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Chapter 5

Aristocracy of Talent

When an individual is miserable, what does it most of all behove
him to do? To complain of this man or of that, of this thing or
of that? To fill the world and the street with lamentation,
objurgation? Not so at all; the reverse of so. All moralists
advise him not to complain of any person or of any thing, but of
himself only. He is to know of a truth that being miserable he
has been unwise, he. Had he faithfully followed Nature and her
Laws, Nature, ever true to her Laws, would have yielded fruit and
increase and felicity to him: but he has followed other than
Nature's Laws; and now Nature, her patience with him being
ended, leaves him desolate; answers with very emphatic
significance to him: No. Not by this road, my son; by another
road shalt thou attain well-being: this, thou perceivest is the
road to ill-being; quit this!--So do all moralists advise: that
the man penitently say to himself first of all, Behold I was not
wise enough; I quitted the laws of Fact, which are also called
the Laws of God, and mistook for them the laws of Sham and
Semblance, which are called the Devil's Laws; therefore
am I here!

Neither with Nations that become miserable is it fundamentally
otherwise. The ancient guides of Nations, Prophets, Priests, or
whatever their name, were well aware of this; and, down to a
late epoch, impressively taught and inculcated it. The modern
guides of Nations, who also go under a great variety of names,
journalists, Political Economists, Politicians, Pamphleteers,
have entirely forgotten this, and are ready to deny this. But it
nevertheless remains eternally undeniable: nor is there any
doubt but we shall all be taught it yet, and made again to
confess it: we shall all be striped and scourged till we do
learn it; and shall at last either get to know it, or be striped
to death in the process. For it is undeniable! When a Nation is
unhappy, the old Prophet was right and not wrong in saying to it:
Ye have forgotten God, ye have quitted the ways of God, or ye
would not have been unhappy. It is not according to the laws of
Fact that ye have lived and guided yourselves, but according to
the laws of Delusion, Imposture, and wilful and unwilful
_Mistake_ of Fact; behold therefore the Unveracity is worn out;
Nature's long-suffering with you is exhausted; and ye are here!

Surely there is nothing very inconceivable in this, even to the
Journalist, to the Political Economist, Modern Pamphleteer, or
any two-legged animal without feathers! If a country finds
itself wretched, sure enough that country has been _mis_guided:
it is with the wretched Twenty-seven Millions, fallen wretched,
as with the Unit fallen wretched: they as he have quitted the
course prescribed by Nature and the Supreme Powers, and so are
fallen into scarcity, disaster, infelicity; and pausing to
consider themselves, have to lament and say, Alas, we were not
wise enough. We took transient superficial Semblance for
everlasting central Substance; we have departed far away from
the _Laws_ of this Universe, and behold now lawless Chaos and
inane Chimera is ready to devour us!--'Nature in late centuries,'
says Sauerteig, 'was universally supposed to be dead; an old
eight-day clock, made many thousand years ago, and still ticking,
but dead as brass,--which the Maker, at most, sat looking at, in
a distant, singular, and indeed incredible manner: but now I am
happy to observe, she is everywhere asserting herself to be not
dead and brass at all, but alive and miraculous, celestial-
infernal, with an emphasis that will again penetrate the thickest
head of this Planet by and by!--

Indisputable enough to all mortals now, the guidance of this
country has not been sufficiently wise: men too foolish have
been set to the guiding and governing of it, and have guided it
hither; we must find wiser,--_wiser,_ or else we perish! To
this length of insight all England has now advanced; but as yet
no farther. All England stands wringing its hands, asking
itself, nigh desperate, What farther? Reform Bill proves to be a
failure; Benthamee Radicalism, the gospel of 'Enlightened
Selfishness,' dies out, or dwindles into Five-point Chartism,
amid the tears and hootings of men: what next are we to hope or
try? Five-point Charter, Freetrade; Church-extension, Sliding-
scale; what, in Heaven's name, are we next to attempt, that we
sink not in inane Chimera, and be devoured of Chaos?--The case is
pressing, and one of the most complicated in the world. A God's-
message never came to thicker-skinned people; never had a God's-
message to pierce through thicker integuments, into heavier ears.
It is Fact, speaking once more, in miraculous thunder-voice, from
out of the centre of the world;--how unknown its language to the
deaf and foolish many; how distinct, undeniable, terrible and
yet beneficent, to the hearing few: Behold, ye shall grow wiser,
or ye shall die! Truer to Nature's Fact, or inane Chimera will
swallow you; in whirlwinds of fire, you and your Mammonisms,
Dilettantisms, your Midas-eared philosophies, double-barreled
Aristocracies, shall disappear!--Such is the God's-message to
_us,_ once more; in these modern days.

We must have more Wisdom to govern us, we must be governed by the
Wisest, we must have an Aristocracy of Talent! cry many. True,
most true; but how to get it? The following extract from our
young friend of the _Houndsditch Indicator_ is worth perusing:
'At this time,' says he, 'while there is a cry everywhere,
articulate or inarticulate, for an "Aristocracy of Talent," a
Governing Class namely which did govern, not merely which took
the wages of governing, and could not with all our industry be
kept from misgoverning, corn-lawing, and playing the very deuce
with us,--it may not be altogether useless to remind some of the
greener-headed sort what a dreadfully difficult affair the
getting of such an Aristocracy is! Do you expect, my friends,
that your indispensable Aristocracy of Talent is to be enlisted
straightway, by some sort of recruitment aforethought, out of the
general population; arranged in supreme regimental order; and
set to rule over us? That it will be got sifted, like wheat out
of chaff, from the Twenty-seven Million British subjects; that
any Ballot-box, Reform Bill, or other Political Machine, with
Force of Public Opinion never so active on it, is likely to
perform said process of sifting? Would to Heaven that we had a
sieve; that we could so much as fancy any kind of sieve, wind-
fanners, or ne-plus-ultra of machinery, devisable by man, that
would do it!

'Done nevertheless, sure enough, it must be; it shall and will
be. We are rushing swiftly on the road to destruction; every
hour bringing us nearer, until it be, in some measure, done. The
doing of it is not doubtful; only the method and the costs! Nay
I will even mention to you an infallible sifting-process whereby
he that has ability will be sifted out to rule among us, and that
same blessed Aristocracy of Talent be verily, in an approximate
degree, vouchsafed us by and by: an infallible sifting-process;
to which, however, no soul can help his neighbour, but each must,
with devout prayer to Heaven, endeavour to help himself. It is,
O friends, that all of us, that many of us, should acquire the
true eye for talent, which is dreadfully wanting at present! The
true _eye_ for talent presupposes the true reverence for it,--O
Heavens, presupposes so many things!

'For example, you Bobus Higgins, Sausage-maker on the great
scale, who are raising such a clamour for this Aristocracy of
Talent, what is it that you do, in that big heart of yours,
chiefly in very fact pay reverence to? Is it to talent,
intrinsic manly worth of any kind, you unfortunate Bobus? The
manliest man that you saw going in a ragged coat, did you ever
reverence him; did you so much as know that he was a manly man
at all, till his coat grew better? Talent! I understand you to
be able to worship the fame of talent, the power, cash, celebrity
or other success of talent; but the talent itself is a thing you
never saw with eyes. Nay what is it in yourself that you
are proudest of, that you take most pleasure in surveying
meditatively in thoughtful moments? Speak now, is it the bare
Bobus stript of his very name and shirt, and turned loose upon
society, that you admire and thank Heaven for; or Bobus with
his cash-accounts and larders dropping fatness, with his
respectabilities, warm garnitures, and pony-chaise, admirable in
some measure to certain of the flunkey species? Your own degree
of worth and talent, is it of _infinite_ value to you; or only
of finite,--measurable by the degree of currency, and conquest of
praise or pudding, it has brought you to? Bobus, you are in a
vicious circle, rounder than one of your own sausages; and will
never vote for or promote any talent, except what talent or sham-
talent has already _got_ itself voted for!'--We here cut short
the _Indicator;_ all readers perceiving whither he now tends.

'More Wisdom' indeed: but where to find more Wisdom? We have
already a Collective Wisdom, after its kind,--though 'class-
legislation,' and another thing or two, affect it somewhat! On
the whole, as they say, Like people like priest; so we may say,
Like people like king. The man gets himself appointed and
elected who is ablest--to be appointed and elected. What can the
incorruptiblest _Bobuses_ elect, if it be not some _Bobissimus,_
should they find such?

Or, again, perhaps there is not, in the whole Nation, Wisdom
enough, 'collect' it as we may, to make an adequate Collective!
That too is a case which may befall: a ruined man staggers down
to ruin because there was not wisdom enough in him; so, clearly
also, may Twenty-seven Million collective men!--But indeed one of
the infalliblest fruits of Unwisdom in a Nation is that it cannot
get the use of what Wisdom is actually in it: that it is not
governed by the wisest it has, who alone have a divine right to
govern in all Nations; but by the sham-wisest, or even by the
openly not-so-wise if they are handiest otherwise! This is the
infalliblest result of Unwisdom; and also the balefullest,
immeasurablest,--not so much what we can call a poison-_fruit,_
as a universal death-disease, and poisoning of the whole tree.
For hereby are fostered, fed into gigantic bulk, all manner of
Unwisdoms, poison-fruits; till, as we say, the life-tree
everywhere is made a upas-tree, deadly Unwisdom overshadowing all
things; and there is done what lies in human skill to stifle all
Wisdom everywhere in the birth, to smite our poor world barren of
Wisdom,--and make your utmost Collective Wisdom, were it
collected and elected by Rhadamanthus, AEacus and Minos, not to
speak of drunken Tenpound Franchisers with their ballot-boxes, an
inadequate Collective! The Wisdom is not now there: how will
you 'collect' it? As well wash Thames mud, by improved methods,
to find more gold in it.

Truly, the first condition is indispensable, That Wisdom be
there: but the second is like unto it, is properly one with it:
these two conditions act and react through every fibre of them,
and go inseparably together. If you have much Wisdom in your
Nation, you will get it faithfully collected; for the wise love
Wisdom, and will search for it as for life and salvation. If you
have little Wisdom, you will get even that little ill-collected,
trampled under foot, reduced as near as possible to annihilation;
for fools do not love Wisdom; they are foolish, first of all,
because they have never loved Wisdom,--but have loved their own
appetites, ambitions, their coroneted coaches, tankards of heavy-
wet. Thus is your candle lighted at both ends, and the progress
towards consummation is swift. Thus is fulfilled that saying in
the Gospel: To him that hath shall be given; and from him that
hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath. Very
literally, in a very fatal manner, that saying is here fulfilled.

Our 'Aristocracy of Talent' seems at a considerable distance yet;
does it not, O Bobus?

Thomas Carlyle