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turbulence. Everything good or evil was on a colossal scale. A great intellectual age, the Elizabethan, had closed; a great political period, that of Cromwell, was beginning. To have ranked at such a moment second only to the acknowledged sovereign of the drama, to have raised himself from a bricklayer's shed to a king's chamber, with no other advantages than genius and learning, nay, in spite of the actual disadvantages of a surly temper, a repulsive demeanour, and an unbridled tongue, are each in themselves claims to pre-eminence and justifications of the epitaph O RARE BEN JONSON!'
Yet one circumstance of rarity in Ben Jonson remains to be noticed. He reigned a king in the literary world of his daya bluff, boisterous, and truculent potentate, yet one who, though often rebelled against, was never dethroned. We have seen that he slew one opponent and cudgelled another; and so in his earlier manhood he may have maintained his seat, not more by strength of learning than by strength of arm. But when evil days had come, when as a writer of masques he was superseded by one Aurelian Townsend, and as a writer of plays had quite lost the public ear, when sheriffs' writs might be under his pillow, and pasquinades in his pew, even then he was not discrowned. In a mean house in Westminster, palsied, mendicant, with his pen at least, and steeped in canary, he dictated from his bed or his big straw chair rules for dramatic composition, or pronounced judgment on the poets of the past and the poetasters of the present time. When he was able to go abroad, his appearance in Fleet Street, bound for the Devil tavern, and clad in a coat like a coachman's, with slits under the armpits,' he was the observed of all passengers by the way, and a murmur of Old Ben' passed from the Broad Sanctuary in Westminster to Temple Bar. One only person he did not rule -his housekeeper, to whom scandal gave a less comely name, but whom also tradition reports to have been his second wife. He had only two successors-John Dryden at Will's Coffeehouse, a mild and snuff-taking autocrat, and Samuel Johnson, a veritable member of the tribe of Ben. For he too, like the founder of the dynasty, had vanquished poverty and obscurity, had beaten a foe, bestrode the world of letters like a Colossus, left volumes of which the fashion is passing away, but left a name also as imperishable as that of Jonson the First.
MILL ON LIBERTY.*
VERY one who feels interest in truth, and who tries to enlighten his practice by philosophical meditation,' must feel thankful when a bold and powerful thinker like Mr. J. S. Mill takes in hand one of those latent but embarrassing difficulties, which few think of putting into words, but which underlie whole tracts of discussion, and are for ever coming up in the commonest questions of practical life. We run against them, or they against us, at any moment: but because they are so common, and we feel sure that they must occur to every one round us-and yet no one seems to think them worth special notice-we fancy them too trivial to be made the distinct subject of our thoughts, and allow the feeling of the difficulty to haunt us obscurely, and often to inflict an indefinite but serious sense of dull worry. One of these usually unanalyzed difficulties is the question, which most people must have practically encountered some time or another, of the influence to be exercised, by any means short of or beyond direct argument, on other people. In the present Essay, Mr. Mill undertakes to discuss this question, or, as he states it in its broadest terms, the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society on the individual.'
The value of such an attempt is not to be measured simply by the conclusions arrived at. A man must be very sanguine who should expect to see a question, which he must have found for ever recurring in human history and pervading his own experience, closed and settled, even by a thinker like Mr. Mill. Only very young speculators, who, in their earliest attempts at thought, turn in their simplicity to logic, or to Locke on the Conduct of the Understanding, for an infallible specific which shall insure their thinking and reasoning right, believe that such final solutions are anywhere to be looked for. At any rate, only those who are very easily satisfied, or are very servile admirers, will admit that it has been arrived at in Mr. Mill's Essay. The gain is in the treatment of such a subject at all by one so competent to handle it. The distinctness, the daring, the vigour of the discussion, the novelty which it throws round what is old and trite, the reality into which it quickens what is inert and torpid, even the peril and menace which it not obscurely discloses
* On Liberty. By John Stuart Mill. London: J. W, Parker and Son.
to convictions which may be matters of life and death to us, act as a tonic to the mind, and awaken, exercise, and brace it, even if they do not, as they well may, elevate the heart and widen the range of its ordinary contemplations. The reading of a book like this ought to be an event in a man's mental history. It is a challenge to him to analyze much that is vague and confused in his thoughts and current notions; and it is at the same time a help and guide in the process, by presenting the problem itself as conceived by a mind of greater than average reach and clearness. The discussion is important, too, in other ways, whether or not we are convinced by its argument, or even whether we can get any satisfactory and consistent answer to the question at all; for it shows us the term to which difficulty and inquiry have reached on the subject, on what scale the debate has to be carried on, and under what conditions; and, possibly, within what limits an approximately sufficient truth may be hoped for at present. It is both interesting and important as a measure of the grasp and strength of one of the foremost thinkers of his time. And perhaps its use is not the least, if it teaches us something more vividly of the real power or inability of the human mind to penetrate and master the complicated elements of our social state, and of its success in bringing them into a harmony, which we can feel to be both philosophically complete and also answering to the fact.
The subject of social liberty may be said to belong by special appropriateness to Mr. Mill, and to have a natural claim on him for a thorough sifting. Mr. Mill, as every one knows, regards democracy as the inevitable and beneficial result to which society is everywhere tending. In this he is not singular; but he differs from the majority of those who think with him, in the great clearness with which he discerns the probability, and in the extreme uneasiness with which he regards it, that as the dangers of political oppression of the many by the few disappear, the dangers of social oppression of the few by the many will increase. The foresight of this result does not, indeed, in any degree shake his full faith in the democratic principle; but it presents a serious abatement to the benefit which he hopes from it, and he loses no opportunity to show his ever-present sense of the danger, and of the necessity of providing means to counteract it. No one can have looked through the collection recently published of his review articles, extending over a considerable period, without observing how early he became alive to the substantial magnitude of the peril to individual freedom which seems to wait of necessity on the triumph of the power of the majority, and how continually this menace recurs to his mind, as the dark shadow attending on
it, and as the heavy price to be paid for it. It is true, he notices with a sarcasm Sir Robert Peel's use of De Tocqueville's phrase, the tyranny of the majority.' But into no man's mind has the import of the phrase sunk more deeply than into his own, and no one's words sound more impressive to us, in bidding us watch its nascent influence and be prepared against its more formidable growths. But hitherto his allusions to the subject, though full of meaning, have been incidental; and so serious a matter required to be treated by itself. The question as relating to the great concomitant drawback to a progress, otherwise as promising as it is certain, deserved special examination from one to whom, both as a philosopher and as a practical man, the acceleration of that progress had been the object of life. What Mr. Mill has written on the political tendencies and prospects of these times would not be complete without a full discussion of the most menacing tendency of future democracy; one which, if predominant, would kill all improvement even more surely and relentlessly than the old-fashioned tyrannies. The Essay on Liberty may be regarded as a democrat's protest against the claim of the masses, sure to be advanced in proportion as they grow stronger, to impose their opinion and will without appeal, and to beat down and trample out all self-assertion and independence in minorities and individuals. One who hopes everything from popular ascendancy also fears it, and tries beforehand to establish in the opinion of society some well-recognized line round private life and private freedom, before the foreseen power of democracy arrives, to invade and confound all limits by blind usurpations to which there can be no resistance, and by a wayward but inexorable interference from which there will be no escape.
But Mr. Mill's aim is not wholly prospective. He thinks that the control of society over individual opinion and action is at present far too stringent; that it is illegitimate and exorbitant in its pretensions and mischievous in its effects. And as he is markedly distinguished from the common run of representatives of liberal doctrines in another point besides the one just alluded to, that is, in thinking very meanly of the men, the society, and the opinions of this generation, and in holding cheap the measure of improvement to which it has reached, he finds the yoke all the more intolerable. His Essay is directed not only to provide against anticipated dangers, but to abate what he feels to be an existing evil. Having but little respect for the opinions which hold sway over present society, and which it sanctions and arms with its influence, he is anxious at once to cut from under them the ground on which their power over the separate units of society rests. The path of thought and truth and
individual development is, he holds, miserably encumbered with ignoble entanglements, with maiming and crippling snares, with arbitrary and cruel restrictions, arising out of the interferences of society and the deference or the fear which it inspires. It is the purpose of his Essay to reduce within much narrower limits these customary and hitherto recognized rights of interference, as he finds them exercised now; and to lay down a rule for the jurisdiction of society over the individual, grounded on a clear and definite principle; lightening the weight with which society presses on its members, and destroying the prerogative by which its accidentally prevailing opinions impose themselves with irritating or degrading peremptoriness on those who wish to have, or ought to have, opinions of their own.
His claim for individual liberty is of the of the very broadest, and involves serious consequences. Adopting William Von Humboldt's maxim, that the great purpose of government and society is the completest development of the individual, according to his own proper nature and tendencies, he demands for the individual every liberty compatible with the same liberty in others, and with the preservation of that society which alone makes any real liberty possible. After remarking that in laying down the limits between individual liberty and social control 'almost everything yet remains to be done,' and that in general, those who have been most in advance of society in thought and feeling have left the present state of things unassailed in principle, however they may have come into contact with it in some of its details '-occupying themselves rather in inquiring what things society ought to like or dislike, than in questioning whether its likings or dislikings should be a rule to individuals -he thus states his principle:
The object of this Essay is to assert one very simple principle, as entitled to govern absolutely the dealings of society with the individual in the way of compulsion and control, whether the means used be physical force in the form of legal penalties, or the moral coercion of public opinion. That principle is, that the sole end for which mankind are warranted, individually or collectively, in interfering with the liberty of action of any of their number, is self-protection. That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant. He cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear, because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinion of others, to do so would be wise or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with evil in case he do otherwise. To justify that, the conduct from which it is desired to deter him, must be calculated to produce evil to some one else. The only part of the conduct of any one, for which he is amenable to society, is