« AnteriorContinua »
brings out the finer results of neither. to spend it--will think twice before he It is impossible to advance through the buys an extra copy of the Times to read world in a stately and seemly fashion on his way home, or before he gives a if you are forever stumbling over little cabman an extra sixpence on a cold wooden precepts; there cannot be a day. And yet, if that rich man wasted noble amplitude of moral gesture if pennies and overpaid cabmen to the exevery time the hand is extended the ac- tent of even a shilling a day, which would tion is accompanied by a corresponding seem to most millionaires very extravaimpulse to draw it back. The instinc- gant, the net result would only amount tive impulse to save ungracefully, on to 181. 58. in one year, the price of one small occasions, when it is not worth of his wife's cheaper gowns. But to while to make a deliberate effort to effect that saving in a lump sum by overcome it, may exist side by side going without the gown, which would with an impulse towards equally un- be much better th going without the graceful self-indulgence. The latter is picture, in order to have a small daily not magnificence; the former is not margin, supposing that only one of temperance. And the man with many these alternative
be pennies, brought up on the maxims adopted, does not appear often to occur suitable to the man with few, will to the minds of the people concerned. probably, if he is that way inclined, Why? Because we had persuaded ourhave the tendency to keep a penny in selves that we had better take care of his pocket when he had better take it the pence than the pounds. What we out. But let us call things by their buy with the pounds, what we save proper names. A first-class passenger with the pennies, is not really the picgiving an inadequate tip to a railway ture, is not the satisfaction of obeying porter, or a man in a fur coat refusing an impulse of economy; it is the attia penny to the street loafer who opens tude of mind that we are buying, that the door of his brougham, is not exer- we are intensifying, every time we concising self-denial or practising thrift, solidate it in one direction or another. he is obeying a sedulously implanted For this is a terrible danger that may instinct of saving; that is all. Those await us; that the doors closed by our ugly little economies have no relation own action against fine and noble posto the renunciation-fine, if exercised sibilities become more and more inevi. in the right spirit-of the man who goes tably sealed by the action of time, until on foot because he cannot afford an at last we forget that they ever were omnibus, or without his newspaper be- open. There are always, unhappily, cause his wife and children want the under all conditions of life, some doors money for their clothes. There is that we close, some possibilities we something stern and noble in that form stifle forever. And it may happen to of saving; but there is none when the us as well in poverty as in riches, only same action is unnecessary, and is the possibilities stifled will be of a prompted, not by Thrift, but by that different kind. Terrible snares
as to half-brother of Thrift whose name is the directing of character lie in the Stinginess.
way of both. By poverty I do not here It may sometimes happen that a mean that absolute poverty of the man who will spend a thousand pounds slums, in which each penny lacked on a fine picture-and if he can see means a corresponding deprivation of with his own eyes that it is a fine pic- actual food and warmth, or shelter; I ture, and can be uplifted by living in mean that other poverty, hard also to its presence, he is incalculably right so bear, whose necessities include super
fluities which have to be renounced by protest more loudly against the neighan endless series of efforts of self- bor who, lying necessarily beyond the denial.
reach of offers of help, persists in ex. There should be different names plaining her existence in the terms of for these two forms of lack of pounds, shillings and pence, and so means, or, at any rate, for the different bringing money, in words as well as in forms of suffering they inflict-which, deeds, prominently into the foreground in the one case, is mainly physical, and as almost the principal factor of life. the other, mental-for it becomes con- Such conditions, in natures which are fusing, blurring, and entirely mislead- not noble, are apt to engender a coning if we try to compare them on actu- centration upon the petty details of ally the same grounds and using the existence, a habit of selection not govsame words. The deprivations and re- erned by high standards, but by an adnunciations which may fall upon us, justment to possibilities. This is a going up through the different layers possible danger of both limited and unof the social order, not infrequently limited means. In the former case, include people of a station and posi- ideals may fade and standards become tion obliging them to live, in a measure, blurred by the interposition of ignoble according to the standards of the preoccupations; in the latter, from its wealthy and distinguished. This is not being absolutely essential that a the thing that is difficult to bear with wise reflection and weighing of altersimplicity and dignity, and in those who natives should accompany the process lack those qu ities, and who, whatever of selection, the capacity to select is their social position or their absolute again likely to suffer. The finer tastes means, conceive they have not enough, and discriminations are not necessarily it sometimes gives rise to the most curl- brought to their greatest perfection ous manifestations. Is not this, by the by being able to afford to get the secway, one of the foxes that ought to be ond best as well as the best, by being kept under one's cloak? Not, perhaps, able, without a thought, to make a from the point of view of the financial trial of something that may be inadeequilibrium of society, but simply from quate, in order to discard it afterwards, that of making the social relations of it may be, for something not more de human beings with one another seemly, sirable. agreeable and dignified. The person There is a danger in an existence who, in a smart drawing-room, laments too easy-going and prosperous of losaloud over her lack of means-I say ing hold on the finer, stronger aspira“her” advisedly, for this seems to be tions, on the virtues of sobriety and an error that women are more likely to temperance in the widest sense; a danfall into than men-is hardly less un- ger of being gradually overlaid by an pleasant than the one who, on the same abundance of detail and ornament, in occasion, loudly proclaims the fact of every order a sign of decadence. In having money in superfluity. To be the noble nature, on the other hand, sure, we tolerate one manifestation more which succeeds in governing its fate readily than the other, because the com- instead of being governed with it, in bination of high social claims with in- keeping hold of the ideal in the face of adequate means is, on the whole, more poverty, the finer, stronger virtues are likely to produce a bearable result than more likely to be engendered than in the opposite combination of too ample the case of the prosperous who hold on means with inadequate standards. This their satisfied way in an existence subis the reason, perhaps, why we do not ject to the continued encroachment of
LIVING AGE. VOL. VIII. 398
self-indulgence both of the body and who, under similar circumstances, simof the spirit.
ply draw out their purse, or write a letI am not pausing to discuss here the ter . . . and send somebody else. It is desirability that the affluent should probably unavoidable. These acts of enjoy part of their means in a way daily heroism and self-sacrifice, accomwhich appears to most people so ob- plished as a matter of course at the cost viously “right,” according to the re- of personal fatigue, suffering and privaceived doctrines of altruism, that it is tion, are things that cannot be learnt needless to spend time in discussing it. in theory, and are likely to be practised I am not going to repeat a thought that but very exceptionally by those who occurs in so many wise and foolish can exercise them by proxy. Is it true, forms to most human minds at either then, after all-can it be?-that there end of the social scale, that part of the is a high level of moral achievement means of the rich should be consecrated which it may be difficult for the rich to to helping those who deserve help, or attain? certain qualities, and those of even those who simply need it. In the finest kind, which are bound to lie both cases I would say incidentally dormant, if circumstances do not call that it is always possible to find out them forth? If so, let us seek for the whether they do either one or the other, remedy in the right place. Thrift is though this means a great deal more not the virtue we need here. It is not trouble than enunciating a general re- so simple as that. What is needed is luctance to "pauperize." It may some- to make a vigorous stand against the times be allowable to act for the legiti- action of surroundings and circummate advantage of the individual on stances, lest we should fall a helpless lines which would not be practicable prey to them; to keep alive by constant if applied to the community. But the effort the conviction that it is necessary welfare of the two appear at first sight to resist them. But it is possible that so inextricably intertwined that it is, those whose lives are sunny and prosno doubt, more easy to say that the one perous may mistake the content and must not be attempted for fear of en- satisfaction they feel for a condition of dangering the other, than carefully and moral excellence in which watchfulpatiently to disentangle, for a given ness is not so much needed. Plato contingency, the threads that bind them tells us that it is difficult to be cheerful together; and take the considerable when you are old and poor; and we trouble that it means to arrive at dis- may presume, therefore, that it is not tinguishing.
difficult when you are old and rich. And as for the really, absolutely But even granting that that is so, which poor, those in whom every generous it certainly is not invariably-otherwise impulse, every offer of help, every con- we should have a whole class of cheertribution towards the needs of another ful old rich whose existence would be means, as the French say, paying with of the greatest gain' to the communitytheir person, depriving themselves of that is not the highest form of excel. what they have to give to some one
lence. That is the sort of well-being else, sitting up themselves at night by that comes from repletion; you have a neighbor's sick bed and thus practi- had your fill of the good things of life, cally taking their share of another's and can sit down well content. It is trouble, I would almost go so far as not philosophical and spiritual calm, to say that such an attitude of mind arrived at by effort and aspiration. The engenders certain high virtues which obvious and disheartening condition of are practically unknown among those the people who have had enough is
that they do not want more; and, there- kept before the eyes of him who has fore, do not try to attain it. This it is nothing else to look upon. The wealthy that may stop the strenuous impulse, man may be a patron of the arts, a both of a moral and mental kind; for connoisseur, an amateur; he may be the intelligence, as well as the charac- supported by a deluding inward conter, may mistake the satisfactory devel- sciousness that had things been otheropment arrived at by helpful circum- wise he might still have conquered stance, for natural endowment. But fame and opulence for himself. It is still this condition, this kind of "good- better that it should be so. Or rather, ness," which is what, on the whole, the I would say, that since it is inevitable most favorably situated average human that it should be so, let him think that being may hope to attain, is of the kind it is better. For it is not given to us, which is the second best. For, after happily, to determine in which layer of admitting the value of money in pro
the social strata we should like our curing the possession, or even in eking lives to be cast-whether with those out the perception, of the really good who have more, or have less, or with things in this world, we must recognize those who are between, in that middle that these are still but joys of the sec- state which poets and thinkers have ond order. The chosen know some- assured us is the golden, the happy thing else. There are, happily, some state of all. Shall we dare, in the face left in the world, who, having but little of their utterances, to hint that it is means, do not care about having more, not? And yet . .. why is it golden ? all their desires and their possibilities why is it happiest? Because, presumbeing divinely absorbed in the posses- ably, it is the state which makes for a sion of some great and glorious gift, selfish well-being without responsibility or even, failing the gift, the contempla- as without incentive? Let us say boldly tion and pursuit of some lofty ideal. that the mind that can dare, endure,
The glowing spark of endeavor stren- attempt, would never choose to be uously kept alive by ceaseless effort "seated in the mean" if it could have until it is fanned into an unquenchable something else. The highest achieve flame; the passionate concentration of ment is not being contented with that purpose in the facing of privation; the seat, the highest striving is not comunconscious effort at readjustment that patible with it. No! in my heart I bemay inspire the genius in his need lieve that mediocrity is not golden. It with a fury of purpose to poise his is leaden-it weighs down aspiration, it balance with destiny more evenly,_all hinders accomplishment, it deadens this, in its fulness, is inconsistent with hope; it lacks alike the spur of poverty riches. There is something in the fact and the encouragement of wealth, it of the luxurious, cushioned existence, stagnates, instead of battling or rushflooded without any personal effort with ing. There lies the danger of the midlight and warmth, which
in dle course, different, it may be, from some terrible way to put out forever that which menaces either riches or the flame from within, or, at best, to poverty, but danger still. prevent it from burning with more than But, since these different strata are a pale flicker. The mere fact of the governed by different conditions, and, possession of ample means is likely to as applied to detail, different standards; induce a greater variety of surround- since for some who are within the iron ings, of occupation, of intercourse, and grasp of necessity the alternatives are must break in on the determination to few, and for others for whom proclivity achieve the single-minded purpose, and not necessity may decide, more numerous; since all alternatives make of society only, by which all the others, demands on character and aptitudes, nevertheless, attempt to grope their and since those, therefore, who have way. It would be possible for us to many alternatives have a more search- face, once for all, the fact that we are ing test applied to them than those who not necessarily wicked if we are rich, have fewer, it would be inestimably nor good if we are poor; and that it is helpful to us all if we might have a not by trying to adopt the methods of code of life varied in detail according dealing with money that are desirable to different circumstances. Such a
in the poor that the rich will remove code would be more pliable, more prac- the traditional stain attaching to their ticable, more possible than the crude,
condition. inelastic rule intended for one section
The Nineteenth Century.
In ancien't days when, under cloudless skies,
Spring's earliest swallows touched the Italian shore,
And cried, “Our darlings come to us once more.”
A pretty fancy which our wiser age
Has long outgrown. And yet-for England stands
At her behest, in those far Southern lands,
A thousand sons she mourns, untimely slain,
Like early flowers that fall beneath the scythe.
Over their graves your song was loud and blithe
A few short weeks ago. Perhaps a gleam
Lit heavy eyes that saw you swoop and dart,
Or windy down arose within the heart.
Wherefore to us, this spring, your song shall be
Fraught with a deeper meaning than of yore,
B. Paul Neuman.