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TABLE TALK.

“DUST." REGRET that the miscarriage of a parcel of MS. prevents the

appearance this month of the usual instalment of Mr. Hawthorne's story. I hope, however, to be able next month to resume its publication.

I

BONGHI ON THE “ VILLAGE COMMUNE."
HERE was manifested in English journalism, when the “ Village

Commune ” of Ouida was published last year, a general disposition to regard the state of things described therein as greatly exaggerated. In some instances, notably in the Contemporary and the Spectator, persons who do not reside in Italy were permitted to declare, with ignorance (equalled only by their impertinence), that the facts of the book were all false, and therefore of course the political conclusions to be drawn from them all false likewise. It is interesting, therefore, to read the review of the work by Bonghi, in the literary and scientific periodical conducted by himself, and published at Rome. . It is probably needless to remind the reader that Rughero Bonghi is one of the greatest, perhaps the greatest philosophical writer in Italy, and filled, himself, the place of Minister of Public Instruction. He must, therefore, be looked upon by all the world as a man capable of judging the political aspect of the work, and not likely to be carried away by mere momentary enthusiasm. The following extracts will suffice; they are taken from his article on the “Village Commune," published in Italian, by Barbera, of Florence -an article to be seen by anyone who chooses in his review “La Cultura" for March :-"Those deputies who are occupied in the reformation of the communal and provincial law will do well to read it. A more vivid picture of how the municipal law actually works in a little rural commune of Italy cannot be desired .... The work, written with the hand of a master, is not published in Italian without being also published in English and German, and in foreign countries must produce he impression that the Italian of our rural communities is, under the new order of things, supremely wretched, vexed from morning to night without any good result, robbed, despoiled by strange employés, who lie on his back like lead; this description, moreover, acquires the greater faith, because the writer loves our country, has lived in it some time, and has no desire to denigrare its people, for whom, on the contrary, she has and expresses the highest opinion. The book is not only delightful to read, but is also highly useful. With the intention in which it has been written the portrait of these facts described in it ought to serve to ameliorate the conditions of which such facts are the fruits. If the work could be sent amongst the people whose sorrows it narrates, it would (or ought to) move them to rise for themselves against the administrative and political systems which torment them. It ought to awaken in the soul of the nation a strong desire to change a state of things in which it remains the victim of a wretched and corrupt bureaucracy.

The author, in love with Italy, natural and historical, as everyone ought to be, calls barbarians all those who think they are doing a civilised and useful work, for example, a steam-tramway in the country, or the engineering upon the Tiber, which she denounces if they injure the beauties of nature or historical associations. But here even, if she be not always right, it is most certain that she is not always wrong ; because we cannot deny that in many of these socalled public works, a private interest presides, and the use of them to those who are made to pay for them is much less than the profit that accrues to those who vote them or set them on foot.

“The communal secretary is the oppressor rusticorum, according to the author of this work ; and she paints him with admirable exactitude. The bureaucratic temper, cut and dried by rules, boastful, false, without any feeling either for truth or beauty, always eager to undo, to disturb, and to make its own profits out of these changes, hypocritical, servile with the strong, insolent with the weak, revengeful, incapable of love or of enthusiasm, vilely and basely ambitious, is portrayed in a manner not to be surpassed. So, on the other hand, is the indolent and vain character of the imbecile syndic; and the rogue of a rural guard who is allowed to govern and assess at pleasure the populace who have cause only to hate and despise him ; and all the evils which ensue when everyone feels that the power to which he is subject is not just or justified, neither in the ends which it proposes nor the means which it uses, and whose only result is the increase of that rebellion and ill-will whose seeds it scatters broad-cast. The author thoroughly understands and depicts the effects of a corrupt electoral system which becomes the mere instru

ment of a tyranny even harsher and more severe than that which an opposite (i.e., a despotic) system could produce ; the whole description in the work of the return to the chambers of the Deputy who crowns with the supreme lie of his oath the innumerable lies which have served as his stepping-stones to power is characterised by masterly vigour."

These extracts are translated almost verbatim.

THE HEAT OF THE SUN.
E MORGAN says in his "Budget of Paradoxes” (a book as

interesting as Burton's " Anatomy of Melancholy”) that the orthodox sometimes "fall into mistake, and rise into absurdity." Only he notes of them that they do not err so often.

"A soldier,' cried my uncle Toby, interrupting the corporal, ‘is no more exempt from saying a foolish thing, Trim, than a man of letters.' 'But not so often, an' please your honour,' replied the corporal. My uncle Toby gave a nod.”

For thorough paradox, but paradox of the highest order, commend us to the new theory of the sun's energy, advanced by Dr. Siemens. The sun's heat, according to this theory, is not wasted when it does not fall on planets, but does work in interplanetary space, turning the aqueous vapour and the carbonic acid (carbonic dioxide they call it now) there, into oxygen and hydrogen and carbon. Then these are drawn sunwards, and after reaching the sun's polar regions are drawn towards the equator, and there expelled by centrifugal force, when the process is repeated, ad infinitum. The author of the theory does not seem to notice that you cannot eat your cake (scientific or otherwise) and at the same time have it. If the solar rays did this work in interplanetary space, and if, as Dr. Siemens believes, their whole energy were utilised in doing such work, they could not do the work they actually do upon the earth and planets. Even if we suppose that all this work of decomposing the atmosphere of space were so much saved, because eventually expended in warming our earth and the other planets, there would still be the difficulty of understanding how the sun's rays could pass beyond the solar system so that our sun could be visible from the worlds of other systems. Now, though no astronomer of our earth has ever seen the sun from other systems, yet no astronomer doubts that the sun can be so seen. For we can see other suns—the stars, and there is no reason for supposing that our own differs from the rest. And even if he did, the fact that the other suns which people space send their rays to us (that is, far beyond the domain throughout which, according to Siemens' theory, they must do their work if none of it is to be lost) suffices to take away from the theory the greater part of its interest and value. For what interest has a theory which could explain how our sun's energy is completely utilised, not only without explaining how the stars' energies may be, but in a manner absolutely inconsistent with the belief that the stars' energies are so utilised ?

And lastly, if any other objection is needed, comes this fatal objection, that the motion of the sun's surface regions near his equator involves no centrifugal tendency at all. It can readily be shown that the centripetal tendency resulting from the sun's attractive energy exceeds many hundredfold the centrifugal force of gravity at his equator. In fine, as we said at the beginning, the theory just propounded by Dr. Siemens is paradox of the highest order.

SINCE

PHYSIOLOGY AND FASHION.
INCE Professor Flower wrote his book on “ Fashion and

Deformity," I observe there have been signs and portents that the "follies of fashion " are receiving increased attention from the ladies themselves. This is as it should be ; for I well know that if the ladies do not interest themselves in dress reform, not all the fiats of the united Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons of Great Britain and Ireland would cause M. Worth to expand a corset by an inch or lessen a boot-heel by a fraction of a line. There have been lectures at South Kensington, and exhibitions of “hygienic clothing in Cavendish Rooms, and the sex is evidently bestirring itself with the view of seconding the doctors, who, for years past, have been telling women that to compress their chests is to shorten their years. But, nevertheless, the exhibition of "hygienic clothing ” must have been interesting ; despite the fact that “no mere man," as the catechism has it was allowed to enter the premises. I learn, however, that there were “hygienic” dolls (adapted to teach the young idea how to dress), “hygienic ” skirts, and “hygienic” garments of a hybrid sort, adapted to secure freedom of movement in lawn-tennis. Shade of Mrs. Grundy and Mr. Caudle! Is this the “unmentionables" of the sterner sex, disguised under a new name? One exhibitor, I learn, sent a “ Patience” costume in salmon colour, although history says not what “ hygienic" principle either the salmon tint or the operatic costume was intended to enforce. Then there were “hygienic" boots, and socks for walking, and I hardly know how many other exhibits. There is now, however, hope for physiology, as against fashionable follies. What is wanted is the education of "our girls” in physiology. Let them be taught the ways and laws of health at school, and they will not depart from them by constricting their waists when they grow old. It is, of course, a question for discussion how far the male sex is responsible for female vagaries in the way of dress. If “Monsieur Pavon” in the bird world struts about in all the glory of his “Argus-eyed” tail, and elicits the admiration of the dowdy females, no less true is it that the reverse holds good in human society when the “wives, sisters, cousins, and aunts ” exhibit the latest thing from “Worth's" or the “ love of a bonnet” from “Louise,” to the admiring eyes of the men. Social admiration must influence fashions, whether these be injurious to health or the reverse. But, as I have maintained, the whole solution of the matter rests with the ladies themselves. Reform begins at the right end, when it enlists the wearers of corsets and impossible boots on the side of common sense.

A PLEA FOR A New CANAL.
THEN I read that the French are entertaining a scheme for

connecting, by means of a canal, the Rhone at a point beneath Lyons with the Loire, I marvel at the indifference to water carriage which is manifested in England. Up the right bank of the Rhone extends the long chain of mountains of the Cevennes and of Auvergne, and no canal is possible which does not at some point cross this. A canal connecting the Dee at Aberdeen with the Mersey at Liverpool would involve, I suppose, engineering difficulties less tremendous than those to be faced in the proposed undertaking. So unfavourable is the country, that a portion of the canai will have to be turned into a species of railway, along which the barges are to be conveyed in huge floating docks, so as not to disturb the load. A large canal from Liverpool to London could be made for a third of the expense the French seem disposed to undertake. The effect of this, in reducing the price of American cereals and other forms of produce cannot easily be calculated. No engineering difficulties worth speaking of attend the scheme, and the profit and advantage that would attend it would be, I venture to predict, enormous.

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