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POST-PRANDIAL
PHILOSOPHY


By GRANT ALLEN


AUTHOR OF
"THE EVOLUTIONIST AT LARGE," ETC.

LONDON: CHATTO & WINDUS
1894




PREFACE


These Essays appeared originally in _The Westminster Gazette_, and have
only been so far modified here as is necessary for purposes of volume
publication. They aim at being suggestive rather than exhaustive: I
shall be satisfied if I have provoked thought without following out each
train to a logical conclusion. Most of the Essays are just what they
pretend to be - crystallisations into writing of ideas suggested in
familiar conversation.

G. A.

Hind Head, _March_ 1894.




CONTENTS



PAGE

I. THE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE AMONG LANGUAGES 1

II. IN THE MATTER OF ARISTOCRACY 9

III. SCIENCE IN EDUCATION 18

IV. THE THEORY OF SCAPEGOATS 27

V. AMERICAN DUCHESSES 35

VI. IS ENGLAND PLAYED OUT? 44

VII. THE GAME AND THE RULES 53

VIII. THE RÔLE OF PROPHET 61

IX. THE ROMANCE OF THE CLASH OF RACES 70

X. THE MONOPOLIST INSTINCTS 79

XI. "MERE AMATEURS" 87

XII. A SQUALID VILLAGE 95

XIII. CONCERNING ZEITGEIST 104

XIV. THE DECLINE OF MARRIAGE 112

XV. EYE _versus_ EAR 122

XVI. THE POLITICAL PUPA 130

XVII. ON THE CASINO TERRACE 138

XVIII. THE CELTIC FRINGE 147

XIX. IMAGINATION AND RADICALS 156

XX. ABOUT ABROAD 165

XXI. WHY ENGLAND IS BEAUTIFUL 173

XXII. ANENT ART PRODUCTION 182

XXIII. A GLIMPSE INTO UTOPIA 190

XXIV. OF SECOND CHAMBERS 199

XXV. A POINT OF CRITICISM 207




POST-PRANDIAL PHILOSOPHY




I.

_THE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE AMONG
LANGUAGES._


A distinguished Positivist friend of mine, who is in most matters a
practical man of the world, astonished me greatly the other day at
Venice, by the grave remark that Italian was destined to be the language
of the future. I found on inquiry he had inherited the notion direct
from Auguste Comte, who justified it on the purely sentimental and
unpractical ground that the tongue of Dante had never yet been
associated with any great national defeat or disgrace. The idea
surprised me not a little; because it displays such a profound
misconception of what language is, and why people use it. The speech of
the world will not be decided on mere grounds of sentiment: the tongue
that survives will not survive because it is so admirably adapted for
the manufacture of rhymes or epigrams. Stern need compels. Frenchmen and
Germans, in congress assembled, and looking about them for a means of
intercommunication, might indeed agree to accept Italian then and there
as an international compromise. But congresses don't make or unmake the
habits of everyday life; and the growth or spread of a language is a
thing as much beyond our deliberate human control as the rise or fall of
the barometer.

My friend's remark, however, set me thinking and watching what are
really the languages now gaining and spreading over the civilised world;
it set me speculating what will be the outcome of this gain and spread
in another half century. And the results are these: Vastly the most
growing and absorbing of all languages at the present moment is the
English, which is almost everywhere swallowing up the overflow of
German, Scandinavian, Dutch, and Russian. Next to it, probably, in point
of vitality, comes Spanish, which is swallowing up the overflow of
French, Italian, and the other Latin races. Third, perhaps, ranks
Russian, destined to become in time the spoken tongue of a vast tract in
Northern and Central Asia. Among non-European languages, three seem to
be gaining fast: Chinese, Malay, Arabic. Of the doomed tongues, on the
other hand, the most hopeless is French, which is losing all round;
while Italian, German, and Dutch are either quite at a standstill or
slightly retrograding. The world is now round. By the middle of the
twentieth century, in all probability, English will be its dominant
speech; and the English-speaking peoples, a heterogeneous conglomerate
of all nationalities, will control between them the destinies of
mankind. Spanish will be the language of half the populous southern
hemisphere. Russian will spread over a moiety of Asia. Chinese, Malay,
Arabic, will divide among themselves the less civilised parts of Africa
and the East. But French, German, and Italian will be insignificant and
dwindling European dialects, as numerically unimportant as Flemish or
Danish in our own day.

And why? Not because Shakespeare wrote in English, but because the
English language has already got a firm hold of all those portions of
the earth's surface which are most absorbing the overflow of European
populations. Germans and Scandinavians and Russians emigrate by the
thousand now to all parts of the United States and the north-west of
Canada. In the first generation they may still retain their ancestral
speech; but their children have all to learn English. In Australia and
New Zealand the same thing is happening. In South Africa Dutch had got a
footing, it is true; but it is fast losing it. The newcomers learn
English, and though the elder Boers stick with Boer conservatism to
their native tongue, young Piet and young Paul find it pays them better
to know and speak the language of commerce - the language of Cape Town,
of Kimberley, of the future. The reason is the same throughout. Whenever
two tongues come to be spoken in the same area one of them is sure to be
more useful in business than the other. Every French-Canadian who wishes
to do things on a large scale is obliged to speak English. So is the
Creole in Louisiana; so earlier were the Knickerbocker Dutch in New
York. Once let English get in, and it beats all competing languages
fairly out of the field in a couple of generations.

Like influences favour Spanish in South America and elsewhere. English
has annexed most of North America, Australia, South Africa, the Pacific;
Spanish has annexed South America, Central America, the Philippines,
Cuba, and a few other places. For the most part these areas are less
suited than the English-speaking districts for colonisation by North
Europeans; but they absorb a large number of Italians and other
Mediterranean races, who all learn Spanish in the second generation. As
to the other dominant languages, the points in their favour are
different. Conquest and administrative needs are spreading Russian over
the steppes of Asia; the Arab merchant and the growth of Mahommedanism
are importing Arabic far into the heart of Africa; the Chinaman is
carrying his own monosyllables with him to California, Australia,
Singapore. These tongues in future will divide the world between them.

The German who leaves Germany becomes an Anglo-American. The Italian who
leaves Italy becomes a Spanish-American.

There is another and still more striking way of looking at the rapid
increase of English. No other language will carry you through so many
ports in the world. It suffices for London, Liverpool, Glasgow, Belfast,
Southampton, Cardiff; for New York, Boston, Montreal, Charleston, New
Orleans, San Francisco; for Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Hong Kong,
Yokohama, Honolulu; for Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Kurrachi, Singapore,
Colombo, Cape Town, Mauritius. Spanish with Cadiz, Barcelona, Havana,
Callao, Valparaiso, cannot touch that record; nor can French with
Marseilles, Bordeaux, Havre, Algiers, Antwerp, Tahiti. The most
commercially useful language in the world, thus widely diffused in so
many great mercantile and shipping centres, is certain to win in the
struggle for existence among the tongues of the future.

The old Mediterranean civilisation teaches us a useful lesson in this
respect. Two languages dominated the Mediterranean basin. The East spoke
Greek, not because Plato and Æschylus spoke Greek, but because Greek was
the tongue of the great commercial centres - of Athens, Syracuse,
Alexandria, Antioch, Byzantium. The West spoke Latin, not because
Catullus and Virgil spoke Latin, but because Latin was the
administrative tongue, the tongue of Rome, of Italy, and later of Gaul,
of Spain, of the great towns in Dacia, Pannonia, Britain. Whoever wanted
to do anything on the big scale then, had to speak Greek or Latin; so
much so that the native languages of Gaul and Spain died utterly out,
and Latin dialects are now the spoken tongue in all southern Europe. In
our own time, again, educated Hindoos from different parts of India have
to use English as a means of intercommunication; and native merchants
must write their business correspondence with distant houses in English.
To put an extreme contrast: in the last century French was spoken by far
more people than English; at the present day French is only just keeping
up its numbers in France, is losing in Canada and the United States, is
not advancing to any extent in Africa. English is spoken by a hundred
million people in Europe and America; is over-running Africa; has
annexed Australasia and the Pacific Isles; has ousted, or is ousting,
Dutch at the Cape, French in Louisiana, even Spanish itself in Florida,
California, New Mexico. In Egyptian mud villages, the aspiring Copt, who
once learnt French, now learns English. In Scandinavia, our tongue gains
ground daily. Everywhere in the world it takes the lead among the
European languages, and by the middle of the next century will no doubt
be spoken over half the globe by a cosmopolitan mass of five hundred
million people.

And all on purely Darwinian principles! It is the best adapted tongue,
and therefore it survives in the struggle for existence. It is the
easiest to learn, at least orally. It has got rid of the effete rubbish
of genders; simplified immensely its declensions and conjugations;
thrown overboard most of the nonsensical ballast we know as grammar. It
is only weighted now by its grotesque and ridiculous spelling - one of
the absurdest among all the absurd English attempts at compromise. The
pressure of the newer speakers will compel it to make jetsam of that
lumber also; and then the tongue of Shelley and Newton will march onward
unopposed to the conquest of humanity.

I pen these remarks, I hope, "without prejudice." Patriotism is a vulgar
vice of which I have never been guilty.




II.

_IN THE MATTER OF ARISTOCRACY._


Aristocracies, as a rule, all the world over, consist, and have always
consisted, of barbaric conquerors or their descendants, who remain to
the last, on the average of instances, at a lower grade of civilisation
and morals than the democracy they live among.

I know this view is to some extent opposed to the common ideas of people
at large (and especially of that particular European people which
"dearly loves a lord") as to the relative position of aristocracies and
democracies in the sliding scale of human development. There is a common
though wholly unfounded belief knocking about the world, that the
aristocrat is better in intelligence, in culture, in arts, in manners,
than the ordinary plebeian. The fact is, being, like all barbarians, a
boastful creature, he has gone on so long asserting his own profound
superiority by birth to the world around him - a superiority as of fine
porcelain to common clay - that the world around him has at last actually
begun to accept him at his own valuation. Most English people in
particular think that a lord is born a better judge of pictures and
wines and books and deportment than the human average of us. But history
shows us the exact opposite. It is a plain historical fact, provable by
simple enumeration, that almost all the aristocracies the world has ever
known have taken their rise in the conquest of civilised and cultivated
races by barbaric invaders; and that the barbaric invaders have seldom
or never learned the practical arts and handicrafts which are the
civilising element in the life of the conquered people around them.

To begin with the aristocracies best known to most of us, the noble
families of modern and mediæval Europe sprang, as a whole, from the
Teutonic invasion of the Roman Empire. In Italy, it was the Lombards and
the Goths who formed the bulk of the great ruling families; all the
well-known aristocratic names of mediæval Italy are without exception
Teutonic. In Gaul it was the rude Frank who gave the aristocratic
element to the mixed nationality, while it was the civilised and
cultivated Romano-Celtic provincial who became, by fate, the mere
_roturier_. The great revolution, it has been well said, was, ethnically
speaking, nothing more than the revolt of the Celtic against the
Teutonic fraction; and, one might add also, the revolt of the civilised
Romanised serf against the barbaric _seigneur_. In Spain, the hidalgo is
just the _hi d'al Go_, the son of the Goth, the descendant of those rude
Visigothic conquerors who broke down the old civilisation of Iberian and
Romanised Hispania. And so on throughout. All over Europe, if you care
to look close, you will find the aristocrat was the son of the intrusive
barbarian; the democrat was the son of the old civilised and educated
autochthonous people.

It is just the same elsewhere, wherever we turn. Take Greece, for
example. Its most aristocratic state was undoubtedly Sparta, where a
handful of essentially barbaric Dorians held in check a much larger and
Helotised population of higher original civilisation. Take the East: the
Persian was a wild mountain adventurer who imposed himself as an
aristocrat upon the far more cultivated Babylonian, Assyrian, and
Egyptian. The same sort of thing had happened earlier in time in
Babylonia and Assyria themselves, where barbaric conquerors had
similarly imposed themselves upon the first known historical
civilisations. Take India under the Moguls, once more; the aristocracy
of the time consisted of the rude Mahommedan Tartar, who lorded it over
the ancient enchorial culture of Rajpoot and Brahmin. Take China: the
same thing over again - a Tartar horde imposing its savage rule over the
most ancient civilised people of Asia. Take England: its aristocracy at
different times has consisted of the various barbaric invaders, first
the Anglo-Saxon (if I must use that hateful and misleading word) - a
pirate from Sleswick; then the Dane, another pirate from Denmark direct;
then the Norman, a yet younger Danish pirate, with a thin veneer of
early French culture, who came over from Normandy to better himself
after just two generations of Christian apprenticeship. Go where you
will, it matters not where you look; from the Aztec in Mexico to the
Turk at Constantinople or the Arab in North Africa, the aristocrat
belongs invariably to a lower race than the civilised people whom he has
conquered and subjugated.

"That may be true, perhaps," you object, "as to the remote historical
origin of aristocracies; but surely the aristocrat of later generations
has acquired all the science, all the art, all the polish of the people
he lives amongst. He is the flower of their civilisation." Don't you
believe it! There isn't a word of truth in it. From first to last the
aristocrat remains, what Matthew Arnold so justly called him, a
barbarian. I often wonder, indeed, whether Arnold himself really
recognised the literal and actual truth of his own brilliant
generalisation. For the aristocratic ideas and the aristocratic pursuits
remain to the very end essentially barbaric. The "gentleman" never soils
his high-born hands with dirty work; in other words, he holds himself
severely aloof from the trades and handicrafts which constitute
civilisation. The arts that train and educate hand, eye, and brain he
ignorantly despises. In the early middle ages he did not even condescend
to read and write, those inferior accomplishments being badges of
serfdom. If you look close at the "occupations of a gentleman" in the
present day, you will find they are all of purely barbaric character.
They descend to us direct from the semi-savage invaders who overthrew
the structure of the Roman empire, and replaced its civilised
organisation by the military and barbaric system of feudalism. The
"gentleman" is above all things a fighter, a hunter, a fisher - he
preserves the three simplest and commonest barbaric functions. He is
_not_ a practiser of any civilised or civilising art - a craftsman, a
maker, a worker in metal, in stone, in textile fabrics, in pottery.
These are the things that constitute civilisation; but the aristocrat
does none of them; in the famous words of one who now loves to mix with
English gentlemen, "he toils not, neither does he spin." The things he
_may_ do are, to fight by sea and land, like his ancestor the Goth and
his ancestor the Viking; to slay pheasant and partridge, like his
predatory forefathers; to fish for salmon in the Highlands; to hunt the
fox, to sail the yacht, to scour the earth in search of great
game - lions, elephants, buffalo. His one task is to kill - either his
kind or his quarry.

Observe, too, the essentially barbaric nature of the gentleman's
home - his trappings, his distinctive marks, his surroundings, his
titles. He lives by choice in the wildest country, like his skin-clad
ancestors, demanding only that there be game and foxes and fish for his
delectation. He loves the moors, the wolds, the fens, the braes, the
Highlands, not as the painter, the naturalist, or the searcher after
beauty of scenery loves them - for the sake of their wild life, their
heather and bracken, their fresh keen air, their boundless horizon - but
for the sake of the thoroughly barbarous existence he and his dogs and
his gillies can lead in them. The fact is, neither he nor his ancestors
have ever been really civilised. Barbarians in the midst of an
industrial community, they have lived their own life of slaying and
playing, untouched by the culture of the world below them. Knights in
the middle ages, squires in the eighteenth century, they have never
received a tincture of the civilising arts and crafts and industries;
they have fought and fished and hunted in uninterrupted succession since
the days when wild in woods the noble savage ran, to the days when they
pay extravagant rents for Scottish grouse moors. Their very titles are
barbaric and military - knight and earl and marquis and duke, early
crystallised names for leaders in war or protectors of the frontier.
Their crests and coats of arms are but the totems of their savage
predecessors, afterwards utilised by mediæval blacksmiths as
distinguishing marks for the summit of a helmet. They decorate their
halls with savage trophies of the chase, like the Zulu or the Red
Indian; they hang up captured arms and looted Chinese jars from the
Summer Palace in their semi-civilised drawing-rooms. They love to be
surrounded by grooms and gamekeepers and other barbaric retainers; they
pass their lives in the midst of serfs; their views about the position
and rights of women - especially the women of the "lower orders" - are
frankly African. They share the sentiments of Achilles as to the
individuality of Chryseis and Briseis.

Such is the actual aristocrat, as we now behold him. Thus, living his
own barbarous life in the midst of a civilised community of workers and
artists and thinkers and craftsmen, with whom he seldom mingles, and
with whom he has nothing in common, this chartered relic of worse days
preserves from first to last many painful traits of the low moral and
social ideas of his ancestors, from which he has never varied. He
represents most of all, in the modern world, the surviving savage. His
love of gewgaws, of titles, of uniform, of dress, of feathers, of
decorations, of Highland kilts, and stars and garters, is but one
external symbol of his lower grade of mental and moral status. All over
Europe, the truly civilised classes have gone on progressing by the
practice of peaceful arts from generation to generation; but the
aristocrat has stood still at the same half-savage level, a hunter and
fighter, an orgiastic roysterer, a killer of wild boars and wearer of
absurd mediæval costumes, too childish for the civilised and cultivated
commoner.

Government by aristocrats is thus government by the mentally and morally
inferior. And yet - a Bill for giving at last some scant measure of
self-government to persecuted Ireland has to run the gauntlet, in our
nineteenth-century England, of an irresponsible House of hereditary
barbarians!




III.

_SCIENCE IN EDUCATION._


I mean what I say: science in education, not education in science.

It is the last of these that all the scientific men of England have so
long been fighting for. And a very good thing it is in its way, and I
hope they may get as much as they want of it. But compared to the
importance of science in education, education in science is a matter of
very small national moment.

The difference between the two is by no means a case of tweedledum and
tweedledee. Education in science means the systematic teaching of
science so as to train up boys to be scientific men. Now scientific men
are exceedingly useful members of a community; and so are engineers, and
bakers, and blacksmiths, and artists, and chimney-sweeps. But we can't
all be bakers, and we can't all be painters in water-colours. There is a
dim West Country legend to the effect that the inhabitants of the Scilly
Isles eke out a precarious livelihood by taking in one another's
washing. As a matter of practical political economy, such a source of
income is worse than precarious - it's frankly impossible. "It takes all
sorts to make a world." A community entirely composed of scientific men
would fail to feed itself, clothe itself, house itself, and keep itself
supplied with amusing light literature. In one word, education in
science produces specialists; and specialists, though most useful and
valuable persons in their proper place, are no more the staple of a
civilised community than engine-drivers or ballet-dancers.

What the world at large really needs, and will one day get, is not this,
but due recognition of the true value of science in education. We don't
all want to be made into first-class anatomists like Owen, still less
into first-class practical surgeons, like Sir Henry Thompson. But what
we do all want is a competent general knowledge (amongst other things)
of anatomy at large, and especially of human anatomy; of physiology at
large, and especially of human physiology. We don't all want to be
analytical chemists: but what we do all want is to know as much about
oxygen and carbon as will enable us to understand the commonest
phenomena of combustion, of chemical combination, of animal or vegetable
life. We don't all want to be zoologists, and botanists of the type who
put their names after "critical species:" but what we do all want to
know is as much about plants and animals as will enable us to walk
through life intelligently, and to understand the meaning of the things
that surround us. We want, in one word, a general acquaintance with the
_results_ rather than with the _methods_ of science.

"In short," says the specialist, with his familiar sneer, "you want a
smattering."

Well, yes, dear Sir Smelfungus, if it gives you pleasure to put it
so - just that; a smattering, an all-round smattering. But remember that
in this matter the man of science is always influenced by ideas derived
from his own pursuits as specialist. He is for ever thinking what sort
of education will produce more specialists in future; and as a rule he
is thinking what sort of education will produce men capable in future of
advancing science. Now to advance science, to discover new snails, or
invent new ethyl compounds, is not and cannot be the main object of the
mass of humanity. What the mass wants is just unspecialised
knowledge - the kind of knowledge that enables men to get comfortably and
creditably and profitably through life, to meet emergencies as they
rise, to know their way through the world, to use their faculties in all
circumstances to the best advantage. And for this purpose what is wanted


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