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Wild Olive




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WAR 125




TWENTY years ago, there was no lovelier
piece of lowland scenery in South England,
nor any more pathetic in the world, by its ex-
pression of sweet human character and life,
than that immediately bordering on the sources
of the Wandle, and including the lower moors
of Addington, and the villages of Beddington
and Carshalton, with all their pools and
streams. No clearer or diviner waters ever
sang with constant lips of the hand which
" giveth rain from heaven ; " no pastures ever
lightened in springtime with more passionate
blossoming ; no sweeter homes ever hallowed
the heart of the passer-by with their pride of
peaceful gladness fain-hidden yet full-con-
fessed. The place remains, or, until a few
months ago, remained, nearly unchanged in its
larger features ; but, with deliberate mind I
say, that I have never seen anything so ghastly


in its inner tragic meaning, not in Pisan
Maremma, not by Campagna tomb, not by
the sand-isles of the Torcellan shore, as the
slow stealing of aspects of reckless, indolent,
animal neglect, over the delicate sweetness of
that English scene : nor is any blasphemy or
impiety any frantic saying or godless thought
more appalling to me, using the best power
of judgment I have to discern its sense and
scope, than the insolent defilings of those
springs by the human herds that drink of
them. Just where the welling of stainless
water, trembling and pure, like a body of light,
enters the pool of Carshalton, cutting itself a
radiant channel down to the gravel, through
warp of feathery weeds, all waving, which it
traverses with its deep threads of clearness,
like the chalcedony in moss-agate, starred here
and there with white grenouillette ; just in the
very rush and murmur of the first spreading
currents, the human wretches of the place cast
their street and house foulness ; heaps of dust
and slime, and broken shreds of old metal,
and rags of putrid clothes ; they having
neither energy to cart it away, nor decency
enough to dig it into the ground, thus shed
into the stream, to diffuse what venom of it


will float and melt, far away, in all places
where God meant those waters to bring joy
and health. And, in a little pool, behind
some houses farther in the village, where
another spring rises, the shattered stones of
the well, and cf the little fretted channel
which was long arjo built and traced for it by
gentler hands, lie scattered, each from each,
under a ragged bank of mortar, and scoria,
and bricklayers' refuse, on one side, which the
clean water nevertheless chastises to .purity ;
but it cannot conquer the dead earth beyond ;
and there, circled and coiled under festering
scum, the stagnant edge of the pool effaces
itself into a slope of black slime, the accumu-
lation of indolent years. Half a dozen men,
with one day's work, could cleanse those pools,
and trim the flowers about their banks, and
make every breath of summer air above them
rich with cool balra ; and every glittering wave
medicinal, as if it ran, troubled of angels,
from the porch of Bethesda. But that day's
work is never given, nor will be ; nor will any
joy be possible to heart of man, for evermore,
about those wells of English waters.

When I last left them, I walked up slowly
through the back streets of Croydon, from the


old church to the hospital ; and, just on the
left, before coming up to the crossing of the
High Street, there was a new public-house
built. And the front of it was built in so wise
manner, that a recess cf two feet was left
below its front windows, between them and
the street-pavement a recess too narrow for
any possible use (for even if it had been occu-
pied by a seat, as in old time it might have
been, everybody walking along the street
would have fallen over the legs of the reposing
wayfarers). But, by way of making this two
feet depth of freehold land more expressive of
the dignity of an establishment for the sale of
spirituous liquors, it was fenced from the
pavement by an imposing iron railing, having
four or five spearheads to the yard of it, and
six feet high ; containing as much iron and
iron-work, indeed, as could well be put into
the space ; and by this stately arrangement,
the little piece of dead ground within, between
wall and street, became a protective receptacle
of refuse ; cigar ends, and oyster shells, and
the like, such as an open-handed English
street-populace habitually scatters from its
presence, and was thus left, unsweepable by
any ordinary methods. Now the iron bars


which, uselessly (or in great degree worse than
uselessly), enclosed this bit of ground, and
made it pestilent, represented a quantity of
work which would have cleansed the Carshal-
ton pools three times over ; of work, partly
cramped and deadly, in the mine; partly
fierce * and exhaustive, at the furnace, partly

* " A fearful occurrence took place a few days since,
near Wolverhampton. Thomas Snape, aged nineteen,
was on duty as the ' keeper ' of a blast furnace at
Deepfield, assisted by John Gardner, aged eighteen,
and Joseph Swift, aged thirty-seven. The furnace con-
tained four tons of molten iron, and an equal amount
of cinders, and ought to have been run out at 7.30
P. M. But Snape and his mates, engaged in talking
and drinking, neglected their duty, and, in the mean
time, the iron rose in the furnace until it reached a pipe
wherein water was contained. Just as the men had
stripped, and were proceeding to tap the furnace, the
water in the pipe, converted into steam, burst down its
front and let loose on them the molten metal, which
instantaneously consumed Gardner; Snape, terribly
burnt, and mad with pain, leaped into the canal and
then ran home and fell dead on the threshold ; Swift
survived to reach the hospital, where he died too."

In further illustration of this matter, I beg the
reader to look at the article on the " Decay of the
English Race," in the Pall Mall Gazette of April 17, of
this year; and at the articles on the " Report of the
Thames Commission/' in any journals of the same


foolish and sedentary, of ill-taught students
making bad designs : work from the beginning
to the last fruits of it, and in all the branches
of it, venomous, deathful, and miserable.
Now, how did it come to pass that this work
was done instead of the other ; that the
strength and life of the English operative were
spent in defiling ground, instead of redeeming
it ; and in producing an entirely (in that place)
valueless piece of metal, which can neither be
eaten nor breathed, instead of medicinal fresh
air, and pure water ?

There is but one reason for it, and at pres-
ent a conclusive one, that the capitalist can
charge percentage on the work in the one
case, and cannot in the other. If, having
certain funds for supporting labor at my dis-
posal, I pay men merely to keep my ground
in order, my money is, in that function, spent
once for all ; but if I pay them to dig iron out
of my ground, and work it, and sell it, I can
charge rent for the ground, and percentage
both on the manufacture and the sale, and
make my capital profitable in these three by-
ways. The greater part of the profitable in-
vestment of capital in the present day, is in
operations of this kind, in which the public is


persuaded to buy something of no use to it,
on production, cr sale, of which, the capitalist
may charge percentage; the said public re-
maining all the while under the persuasion
that the percentage thus obtained are real
national gains, whereas, they are merely filch-
ings out of partially light pockets, to swell
heavy ones.

Thus, the Croydon publican buys the iron
railing, to make himself more conspicuous to
drunkards. The public-house keeper on the
other side cf the way presently buys another
railing, to out-rail him with. Both are, as to
their relative attractiveness to customers of
taste, just where they were before ; but they
have lost the price of the railings ; which
they must either themselves finally lose, or
make their aforesaid customers of taste pay,
by raising the price of their V>eer, or adulterat-
ing it. Either the publicans, or their cus-
tomers, are thus poorer by precisely what the-
capitalist has gained ; and the value of the
work itself, meantime, has been lost, to the
nation ; the iron bars in that form and place
being wholly useless. It is this mode of tax-
ation of the poor by the rich which is referred
to in the text (page ), in comparing th&


modern acquisitive power of capital with that
of the lance and sword ; the only difference
being that the levy of black-mail in old times
was by force, and is now by cozening. The
old rider and reiver frankly quartered himself
on the publican for the night ; the modern one
merely makes his lance into an iron spike,
and persuades his host to buy it. One comes
as an open robber, the other as a cheating ped-
dler ; but the result, to the injured person's
pocket, is absolutely the same. Of course
many useful industries mingle with, and dis-
guise the useless ones ; and in the habits of
energy aroused by the struggle, there is a
certain direct good. It is far better to spend
four thousand pounds in making a good gun,
and then to blow it to pieces, than to pass
life in idleness. Only do not let it be called
" political economy." There is also a confused
notion in the minds of many persons, that the
gathering of the property of the poor into the
hands of the rich does no ultimate harm ;
since in whosesoever hands it may be, it must
be spent at last, and thus, they think, return
to the poor again. This fallacy has been
again and again exposed ; but grant the plea
true, and the same apology may, of course, be


made for black-mail, or any other form of
robbery. It might be (though practically it
never is) as advantageous for the nation that
the robber should have the spending of the
money he extorts, as that the person robbed
should have spent it. But this is no excuse
for the theft. If I were to put a turnpike on
the road where it passes my own gate, and en-
deavor to exact a shilling from every passenger,
the public would soon do away with my gate,
without listening to any plea on my part that
" it was as advantageous to them, in the end,
that I should spend their shillings, as that
they themselves should." But if, instead of
out-facing them with a turnpike, I can only
persuade them to come in and buy stones, or
old iron, or any other useless thing, out of my
ground, I may rob them to the same extent,
and be, moreover, thanked as a public bene-
factor, and promoter of commercial prosperity*
And this main question for the poor of Eng-
land for the poor of all countries is wholly
omitted in every common treatise on the sub-
ject of wealth. Even by the laborers them-
selves, the operation of capital is regarded
only in its effect on their immediate interests ;
never in the far more terrific power of its aj>


pointment of the kind and the object of labor.
It matters little, ultimately, how much a la-
borer is paid for making anything; but it
matters fearfully what the thing is, which he
is compelled to make. If his labor is so
ordered as to produce food, and fresh air, and
fresh water, no matter that his wages are low ;
the food and fresh air and water will be at
last there ; and he will at last get them. But
if he is paid to destroy food and fresh air or
to produce iron bars instead of them, the
food and air will finally not be there, and he
will not get them, to his great and final incon-
venience. So that, conclusively, in political
as in household economy, the great question
is, not so much what money you have in your
pocket, as what you will buy with it, and do
with it.

I have been long accustomed, as all men
engaged in work of investigation must be, to
hear my statements laughed at for years, before
they are examined or believed ; and I am
generally content to wait the public's time.
But it has not been without displeased sur-
prise that I have found myself totally unable,
as yet, by any repetition, or illustration, to
force this plain thought into my readers' heads,


that the wealth of nations, as of men, con-
sists in substance, not in ciphers ; and that
the real good of all work, and of all commerce,
depends on the final worth cf the thing you.
make, or get by it. This is a practical enough,
statement, one would think : but the English.
public has been so possessed by its modern
school of economists with the notion that
Business is always good, whether it be busy
in mischief or in benefit ; and that buying and.
selling are always salutary, whatever the in-
trinsic worth of what you buy or sell, that it
seems impossible to gain so much as a pa-
tient hearing for any inquiry respecting the
substantial result of our eager modern labors.
I have never felt more checked by the sense
of this impossibility than in arranging the
heads of the following three lectures, v.\iich,
though delivered at considerable intervals of
time, and in different places, were net pre-
pared without reference to each other. Their
connection would, however, have been made
far more distinct, if I had not been prevented,
by what I feel to be another great difficulty in
addressing English audiences, from enforcing,
with any decision, the common, and to me
the most important, part of their subjects.


I chiefly desired (as I have just said) to ques
tion my hearers operatives, merchants, and
soldiers, as to the ultimate meaning of the
business they had in hand ; and to know from
them what they expected or intended their
manufacture to come to, their selling to come
to, and their killing to come to. That ap-
peared the first point needing determination
before I could speak to them with any real
utility or effect. " You craftsmen salesmen
swordsmen, do but tell me clearly what
you want ; then if I can say anything to help
you, I will ; and if not, I will account to you
as I best may for my inability." But in
order to put this question into any terms, one
had first of all to face the difficulty just spoken
of to me for the present insuperable, the
difficulty of knowing whether to address one's
audience as believing, or not believing, in any
other world than this. For if you address
any average modern English company as
believing in an Eternal life, and endeavor to
draw any conclusions, from this assumed
belief, as to their present business, they will
forthwith tell you that what you say is very
beautiful, but it is not practical. If, on the
contrary, you frankly address them as un-


believers of Eternal life, and try to draw any
consequences from that unbelief, they im-
mediately hold you for an accursed person,
and shake off the dust from their feet at you.
And the more I thought over what I had got
to say, the less I found I could say it, without
some reference to this intangible or intractable
part of the subject. It made all the difference,
in asserting any principle of war, whether one
assumed that a discharge of artillery would
merely knead down a certain quantity of red
clay into a level line, as in a brickfield ; or
whether, out of every separately Christian-
named portion of the ruinous heap, there went
out, into the smoke and dead-fallen air of
battle, some astonished condition of soul, un-
willingly released. It made all the difference,
in speaking of the possible range of commerce,
whether one assumed that all bargains related
only to visible property or whether property,
for the present invisible, but nevertheless real,
was elsewhere purchasable on other terms. It
made all the difference, in addressing a body of
men subject to considerable hardship, and
having to find some way out of it whether one
could confidently say to them, " My friends,
you have only to die, and all will be right ; " ox


whether one had any secret misgiving that
such advice was more blessed to him that
gave, than to him that took it. And there-
fore the deliberate reader will find, throughout
these lectures, a hesitation in driving points
home, and a pausing short of conclusions
which he will feel I would fain have come to ;
hesitation which arises wholly from this un-
certainty of my hearers' temper. For I do
not now speak, nor have I ever spoken, since
the time of first forward youth, in any prose-
lyting temper, as desiring to persuade any one
of what, in such matters, I thought myself;
but, whomsoever I venture to address, I take
for the time his creed as I find it ; and en-
deavor to push it into such vital fruit as it
seems capable of. Thus, it is a creed with a
great part of the existing English people, that
they are in possession of a book which tells
them, straight from the lips of God, all they
ought to do, and need to know. I have read
that book, with as much care as most of them,
for some forty years ; and am thankful that,
on those who trust it, I can press its pleadings.
My endeavor has been uniformly to make
them trust it more deeply than they do ; trust
it, not in their own favorite verses only, but in


the sum of all ; trust it not as a fetish or talis*
man, which they are to be saved by daily
repetitions of ; but as a Captain's order, to be
heard and obeyed at their peril. I was
always encouraged by supposing my hearers to
hold such belief. To these, if to any, I once
had hope of addressing, with acceptance,
words which insisted on the guilt of pride,
and the futility of avarice ; from these, if from
any, I once expected ratification of a political
economy, which asserted that the life was
more than the meat, and the body than rai-
ment ; and these, it once seemed to me, I
might ask, without accusation of fanaticism,
not merely in doctrine of the lips, but in the
bestowal of their heart's treasure, to separate
themselves from the crowd of whom it is
written, " After all these things do the Gentiles

It cannot, however, be assumed, with any
semblance of reason, that a general audience
is now wholly, or even in majority, composed
of these religious persons. A large portion
must always consist of men who admit no such
creed ; or who, at least, are inaccessible to
appeals founded on it. And as, with the so-
called Christian, I desired to plead for honest


declaration and fulfilment of his belief in
life, with the so-called infidel, I desired to-
plead for an honest declaration and fulfilmen*
of his belief in death. The dilemma is inevv
table. Men must either hereafter live, or hers*
after die ; fate may be bravely met, and con-
duct wisely ordered, on either expectation ; but
never in hesitation between ungrasped hope,
and unconfronted fear. We usually believe \n
immortality, so far as to avoid preparation for
death ; and in mortality, so far as to avoid prep-
paration for anything after death. Whereas
a wise man will at least hold himself prepared
for one or other of two events, of which one
or other is inevitable ; and will have all thing*
in order, for his sleep, or in readiness, for hia

Nor have we any right to call it an ignobJe
judgment, if he determine to put them inordei,
as for sleep. A brave belief in life is indeed
an enviable state of mind, but, as far as I can
discern, an unusual one. I know few Chris-
tians so convinced of the splendor of the rooms
in their Father's house, as to be happier when
their friends are called to those mansions, than
they would have been if the Queen had sent
for them to live at court : nor has the Church's


most ardent "desire to depart, and be with
Christ," ever cured it of the singular habit of
putting on mourning for every person sum-
moned to such departure. On the contrary, a
brave belief in death has been assuredly held
by many not ignoble persons, and it is a sign
of the last depravity in the Church itself, when
it assumes that such a belief is inconsistent
with either purity of character, or energy of
hr.nd. The shortness of life is not, to any
rational person, a conclusive reason for wast-
ing the space of it which may be granted him ;
nor does the anticipation of -death to-morrow
suggest, to any one but a drunkard, the ex-
pediency of drunkenness to-day. To teach
that there is no device in the grave, may indeed
make the deviceless person more contented in
his dulness ; but it will make the deviser only
more earnest in devising : nor is human con-
duct likely, in every case, to be purer, under
the conviction that all its evil may in a moment
be pardoned, and all its wrong-doing in a
moment redeemed ; and that the sigh of re-
pentance, which purges the guilt of the past,
will waft the soul into a felicity which forgets
its pain, than it may be under the sterner,
and to many not unwise minds, more probable,


apprehension, that " what a man soweth that
shall he also reap," or others reap, when he,
the living seed of pestilence, walketh no more
in darkness, but lies down therein.

But to men whose feebleness of sight, or
bitterness of soul, or the offence given by the
conduct of those who claim higher hope, may
have rendered this painful creed the only pos-
sible one, there is an appeal to be made, more
secure in its ground than any which can be
addressed to happier persons. I would fain,
if I might offencelessly, have spoken to them
as if none others heard ; and have said thus :
Hear me, you dying men, who will soon be
deaf forever. For these others, at your right
hand and your left, who look forward to a state
of infant existence, in which all their errors
will be overruled, and all their faults forgiven ;
for these, who, stained and blackened in the
battle-smoke of mortality, have but to dip them-
selves for an instant in the font of death, and
to rise renewed of plumage, as a dove that is
covered with silver, and her feathers like gold ;
for these, indeed, it may be permissible to
waste their numbered moments, through faith
in a future of innumerable hours ; to these, in
their weakness, it may be conceded that they


should tamper with sin which can only bring
forth fruit of righteousness, and profit by the
iniquity which, one day, will be remembered
no more. In them, it may be no sign of hard-
ness of heart to neglect the poor, over whom
they know their Master is watching ; and to
leave those to perish temporarily, who cannot
perish eternally. But, for you, there is no such
hope, and therefore no such excuse. This fate
which you ordain for the wretched, you believe
to be all their inheritance ; you may crush
them, before the moth, and they will never
rise to rebuke you ; their breath, which fails
for lack of food, once expiring, will never be
recalled to whisper against you a word of
accusing ; they and you, as you think, shall
lie down together in the dust, and the worms
cover you; and for them there shall be no
consolation, and on you no vengeance, only
the question murmured above your grave :
" Who shall repay him what he hath done ? "
Is it therefore easier for you in your heart to
inflict the sorrow for which there is no remedy ?
Will you take, wantonly, this little all of his life
from your poor brother, and make his brief hours
long to him with pain ? Will you be readier
to the injustice which can never be redressed ;


and niggardly of mercy which you can bestow
but once, and which, refusing, you refuse for-
ever ? I think better of you, even of the most
selfish, than that you would do this, well under-
stood. And for yourselves, it seems to me,
the question becomes not less grave, in these
curt limits. If your life were but a fever
fit, the madness of a night, whose follies were
all to be forgotten in the dawn, it might mat-
ter little how you fretted away the sickly hours,
what toys you snatched at, or let fall, what
visions you followed wistfully with the deceived
eyes of sleepless phrenzy. Is the earth only an
hospital ? Play, if you care to play, on the floor
of the hospital dens. Knit its straw into what
crowns please you ; gather the dust of it for
treasure, and die rich in that, clutching at the
black motes in the air with your dying hands ;
and yet, it may be well with you. But if this life

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