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"The question is, what is prejudice? How long does the incredulity with which I hear a new theory propounded continue to be a wise and salutary incredulity? What is slight evidence? What collection of facts is scanty? We think that it is impossible to lay down any precise rule for the performance of that part of the inductive process which a great experimental philosopher performs in one way, and an old woman in another. "-THOMAS BABINGTON MACAULAY.
According to poor Robin, it is better to be born to good luck than a large estate. He ought to have added-It is better to be born with a decent share of practical philosophy than either. Who has not heard of the valetudinarian, to whom Zeno might have gone as a pupil, that, when labouring under the gout, used to express his gratitude it was not the gravel; and who, when he had the gravel, was wont to thank God it was not the gout? Depend upon it, that is the way to perform the allotted pilgrimage-to journey from Dan to Beersheba, and find it a remarkably pleasant excursion. This is my general way of thinking—indeed, I never held a different opinion; but sometimes one thinks more substantively than another: one's theme is more palpable: one's subject stands out in such bold relief, there is no passing without knocking one's head against it.
The other evening, fearing the strength of the coffee I had been liberally indulging in might murder sleep, I had recourse to one of the literary periodicals to ensure a good night's rest. The article I happened to select was on the geology of theology, or Jullien's concerts, or something of that sort; but, whatever the subject, of course the reviewer took occasion from it to abuse the present and to praise the past. Through the whole catalogue of arts and sciences he ran, and settled, to his own satisfaction, that Esculapius would have made no more of the hydrophobia than an Irishman does of a broken head, and that it would have been the opprobrium of Socrates to have invented the steam-engine.
This roused the spirit of my system. I am a patriot to the back
bone, holding that "an acre in Middlesex is better than a principality in Utopia ;" and that modern philosophy, especially of the English school, has done more for mankind, within the last quarter of a century, than was dreamt of from the days of Plato to those of Julian. Do ye put me to the proof of my theory, "laudator temporis acti"? Take your answer from one who has drawn the comparison in a right spirit." It has lengthened life; it has mitigated pain; it has ex- tinguished diseases; it has increased the fertility of the soil; it has given new securities to the mariner; it has furnished new arms to the warrior; it has spanned great rivers and estuaries with bridges, of form unknown to our forefathers; it has guided the thunderbolt innocuously from heaven to earth; it has lighted up the night with the splendour of the day; it has extended the range of the human vision; it has multiplied the power of the human muscles; it has accelerated motion; it has annihilated distance; it has facilitated intercourse, correspondence, and all friendly offices, all despatch of business; it has enabled man to descend to the depths of the sea, to soar into the air, to penetrate securely into the noxious recesses of the earth; to traverse the earth in cars which whirl along without horses, and the ocean in ships which run ten knots an hour against the wind. These are but a part of its fruits, and of its first fruits; for it is a philosophy which never rests-which has never attained-which is never perfect. Its law is progress."
You see from this, if you are disposed to be enlightened, that instead of the antediluvians having had it all their own way, we are in a pretty hopeful plight in this our generation. I admit that letters, just at this particular epoch are at a discount even unto a grievous per centage if you will; but the modern style, so far as relates to works of entertainment, has this decided advantage over the ancient (I announced myself a partisan)-that it keeps you on terms with your times. There's Plato: he wrote long enough ago, one would think; and yet if you take him up, i'ts odds but his subject refers to something that occurred a few thousand years before he was born. What is the living charm in Byron? that most of us have taken the tour made by Childe Harold, and many of us are following the course adopted by Don Juan-there it is, if I die for it. Shelley is an especial favourite of mine, when he condescends to treat of scenes and seasons within reasonable reach-to deal with matter in some degree relative to the age. And then the perfection of abandon in which he revels! It is my conviction that in certain matters of social prejudice, such as virtue and the like, had Byron and Boatswain his dog, and Shelley his friend, written contemporary essays, there would not have been a pin's point of difference in their opinions. As the immediate matter of this chapter is to be morality, suppose we give a spice of the latter gentleman's sentiments on that quality? It occurs in one of his letters from Ravenna, where he was the guest of his brother poet. "Our way of life is this-Lord Byron gets up at two, breakfasts; we talk, read, &c., until six; then ride and dine at eight; and after dinner, sit talking till four or five in the morning; I get up at twelve, and am now devoting the interval between my rising and his to you," (that is, to his wife). “Lord
Byron is greatly improved in every respect, in genius, in temper, in moral views, in health, in happiness: the connection with La Guiccioli has been an inestimable benefit to him. He lives in considerable splendour, but within his income, which is now about four thousand a year; one hundred of which he devotes to purposes of charity. He has had mischievous passions, but those he seems to have subdued, and he is becoming what he should be, a virtuous man. La Guiccioli and her brother, who is Lord Byron's friend and confidant and acquiesces perfectly in her connexion with him, wish to go to Switzerland, as Lord Byron says, merely from the novelty of the pleasure of travelling." Notwithstanding his social views may not be exactly up to the standard by which the "gentlemen of England" measure the economy of their lives, Shelley is a pleasant essayist nevertheless; he is a nervous-minded gossip, and of this we may be secure, that if he now and then let slip a fie fie thing, he never says a foolish one. Whether as much can be said of another moralist, presently to come on the carpet, remains to be seen-as the logicians have it.
We have now reached our tenth chapter, without the reader being familiar with the fact, that for some reason or other-perhaps he has been charitable enough to suppose a good one-Leatherlungs and the author support a visiting acquaintance; that is to say the leg affects the literary man, and vice versa,when anything promises to come of it. We are not bosom friends to be sure, but live upon the terms common to the best society, where every man negociates his neighbour to the best account. To do the leg justice, I conceive nothing short of a very pressing inducement could prevail upon him to cut my throat, while the law relating to homicide remains as it is; and I can answer for as much in my own case. This will suffice to shew that we stand in a very fair social position towards each other as times go. When he calls, my tiger receives him as Lord Byron says the human stomach does vegetables, "in a grumbling way." If the feline has passed the preceding night, suspended behind his cab, up to the corkade in snow, with his nose in a shawl to make sure of bringing it home-he spits out his reply, to "Your master at home?" with a diabolical growl: if, on the contrary, he has turned in after spending two or three of the little hours over head and ears in brandy and water, with his broboscis as be-smoked as a sacrificial altar-he answers with a sort of purr, which is his way of doing the polite.
We had not the best of weather towards the close of last month, and being a festive season, there was a good deal of dining out, so that when Leatherlungs called on me a few days ago, my groom of the chambers ushered him into the presence with far from the best grace in the world; moreover it was the hour of noon, and he came upon me while my breakfast was in transitu. Imagine my astonishment at seeing him by daylight! But do I forget, or have I not told the reader, we never meet till after the sun has gone down? Well, that part of our history is soon disposed of; a few years back he favoured me with a call, to canvass some little matter of businessindeed I think it was to ask me whether I thought Maccabeus, just then a favourite for the Derby, was a hunter or a coachhorse; and
having left me before the twilight was well advanced, he presently returned and presented himself with a look of considerable dismay.
"Governor," he observed," as I was half out of the door, I saw that fellow, O'Bluster, going by. I don't think he twigged me; but it wont do for me to be caught hanging about this neighbourhood; they must not know we are friends, or the game would be with me. You wont split, will you?" Of course I acquiesced in this flattering request; so now and then when it "does dusky" he looks in-Ĭ borrow his own expression-to bring me the news, which means to supply such hints as may serve himself and spoil everybody else. But there he was, in as strong relief as a December noon, independent of gas, could place him; and so, without being guilty of more than a natural curiosity, I cried out, "What the devil brings you here at this time of day?"
The individual smiled, or, I should say, made a grimace after the fashion of a smile. I never saw his complement of features in the agony of a smirk without being tempted to conjure him, as Macbeth does the shade of Banquo, to "take any form but that." There he was, however, with his ghastly galvanized grin; so, telegraphing the tiger to place a chair for him as wide of the breakfast-table as the limits of the chamber admitted, I desired he would be seated.
"So, then, the old gentleman's dead?" I remarked interrogatively. Now here, again, I mean to digress, lest the reader interpret my observation quite from its purpose lest he suppose I use the old gentleman" in a metaphorical sense, by no means an improbable error, seeing how my friend would be concerned in such a demise. But here I alluded to an elderly gentleman of our own species, who hails from Mitchell Grove, and whose surrender of the ghost could not be expected to overwhelm Leatherlungs with grief, inasmuch as he stands a handsome stake against Sting for the Derby.
"So then," said I, "the old gentleman's dead." Here it will be seen the action of my chapter commences; its relation being to matter called into very recent existence (as will be shown forthwith), a dating of interest at sight, as one may say, whereof the principal formed the eulogium of my preamble as aforesaid "So then the old gentleman's dead."
"The more's the pity," said Leatherlungs, who took me metaphorically in-"more's the pity, just when his party is coming out in such great force. What do you say to their having purchased one of the morning papers to advocate their policy?"
"My good fellow," I rejoined, disgusted with his shocking merriment, for the laugh of Leatherlungs is a thing to make the candles burn blue, my good fellow "let me recommend you to drink some soda-water, and go to bed."
"Gammon about soda-water," cried the Leg; "I'm sober enough, and strike me modest, but I'm serious too. It is not every day in the week our set have the chance of getting in; but we're all right now I won't stir off my chair till I read you an article in this here paper, which asserts, point blank, that Goody Levi is a better man than the Archbishop of Canterbury." Leatherlungs the Leg has no
notion of a joke: not one of his species has. The fraternity of legs is an incorporate idea-a substantive imagination-whereof the matter is "the odds." I was once smoking my cigar by moonlight in the street of Newmarket, and happened to fall in with a bevy of those infant centaurs-which the atmosphere of that district hatches-babes in breeches. One was slanging another upon his deficiency in theology. "You can't say the Belief," said the slanger. "I'll lay you six to four I can," replied the slangee.... While I paused to think what the member of the ring might be about, he began to outspread his dreadful broad-sheet. There was no avoiding the catastrophe. "My friend," I said, deprecatingly, "use a man mercifully that is in your power. If I must suffer, put me out of my misery as speedily as possible." Hereupon, without more ado, but with several atrocious murders of accent and pronunciation, he read as follows, probably skipping such passages as did not quite equal the general average of his article:
"For my own part I feel no sympathy with those who preach against that which they practise. I am content to see, and find much inoffensive pleasure on the turf. To me it is a merry holiday, made more delightful by the presence of the many who surround me, all engaging in the same pursuit-a day of recreation. Mammon is banished for a while from our thoughts. Our passing offerings upon his shrine are tendered merely as a test of judgment; our winnings, the reward of skill, are pocketed complacently, without a grain of greediness; our losses, sure results of prejudice or error, are borne without a sigh. Had the turf no better purpose than its attractions as a pastime, that excellence might cloak a multitude of sins. But it has better, sounder, stronger claims than this to a more fair consideration of its merits than it has yet received. I am no Quixote, secking to run a tilt with every human phantasy: but I will break a spear with prejudice in vindication of the turf. Certain late law proceedings, now notorious under the title of Qui Tam' actions, have made the world familiar with the first stone thrown at the turf, under the patronage of Queen Anne, in the year 1711. The turf gambling of that day could not, however, have been a very prominent enormity, since it is not even mentioned amongst the obnoxious evils enumerated in the "Act of Denunciation;" and hence, it was a moot question in courts of law whether the turf was to be held within reach of the statute, until the case of Goodburn v. Marley was established as a precedent. From this time forth the law withdrew its reverend protection from the turfite. Horse-racing was declared without the pale of Christian consideration. Its rights were excommunicated: its wrongs denied redress. Rapine and roguery were hallooed on to hunt it down, and all its enemies rejoiced in its defenceless death. But policy was never more deceptive or shortsighted. Betting increased tenfold, spreading with a rapidity which baffled calculation. The greater wonder to me is, not that no good was done by the enactment, but that so little evil followed. What great commercial interest could now be suddenly absolved from all its liabilities, and leave its creditors a hope? Let any act of Parliament release wholly and unconditionally from all legal responsibility