London is the heart of your commercial system, but
it is also the hot-bed of corruption.  It is at once the centre of
wealth and the sink of misery; the seat of intellect and empire:
and yet a wilderness wherein they, who live like wild beasts upon
their fellow-creatures, find prey and cover.  Other wild beasts have
long since been extirpated:  even in the wilds of Scotland, and of
barbarous, or worse than barbarous Ireland, the wolf is no longer to
be found; a degree of civilisation this to which no other country
has attained.  Man, and man alone, is permitted to run wild.  You
plough your fields and harrow them; you have your scarifiers to make
the ground clean; and if after all this weeds should spring up, the
careful cultivator roots them out by hand.  But ignorance and misery
and vice are allowed to grow, and blossom, and seed, not on the
waste alone, but in the very garden and pleasure-ground of society
and civilisation.  Old Thomas Tusser's coarse remedy is the only one
which legislators have yet thought of applying.

Montesinos.--What remedy is that?

Sir Thomas More.--'Twas the husbandman's practice in his days and
mine:


"Where plots full of nettles annoyeth the eye,
Sow hempseed among them, and nettles will die."


Montesinos.--The use of hemp indeed has not been spared.  But with
so little avail has it been used, or rather to such ill effect, that
every public execution, instead of deterring villains from guilt,
serves only to afford them opportunity for it.  Perhaps the very
risk of the gallows operates upon many a man among the inducements
to commit the crime whereto he is tempted; for with your true
gamester the excitement seems to be in proportion to the value of
the stake.  Yet I hold as little with the humanity-mongers, who deny
the necessity and lawfulness of inflicting capital punishment in any
case, as with the shallow moralists, who exclaim against vindictive
justice, when punishment would cease to be just, if it were not
vindictive.

Sir Thomas More.--And yet the inefficacious punishment of guilt is
less to be deplored and less to be condemned than the total omission
of all means for preventing it.  Many thousands in your metropolis
rise every morning without knowing how they are to subsist during
the day, or many of them where they are to lay their heads at night.
All men, even the vicious themselves, know that wickedness leads to
misery; but many, even among the good and the wise, have yet to
learn that misery is almost as often the cause of wickedness.

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

Sir Thomas More.--As surely as God is good, so surely there is no
such thing as necessary evil.  For by the religious mind sickness
and pain and death are not to be accounted evils.  Moral evils are
of your own making, and undoubtedly the greater part of them may be
prevented; though it is only in Paraguay (the most imperfect of
Utopias) that any attempt at prevention has been carried into
effect.  Deformities of mind, as of body, will sometimes occur.
Some voluntary castaways there will always be, whom no fostering
kindness and no parental care can preserve from self-destruction;
but if any are lost for want of care and culture, there is a sin of
omission in the society to which they belong.

Montesinos.--The practicability of forming such a system of
prevention may easily be allowed, where, as in Paraguay,
institutions are fore-planned, and not, as everywhere in Europe, the
slow and varying growth of circumstances.  But to introduce it into
an old society, hic labor, hoc opus est!  The Augean stable might
have been kept clean by ordinary labour, if from the first the filth
had been removed every day; when it had accumulated for years, it
became a task for Hercules to cleanse it.  Alas, the age of heroes
and demigods is over!

Sir Thomas More.--There lies your error!  As no general will ever
defeat an enemy whom he believes to be invincible, so no difficulty
can be overcome by those who fancy themselves unable to overcome it.
Statesmen in this point are, like physicians, afraid, lest their own
reputation should suffer, to try new remedies in cases where the old
routine of practice is known and proved to be ineffectual.  Ask
yourself whether the wretched creatures of whom we are discoursing
are not abandoned to their fate without the highest attempt to
rescue them from it?  The utmost which your laws profess is, that
under their administration no human being shall perish for want:
this is all!  To effect this you draw from the wealthy, the
industrious, and the frugal, a revenue exceeding tenfold the whole
expenses of government under Charles I., and yet even with this
enormous expenditure upon the poor it is not effected.  I say
nothing of those who perish for want of sufficient food and
necessary comforts, the victims of slow suffering and obscure
disease; nor of those who, having crept to some brick-kiln at night,
in hope of preserving life by its warmth, are found there dead in
the morning.  Not a winter passes in which some poor wretch does not
actually die of cold and hunger in the streets of London!  With all
your public and private eleemosynary establishments, with your eight
million of poor-rates, with your numerous benevolent associations,
and with a spirit of charity in individuals which keeps pace with
the wealth of the richest nation in the world, these things happen,
to the disgrace of the age and country, and to the opprobrium of
humanity, for want of police and order!  You are silent!

Montesinos.--Some shocking examples occurred to me.  The one of a
poor Savoyard boy with his monkey starved to death in St. James's
Park.  The other, which is, if that be possible, a still more
disgraceful case, is recorded incidentally in Rees's Cyclopaedia
under the word "monster."  It is only in a huge overgrown city that
such cases could possibly occur.

Sir Thomas More.--The extent of a metropolis ought to produce no
such consequences.  Whatever be the size of a bee-hive or an ant-
hill, the same perfect order is observed in it.

Montesinos.--That is because bees and ants act under the guidance of
unerring instinct.

Sir Thomas More.--As if instinct were a superior faculty to reason!
But the statesman, as well as the sluggard, may be told to "go to
the ant and the bee, consider their ways and be wise!"  It is for
reason to observe and profit by the examples which instinct affords
it.

Montesinos.--A country modelled upon Apiarian laws would be a
strange Utopia! the bowstring would be used there as unmercifully as
it is in the seraglio, to say nothing of the summary mode of
bringing down the population to the means of subsistence.  But this
is straying from the subject.  The consequences of defective order
are indeed frightful, whether we regard the physical or the moral
evils which are produced

Sir Thomas More.--And not less frightful when the political evils
are contemplated.  To the dangers of an oppressive and iniquitous
order, such, for example, as exists where negro slavery is
established, you are fully awake in England; but to those of
defective order among yourselves, though they are precisely of the
same nature, you are blind.  And yet you have spirits among you who
are labouring day and night to stir up a bellum servile, an
insurrection like that of Wat Tyler, of the Jacquerie, and of the
peasants in Germany.  There is no provocation for this, as there was
in all those dreadful convulsions of society:  but there are misery
and ignorance and desperate wickedness to work upon, which the want
of order has produced.  Think for a moment what London, nay, what
the whole kingdom would be, were your Catilines to succeed in
exciting as general an insurrection as that which was raised by one
madman in your own childhood!  Imagine the infatuated and infuriated
wretches, whom not Spitalfields, St. Giles's, and Pimlico alone, but
all the lanes and alleys and cellars of the metropolis would pour
out--a frightful population, whose multitudes, when gathered
together, might almost exceed belief!  The streets of London would
appear to teem with them, like the land of Egypt with its plague of
frogs:  and the lava floods from a volcano would be less destructive
than the hordes whom your great cities and manufacturing districts
would vomit forth!

Montesinos.--Such an insane rebellion would speedily be crushed.

Sir Thomas More.--Perhaps so.  But three days were enough for the
Fire of London.  And be assured this would not pass away without
leaving in your records a memorial as durable and more dreadful.

Montesinos.--Is such an event to be apprehended?

Sir Thomas More.--Its possibility at least ought always to be borne
in mind.  The French Revolution appeared much less possible when the
Assembly of Notables was convoked; and the people of France were
much less prepared for the career of horrors into which they were
presently hurried.



COLLOQUY XIV.--THE LIBRARY.



I was in my library, making room upon the shelves for some books
which had just arrived from New England, removing to a less
conspicuous station others which were of less value and in worse
dress, when Sir Thomas entered.  You are employed, said he, to your
heart's content.  Why, Montesinos, with these books, and the delight
you take in their constant society, what have you to covet or
desire?

Montesinos.--Nothing, except more books.

Sir Thomas More. -

"Crescit, indulgens sibi, dirus hydrops."

Montesinos.--Nay, nay, my ghostly monitor, this at least is no
diseased desire.  If I covet more, it is for the want I feel and the
use which I should make of them.  "Libraries," says my good old
friend George Dyer, a man as learned as he is benevolent, "libraries
are the wardrobes of literature, whence men, properly informed,
might bring forth something for ornament, much for curiosity, and
more for use."  These books of mine, as you well know, are not drawn
up here for display, however much the pride of the eye may be
gratified in beholding them, they are on actual service.  Whenever
they may be dispersed, there is not one among them that will ever be
more comfortably lodged, or more highly prized by its possessor; and
generations may pass away before some of them will again find a
reader.  It is well that we do not moralise too much upon such
subjects.


"For foresight is a melancholy gift,
Which bares the bald, and speeds the all-too-swift."
H. T.


But the dispersion of a library, whether in retrospect or in
anticipation, is always to me a melancholy thing.

Sir Thomas More.--How many such dispersions must have taken place to
have made it possible that these books should thus be brought
together here among the Cumberland mountains.

Montesinos.--Many, indeed; and in many instances most disastrous
ones.  Not a few of these volumes have been cast up from the wreck
of the family or convent libraries during the late Revolution.
Yonder "Acta Sanctorum" belonged to the Capuchins, at Ghent.  This
book of St. Bridget's Revelations, in which not only all the initial
letters are illuminated, but every capital throughout the volume was
coloured, came from the Carmelite Nunnery at Bruges.  That copy of
Alain Chartier, from the Jesuits' College at Louvain; that Imago
Primi Saeculi Societatis, from their college at Ruremond.  Here are
books from Colbert's library, here others from the Lamoignon one.
And here are two volumes of a work, not more rare than valuable for
its contents, divorced, unhappily, and it is to be feared for ever,
from the one which should stand between them; they were printed in a
convent at Manila, and brought from thence when that city was taken
by Sir William Draper; they have given me, perhaps, as many
pleasurable hours (passed in acquiring information which I could not
otherwise have obtained), as Sir William spent years of anxiety and
vexation in vainly soliciting the reward of his conquest.

About a score of the more out-of-the-way works in my possession
belonged to some unknown person, who seems carefully to have gleaned
the bookstalls a little before and after the year 1790.  He marked
them with certain ciphers, always at the end of the volume.  They
are in various languages, and I never found his mark in any book
that was not worth buying, or that I should not have bought without
that indication to induce me.  All were in ragged condition, and
having been dispersed, upon the owner's death probably, as of no
value, to the stalls they had returned; and there I found this
portion of them just before my old haunts as a book-hunter in the
metropolis were disforested, to make room for the improvements
between Westminster and Oxford Road.  I have endeavoured without
success to discover the name of their former possessor.  He must
have been a remarkable man, and the whole of his collection, judging
of it by that part which has come into my hands, must have been
singularly curious.  A book is the more valuable to me when I know
to whom it has belonged, and through what "scenes and changes" it
has passed.

Sir Thomas More.--You would have its history recorded in the fly-
leaf as carefully as the pedigree of a racehorse is preserved.

Montesinos.--I confess that I have much of that feeling in which the
superstition concerning relics has originated, and I am sorry when I
see the name of a former owner obliterated in a book, or the plate
of his arms defaced.  Poor memorials though they be, yet they are
something saved for a while from oblivion, and I should be almost as
unwilling to destroy them as to efface the Hic jacet of a tombstone.
There may be sometimes a pleasure in recognising them, sometimes a
salutary sadness.

Yonder Chronicle of King D. Manoel, by Damiam de Goes, and yonder
"General History of Spain," by Esteban de Garibay, are signed by
their respective authors.  The minds of these laborious and useful
scholars are in their works, but you are brought into a more
personal relation with them when you see the page upon which you
know that their eyes have rested, and the very characters which
their hands have traced.  This copy of Casaubon's Epistles was sent
to me from Florence by Walter Landor.  He had perused it carefully,
and to that perusal we are indebted for one of the most pleasing of
his Conversations; these letters had carried him in spirit to the
age of their writer, and shown James I. to him in the light wherein
James was regarded by contemporary scholars, and under the
impression thus produced Landor has written of him in his happiest
mood, calmly, philosophically, feelingly, and with no more of
favourable leaning than justice will always manifest when justice is
in good humour and in charity with all men.  The book came from the
palace library at Milan, how or when abstracted I know not, but this
beautiful dialogue would never have been written had it remained
there in its place upon the shelf, for the worms to finish the work
which they had begun.  Isaac Casaubon must be in your society, Sir
Thomas, for where Erasmus is you will be, and there also Casaubon
will have his place among the wise and the good.  Tell him, I pray
you, that due honour has in these days been rendered to his name by
one who as a scholar is qualified to appreciate his merits, and
whose writings will be more durable than monuments of brass or
marble.

Sir Thomas More.--Is there no message to him from Walter Landor's
friend?

Montesinos.--Say to him, since you encourage me to such boldness,
that his letters could scarcely have been perused with deeper
interest by the persons to whom they were addressed than they have
been by one, at the foot of Skiddaw, who is never more contentedly
employed than when learning from the living minds of other ages, one
who would gladly have this expression of respect and gratitude
conveyed to him, and who trusts that when his course is finished
here he shall see him face to face.

Here is a book with which Lauderdale amused himself, when Cromwell
kept him prisoner in Windsor Castle.  He has recorded his state of
mind during that imprisonment by inscribing in it, with his name,
and the dates of time and place, the Latin word Durate, and the
Greek [Greek text which cannot be reproduced].  Here is a memorial
of a different kind inscribed in this "Rule of Penance of St.
Francis, as it in ordered for religious women."  "I beseech my deare
mother humbly to accept of this exposition of our holy rule, the
better to conceive what your poor child ought to be, who daly beges
your blessing.  Constantia Francisco."  And here in the
Apophthegmata, collected by Conrad Lycosthenes, and published after
drastic expurgation by the Jesuits as a commonplace book, some
Portuguese has entered a hearty vow that he would never part with
the book, nor lend it to any one.  Very different was the
disposition of my poor old Lisbon acquaintance, the Abbe, who, after
the old humaner form, wrote in all his books (and he had a rare
collection) Ex libris Francisci Garnier, et amicorum.

Sir Thomas More.--How peaceably they stand together--Papists and
Protestants side by side.

Montesinos.--Their very dust reposes not more quietly in the
cemetery.  Ancient and modern, Jew and Gentile, Mahommedan and
Crusader, French and English, Spaniards and Portuguese, Dutch and
Brazilians, fighting their own battles, silently now, upon the same
shelf:  Fernam Lopez and Pedro de Ayala; John de Laet and Barlaeus,
with the historians of Joam Fernandes Vieira; Foxe's Martyrs and the
Three Conversions of Father Parsons; Cranmer and Stephen Gardiner;
Dominican and Franciscan; Jesuit and Philosophe (equally misnamed);
Churchmen and Sectarians; Round-heads and Cavaliers


"Here are God's conduits, grave divines; and here
Is Nature's secretary, the philosopher:
And wily statesmen, which teach how to tie
The sinews of a city's mystic body;
Here gathering chroniclers; and by them stand
Giddy fantastic poets of each land."--DONNE.


Here I possess these gathered treasures of time, the harvest of so
many generations, laid up in my garners:  and when I go to the
window there is the lake, and the circle of the mountains, and the
illimitable sky.

Sir Thomas More.--"Felicemque voco pariter studiique locique!"

Montesinos.--"--meritoque probas artesque locumque."

The simile of the bees,

"Sic vos non vobis mellificatis apes,"

has often been applied to men who have made literature their
profession; and they among them to whom worldly wealth and worldly
honours are objects of ambition, may have reason enough to
acknowledge its applicability.  But it will bear a happier
application and with equal fitness:  for, for whom is the purest
honey hoarded that the bees of this world elaborate, if it be not
for the man of letters?  The exploits of the kings and heroes of
old, serve now to fill story-books for his amusement and
instruction.  It was to delight his leisure and call forth his
admiration that Homer sung and Alexander conquered.  It is to
gratify his curiosity that adventurers have traversed deserts and
savage countries, and navigators have explored the seas from pole to
pole.  The revolutions of the planet which he inhabits are but
matters for his speculation; and the deluges and conflagrations
which it has undergone, problems to exercise his philosophy, or
fancy.  He is the inheritor of whatever has been discovered by
persevering labour, or created by inventive genius.  The wise of all
ages have heaped up a treasure for him, which rust doth not corrupt,
and which thieves cannot break through and steal.  I must leave out
the moth, for even in this climate care is required against its
ravages.

Sir Thomas More.--Yet, Montesinos, how often does the worm-eaten
volume outlast the reputation of the worm-eaten author!

Montesinos.--Of the living one also; for many there are of whom it
may be said, in the words of Vida, that -


"--ipsi
Saepe suis superant monumentis; illaudatique
Extremum ante diem faetus flevere caducos,
Viventesque suae viderunt funera famae."


Some literary reputations die in the birth; a few are nibbled to
death by critics, but they are weakly ones that perish thus, such
only as must otherwise soon have come to a natural death.  Somewhat
more numerous are those which are overfed with praise, and die of
the surfeit.  Brisk reputations, indeed, are like bottled twopenny,
or pop "they sparkle, are exhaled, and fly"--not to heaven, but to
the Limbo.  To live among books, is in this respect like living
among the tombs; you have in them speaking remembrancers of
mortality.  "Behold this also is vanity!"

Sir Thomas More.--Has it proved to you "vexation of spirit" also?

Montesinos.--Oh, no! for never can any man's life have been passed
more in accord with his own inclinations, nor more answerably to his
own desires.  Excepting that peace which, through God's infinite
mercy, is derived from a higher source, it is to literature, humanly
speaking, that I am beholden, not only for the means of subsistence,
but for every blessing which I enjoy; health of mind and activity of
mind, contentment, cheerfulness, continual employment, and therewith
continual pleasure.  Sua vissima vita indies, sentire se fieri
meliorem; and this as Bacon has said, and Clarendon repeated, is the
benefit that a studious man enjoys in retirement.  To the studies
which I have faithfully pursued I am indebted for friends with whom,
hereafter, it will be deemed an honour to have lived in friendship;
and as for the enemies which they have procured to me in sufficient
numbers, happily I am not of the thin-skinned race:  they might as
well fire small-shot at a rhinoceros, as direct their attacks upon
me.  In omnibus requiem quaesivi, said Thomas a Kempis, sed non
inveni nisi in angulis et libellis.  I too have found repose where
he did, in books and retirement, but it was there alone I sought it:
to these my nature, under the direction of a merciful Providence,
led me betimes, and the world can offer nothing which should tempt
me from them.

Sir Thomas More.--If wisdom were to be found in the multitude of
books, what a progress must this nation have made in it since my
head was cut off!  A man in my days might offer to dispute de omni
scibile, and in accepting the challenge I, as a young man, was not
guilty of any extraordinary presumption, for all which books could
teach was, at that time, within the compass of a diligent and ardent
student.  Even then we had difficulties to contend with which were
unknown to the ancients.  The curse of Babel fell lightly upon them.
The Greeks despised other nations too much to think of acquiring
their languages for the love of knowledge, and the Romans contented
themselves with learning only the Greek.  But tongues which, in my
lifetime, were hardly formed, have since been refined and
cultivated, and are become fertile in authors; and others, the very
names of which were then unknown in Europe, have been discovered and
mastered by European scholars, and have been found rich in
literature.  The circle of knowledge has thus widened in every
generation; and you cannot now touch the circumference of what might
formerly have been clasped.

Montesinos.--We are fortunate, methinks, who live in an age when
books are accessible and numerous, and yet not so multiplied, as to
render a competent, not to say thorough, acquaintance with any one
branch of literature, impossible.  He has it yet in his power to
know much, who can be contented to remain in ignorance of more, and
to say with Scaliger, non sum ex illis gloriosulis qui nihil
ignorant.

Sir Thomas More.--If one of the most learned men whom the world has
ever seen felt it becoming in him to say this two centuries ago, how
infinitely smaller in these days must the share of learning which
the most indefatigable student can hope to attain, be in proportion
to what he must wish to learn!  The sciences are simplified as they
are improved; old rubbish and demolished fabrics serve there to make
a foundation for new scaffolding, and more enduring superstructures;
and every discoverer in physics bequeaths to those who follow him
greater advantages than he possessed at the commencement of his
labours.  The reverse of this is felt in all the higher branches of
literature.  You have to acquire what the learned of the last age
acquired, and in addition to it, what they themselves have added to
the stock of learning.  Thus the task is greater in every succeeding
generation, and in a very few more it must become manifestly
impossible.

Montesinos.  Pope Ganganelli is said to have expressed a whimsical
opinion that all the books in the world might be reduced to six
thousand volumes in folio--by epitomising, expurgating, and
destroying whatever the chosen and plenipotential committee of
literature should in their wisdom think proper to condemn.  It is
some consolation to know that no Pope, or Nero, or Bonaparte,
however great their power, can ever think such a scheme sufficiently
within the bounds of possibility for them to dream of attempting it;
otherwise the will would not be wanting.  The evil which you
anticipate is already perceptible in its effects.  Well would it be
if men were as moderate in their desire of wealth, as those who
enter the ranks of literature, and lay claim to distinction there,
are in their desire of knowledge!  A slender capital suffices to
begin with, upon the strength of which they claim credit, and obtain
it as readily as their fellow adventurers in trade.  If they succeed
in setting up a present reputation, their ambition extends no
further.  The very vanity which finds its present food produces in
them a practical contempt for any fame beyond what they can live to
enjoy; and this sense of its insignificance to themselves is what
better minds hardly attain, even in their saddest wisdom, till this
world darkens upon them, and they feel that they are on the confines
of eternity.  But every age has had its sciolists, and will continue
to have them; and in every age literature has also had, and will
continue to have its sincere and devoted followers, few in number,
but enough to trim the everlasting lamp.  It is when sciolists
meddle with State affairs that they become the pests of a nation;
and this evil, for the reason which you have assigned, is more
likely to increase than to be diminished.  In your days all extant
history lay within compassable bounds:  it is a fearful thing to
consider now what length of time would be required to make studious
man as conversant with the history of Europe since those days, as he
ought to be, if he would be properly qualified for holding a place
in the councils of a kingdom.  Men who take the course of public
life will not, nor can they be expected to, wait for this.  Youth
and ardour, and ambition and impatience, are here in accord with
worldly prudence; if they would reach the goal for which they start,
they must begin the career betimes; and such among them as may be
conscious that their stock of knowledge is less than it ought to be
for such a profession, would not hesitate on that account to take an
active part in public affairs, because they have a more comfortable
consciousness that they are quite as well informed as the
contemporaries, with whom they shall have to act, or to contend.
The quantulum at which Oxenstern admired would be a large allowance
now.  For any such person to suspect himself of deficiency would, in
this age of pretension, be a hopeful symptom; but should he
endeavour to supply it, he is like a mail-coach traveller, who is to
be conveyed over macadamised roads at the rate of nine miles an
hour, including stoppages, and must therefore take at his minuted
meals whatever food is readiest.  He must get information for
immediate use, and with the smallest cost of time; and therefore it
is sought in abstracts and epitomes, which afford meagre food to the
intellect, though they take away the uneasy sense of inanition.
Tout abrege sur un bon livre est un sot abrege, says Montaigne; and
of all abridgments there are none by which a reader is liable, and
so likely, to be deceived as by epitomised histories.

Sir Thomas More.--Call to mind, I pray you, my foliophagous friend,
what was the extent of Michael Montaigne's library; and that if you
had passed a winter in his chateau you must, with that appetite of
yours, have but yourself upon short allowance there.  Historical
knowledge is not the first thing needful for a statesman, nor the
second.  And yet do not hastily conclude that I am about to
disparage its importance.  A sailor might as well put to sea without
chart or compass as a minister venture to steer the ship of the
State without it.  For as "the strong and strange varieties" in
human nature are repeated in every age, so "the thing which hath
been, it is that which shall be.  Is there anything whereof it may
be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time which
was before us."

Montesinos.--"For things forepast are precedents to us,
Whereby we may things present now, discuss,"

as the old poet said who brought together a tragical collection of
precedents in the mirror of magistrates.  This is what Lord Brooke
calls


   "the second light of government
Which stories yield, and no time can disseason:"


"the common standard of man's reason," he holds to be the first
light which the founders of a new state, or the governors of an old
one, ought to follow.

Sir Thomas More.--Rightly, for though the most sagacious author that
ever deduced maxims of policy from the experience of former ages has
said that the misgovernment of States, and the evils consequent
thereon, have arisen more from the neglect of that experience--that
is, from historical ignorance--than from any other cause, the sum
and substance of historical knowledge for practical purposes
consists in certain general principles; and he who understands those
principles, and has a due sense of their importance, has always, in
the darkest circumstances, a star in sight by which he may direct
his course surely.

Montesinos.--The British ministers who began and conducted the first
war against revolutionary France, were once reminded, in a memorable
speech, that if they had known, or knowing had borne in mind, three
maxims of Machiavelli, they would not have committed the errors
which cost this country so dearly.  They would not have relied upon
bringing the war to a successful end by aid of a party among the
French:  they would not have confided in the reports of emigrants;
and they would not have supposed that because the French finances
were in confusion, France was therefore incapable of carrying on war
with vigour and ability; men and not money being the sinews of war,
as Machiavelli had taught, and the revolutionary rulers and
Buonaparte after them had learnt.  Each of these errors they
committed, though all were marked upon the chart!

Sir Thomas More.--Such maxims are like beacons on a dangerous shore,
not the less necessary, because the seaman may sometimes be deceived
by false lights, and sometimes mistaken in his distances; but the
possibility of being so misled will be borne in mind by the
cautious.  Machiavelli is always sagacious, but the tree of
knowledge of which he had gathered grew not in Paradise; it had a
bitter root, and the fruit savours thereof, even to deadliness.  He
believed men to be so malignant by nature that they always act
malevolently from choice, and never well except by compulsion, a
devilish doctrine, to be accounted for rather than excused by the
circumstances of his age and country.  For he lived in a land where
intellect was highly cultivated, and morals thoroughly corrupted,
the Papal Church having by its doctrines, its practices, and its
example, made one part of the Italians heathenism and superstitious,
the other impious, and both wicked.

The rule of policy as well as of private morals is to be found in
the Gospel; and a religious sense of duty towards God and man is the
first thing needful in a statesman:  herein he has an unerring guide
when knowledge fails him, and experience affords no light.  This,
with a clear head and a single heart, will carry him through all
difficulties; and the just confidence which, having these, he will
then have in himself, will obtain for him the confidence of the
nation.  In every nation, indeed, which is conscious of its
strength, the minister who takes the highest tone will invariably be
the most popular; let him uphold, even haughtily, the character of
his country, and the heart and voice of the people will be with him.
But haughtiness implies always something that is hollow:  the tone
of a wise minister will be firm but calm.  He will neither truckle
to his enemies in the vain hope of conciliating them by a specious
candour, which they at the same time flatter and despise; nor will
he stand aloof from his friends, lest he should be accused of
regarding them with partiality; and thus while he secures the
attachment of the one he will command the respect of the other.  He
will not, like the Lacedemonians, think any measures honourable
which accord with his inclinations, and just if they promote his
views; but in all cases he will do that which is lawful and right,
holding this for a certain truth, that in politics the straight path
is the sure one!  Such a minister will hope for the best, and expect
the best; by acting openly, steadily, and bravely, he will act
always for the best:  and so acting, be the issue what it may, he
will never dishonour himself or his country, nor fall under the
"sharp judgment" of which they that are in "high places" are in
danger.

Montesinos.--I am pleased to hear you include hopefulness among the
needful qualifications.

Sir Thomas More.--It was a Jewish maxim that the spirit of prophecy
rests only upon eminent, happy, and cheerful men.

Montesinos.--A wise woman, by which I do not mean in vulgar parlance
one who pretends to prophecy, has a maxim to the same effect:  Toma
este aviso, she says, guardate de aquel que no tiene esperanza de
bien! take care of him who hath no hope of good!

Sir Thomas More.--"Of whole heart cometh hope," says old Piers
Plowman.  And these maxims are warranted by philosophy, divine and
human; by human wisdom, because he who hopes little will attempt
little--fear is "a betrayal of the succours which reason offereth,"
and in difficult times, pericula magna non nisi periculis depelli
solent; by religion, because the ways of providence are not so
changed under the dispensation of Grace from what they were under
the old law but that he who means well, and acts well, and is not
wanting to himself, may rightfully look for a blessing upon the
course which he pursues.  The upright individual may rest his heal
in peace upon this hope; the upright minister who conducts the
affairs of a nation may trust in it; for as national sins bring
after them in sure consequence their merited punishment, so national
virtue, which is national wisdom, obtains in like manner its
temporal and visible reward.

Blessings and curses are before you, and which are to be your
portion depends upon the direction of public opinion.  The march of
intellect is proceeding at quick time; and if its progress be not
accompanied by a corresponding improvement in morals and religion,
the faster it proceeds, with the more violence will you be hurried
down the road to ruin.

One of the first effects of printing was to make proud men look upon
learning as disgraced by being thus brought within reach of the
common people.  Till that time learning, such as it was, had been
confined to courts and convents, the low birth of the clergy being
overlooked because they were privileged by their order.  But when
laymen in humble life were enabled to procure books the pride of
aristocracy took an absurd course, insomuch that at one time it was
deemed derogatory for a nobleman if he could read or write.  Even
scholars themselves complained that the reputation of learning, and
the respect due to it, and its rewards were lowered when it was
thrown open to all men; and it was seriously proposed to prohibit
the printing of any book that could be afforded for sale below the
price of three soldi.  This base and invidious feeling was perhaps
never so directly avowed in other countries as in Italy, the land
where literature was first restored; and yet in this more liberal
island ignorance was for some generations considered to be a mark of
distinction, by which a man of gentle birth chose, not unfrequently,
to make it apparent that he was no more obliged to live by the toil
of his brain, than by the sweat of his brow.  The same changes in
society which rendered it no longer possible for this class of men
to pass their lives in idleness have completely put an end to this
barbarous pride.  It is as obsolete as the fashion of long finger-
nails, which in some parts of the East are still the distinctive
mark of those who labour not with their hands.  All classes are now
brought within the reach of your current literature, that literature
which, like a moral atmosphere, is as it were the medium of
intellectual life, and on the quality of which, according as it may
be salubrious or noxious, the health of the public mind depends.
There is, if not a general desire for knowledge, a general
appearance of such a desire.  Authors of all kinds have increased
and are increasing among you.  Romancers -

Montesinos.--Some of whom attempt things which had hitherto been
unattempted yet in prose or rhyme, because among all the extravagant
intellects with which the world has teemed none were ever before so
utterly extravagant as to choose for themselves themes of such
revolting monstrosity.

Sir Thomas More.--Poets -

Montesinos. -

"Tanti Rome non ha preti, o dottori
Bologna."

Sir Thomas More.--Critics -

Montesinos.--More numerous yet; for this is a corps in which many
who are destined for better things engage, till they are ashamed of
the service; and a much greater number who endeavour to distinguish
themselves in higher walks of literature, and fail, take shelter in
it; as they cannot attain reputation themselves they endeavour to
prevent others from being more successful, and find in the
gratification of envy some recompense for disappointed vanity.

Sir Thomas More.--Philosophers -

Montesinos.--True and false; the philosophers and the philosophists;
some of the former so full, that it would require, as the rabbis say
of a certain pedigree in the Book of Chronicles, four hundred camel
loads of commentaries to expound the difficulties in their text;
others so empty, that nothing can approximate so nearly to the
notion of an infinitesimal quantity as their meaning.

Sir Thomas More.--With this multiplication of books, which in its
proportionate increase marvellously exceeds that of your growing
population, are you a wiser, a more intellectual, or more
imaginative people than when, as in my days, the man of learning,
while he sat at his desk, had his whole library within arm's-length?

Montesinos.--If we are not wiser, it must be because the means of
knowledge, which are now both abundant and accessible, are either
neglected or misused.

The sciences are not here to be considered:  in these our progress
has been so great, that seeing the moral and religious improvement
of the nation has in no degree kept pace with it, you have
reasonably questioned whether we have not advanced in certain
branches, farther and faster than is conducive to, or perhaps
consistent with, the general good.  But there can be no question
that great advancement has been made in many departments of
literature conducive to innocent recreation (which would be alone no
trifling good, even were it not, as it is, itself conducive to
health both of body and of mind), to sound knowledge, and to moral
and political improvement.  There are now few portions of the
habitable earth which have not been explored, and with a zeal and
perseverance which had slept from the first age of maritime
discovery till it was revived under George III. in consequence of
this revival, and the awakened spirit of curiosity and enterprise,
every year adds to our ample store of books relating to the manners
of other nations, and the condition of men in states and stages of
society different to our own.  And of such books we cannot have too
many; the idlest reader may find amusement in them of a more
satisfactory kind than he can gather from the novel of the day or
the criticism of the day; and there are few among them so entirely
worthless that the most studious man may not derive from them some
information for which he ought to be thankful.  Some memorable
instances we have had in this generation of the absurdities and
errors, sometimes affecting seriously the public service and the
national character, which have arisen from the want of such
knowledge as by means of such books is now generally diffused.
Skates and warming-pans will not again be sent out as ventures to
Brazil.  The Board of Admiralty will never again attempt to ruin an
enemy's port by sinking a stone-ship, to the great amusement of that
enemy, in a tide harbour.  Nor will a cabinet minister think it
sufficient excuse for himself and his colleagues, to confess that
they were no better informed than other people, and had everything
to learn concerning the interior of a country into which they had
sent an army.

Sir Thomas More.--This is but a prospective benefit; and of a humble
kind, if it extend no further than to save you from any future
exposure of an ignorance which might deserve to be called
disgraceful.  We profited more by our knowledge of other countries
in the age when


"Hops and turkeys, carp and beer,
Came into England all in one year."


Montesinos.--And yet in that age you profited slowly by the
commodities which the eastern and western parts of the world
afforded.  Gold, pearls, and spices were your first imports.  For
the honour of science and of humanity, medicinal plants were soon
sought for.  But two centuries elapsed before tea and potatoes--the
most valuable products of the East and West--which have contributed
far more to the general good than all their spices and gems and
precious metals--came into common use; nor have they yet been
generally adopted on the Continent, while tobacco found its way to
Europe a hundred years earlier; and its filthy abuse, though here
happily less than in former times, prevails everywhere.

Sir Thomas More.--Pro pudor!  There is a snuff-box on the
mantelpiece--and thou revilest tobacco!

Montesinos.--Distinguish, I pray you, gentle ghost!  I condemn the
abuse of tobacco as filthy, implying in those words that it has its
allowable and proper use.  To smoke, is, in certain circumstances, a
wholesome practice; it may be regarded with a moral complacency as
the poor man's luxury, and with liking by any one who follows a
lighted pipe in the open air.  But whatever may be pleaded for its
soothing and intellectualising effects, the odour within doors of a
defunct pipe is such an abomination, that I join in anathematising
it with James, the best-natured of kings, and Joshua Sylvester, the
most voluble of poets.

Sir Thomas More.--Thou hast written verses praise of snuff!

Montesinos.--And if thy nose, sir Spirit, were anything more than
the ghost of an olfactor, I would offer it a propitiatory pinch,
that you might the more feelingly understand the merit of the said
verses, and admire them accordingly.  But I am no more to be deemed
a snuff-taker because I carry a snuff-box when travelling, and keep
one at hand for occasional use, than I am to be reckoned a casuist
or a pupil of the Jesuits because the "Moral Philosophy" of Escobar
and the "Spiritual Exercises" of St. Ignatius Loyola are on my
shelves.  Thank Heaven, I bear about with me no habits which I
cannot lay aside as easily as my clothes.

The age is past in which travellers could add much to the
improvement, the comfort, or the embellishment of this country by
imparting anything which they have newly observed in foreign parts.
We have happily more to communicate now than to receive.  Yet when I
tell you that since the commencement of the present century there
have been every year, upon an average, more than a hundred and fifty
plants which were previously unknown here introduced into the
nurseries and market-gardens about London, you will acknowledge that
in this branch at least, a constant desire is shown of enriching
ourselves with the produce of other hands.

Sir Thomas More.--Philosophers of old travelled to observe the
manners of men and study their institutions.  I know not whether
they found more pleasure in the study, or derived more advantages
from it, than the adventurers reap who, in these latter times, have
crossed the seas and exposed themselves to dangers of every kind,
for the purpose of extending the catalogue of plants.

Montesinos.--Of all travels, those of the mere botanist are the
least instructive -

Sir Thomas More.--To any but botanists--but for them alone they are
written.  Do not depreciate any pursuit which leads men to
contemplate the works of their Creator!  The Linnean traveller who,
when you look over the pages of his journal, seems to you a mere
botanist, has in his pursuit, as you have in yours, an object that
occupies his time, and fills his mind, and satisfies his heart.  It
is as innocent as yours, and as disinterested--perhaps more so,
because it is not so ambitious.  Nor is the pleasure which he
partakes in investigating the structure of a plant less pure, or
less worthy, than what you derive from perusing the noblest
productions of human genius.  You look at me as if you thought this
reprehension were undeserved!

Montesinos.--The eye, then, Sir Thomas, is proditorious, and I will
not gainsay its honest testimony:  yet would I rather endeavour to
profit by the reprehension than seek to show that it was uncalled
for.  If I know myself I am never prone to undervalue either the
advantages or acquirements which I do not possess.  That knowledge
is said to be of all others the most difficult; whether it be the
most useful the Greeks themselves differ, for if one of their wise
men left the words [Greek text which cannot be reproduced] as his
maxim to posterity, a poet, who perhaps may have been not less
deserving of the title, has controverted it, and told us that for
the uses of the world it is more advantageous for us to understand
the character of others than to know ourselves.

Sir Thomas More.--Here lies the truth; he who best understands
himself is least likely to be deceived in others; you judge of
others by yourselves, and therefore measure them by an erroneous
standard whenever your autometry is false.  This is one reason why
the empty critic is usually contumelious and flippant, the competent
one as generally equitable and humane.

Montesinos.--This justice I would render to the Linnean school, that
it produced our first devoted travellers; the race to which they
succeeded employed themselves chiefly in visiting museums and
cataloguing pictures, and now and then copying inscriptions; even in
their books notices are found for which they who follow them may be
thankful; and facts are sometimes, as if by accident, preserved, for
useful application.  They went abroad to accomplish or to amuse
themselves--to improve their time, or to get rid of it; the
botanists travelled for the sake of their favourite science, and
many of them, in the prime of life, fell victims to their ardour in
the unwholesome climates to which they were led.  Latterly we have
seen this ardour united with the highest genius, the most
comprehensive knowledge, and the rarest qualities of perseverance,
prudence, and enduring patience.  This generation will not leave
behind it two names more entitled to the admiration of after ages
than Burckhardt and Humboldt.  The former purchased this pre-
eminence at the cost of his life; the latter lives, and long may he
live to enjoy it.

Sir Thomas More.--This very important branch of literature can
scarcely be said to have existed in my time; the press was then too
much occupied in preserving such precious remains of antiquity as
could be rescued from destruction, and in matters which inflamed the
minds of men, as indeed they concerned their dearest and most
momentous interests.  Moreover reviving literature took the natural
course of imitation, and the ancients had left nothing in this kind
to be imitated.  Nothing therefore appeared in it, except the first
inestimable relations of the discoveries in the East and West, and
these belong rather to the department of history.  As travels we had
only the chance notices which occurred in the Latin correspondence
of learned men when their letters found their way to the public.

Montesinos.--Precious remains these are, but all too few.  The first
travellers whose journals or memoirs have been preserved were
ambassadors; then came the adventurer of whom you speak; and it is
remarkable that two centuries afterwards we should find men of the
same stamp among the buccaneers, who recorded in like manner with
faithful dilligence whatever they had opportunity of observing in
their wild and nefarious course of life.

Sir Thomas More.--You may deduce from thence two conclusions,
apparently contrarient, yet both warranted by the fact which you
have noticed.  It may be presumed that men who, while engaged in
such an occupation, could thus meritoriously employ their leisure,
were rather compelled by disastrous circumstances to such a course
than engaged in it by inclination:  that it was their misfortune
rather than their fault if they were not the benefactors and
ornaments of society, instead of being its outlaws; and that under a
wise and parental government such persons never would be lost.  This
is a charitable consideration, nor will I attempt to impugn it; the
other may seem less so, but is of more practical importance.  For
these examples are proof, if proof were needed, that intellectual
attainments and habits are no security for good conduct unless they
are supported by religious principles; without religion the highest
endowments of intellect can only render the possessor more dangerous
if he be ill disposed, if well disposed only more unhappy.

The conquerors, as they called themselves, were followed by
missionaries.

Montesinos.--Our knowledge of the remoter parts of the world, during
the first part of the seventeenth century, must chiefly be obtained
from their recitals.  And there is no difficulty in separating what
may be believed from their fables, because their falsehoods being
systematically devised and circulated in pursuance of what they
regarded as part of their professional duty, they told truth when
they had no motive for deceiving the reader.  Let any person compare
the relations of our Protestant missionaries with those of the
Jesuits, Dominicans, Franciscans, or any other Romish order, and the
difference which he cannot fail to perceive between the plain truth
of the one and the audacious and elaborate mendacity of the other
may lead him to a just inference concerning the two churches.

Sir Thomas More.--Their fables were designed, by exciting
admiration, to call forth money for the support of missions, which,
notwithstanding such false pretences, were piously undertaken and
heroically pursued.  They scrupled therefore as little at
interlarding their chronicles and annual letters with such miracles,
as poets at the use of machinery in their verses.  Think not that I
am excusing them; but thus it was that they justified their system
of imposition to themselves, and this part of it must not be
condemned as if it proceeded from an evil intention.

Montesinos.--Yet, Sir Thomas, the best of those missionaries are not
more to be admired for their exemplary virtue, and pitied for the
superstition which debased their faith, than others of their
respective orders are to be abominated for the deliberate wickedness
with which, in pursuance of the same system, they imposed the most
blasphemous and atrocious legends upon the credulous, and persecuted
with fire and sword those who opposed their deceitful villainy.  One
reason wherefore so few travels were written in the age of which we
are speaking is, that no Englishman, unless he were a Papist, could
venture into Italy, or any other country where the Romish religion
was established in full power, without the danger of being seized by
the Inquisition!

Other dangers, by sea and by land, from corsairs and banditti,
including too the chances of war and of pestilence, were so great in
that age, that it was not unusual for men when they set out upon
their travels to put out a sum upon their own lives, which if they
died upon the journey was to be the underwriter's gain, but to be
repaid if they returned, within such increase as might cover their
intervening expenses.  The chances against them seem to have been
considered as nearly three to one.  But danger, within a certain
degree, is more likely to provoke adventurers than to deter them.

Sir Thomas More.--There thou hast uttered a comprehensive truth.  No
legislator has yet so graduated his scale of punishment as to
ascertain that degree which shall neither encourage hope nor excite
the audacity of desperate guilt.  It is certain that there are
states of mind in which the consciousness that he is about to play
for life or death stimulates a gamester to the throw.  This will
apply to most of those crimes which are committed for cupidity, and
not attended with violence.

Montesinos.--Well then may these hazards have acted as incentives
where there was the desire of honour, the spirit of generous
enterprise, or even the love of notoriety.  By the first of these
motives Pietro della Valle (the most romantic in his adventures of
all true travellers) was led abroad, the latter spring set in motion
my comical countryman, Tom Coriat, who by the engraver's help has
represented himself at one time in full dress, making a leg to a
courtesan at Venice, and at another dropping from his rags the all-
too lively proofs of prolific poverty.

Perhaps literature has never been so directly benefited by the
spirit of trade as it was in the seventeenth century, when European
jewellers found their most liberal customers in the courts of the
East.  Some of the best travels which we possess, as well as the
best materials for Persian and Indian history, have been left us by
persons engaged in that trade.  From that time travelling became
less dangerous and more frequent in every generation, except during
the late years when Englishmen were excluded from the Continent by
the military tyrant whom (with God's blessing on a rightful cause)
we have beaten from his imperial throne.  And now it is more
customary for females in the middle rank of life to visit Italy than
it was for them in your days to move twenty miles from home.

Sir Thomas More.--Is this a salutary or an injurious fashion?

Montesinos.--According to the subject, and to the old school maxim
quicquid recipitur, recipitur in modum recipientis.  The wise come
back wiser, the well-informed with richer stores of knowledge, the
empty and the vain return as they went, and there are some who bring
home foreign vanities and vices in addition to their own.

Sir Thomas More.--And what has been imported by such travellers for
the good of their country?

Montesinos.--Coffee in the seventeenth century, inoculation in that
which followed; since which we have had now and then a new dance and
a new game at cards, curry and mullagatawny soup from the East
Indies, turtle from the West, and that earthly nectar to which the
East contributes its arrack, and the West its limes and its rum.  In
the language of men it is called Punch; I know not what may be its
name in the Olympian speech.  But tell not the Englishmen of George
the Second's age, lest they should be troubled for the degeneracy of
their grandchildren, that the punchbowl is now become a relic of
antiquity, and their beloved beverage almost as obsolete as
metheglin, hippocras, chary, or morat!

Sir Thomas More.--It is well for thee that thou art not a young
beagle instead of a grey-headed bookman, or that rambling vein of
thine would often bring thee under the lash of the whipper-in!  Off
thou art and away in pursuit of the smallest game that rises before
thee.

Montesinos.--Good Ghost, there was once a wise Lord Chancellor, who
in a dialogue upon weighty matters thought it not unbecoming to
amuse himself with discursive merriment concerning St. Appollonia
and St. Uncumber.

Sir Thomas More.--Good Flesh and Blood, that was a nipping reply!
And happy man is his dole who retains in grave years, and even to
grey hairs, enough of green youth's redundant spirits for such
excursiveness!  He who never relaxes into sportiveness is a
wearisome companion, but beware of him who jests at everything!
Such men disparage by some ludicrous association all objects which
are presented to their thoughts, and thereby render themselves
incapable of any emotion which can either elevate or soften them,
they bring upon their moral being an influence more withering than
the blast of the desert.  A countenance, if it be wrinkled either
with smiles or with frowns, is to be shunned; the furrows which the
latter leave show that the soil is sour, those of the former are
symptomatic of a hollow heart.

None of your travellers have reached Utopia, and brought from thence
a fuller account of its institutions?

Montesinos.--There was one, methinks, who must have had it in view
when he walked over the world to discover the source of moral
motion.  He was afflicted with a tympany of mind produced by
metaphysics, which was at that time a common complaint, though
attended in him with unusual symptoms, but his heart was healthy and
strong, and might in former ages have enabled him to acquire a
distinguished place among the saints of the Thebais or the
philosophers of Greece.

But although we have now no travellers employed in seeking
undiscoverable countries, and although Eldorado, the city of the
Cesares, and the Sabbatical River, are expunged even from the maps
of credulity and imagination, Welshmen have gone in search of
Madoc's descendants, and scarcely a year passes without adding to
the melancholy list of those who have perished in exploring the
interior of Africa.

Sir Thomas More.--Whenever there shall exist a civilised and
Christian negro state Providence will open that country to
civilisation and Christianity, meantime to risk strength and
enterprise and science against climate is contending against the
course of nature.  Have these travellers yet obtained for you the
secret of the Psylli?

Montesinos.--We have learnt from savages the mode of preparing their
deadliest poisons.  The more useful knowledge by which they render
the human body proof against the most venomous serpents has not been
sought with equal diligence; there are, however, scattered notices
which may perhaps afford some clue to the discovery.  The writings
of travellers are not more rich in materials for the poet and the
historian than they are in useful notices, deposited there like
seeds which lie deep in the earth till some chance brings them
within reach of air, and then they germinate.  These are fields in
which something may always be found by the gleaner, and therefore
those general collections in which the works are curtailed would be
to be reprobated, even if epitomisers did not seem to possess a
certain instinct of generic doltishness which leads them curiously
to omit whatever ought especially to be preserved.

Sir Thomas More.--If ever there come a time, Montesinos, when
beneficence shall be as intelligent, and wisdom as active, as the
spirit of trade, you will then draw from foreign countries other
things beside those which now pay duties at the custom-house, or are
cultivated in nurseries for the conservatories of the wealthy.  Not
that I regard with dissatisfaction these latter importations of
luxury, however far they may be brought, or at whatever cost; for of
all mere pleasures those of a garden are the most salutary, and
approach nearest to a moral enjoyment.  But you will then (should
that time come) seek and find in the laws, usages and experience of
other nations palliatives for some of those evils and diseases which
have hitherto been inseparable from society and human nature, and
remedies, perhaps, for others.

Montesinos.--Happy the travellers who shall be found instrumental to
such good!  One advantage belongs to authors of this description;
because they contribute to the instruction of the learned, their
reputation suffers no diminution by the course of time:  age rather
enhances their value.  In this respect they resemble historians, to
whom, indeed, their labours are in a great degree subsidiary.

Sir Thomas More.--They have an advantage over them, my friend, in
this, that rarely can they leave evil works behind them, which
either from a mischievous persuasion, or a malignant purpose, may
heap condemnation upon their own souls as long as such works survive
them.  Even if they should manifest pernicious opinions and a wicked
will, the venom is in a great degree sheathed by the vehicle in
which it is administered.  And this is something; for let me tell
thee, thou consumer of goose quills, that of all the Devil's
laboratories there is none in which more poison is concocted for
mankind than in the inkstand!

Montesinos.--"My withers are unwrung!"

Sir Thomas More.--Be thankful, therefore, in life, as thou wilt in
death.

A principle of compensation may be observed in literary pursuits as
in other things.  Reputations that never flame continue to glimmer
for centuries after those which blaze highest have gone out.  And
what is of more moment, the humblest occupations are morally the
safest.  Rhadamanthus never puts on his black cap to pronounce
sentence upon a dictionary-maker or the compiler of a county
history.

Montesinos.  I am to understand, then, that in the archangel's
balance a little book may sink the scale toward the pit; while all
the tomes of Thomas Hearne and good old John Nichols will be weighed
among their good works!

Sir Thomas More.--Sport as thou wilt in allusions to allegory and
fable; but bear always in thy most serious mind this truth, that men
hold under an awful responsibility the talents with which they are
entrusted.  Kings have not so serious an account to render as they
who exercise an intellectual influence over the minds of men!

Montesinos.--If evil works, so long as they continue to produce
evil, heap up condemnation upon the authors, it is well for some of
the wickedest writers that their works do not survive them.

Sir Thomas More.--Such men, my friend, even by the most perishable
of their wicked works, lay up sufficient condemnation for
themselves.  The maxim that malitia supplet aetatem is rightfully
admitted in human laws:  should there not then, by parity of
justice, be cases where, when the secrets of the heart are seen, the
intention shall be regarded rather than the act?

The greatest portion of your literature, at any given time, is
ephemeral; indeed, it has ever been so since the discovery of
printing; and this portion it is which is most influential,
consequently that by which most good or mischief is done.

Montesinos.--Ephemeral it truly may be called; it is now looked for
by the public as regularly as their food; and, like food, it affects
the recipient surely and permanently, even when its effect is slow,
according as it is wholesome or noxious.  But how great is the
difference between the current literature of this and of any former
time!

Sir Thomas More.--From that complacent tone it may be presumed that
you see in it proof both of moral and intellectual improvement.
Montesinos, I must disturb that comfortable opinion, and call upon
you to examine how much of this refinement which passes for
improvement is superficial.  True it is that controversy is carried
on with more decency than it was by Martin Lutherand a certain Lord
Chancellor, to whom you just now alluded; but if more courtesy is to
be found in polemical writers, who are less sincere than either the
one or the other, there is as much acerbity of feeling and as much
bitterness of heart.  You have a class of miscreants which had no
existence in those days--the panders of the press, who live by
administering to the vilest passions of the people, and encouraging
their most dangerous errors, practising upon their ignorance, and
inculcating whatever is most pernicious in principle and most
dangerous to society.  This is their golden age; for though such men
would in any age have taken to some villainy or other, never could
they have found a course at once so gainful and so safe.  Long
impunity has taught them to despise the laws which they defy, and
the institutions which they are labouring to subvert; any further
responsibility enters not into their creed, if that may be called a
creed, in which all the articles are negative.  I? we turn from
politics to what should be humaner literature, and look at the self-
constituted censors of whatever has passed the press, there also we
shall find that they who are the most incompetent assume the most
authority, and that the public favour such pretensions; for in
quackery of every kind, whether medical, political, critical, or
hypocritical, quo quis impudentior eo doctior habetur.

Montesinos.--The pleasure which men take in acting maliciously is
properly called by Barrow a RASCALLY delight.  But this is no new
form of malice.  "Avant nous," says the sagacious but iron-hearted
Montluc--"avant nous ces envies ont regne, et regneront encore apres
nous, si Dieu ne nous voulait tous refondre."  Its worst effect is
that which Ben Jonson remarked:  "The gentle reader," says he,
"rests happy to hear the worthiest works misrepresented, the
clearest actions obscured, the innocentest life traduced; and in
such a licence of lying, a field so fruitful of slanders, how can
there be matter wanting to his laughter?  Hence comes the epidemical
infection:  for how can they escape the contagion of the writings
whom the virulency of the calumnies hath not staved off from
reading?"

There is another mischief, arising out of ephemeral literature,
which was noticed by the same great author.  "Wheresoever manners
and fashions are corrupted," says he, "language is.  It imitates the
public riot.  The excess of feasts and apparel are the notes of a
sick state; and the wantonness of language of a sick mind."  This
was the observation of a man well versed in the history of the
ancients and in their literature.  The evil prevailed in his time to
a considerable degree; but it was not permanent, because it
proceeded rather from the affectation of a few individuals than from
any general cause:  the great poets were free from it; and our prose
writers then, and till the end of that century, were preserved, by
their sound studies and logical habits of mind, from any of those
faults into which men fall who write loosely because they think
loosely.  The pedantry of one class and the colloquial vulgarity of
another had their day; the faults of each were strongly contrasted,
and better writers kept the mean between them.  More lasting effect
was produced by translators, who in later times have corrupted our
idiom as much as, in early ones, they enriched our vocabulary; and
to this injury the Scotch have greatly contributed; for composing in
a language which is not their mother tongue, they necessarily
acquired an artificial and formal style, which, not so much through
the merit of a few as owing to the perseverance of others, who for
half a century seated themselves on the bench of criticism, has
almost superseded the vernacular English of Addison and Swift.  Our
journals, indeed, have been the great corrupters of our style, and
continue to be so, and not for this reason only.  Men who write in
newspapers, and magazines, and reviews, write for present effect; in
most cases this is as much their natural and proper aim as it would
be in public speaking; but when it is so they consider, like public
speakers, not so much what is accurate or just, either in matter or
manner, as what will be acceptable to those whom they address.
Writing also under the excitement of emulation and rivalry, they
seek, by all the artifices and efforts of an ambitious style, to
dazzle their readers; and they are wise in their generation,
experience having shown that common minds are taken by glittering
faults, both in prose and verse, as larks are with looking-glasses.

In this school it is that most writers are now trained; and after
such training anything like an easy and natural movement is as
little to be looked for in their compositions as in the step of a
dancing master.  To the vices of style which are thus generated
there must be added the inaccuracies inevitably arising from haste,
when a certain quantity of matter is to be supplied for a daily or
weekly publication which allows of no delay--the slovenliness that
confidence, as well as fatigue and inattention, will produce--and
the barbarisms, which are the effect of ignorance, or that
smattering of knowledge which serves only to render ignorance
presumptuous.  These are the causes of corruption in our current
style; and when these are considered there would be ground for
apprehending that the best writings of the last century might become
as obsolete as yours in the like process of time, if we had not in
our Liturgy and our Bible a standard from which it will not be
possible wholly to depart.

Sir Thomas More.--Will the Liturgy and the Bible keep the language
at that standard in the colonies, where little or no use is made of
the one, and not much, it may be feared, of the other?

Montesinos.--A sort of hybrid speech, a Lingua Anglica, more
debased, perhaps, than the Lingua Franca of the Levant, or the
Portuguese of Malabar, is likely enough to grow up among the South
Sea Islands; like the mixture of Spanish with some of the native
languages in South America, or the mingle-mangle which the negroes
have made with French and English, and probably with other European
tongues in the colonies of their respective states.  The spirit of
mercantile adventure may produce in this part of the new world a
process analogous to what took place throughout Europe on the
breaking up of the Western Empire; and in the next millennium these
derivatives may become so many cultivated tongues, having each its
literature.  These will be like varieties in a flower-garden, which
the florist raises from seed; but in the colonies, as in our
orchards, the graft takes with it, and will preserve, the true
characteristics of the stock.

Sir Thomas More.--But the same causes of deterioration will be at
work there also.

Montesinos.--Not nearly in the same degree, nor to an equal extent.
Now and then a word with the American impress comes over to us which
has not been struck in the mint of analogy.  But the Americans are
more likely to be infected by the corruption of our written language
than we are to have it debased by any importations of this kind from
them.

Sir Thomas More.--There is a more important consideration belonging
to this subject.  The cause which you have noticed as the principal
one of this corruption must have a farther and more mischievous
effect.  For it is not in the vices of an ambitious style that these
ephemeral writers, who live upon the breath of popular applause,
will rest.  Great and lasting reputations, both in ancient and
modern times, have been raised notwithstanding that defect, when the
ambition from which it proceeded was of a worthy kind, and was
sustained by great powers and adequate acquirements.  But this
ambition, which looks beyond the morrow, has no place in the writers
of a day.  Present effect is their end and aim; and too many of
them, especially the ablest, who have wanted only moral worth to
make them capable of better things, are persons who can "desire no
other mercy from after ages than silence and oblivion."  Even with
the better part of the public that author will always obtain the
most favourable reception, who keeps most upon a level with them in
intellectuals, and puts them to the least trouble of thinking.  He
who addresses himself with the whole endeavours of a powerful mind
to the understanding faculty may find fit readers; but they will be
few.  He who labours for posterity in the fields of research, must
look to posterity for his reward.  Nay, even they whose business is
with the feelings and the fancy, catch most fish when they angle in
shallow waters.  Is it not so, Piscator?

Montesinos.--In such honest anglers, Sir Thomas, I should look for
as many virtues, as good old happy Izaak Walton found in his
brethren of the rod and line.  Nor will you, I think, disparage
them; for you were of the Rhymers' Company, and at a time when
things appear to us in their true colours and proportion (if ever
while we are yet in the body), you remembered your verses with more
satisfaction than your controversial writings, even though you had
no misgivings concerning the part which you had chosen.

Sir Thomas More.--My verses, friend, had none of the athanasia in
their composition.  Though they have not yet perished, they cannot
be said to have a living existence; even you, I suspect, have sought
for them rather because of our personal acquaintance than for any
other motive.  Had I been only a poet, those poems, such as they
were, would have preserved my name; but being remembered for other
grounds, better and worse, the name which I have left has been one
cause why they have passed into oblivion, sooner than their
perishable nature would have carried them thither.  If in the latter
part of my mortal existence I had misgivings concerning any of my
writings, they were of the single one, which is still a living work,
and which will continue so to be.  I feared that speculative
opinions, which had been intended for the possible but remote
benefit of mankind, might, by unhappy circumstances, be rendered
instrumental to great and immediate evil; an apprehension, however,
which was altogether free from self-reproach.

But my verses will continue to exist in their mummy state, long
after the worms shall have consumed many of those poetical
reputations which are at this time in the cherry-cheeked bloom of
health and youth.  Old poets will always retain their value for
antiquaries and philologists, modern ones are far too numerous ever
to acquire an accidental usefulness of this kind, even if the
language were to undergo greater changes than any circumstances are
likely to produce.  There will now be more poets in every generation
than in that which preceded it; they will increase faster than your
population; and as their number increases, so must the proportion of
those who will be remembered necessarily diminish.  Tell the Fitz-
Muses this!  It is a consideration, Sir Poet, which may serve as a
refrigerant for their ardour.  Those of the tribe who may flourish
hereafter (as the flourishing phrase is) in any particular age, will
be little more remembered in the next than the Lord Mayors and
Sheriffs who were their contemporaries.

Montesinos.--Father in verse, if you had not put off flesh and blood
so long, you would not imagine that this consideration will diminish
their number.  I am sure it would not have affected me forty years
ago, had I seen this truth then as clearly as I perceive and feel it
now.  Though it were manifest to all men that not one poet in an
age, in a century, a millennium, could establish his claim to be for
ever known, every aspirant would persuade himself that he is the
happy person for whom the inheritance of fame is reserved.  And when
the dream of immortality is dispersed, motives enough remain for
reasonable ambition.

It is related of some good man (I forget who), that upon his death-
bed he recommended his son to employ himself in cultivating a
garden, and in composing verses, thinking these to be at once the
happiest and the most harmless of all pursuits.  Poetry may be, and
too often has been, wickedly perverted to evil purposes; what indeed
is there that may not, when religion itself is not safe from such
abuses! but the good which it does inestimably exceeds the evil.  It
is no trifling good to provide means of innocent and intellectual
enjoyment for so many thousands in a state like ours; an enjoyment,
heightened, as in every instance it is within some little circle, by
personal considerations, raising it to a degree which may deserve to
be called happiness.  It is no trifling good to win the ear of
children with verses which foster in them the seeds of humanity and
tenderness and piety, awaken their fancy, and exercise pleasurably
and wholesomely their imaginative and meditative powers.  It is no
trifling benefit to provide a ready mirror for the young, in which
they may see their own best feelings reflected, and wherein
"whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just,
whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely," are
presented to them in the most attractive form.  It is no trifling
benefit to send abroad strains which may assist in preparing the
heart for its trials, and in supporting it under them.  But there is
a greater good than this, a farther benefit.  Although it is in
verse that the most consummate skill in composition is to be looked
for, and all the artifice of language displayed, yet it is in verse
only that we throw off the yoke of the world, and are as it were
privileged to utter our deepest and holiest feelings.  Poetry in
this respect may be called the salt of the earth; we express in it,
and receive in it, sentiments for which, were it not for this
permitted medium, the usages of the world would neither allow
utterance nor acceptance.  And who can tell in our heart-chilling
and heart-hardening society, how much more selfish, how much more
debased, how much worse we should have been, in all moral and
intellectual respects, had it not been for the unnoticed and
unsuspected influence of this preservative?  Even much of that
poetry, which is in its composition worthless, or absolutely bad,
contributes to this good.

Sir Thomas More.--Such poetry, then, according to your view, is to
be regarded with indulgence.

Montesinos.--Thank Heaven, Sir Thomas, I am no farther critical than
every author must necessarily be who makes a careful study of his
own art.  To understand the principles of criticism is one thing; to
be what is called critical, is another; the first is like being
versed in jurisprudence, the other like being litigious.  Even those
poets who contribute to the mere amusement of their readers, while
that amusement is harmless, are to be regarded with complacency, if
not respect.  They are the butterflies of literature, who during the
short season of their summer, enliven the garden and the field.  It
were pity to touch them even with a tender hand, lest we should
brush the down from their wings.

Sir Thomas More.--These are they of whom I spake as angling in
shallow waters.  You will not regard with the same complacency those
who trouble the stream; still less those who poison it.

Montesinos.--"Vesanum tetigisse timent, fugiuntque poetam
Qui sapiunt; agitant pueri, incautique sequuntur."

Sir Thomas More.--This brings us again to the point at which you
bolted.  The desire of producing present effect, the craving for
immediate reputation, have led to another vice, analogous to and
connected with that of the vicious style, which the same causes are
producing, but of worse consequences.  The corruption extends from
the manner to the matter; and they who brew for the press, like some
of those who brew for the publicans, care not, if the potion has but
its desired strength, how deleterious may be the ingredients which
they use.  Horrors at which the innocent heart quails, and the
healthy stomachs heaves in loathing, are among the least hurtful of
their stimulants.

Montesinos.--This too, Sir Thomas, is no new evil.  An appetite for
horrors is one of the diseased cravings of the human mind; and in
old times the tragedies which most abounded in them, were for that
reason the most popular.  The dramatists of our best age, great Ben
and greater Shakespeare excepted, were guilty of a farther sin, with
which the writers whom you censure are also to be reproached; they
excited their auditors by the representation of monstrous crimes--
crimes out of the course of nature.  Such fables might lawfully be
brought upon the Grecian stage, because the belief of the people
divested them of their odious and dangerous character; there they
were well known stories, regarded with a religious persuasion of
their truth; and the personages, being represented as under the
overruling influence of dreadful destiny, were regarded therefore
with solemn commiseration, not as voluntary and guilty agents.
There is nothing of this to palliate or excuse the production of
such stories in later times; the choice, and, in a still greater
degree, the invention of any such, implies in the author, not merely
a want of judgment, but a defect in moral feeling.  Here, however,
the dramatists of that age stopped.  They desired to excite in their
audience the pleasure of horror, and this was an abuse of the poet's
art:  but they never aimed at disturbing their moral perceptions, at
presenting wickedness in an attractive form, exciting sympathy with
guilt, and admiration for villainy, thereby confounding the
distinctions between right and wrong.  This has been done in our
days; and it has accorded so well with the tendency of other things,
that the moral drift of a book is no longer regarded, and the
severest censure which can be passed upon it is to say that it is in
bad taste; such is the phrase--and the phrase is not confined to
books alone.  Anything may be written, said, or done, in bad feeling
and with a wicked intent; and the public are so tolerant of these,
that he who should express a displeasure on that score would be
censured for bad taste himself!

Sir Thomas More.--And yet you talked of the improvement of the age,
and of the current literature as exceeding in worth that of any
former time

Montesinos.--The portion of it which shall reach to future times
will justify me; for we have living minds who have done their duty
to their own age and to posterity.

Sir Thomas More.--Has the age in return done its duty to them?

Montesinos.--They complain not of the age, but they complain of an
anomalous injustice in the laws.  They complain that authors are
deprived of a perpetual property in the produce of their own
labours, when all other persons enjoy it as an indefeasible and
acknowledged right.  And they ask upon what principle, with what
equity, or under what pretence of public good they are subjected to
this injurious enactment?  Is it because their labour is so light,
the endowments which are required for it so common, the attainments
so cheaply and easily acquired, and the present remuneration in all
cases so adequate, so ample, and so certain?

The act whereby authors are deprived of that property in their own
works which, upon every principle of reason, natural justice, and
common law, they ought to enjoy, is so curiously injurious in its
operation, that it bears with most hardship upon the best works.
For books of great immediate popularity have their run and come to a
dead stop:  the hardship is upon those which win their way slowly
and difficultly, but keep the field at last.  And it will not appear
surprising that this should generally have been the case with books
of the highest merit, if we consider what obstacles to the success
of a work may be opposed by the circumstances and obscurity of the
author, when he presents himself as a candidate for fame, by the
humour or the fashion of the times; the taste of the public, more
likely to be erroneous than right at any time; and the incompetence,
or personal malevolence of some unprincipled critic, who may take
upon himself to guide the public opinion, and who if he feels in his
own heart that the fame of the man whom he hates is invulnerable,
lays in wait for that reason the more vigilantly to wound him in his
fortunes.  In such cases, when the copyright as by the existing law
departs from the author's family at his death, or at the end of
twenty-eight years from the first publication of every work, (if he
dies before the expiration of that term,) his representatives are
deprived of their property just as it would begin to prove a
valuable inheritance.

The last descendants of Milton died in poverty.  The descendants of
Shakespeare are living in poverty, and in the lowest condition of
life.  Is this just to these individuals?  Is it grateful to the
memory of those who are the pride and boast of their country?  Is it
honourable, or becoming to us as a nation, holding--the better part
of us assuredly, and the majority affecting to hold--the names of
Shakespeare and Milton in veneration?

To have placed the descendants of Shakespeare and Milton in
respectability and comfort--in that sphere of life where, with a
full provision for our natural wants and social enjoyments, free
scope is given to the growth of our intellectual and immortal part,
simple justice was all that was required, only that they should have
possessed the perpetual copyright of their ancestors' works, only
that they should not have been deprived of their proper inheritance.

The decision which time pronounces upon the reputation of authors,
and upon the permanent rank which they are to hold in the estimation
of posterity, is unerring and final.  Restore to them that
perpetuity in the property of their works, of which the law has
deprived them, and the reward of literary labour will ultimately be
in just proportion to its deserts.

However slight may be the hope of obtaining any speedy redress,
there is some satisfaction in earnestly protesting against this
injustice.  And believing as I do, that if society continues to
improve, no injustice will long be permitted to continue after it
has been fairly exposed, and is clearly apprehended, I cannot but
believe that a time must come when the rights of literature will be
acknowledged and its wrongs redressed; and that those authors
hereafter who shall deserve well of posterity, will have no cause to
reproach themselves for having sacrificed the interests of their
children when they disregarded the pursuit of fortune for
themselves.



COLLOQUY XV.--THE CONCLUSION.



Montesinos.--Here Sir Thomas is the opinion which I have attempted
to maintain concerning the progress and tendency of society, placed
in a proper position, and inexpugnably entrenched here according to
the rules of art, by the ablest of all moral engineers.

Sir Thomas More.--Who may this political Achilles be whom you have
called in to your assistance?

Montesinos.--Whom Fortune rather has sent to my aid, for my reading
has never been in such authors.  I have endeavoured always to drink
from the spring-head, but never ventured out to fish in deep waters.
Thor, himself, when he had hooked the Great Serpent, was unable to
draw him up from the abyss.

Sir Thomas More--The waters in which you have now been angling have
been shallow enough, if the pamphlet in your hand is, as it appears
to be, a magazine.

Montesinos.--"Ego sum is," said Scaliger, "qui ab omnibus discere
volo; neque tam malum librum esse puto, ex quo non aliquem fructum
colligere possum."  I think myself repaid, in a monkish legend, for
examining a mass of inane fiction, if I discover a single passage
which elucidates the real history or manners of its age.  In old
poets of the third and fourth order we are contented with a little
ore, and a great deal of dross.  And so in publications of this
kind, prejudicial as they are to taste and public feeling, and the
public before deeply injurious to the real interests of literature,
something may sometimes be found to compensate for the trash and
tinsel and insolent flippancy, which are now become the staple
commodities of such journals.  This number contains Kant's idea of a
Universal History on a Cosmo-Political plan; and that Kant is as
profound a philosopher as his disciples have proclaimed him to be,
this little treatise would fully convince me, if I had not already
believed it, in reliance upon one of the very few men who are
capable of forming a judgment upon such a writer.

The sum of his argument is this:  that as deaths, births, and
marriages, and the oscillations of the weather, irregular as they
seem to be in themselves, are nevertheless reduceable upon the great
scale to certain rules; so there may be discovered in the course of
human history a steady and continuous, though slow development of
certain great predispositions in human nature, and that although men
neither act under the law of instinct, like brute animals, nor under
the law of a preconcerted plan, like rational cosmopolites, the
great current of human actions flows in a regular stream of tendency
toward this development; individuals and nations, while pursuing
their own peculiar and often contradictory purposes, following the
guidance of a great natural purpose, and thus promoting a process
which, even if they perceived it, they would little regard.  What
that process is he states in the following series of propositions:-

1st.  All tendencies of any creature, to which it is predisposed by
nature, are destined in the end to develop themselves perfectly and
agreeably to their final purpose.

2nd.  In man, as the sole rational creature upon earth, those
tendencies which have the use of his reason for their object are
destined to obtain their perfect development in the species only,
and not in the individual.

3rd.  It is the will of nature that man should owe to himself alone
everything which transcends the mere mechanic constitution of his
animal existence, and that he should be susceptible of no other
happiness or perfection than what he has created for himself,
instinct apart, through his own reason.

4th.  The means which nature employs to bring about the development
of all the tendencies she has laid in man, is the antagonism of
those tendencies in the social state, no farther, however, than to
that point at which this antagonism becomes the cause of social
arrangements founded in law.

5th.  The highest problem for the human species, to the solution of
which it is irresistibly urged by natural impulses, is the
establishment of a universal civil society, founded on the empire of
political justice.

6th.  This problem is, at the same time, the most difficult of all,
and the one which is latest solved by man.

7th.  The problem of the establishment of a perfect constitution of
society depends upon the problem of a system of international
relations, adjusted to law, and apart from this latter problem
cannot be solved.

8th.  The history of the human race, as a whole, may be regarded as
the unravelling of a hidden plan of nature for accomplishing a
perfect state of civil constitution for society in its internal
relations (and as the condition of that, by the last proposition, in
its external relations also), as the sole state of society in which
the tendencies of human nature can be all and fully developed.

Sir Thomas More.--This is indeed a master of the sentences, upon
whose text it may be profitable to dwell.  Let us look to his
propositions.  From the first this conclusion must follow, that as
nature has given men all his faculties for use, any system of
society in which the moral and intellectual powers of any portion of
the people are left undeveloped for want of cultivation, or receive
a perverse direction, is plainly opposed to the system of nature, in
other words, to the will of God.  Is there any government upon earth
that will bear this test?

Montesinos.--I should rather ask of you, will there ever be one?

Sir Thomas More.--Not till there be a system of government conducted
in strict conformity to the precepts of the Gospel.

Montesinos.

"Offer these truths to Power, will she obey?
It prunes her pomp, perchance ploughs up the root."
LORD BROOKE.

Yet, in conformity to those principles alone, it is that subjects
can find their perfect welfare, and States their full security.
Christianity may be long in obtaining the victory over the powers of
this world, but when that consummation shall have taken place the
converse of his second proposition will hold good, for the species
having obtained its perfect development, the condition of society
must then be such that individuals will obtain it also as a
necessary consequence.

Sir Thomas More.--Here you and your philosopher part company.  For
he asserts that man is left to deduce from his own unassisted reason
everything which relates not to his mere material nature.

Montesinos.--There, indeed, I must diverge from him, and what in his
language is called the hidden plan of nature, in mine will be the
revealed will of God.

Sir Thomas More.--The will is revealed; but the plan is hidden.  Let
man dutifully obey that will, and the perfection of society and of
human nature will be the result of such obedience; but upon
obedience they depend.  Blessings and curses are set before you--for
nations as for individuals--yea, for the human race.

Flatter not yourself with delusive expectations!  The end may be
according to your hope--whether it will be so (which God grant!) is
as inscrutable for angels as for men.  But to descry that great
struggles are yet to come is within reach of human foresight--that
great tribulations must needs accompany them--and that these may be-
-you know not how near at hand!

Throughout what is called the Christian world there will be a
contest between Impiety and Religion; the former everywhere is
gathering strength, and wherever it breaks loose the foundations of
human society will be shaken.  Do not suppose that you are safe from
this danger because you are blest with a pure creed, a reformed
ritual, and a tolerant Church!  Even here the standard of impiety
has been set up; and the drummers who beat the march of intellect
through your streets, lanes, and market-places, are enlisted under
it.

The struggle between Popery and Protestanism is renewed.  And let no
man deceive himself by a vain reliance upon the increased knowledge,
or improved humanity of the times!  Wickedness is ever the same; and
you never were in so much danger from moral weakness.

Co-existent with these struggles is that between the feudal system
of society as variously modified throughout Europe, and the
levelling principle of democracy.  That principle is actively and
indefatigably at work in these kingdoms, allying itself as occasion
may serve with Popery or with Dissent, with atheism or with
fanaticism, with profligacy or with hypocrisy, ready confederates,
each having its own sinister views, but all acting to one
straightforward end.  Your rulers meantime seem to be trying that
experiment with the British Constitution which Mithridates is said
to have tried upon his own; they suffer poison to be administered in
daily doses, as if they expected that by such a course the public
mind would at length be rendered poison-proof!

The first of these struggles will affect all Christendom; the third
may once again shake the monarchies of Europe.  The second will be
felt widely; but nowhere with more violence than in Ireland, that
unhappy country, wherein your government, after the most impolitic
measures into which weakness was ever deluded, or pusillanimity
intimidated, seems to have abdicated its functions, contenting
itself with the semblance of an authority which it has wanted either
wisdom or courage to exert.

There is a fourth danger, the growth of your manufacturing system;
and this is peculiarly your own.  You have a great and increasing
population, exposed at all times by the fluctuations of trade to
suffer the severest privations in the midst of a rich and luxurious
society, under little or no restraint from religious principle, and
if not absolutely disaffected to the institutions of the country,
certainly not attached to them:  a class of men aware of their
numbers and of their strength; experienced in all the details of
combination; improvident when they are in the receipt of good wages,
yet feeling themselves injured when those wages, during some failure
of demand, are so lowered as no longer to afford the means of
comfortable subsistence; and directing against the government and
the laws of the country their resentment and indignation for the
evils which have been brought upon them by competition and the
spirit of rivalry in trade.  They have among them intelligent heads
and daring minds; and you have already seen how perilously they may
be wrought upon by seditious journalists and seditious orators in a
time of distress.

On what do you rely for security against these dangers?  On public
opinion?  You might as well calculate upon the constancy of wind and
weather in this uncertain climate.  On the progress of knowledge? it
is such knowledge as serves only to facilitate the course of
delusion.  On the laws? the law which should be like a sword in a
strong hand, is weak as a bulrush if it be feebly administered in
time of danger.  On the people? they are divided.  On the
Parliament? every faction will be fully and formidably represented
there.  On the government? it suffers itself to be insulted and
defied at home, and abroad it has shown itself incapable of
maintaining the relations of peace and amity with its allies, so far
has it been divested of power by the usurpation of the press.  It is
at peace with Spain, and it is at peace with Turkey; and although no
government was ever more desirous of acting with good faith, its
subjects are openly assisting the Greeks with men and money against
the one, and the Spanish Americans against the other.  Athens, in
the most turbulent times of its democracy, was not more effectually
domineered over by its demagogues than you are by the press--a press
which is not only without restraint, but without responsibility; and
in the management of which those men will always have most power who
have least probity, and have most completely divested themselves of
all sense of honour and all regard for truth.

The root of all your evils is in the sinfulness of the nation.  The
principle of duty is weakened among you; that of moral obligation is
loosened; that of religious obedience is destroyed.  Look at the
worldliness of all classes--the greediness of the rich, the misery
of the poor, and the appalling depravity which is spreading among
the lower classes through town and country; a depravity which
proceeds unchecked because of the total want of discipline, and for
which there is no other corrective than what may be supplied by
fanaticism, which is itself an evil.

If there be nothing exaggerated in this representation, you must
acknowledge that though the human race, considered upon the great
scale, should be proceeding toward the perfectibility for which it
may be designed, the present aspects in these kingdoms are
nevertheless rather for evil than for good.  Sum you up now upon the
hopeful side.

Montesinos--First, then.  I rest in a humble but firm reliance upon
that Providence which sometimes in its mercy educes from the errors
of men a happier issue than could ever have been attained by their
wisdom;--that Providence which has delivered this nation from so
many and such imminent dangers heretofore.

Looking, then, to human causes, there is hope to be derived from the
humanising effects of Literature, which has now first begun to act
upon all ranks.  Good principles are indeed used as the stalking-
horse under cover of which pernicious designs may be advanced; but
the better seeds are thus disseminated and fructify after the ill
design has failed.

The cruelties of the old criminal law have been abrogated.  Debtors
are no longer indiscriminately punished by indefinite imprisonment.
The iniquity of the slave trade has been acknowledged, and put an
end to, so far as the power of this country extends; and although
slavery is still tolerated, and must be so for awhile, measures have
been taken for alleviating it while it continues, and preparing the
way for its gradual and safe removal.  These are good works of the
government.  And when I look upon the conduct of that government in
all its foreign relations, though there may be some things to
disapprove, and some sins of omission to regret, it has been, on the
whole, so disinterested, so magnanimous, so just, that this
reflection gives me a reasonable and a religious ground of hope.
And the reliance is strengthened when I call to mind that
missionaries from Great Britain are at this hour employed in
spreading the glad tidings of the Gospel far and wide among heathen
nations.

Descending from these wider views to the details of society, there,
too, I perceive ground, if not for confidence, at least for hope.
There is a general desire throughout the higher ranks for bettering
the condition of the poor, a subject to which the government also
has directed its patient attention:  minute inquiries have been made
into their existing state, and the increase of pauperism and of
crimes.  In no other country have the wounds of the commonwealth
been so carefully probed.  By means of colonisation, of an improved
parochial order and of a more efficient police, the further increase
of these evils may be prevented; while, by education, by providing
means of religious instruction for all by savings banks, and perhaps
by the establishment of Owenite communities among themselves, the
labouring classes will have their comforts enlarged, and their well-
being secured, if they are not wanting to themselves in prudence and
good conduct.  A beginning has been made--an impulse given:  it may
be hoped--almost, I will say, it may be expected--that in a few
generations this whole class will be placed within the reach of
moral and intellectual gratifications, whereby they may be rendered
healthier, happier, better in all respects, an improvement which
will be not more beneficial to them as individuals, than to the
whole body of the commonweal.

The diffusion of literature, though it has rendered the acquirement
of general knowledge impossible, and tends inevitably to diminish
the number of sound scholars, while it increases the multitude of
sciolists, carries with it a beneficial influence to the lower
classes.  Our booksellers already perceive that it is their interest
to provide cheap publications for a wide public, instead of looking
to the rich alone as their customers.  There is reason to expect
that, in proportion as this is done--in proportion as the common
people are supplied with wholesome entertainment (and wholesome it
is, if it be only harmless) they will be less liable to be acted
upon by fanaticism and sedition.

You have not exaggerated the influence of the newspaper press, nor
the profligacy of some of those persons, by whom this unrestrained
and irresponsible power is exercised.  Nevertheless it has done, and
is doing, great and essential good.  The greatest evils in society
proceed from the abuse of power; and this, though abundantly
manifested in the newspapers themselves, they prevent in other
quarters.  No man engaged in public life could venture now upon such
transactions as no one, in their station half a century ago, would
have been ashamed of.  There is an end of that scandalous jobbing
which at that time existed in every department of the State, and in
every branch of the public service; and a check is imposed upon any
scandalous and unfit promotion, civil or ecclesiastical.  By
whatever persons the government may be administered, they are now
well aware that they must do nothing which will not bear daylight
and strict investigation.  The magistrates also are closely observed
by this self-constituted censorship; and the inferior officers
cannot escape exposure for any perversion of justice, or undue
exercise of authority.  Public nuisances are abated by the same
means, and public grievances which the Legislature might else
overlook, are forced upon its attention.  Thus, in ordinary times,
the utility of this branch of the press is so great that one of the
worst evils to be apprehended from the abuse of its power at all
times, and the wicked purposes to which it is directed in dangerous
ones, is the ultimate loss of a liberty, which is essential to the
public good, but which when it passes into licentiousness, and
effects the overthrow of a State, perishes in the ruin it has
brought on.

In the fine arts, as well as in literature, a levelling principle is
going on, fatal, perhaps, to excellence, but favourable to
mediocrity.  Such facilities are afforded to imitative talent, that
whatever is imitable will be imitated.  Genius will often be
suppressed by this, and when it exerts itself, will find it far more
difficult to obtain notice than in former times.  There is the evil
here that ingenious persons are seduced into a profession which is
already crowded with unfortunate adventurers; but, on the other
hand, there is a great increase of individual and domestic
enjoyment.  Accomplishments which were almost exclusively
professional in the last age, are now to be found in every family
within a certain rank of life.  Wherever there is a disposition for
the art of design, it is cultivated, and in consequence of the
general proficiency in this most useful of the fine arts, travellers
represent to our view the manners and scenery of the countries which
they visit, as well by the pencil as the pen.  By means of two
fortunate discoveries in the art of engraving, these graphic
representations are brought within the reach of whole classes who
were formerly precluded by the expense of such things from these
sources of gratification and instruction.  Artists and engravers of
great name are now, like authors and booksellers, induced to employ
themselves for this lower and wider sphere of purchasers.  In all
this I see the cause as well as the effect of a progressive
refinement, which must be beneficial in many ways.  This very
diffusion of cheap books and cheap prints may, in its natural
consequences, operate rather to diminish than to increase the number
of adventurers in literature and in the arts.  For though at first
it will create employment for greater numbers, yet in another
generation imitative talent will become so common, that neither
parents nor possessors will mistake it for an indication of
extraordinary genius, and many will thus be saved from a ruinous
delusion.  More pictures will be painted but fewer exhibited, more
poetry written but less published, and in both arts talents which
might else have been carried to an overstocked and unprofitable
market, will be cultivated for their own sakes, and for the
gratification of private circles, becoming thus a source of sure
enjoyment and indirectly of moral good.  Scientific pursuits will,
in like manner, be extended, and pursuits which partake of science,
and afford pleasures within the reach of humble life.

Here, then, is good in progress which will hold on its course, and
the growth of which will only be suspended, not destroyed, during
any of those political convulsions which may too probably be
apprehended--too probably, I say, because when you call upon me to
consider the sinfulness of this nation, my heart fails.  There can
be no health, no soundness in the state, till government shall
regard the moral improvement of the people as its first great duty.
The same remedy is required for the rich and for the poor.  Religion
ought to be so blended with the whole course of instruction, that
its doctrines and precepts should indeed "drop as the rain, and
distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as
the showers upon the grass"--the young plants would then imbibe it,
and the heart and intellect assimilate it with their growth.  We
are, in a great degree, what our institutions make us.  Gracious God
were those institutions adapted to Thy will and word--were we but
broken in from childhood to Thy easy yoke--were we but carefully
instructed to believe and obey--in that obedience and belief we
should surely find our temporal welfare and our eternal happiness!

Here, indeed, I tremble at the prospect!  Could I look beyond the
clouds and the darkness which close upon it, I should then think
that there may come a time when that scheme for a perpetual peace
among the states of Christendom which Henri IV. formed, and which
has been so ably digested by the Abbe St. Pierre, will no longer be
regarded as the speculation of a visionary.  The Holy Alliance,
imperfect and unstable as it is, is in itself a recognition of the
principle.  At this day it would be practicable, if one part of
Europe were as well prepared for it as the other; but this cannot
be, till good shall have triumphed over evil in the struggles which
are brooding, or shall have obtained such a predominance as to allay
the conflict of opinions before it breaks into open war.

God in his mercy grant that it be so!  If I looked to secondary
causes alone, my fears would preponderate.  But I conclude as I
began, in firm reliance upon Him who is the beginning and the end.
Our sins are manifold, our danger is great, but His mercy is
infinite.

Sir Thomas More.--Rest there in full faith.  I leave you to your
dreams; draw from them what comfort you can.  And now, my friend,
farewell

The look which he fixed on me, as he disappeared, was compassionate
and thoughtful; it impressed me with a sad feeling, as if I were not
to see him again till we should meet in the world of spirits.




End of The Project Gutenberg Etext of Colloquies on Society
by Robert Southey


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