Frank Fox.

From the old dog : being the letters of the Hon. --- ---, ex prime minister to his nephew online

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girl eased the sinner's heart of the chains of wrong)
would be distinctly encouraged if they are to be
found outside of comic opera.

Food, too, would come within your purview as
the Minister for Music and Red Umbrellas. To the
jaundiced eye a red umbrella cannot convey its true
lesson. The production or consumption of over-
drawn tea should be punishable with ten years' im-
prisonment. No one to eat pork without a license.
Coffee to be pure not made of baked horse-liver,
burnt peas, and chicory. Cakes covered with lolly
arabesques and stuffed with whipped starch, cotton-
oil, and raspberry jam to be eaten only by women



who have given up all hope of matrimony. With-
out being unduly tyrannical, you might work
steadily towards an ideal of light, bright menus.
Dyspepsia should be regarded in something the
same light as the bubonic plague or the Asiatic
cholera; if the newspapers should report the dis-
covery of ten cases (under scare crossheads) you
should be in danger of a vote of censure and dis-
missal from office. And music, music in all proper
places at all proper times brass bands on wind-
swept ocean cliffs, string bands in quiet alcoves, a
tinkling guitar in an occasional cosy nook; and,
most important of all, in some spots great havens
of absolute silence.

To be such a Minister is a sane ambition.

Your affectionate old uncle.





SYDNEY, 21/6/-.

My Dear Jack : I remarked in my last " unfortu-
nately the religious question." It was an unfor-
tunate remark, for now you come with a mild
request for "guidance on that question." Oh, the
optimism of youth! As well might an ant ask for
guidance through a heap of cotton-wool.

Old hand as I was at the time I dropped the game,
whenever any religious question or "good man issue"
cropped up in my vicinity, I shuddered and pre-
pared for trouble. To avoid the pitfalls is almost
impossible. On the whole, I think the best attitude
is that of courage. It may help you, or, again, it
may damn you. But it carried me through.

In the first place, I have no sympathy at all with
the "good man" cry in politics. The good man is
not necessarily the good politician; a thorough
training in the Seven Deadly Dull Virtues argues
no skill in economics, and none of that strength of



will and mind necessary to drive reforms through
Parliament. Experience shows that the man who
is willing to be labelled "Good " is very often, like
the woman who boasts of her virtue, a sepulchre
with a lie on the tombstone and something un-
pleasant and obscene beneath. But whilst it is
broadly true that the "goodness" of a man tak-
ing goodness in the sense as understood by old
ladies who form Societies for the Prevention of
Premature Burial and for the Discouragement of
Larly Marriages among the Heathen Poor has
nothing to do with his chances of political useful-
ness, it is also true that some forms of wickedness
argue strongly that a candidate is unfitted for public
life. If a man is dishonest in his private affairs;
if he shows a cruel and brutal disposition in his
family life; if he makes of his drunkenness or his
salaciousness a matter of pride and boast it seems
probable that in public life he will be more apt to
peculate, more likely to be a bad ruler generally;
and, anyhow, even if his public acts were unobjec-
tionable, there is a reasonable sentimental bias
against, say the Hon. the Premier, being taken out
of the gutter drunk because he hasn't enough
decency to get drunk in private.

But the effect of a "Good Man" cry is just to
put men of that sort into public life. When a cat-
mittee of old ladies of both sexes begins to poke a
prying nose into the private lives of candidates, and



take account of their sins which are not in any way
public property, the sense of disgust which fills the
public mind gives a chance to the other sort of can-
didate, who flaunts his badness as an oriflamme,
and is not a "Good Man," or an ordinary man, but
a boastfully bad man.

There have entered Australian public life at dif-
ferent times several of this type, and on the whole
they have hardly adorned politics. Even when they
have done nothing publicly scandalous to match
their private objectionableness, they have usually
assisted to waste much time by posturing in the
lurid limelight as villains, ha-ha, of the deepest
dye, and have covered many irrelevant pages of
Hansard with discussion on their drinks, their
debaucheries, and their devilment generally. To
the "Good Man" cry Australia owes their pre-
sence. They represent the natural swing back of
the pendulum. The electors, disgusted at being
asked to apply the gimlet-hole test to Plunk in the
interests of Goofool, are moved to rush to the sup-
port of Blade, who wears his wickedness as an
aureole, and whose life couldn't get sufficient inves-
tigation from a dozen shipwright's augurs, let alone
a gimlet. The effort to keep out a healthy Bread,
Beef and Beer man in the interests of a Bun and
Cold Tea candidate only helps the cause of the Chi-
cago Sausage type of anthropoid animal.



If the great majority of people were not such
hypocrites when acting in a mass, the "Good Man
cry " would, as a rule, receive scant courtesy. For
very few individuals profess in private to be either
extraordinarily virtuous themselves, or to have any
sympathy with the professors of extraordinary vir-
tue. But the mass of a public meeting, or the
"feeling of responsibility " of a public position? acts
as a narcotic to individualism, and we are, most of
us, smug hypocrites when faced with the necessity
of denning publicly our views on morals. The man
who, to his intimates, takes up the attitude which
may be best denned by one of its phrases, " boys
will be boys," in public professes an altogether un-
real sympathy with proposals that smack a good
deal of Chadbandism.

It is a pity that it should be so, for it is just this
insincere support which prevents the party of un-
easy virtue from achieving what of its programme
(and that is a great deal) is right and feasible.
The deputation on public morals is met with a suave
sympathy; and a good deal that is quite impossible,
and some things that are altogether inadvisable,
are promised, as a matter of rnake-believe, and
there the matter ends.

If it were possible for the Party of Uneasy Virtue
and the other party, which is by no means the Party
of Vice, but rather the Party of Commonsense, to
" get to holts " and argue out matters steadily and



honestly, with no sham professions on either side,
good would probably result. There are squalid
evils of great cities,, and of rural communities too,
which legislation can ameliorate, if not altogether
remedy, and such legislation emphatically ought to
come. But a necessary preliminary is that that
party which professes to be Archangel, but mostly
wears a hump and a scowl where bright feathers
and bright smiles ought to be growing, and that
party which is Mere Man, and would be very much
offended if in private it were accused of "being bet-
ter than Mere Man, should be able to discuss and
decide sincerely. At present hypocrisy comes
between, and in its fog what there is of good inten-
tion on one side and of power for good on the other
drift apart.

Why should it be so? Let it be recognised as a
basis that a good deal of "vice" is merely another
way, and a quite legitimate way, of looking at
things, and that a good deal of "virtue" is mere
envy. The Mere Man will not like to say this in
public, but he believes it; the Superior Person will
fight it tooth and claw, but in the end he must admit
it, for it is the truth.

Now the way is clear for useful discussion.
Moved by the Superior Person that "vice" be
abolished the sort of vice which comes of that
deplorable idea-preliminary in the Scheme of Things
of having two sexes. Objected by the Mere Man



that that is not possible. It might be (but only
might be) if all men and women were seraphs. It
certainly would be if all were cherubs. But the
task is to deal with men and women. Fierce argu-
ment ensues, during which the Superior Person has
to be often called to order and reminded that one
of the standing orders of the debate is that "a good
deal of ' vice ' is merely another way of looking at
things." Finally agreed, somewhat surlily on one
side, that, since no general legislation is possible
by which any man detected " sighing a non-
connubial sigh shall straightway be beheaded," the
next best thing is to strive to cut the claws of the
dragon Vice.

The Mere Man thereupon brightens up and
astonishes the Superior Person with the revelation
of how a knowledge of the world can illuminate
to a practical goal a High Moral Purpose, and these
resolutions are come to in old-fashioned form, as a
concession to some parties to the discussion:

"Whereas, whilst immorality between persons of
the same race is regrettable, between whites and
those of alien blood it is a social danger; and
whereas the half-bre^d has been proved by search-
ing scientific investigation to be usually a moral
degenerate: Resolved that the Legislature be asked
to make it an offence, punishable with imprison-
ment for the white and deportation for the alien,
for an alien to co-habit with a white.



"Whereas the law at present rightly distin-
guishes between the seduction of a young girl by
a stranger and by her school-teacher or her guar-
dian; and whereas the position of an employer gives
a man a very great opportunity of using undue in-
fluence: Resolved that for her guardian, teacher, or
employer to seduce a girl under the age of 16 shall
be a criminal offence, and under the age of 21 a civil
offence, for. which she, and not her parents, may
recover damages. (Addendum by the Mere Man:
That juries be instructed to take mighty good care
that it is a case of seduction by the man before
awarding a penalty.)

" Whereas the woman who is, by inclination and
taste, vicious and mercenary, generally makes a
plump living out of her failings, and is never to be
found 'on the streets;' and whereas the class of
street-walkers is therefore recruited mainly from
women not naturally as vicious as their lives, who
are forced to their calling by poverty, treachery,
ill-fortune, or cruelty: Resolved that earnest efforts
be made to foster home industries, and thus employ
more men workers who may take wives; that State
foundling homes be erected to prevent women being
driven to the streets by the results of attachments
not at all mercenary, and often, on their part, in
the highest sense 'moral'; that the exploitation in
the name of charity of the ' fallen woman ' be
stopped, so that the unfortunate wishing to retrieve

33 D



herself may have a fair chance to do so. (The
wage-rate should not fall with the character.)

"Whereas many innocent wom<?n are recruited for
the houses of vice through being trapped by ' em-
ployment' advertisements in the daily press: Re-
solved that the police keep a register of all im-
moral houses, and warn newspaper proprietors
thereof, and that it be an offence punishable with
fine and imprisonment for any newspaper to publish
a ' wanted ' advertisement from any such house.

" Whereas quite a lot of things: Resolved that
the public parks be lighted at night."

That, as a platform for the improvement of pub-
lic morals, has at least the merit of being practic-
able. It would not suppress all that is called vice
(it has been agreed that a good deal of "vice" is
merely taking another view of things), but it would
wipe away much that is squalid and cruel and dis-
gusting in the life of a civilised State. A strict,
and still stricter, enforcement of the White Aus-
tralia ideal is one step on which all should be able
to agree, for, without cant and without prejudice,
the alien races and the half-breds are an element
towards greater viciousness. Better economics,
opening up the land, and establishing home indus-
tries with strict laws against sweating, are other
steps of sure benefit. And, whilst it would be absurd
to deny that many women are vicious for the same
reason as many men are, because they like the life,



it is true that the woman whom that sort of life
suits seldom gets down to the streets, and mostly
ends her days in solid material comfort, and that
Phryne, who flaunts in city streets and creates the
most scandal, is very largely the result of want of
employment, want* of a foundling asylum, want of
means of recovery after a first "fall," want of a
check on trap advertisements, and various other
wants, some easily remediable, some to an extent
remediable. There is a good deal that could be
done, and should be done, by legislation for the sup-
pression of vice. The chief obstacle is not the man
of Vice, but the man of Cant.

So don't, my dear boy, join the party of Cant.
Preferably to that, be a Bad Man candidate.

And if the churchy folk get too bad, carry the
war into their camp. Try some plain talk. Ask
them, before they come at you with the "Good Man"
cry, if they are real Christians. Will they insist for
a start that their rich parishioners shall sell all that
thy have and give it to the poor? They will not.
If they even suggested such a thing to some of
those wealthy gentlemen, the latter would probably
never put another penny on the collection plate.
Will they cast out of their churches all rack-renting
slum landlords, all dishonest tradesmen, all hypo-
crites, all who are angry with their brothers, all
sweaters? They will not. For the front pews
would yawn empty at them on Sundays if they did.



Will they treat the Magdalen and the sinner as
Christ said men should? It is not likely. Will
they pillory the kings who take the bread from
the people to spend it in vain ostentation,
whilst women and children starve? Will they
follow the teachings of Christ a the whole way?
Half-way? A quarter of the way? Assuredly not.
The modern "religious" man must be left liberty
by his Church to sweat his workmen if he be an
employer, or take the roof away from the widow if
he be a landlord, to scorn the sinner if he be him-
self as yet undiscovered in his unrighteousness, to
make of his chanty and his piety an ostentation,
to worship riches and rank in the temple of Mam-
mon, to seek and to keep all that he can get of this
world, whilst professing to look solely for happiness
in the next. In short, the typical "religious"
man of to-day, the man who is .the pillar of a
Church, or even its priest or parson, often insists on
liberty to reject all the fundamentals of Christ's
teaching. He is not, therefore, a Christian. Spake
truly Heine when he said, " There was but one
Christian." The banner raised by any church
which sets itself up against the Democratic ideal in
Australia is not the white mystic standard of Chris-
tianity. It is a clout rinsed in the diluted dishwater
of church practices and beliefs, of mostly human
origin not only divergent from Christ's precepts,
but actively hostile to them.



There is a Golden Rule of Christianity. The
modern churches reject it, and measure conduct by
a leaden one. The Redeemer left certain com-
mandments. The average church discounts them 75
per cent., and mildly champions as much of the small
remainder as doesn't interfere with respectability
and worldly wisdom. No question can be raised,
therefore, by priest or parson of God's teaching as
against human aspiration. The churches do not
represent, or pretend to represent, God's teaching.
They are self-confessedly human institutions for the
reading and rejection of the Scriptures. If any
church was genuinely Christian, showed a real faith
in the commands of the God Whom it preached, the
task would be difficult of contending with whatever
pronouncement it made, even on political matters.
But that is not the position. Democracy is con-
fronted, not by any Spiritual force, but by an
entirely human institution called a Church, which
has np particular reason for existence except it be
the comfort its members derive from practising
mutually a common hypocrisy.

That being so, it can be said plainly that Demo-
cracy does not care a rap whether any or all of the
Churches are against it, arrayed in full canonicals.
It cares more for a White Australia than for any
church. It cherishes more social legisation against
sweating and monopoly than it does for any church.
And that is not only good sense, but good



religion. There is more service for right conduct
and good morals in a law keeping the black and
yellow men from Australia where he can only be
a curse and a degradation than in the singing of
any number of Doxologies; better religion in pro-
moting an Industrial Arbitration law or a Factories
Act than in attending church meetings. One need
not be set up against the other. It is possible to
do both. But no church should imagine that it can
succeed by its anathema in thwarting Australian

You may be quite sure that there will never be
established what I would call a purityranny in Aus-
tralia. Just look round you, say, at Christmas time,
when Parliaments cease from troubling and Cabinets
are at rest. With the glow of the generous Southern
sun on their faces, the Australian people set them-
selves to make merry, taking to the waterside or
the woods, where they worship the god Pan on the
altar of a picnic basket. Australia at such a time
makes universal holiday in an odd case or two,
I am sorry to admit, sordidly and brutally, forgetting
the workaday life in the Lethe of drunkenness; but
in the general with gay and light-hearted abandon.
The serious business of life is set aside with all the
whole-heartedness of a Southern-European race
dancing through its carnival.

Those sad-eyed prophets of woe who seek to
transplant to this bright and sunny clime, among



this gay and cheerful people, the gloomy puri-
tyranny, which grew out of the nightmares of men
possessed of devils in cold and barren lands, could
see the hopelessness of their cause if they made a
dispassionate study of the holiday crowds and the
holiday spirit. Calvinism can never be acclima-
tised in Australia.

All the same, I'll admit to you that perhaps the
holiday spirit is carried a little too far in Australia.
Too little preparation is made for the inevitable
serious work of the future, too much thought given
to the pleasures of the present. Still, the spirit
of cheerfulness and holiday-making is a more sound
and wholesome basis for a great nation than any-
other. England was greatest, intellectually and
otherwise, when England was merriest, and the
standard of its power drooped with the advent of
sordid commercialism and gloomy Calvinism. All
the great enduring work of the world has been done
with an air of gaiety; there has been never a
gloomy Renaissance. Australia taking life as
a thing to be lived and enjoyed, not merely
as a means to making money, or making
ourselves miserable is on a better track
than, say, America, where the traffic in
money has become such a passion that human
life is stripped of all human enjoyment for mad sac-
rifice to Mammon; where the mere child is rushed
from school as soon, almost, as he has learnt to



figure, given a dollar, and urged to take a friend
down for another dollar, and so found a fortune.
Life is, to some large extent, an end, and not
merely an instrument to be worn out in accomplish-
ing a sordid purpose. This we Australians insen-
sibly recognise. Our holiday spirit is the instinc-
tive declaration of our resolve to live joyously, not
merely to exist as working machines, or as the
doleful subjects of a clerical tyranny, urging men to
make this world a vale of tears as a means to hap-
piness hereafter.

Purityranny in Australia fights against the forces
of nature, against the almost perpetual cheerful-
ness of the Australian sunlight.

Your affectionate uncle.




SYDNEY, 15/9/-.

My Dear Jack: I don't think you need worry
these many years about titles. You won't be
offered one; of that be sure.

But as to your " attitude " on the subject. My
boy, don't have any in public, but despise them
quietly in private. . To my mind there is only one
thing more silly than taking a " title," which is a
meaningless brand at best; and that is making a
pose of not taking one.

Of course, the whole titles business is a foolish-
ness. It was a bitter sarcasm when King Edward
the other day founded an Order of Merit, with
a first list of recipients who decidedly merit
honor, if honor can be conferred by a mere en-
throned man. The theory used to be that all the
kingly orders were for " merit " the Garter, the
Bath, the Thistle, the Cross of Michael and George,
and all the other knighthoods, some with their sug-
gestions of royal immorality, others of the ser-
vile abasement of the Middle Ages. That theory


doesn't hold water now, when there is one "order"
for people of merit, as distinguished from the
people who crowd into the orders which commemo-
rate King's courtesans.

Titles are to-day just business devices intended to
prop up the anachronistic institution of a monarchy
by recruiting champions for it among the bour-
geoisie. A great seller of beer, a pirate of the tea-
trade, a notable captain of industry, a successfully
dishonest politician, progresses from a K.C.M.G. to
a baronetcy or a peerage, because the monarchy
sees the need of attaching to itself by bonds of
self-interest those who have shown great capacity
for exploiting their fellow-men. Merit not even
the merit of the beer, the tea, or the politics dealt
in has no relation at all to the title. In fact, it
seems to me bad beer, bad tea, and mischievous
politics are more sure steps to the peerage than
good articles of those descriptions, for by dealing
in inferior articles successfully there is more money
to be made in a certain time, and more sure capa-
city shown for exploiting the people. The system
of royal honors has succeeded so well in attaching
to the monarchical interest most of the energy of
the bourgeois party, that it is matter for surprise
that King Edward, by his Order of Merit, should
throw upon it this grave reflection. A monarchy
would be saved from such mistakes if it had a sense
of humour.



I don't want to rail against the monarchy. It's
an anachronism, in my opinion, in England; but it
doesn't do any great harm, and is very convenient.
In Australia it does not worry us any. But this
export of titles to our Commonwealth does make
me feel angry at times. Among peoples which
have emerged from the barbarisms of the feudal
epoch into the full light of civilisation, titles have
long since been either abolished or have fallen into
general disrepute. In England they are still pre-
served, but only for the impressing of the vulgar
and the purchase of those whose ability to gauge
\vhat is distinction does not equal their ambition.
By the? intellectual leaders they are despised, by
even the acute politicians they are avoided.

Of the men of this and last century, those fore-
most in the public eye had no traffic with " Sir " or
"Lord" prefixes Gladstone, Darwin, George Mere-
dith, Spencer, Huxley, lived as "Misters"; even
Chamberlain and Balfour have the sense to refuse
to become earls or baronets or knights. When there
is such a marked unanimity of opinion among the
acknowledged leaders of thought in a nation which
eagerly flourishes a brand of "ennoblement" before
every individual who emerges from the common
herd whether by accumulating a fortune out of
beer, lending money to a prince, dispensing civic
hospitality to a royal personage, or even performing
some work really worthy that a title is a thing to



be shunned, it is a clear enough indication that
the modern civilised mind has got beyond the stage
at which it can recognise any value in bearing
somebody's more or less ignorant hall-mark of

And that is the actual truth. The educated man
of to-day recognises that the "title" in almost all
cases is utterly misleading in so far as it indicates
the bearer's claim to respect; that the usual "Duke"

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Online LibraryFrank FoxFrom the old dog : being the letters of the Hon. --- ---, ex prime minister to his nephew → online text (page 2 of 8)