Matthew Arnold.

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

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arbitrary range of his personal action, and thus to
enlarge his spiritual and intellectual life and liberty,
than in remaining insensible to these finer shades of
feeling and this delicate sympathy, in giving un-
checked range, so far as he can, to his mere personal
action, in allowing no limits or government to this
except such as a mechanical external law imposes,
and in thus really narrowing, for the satisfaction of
his ordinary seH, his spiritual and intellectual life and
liberty.

Still more must this be so when his fixed eternal
rule, his God's law, is supplied to him from a source
which is less fit, perhaps, to supply final and absolute
instructions on this particular topic of love and mar-



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VI.] OUR LIBERAL PRACTITIONERS. 175

riage than on any other relation of human Hf e. Bishop
Wilson, who is full of examples of that fruitful Hellen-
ising within the limits of Hebraism itself, of that
renewing of the stiff and stark notions of Hebraism
by turning upon them a stream of fresh thought and
consciousness, which we have already noticed in St.
Paul, — Bishop Wilson gives an admirable lesson to
rigid Hebraisers, like Mr. Chambers, asking them-
selves : Does God's law (that is, the Book of Leviticus)
forbid us to marry our wife's sister 1 — ^Does God's law
(that is, again, the Book of Leviticus) allow us to
marry our wife's sister 1 — ^when he says : " Christian
duties are founded on reason, not on the sovereign
authority of God commanding what He pleases ; God
cannot command us what is not fit to be believed or
done, all his commands being founded in the neces-
sities of our nature." And, immense as is our debt
to the Hebrew race and its genius, incomparable as is
its authority on certain profoundly important sides
of our human nature, worthy as it is to be described
as having uttered, for those sides, the voice of the
deepest necessities of our nature, the statutes of the
divine and eternal order of things, the law of God, —
who, that is not manacled and hoodwinked by his
Hebraism, can believe that, as to love and marriage,
our reason and the necessities of our humanity have
their true, sufficient, and divine law expressed for
them by the voice of any Oriental and polygamous
nation like the Hebrews 1 Who, I say, will believe,
when he really considers the matter, that where the
feminine nature, the feminine ideal, and our relations



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176 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [chap.

to them, are brought into question, the delicate and
apprehensive genius of the Indo-European race, the
race which invented the Muses, and chivahy, and the
Madonna, is to find its last word on this question in
the institutions of a Semitic people, whose wisest
king had seven hundred wives and three hundred
concubines )

IV.

If here again, therefore, we minister better to the
diseased spirit of our time by leading it to think
about the operation our Liberal friends have in hand,
than by lending a hand to this operation ourselves,
let us see, before we dismiss from our view the prac-
tical operations of our Liberal friends, whether the
same thing does not hold good as to their celebrated
industrial and economical labours also. Their great
work of this kind is, of course, their free-trade policy.
This policy, as having enabled the poor man to eat
untaxed bread, and as having wonderfully augmented
trade, we are accustomed to speak of with a kind of
thankful solemnity. It is chiefly on their having been
our leaders in this policy that Mr. Bright founds for
himself and his friends the claim, so often asserted by
him, to be considered guides of the blind, teachers
of the ignorant, benefactors slowly and laboriously
developing in the Conservative party and in the
country that which Mr. Bright is fond of calling the
growth of intelligence, — the object, as is well known, of
all the friends of culture also, and the great end and
aim of the culture that we preach.



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VI.] OUR UBERAL PRACTITIONERS. 177

Now, having first saluted free-trade and its doctors
with all respect, let us see whether even here, too, our
Liberal friends do not pursue their operations in a
mechanical way, without reference to any firm intel-
ligible law of things, to human Uf e as a whole, and
human happiness ; and whether it is not more for our
good, at this particular moment at any rate, if, instead
of worshipping free-trade with them Hebraistically, as
a kind of fetish, and helping them to pursue it as an
end in and for itself, we turn the -free stream of our
thought upon their treatment of it^ and see how tliis
is related to the intelligible law of human life, and to
national well-being and happiness. In short, suppose
we Hellenise a little with free-trade, as we Hellenised
with the Keal Estate Intestacy Bill, and with the dis-
establishment of the Irish Church by the power of
the Nonconformists' antipathy to religious establish-
ments, and see whether what our reprovers beautifully
call ministering to the diseased spirit of our time is
best done by the Hellenising method of proceeding,
or by the other.

But first let us understand how the policy of free-
trade really shapes itself for our Liberal friends, and
how they practically employ it as an instrument of
national happiness and salvation. For as we said
that it seemed clearly right to prevent the Church-
property of Ireland from being all taken for the
benefit of the Church of a small minority, so it seems
clearly right that the poor man should eat imtaxed
bread, and, generally, that restrictions and regulations
which, for the supposed benefit of some particular

VOL. m. N



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178 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [cHAP.

person or class of persons, make the price of things
artificially high here, or artificially low there, and in-
terfere with the natural flow of trade and commerce,
should be done away with. But in the policy of our
Liberal friends free-trade means more than this, and
is specially valued as a stimulant to the produc-
tion of wealth, as they call it, and to the increase of
the trade, business, and population of the country.
We have already seen how these things, — trade, busi-
ness, and population, — ^are mechanically pursued by
us as ends precious in themselves, and are worshipped
as what we call fetishes; and Mr. Bright, I have
already said, when he wishes to give the working class
a true sense of what makes glory and greatness, tells
it to look at the cities it has built^ the railroads it has
made, the manufactures it has produced. So to this
idea of glory and greatness the free-trade which our
Liberal friends extol so solemnly and devoutly, has
served, — ^to the increase of trade, business, and popu-
lation; and for this it is prized. Therefore, the
taxing of the poor man's bread has, with this view of
national happiness, been used not so much to make
the existing poor man's bread cheaper or more abun-
dant, but rather to create more poor men to eat it ; so
that we cannot precisely say that we have fewer poor
men than we had before free-trade, but we can say
with truth that we have many more centres of in-
dustry, as they are called, and much more business,
population, and manufactures. And if we are some-
times a little troubled by our multitude of poor
men, yet we know the increase of manufactures and



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VI ] OUR LIBERAL PRACTITIONERS. 179

population to be such a salutary thing in itself,
and our free -trade policy begets such an admirable
movement, creating fresh centres of industry and
fresh poor men here, while we were thinking about
our poor men there, that we are quite dazzled and
borne away, and more and more industrial move-
ment is called for, and our social progress seems to
become one triumphant and enjoyable course of
what is sometimes called, vulgarly, outrunning the
constable.

If, however, taking some other criterion of man's
well-being than the cities he has built and the manu-
factures he has produced, we persist in thinking that
our social progress would be happier if there were
not so many of us so very poor, and in busying our-
selves with notions of in some way or other adjusting
the poor man and business one to the other, and not
multiplying the one and the other mechanically and
bUndly, then our Liberal friends, the appointed doctors
of free-trade, take us up very sharply. " Art is long,"
says the Times, " and Uf e is short ; for the most part
we settle things first and understand them afterwards.
Let us have as few theories as possible; what is
wanted is not the light of speculation. If nothing
worked well of which the theory was not perfectly
understood, we should be in sad confusion. The
relations of labour and capital, we are told, are not
understood, yet trade and commerce, on the whole,
work satisfactorily." I quote from the Times of
only the other day." But thoughts like these, as
1 Written in 1869.



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180 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [chap.

I have often pointed out^ are thoroughly British
thoughts, and we have been familiar with them for
years.

Or, if we want more of a philosophy of the matter
than this, our free-trade friends have two axioms
for us, axioms laid down by their justly esteemed
doctors, which they think ought to satisfy us entirely.
One is, that, other things being equal, the more popu-
lation increases, the more does production increase to
keep pace with it ; because men by their numbers and
contact call forth all manner of activities and resources
in one another and in nature, which, when men are
few and sparse, are never developed. The other is,
that^ although population always tends to equal the
means of subsistence, yet people's notions of what
subsistence is enlarge as civilisation advances, and
take in a number of things beyond the bare
necessaries of life; and thus, therefore, is supplied
whatever check on population is needed. But the
error of our friends is precisely, perhaps, that they
apply axioms of this sort as if they were self-acting
laws which will put themselves into operation without
trouble or planning on our part, if we will only pursue
free -trade, business, and population zealously and
staunchly. Whereas the real truth is, that^ however
the case might be under other circumstances, yet in
fact, as we now manage the matter, the enlarged
conception of what is included in subsistence does not
operate to prevent the bringing into the world of
numbers of people who but just attain to the barest
necessaries of life or who even fail to attain to them ;



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VI.] OUR LIBERAL PRACTITIONERS. 181

while, again, though production may increase as popu-
lation increases, yet it seems that the production may
be of such a kind, and so related, or rather non-
related, to population, that the population may be
little the better for it

For instance, with the increase of population since
Queen Elizabeth's time the production of silk-
stockings has wonderfully increased, and silk-
stockings have become much cheaper, and procurable
in greater abundance by many more people, and tend
perhaps, as population and manufactures increase,
to get cheaper and cheaper, and at last to become,
according to Bastiat's favourite image, a common free
property of the human race, like light and air. But
bread and bacon have not become much cheaper
with the increase of population since Queen Eliza-
beth's time, nor procurable in much greater abundance
by many more people ; neither do they seem at all
to promise to become, like light and air, a common
free property of the human race. And if bread and
bacon have not kept pace with our population, and
we have many more people in want of them now
than in Queen Elizabeth's time, it seems vain to tell
us that silk-stockings have kept pace with our popu-
lation, or even more than kept pace with it, and that
we are to get our comfort out of that.

In short, it turns out that our pursuit of free- trade,
as of so many other things, has been too mechanical.
We fix upon some object, which in this case is the
production of wealth, and the increase of manufac-
tures, population, and commerce through free-trade.



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182 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [chap.

as a kind of one thing needful, or end in itself ; and
then we pursue it staunchly and mechanically, and
say that it is our duty to pursue it staunchly and
mechanically, not to see how it is related to the whole
intelligible law of things and to full human perfec-
tion, or to treat it as the piece of machinery, of
varying value as its relations to the intelligible law of
things vary, which it really is.

So it is of no use to say to the Tmes, and to our
Liberal friends rejoicing in the possession of their
talisman of free-trade, that about one in nineteen of
our population is a pauper,^ and that, this being so,
trade and commerce can hardly be said to prove by
their satisfactory working that it matters nothing
whether the relations between labour and capital are
understood or not ; nay, that we can hardly be said
not to be in sad confusion. For here our faith in the
staunch mechanical pursuit of a fixed object comes in,
and covers itself with that imposing and colossal neces-
sitarianism of the Times which we have before noticed.
And this necessitarianism, taking for granted that an
increase in trade and population is a good in itself,
one of the chiefest of goods, tells us that disturbances
of human happiness caused by ebbs and flows in the
tide of trade and business, which, on the whole,
steadily mounts, are inevitable and not to be quar-
relled with. This firm philosophy I seek to call to
mind when I am in the East of London, whither my
avocations often lead me; and, indeed, to fortify
myself against the depressing sights which on these
1 This was in 1869.



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VI.] OUR LIBERAL PRACTITIONERS. 183

occasions assail us, I have transcribed from the Times
one strain of this kind, full of the finest economical
doctrine, and always carry it about with me. The
passage is this : —

" The East End is the most commercial, the most
industrial, the most fluctuating region of the
metropolis. It is always the first to suffer ; for it is
the creature of prosperity, and falls to the ground the
instant there is no wind to bear it up. The whole of
that region is covered with huge docks, shipyards,
manufactories, and a wilderness of small houses, all
full of life and happiness in brisk times, but in dull
times withered and lifeless, like the deserts we read of
in the East. Now their 1)rief spring is over. There
is no one to blame for this ; it is the result of Nature's
simplest laws ! " We must all agree that it is impos-
sible that anything can be firmer than this, or show a
surer faith in the working of free-trade, as our Liberal
friends understand and employ it

But, if we still at all doubt whether the indefinite
multiplication of manufactories and small houses can
be such an absolute good in itself as to counter-
balance the indefinite multiplication of poor people,
we shall learn that this multiplication of poor people,
too, is an absolute good in itself, and the result of
divine and beautiful laws. This is indeed a favourite
thesis with our Philistine friends, and I have already
noticed the pride and gratitude with which they
receive certain articles in the Times, dilating m
thankful and solemn language on the majestic growth
of our population. But I prefer to quote now, on



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184 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [chap.

this topic, the words of an ingenious young Scotch
writer, Mr. Robert Buchanan, because he invests with
so much imagination and poetry this current idea of
the blessed and even divine character which the
multiplying of population is supposed in itself to have.
"We move to multiplicity," says Mr. Robert Buchanaa
" If there is one quality which seems God's, and his
exclusively, it seems that divine philoprogenitiveness,
that passionate love of distribution and expansion into
living forms. Every animal added seems a new
ecstasy to the Maker; every life added, a new
embodiment of his love. He would svxirm the earth
with beinga There are never enough. Life, life,
life, — ^faces gleaming, hearts beating, must fill every
cranny. Not a comer is suffered to remain empty.
The whole earth breeds, and Grod glories."

It is a little unjust, perhaps, to attribute to the
Divinity exclusively this philoprogenitiveness, which
the British Philistine, and the poorer class of Irish,
may certainly claim to share with him; yet how
inspiriting is here the whole strain of thought ! and
these beautiful words, too, I carry about with me in
the East of London, and often read them there. They
are quite in agreement with the popular language one
is accustomed to hear about children and large
families, which describes children as sent. And a line
of poetry, which Mr. Robert Buchanan throws in
presently after the poetical prose I have quoted, —

** 'Tis the old story of the fig-leaf time " —
this fine line, too, naturally connects itself, when one
is in the East of London, with the idea of God's desire



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VI.] OUR LIBERAL PRACTITIONERS. 185

to swaija the earth with beings; because the swarming
of the earth with beings does indeed, in the East of
London, so seem to revive the old story of the fig-leaf
time, such a number of the people one meets there
having hardly a rag to cover them ; and the more the
swarming goes on, the more it promises to revive this
old story. And when the story is perfectly revived,
the swarming quite completed, and every cranny
choke-full, then, too, no doubt, the faces in the East
of London will be gleaming faces, which Mr. Kobert
Buchanan says it is God's desire they should be, and
which every one must perceive they are not at present,
but, on the contrary, very miserable.

But to prevent all this philosophy and poetry from
quite running away with us, and making us think
with the Times^ and our practical Liberal free-traders,
and the British Philistines generally, that the increase
of houses and manufactories, or the increase of popu-
lation, are absolute goods in themselves, to be
mechanically pursued, and to be worshipped like
fetishes, — to prevent this, we have got that notion
of ours immovably fixed, of which I have long ago
spoken, the notion that culture, or the study of per-
fection, leads us to conceive of no perfection as being
real which is not a general perfection, embracing all
our fellow-men with whom we have to do. Such is
the sympathy which binds humanity together, that
we are, indeed, as our rehgion says, members of one
body, and if one member suffer, all the members
suffer with it. Individual perfection is impossible so
long as the rest of mankind are not perfected along



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186 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [CHAP.

with US. " The multitvde of the wise is the welfare
of the world," says the wise man. And to this effect
that excellent and often-quoted guide of ours, Bishop
Wilson, has some striking words : — " It is not," says
he, "so much our neighbour's interest as our own
that we love him." And again he says : " Our salva-
tion does in some measure depend upon that of
others." And the author of the Imitaton puts the
same thing admirably when he says : — " Ohscarior etiam
via ad codum videbatv/r qmndo tarn jpauci regnvm ccelorum
quoerere cmahant; the fewer there are who follow the
way to perfection, the harder that way is to find."
So all our fellow-men, in the East of London and
elsewhere, we must take along with us in the progress
towards perfection, if we ourselves really, as we pro-
fess, want to be perfect; and we must not let the
worship of any fetish, any machinery, such as manu-
factures or population, — which are not^ like perfection,
absolute goods in themselves, though we think them
so, — create for us such a multitude of miserable,
sunken, and ignorant human beings, that to carry
them all along with us is impossible, and perforce
they must for the most part be left by us in their
degradation and wretchedness. But evidently the
conception of free-trade, on which our liberal friends
vaunt themselves, and in which they think they have
found the secret of national prosperity, — evidently, I
say, the mere unfettered pursuit of the production of
wealth, and the mere mechanical multiplying, for
this end, of manufactures and population, threatens
to create for us, if it has not created already, those



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VI. 1 OUR LIBERAL PRAGTITIONERS. 187

vast, miserable, unmanageable masses of sunken
people, to the existence of which we are, as we have
seen, absolutely forbidden to reconcile ourselves, in
spite of all that the philosophy of the Times and the
poetry of Mr. Kobert Buchanan may say to persuade
us.

Hebraism in general seems powerless, almost as
powerless as our free-trading Liberal friends, to deal
efficaciously with our ever- accumulating masses of
pauperism, and to prevent their accumulating still
more. Hebraism builds churches, indeed, for these
masses, and sends missionaries among them; above
all, it sets itself against the social necessitarianism of
the Times, and refuses to accept their degradation as
inevitable. But with regard to their ever-increasing
accumulation, it seems to be led to the very same
conclusions, though from a point of view of its own,
as our free-trading Liberal friends. Hebraism, with
that mechanical and misleading use of the letter of
Scripture on which we have already commented, is
governed by such texts as : Be fruitful and mvltijplyy
the edict of God^s law, as Mr. Chambers would say ;
or by the declaration of what he would call God's
word in the Psalms, that the man who has a great
number of children is thereby made happy. And in
conjunction with such texts as these, Hebraism is apt
to place another text : The jpoor shall never cease oui of
the land. Thus Hebraism is conducted to nearly the
same notion as the popular mind and as Mr. Kobert
Buchanan, that children are sent, and that the divine
nature takes a delight in swarming the East End of



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188 CULTURE AND ANARCHY. [chap.

London with paupers. Only, when they are perish-
ing in their helplessness and wretchedness, it asserts
the Christian duty of succouring them, instead of
saying, like the Times: "Now their brief spring is
over ; there is nobody to blame for this ; it is the
result of Nature's simplest laws ! " But, like the
Times, Hebraism despairs of any help from knowledge
and says that " what is wanted is not the light of
speculation.'*

I remember, only the other day, a good man look-
ing with me upon a multitude of children who were
gathered before us in one of the most miserable regions
of London, — children eaten up with disease, half-sized,
half-fed, half-clothed, neglected by their parents, with-
out health, without home, without hope, — said to me :
" The one thing really needful is to teach these little
ones to succour one another, if only with a cup of
cold water ; but now, from one end of the country to
the other, one hears nothing but the cry for know-
ledge, knowledge, knowledge ! " And yet surely, so
long as these children are there in these festering
masses, without health, without home, without hope,
and so long -as their multitude is perpetually sweUing,
charged with misery they must still be for themselves,
charged with misery they must still be for us, whether
they help one another with a cup of cold water or
no ; and the knowledge how to prevent their accumu-
lating is necessary, even to give their moral life and
growth a fair chance !

May we not, therefore, say, that neither the true
Hebraism of this good man, willing to spend and be



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VI.] OUR LIBERAL PRACTITIONERS. 189

spent for these sunken multitudes, nor what I may
call the spurious Hebraism of our free-trading Liberal
friends, — ^mechanically worshipping their fetish of the
production of wealth and of the increase of manufac-
tures and population, and looking neither to the right
nor left so long as this increase goes on, — avail us
much here ; and that here, again, what we want is
Hellenism, the letting our consciousness play freely
and simply upon the facts before us, and listening to
what it tells us of the intelligible law of things as
concerns them ? And surely what it tells us is, that
a man's children are not really sent, any more than


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