Page images


"You know nothing at all about it feel some curiosity as to the import in your class of life.” This was the of these "remarks" whose effect was parting shot of a working man sent af- potent to shut up to their object a ter the present writer in conclusion of whole mile of delectable road. Had an argument. The hand-worker had the speaker been a bachelor, or even a freely acknowledged that he had lately less devoted husband and father, a robeen deterred by irresponsible criti- mantic explanation might have sug. cism from a course of conduct he gested itself. But to one accustomed greatly desired to pursue. “Remarks," to meet the sober householder on his he said, had been “passed" which he slow Sunday rambles, accompanied by felt unable to disregard and of which his wife and children, no such interhe dare not challenge a repetition. pretation could commend itself. Were The "remarks," so far as the brain- ithe remarks' personal-did they reworker was able to find out, emanated fer to his age, to his increasing weight, neither from his friends, his employ- to his wife's appearance, or to the ers, nor his enemies, but from casual children's clothes; were they made diacquaintance whose opinions one would rectly or under cover of chaff, or were have thought could have no weight they repeated? It is impossible to de. with him whatever. The case is typ- cide. All we can be sure is that critical. Everyone who knows anything icism, whether it come directly or of the poor has heard them express an

roundabout, adds a terro to life as absurd fear of "remarks." Only the soon as you go below a certain level of other day the writer was told of a cultivation. gardener who had offered to build a A small amount of light is thrown shed in his employer's garden. Some upon this matter by the fact that the person unknown, strolling aimlessly up uneducated are slow at repartee and the road, looked over the fence and at parrying a question. The man "passed a remark” to the effect that whose conversational muscles have gardeners should confine themselves been trained knows far better how to to their proper work and not take the defend himself than one who has not bread out of the mouths of professional had his talking powers exercised every shed-builders. The gardener, who was

day from childhood up. The poor are unable to make a guess even at his very conscious of their weakness here. critic's identity, begged to be allowed to That, we think, is why it does not inleave the job unfinished, though he jure a poor man's honor to tell a lie had undertaken it at his own sugges

when asked an awkward question by tion and had to all appearance taken

a man who regards himself as his sua keen interest in its progress. One perior. He will defend himself by more illustration occurs to the writer's falsehood, as many schoolboys will, recollection. A little while ago he

because he knows that he has no inquired of a working man, in the other chance of escape.

Among themcourse of conversation, whether he selves we do not believe they do this. had lately been through the main street Not unfrequently, in repeating a conof a neighboring village. "No," he re- versation between themselves and a plied, “I don't walk that way now of a neighbor, they will explain how they Sunday; there have been remarks gave an evasive answer “to pass it off." passed." It was impossible not to But sophisticated society knows a hun

dred methods of "passing it off” to cise ? one wonders. To go back to the their one and is a thousand times analogy of the schoolboy, the bo dest harder to take in. To go back to the boy will refuse to run counter to a question of readiness, verbal defence fashion prevailing among his equals at requires so much more agility than at- bis school. He regards his critics tack. A man who wants to be offen- very much as a poor man regards his. sive can always take his time, his vic- It is difficult to analyze the nature of tim must act on the spur of the mo the coercion to which the boys bow. ment or surrender. Another thing It is not necessarily accompanied by which one must always take into con- bullying. It is still more difficult to sideration in discussing the point of explain the submission of the workview of a society more primitive than ing man. The brain-worker “knows one's own is that friendship is not very nothing at all about it." common among simple people. Al- One more possible explanation, howmost all affection is expended within ever, suggests itself to our minds: Do the family. If we heard a culti- the rules against repeating run among vated man or woman say “I have no

the poor? We imagine not, and it is friends,” we should know that he or here perhaps lies the key to the matshe spoke out of the bitterness of his ter. Half the confusion caused by or her heart. But poor people often the "passing of remarks" is no doubt make use of the expression, and they caused by direct criticism, and has only mean to imply that they regard nothing to do with repetition, but dithemselves as "superior." They do rect criticism will always be inconsidnot, as we do, live "among friends," erate where no criticism can be made helpful and kind as they are to one in confidence. If what we say to another. They do not readily ex- Smith about Jones is sure to get to change ideas, and they cannot afford to Jones sooner or later, we may as well exchange hospitality. The two chief in- say it straight. As to refraining alcentives to friendship are lacking together from criticism, you might as among them. The poor have, there is well tell a man to refrain from curino doubt, an offensive and defensive osity, or, indeed, from speech altoalliance, but it is that, rather than gether. The cultivated, who have what we know as sympathy, which brought the art of life to a far higher keeps what is in many ways a close point than the uncultivated, have procorporation together. Consequently tected their liberty by a social rule. they are suspicious of one another. They say what they like about every though in the face of the stranger per- one, and it does not get to the ears of fectly loyal. The art of give and take the man about whom they have said it. does not come by nature.

Of course many cynics will deny The most incomprehensible part of This, and of course many things are rethe whole matter is that as a rule a Deated, but few men and women, we rough criticism from one of his own believe, if they search their memories, kind does not set up the poor man's will be able to find many instances of back. He does not resent it, or not

serious harm done by repetition. It nearly so keenly as an educated man happens occasionally. Letters go would. It is very seldom that he wrong occasionally, but only in very turns obstinate under criticism. No, exceptional cases. We have heard it he tries to avoid it. Is he less of an said that in the small society which individualist than he becomes after a lives at leisure, and therefore gives itgeneration or two of intellectual exer- seif largely to the pursuit of pleasure,

[ocr errors]

the repetition of unkind criticism is Such a rule must have been invented inore common than among brain work- to soften life when the repetition of ers. We have also heard this con- unfavorable criticism was not utterly tradicted. Perhaps the explanation of condemned. As things are, the mathe two accounts may lie in the fact jority of educated people have arthat in such society sensitiveness is ranged to spare themselves. They not very common. They are not dis- avoid "passing" unkind "remarks,” and honorable, but they are hardy. Crit. they avoid passing them on. The icisms are perhaps made and repeated poor have not yet got so far. We canamong them which the brain worker not imagine the doctor looking over the could uot endure. Sham fighting is a barrister's wall and saying "How dare game which does not appeal to the you prescribe a mustard plaster for working man, whether he work with your little boy! It's taking the bread his head or his hands. He has no need out of the mouths of the medical proof an artificial outlet for his energies. fession." The proof of the matter There is, we think, no doubt that the seems to lie in the fact that the poor law against repetition is, even among are frightened by the bare thought of the cultivated, more far-reaching than criticism, whereas we are not, the reait was. There is a dim tradition, still son being, perhaps, that they have a preserved among elderly governesses, of franker criticism to fear, since they are a time when children were told to say plainly not greater cowards than we nothing behind anyone's back which they could not say before his face.

The Spectator.




There are strange regions where the rich and well-educated people, passing monotony of ignoble streets is broken underground overhead. Yet to only by an occasional church, a Board nearly all of us they remain strange School, or a public-house. From the and almost untrodden. We do not city's cathedral to every point of the think of them when we think of Loncompass, except the west, they stretch don. Them no pleasure-seeker counts almost without limit till they reach the among his opportunities, no foreigner bedraggled fields maturing for devel- visits as essential for his study of the opment. They form by far the larger English soul. Not even Government part of an Empire's capital. Each of officials, who talk so much about archthem is, in fact, a vast town, great itecture, discuss their architecture in enough as far as numbers go, to make the clubs. Not one in a thousand of the Metropolis of a powerful State. Out us has ever known a human soul of half-a-dozen of them, such as Isling- among their inhabitants. To the comton, Bethnal Green, or Bermondsey, fortable classes the Libyan desert is the County Council could build half-a- more familiar. score of Italian republics, like the At elections, even politicians rememFlorence or Pisa of old days, if only ber their existence. From time to it had the mind. Each possesses a time a philanthropist goes down there character, a peculiar flavor, or, at the to share God's good gifts with his worst, a separate smell. Many of them poorer brethren, or to elevate the are traversed every day by thousands of masses with tinkling sounds or


painted board. From time to time accompanies a true social revival, and an adventurous novelist is led round leaves its victims gasping for the vert the opium-shops, dancing-saloons and excitement. The time is, perhaps, docks, returning with copy for tales of now ripe, but we cannot foretell any lust and murder that might just as more startling influence for Mr. Alex. well be laid in Siberia or Timbuctoo. ander Paterson's book, "Across the When we scent an East End story on Bridges" (Arnold). Excellent though its way, do we not patiently await the it is, its excellence, in fact, will exclude battered head, the floating corpse, the it from fashion. For it is written dynamiter's den, or a woman crying with the restraint of knowledge, and over her ill-begotten babe? Do we contains no touch of melodrama from not always get one or other of the lot? beginning to end. Not by knowledge To read our story-tellers from Mr. Kip- or restraint are the insensate sensaling downward, one might suppose the tions of fashion reached. East End to be inhabited by bastards As his title shows, Mr. Paterson's engaged in mutual murder, and the experience has lain on the south side marvel is that anyone is left alive for of the river, and the district possesses the subject of a tale. You may not peculiarities of its own. On the whole, bring an indictment against a whole we think, the riverside streets there nation, but no sensational writer hesi- are rather more unhealthy than those tates to libel three million of our fel- in the East End. Many houses stand low-citizens. Put it in Whitechapel, below water-level, and in digging founand you may tell what lie you please. dations we have sometimes found the

About once in a generation some black sludge of old marshes squirting “Bitter Cry” pierces through custom, up through the holes, and even bringand the lives of "the poor” become a ing with it embedded reeds that persubject for polite conversation and haps were growing when Shakespeare amateur solicitude. For three months, acted there. The population is more or even for six, that subject appears as distinctly English than on the north the intellectual “rôti" at dinner-tables; side. Where the poverty is extreme then it is found a little heavy, and cul- it is more helpless. Work as a whole tured interest returns to its natural is rather steadier, but not so good. courses of plays, pictures, politics, a The smell is different and very characdancing woman, and the memorials of teristic, partly owing to the hop-marKings. It is almost time now that the kets. Life seems rather sadder and poor came up again, for a quarter of a more depressing there, with less of century has gone since they were last in gaiety and independence; but that may fashion, and men's collars and women's be because the present writer is more skirts have run their full orbit since. intimate with the East End, and intiExcellent books have appeared, writ- macy with working people nearly alten with intimate knowledge of work- ways improves their aspect. It is, ing life-books such

Charles indeed, fortunate for our sensational Booth's "London" Mr. Richard novelists that they remain so ignorant Free's "Seven Years Hard," to men- of their theme, for otherwise murders, tion only two; but either the public monsters, and mysteries would disapmind was pre-occupied with other pear from their pages, and goodness amusements, or it had not recovered knows how they would make a living from the lassitude of its last philan- then! thropic debauch. Nothing has roused It is not crime and savagery that that fury of charitable curiosity which characterize the unknown lands where



the working classes of London chiefly If there is a word of truth in what hislive. Matthew Arnold said our lower torians tell us, a working-man must ciasses were brutalized, and he was certainly have had a better chance of right, but not if by brutality he meant exercising an energy of his soul before cruelty, violence, or active sin. What the development of factories and macharacterizes them and their streets is chinery. What energy of the personal poverty. Poverty and her twins, un- soul is exercised in a mill-hand, a teahappiness and waste. Under unhappi- packer, a slop-tailor, or the watcher of ness, we may include the outward con- a thread in a machine? How can a ditions of discomfort-the crowded man or woman engaged in such labor rooms, the foul air, the pervading dirt, for ten hours a day at subsistence wage the perpetual stench of the poor. In enjoy a fully developed life? It seems winter the five or six children in a bed likely that the old-fashioned workman grow practised in turning over all at who made things chiefly with his own the same time while still asleep, so as hands and had some opportunity of not to disturb each other. In a hot personal interest in the work, stood a summer the bugs drive the families out better chance of the happiness arising of the rooms to sleep on the doorstep. from an energy of the soul. His life Cleanliness is an expensive luxury al- was also more fully developed by the most as far beyond poverty's reach as variety and interest of his working diamonds. The foul skin, the un- material and surroundings. This is washed clothes, the layer of greasy the point to which our prophets who smuts, the boots that once fitted some- pour their lamentations over advancing one, and are now held on by string, the civilization should direct their main atscraps of food bought by the penny- tack, as, indeed, the best of them have worth, of tea, condensed milk, fried done. For certainly it is an unendurfish, bread and "strawberry flavor," able result if the enormous majority of the coal bought by the "half-hundred," civilized mankind are for ever to be the unceasing noise, the absence of debarred from the highest possible peace or rest, the misery of sickness in happiness.

crowd-all such things may be The second offspring of poverty in counted among the outward conditions these working regions of our city is of unhappiness, and only people who waste. And we have called waste the have never known them would call twin brother of unhappiness because them trivial. But by the unhappiness the two are very much alike. By that springs from poverty we mean far waste we do not here mean the deathworse.

rate of infants, though that stands at The definition of happiness as "an one in four. No one, except an exenergy of the soul along the lines of ploiter of labor, would desire a mere excellence, in a fully developed life" increase in the workpeople's number is ancient now, but we have never without considering the quality of the found a better. From happiness so de- increase. But by waste we mean the fined, poverty excludes our working- multitudes of boys and girls who never classes in the lump, almost without get a chance of fulfilling their inborn exception. For them an energy of the capacities. The country's greatest soul along the lines of excellence is al- shame and disaster arise from the cusmost unknown, and a fully developed tom whereby the line between the edlife impossible. In both these re- ucated and the uneducated follows the spects their condition has probably be- line between the rich and the poor, alcome worse within the last century. most without deviation. That a na



« PreviousContinue »