« AnteriorContinuar »
The ghost turns out to
dom, it seems, are worn in the other world, as stars and ribands are worn in this. Sir Thomas shows the poet a red streak round his neck, brighter than a ruby, and informs him that Cranmer wears a suit of flames in Paradise, the right-hand glove, we suppose, of peculiar brilliancy.
we are sure that Mr. Southey is incapable of | is, and why he comes. publishing a deliberate falsehood, and because be Sir Thomas More. The traces of martyrhis averment is in itself probable. It is exactly what we should have expected that, even in his wildest paroxysms of democratic enthusiasm, Mr. Southey would have felt no wish to see a simple remedy applied to a great practical evil; that the only measure, which all the great statesmen of two generations have agreed with each other in supporting, would be the only measure which Mr. Southey would have agreed with himself in opposing. He had passed from one extreme of political opinion to another, as Satan in Milton went round the globe, contriving constantly to "ride with darkness." Wherever the thickest shadow of the night may at any moment chance to fall, there is Mr. Southey. It is not everybody who could have so dexterously avoided blundering on the daylight in the course of a journey to the antipodes.
Sir Thomas pays but a short visit on this occasion, but promises to cultivate the new acquaintance which he has formed, and, after begging that his visit may be kept secret from Mrs. Southey, vanishes into air.
The rest of the book consists of conversations between Mr. Southey and the spirit about trade, currency, Catholic emancipation, periodical literature, female nunneries, butchers, snuff, book-stalls, and a hundred other subjects. Mr. Southey very hospitably takes an opportu nity to lionize the ghost round the lakes, and Mr. Southey has not been fortunate in the directs his attention to the most beautiful points plan of any of his fictitious narratives. But he of view. Why a spirit was to be evoked for has never failed so conspicuously as in the the purpose of talking over such matters, and work before us; except, indeed, in the wretched seeing such sights, when the vicar of the parish, Vision of Judgment. In November, 1817, it a blue-stocking from London, or an American, seems, the laureate was sitting over his news- such as Mr. Southey supposed his aerial paper, and meditating about the death of the visiter to be, might not have done as well, we Princess Charlotte. An elderly person, of are unable to conceive. Sir Thomas tells very dignified aspect, makes his appearance, Mr. Southey nothing about future events, and announces himself as a stranger from a dis- indeed absolutely disclaims the gift of pretant country, and apologizes very politely for science. He has learned to talk modern English: not having provided himself with letters of in- he has read all the new publications, and loves troduction. Mr. Southey supposes his visiter a jest as well as when he jested with the executo be some American gentleman, who has tioner, though we cannot say that the quality come to see the lakes and the lake-poets, and of his wit has materially improved in Paradise. accordingly proceeds to perform, with that His powers of reasoning, too, are by no means grace which only long experience can give, in as great vigour as when he sate on the woolall the duties which authors owe to starers. sack; and though he boasts that he is "divested He assures his guest that some of the most of all those passions which cloud the intellects agreeable visits which he has received have and warp the understandings of men," we been from Americans, and that he knows men think him, we must confess, far less stoical among them whose talents and virtues would than formerly. As to revelations, he tells Mr. do honour to any country. In passing, we may Southey at the outset to expect none from him. observe, to the honour of Mr. Southey, that, The laureate expresses some doubts, which though he evidently has no liking for the Ame- assuredly will not raise him in the opinion of rican institutions, he never speaks of the people our modern millenarians, as to the divine auof the United States with that pitiful affectation thority of the Apocalypse. But the ghost preof contempt, by which some members of his serves an impenetrable silence. As far as we party have done more than wars or tariffs can do remember, only one hint about the employto excite mutual enmity between two communi-ments of disembodied spirits escapes him. He ties formed for mutual friendship. Great as the encourages Mr. Southey to hope that there is a faults of his mind are, paltry spite like this has Paradise Press, at which all the valuable pubno place in it. Indeed, it is scarcely conceiv-lications of Mr. Murray and Mr. Colburn are able that a man of his sensibility and his imagination should look without pleasure and national pride on the vigorous and splendid youth of a great people, whose veins are filled with our blood, whose minds are nourished with our literature, and on whom is entailed the rich inheritance of our civilization, our freedom, and our glory.
But we must now return to Mr. Southey's study at Keswick. The visiter informs the hospitable poet that he is not an American, but a spirit. Mr. Southey, with more frankness than civility, tells him that he is a very queer one. The stranger holds out his hand. It has neither weight nor substance. Mr. Southey upon this !ecomes more serious; his hair stands on end: and he adjures the spectre to tell him what he
reprinted as regularly as at Philadelphia; and delicately insinuates, that Thalaba and the Curse of Kehama are among the number. What a contrast does this absurd fiction_present to those charming narratives which Plato and Cicero prefix to their dialogues! What cost in machinery, yet what poverty of effect! A ghost brought in to say what any man might have said! The glorified spirit of a great statesman and philosopher dawdling, like a bilious old nabob at a watering-place, over quarterly reviews and novels, dropping in to. pay long calls, making excursions in search of the picturesque! The scene of St. George and St. Denys in the Pucelle is hardly more ridiculous. We know what Voltaire meant. Nobody, however, can suppose that Mr
Southey means to make game of the mysteries of a higher state of existence. The fact is, that in the work before us, in the Vision of Judgment, and in some of his other pieces, his mode of treating the most solemn subjects differs from that of open scoffers, only as the extravagant representations of sacred persons and things in some grotesque Italian paintings differ from the caricatures which Carlisle exposes in the front of his shop. We interpret the particular act by the general character. What in the window of a convicted blasphemer we call blasphemous, we call only absurd and ill-judged in an altar-piece.
We now come to the conversations which pass between Mr. Southey and Sir Thomas More, or rather between two Southeys equally eloquent, equally angry, equally unreasonable, and equally given to talking about what they do not understand. Perhaps we could not select a better instance of the spirit which pervades the whole book than the discussion 1 ching butchers. These persons are repreted as castaways, as men whose employent hebetates the faculties and hardens the heart. Not that the poet has any scruples about the use of animal food. He acknowledges that it is for the good of the animals themselves that men should feed upon them. "Nevertheless," says he, "I cannot but acknowledge, like good old John Fox, that the sight of a slaughter-house or shambles, if it does not disturb this clear conviction, excites in me uneasiness and pain, as well as loathing. And that they produce a worse effect upon the persons employed in them, is a fact acknowledged by the law or custom which excludes such persons from sitting on juries upon cases of life and death."
with special favour on a so.dier. He seeras highly to approve of the sentiment of Genera: Meadows, who swore that a grenadier was the highest character in this world or in the next; and assures us, that a virtuous soldier is placed in the situation which most tends to his improvement, and will most promote his eternal interests. Human blood, indeed, is by no means an object of so much loathing to Mr. Southey, as the hides and paunches of cattle. In 1814, he poured forth poetical maledictions on all who talked of peace with Bonaparte. He went over the field of Waterloo, a field, beneath which twenty thousand of the stoutest hearts that ever beat are mouldering, and came back in an ecstasy, which he mistook for poetical inspiration. In most of his poems, particularly in his best poem, Roderick, and in most of his prose works, particularly in The History of the Peninsular War, he shows a delight in snuffing up carnage, which would not have misbecome a Scandinavian bard, but which sometimes seems to harmonize ill with the Christian morality. We do not, however, blame Mr. Southey for exulting, even a little ferociously, in the brave deeds of his countrymen, or for finding something "comely and reviving" in the bloody vengeance inflicted by an oppressed people on its oppressors. Now, surely, if we find that a man whose business is to kill Frenchmen may be humane, we may hope that means may be found to render a man humane whose business is to kill sheep. If the brutalizing effect of such scenes as the storm of St. Sebastian may be counteracted, we may hope that in a Christian Utopia, some minds might be proof against the kennels and dresses of Aldgate. Mr. Southey's feeling, however, is easily explained. A butcher's knife is by no means so elegant as a sabre, and a calf does not bleed with half the grace of a poor wounded hussar.
It is in the same manner that Mr. Southey appears to have formed his opinions of the manufacturing system. There is nothing which he hates so bitterly. It is, according to him, a system more tyrannical than that of the feudal ages, a system of actual servitude, a system which destroys the bodies and degrades the minds of those who are engaged in it. He expresses a hope that the competi tion of other nations may drive us out of the field; that our foreign trade may decline, and that we may thus enjoy a restoration of national sanity and strength. But he seems to think that the extermination of the whole manufacturing population would be a blessing, if the evil could be removed in no other way.
This is a fair specimen of Mr. Southey's mode of looking at all moral questions. Here is a body of men engaged in an employment, which, by his own account, is beneficial, not only to mankind, but to the very creatures on whom we feed. Yet he represents them as men who are necessarily reprobates, as men who must necessarily be reprobates, even in the most improved state of society, even, to use his own phrase, in a Christian Utopia. And what reasons are given for a judgment so directly opposed to every principle of sound and manly morality? Merely this, that he cannot abide the sight of their apparatus; that, from certain peculiar associations, he is affected with disgust when he passes by their shops. He gives, indeed, another reason; a certain law or custom, which never existed but in the imaginations of old women, and which, if it had existed, would have proved just as Mr. Southey does not bring forward a single much against butchers as the ancient preju- fact in support of these views, and, as it seems dice against the practice of taking interest for to us, there are facts which lead to a very money proves against the merchants of Eng-different conclusion. In the first place, the land. Is a surgeon a castaway? We believe poor-rate is very decidedly lower in the manu that nurses, when they instruct children in that venerable law or custom which Mr. Southey so highly approves, generally join the surgeon to the butcher. A dissecting-room would, we should think, affect the nerves of most people as much as a butcher's shambles. But the most amusing circumstance is, that Mr. Southey, who detests a butcher, should look
facturing than in the agricultural districts. If Mr. Southey will look over the Parliamentary returns on this subject, he will and that the amount of parish relief required by the la bourers in the different counties of England, is almost exactly in inverse proportion to the degree in which the manufacturing system has been introduced into those counties.
innocent, and healthful enjoyment. The new cottages of the manufacturers are upon the manufacturing pattern-naked, and in a row.
returns for the year ending in March, 1825, "We remained a while in silence, looking and in March, 1828, are now before us. In upon the assemblage of dwellings below. the former year, we find the poor-rates highest Here, and in the adjoining hamlet of Millbeck, in Sussex-about 20s. to every inhabitant. the effects of manufactures and of agriculture Then come Buckinghamshire, Essex, Suffolk, may be seen and compared. The old cottages Bedfordshire, Huntingdonshire, Kent and Nor- are such as the poet and the painter equally folk. In all these the rate is above 15s. a head. delight in beholding. Substantially built of We will not go through the whole. Even in the native stone without mortar, dirtied with Westmoreland, and the North Riding of York- no white lime, and their long, low roofs covered shire, the rate is at more than 8s. In Cumber- with slate; if they had been raised by the land and Monmouthshire, the most fortunate magic of some indigenous Amphion's music, of all the agricultural districts, it is at 6s. the materials could not have adjusted themBut in the West Riding of Yorkshire, it is as selves more beautifully in accord with the low as 5s.; and when we come to Lancashire, surrounding scene; and time has still further we find it at 48.-one-fifth of what it is in Sussex. harmonized them with weather-stains, lichens, The returns of the year ending in March, 1828, and moss, short grasses, and short fern, and are a little, and but a little, more unfavourable to stone-plants of various kinds. The ornathe manufacturing districts. Lancashire, even mented chimneys, round or square, less adornin that season of distress, required a smaller ed than those which, like little turrets, crest poor-rate than any other district, and little the houses of the Portuguese peasantry: and more than one-fourth of the poor-rate raised yet not less happily suited to their place, the in Sussex. Cumberland alone, of the agricul- hedge of clipt box beneath the windows, the tural districts, was as well off as the West rose bushes beside the door, the little patch of Riding of Yorkshire. These facts seem to in-flower ground, with its tall hollyhocks in dicate that the manufacturer is both in a more front; the garden beside, the bee-hives, and comfortable and in a less dependent situation the orchard with its bank of daffodils and than the agricultural labourer. snow-drops, the earliest and the profusest in As to the effect of the manufacturing system these parts, indicate in the owners some poron the bodily health, we must beg leave to tion of ease and leisure, some regard to neatestimate it by a standard far too low and vul-ness and comfort, some sense of natural, and gar for a mind so imaginative as that of Mr. Southey, the proportion of births and deaths. We know that, during the growth of this atrocious system, this new misery, (we use the phrase of Mr. Southey,) this new enormity, this birth of an portentous age, this pest, which no man can approve whose heart is not seared, or whose understanding has not been darkened, there has been a great diminution of mortality, and that this diminution has been greater in the manufacturing towns than anywhere else. The mortality still is, as it always was, greater in towns than in the country. But the difference has diminished in an extraordinary degree. There is the best reason to believe, that the annual mortality of Manchester, about the middle of the last century, was one in twentyeight. It is now reckoned at one in forty-five. In Glasgow and Leeds a similar improvement has taken place. Nay, the rate of mortality in those three great capitals of the manufacturing districts, is now considerably less than it was fifty years ago over England and Wales taken together, open country and all. We might with some plausibility maintain, that the people live longer because they are better fed, better lodged, better clothed, and better attended in sickness; and that these improvements are owing to that increase of national wealth which the manufacturing system has produced. Much more might be said on this subject. But to what end? It is not from bills of mortality and statistical tables that Mr. Southey has learned his political creed. He cannot stoop to study the history of the system which he abuses, to strike the balance between the good and evil which it has produced, to compare district with district, or generation with generation. We will give his own reason for his opinion, the only reason which he gives for it, in his own words:
"How is it, said I, that every thing which is connected with manufactures presents such features of unqualified deformity? From the largest of Mammon's temples down to the poorest hovel in which his helotry are stalled, these edifices have all one character. Time will not mellow them; nature will never clothe nor conceal them; and they will remain always as offensive to the eye as to the mind."
Here is wisdom. Here are the principles on which nations are to be governed. Rose bushes and poor-rates, rather than steam-engines and independence. Mortality and cot tages with weather-stains, rather than health and long life with edifices which time cannot mellow. We are told, that our age has invented atrocities beyond the imagination of our fathers; that society has been brought into a state, compared with which extermination would be a blessing; and all because the dwellings of cotton-spinners are naked and rectangular. Mr. Southey has found out a way, he tells us, in which the effects of manufactures and agriculture may be compared. And what is this way? To stand on a hill, to look at a cottage and a manufactory, and to see which is the prettier. Does Mr. Southey think that the body of the English peasantry live, or ever lived, in substantial and ornamented cottages, with box hedges, flower gardens, bee-hives, and orchards? If not, what is his parallel worth? We despise those filoso fastri, who think that they serve the cause of science by depreciating literature and the fine arts. But if anything could excuse their narrowness of mind, it would be such a book as this. It is not strange that when one enthusi ast makes the picturesque the test of political
good, another should feel inclined to proscribe altogether the pleasures of taste and imagination.
Thus it is that Mr. Southey reasons about matters with which be thinks himself perfectly conversant. We cannot, therefore, be surprised to find that he commits extraordinary blunders when he writes on points of which he acknowledges himself to be ignorant. He confesses that he is not versed in political economy, that he has neither liking nor aptitude for it and he then proceeds to read the public a lecture concerning it, which fully bears out his confession.
"All wealth," says Sir Thomas More, "in former times was tangible. It consisted in land, money, or chattels, which were either of real or conventional value."
Montesinos, as Mr. Southey somewhat affectedly calls himself, answers:
"Jewels, for example, and pictures, as in Holland-where indeed at one time tulip bulbs answered the same purpose."
“That bubble,” says Sir Thomas, "was one of those contagious insanities to which communities are subject. All wealth was real, till the extent of commerce rendered a paper currency necessary; which differed from precious stores and pictures in this important point, that there was no limit to its production."
"We regard it," says Montesinos, "as the representative of real wealth, and, therefore, limited always to the amount of what it represents."
"Pursue that notion," answers the ghost, and you will be in the dark presently. Your provincial bank-notes, which constitute almost wholly the circulating medium of certain districts, pass current to-day. To-morrow, tidings may come that the house which issued them has stopped payment, and what do they represent then? You will find them the shadow of a shade."
creditor. Every man who sells goods for any thing but ready money, runs the risk of finding that what he considered as part of his wealth one day, is nothing at all the next day. Mr. Southey refers to the picture-galleries of Holland. The pictures were undoubtedly real and tangible possessions. But surely it might hap pen that a burgomaster might owe a picturedealer a thousand guilders for a Teniers. What in this case corresponds to our paper. money is not the picture, which is tangible, but the claim of the picture-dealer on his customer for the price of the picture, which is not tangible. Now, would not the picture-dealer consider this claim as part of his wealth? Would not a tradesman who knew of it give credit to the picture-dealer the more readily on account of it? The burgomaster might be ruined. If so, would not those consequences follow which, as Mr. Southey tells us, were never heard of till paper-money came into use? Yesterday this claim was worth a thousand guilders. To-day what is it? The shadow of a shade.
It is true, that the more readily claims of this sort are transferred from hand to hand, the more extensive will be the injury produced by a single failure. The laws of all nations sanction, in certain cases, the transfer of rights not yet reduced into possession. Mr. Southey would scarcely wish, we should think, that all endorsements of bills and notes should be declared invalid. Yet even if this were done, the transfer of claims would imperceptibly take place to a very great extent. When the baker trusts the butcher, for example, he is in fact, though not in form, trusting the butcher's customers. A man who owes large bills to tradesmen, and fails to pay them, almost always produces distress through a very wide circle of people whom he never dealt with.
In short, what Mr. Southey takes for a difference in kind, is only a difference of form and degree. In every society men have claims on the property of others. In every society there is a possibility that some debtors may not be able to fulfil their obligations. In every socie ty, therefore, there is wealth which is not tangible, and which may become the shadow of a shade.
We scarcely know at which end to begin to disentangle this knot of absurdities. We might ask why it should be a greater proof of insanity in men to set a high value on rare tulips than on rare stones, which are neither more useful nor more beautiful? We might ask how it can be said that there is no limit to the production of paper-money, when a man is hanged if he issues any in the name of another, and is forced Mr. Southey then proceeds to a dissertation to cash what he issues in his own? But Mr. on the national debt, which he considers in a Southey's error lies deeper still. "All wealth," new and most consolatory light, as a clear adsays he, "was tangible and real, till paper cur-dition to the income of the country. reney was introduced." Now, was there ever, "You can understand," says Sir Thomas, since man emerged from a state of utter bar-"that it constitutes a great part of the national barism, an age in which there were no debts? Is not a debt, while the solvency of the debtor is undoubted, always reckoned as part of the wealth of the creditor? Yet is it tangible and real wealth? Does it cease to be wealth, because there is the security of a written acknowledgment for it? And what else is paper currency? Did Mr. Southey ever read a banknote? If he did, he would see that it is a written acknowledgment of a debt, and a promise to pay that debt. The promise may be violated, the debt may remain unpaid, those to whom it was due may suffer: but this is a risk not confined to cases of paper currency; it is a risk inseparable from the relation of debtor and VOL. L-14
"So large a part," answers Montesinos, "that the interest amounted, during the prosperous time of agriculture, to as much as the rental of all the land in Great Britain; and at present to the rental of all lands, all houses, and all other fixed property put together."
The ghost and the laureate agree that it is very desirable that there should be so secure and advantageous a deposit for wealth as the funds afford. Sir Thomas then proceeds:
"Another and far more momentous benefit must not be overlooked: the expenditure of an annual interest, equalling, as you have stated, the present rental of all fixed property."
"That expenditure," quoth Montesinos, "gives employment to half the industry in the kingdom, and feeds half the mouths. Take, indeed, the weight of the national debt from this great and complicated social machine, and the wheels must stop."
From this passage we should have been inclined to think that Mr. Southey supposes the dividends to be a free gift periodically sent down from heaven to the fundholders, as quails and manna were sent to the Israelites, were it not that he has vouchsafed, in the following question and answer, to give the public some information which, we believe, was very little needed.
"Whence comes the interest?" says Sir Thomas.
"It is raised," answers Montesinos, "by taxation."
"A state," says he, "cannot have more wealth at its command than may be employed for the general good, a liberal expenditure in national works being one of the surest means for promoting national prosperity, and the benefit being still more obvious of an expenditure directed to the purposes of national improvement. But a people may be too rich."
We fully admit that a state cannot have at its command more wealth than may be employ ed for the general good. But neither can individuals or bodies of individuals have at their command more wealth than may be employed for the general good. If there be no limit to the sum which may be usefully laid out in public works and national improvement, then wealth, whether in the hands of private men or of the government, may always, if the possessor choose to spend it usefully, be usefully spent. The only ground, therefore, on which Mr. Southey can possibly maintain that a government cannot be too rich, but that a people may be too rich, must be this, that governments are more likely to spend their money on good objects than private individuals.
But what is useful expenditure? "A liberal expenditure in national works," says Mr. Southey, "is one of the surest means for promoting national prosperity." What does he mean by national prosperity? Does he mean the wealth of the state? If so, his reasoning runs thus:-The more wealth a state has the better; for the more wealth a state has the more wealth it will have. This is surely something like that fallacy which is ungal lantly termed a lady's reason. If by national prosperity he means the wealth of the people, of how gross a contradiction is he guilty! A people, he tells us, may be too rich; a government cannot; for a government can employ its riches in making the people richer. The wealth of the people is to be taken from them, because they have too much, and laid out in works which yield them more.
Now, has Mr. Southey ever considered what would be done with this sum, if it were not paid as interest to the national creditor? If he would think over this matter for a short time, we suspect that the "momentous benefit" of which he talks would appear to him to shrink strangely in amount. A fundholder, we will suppose, spends an income of five hundred pounds a year, and his ten nearest neighbours pay fifty pounds each to the tax-gatherer, for the purpose of discharging the interest of the national debt. If the debt were wiped out, (a measure, be it understood, which we by no means recommend,) the fundholder would cease to spend his five hundred pounds a year. He would no longer give employment to industry, or put food into the mouths of labourers. This Mr. Southey thinks a fearful evil. But is there no mitigating circumstance? Each of his ten neighbours has fifty pounds more than formerly. Each of them will, as it seems to our feeble understandings, employ more industry and feed more mouths than formerly. The sum is exactly the same. It is in different hands. But on what grounds does Mr. Southey call upon us to believe that it is in the hands of men who will spend less liberally or less judiciously? He seems to think that nobody but a fundholder can employ the poor; that if We are really at a loss to determine whe a tax is remitted, those who formerly used to ther Mr. Southey's reason for recommending pay it proceed immediately to dig holes in the large taxation is that it will make the people earth, and bury the sum which the government | rich, or that it will make them poor. But we had been accustomed to take; that no money are sure that if his object is to make them can set industry in motion till it has been taken by the tax-gatherer out of one man's pocket and put into another man's. We really wish that Mr. Southey would try to prove this principle, which is, indeed, the foundation of his whole theory of finance; for we think it right to hint to him, that our hard-hearted and unimaginative generation will expect some more satisfactory reason than the only one with which he has yet favoured it-a similitude touching evaporation and dew.
Both the theory and the illustration, indeed, are old friends of ours. In every season of distress which we can remember, Mr. Southey has been proclaiming that it is not from economy, but from increased taxation, that the country must expect relief; and he still, we find, places the undoubting faith of a political Diafoirus in his
rich, he takes the wrong course.
It scarcely ever happens that any private man, or body of men, will invest property ir canal, a tunnel, or a bridge, but from an expectation that the outlay will be profitable to them. No work of this sort can be profitable to private speculators, unless the public be willing to pay for the use of it. The public will not pay of their own accord for what yields no profit or convenience to them. There is thus a direct and obvious connection between the motive which induces individuals to undertake such a work, and the utility of the work.
Can we find any such connection in the case of a public work executed by a govern