Matthew Arnold.

Culture & anarchy: an essay in political and social criticism ; and ... online

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to their schools, and never so much as to hint to thpm
that they are probably doing a very foolish thing, and
that the right way to go to work with their children's
education is quite different. And it is the same in
almost every department of affairs. While, on the
Continent, the idea prevails that it is the business of
the heads and representatives of the nation, by virtue
of their superior means, power, and information, to
set an example and to provide suggestions of right
reason, among us the idea is that the business of the
heads and representatives of the nation is to do
nothing of the kind, but to applaud the natural taste
for the bathos showing itself vigorously in any part of
the community, and to encourage its works.

Now I do not say that the political system of
foreign countries has not inconveniences which may
outweigh the inconveniences of our own political
system ; nor am I the least proposing to get rid of
our own political system and to adopt theirs. But a
sound centre of authority being what, in this disquisi-
tion, we have been led to seek, and right reason, or
our best self, appearing alone to offer such a sound



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III.] BARBARIANS, PHILISTINES, POPULACE. 99

centre of authority, it is necessary to take note of the
chief impediments which hinder, in this country, the
extrication or recognition of this right reason as a
paramount authority, with a view to afterwards try-
ing in what way they can best be removed.

This being borne in mind, I proceed to remark
how not only do we get no suggestions of right reason,
and no rebukes of our ordinary self, from our gover-
nors, but a kind of philosophical theory is widely
spread among us to the effect that there is no such
thing at aU as a best self and a right reason having
claim to paramount authority, or, at any rate, no
such thing ascertainable and capable of being made
use of; and that there is nothing but an infinite
number of ideas and works of our ordinary selves,
and suggestions of our natural taste for the bathos,
pretty nearly equal in value, which are doomed either
to an irreconcilable conflict, or else to a perpetual give
and take ; and that wisdom consists in choosing the
give and take rather than the conflict, and in sticking
to our choice with patience and good humour.

And, on the other hand, we have another philoso-
phical theory rife among us, to the effect that without
the labour of perverting ourselves by custom or ex-
ample to relish right reason, but by continuing all of
us to follow freely our natural taste for the bathos,
we shall, by the mercy of Providence, and by a kind
of natural tendency of things, come in due time to
relish and follow right reason.

The great promoters of these philosophical theories
are our newspapers, which, no less than our Parb'a-



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100 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [chap.

mentary representatives, may be said to act the part
of guides and governors to us; and these favourite
doctrines of theirs I call, — or should call, if the
doctrines were not preached by authorities I so much
respect, — the first, a peculiarly British form of Athe-
ism, the second, a peculiarly British form of Quietism.
The first-named melancholy doctrine is preached in
the Times with great clearness and force of style;
indeed, it is well known, from the example of the
poet Lucretius and others, what great masters of style
the atheistic doctrine has always counted among its
promulgators. " It is of no use," says the TimeSy " for
us to attempt to force upon our neighbours our several
likings and dislikings. We must take things as they
ara Everybody has his own little vision of religious
or civil perfection. Under the evident impossibility
of satisfying everybody, we agree to take our stand
on equal laws and on a system as open and liberal as
is possibla The result is that everybody has more
liberty of action and of speaking here than anywhere
else in the Old World." We come again here upon
Mr. Koebuck's celebrated definition of happiness, on
which I have so often commented : "I look around
me and ask what is the state of England ? Is not
every man able to say what he likes 1 I ask you
whether the world over, or in past history, there is
anything like it? Nothing. I pray that our un-
rivalled happiness may last." This is the old story
of our system of checks and every Englishman doing
as he likes, which we have already seen to have been
convenient enough so long as there were only the



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III.] BARBAMANS, PHILISTINES, POPULACE. 101

Barbarians and the Philistines to do what they liked,
but to be getting inconvenient, and productive of
anarchy, now that the Populace wants to do what it
likes too.

But for all that, I will not at once dismiss this
famous doctrine, but will first quote another passage
from the Times, applying the doctrine to a matter of
which we have just been speaking, — education. " The
difficulty here" (in providing a national system of
education), says the Times, " does not reside in any
removable arrangements. It is inherent and native
in the actual and inveterate state of things in this
country. All these powers and personages, all these
conflicting influences and varieties of character, exist,
and have long existed among us ; they are fighting it
out, and will long continue to fight it out, without
coming to that happy consummation when some one
element of the British character is to destroy or to
absorb all the rest" There it is ! the various prompt-
ings of the natural taste for the bathos in this man
and that amongst us are fighting it out ; and the day
will never come (and, indeed, why should we wish it
to come ?) when one man's particular sort of taste for
the bathos shall tjn^annise over another man's; nor
when right reason (if that may be called an element
of the British character) shall absorb and rule them
alL "The whole system of this country, like the
constitution we boast to inherit, and are glad to up-
hold, is made up of established facts, prescriptive
authorities, existing usages, powers that be, persons
in possession, and communities or classes that have



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102 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [chap.

won dominion for themselves, and will hold it against
all comera" Every force in the world, evidently,
except the one reconciling force, right reason ! Bar-
barian here, Philistine there, Mr. Bradlaugh and
Populace striking in ! — pull devil, pull baker ! Eeally,
presented with the mastery of style of our leading
journal, the sad picture, as one gazes upon it, assumes
the iron and inexorable solemnity of tragic Destiny.

After this, the milder doctrine of our other philo-
sophical teacher, the Daily News, has, at first, some-
thing very attractive and assuaging. The Daily News
begins, indeed, in appearance, to weave the iron web
of necessity round us like the Times. " The alterna-
tive is between a man's doing what he hkes and his
doing what some one else, probably not one whit
wiser than himself, likes." This points to the tacit
compact, mentioned in my last paper, between the
Barbarians and the Philistines, and into which it is
hoped that the Populace will one day enter; the
compact, so creditable to English honesty, that since
each class has only the ideas and aims of its ordinary
self to give effect to, none of them shall, if it exercise
power, treat its ordinary self too seriously, or attempt
to impose it on others ; but shall let these others, —
the fanatical Protestant, for instance, in his Papist-
baiting, and the popular tribune in his Hyde Park
anarchy-mongering, — ^have their fling. But then the
Daily News suddenly lights up the gloom of necessi-
tarianism with bright beams of hope. " No doubt,"
it says, " the common reason of society ought to check
the aberrations of individual eccentricity." This



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III.] BARBARIANS, PHILISTINES, POPULACE. 103

common reason of society looks very like our best
self or right reason, to which we want to give autho-
rity, by making the action of the State^ or nation in
its collective character, the expression of it. But of
this project of ours, the Daily News, with its subtle
dialectics, makes havoc. " Make the State the organ
of the common reason?" — it says. "You make it
the organ of something or other, but how can you be
certain that reason will be the quality which will be
embodied in it 1 " You cannot be certain of it, un-
doubtedly, if you never try to bring the thing about ;
but the question is, the action of the State being the
action of the collective nation, and the action of the
collective nation carrying naturally great publicity,
weight, and force of example with it, whether we
should not try to put into the action of the State as
much as possible of right reason or our best self, which
may, in this manner, come back to us with new force
and authority; may have visibility, form, and influ-
ence ; and help to confirm us, in the many moments
when we are tempted to be our ordinary selves merely,
in resisting our natural taste of the bathos rather than
in giving way to it ?

But no ! says our teacher : " It is better there
should be an infinite variety of experiments in human
action ; the common reason of society will in the main
check the aberrations of individual eccentricity well
enough, if left to its natural operation." This is what
I call the specially British form of Quietism, or a
devout, but excessive reliance on an over-ruKng Pro-
videnca Providence, as the moralists are careful to



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104 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [OHAP.

tell US, generally works in human affairs by human
means ; so, when we want to make right reason act
on individual inclination, our best self on our ordinary
pelf, we seek to give it more power of doing so by
giving it public recognition and authority, and em-
bodying it, so far as we can, in the State. It seems
too much to ask of Providence, that while we, on our
part, leave our congenital taste for the bathos to its
natural operation and its infinite variety of experi-
ments, Providence should mysteriously guide it into
the true track, and compel it to relish the sublime. At
any rate, great men and great institutions have hitherto
seemed necessary for producing any considerable effect
of this kind. No doubt we have an infinite variety of
experiments and an ever -multiplying multitude of
explorera Even in these few chapters I have enume-
rated many : the British BanneTy Judge Edmonds, New-
man Weeks, Deborah Butler, Elderess Polly, Brother
Noyes, Mr. Murphy, the Licensed Victuallers, the Com-
mercial Travellers, and I know not how many more ;
and the members of the noble army are swelling every
day. But what a depth of Quietism, or rather, what
an over-bold call on the direct interposition of Provi-
dence, to believe that these interesting explorers will
discover the true track, or at any rate, "will do so
• in the main well enough " (whatever that may mean)
if left to their natural operation ; that is, by going on
as they are ! Philosophers say, indeed, that we learn
virtue by performing acts of virtue ; but to say that
we shall learn virtue by performing any acts to which
our natural taste for the bathos carries us, that the



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III.] BAKBARIANS, PHILISTINES, POPULACE. 105

fanatical Protestant comes at his best self by Papist-
baiting, or Newman Weeks and Deborah Butler at
right reason by following their noses, this certainly
does appear over-sanguine

It is true, what we want is to make right reason
act on individual reason, the reason. of individuals;
all our search for authority has that for its end and
aim. The Daily News says, I observe, that all my
argument for authority "has a non-intellectual root;"
and from what I know of my own mind and its
poverty I think this so probable, that I should be
inclined easily to admit it, if it were not that, in the
first place, nothing of this kind, perhaps, should be
admitted without examination ; and, in the second, a
way of accounting for the charge being made, in this
particular instance, without good grounds, appears to
present itself. What seems to me to account here,
perhaps, for the charge, is the want of flexibility of our
race, on which I have so often remarked. I mean, it
being admitted that the conformity of the individual
reason of the fanatical Protestant or the popular rioter
with right reason is our true object, and not the mere
restraining them, by the strong arm of the State, from
Papist-baiting, or railing-breaking, — admitting this,
we English have so little flexibility that we cannot
readily perceive that the State's restraining them from
these indulgences may yet fix clearly in their minds
that) to the collective nation, these indulgences appear
ill^tional and unallowable, may make them pause and
reflect, and may contribute to bringing, with time,
their individual reason into harmony >vith right reason.



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106 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [OHAP.

But in no country, owing to the want of intellectual
flexibility above mentioned, is the leaning which is
our natural one, and, therefore, needs no recommend-
ing to us, so sedulously recommended, and the leaning
which is not our natural one, and, therefore, does not
need dispraising to us, so sedulously dispraised, as in
oura To rely on the individual being, with us, the
natural leaning, we wiU hear of nothing but the good
of relying on the individual ; to act through the col-
lective nation on the individual being not our natural
leaning, we will hear nothing in recommendation of
it. But the wise know that we often need to hear
most of that to which we are least inclined, and even
to learn to employ, in certain circumstances, that which
is capable, if employed amiss, of being a danger to us.
Elsewhere this is certainly better understood than
hera In a recent number of the Westminster Beview,
an able writer, but with precisely our national want
of flexibility of which I have been speaking, has un-
earthed, I see, for our present needs, an English trans-
lation, published some years ago, of Wilhelm von
Humboldt's book, The Sphere and Duties of Government.
Humboldt's object in this book is to show that the
operation of government ought to be severely limited
to what directly and immediately relates to the security
of person and property. Wilhelm von Humboldt, one
of the most beautiful souls that have ever existed,
used to say that one's business in life was first to per-
fect one's self by all the means in one's power, aiyi
secondly, to try and create in the world around one
an aristocracy, the most numerous that one possibly



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III.] BARBARIANS, PHILISTINES, POPULACE. 107

could, of talents and characters. He saw, of course,
that, in the end, everything comes to this, — that the
individual must act for himself, and must be perfect
in himself; and he lived in a country, Germany,
where people were disposed to act too little for them-
selves, and to rely too much on the Government.
But even thus, such was his flexibility, so little was
he in bondage to a mere abstract maxim, that he saw
very well that for his purpose itself, of enabling the
individual to stand perfect on his own foimdations
and to do without the State, the action of the State
would for long, long years be necessary. And soon
after he wrote his book on The Sphere and Duties of
Government, Wilhelm von Humboldt became Minister
of Education in Prussia ; and from his ministry all
the great reforms which give the control of Prussian
education to the State, — the transference of the man-
agement of public schools from their old boards of
trustees to the State, the obligatory State-examina-
tion for schoolmasters, and the foundation of the great
State-University of Berlin, — take their origin. This
his English reviewer says not a word of. But, writing
for a people whose dangers lie, as we have seen, on
the side of their unchecked and unguided individual
action, whose dangers none of them lie on the side of
an over-reliance on the State, he quotes just so much
of Wilhelm von Humboldt's example as can flatter
them in their propensities, and do them no good ; and
just what might make them think, and be of use to
them, he leaves on one side. This precisely recalls
the manner, it will be observed, in which we have



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108 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [OHAP. ill.

seen that our royal and noble personages proceed with
the Licensed Victuallers.

In France the action of the State on individuals is
yet more preponderant than in Germany; and the
need which friends of human perfection feel for what
may enable the individual to stand perfect on his own
foundations is all the stronger. But what says one of
the staimchest of these friends, M. Eenan, on State
action; and even State action in that very sphere
where in France it is most excessive, the sphere of
education ? Here are his words : — " A Liberal believes
in liberty, and liberty signifies the non-intervention
of the State. BiU such an ideal is still a long way off
from usy and the very means to remove U to am, indefinite
distance wovM be precisely the Staters withdramng Us
action too soon" And this, he adds, is even truer of
education than of any other department of public
affairs.

We see, then, how indispensable to that human
perfection which we seek is, in the opinion of good
judges, some public recognition and establishment of
our. best self, or right reason. We see how our habits
and practice oppose themselves to such a recognition,
and the many inconveniences which we therefore
suffer. But now let us try to go a little deeper, and
to find, beneath our actual habits and practice, the
very ground and cause out of which they spring.



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CHAPTER IT.

HEBRAISM AND HEL LE NISM.

This fundamental ground is our preference of doing
to thinking. Now this preference is a main element
in our nature, and as we study it we find ourselves
opening up a number of large questions on every
side.

Let me go back for a moment to Bishop Wilson,
who says : " First, never go against the best light you
have; secondly, take care that your light be not
darkness." We show, as a nation, laudable energy
and persistence in walking according to the best
light we have, but are not quite careful enough,
perhaps, to see that our light be not darkness. This
is only another version of the old story that energy
is our strong point and favourable characteristic,
rather than intelligence. But we may give to this
idea a more general form still, in which it will have
a yet larger range of appHcation. We may regard
this energy driving at practice, this paramount sense
of the obligation of duty, self-control, and work, this
earnestness in going manfully with the best light we
have, as one force. And we may regard the intelli-



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110 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [CHAP.

gence driving at those ideas which are, after all, the
basis of right practice, the ardent sense for all the
new and changing combinations of them which man's
development brings with it, the indomitable impulse
to know and adjust them perfectly, as another force.
And these two forces we may regard as in some sense
rivals, — rivals not by the necessity of their own
nature, but as exhibited in man and his history, —
and rivals dividing the empire of the world between
them. And to give these forces names from the two
races of men who have supplied the most signal and
splendid manifestations of them, we may call them
respectively the forces of Hebraism and Hellenism.
Hebraism and Hellenism, — between these two points
of influence moves our world. At one time it feels
more powerfully the attraction of one of them, at
another time of the other ; and it ought to be, though
it never is, evenly and happily balanced between
them.

The final aim of both Hellenism and Hebraism, as
of all great spiritual disciplines, is no doubt the same :
man's perfection or salvation. The very language
which they both of them use in schooling us to reach
this aim is often identical. Even when their language
indicates by variation, — sometimes a broad variation,
often a but slight and subtle variation, — the different
courses of thought which are uppermost in each dis-
cipline, even then the unity of the final end and aim
is still apparent. To employ the actual words of that
discipline with which we ourselves are all of us most
familiar, and the words of which, therefore, come



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IV.] HEBRAISM AND HELLENISM. Ill

most home to us, that final end and aim is " that we
might be partakers of the divine nature." These are
the words of a Hebrew apostle, but of Hellenism and
Hebraism alike this is, I say, the aim. When the
two are confronted, as they very often are confronted,
it is nearly always with what I may call a rhetorical
purpose ; the speaker's whole design is to exalt and
enthrone one of the two, and he uses the other only as
a foil and to enable him the better to give effect to his
purpose. Obviously, with us, it is usually Hellenism
which is thus reduced to minister to the triumph of
Hebraism. There is a sermon on Greece and the
Greek spirit by a man never to be mentioned without
interest and respect, Frederick Kobertson, in which
this rhetorical use of Greece and the Greek spirit,
and the inadequate exhibition of them necessarily
consequent upon this, is almost ludicrous, and would
be censurable if it were not to be explained by the
exigencies of a sermon. On the other hand, Heinrich
Heine, and other writers of his sort, give us the
spectacle of the tables completely turned, and of
Hebraism brought in just as a foil and contrast to
Hellenism, and to make the superiority of Hellenism
more manifest In both these cases there is injustice
and misrepresentation. The aim and end of both
Hebraism and Hellenism is, as I have said, one and
the same, and this aim and end is august and admir-
able.

Still, they pursue this aim by very different courses.
The uppermost idea with Hellenism is to see things
as they really are ; the uppermost idea with Hebraism



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112 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [OHAP.

is conduct and obedience. Nothing can do away with
this ineffaceable differenca The Greek quarrel with
the body and its desires is, that they hinder right
thinking; the Hebrew quarrel with them is, that they
hinder right acting. "He that keepeth the law,
happy is he ; " " Blessed is the man that feareth the
Eternal, that delighteth greatly in his command-
ments ; " — that is the Hebrew notion of felicity; and,
pursued with passion and tenacity, this notion would
not let the Hebrew rest till, as is well known, he had
at last got out of the law a network of prescriptions
to enwrap his whole life, to govern every moment of
it, every impulse, every action. The Greek notion of
felicity, on the other hand, is perfectly conveyed in
these words of a great French moralist : " C^esi le
bonhev/r des homineSy" — when ? when they abhor that
which is evill — no; when they exercise themselves
in the law of the Lord day and night ? — no ; when
they die daily ? — no ; when they walk about the New
Jerusalem with palms in their hands ? — no ; but when
they think aright, when their thought hits : " qmnd
Us pensent jtiste" At the bottom of both the Greek
and the Hebrew notion is the desire, native in man,
for reason and the will of God, the feeling after the
universal order, — in a word, the love of God. But,
while Hebraism seizes upon certain plain, capital in-
timations of the universal order, and rivets itself, one
may say, with unequalled grandeur of earnestness
and intensity on the study and observance of them,
the bent of Hellenism is to follow, with flexible
activity, the whole play of the universal order, to be



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IT.] HEBRAISM AND HELLENISM. 113

apprehensive of missing any part of it, of sacrificing
one part to another, to slip away from resting in this
or that intimation of it, however capital An un-
clouded clearness of mind, an unimpeded play of
thought, is what this bent drives at The governing
idea of Hellenism is spontaneity of conscumsness ; that of
Hebraism, strictness of conscience,

Christianity changed nothing in this essential bent of
Hebraism to set doing above knowing. Self-conquest>
self-devotion, the following not our own individual
will, but the will of God, obediencey is the fundamental


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