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ward our Prince, that most angelic that the original and better meaning imp"? A very terrible instance of deg- of “egregious” and “unspeakable" has radation is the word "silly,” which been entirely lost. It is this steady has very nearly completed the circle of downward propensity of the language significance. In Anglo-Saxon times it which so puzzling.
It is not easy meant simply "blessed." Thence it to find instances of words which, became to be associated with the idea of ginning with sordid associations, have harmlesssness, then of weakness, then become exclusively attached to worof simplicity, then of foolishness. The thier objects. Do words have a society proverbial expression “silly Suffolk” of their own from which it is easy to does not imply any reflection on the be ostracized, and into which it is hard sanity of East Anglia.
to gain admittance? Black satin went The misadventures of "silly" are out of fashion because a murderess
more pathetic than those of elected to be hanged in it; can one imcertain ill-fated words, which, in agine that words which have permitted the whirligig of time, have come themselves to be used in an unworthy round to bear precisely the op- connection are henceforth cut off from posite of their original meaning. We the society of their immaculate feldo not associate the word “beldam" lows? Or is it simply the law of the with beauty, and yet does it not come world at large-facilis descensus Averni from the French “belle dame”-fair -that there are a hundred ways of going lady? Did not Milton, without the wrong and only one of going right? least idea of depreciation, speak of There would certainly seem to be some "beldam Nature"? "Egregious" is sort of law that governs erring words. another case in point. Etymologically Like Falstaff, they "will down, though meaning a person apart-a sheep out the bottom be as deep as"-Avernus. of the flock-it is now used exclusively Mr. Chesterton shows cognizance of as a term of contumely. The Eliza- the fact when, in his “Browning," he bethans could speak of an “egregious remarks that "if any one wishes to see soul,” as in Marston's play "Sophon- how grossly language can degenerate, isba":
he need only compare the old optimisErichtho
tic use of the word nervous, which we 'Bove thunder sits; to thee, egregious employ in speaking of a nervous grip, soule,
with the new pessimistic use of the Let all flesh bend.
word, which we employ in speaking of Probably Thackeray, when he wrote of a nervous manner." drawing "some one splendid and egre
Some few words remain in a curious gious," was the last to use the word in state of suspended significance. Just its proper sense. Similiarly, had the as there are cases of blossom and fruit word “unspeakable" been applied to being found on the same tree, so we the Turk or the Scot three hundred have the anomaly in the dictionary of years ago, it would have been very "demeanor" bearing the original meanhigh praise indeed. It would then have ing, and “demean" bearing the later meant that their virtues could not be and acquired meaning. "Demeanor," uttered. St. Peter speaks of “joy un- of course, simply means behavior in a speakable." In both these cases it is perfectly neutral sense; it may be apeasy to see how the two meanings are plied to the king on the throne or the associated, just as one can still speak criminal in the dock. Yet the verb, of both pleasure and pain as "ex- starting from the same beginning, is quisite," but the significant thing is now specialized in the bad sense beyond hope of recall. To "demean one- riety of words to apply to the lower self" means to behave oneself badly, side of life than to the higher. The the “badly" being an idea which the novelist of the future may have to be Faves of Time have left, like an in- a realist simply because of the greater crustation, on a word which connoted specialization of the language. As it originally no moral qualities whatever. is, any sub-editor can tell you that It makes one wonder with a certain there is a far larger choice of adjectrepidation whether any word is safe. tives to be applied to the abnormal Will our great-grandchildren be unable and the terrible than to the ordinary to use the word "ink-stand" for fear and the beneficent. There are five it should be considered an undesirable words to describe a murder to one that sort of ink-stand? It is a dispiriting can be applied to a rescue or a heroreflection that the whole trend of the ism. So, in the ages to come, we shall language seems to be downwards, that have a language rich in its lower it is continually rushing over a steep strata, splendidly equipped for the explace, like the Gadarene swine. What ploitation of the ugly, the sordid, the is to be the end of it? It clearly wicked, but only passably supplied means that in the not very distant fu- with material for epic or philosophy. ture there will be a much greater vaThe Academy.
“THE DELETERIOUS EFFECT OF AMERICANIZATION
Victrix causa Deis placuit. It is obvious indeed that the gods are on the side of the biggest battalions. Otherwise the whole purpose of history, whatever that may be, would be a monstrous jest, in which, however, it would be difficult to discern any satisfactory sense of humor. Yet that history must be understood to signify a final, or ultimate, triumph, and not necessarily the result of any intermediate battle, however remarkable and signal. It is, of course, impracticable for us to stand on some Pisgah and survey the goal of human progress as through a telescope. At most we can make out things but a little way ahead, and often not even that. The impenetrable mists of fate envelop the horison, as they have swallowed up also the unrecorded past.
The impossibility of determining the eventual goal of human evolution
should make us chary of prophecy, even over small periods of time, but it should not paralyze intellectual investigations into the future. After all, we have the records and experience of some thousands of years, in a more or less completed form, and we may certainly argue from redoubt to
redoubt, as it were. At great cost-human blood and human tears we have advanced our forces against the forces of the night, and these hardly-won points of vantage are not to be lightly abandoned. The common ground of logic is irrefragable, founded as it is on the simplest laws of nature; and we may well engage in feeling our way by its means still farther ahead. What lies in the mist matters not; that which is our concern is the visible battlefield. A survey of the historical period of hu. man evolution discloses a series of abrupt changes to the philosophical observer. These are fairly familiar to nobles from their feudatories, and all. The civilizations of the Orient these feudatories from the churls and perished in succession; on them fol- peasants of their demesnes. As a lowed the Aryan civilizations of Greece practical system it was nearly perfect, and Rome. Later the course of his- certainly more perfect than any systory was changed by the swamping of tem before or since devised by the inEurope by the fair Northern races, and genuity of man. It was, however, it was not until the Renaissance that arranged for a pastoral and agriculEurope reached the point at which tural country, and with the passage of civilization had been dropped at least the various European nations into mer. twelve hundred years before. During cantile communities feudalism was all those centuries, although Aryan necessarily dissolved. This naturally Europe had been heterogeneous, and took place first in England, where the although her political conditions va- rules and distinctions had been less ried, the sundry nations and races had severe than on the Continent, partly remained at the same level, because owing to the character of the people, subject to the same influences.
and partly owing to the public spirit of deed, the feudal system practically the barons. The revolution was not achieved a kind of homogeneity, in accomplished without disorder, and Western Europe at any rate. The was assisted by the bloody conflicts same ideals moved the Frenchman, the of the Roses which broke up the power Englishman, and the German. Their of the nobles; but on the whole it may forms of government might be differ- be regarded as a silent revolution, and ent, they might practise varying re- it was not completed for many centuligions; but they were involved in the ries. same stage of evolution and kept pace With the rise of trade began a new roughly with each other. The formu. era in modern civilization, an era to las of feudalism are well known. It which I shall refer presently. In the involved a system of caste which, meantime it is necessary to remark while not very rigid, mapped out the shortly the general effect of the feudal nation with exemplary thoroughness. system on human character and human The caste system, as in force among conduct. It is manifest that a sysEastern nations,
had its tem which in the ultimate appeal restcounterpart in the West. Elasticity, ed on militarism and the strong arm greater or less, has always character- must have differed greatly from that ized the social divisions of Europe, be- which obtains to-day. Wealth was cause those social conditions are social, not a consideration, since authority and not religious. Even hierarchies in had its seat in the prestige of fighting the West have never effected an Orien- qualities. A great noble was respected tal system of caste, and the nearest and feared and courted, because he approach to one was probably reached could put into the field so many menin the segregating conditions just prior at-arms with esquires and captains. to the French Revolution, which were This was not a question of money, but the product of class arrogance.
of territorial lordship. Wealth might Class then has never passed into possibly buy over this baron or that caste in this western part of the world. baron to one interest or another, but But feudalism established the boun- the chances were rather in favor of daries of class pretty firmly. Society their being influenced by ambition was organized on a military basis, and only. In any case the machinery of kings looked for service from nobles, feudalism moved independently of
money. Hotspur and the Percies quar- rope had to reckon up. After Waterrelled with Henry the Fourth and loo, trade advanced in influence and raised the standard of insurrection, be- prestige. In England it made particucause they considered the King had lar strides, and the reign of Victoria slighted their House. And Hotspur may be said with little exaggeration to marched on his fate with 15,000 be the reign of trade. Trade undoubtmen.
edly has had its victories. It has The mental properties evolved by this lacked those trappings of gilt and atmosphere were clearly strenuous and glory, and those romantic traditions, manly, whatever was the walk of life. which belong to militarism; but in deAll classes were called upon to bear spite of these defects it has achieved arms, which should develop their much and advanced greatly in social physique and render them of a healthy consideration. Trade indeed has taken robustness; and to this feudal age must to itself wings, and from its pinnacle be attributed such qualities as are com- is engaged in looking down upon the mon to perpetual warfare, for example decaying military systems of Europe. bravery, obedience, quickness of deci- There has even crept into the pursuit sion, endurance, stoutness of frame, of it a kind of romance which emulates and certain generous instincts that the older romantic glory. With the seem to thrive in martial air. On the invention of that pbrase and that fact, other hand, they had the defects due "merchant princes,” the aspect of trade to the same conditions.
was formidably changed. It took a Trade did not make good its claims new standing, put on fresh habilito the attention and respect of the ments, and began to swagger among world until the nineteenth century. It its ancient superiors in the guise of might have done so earlier, at least in an equal. One can imagine (if they England, had it not been for the in- ever saw it with clear prophetic eyes) terruption of the eighteenth century. how our fathers stared in dismay and Progress, so far as we know it, con- chagrin at this ugly invasion. The sists of ebb and flow, and the eigh- ranks of the aristocracy were broken, teenth century was a period of ebb, a press of newcomers poured in and during which the demarcation of the would take no denial. The whole face classes was more distinct than had of society changed. Nay, more than ever been the case. Sir Walter Be- that; for if the case be examined sant has pointed out that, whereas uprightly it is clear that the whole to the close of the seventeenth century of modern civilization felt the shock. it was a common practice to send The real revolution, which was only younger sons of gentlemen into trade, adumbrated in the French Revolution, during the next century this habit had begun. dropped altogether. The city and the In Great Britain, at any rate, the engentry were two separate communities, franchisement of trade consequent which did not mix, and which were upon the Napoleonic wars and Eng. actuated by mutual antagonism. It land's undisputed command of the sea was not until the destruction of the was followed with vast national prosNapoleonic system gave Europe breath. perity. English people have been so ing space and leave to look about and long accustomed to congratulate themreckon up the results of those twenty selves on the blessings of the Victorian years of warfare that trade finally Age that it has become a commonplace. challenged consideration. That was Napoleon called us a “nation of shopprecisely one of the changes which Eu- keepers,” and we are now proud of the title. It was by our trade, we boast, will be advantageous, as in the case of that we saved Europe from the tyrant. militarism, to make inquiry into the Trade in the wake of the adventurer influences of a régime of trade on hubas scattered the British flag into all man character and conduct. For good quarters of the globe, has founded an or ill the old order is passing; has, Oriental empire, and established strong indeed, quite passed in the United young nations overseas. If these feats States of America and in the British were indeed the work of trade, there Colonies, and it is well to “take stock" would be reason enough to be thank- of the new. The main distinction beful.
tween aristocracy and trade had been But it is not wholly clear that founded on money. The landowning the expansion of trade is altogether re- classes inherited their money and did sponsible for these conditions. It syn- not make it. The commercial classes chronized with them, but it did not earned it by traffic. The recognition produce them. Indeed, it is more true of trade at once weakened this distincthat the conditions produced the expan- tion, and has practically destroyed it sion of trade, although it cannot be by now. But with this breaking-down disputed that trade interacted on the of the barriers and this growing accesextension of the British Empire. My sibility of the upper classes dawned the point is, however, that trade did not age of the snob. Snobbery was the make the British Empire. There is product of the nineteenth century, the no more fallacious idea current in this fungus, that is, on the enfranchisement country than the belief that the Vic- of trade. So far, it is not clear that. torian Era was the sovereign epoch we have made a good exchange in in the history of the British nation. It stepping into the new era. But what was the centuries preceding, the cen. other results are obvious ? turies which came to their grand cli- glomeration of masses of humanity macteric at Waterloo, the centuries into large cities has been the direct which decided the international strug- result of the commercial epoch, and gle in Europe-it is they that deserve this bad kept pace with a physical the epithet and the credit. The nine- degeneration, noticeable in spite of imteenth century merely inherited what proved sanitary science. This is a had been earned by its predecessors. definite disadvantage which seems What in Great Britain Pitt and Chat- likely to continue under the commerham rendered possible, Melbourne and cial régime. It has been often stated Palmerston enjoyed in comfort. There that modern life, in its freedom from is no more misleading phrase than that the dangers and tyrannies of medieval of “the glorious Victorian Era,” for in conditions, in its increased respect for the Victorian Era the English people humanity and in its law-abiding charturned smug and complacent and self- acter, is an object for philosophic adsatisfied, having entered into the in- miration. It would be idle to deny the heritance won by their hard-fighting immense importance of some of the fathers. Wealth and orthodoxy be changes which have taken place in his
the standard, and heterodox tory, but this claim is unduly magniloideas, which, after all, have been the quent. Cruelty, for example, stalks in basis of all progress and of every fresh modern commercial life as darkly as discovery, were discarded.
it was frank in medieval. One must It would seem, then, that the vic- judge the new régime by its most pertories of trade are not, in this direction, fected example, and that is the United all that its advocates claim. Here it States of America. Let us according