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minute governmental regulations prescribing what luxuries are permitted to each rank afford abundant evidence. Thus the popular notion of a connection between wealth and luxury has a basis in addition to the obvious one that the former affords the means of procuring the latter.
Among barbarous and semi-civilized peoples, luxurious indulgence is largely confined to special occasions, as feasts and religious festivals, and then the excesses are very great. Of many South American tribes it is stated that when once they begin to drink they do not stop till they fall down senseless, and stories of the savage's capacity for food are very familiar. The eighteenth century belief that people in a low stage of civilization were very temperate turns out to be entirely erroneous. The contrast between the more civilized states of Europe and the Russians is noticeable. A Russian, it is stated. seldom drinks: but when he does, to the greatest excess.
During the middle ages, when industry and commerce were but little developed, ornamental arms and drinking cups were the chief articles of luxury, and in the latter the metal seems usually to have been of more value than the workmanship. What wealth there was being concentrated in the hands of a few, ostentation was mainly confined to keeping a numerous retinue and to entertaining great numbers of guests, at which entertainments the amount of food and drink provided was remarkable, rather than the variety and costliness.
For the most perfect examples of luxury in its worst sense we may turn to Rome in the earlier part of the empire, when the whole social fabric was hopelessly diseased. Juvenal's lines upon Montanus occur to one. "No one had greater experience in eating in my time he was skilled in detecting at the first bite whether Qysters were natives of Circeii or the
Lucrine rocks, or produced from the depths of Rutupiæ; and he could tell the shore a sea-urchin came from the moment he saw him." The people of fashion were so determined to have the freshest sea-fish that they would taste only such as they had seen alive on the table. Flocks of sheep were kept dyed in purple. A custom grew up of dissolving pearls in wine, in imitation of Cleopatra. The actor Aesopus placed before his guests a dish consisting wholly of birds which had been taught to sing or speak. Hoc est luxuriæ propositum, gaudere perversis, concludes Seneca.
In modern times civilization has consisted largely in bringing what in former ages were luxuries within the reach of the many. Most of what are to us the comforts of life were, in the past, luxuries attainable only by very few. The single article which perhaps but typifies the improvement in the food of the masses is bread. "In France in 1700 33 per cent of the population were consumers of white bread; in 1760, 40 per cent; in 1878 45 per cent; in 1839, 60 per cent. (Roscher: Political Economy.) The improvement in other articles of food as well as in the amount and quality of clothing and in the comfort of dwellings has been no less marked, but it is doubtful whether these improvements can be regarded as luxuries. It is to be noticed, however, that luxury has been chiefly concerned with the table, with clothing, and with fine houses.
There is one species of consumption which must be regarded as luxurious, if any species that is common to a whole people can be so regarded; -Namely the consumption of tea, coffee, tobacco, and spirituous liquors. With regard to the consumption of the latter, the estimate of Mr. Barret, editor of the American Grocer, is suggestive:-the spirits, beer, and wine, taking the average from 1883 to
1887, cost the consumers a little less than $768,000,000. Of this, the domestic
spirits, beer, and wine amounted to $734, 000,000, leaving only $34,000,000 to cover the more expensive foreign liquors -less than five per cent. That the other articles mentioned are of almost universal use is well known.
In the estimation of the ancients, luxury tended towards the enervation of a people, and therefore many sumptuary laws were enacted among them. Those of Lycurgus were among the earliest. No one should own a house or a household article which had been made with an implement finer than an axe or a saw. Spices, except salt and vinegar, were forbidden. Solon aimed some of his laws at the passion of women for dress and jewels. At Rome there were laws regulating the pomp and display at funerals. All the nations of modern Europe have made trial of sumptuary laws. Those of the 14th century were directed mainly against expense for furs, and those of the 16th against articles of gold and silver. One law of 1228 provided that at weddings there should not be more than twelve plate nor more than three musicians. There seems have been some connection between sumptuary laws and the theory of protection. Louis XIV assigned as a justification for certain acts, that the importation, of foreign articles of luxury threatened to rob France of all her gold and silver; and the English prohibition of silk hats, caps, stockings, ete., had the intention of promoting the domestic manufacture of wool.
There is one instance of the survival of
sumptuary laws at the present day: namely, the laws "prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic liquors." The Greek lawgiver, Zaleucos, punished with death the drinking of un-mixed wine, unless it was taken by the order of a physician. In the 16th century an effort was made to prevent the use of brandy
from spreading among the common people. By a Hessian law of 1530, apothecaries only were permitted to retail it. Tobacco, in the next century, met with much legal and ecclesiastical opposition; and still later coffee was prohibited by law. In 1624 a Papal ex-communication was fulminated against all who took snuff in church; it does not appear to have been entirely effective, as it was repeated some seventy years later. A Turkish law provided that all smokers should have the pipe broken against their nose. In Russia the penalty for smoking was death. All these articles, however, were permitted to be sold as medicines. After the fruitlessness of the efforts to suppress the use of these luxuries became apparent, governments substituted taxes upon them for prohibition; partly with the hope of restricting their use and partly for purposes of revenue. It has been found that in general the lower the tax the greater the revenue derived from it; so that the accomplishment of the moral end varies inversely as that of the fiscal end. may also be noted that an excessive tax encourages frauds upon the government.
For the last forty years a considerable number of people in this country, a smaller number in England, with much zeal and unlimited ignorance, have been agitating for a return to the sumptuary legislation of the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. In some of the less advanced states they have succeeded in getting the laws advocated placed upon the statute book or even incorporated in the constitution: but like their prototypes of two or three centuries ago, these laws are not effective.
The difficulty of enforcing sumptuary laws results, doubtless, in great measure from the fact that the consumption of wealth is carried on in the secrecy of the home. They are even likely to have the opposite effect to that intended, on the principle that forbidden fruit is most
desired. The fear has been felt that a nation might perish by pursuing luxnries. so eagerly as to neglect the necessaries of life; but history does not hold out any hope that, if such a case should arise, the government could fulfil the office of saviour. The French government probably made more strenuous efforts than any other to enforce its sumptuary legislation, but all to no purpose.
-*Mr. Austin has issued a new edition of his epic, The Human Tragedy, to which he has prefixed a short essay on the "Position and Prospects of Poetry." The essay is, in reality, a sort of apologia proopere, but it is very interesting, and as it is new while the poem was published thirteen years ago, we shall devote most of our attention to the essay. This is not intended, however, to imply that the poem is not interesting.
The greater part of the essay is devoted to a consideration of why the novel has, to a great extent, supplanted the epic, and of the question whether there is not room for both forms of literature. In the first place, what people look most for in a novel is "an exciting story, most frequently a love-story, an elaborate analysis of character, and descriptions of the lives of men and women as they are." In none of these respects can the epic compare with the novel. Compare the interest excited in most readers, even in those who are possessed of considerable culture, by the Odyssey with that excited by The Woman in White or by Lady Audley's Secret. Poetry does not lend itself to the portrayal of character as readily as the novel. Even dramatic poetry in the hands of its greatest master does not succeed in making its characters as live and real to us as those in our best novels. "Which of the serious characters in Shakespeare's pages are not indefinite and shadowy compared with Harry Esmond or Maggie Tulliver?" This inferiority of poetry to the novel - an inferiority still more marked in the case of the epic than of dramatic poetry-results from the different method necessarily pursued. In a poem the exigencies of the action preclude any analysis of character; whatever of character is depicted must be built up synthetically. That poetry is not adapted to the delineation of men and women as they are is at once evident.
The advantage that poetry has is in its idealization, its "transfiguration of life." It is not
enough to present life as it actually is; it must be ennobled, translated into what it might be or ought to be. Prose fiction can do this to some extent, but poetry can do it better; as fiction comes near fulfilling this aim it approaches to poetry. "Prose even at its best can never have the charm of poetry at its best."
Mr. Austin quotes Matthew Arnold's opinion that "most of what now passes with us for Religion and Philosophy will be replaced by Poetry." Strangely enough he misunderstands this to mean that in the future there will be no religion or philososphy - only poetry. This misinterpretation is the more strange as he expresses in his own words the real meaning. "It is Poetry which keeps philosophies alive when they can no longer boast disciples. It is Poetry which embalms religions, when the fire of their altars is extinguished, and the delirium of their oracles is dumb." But this must be just what Mr. Arnold meant, that what now passes for religion and philosphy will not be regarded as true, i. e. as religion and philosophy, but will be embalmed in poetry.
The Human Tragedy is a story of persons living in our own time, written from a philosophical standpoint. This pilosophical theory is thus set forth by the author:
'Life, looked at largely, whether as regards the individual, as regards nations, or as regards the race, is tragic; and tragic because the tragedy is due, not to man's vices, but to his virtues Were it due to his vices, the Human Tragedy would not be inevitable; since, by divesting himself of his vices, he could liberate himself from the tragedy. But his noblest passions, Sexual Love, Religious Sentiment, Patriotism, and Humanity, are the four principle agents, or pretagonists, in evolving the solemn drama."
This Theory must be conceded to be admirably adapted to poetry if "it is poetry which keeps philosophies alive when they can no longer boast disciples." The author remarks that he believes it to be universally true; but it implies the unfortunate paradox that man might escape the tragedy by divesting himself of his virtues. Certain persons succeed fairly well in doing this, but their lives are not usually shining examples of blessedness.
Still the theory is really poetical; it arouses the appropriate emotion to see a man suffering on account of his virtues. The story is interesting; the descriptions of scenes, scenery, events, and actions, are vivid, and some of them powerful;
and we do not think the characters will impress the reader as very vague and shadowy.
The Human Tragedy. By Alfred Austin. London and New York: Macmillan & Co., 1889.
Number 154 of Liberty has a statement that I do not quite see the force of:
"For WATERMAN'S JOURNAL quoted without disavowal or comment, and, therefore, apparently with approval, a Liberty editorial to the effect that the principle of mutualism in exchange and the principle of occupying ownership in the matter of landholding are the only important factors which can and will transform the present society, by degrees, into one governed according to strict justice."
There are several objections of a general character to the implication that the JOURNAL is in any way committed to this view social transformation; but there are two special objections which will be sufficient here.
In the first place the opinion quoted from Liberty occurred in a longer extract taken, as the editor properly observes, without comment, and placed in immediate sequence to our first editorial notice Liberty. The extract followed right on the heels of a note calling attention to Liberty, and should, therefore, be regarded merely as the means we took to indicate what Liberty was. To be sure, we selected the passage which, from our point of view, seemed to do most credit to Liberty taking brevity into account.
[The people] must first vividly and intensely realize that they are suffering from political tyranny and industrial slavery, and then they must step by step, discover and apply the remedies. The way to no authority lies through less and less authority, and the way to equality of opportunity lies through gradual extension of opportunity.... On the other hand, it is incumbent upon those who have neither the patience and perseverance to follow, nor the penetration and insight to perceive, this evolutionary process upon which we rely, to devise or discover a shorter and speedier method of bringing about the great change which, at the same time, should not involve the sacrifice or loss of individual liberty and dignity.”
This, taken with the part now cited by Liberty, (which is that omitted in the above), seems to be a fair presentation of that journal's platform, but I am at a loss to understand why the printing of it by us under a descriptive notice, should furnish any presumption that we subscribe to the expressed opinions.
Perhaps I do not apprehend very clearly what is meant by the "principle of mutualism in exchange." This expression may have some
hidden meaning which eludes my imagination. Assuming, however, that the expression is not technical, and carries only the most obvious sig nification, I subscribe to the belief that the greater practice of this principle would produce desirable results, perhaps great enough to be poken of as a transformation of society. If men were always paid for their services just what those are worth, and not what they seem temporarily to be worth, some startling personal transformations would surely occur. But of course Liberty would not suggest that there is or can be, any other measure of the value of services than the estimation of the purchaser of the services. Are we therefore to conclude that every one gets paid in this world-gets paid by ociety, as the phrase goes, just what his services are worth, no less and no more? Not at all; individuals constantly both over-and under, estimate the value of things for which they pay, in the main, with their own services. Some reap fortunes for services which turn out, in the end, not to have been worth much after all; while others die before the value of their service is, discovered before they find a just purchaser. If the "principle of mutualism in exchange" prevails more largely in practice than at present, the distribution of wealth will evidently become more just; but whether at the same time it will become more equal is a distinct question. But since there is, and can be, no other criterion of the money value of a man's services than the estimation of those of his contemporaries to whom he offers themin exchange, the prevalence of the principle is dependent upon the increase of intelligence. Hence we shall continue to prefer to express our conviction that mutualism is a good thing, by saying that increase of intelligence is a good thing that it is an important factor which may transform society. If, however, the trouble with our present practice is, not so much that we do not recognize the proper value of services, but that we refuse a just return to some and give an excessive, and therefore equally unjust, return to others, the factor involved is the element of morality—more especially the sentiment of justice. In this case, we prefer to express our belief in the virtue of mutualism, by saying that the sentiment of justice is an import. ant factor, which may transform society. But I fear that the phrase "mutualism in exchange" carries an economic signification that escapes me altogether.
As for the principie of "occupying ownership in the matter of land," its meaning also is not so
clear as might be desired. The thing meant lacks definition before my mind; and after I may have contrived to represent in imagination the condition of ownership meant to be described, I should require information concerning the process by which the present condition would get transformed into the imaginary one. For my part I confess that when I try to imagine a happy state of society, I find that the ownership of land or of anything else occupies a very small space in the ideal picture. If the part played by "occupying ownership" is supposed to be a substitute for what some of our friends are fond of calling "paper titles," the whole discussion seems to me trivial. If a man owns anything, I am at a loss to see why the fact should not be recorded for convenience. But the objection that Anarchy makes, I presume, is that the record is made by that involuntary association called the Political State. My reply to this is that the Political State, so far as it acts and acts only for the protection of life and prop erty, is substantially the association which would take place among men voluntarily. It is open to any one to suppose that a voluntary association for the discharge of this function would not take place, or that the voluntary association for this purpose which would arise from an antecedent state of anarchy, would bear no resemblance to the Political State which exists. But on what evidence is it proposed to rest this supposition? I fancy that the evidence is that to which a writer in Liberty alludes when he says of the basis of "Anarchism" that:
"Government is the father of all social evil." Perhaps that "digest of the countless facts and statistics bearing on the various sociological topics" with which the Nationalists are going to provide us, may furnish the basis for this assertion. Certainly the digest will show something very different from what its compilers expect, and the difference will be in favor of "Anarchism." In the meanwhile until the Nation alists have prepared their pocket-edition - why not adhere a little more closely to such evidence as we have-biding the light which will presently issue from that illustrious source? Is Lib. erty to reduce the evidence that preponderant government always works ill? I think there is
a field within which the ill government works is by not working enough. The way to cultivate it is by abandoning that worse than barren one in which it now labors.
The abolition of government would neither expunge "papers titles " nor establish the principle of "occupying ownership."
My second special reason for wondering why Liberty ascribes to WATERMAN'S JOURNAL any greater faith in its doctrine of mutualism and landowning than consists in a general sympathy with the view that the government should let things alone, is the fact of the quotation from the London Spectator on the very same page with the one from Liberty. The end of this extract reads:
"The magic of property' will accomplish much, but it will not make English proprietors, whether peasants or not, remain content with bare food, or enable them to pass easily through a cycle of low prices, such as has half-ruined the 'bloated territorialists', and threatens to extinguish one of the worthiest classes in the country, the squires from one thousand acres to three thousand acres apiece. . . . . The English world has about land a perfect mania for believing hopeful nonsense, temporary of course, but all the more vexatious for that.'
I placed this extract beside the one from Liberty intentionally, and I do not enjoy having the juxtaposition overlooked. The ownership of land, if traced far enough back, will be found to rest on force; but government is not the only agency through which force acts in society. It may very well be that the ownership of land has been acquired by force, without obliging us to regard government as the prime offender. However this may be, I place no great confidence in the "magic of property," whether as a factor in the Anarchist or in the Socialist program. It may be that latifundia perdidere Italiam; it may be that history is now in the midst of one of her endless repetitions. If it is possible for a people to lose themselves by courting destruction, the whole political conduct of the people of this country will surely accomplish the feat. But in that conduct, however corrupt in many instances, the performances of the government in the matter of land-ownership, seems venial by contrast with other parts of the politico-industrial scheme.