Lecture delivered at Bristol, October 5, 1857.
The pleasure, gentlemen and ladies, of addressing you here is mixed in my mind with very solemn feelings; the honour which you have done me is tempered by humiliating thoughts.
For it was in this very city of Bristol, twenty-seven years ago, that I received my first lesson in what is now called Social Science; and yet, alas! more than ten years elapsed ere I could even spell out that lesson, though it had been written for me (as well as for all England) in letters of flame, from the one end of heaven to the other.
I was a school-boy in Clifton up above. I had been hearing of political disturbances, even of riots, of which I understood nothing, and for which I cared nothing. But on one memorable Sunday afternoon I saw an object which was distinctly not political. Otherwise I should have no right to speak of it here.
It was an afternoon of sullen autumn rain. The fog hung thick over the docks and lowlands. Glaring through that fog I saw a bright mass of flame--almost like a half-risen sun.
That, I was told, was the gate of the new gaol on fire. That the prisoners in it had been set free; that-- But why speak of what too many here recollect but too well? The fog rolled slowly upward. Dark figures, even at that great distance, were flitting to and fro across what seemed the mouth of the pit. The flame increased--multiplied--at one point after another; till by ten o'clock that night I seemed to be looking down upon Dante's Inferno, and to hear the multitudinous moan and wail of the lost spirits surging to and fro amid that sea of fire.
Right behind Brandon Hill--how can I ever forget it?--rose the great central mass of fire; till the little mound seemed converted into a volcano, from the peak of which the flame streamed up, not red alone, but, delicately green and blue, pale rose and pearly white, while crimson sparks leapt and fell again in the midst of that rainbow, not of hope, but of despair; and dull explosions down below mingled with the roar of the mob, and the infernal hiss and crackle of the flame.
Higher and higher the fog was scorched and shrivelled upward by the fierce heat below, glowing through and through with red reflected glare, till it arched itself into one vast dome of red- hot iron, fit roof for all the madness down below--and beneath it, miles away, I could see the lonely tower of Dundie shining red;-- the symbol of the old faith, looking down in stately wonder and sorrow upon the fearful birth-throes of a new age. Yes.--Why did I say just now despair? I was wrong. Birth-throes, and not death pangs, those horrors were. Else they would have no place in my discourse; no place, indeed, in my mind. Why talk over the signs of disease, decay, death? Let the dead bury their dead, and let us follow Him who dieth not; by whose command
The old order changeth, giving place to the new, And God fulfils himself in many ways.
If we will believe this,--if we will look on each convulsion of society, however terrible for the time being, as a token, not of decrepitude, but of youth; not as the expiring convulsions of sinking humanity, but as upward struggles, upward toward fuller light, freer air, a juster, simpler, and more active life;--then we shall be able to look calmly, however sadly, on the most appalling tragedies of humanity--even on these late Indian ones-- and take our share, faithful and hopeful, in supplying the new and deeper wants of a new and nobler time.
But to return. It was on the Tuesday or Wednesday after, if I recollect right, that I saw another, and a still more awful sight. Along the north side of Queen Square, in front of ruins which had been three days before noble buildings, lay a ghastly row, not of corpses, but of corpse-fragments. I have no more wish than you to dilate upon that sight. But there was one charred fragment--with a scrap of old red petticoat adhering to it, which I never forgot- -which I trust in God that I never shall forget. It is good for a man to be brought once at least in his life face to face with fact, ultimate fact, however horrible it may be; and have to confess to himself, shuddering, what things are possible upon God's earth, when man has forgotten that his only welfare lies in living after the likeness of God.
Not that I learnt the lesson then. When the first excitement of horror and wonder were past, what I had seen made me for years the veriest aristocrat, full of hatred and contempt of these dangerous classes, whose existence I had for the first time discovered. It required many years--years, too, of personal intercourse with the poor--to explain to me the true meaning of what I saw here in October twenty-seven years ago, and to learn a part of that lesson which God taught to others thereby. And one part at least of that lesson was this: That the social state of a city depends directly on its moral state, and--I fear dissenting voices, but I must say what I believe to be truth--that the moral state of a city depends--how far I know not, but frightfully, to an extent as yet uncalculated, and perhaps incalculable--on the physical state of that city; on the food, water, air, and lodging of its inhabitants.
But that lesson, and others connected with it, was learnt, and learnt well, by hundreds. From the sad catastrophe I date the rise of that interest in Social Science; that desire for some nobler, more methodic, more permanent benevolence than that which stops at mere almsgiving and charity-schools. The dangerous classes began to be recognised as an awful fact which must be faced; and faced, not by repression, but by improvement. The "Perils of the Nation" began to occupy the attention not merely of politicians, but of philosophers, physicians, priests; and the admirable book which assumed that title did but re-echo the feeling of thousands of earnest hearts.
Ever since that time, scheme on scheme of improvement has been not only proposed but carried out. A general interest of the upper classes in the lower, a general desire to do good, and to learn how good can be done, has been awakened throughout England, such as, I boldly say, never before existed in any country upon earth; and England, her eyes opened to her neglect of these classes, without whose strong arms her wealth and genius would be useless, has put herself into a permanent state of confession of sin, repentance, and amendment, which I verily trust will be accepted by Almighty God; and will, in spite of our present shame and sorrow, [This was spoken during the Indian Mutiny.] in spite of shame and sorrow which may be yet in store for us, save alive both the soul and the body of this ancient people.
Let us then, that we may learn how to bear our part in this great work of Social Reform, consider awhile great cities, their good and evil; and let us start from the facts about your own city of which I have just put you in remembrance. The universal law will be best understood from the particular instance; and best of all, from the instance with which you are most intimately acquainted. And do not, I entreat you, fear that I shall be rude enough to say anything which may give pain to you, my generous hosts; or presumptuous enough to impute blame to anyone for events which happened long ago, and of the exciting causes of which I know little or nothing. Bristol was then merely in the same state in which other cities of England were, and in which every city on the Continent is now; and the local exciting causes of that outbreak, the personal conduct of A or B in it, is just what we ought most carefully to forget, if we wish to look at the real root of the matter. If consumption, latent in the constitution, have broken out in active mischief, the wise physician will trouble his head little with the particular accident which woke up the sleeping disease. The disease was there, and if one thing had not awakened it some other would. And so, if the population of a great city have got into a socially diseased state, it matters little what shock may have caused it to explode. Politics may in one case, fanaticism in another, national hatred in a third, hunger in a fourth--perhaps even, as in Byzantium of old, no more important matter than the jealousy between the blue and the green charioteers in the theatre, may inflame a whole population to madness and civil war. Our business is not with the nature of the igniting spark, but of the powder which is ignited.
I will not, then, to begin, go as far as some who say that "A great city is a great evil." We cannot say that Bristol was in 1830 or is now, a great evil. It represents so much realised wealth; and that, again, so much employment for thousands. It represents so much commerce; so much knowledge of foreign lands; so much distribution of their products; so much science, employed about that distribution.
And it is undeniable, that as yet we have had no means of rapid and cheap distribution of goods, whether imports or manufactures, save by this crowding of human beings into great cities, for the more easy despatch of business. Whether we shall devise other means hereafter is a question of which I shall speak presently. Meanwhile, no man is to be blamed for the existence, hardly even for the evils, of great cities. The process of their growth has been very simple. They have gathered themselves round abbeys and castles, for the sake of protection; round courts, for the sake of law; round ports, for the sake of commerce; round coal mines, for the sake of manufacture. Before the existence of railroads, penny-posts, electric telegraphs, men were compelled to be as close as possible to each other, in order to work together.
When the population was small, and commerce feeble, the cities grew to no very great size, and the bad effects of this crowding were not felt. The cities of England in the Middle Age were too small to keep their inhabitants week after week, month after month, in one deadly vapour-bath of foul gas; and though the mortality among infants was probably excessive, yet we should have seen among the adult survivors few or none of those stunted and etiolated figures so common now in England, as well as on the Continent. The green fields were close outside the walls, where lads and lasses went a-maying, and children gathered flowers, and sober burghers with their wives took the evening walk; there were the butts, too, close outside, where stalwart prentice-lads ran and wrestled, and pitched the bar, and played backsword, and practised with the long-bow; and sometimes, in stormy times, turned out for a few months as ready-trained soldiers, and, like Ulysses of old,
Drank delight of battle with their peers,
and then returned again to the workshop and the loom. The very mayor and alderman went forth, at five o'clock on the summer's morning, with hawk and leaping-pole, after a duck and heron; or hunted the hare in state, probably in the full glory of furred gown and gold chain; and then returned to breakfast, and doubtless transacted their day's business all the better for their morning's gallop on the breezy downs.
But there was another side to this genial and healthy picture. A hint that this was a state of society which had its conditions, its limit; and if those were infringed, woe alike to burgher and to prentice. Every now and then epidemic disease entered the jolly city--and then down went strong and weak, rich and poor, before the invisible and seemingly supernatural arrows of that angel of death whom they had been pampering unwittingly in every bedroom.
They fasted, they prayed; but in vain. They called the pestilence a judgment of God; and they called it by a true name. But they know not (and who are we to blame them for not knowing?) what it was that God was judging thereby--foul air, foul water, unclean backyards, stifling attics, houses hanging over the narrow street till light and air were alike shut out--that there lay the sin; and that to amend that was the repentance which God demanded.
Yet we cannot blame them. They showed that the crowded city life can bring out human nobleness as well as human baseness; that to be crushed into contact with their fellow-men, forced at least the loftier and tender souls to know their fellow-men, and therefore to care for them, to love them, to die for them. Yes--from one temptation the city life is free, to which the country life is sadly exposed--that isolation which, self-contented and self- helping, forgets in its surly independence that man is his brother's keeper. In cities, on the contrary, we find that the stories of these old pestilences, when the first panic terror has past, become, however tragical, still beautiful and heroic; and we read of noble-hearted men and women palliating ruin which they could not cure, braving dangers which seemed to them miraculous, from which they were utterly defenceless, spending money, time, and, after all, life itself upon sufferers from whom they might without shame have fled.
They are very cheering, the stories of the old city pestilences; and the nobleness which they brought out in the heart of many a townsman who had seemed absorbed in the lust of gain--who perhaps had been really absorbed in it--till that fearful hour awakened in him his better self, and taught him, not self-aggrandisement, but self-sacrifice; begetting in him, out of the very depth of darkness, new and divine light. That nobleness, doubt it not, exists as ever in the hearts of citizens. May God grant us to see the day when it shall awaken to exert itself, not for the palliation, not even for the cure, but for the prevention, yea, the utter extermination, of pestilence.
About the middle of the sixteenth century, as far as I can ascertain, another and even more painful phenomenon appears in our great cities--a dangerous class. How it arose is not yet clear. That the Reformation had something to do with the matter, we can hardly doubt. At the dissolution of the monasteries, the more idle, ignorant, and profligate members of the mendicant orders, unable to live any longer on the alms of the public, sunk, probably, into vicious penury. The frightful misgovernment of this country during the minority of Edward the Sixth, especially the conversion of tilled lands into pasture, had probably the effect of driving the surplus agricultural population into the great towns. But the social history of this whole period is as yet obscure, and I have no right to give an opinion on it. Another element, and a more potent one, is to be found in the discharged soldiers who came home from foreign war, and the sailors who returned from our voyages of discovery, and from our raids against the Spaniards, too often crippled by scurvy, or by Tropic fevers, with perhaps a little prize money, which was as hastily spent as it had been hastily gained. The later years of Elizabeth, and the whole of James the First's reign, disclose to us an ugly state of society in the low streets of all our sea-port towns; and Bristol, as one of the great starting-points of West Indian adventure, was probably, during the seventeenth century, as bad as any city in England. According to Ben Jonson, and the playwriters of his time, the beggars become a regular fourth- estate, with their own laws, and even their own language--of which we may remark, that the thieves' Latin of those days is full of German words, indicating that its inventors had been employed in the Continental wars of the time. How that class sprung up, we may see, I suppose, pretty plainly, from Shakespeare's "Henry the Fifth." Whether Nym, Pistol, and Bardolph, Doll and Mrs. Quickly, existed in the reign of Henry the Fifth, they certainly existed in the reign of Elizabeth. They are probably sketches from life of people whom Shakespeare had seen in Alsatia and the Mint.
To these merely rascal elements, male and female, we must add, I fear, those whom mere penury, from sickness, failure, want of employment drove into dwellings of the lowest order. Such people, though not criminal themselves, are but too likely to become the parents of criminals. I am not blaming them, poor souls; God forbid! I am merely stating a fact. When we examine into the ultimate cause of a dangerous class; into the one property common to all its members, whether thieves, beggars, profligates, or the merely pauperised--we find it to be this loss of self-respect. As long as that remains, poor souls may struggle on heroically, pure amid penury, filth, degradation unspeakable. But when self- respect is lost, they are lost with it. And whatever may be the fate of virtuous parents, children brought up in dens of physical and moral filth cannot retrieve self-respect. They sink, they must sink, into a life on a level with the sights, sounds, aye, the very smells, which surround them. It is not merely that the child's mind is contaminated, by seeing and hearing, in overcrowded houses, what he should not hear and see: but the whole physical circumstances of his life are destructive of self- respect. He has no means for washing himself properly: but he has enough of the innate sense of beauty and fitness to feel that he ought not to be dirty; he thinks that others despise him for being dirty, and he half despises himself for being so. In all raged schools and reformatories, so they tell me, the first step toward restoring self-respect is to make the poor fellows clean. From that moment they begin to look on themselves as new men--with a new start, new hopes, new duties. For not without the deepest physical as well as moral meaning, was baptism chosen by the old Easterns, and adopted by our Lord Jesus Christ, as the sign of a new life; and outward purity made the token and symbol of that inward purity which is the parent of self-respect, and manliness, and a clear conscience; of the free forehead, and the eye which meets boldly and honestly the eye of its fellow-man.
But would that mere physical dirt were all that the lad has to contend with. There is the desire of enjoyment. Moral and intellectual enjoyment he has none, and can have none: but not to enjoy something is to be dead in life; and to the lowest physical pleasures he will betake himself, and all the more fiercely because his opportunities of enjoyment are so limited. It is a hideous subject; I will pass it by very shortly; only asking of you, as I have to ask daily of myself--this solemn question: We, who have so many comforts, so many pleasures of body, soul, and spirit, from the lowest appetite to the highest aspiration, that we can gratify each in turn with due and wholesome moderation, innocently and innocuously--who are we that we should judge the poor untaught and overtempted inhabitant of Temple Street and Lewin's Mead, if, having but one or two pleasures possible to him, he snatches greedily, even foully, at the little which he has?
And this brings me to another, and a most fearful evil of great cities, namely, drunkenness. I am one of those who cannot, on scientific grounds, consider drunkenness as a cause of evil, but as an effect. Of course it is a cause--a cause of endless crime and misery; but I am convinced that to cure, you must inquire, not what it causes, but what causes it? And for that we shall not have to seek far.
The main exciting cause of drunkenness is, I believe, firmly, bad air and bad lodging.
A man shall spend his days between a foul alley where he breathes sulphuretted hydrogen, a close workshop where he breathes carbonic acid, and a close and foul bedroom where he breathes both. In neither of the three places, meanwhile, has he his fair share of that mysterious chemical agent without which health is impossible, the want of which betrays itself at once in the dull eye, the sallow cheek--namely, light. Believe me, it is no mere poetic metaphor which connects in Scripture, Light with Life. It is the expression of a deep law, one which holds as true in the physical as in the spiritual world; a case in which (as perhaps in all cases) the laws of the visible world are the counterparts of those of the invisible world, and Earth is the symbol of Heaven.
Deprive, then, the man of his fair share of fresh air and pure light, and what follows? His blood is not properly oxygenated: his nervous energy is depressed, his digestion impaired, especially if his occupation be sedentary, or requires much stooping, and the cavity of the chest thereby becomes contracted; and for that miserable feeling of languor and craving he knows but one remedy--the passing stimulus of alcohol;--a passing stimulus; leaving fresh depression behind it, and requiring fresh doses of stimulant, till it becomes a habit, a slavery, a madness. Again, there is an intellectual side to the question. The depressed nervous energy, the impaired digestion, depress the spirits. The man feels low in mind as well as in body. Whence shall he seek exhilaration? Not in that stifling home which has caused the depression itself. He knows none other than the tavern, and the company which the tavern brings; God help him!
Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it is easy to say, God help him; but it is not difficult for man to help him also. Drunkenness is a very curable malady. The last fifty years has seen it all but die out among the upper classes of this country. And what has caused the improvement?
Certainly, in the first place, the spread of education. Every man has now a hundred means of rational occupation and amusement which were closed to his grandfather; and among the deadliest enemies of drunkenness, we may class the printing-press, the railroad, and the importation of foreign art and foreign science, which we owe to the late forty years' peace. We can find plenty of amusement now, beside the old one of sitting round the table and talking over wine. Why should not the poor man share in our gain? But over and above, there are causes simply physical. Our houses are better ventilated. The stifling old four-post bed has given place to the airy curtainless one; and what is more than all--we wash. That morning cold bath which foreigners consider as Young England's strangest superstition, has done as much, believe me, to abolish drunkenness, as any other cause whatsoever. With a clean skin in healthy action, and nerves and muscles braced by a sudden shock, men do not crave for artificial stimulants. I have found that, coeteris paribus, a man's sobriety is in direct proportion to his cleanliness. I believe it would be so in all classes had they the means.
And they ought to have the means. Whatever other rights a man has, or ought to have, this at least he has, if society demands of him that he should earn his own livelihood, and not be a torment and a burden to his neighbours. He has a right to water, to air, to light. In demanding that, he demands no more than nature has given to the wild beast of the forest. He is better than they. Treat him, then, as well as God has treated them. If we require of him to be a man, we must at least put him on a level with the brutes.
We have then, first of all, to face the existence of a dangerous class of this kind, into which the weaker as well as the worst members of society have a continual tendency to sink. A class which, not respecting itself, does not respect others; which has nothing to lose and all to gain by anarchy; in which the lowest passions, seldom gratified, are ready to burst out and avenge themselves by frightful methods.
For the reformation of that class, thousands of good men are now working; hundreds of benevolent plans are being set on foot. Honour to them all; whether they succeed or fail, each of them does some good; each of them rescues at least a few fellow-men, dear to God as you and I are, out of the nether pit. Honour to them all, I say; but I should not be honest with you this night, if I did not assert most solemnly my conviction, that reformatories, ragged schools, even hospitals and asylums, treat only the symptoms, not the actual causes, of the disease; and that the causes are only to be touched by improving the simple physical conditions of the class; by abolishing foul air, foul water, foul lodging, overcrowded dwellings, in which morality is difficult and common decency impossible. You may breed a pig in a sty, ladies and gentlemen, and make a learned pig of him after all; but you cannot breed a man in a sty, and make a learned man of him; or indeed, in the true sense of that great word, a man at all.
And remember, that these physical influences of great cities, physically depressing and morally degrading, influence, though to a less extent, the classes above the lowest stratum.
The honest and skilled workman feels their effects. Compelled too often to live where he can, in order to be near his work, he finds himself perpetually in contact with a class utterly inferior to himself, and his children exposed to contaminating influences from which he would gladly remove them; but how can he? Next door to him, even in the same house with him, may be enacted scenes of brutality or villainy which I will not speak of here. He may shut his own eyes and ears to them; but he cannot shut his children's. He may vex his righteous soul daily, like Lot of old, with the foul conversation of the wicked; but, like Lot of old, he cannot keep his children from mixing with the inhabitants of the wicked city, learning their works, and at last being involved in their doom. Oh, ladies and gentlemen, if there be one class for whom above all others I will plead, in season and out of season; if there be one social evil which I will din into the ears of my countrymen whenever God gives me a chance, it is this: The honest and the virtuous workman, and his unnatural contact with the dishonest and the foul. I know well the nobleness which exists in the average of that class, in men and in wives--their stern uncomplaining, valorous self-denial; and nothing more stirs my pity than to see them struggling to bring up a family in a moral and physical atmosphere where right education is impossible. We lavish sympathy enough upon the criminal; for God's sake let us keep a little of it for the honest man. We spend thousands in carrying out the separation of classes in prison; for God's sake let us try to separate them a little before they go to prison. We are afraid of the dangerous classes; for God's sake let us bestir ourselves to stop that reckless confusion and neglect which reign in the alleys and courts of our great towns, and which recruit those very dangerous classes from the class which ought to be, and is still, in spite of our folly, England's strength and England's glory. Let us no longer stand by idle, and see moral purity, in street after street, pent in the same noisome den with moral corruption, to be involved in one common doom, as the Latin tyrant of old used to bind together the dead corpse and the living victim. But let the man who would deserve well of his city, well of his country, set his heart and brain to the great purpose of giving the workmen dwellings fit for a virtuous and a civilised being, and like the priest of old, stand between the living and the dead, that the plague may be stayed.
Hardly less is the present physical state of our great cities felt by that numerous class which is, next to the employer, the most important in a city. I mean the shopmen, clerks, and all the men, principally young ones, who are employed exclusively in the work of distribution. I have a great respect, I may say affection, for this class. In Bristol I know nothing of them; save that, from what I hear, the clerks ought in general to have a better status here than in most cities. I am told that it is the practice here for merchants to take into their houses very young boys, and train them to their business; that this connection between employer and employed is hereditary, and that clerkships pass from father to son in the same family. I rejoice to hear it. It is pleasant to find anywhere a relic of the old patriarchal bond, the permanent nexus between master and man, which formed so important and so healthful an element of the ancient mercantile system. One would gladly overlook a little favouritism and nepotism, a little sticking square men into round holes, and of round men into square holes, for the sake of having a class of young clerks and employes who felt that their master's business was their business, his honour theirs, his prosperity theirs.
But over and above this, whenever I have come in contact with this clerk and shopman class, they have impressed me with considerable respect, not merely as to what they may be hereafter, but what they are now.
They are the class from which the ranks of our commercial men, our emigrants, are continually recruited; therefore their right education is a matter of national importance.
The lad who stands behind a Bristol counter may be, five-and- twenty years hence, a large employer--an owner of houses and land in far countries across the seas--a member of some colonial parliament--the founder of a wealthy family. How necessary for the honour of Britain, for the welfare of generations yet unborn, that that young man should have, in body, soul, and spirit, the loftiest, and yet the most practical of educations.
His education, too, such as it is, is one which makes me respect him as one of a class. Of course, he is sometimes one of those "gents" whom Punch so ruthlessly holds up to just ridicule. He is sometimes a vulgar fop, sometimes fond of low profligacy--of betting-houses and casinos. Well--I know no class in any age or country among which a fool may not be found here and there. But that the "gent" is the average type of this class, I should utterly deny from such experience as I have had. The peculiar note and mark of the average clerk and shopman, is, I think, in these days, intellectual activity, a keen desire for self- improvement and for independence, honourable, because self- acquired. But as he is distinctly a creature of the city; as all city influences bear at once on him more than on any other class, so we see in him, I think, more than in any class, the best and the worst effects of modern city life. The worst, of course, is low profligacy; but of that I do not speak here. I mean that in the same man the good and evil of a city life meet. And in this way.
In a countryman like me, coming up out of wild and silent moorlands into a great city, the first effect of the change is increased intellectual activity. The perpetual stream of human faces, the innumerable objects of interest in every shop-window, are enough to excite the mind to action, which is increased by the simple fact of speaking to fifty different human beings in the day instead of five. Now in the city-bred youth this excited state of mind is chronic, permanent. It is denoted plainly enough by the difference between the countryman's face and that of the townsman. The former in its best type (and it is often very noble) composed, silent, self-contained, often stately, often listless; the latter mobile, eager, observant, often brilliant, often self-conscious.
Now if you keep this rapid and tense mind in a powerful and healthy body, it would do right good work. Right good work it does, indeed, as it is; but still it might do better.
For what are the faults of this class? What do the obscurantists (now, thank God, fewer every day) allege as the objection to allowing young men to educate themselves out of working hours?
They become, it is said, discontented, conceited, dogmatical. They take up hasty notions, they condemn fiercely what they have no means of understanding; they are too fond of fine words, of the excitement of spouting themselves, and hearing others spout.
Well. I suppose there must be a little truth in the accusation, or it would not have been invented. There is no smoke without fire; and these certainly are the faults of which the cleverest middle-class young men whom I know are most in danger.
But--one fair look at these men's faces ought to tell common sense that the cause is rather physical than moral. Confined to sedentary occupations, stooping over desks and counters in close rooms, unable to obtain that fair share of bodily exercise which nature demands, and in continual mental effort, their nerves and brain have been excited at the expense of their lungs, their digestion, and their whole nutritive system. Their complexions show a general ill-health. Their mouths, too often, hint at latent disease. What wonder if there be an irritability of brain and nerve? I blame them no more for it than I blame a man for being somewhat touchy while he is writhing in the gout. Indeed less; for gout is very often a man's own fault; but these men's ill-health is not. And, therefore, everything which can restore to them health of body, will preserve in them health of mind. Everything which ministers to the CORPUS SANUM, will minister also to the MENTEM SANAM; and a walk on Durham Downs, a game of cricket, a steamer excursion to Chepstow, shall send them home again happier and wiser men than poring over many wise volumes or hearing many wise lectures. How often is a worthy fellow spending his leisure honourably in hard reading, when he had much better have been scrambling over hedge and ditch, without a thought in his head save what was put there by the grass and the butterflies, and the green trees and the blue sky? And therefore I do press earnestly, both on employers and employed, the incalculable value of athletic sports and country walks for those whose business compels them to pass the day in the heart of the city; I press on you, with my whole soul, the excellency of the early-closing movement; not so much because it enables young men to attend mechanics' institutes, as because it enables them, if they choose, to get a good game of leap-frog. You may smile; but try the experiment, and see how, as the chest expands, the muscles harden, and the cheek grows ruddy and the lips firm, and sound sleep refreshes the lad for his next day's work, the temper will become more patient, the spirits more genial; there will be less tendency to brood angrily over the inequalities of fortune, and to accuse society for evils which as yet she knows not how to cure.
There is a class, again, above all these, which is doubtless the most important of all; and yet of which I can say little here--the capitalist, small and great, from the shopkeeper to the merchant prince.
Heaven forbid that I should speak of them with aught but respect. There are few figures, indeed, in the world on which I look with higher satisfaction than on the British merchant; the man whose ships are on a hundred seas; who sends comfort and prosperity to tribes whom he never saw, and honourably enriches himself by enriching others. There is something to me chivalrous, even kingly, in the merchant life; and there were men in Bristol of old--as I doubt not there are now--who nobly fulfilled that ideal. I cannot forget that Bristol was the nurse of America; that more than two hundred years ago, the daring and genius of Bristol converted yonder narrow stream into a mighty artery, down which flowed the young life-blood of that great Transatlantic nation destined to be hereafter, I believe, the greatest which the world ever saw. Yes--were I asked to sum up in one sentence the good of great cities, I would point first to Bristol, and then to the United States, and say, That is what great cities can do. By concentrating in one place, and upon one object, men, genius, information, and wealth, they can conquer new-found lands by arts instead of arms; they can beget new nations; and replenish and subdue the earth from pole to pole.
Meanwhile, there is one fact about employers, in all cities which I know, which may seem commonplace to you, but which to me is very significant. Whatsoever business they may do in the city, they take good care, if possible, not to live in it. As soon as a man gets wealthy nowadays, his first act is to take to himself a villa in the country. Do I blame him? Certainly not. It is an act of common sense. He finds that the harder he works, the more he needs of fresh air, free country life, innocent recreation; and he takes it, and does his city business all the better for it, lives all the longer for it, is the cheerfuller, more genial man for it. One great social blessing, I think, which railroads have brought, is the throwing open country life to men of business. I say blessing; both to the men themselves and to the country where they settle. The citizen takes an honest pride in rivalling the old country gentleman, in beating him in his own sphere, as gardener, agriculturist, sportsman, head of the village; and by his superior business habits and his command of ready money, he very often does so. For fifty miles round London, wherever I see progress-- improved farms, model cottages, new churches, new schools--I find, in three cases out of four, that the author is some citizen who fifty years ago would have known nothing but the narrow city life, and have had probably no higher pleasures than those of the table; whose dreams would have been, not as now, of model farms and schools, but of turtle and port-wine.
My only regret when I see so pleasant a sight is: Oh that the good man could have taken his workmen with him!
Taken his workmen with him?
I assure you that, after years of thought, I see no other remedy for the worst evils of city life. "If," says the old proverb, "the mountain will not come to Muhammed, then Muhammed must go to the mountain." And if you cannot bring the country into the city, the city must go into the country.
Do not fancy me a dreamer dealing with impossible ideals. I know well what cannot be done; fair and grand as it would be, if it were done, a model city is impossible in England. We have here no Eastern despotism (and it is well we have not) to destroy an old Babylon, as that mighty genius Nabuchonosor did, and build a few miles off a new Babylon, one-half the area of which was park and garden, fountain and water-course--a diviner work of art, to my mind, than the finest picture or statue which the world ever saw. We have not either (and it is well for us that we have not) a model republic occupying a new uncleared land. We cannot, as they do in America, plan out a vast city on some delicious and healthy site amid the virgin forest, with streets one hundred feet in breadth, squares and boulevards already planted by God's hand with majestic trees; and then leave the great design to be hewn out of the wilderness, street after street, square after square, by generations yet unborn. That too is a magnificent ideal; but it cannot be ours. And it is well for us, I believe, that it cannot. The great value of land, the enormous amount of vested interests, the necessity of keeping to ancient sites around which labour, as in Manchester, or commerce, as in Bristol, has clustered itself on account of natural advantages, all these things make any attempts to rebuild in cities impossible. But they will cause us at last, I believe, to build better things than cities. They will issue in a complete interpenetration of city and of country, a complete fusion of their different modes of life, and a combination of the advantages of both, such as no country in the world has ever seen. We shall have, I believe and trust, ere another generation has past, model lodging-houses springing up, not in the heart of the town, but on the hills around it; and those will be--economy, as well as science and good government, will compel them to be--not ill-built rows of undrained cottages, each rented for awhile, and then left to run into squalidity and disrepair, but huge blocks of building, each with its common eating-house, bar, baths, washhouses, reading-room, common conveniences of every kind, where, in free and pure country air, the workman will enjoy comforts which our own grandfathers could not command, and at a lower price than that which he now pays for such accommodation as I should be ashamed to give to my own horses; while from these great blocks of building, branch lines will convey the men to or from their work by railroad, without loss of time, labour, or health.
Then the city will become what it ought to be; the workshop, and not the dwelling-house, of a mighty and healthy people. The old foul alleys, as they become gradually depopulated, will be replaced by fresh warehouses, fresh public buildings; and the city, in spite of all its smoke and dirt, will become a place on which the workman will look down with pride and joy, because it will be to him no longer a prison and a poison-trap, but merely a place for honest labour.
This, gentlemen and ladies, is my ideal; and I cannot but hope and believe that I shall live to see it realised here and there, gradually and cautiously (as is our good and safe English habit), but still earnestly and well. Did I see but the movement commenced in earnest, I should be inclined to cry a "Nunc Domine dimittis"--I have lived long enough to see a noble work begun, which cannot but go on and prosper, so beneficial would it be found. I tell you, that but this afternoon, as the Bath train dashed through the last cutting, and your noble vale and noble city opened before me, I looked round upon the overhanging crags, the wooded glens, and said to myself: There, upon the rock in the free air and sunlight, and not here, beneath yon pall of smoke by the lazy pools and festering tidal muds, ought the Bristol workman to live. Oh that I may see the time when on the blessed Sabbath eve these hills shall swarm as thick with living men as bean- fields with the summer bees; when the glens shall ring with the laughter of ten thousand children, with limbs as steady, and cheeks as ruddy, as those of my own lads and lasses at home; and the artisan shall find his Sabbath a day of rest indeed, in which not only soul but body may gather health and nerve for the week's work, under the soothing and purifying influences of those common natural sights and sounds which God has given as a heritage even to the gipsy on the moor; and of which no man can be deprived without making his life a burden to himself, perhaps a burden to those around him.
But it will be asked: Will such improvements pay? I respect that question. I do not sneer at it, and regard it, as some are too apt to do, as a sign of the mercenary and money-loving spirit of the present age. I look on it as a healthy sign of the English mind; a sign that we believe, as the old Jews did, that political and social righteousness is inseparably connected with wealth and prosperity. The old Psalms and prophets have taught us that lesson; and God forbid that we should forget it. The world is right well made; and the laws of trade and of social economy, just as much as the laws of nature, are divine facts, and only by obeying them can we thrive. And I had far sooner hear a people asking of every scheme of good, Will it pay? than throwing themselves headlong into that merely sentimental charity to which superstitious nations have always been prone--charity which effects no permanent good, which, whether in Hindostan or in Italy, debases, instead of raising, the suffering classes, because it breaks the laws of social economy.
No, let us still believe that if a thing is right, it will sooner or later pay; and in social questions, make the profitableness of any scheme a test of its rightness. It is a rough test; not an infallible one at all, but it is a fair one enough to work by.
And as for the improvements at which I have hinted, I will boldly answer that they will pay.
They will pay directly and at once, in the saving of poor-rates. They will pay by exterminating epidemics, and numberless chronic forms of disease which now render thousands burdens on the public purse; consumers, instead of producers of wealth. They will pay by gradually absorbing the dangerous classes; and removing from temptation and degradation a generation yet unborn. They will pay in the increased content, cheerfulness, which comes with health in increased goodwill of employed towards employers. They will pay by putting the masses into a state fit for education. They will pay, too, in such fearful times as these, by the increased physical strength and hardihood of the town populations. For it is from the city, rather than from the country, that our armies must mainly be recruited. Not only is the townsman more ready to enlist than the countryman, because in the town the labour market is most likely to be overstocked; but the townsman actually makes a better soldier than the countryman. He is a shrewder, more active, more self-helping man; give him but the chances of maintaining the same physical strength and health as the countryman, and he will support the honour of the British arms as gallantly as the Highlander or the Connaughtman, and restore the days when the invincible prentice-boys of London carried terror into the heart of foreign lands. In all ages, in all times, whether for war or for peace, it will pay. The true wealth of a nation is the health of her masses.
It may seem to some here that I have dealt too much throughout this lecture with merely material questions; that I ought to have spoken more of intellectual progress; perhaps, as a clergyman, more also of spiritual and moral regeneration.
I can only answer, that if this be a fault on my part, it is a deliberate one. I have spoken, whether rightly or wrongly, concerning what I know--concerning matters which are to me articles of faith altogether indubitable, irreversible, Divine.
Be it that these are merely questions of physical improvement. I see no reason in that why they should be left to laymen, or urged only on worldly grounds and self-interest. I do not find that when urged on those grounds, the advice is listened to. I believe that it will not be listened to until the consciences of men, as well as their brains, are engaged in these questions; until they are put on moral grounds, shown to have connection with moral laws; and so made questions not merely of interest, but of duty, honour, chivalry.
I cannot but see, moreover, how many phenomena, which are supposed to be spiritual, are simply physical; how many cases which are referred to my profession, are properly the object of the medical man. I cannot but see, that unless there be healthy bodies, it is impossible in the long run to have a generation of healthy souls; I cannot but see that mankind are as prone now as ever to deny the sacredness and perfection of God's physical universe, as an excuse for their own ignorance and neglect thereof; to search the highest heaven for causes which lie patent at their feet, and like the heathen of old time, to impute to some capricious anger of the gods calamities which spring from their own greed, haste, and ignorance.
And, therefore, because I am a priest, and glory in the name of a priest, I have tried to fulfil somewhat of that which seems to me the true office of a priest--namely, to proclaim to man the Divine element which exists in all, even the smallest thing, because each thing is a thought of God himself; to make men understand that God is indeed about their path and about their bed, spying out all their ways; that they are indeed fearfully and wonderfully made, and that God's hand lies for ever on them, in the form of physical laws, sacred, irreversible, universal, reaching from one end of the universe to the other; that whosoever persists in breaking those laws, reaps his sure punishment of weakness and sickness, sadness and self-reproach; that whosoever causes them to be broken by others, reaps his sure punishment in finding that he has transformed his fellow-men into burdens and curses, instead of helpmates and blessings. To say this, is a priest's duty; and then to preach the good news that the remedy is patent, easy, close at hand; that many of the worst evils which afflict humanity may be exterminated by simple common sense, and the justice and mercy which does to others as it would be done by; to awaken men to the importance of the visible world, that they may judge from thence the higher importance of that invisible world whereof this is but the garment and the type; and in all times and places, instead of keeping the key of knowledge to pamper one's own power or pride, to lay that key frankly and trustfully in the hand of every human being who hungers after truth, and to say: Child of God, this key is thine as well as mine. Enter boldly into thy Father's house, and behold the wonder, the wisdom, the beauty of its laws and its organisms, from the mightiest planet over thy head, to the tiniest insect beneath thy feet. Look at it, trustfully, joyfully, earnestly; for it is thy heritage. Behold its perfect fitness for thy life here; and judge from thence its fitness for thy nobler life hereafter.