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MATTHEW ARNOLD (1822–1888)
Lightly I sped when hope was high,
And youth beguiled the chase; I follow follow still; but I
Shall never see her Face.
FROM CULTURE AND ANARCHY
SWEETNESS AND LIGHT
SIDNEY DOBELL (1824-1874)
The disparagers of culture make its motive curiosity; sometimes, indeed, they make its
motive mere exclusiveness and vanity. The AMERICA
culture which is supposed to plume itself on a
smattering of Greek and Latin is a culture I
which is begotten by nothing so intellectual
as curiosity; it is valued either out of sheer Men say, Columbia, we shall hear thy guns. vanity and ignorance or else as an engine of But in what tongue shall be thy battle-cry?
social and class distinction, separating its Not that our sires did love in years gone by,
holder, like a badge or title, from other people When all the Pilgrim Fathers were little sons who have not got it. No serious man would In merrie homes of Englaunde? Back, and call this culture, or attach any value to it, as
culture, at all. To find the real ground for Thy satchel'd ancestor! Behold, he runs the very different estimate which serious people To mine, and, clasp'd, they tread the equal lca will set upon culture, we must find some To the same village-school, where side by side
motive for culture in the terms of which may They spell “our Father.” Hard by, the twin- lie a real ambiguity; and such a motive the pride
word curiosity gives us. Of that grey hall whose ancient oriel gleams I have before now pointed out that we EngThro' yon baronial pines, with looks of light lish do not, like the foreigners, use this word Our sister-mothers sit beneath one tree. in a good sense as well as in a bad sense. Meanwhile our Shakespeare wanders past and
With us the word is always used in a somewhat
disapproving sense. A liberal and intelligent His Helena and Hermia. Shall we fight? eagerness about the things of the mind may be
meant by a foreigner when he speaks of curi
osity, but with us the word always conveys II
a certain notion of frivolous and unedifying
activity. In the Quarterly Review, some little Nor force nor fraud shall sunder us! O ye
time ago, was an estimate of the celebrated Who north or south, on east or western land, French critic, M. Sainte-Beuve, and a very Native to noble sounds, say truth for truth,
inadequate estimate it in my judgment was. Freedom for freedom, love for love, and God
And its inadequacy consisted chiefly in this: For God; O ye who in eternal youth
that in our English way it left out of sight Speak with a living and creative flood
the double sense really involved in the word This universal English, and do stand
curiosity, thinking enough was said to stamp Its breathing book; live worthy of that grand
M. Sainte-Beuve with blame if it was said that Heroic utterance parted, yet a whole,
he was impelled in his operations as a critic Far, yet unsevered, children brave and free
by curiosity, and omitting either to perceive Of the great Mother-tongue, and ye shall be
that M. Sainte-Beuve himself, and many other Lords of an Empire wide as Shakespeare's people with him, would consider that this was
soul, Sublime as Milton's immemorial theme,
praiseworthy and not blameworthy, or to point
out why it ought really to be accounted worthy And rich as Chaucer's speech, and fair as of blame and not of praise. For as there is a Spenser's dream.
curiosity about intellectual matters which is futile, and merely a disease, so there is certainly a curiosity, a desire after the things of the mind simply for their own sakes and for the pleasure of seeing them as they are, which is, in an intelligent being, natural and
laudable. Nay, and the very desire to see this, for a basis of action; what distinguishes things as they are implies a balance and regu- culture is, that it is possessed by the scientific lation of mind which is not often attained with- passion as well as by the passion of doing out fruitful effort, and which is the very oppo- good; that it demands worthy notions of site of the blind and diseased impulse of mind reason and the will of God, and does not which is what we mean to blame when we readily suffer its own crude conceptions to blame curiosity. Montesquieu' says: “The substitute themselves for them. And knowfirst motive which ought to impel us to study ing that no action or institution can be saluis the desire to augment the excellence of our tary and stable which is not based on reason nature, and to render an intelligent being yet and the will of God, it is not so bent on acting more intelligent.” This is the true ground to and instituting, even with the great aim of assign for the genuine scientific passion, how- diminishing human error and misery ever ever manifested, and for culture, viewed before its thoughts, but that it can remember simply as a fruit of this passion; and it is a that acting and instituting are of little use, worthy ground, even though we let the term unless we know how and what we ought to curiosity stand to describe it.
act and to institute. But there is of culture another view, in This culture is more interesting and more which not solely the scientific passion, the far-reaching thay that other, which is founded sheer desire to see things as they are, natural solely on the scientific passion for knowing. and proper in an intelligent being, appears as But it needs times of faith and ardour, times the ground of it. There is a view in which all when the intellectual horizon is opening and the love of our neighbour, the impulses toward widening all round us, to flourish in. And is action, help, and beneficence, the desire for not the close and bounded intellectual horizon removing human error, clearing human con- within which we have long lived and moved fusion, and diminishing human misery, the now lifting up, and are not new lights finding noble aspiration to leave the world better and free passage to shine in upon us ? For a long happier than we found it, motives emi- time there was no passage for them to make nently such as are called social, come in as their way in upon us, and then it was of no use part of the grounds of culture, and the main to think of adapting the world's action to them. and preëminent part. Culture is then Where was the hope of making reason and the properly described not as having its origin in will of God prevail among people who had a curiosity, but as having its origin in the love routine which they had christened reason and of perfection; it is a study of perfection. It the will of God, in which they were inextrimoves by the force, not merely or primarily of cably bound, and beyond which they had no the scientific passion for pure knowledge, but power of looking? But now the iron force of also of the moral and social passion for doing adhesion to the old routine, — social, political, good. As, in the first view of it, we took for religious -- has wonderfully yielded; the iron its worthy motto Montesquieu's words: “To force of exclusion of all which is new has render an intelligent being yet more intelli- wonderfully yielded. The danger now is, not gent !” so, in the second view of it, there is that people should obstinately refuse to allow no better motto which it can have than these anything but their old routine to pass for words of Bishop Wilson :“To make reason reason and the will of God, but. either that and the will of God prevail !”
they should allow some novelty or other to Only, whereas the passion for doing good is pass for these too easily, or else that they apt to be overhasty in determining what should underrate the importance of them reason and the will of God say, because its turn altogether, and think it enough to follow is for acting rather than thinking and it wants action fof its own sake, without troubling to be beginning to act; and whereas it is apt themselves to make reason and the will of God to take its own conceptions, which proceed prevail therein. Now, then, is the moment from its own state of development and share for culture to be of service, culture which in all the imperfections and immaturities of believes in making reason and the will of
God prevail, believes in perfection, is the 1 a French philosopher (1689-1755), author of study and pursuit of perfection, and is no the famous L'esprit des lois 2 Thomas Wilson longer debarred, by a rigid invincible ex(1663-1755), Bishop of Sodor and Man
clusion of whatever is new, from getting
acceptance for its ideas, simply because they to itself, in the endless expansion of its powers, are new.
in endless growth in wisdom and beauty, that The moment this view of culture is seized, the spirit of the human race finds its ideal. the moment it is regarded not solely as the To reach this ideal, culture is an indispensable endeavour to see things as they are, to draw aid, and that is the true value of culture.” towards a knowledge of the universal order Not a having and a resting, but a growing which seems to be intended and aimed at in and a becoming, is the character of perfection the world, and which it is a man's happiness as culture conceives it; and here, too, it cointo go along with or his misery to go counter to, cides with religion.
to learn, in short, the will of God, — the And because men are all members of one moment, I say, culture is considered not great whole, and the sympathy which is in merely as the endeavour to see and learn this, human nature will not allow one member to but as the endeavour, also, to make it prevail, be indifferent to the rest or to have a perfect the mbral, social, and beneficent character of welfare independent of the rest, the expansion culture becomes manifest. The mere endeav- of our humanity, to suit the idea of perfection our to see and learn the truth for our own which culture forms, must be a general expanpersonal satisfaction is indeed a commence- sion. Perfection, as culture conceives it, is ment for making it prevail, a preparing the not possible while the individual remains isoway for this, which always serves this, and is lated. The individual is required, under pain wrongly, therefore, stamped with blame abso- of being stunted and enfeebled in his own lutely in itself and not only in its caricature development if he disobeys, to carry others and degeneration. But perhaps it has got along with him in his march towards perfecstamped with blame, and disparaged with the tion, to be continually doing all he can to endubious title of curiosity, because in compari- large and increase the volume of the human son with this wider endeavour of such great stream sweeping thitherward. And here, once and plain utility it looks selfish, petty, and more, culture lays on us the same obligation as unprofitable.
religion, which says, as Bishop Wilson has And religion, the greatest and most im- admirably put it, that “to promote the kingportant of the efforts by which the human race dom of God is to increase and hasten one's has manifested its impulse to perfect itself, own happiness.” religion, that voice of the deepest human ex- But, finally, perfection, -as culture from perience, does not only enjoin and sanction a thorough disinterested study of human the aim which is the great aim of culture, the nature and human experience learns to conaim of setting ourselves to ascertain what per- ceive it, — is a harmonious expansion of all fection is and to make it prevail; but also, in the powers which make the beauty and worth determining generally in what human perfec- of human nature, and is not consistent with tion consists, religion comes to a conclusion the over-development of any one power at the identical with that which culture, -culture expense of the rest, Here culture goes beyond seeking the determination of this question religion, as religion is generally conceived through all the voices of human experience by us. which have been heard upon it, of art, science, If culture, then, is a study of perfection, and poetry, philosophy, history, as well as of re- of harmonious perfection, general perfection, ligion, in order to give a greater fulness and and perfection which consists in becoming certainty to its solution, likewise reaches. something rather than in having something, in Religion says: The kingdom of God is within an inward condition of the mind and spirit, you; and culture, in like manner, places hu- not in an outward set of circumstances, – it is man perfection in an internal condition, in the clear that culture, instead of being the frivogrowth and predominance of our humanity lous and useless thing which Mr. Bright," and proper, as distinguished from our animality. Mr. Frederic Harrison, and many other LiberIt places it in the ever-increasing efficacy and als are apt to call it, has a very important in the general harmonious expansion of those function to fulfil for mankind. And this gifts of thought and feeling, which make the peculiar dignity, wealth, and happiness of 1 John Bright (1811-89), English Liberal human nature. As I have said on a former statesman and orator 2 (b. 1831), essayist and occasion: “It is in making endless additions leader of the Positivist philosophy in England
function is particularly important in our these things as if they were precious ends in modern world, of which the whole civilisation themselves, and therefore had some of the is, to a much greater degree than the civilisa- characters of perfection indisputably joined tion of Greece and Rome, mechanical and to them. I have before now noticed Mr. external, and tends constantly to become Roebuck's stock argument for proving the more so.
But above all in our own country greatness and happiness of England as she has culture a weighty part to perform, because is, and for quite stopping the mouths of all here that mechanical character, which civili- gainsayers. Mr. Roebuck is never weary of sation tends to take everywhere, is shown reiterating this argument of his, so I do not in the most eminent degree. Indeed nearly know why I should be weary of noticing it. all the characters of perfection, as culture “May not every man in England say what teaches us to fix them, meet in this country he likes?” -- Mr. Roebuck perpetually asks; with some powerful tendency which thwarts and that, he thinks, is quite sufficient, and them and sets them at defiance. The idea when every man may say what he likes, our of perfection as an inward condition of the aspirations ought to be satisfied. But the mind and spirit is at variance with the mechan- aspirations of culture, which is the study of ical and material civilisation in esteem with us, perfection, are not satisfied, unless what men and nowhere, as I have said, so much in esteem say, when they may say what they like, is as with us. The idea of perfection as a general worth saying, has good in it, and more good expansion of the human family is at variance than bad. In the same way the Times, with our strong individualism, our hatred of all replying to some foreign strictures on the limits to the unrestrained swing of the indi- dress, looks, and behaviour of the English vidual's personality, our maxim of “every man abroad, urges that the English ideal is that for himself.” Above all, the idea of perfection every one should be free to do and to look just as a harmonious expansion of human nature as he likes. But culture indefatigably tries, is at variance with our want of flexibility, with not to make what each raw person may like our inaptitude for seeing more than one side the rule by which he fashions himself; but to of a thing, with our intense energetic absorp- draw ever nearer to a sense of what is indeed tion in the particular pursuit we happen to be beautiful, graceful, and becoming, and to get following. So culture has a rough task to the raw person to like that. achieve in this country. Its preachers have, And in the same way with respect to railand are likely long to have, a hard time of it, roads and coal. Every one must have oband they will much oftener be regarded, for a served the strange language current during great while to come, as elegant or spurious the late discussions as to the possible failure Jeremiahs than as friends and benefactors. of our supplies of coal. Our coal, thousands That, however, will not prevent their doing of people were saying, is the real basis of our in the end good service if they persevere. national greatness; if our coal runs short, And, meanwhile, the mode of action they have there is an end of the greatness of England. to pursue, and the sort of habits they must But what is greatness? — culture makes us fight against, ought to be made quite clear ask. Greatness is a spiritual condition for every one to see, who may be willing to worthy to excite love, interest, and admiralook at the matter attentively and dispassion- tion; and the outward proof of possessing ately.
greatness is that we excite love, interest, and Faith in machinery is, I said, our besetting admiration. If England were swallowed up danger; often in machinery most absurdly dis- by the sea to-morrow, which of the two, a proportioned to the end which this machin- hundred years hence, would most excite the ery, if it is to do any good at all, is to serve; love, interest, and admiration of mankind, but always in machinery, as if it had a value would most, therefore, show the evidences of in and for itself. What is freedom but ma- having possessed greatness, -- the England
chinery? what is population but machinery? of the last twenty years, or the England of what is coal but machinery? what are rail- Elizabeth, of a time of splendid spiritual roads but machinery? what is wealth but effort, but when our coal, and our industrial machinery? what are, even, religious organi- operations depending on coal, were very sations but machinery? Now almost every little developed? Well, then, what an unvoice in England is accustomed to speak of sound habit of mind it must be which makes