« НазадПродовжити »
talking about : so much more delightful to crow over the exploits of the Liberal party than it is to set one's self to find out what Liberalism means. You know it is generally said that Liberalism springs from a feeling of the necessity of liberty ; Conservatism from a feeling of the necessity of order. I think, however, that a more thorough examination would show that Liberalism is the necessary result of the preponderance of the idea of individuality ; Conservatism of a like preponderance of the idea of community. The social analyst who sees men as separate units, is naturally a Liberal; the synthesist, who thinks not of men but of a society, is as naturally a Conservative. The love of liberty or of order is a necessary consequence of one of these primary and instinctive habits of mind. Liberty is prized because it is seen to be necessary to the full development of the individual ; order is venerated because it is essential to the stability of the community. It seems to follow from this that a man's opinion on any party question, so called, gives no clue to his true position. Take, for example, the question of the extension of the franchise. The measures for obtaining it were supposed to be the exclusive possession of the Liberal party ; but it was quite possible to support them with either Liberal or Conservative buttresses. Those who were in favour of the enfranchisement of the working-man for the sake of the working-man-because they thought he had a right to a vote, and that it would do him good by providing him with political education-were Liberals, not only in party but in fact; while those who supported enfranchisement because it tended to do away with an anomaly, or to perfect the system of representative government, or to introduce improvements in legislation in short, those who supported it for the sake of the community-were acting on principles really conservative.
(I find among Pelican's scattered notes a paragraph which seems so naturally to follow the foregoing sentences that I give it a place here. From its form I think it must have been intended to be the germ of an essay on civilization, a subject in which he was always interested.)
Two things are essential to a perfect civilization. One of these is a government of such character and strength that it shall be both anxious and able to foster the development-physical, mental, and moral—of every individual citizen. The other is the converse of this :a mass of individual citizens of such perfection of nature that the government—whose members come out from the people—shall be made clear-sighted and strong enough to have in it all the elements of continuous and increasing vitality. In the words of Guizot, “civilization consists of the progress of society and the progress of the individual.” The first of these is attained through law; the second through liberty. But it must be remembered that both law and liberty are but means, having progress for an end; and it must also be remembered that they are unsusceptible of separation,—all true law being a
law of liberty; all true liberty being bounded and defined by law. In the consideration of this subject a man's natural tendencies are singularly apt to lead him astray. One who feels deeply the evil of anarchy, is likely to feel that a strong government is in itself a good thing, whatever be the nature of its rule ; while, on the other hand, one who has suffered, or seen others suffer, under an iron despotism, will be tempted to believe that in a country where every man does what is right in his own eyes, the millennium must be at hand. Mr. Carlyle, with all his wonderful clearness of insight, has a tendency to the first of these errors : the average modern Englishman is deeply infected with the second.
Whenever you come across any criticism that is mainly characterised by smartness, you may be certain it is false. So far as my experience has gone, this is a rule without any exceptions. The man who aims at writing a clever article never gets outside himself; and until he does this, true criticism is impossible to him. As Mr. Tupper would say, the blossom of smartness grows upon the poison-plant of egotism, and falsehood is the deadly fruit thereof.
Impartiality is doubtless at times a very valuable quality ; but in any discussion on moral questions the only impartial people are those who are wholly indifferent, and instead of being the best judges, they are the worst. The fact of their indifference is an indication of deficient sensitiveness to the special truth to be arrived at; and while that deficiency remains, the truth can never be fully apprehended by them.
Some people laugh at my habit of pencil-marking my books; but I have found the practice wonderfully helpful, and I would advise you to adopt it. It was suggested to me by Todd's "Student's Manual,” which I read when I was a boy ; and which, if I remember rightly, was conventional and rubbishy; but I always think of it kindly on account of its pencil-marking scheme. Todd suggested a series of simple signs-crosses, circles, lines single and double, and the like—to represent different kinds of comment and criticism. One mark indicated obscurity ; another, novelty; another, sophistical reasoning; another, insufficient development of an idea ; and
I did not adopt Todd's system in detail, but constructed a system for myself which works splendidly. You have no idea how amusing it is to read again a book I read five years ago, and to notice the marks which my wisdom at that period suggested. The passage which long ago seemed full of inspiration is now nothing but high sounding commonplace : the sentence which was once obscure and meaningless is to-day full of light and life. My marginal hieroglyphs are like the pencillings with which some children deface the walls of rooms to indicate their height. They both become
registers of growth; and I am able to gauge my mental advance by the thoughts which I have left behind me. Perhaps I ought rather to say, the thoughts that I have absorbed and assimilated, for they have doubtless helped me to reach a level higher than their own.
The love of system is a very fascinating, but a very dangerous passion. The man who invents a system which settles everything, always leaves the greatest amount of re-settling to be done by those who come after him.
What a pity it is that so much of our conversation is polemical. I am always discussing something, and yet I feel more intensely every day that discussion is useless. Truth is, as Mr. Matthew Arnold says, "a thing to be seen,” not to be proved. It is a beautiful figure which stands by us always; but only when our minds are prepared for the vision, are our eyes opened to perceive it. The arguments we use to convince others, are not the arguments by which we ourselves have been convinced : indeed, no man is ever convinced by argument, but always by revelation. When we are fit for the truth it comes to us, and until then there is a sense in which we are better without it, because we should only transform it into falsehood.
So end my notes of Pelican's talk.
I can form no