صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

were

a

[ocr errors]

tacit way accepted them, or at least of English society, which, if there has seldom found courage to protest was the faintest shadow of lifeagainst such a voluble battery of resemblance in them, only showed abuse. It is like the case of the un- into what peculiar circles the author fortunate gentleman, upon whom, enjoyed an exclusive ticket of adwhen in perfect health, his friends mission. They appeared originally practised the cruel jest of exclaim- in the pages of Punch; and would ing, as they met him one by one in not be worth referring to at all, if the street—“Good heavens, how they had not been republished, and ill you are looking !” and who thereby received, to a certain exwent home, took to his bed, and tent, an imprimatur from the andied—in deference to his friends' thor's maturer judgment. Some of opinion. No man or woman likes them—the sketches of “political to be called a “flunkey," or a “bea- snobs”. withdrawn; the dle”—parochial or extra-parochial; writer shall give his own reasonbut, like delicate reputations under“ because they were so stupid,-so a loud slander, they often submit snobbish, in a word.” It would in shrinking silence rather than have been wiser, and more worthy moot the question. “Am I a flun- of his well-won position in the key ? do I look, speak, act, think ranks of literature, if this selflike a flunkey? why does this man sacrifice had been extended to the and that man assume that I am a whole. But unfortunately there flunkey?” Such must be the sort of was a temptation to retain them ; catechetical lecture which many an their key-note was one which the alarmed “ordinary reader" inflicts writers of this school think can upon himself, fresh from the enjoy- never be sounded too wide or too ment (?) of the last paper of a clever loudly, and which is always sure essayist, or the last chapter of a to call down popular applause-of satirical novel. For even profes- some sort. sional flunkeys and valets, be it re

“Rank and precedence, forsooth !membered, are not proud of the the table of ranks and degrees is a lie, title ; they prefer to call themselves, and should be flung into the fire. Orand to be called by others, some- ganise rank and precedence ! that was body's “man”-or even somebody's well for the masters of ceremonies of gentleman." No wonder that, as

former ages. Come forward some great an amateur profession, we are all marshal, and organise Equality in society,

and your rod shall swallow up all the shy of confessing to it.

juggling old court gold-sticks. If this Let us examine a little this term

is not gospel-truth-if the world does “flunkeyism,” so largely and reck- not tend to this--if hereditary great-man lessly used of late. It was from worship is not a humbug and an idolatry Mr Carlyle's mint, or at least a child let us have the Stuarts back again,

and of his adoption. But the word and crop

the Free Press's ears in the the idea have passed into other

pillory: hands, and have been adopted by Now such a piece of mouthing writers who address a larger circle ; as this might be all very well for for Mr Carlyle, however piquant, is Punch. Even that amusing periohardly reading for the million. A dical cannot always find the supply very able and popular writer—who of wit or novelty equal to the weekcan do better things-gave to the ly demand, and probably finds its world some time ago a series which interest, in a pecuniary point of he entitled the Snob Papers. Their view, in giving a “column for the apparent aim was to show up the pot-house occasionally. There universal tendency in English so- appeared, in one of its late numciety to toady the great, to worship bers, a woodcut (apropos to norank, and especially to “ignore thing), representing a huge mushArts and Letters." These papers room with a coronet on the top; described scenes in various grades round which several stout gentlemen

a

a

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

in white waistcoats (happy emblems to make the voyage to China for the of a British public) were bowing in sake of the opportunity to perform adoration ; intended, no doubt, to the kotoo. “It is impossible," we are teach a certain class of readers, to told, “ for any Briton, perhaps, not whom pictures are more intelligible to be a snob in some degree. The than small pica, the same great mo- British public, it is true, takes all ral lesson. It is easy to imagine this in the quietest way possible; such a paragraph as the above cov- perhaps it believes it; perhaps it ered with honourable scars from doesn't care about it; perhaps such black and beery fingers, and quoted is its snobbish nature that it “ likes as a burst of genuine eloquence to be despised.” “That's your sort for touching up Still, it is worth while to ask, the haristocracy !” But really, for what is the meaning of it all í an English gentleman to include it what are the grounds for this sweepdeliberately in a collected edition ing assertion, that "all English soof his works, is a humiliating fact ciety is cursed by this superstition" in the literary history of the day. —that we are all“ sneaking and “Gospel - truth, forsooth ! - one bowing and cringing on the one shrinks from dealing with such hand, or bullying and scorning on questions here ; but if one were to the other, from the highest to the answer such declaimers in their own lowest ?" A very unpleasant “ gosspirit, according to their folly" - pel"

this; not to be embraced hasti“”- ” if one were not willing always to ly, though it be proclaimed ever so remember that the author of these loudly in the marketplace. A man papers has written in a Christian is not a flunkey because two or three spirit elsewhere—one would be jus clever gentlemen call him so. I tified in asking whether they had suspect that under this term of reever really studied this “Gospel” proach is comprehended a good deal which is so often in their mouths. of what used to be called respect Rank and Precedence, indeed, are for one's betters—recognition of the not“Gospel" words, any more than legitimate claims of rank and staLiberty and Equality and a Free tion; in short, to go back to an oldPress; but the One Authority, to fashioned formula, still taught in whom we all sometimes so rashly some benighted districts as a rule of appeal, as surely recognises the life to children,—“ behaving one's

upper rooms of society, and self lowly and reverently to all one's “honour amongst them that sit at betters.” But the school of which meat,' —as decidedly admits what I am speaking does not confess to we call position as a legitimate ob- any betters; and as to reverence, if ject in social life, provided it be there is to be any such feeling, it is sought without obtrusiveness,-in rather the worsers of society who short, sanctions all kinds and de- are to be reverenced; their compangrees of inequality in men's earthly ionship is to be cultivated, their narelationships as distinctly as it pro- tural weaknesses condoned, their claims their equality in the “larger prejudices respected. What is vice and other eyes” of Heaven.

in May-Fair becomes a kind of unThe peculiarity about this charge licensed virtue in St Giles's. of flunkeyism is that it is launched There is an old chivalrous sentiindiscriminately at the heads of all ment known to us and to our foreher Majesty's subjects; and the pre- fathers by the name of loyalty. It sumption is that Majesty itself is can hardly be denied that it has only exempted by the hardship of given birth to some of the most its position; that it would be de- gallant deeds in history. It has lighted to take a part in the gene- been hitherto the pride and honest ral bowing and scraping, if it could boast of every Englishman. But find somebody to receive the hom- now, in some quarters, if confessed age; and that it is almost tempted at all, it is under apologies and dis

[ocr errors]

guises. We are continually invited still allowable, I conclude, for a to respect and admire the highest clergyman (at all events for a curate) Lady in the land on grounds which to perform a mild kotooto his bishop, are carefully limited to personal and a middy may still be expected and private character; because she to touch his cap to the captain on has set an admirable example as the quarterdeck; but both these daughter, wife, and mother; because classes can only be considered as the moral atmosphere of her Court sucking Britons, not yet admitted is pure ; because she rises early, to their full national privileges. walks about, and goes to church It is wonderful indeed that if like other excellent women; all such plain-speaking “gospel-truths" which facts are happily true, and are truths at all, so many of us are national blessings, for which we should still refuse to see the error of may very well be thankful. But their ways. Human nature in Engthere seems to be a tacit implica- land must be, as Mrs Stowe's niggers tion, that if she were less than all say, “ drefful wicked.” How otherthis, the claim on the nation's re- wise could people still be found so spect would be reduced to an al- lost to all sense of propriety as to go most nominal term ; “quamdiu se to Court at all, still less to desire bene gesserit,” is the tenure by which stars and garters, and suchlike tinmodern loyalty limits its devotion. sel? It is astonishing that when Surely there is a principle, besides her Majesty holds a Chapter of the and beyond this, upon which men most noble Order of the Bath, or are bound to “honour the Queen;" Thistle, or whatever it may be, that if to attach the allegiance to the natural good-sense and propriety, personal character, and not to the which we are taught entitles that office, be one of the precepts of this Royal Lady to our allegiance, does

"gospel," assuredly it is the not lead her, instead of giving the very contradiction of the old. accolade to the noble knight-ex

Modern loyalty is content, how- pectant, to box his ears, and bid him ever, for the present always with begone for a goose. The “yeomen these apologies and reservations, of the guard on duty” cannot be to recognise the Throne. A man real English yeomen, or they would is not to be included in the charge certainly drive York or Lancaster of Flunkeyism because he takes off herald, whichever it might be, wearhis hat to the Queen. I am by no ing his “collar and chain and badge” means so confident as to the Prince (as though he were the very genius Consort. I feel it would require of flunkeyism), out of the royal prea certain amount of moral courage sence in disgust. How any duke, -which I trust would be forth- since the eyes of the public were coming-for me to pay him that thus at last opened, can get any one mark of ordinary civility in Hyde to dine with him—except another Park, if I felt that the awful eyes duke—and where those people who of Punch or “the Snob” were upon still persist in dining with dukes me. But as for allowing this modi (when they are asked) expect to go cum of respect to descend an inch to, are questions which lead us into lower in the social scale - as for the very depths of social depravity. feeling or showing any kind of defe- The only comfortable refuge from rence to a man because he happens such preaching lies in blank infito be a Duke, or a Knight of the delity; a distinct denial of the docGarter, or a Prime Minister,—that trine that Rank and Precedence are sort of thing, we all now under not good things—legitimate objects stand (if we don't, it is from no ne- of ambition for ourselves, and of glect on the part of our teachers) is respect in the person of others; and

plush," "flunkeyism,”and all those of the assertion that a mean cringother pretty names we find in this ing to them is the characteristic of new philosophical dictionary. It is the mass of English society. One

new

[ocr errors]

room

[ocr errors]

need not wonder how this cry against very well for Pleasure to go about artificial social distinctions survives in the very decided negligé in from age to age, and borrows a which Mr Noel Paton's picture refreshness of tone every now and presents her, secure of drawing then when taken up by a clever votaries enough in her pursuit; but performer. These externals of Duty, or Virtue, by whatever name society always present an admir- she calls herself, is so very commonable field to the satirist; there is place and uninteresting, that she always an absurd point from which needs to have her drawing - ro they may be viewed, which com- dress on in order to attract a followmands an amused and attentive ing. Even when she made that audience (for there are few whom little tour in Ireland, under Tommy some social line does not exclude); Moore's auspices, relying upon and carries with it the semblance of “ Erin's honour and Erin's pride," an independent spirit which charms and that sort of thing, she travelled, the self-love of both writer and as we all remember, in full courtreader. And, on the other hand, it dress; is dull and stupid work to call into

“Rich and rare were the gems she court all the old witnesses in favour wore"of hereditary rank and titular nobility ; they have been heard long and she even carried a “gold stick.” ago, and have little to say that is Paddy himself might have failed to new ; the case has really been de- recognise her, if she had adopted cided often already upon their evi

Pleasure's costume. Human enerdence, and will be so again. After gies require some other stimulant, all, the best evidence in favour of unfortunately, besides the approval such social distinctions is of the of a good conscience. strict legal kind — adverse posses- “Honour, lovo, obedience, troops of sion; they have held their ground,

friends," identical in the main, from such are the prizes which all grown-up time as “the memory of man run- children, who are good for anything, neth not to the contrary." If these like to carry off. If wealth connew teachers of ours were genuine ferred nothing upon a successful philosophers, they would know that man except plenty of beef and pudTo shams” do not last so long. ding, it would be a meaner thing

Deference to rank and station is than it is. It was well pointed out a principle which lies deep in man's some time ago, that the nation had social nature, and develops itself a store of coveted wealth that would as society develops. It is liable,

It is liable, cost it nothing, and yet satisfy many of course, to run into extremes and an honest craving, in “bits of ribabuses, like everything else. But bon"-judiciously bestowed. the feeling itself is one of the props But here I can understand that I of social life. The wheels on which should be interrupted at once by the great machine works cannot be the reply, that it is quite right to all of the finest gold ; you must put bestow a bit of ribbon, or a modicum in some mechanism of coarser metal of deference, for any service actu-inferior motives (meaner motives, ally done the commonwealth. But if you will), in order to keep all that to hand down the bit of ribgoing. What the acquisition of bon from generation to generation real power is to the higher spirits, —to expect deference to be paid by that the semblance of power is to individuals or honours reserved by lower ambitions ; influence over the State for Alexander the Little others, distinction above others, of because Alexander the Great was some kind or other, is as natural to his father, - this is the outrage us all as any other appetite, and against which the finer sense of serves, like other motives, to keep Equal Right rebels. Or, as a witty us all up to our work. It is all French writer pleasantly puts it, if

a

a

some consideration be due to the tory, than in the most successful of son of Racine, you can scarcely spin his romances; and as his pride was out the great tragedian's merit to in the past, so his hopes were for cover the shortcomings of the next the future. “His first and last generation; "the grandson is bound worldly ambition " (not, alas ! to be to write tragedies for himself.” The gratified) was, his biographer tells best answer is, that perhaps Racine us, “ to be the founder of a distinct himself would hardly have said so. branch ;” he “dreamt not of perNeither men of letters, nor men of sonal fame, but of long distant action, work in this world merely generations rejoicing in the name for their place and pay. They de- of ‘Scott of Abbotsford.'” “It is sire—and often the more earnestly easy enough,” the writer goes on to if they themselves have risen from say, “to smile at all this ; many the ranks—to leave a name behind will not understand it, and some them which shall secure a definite who do may pity it. But it was rank and station for their children, at least a different thing from the and their children's children. It is modern vulgar ambition of amassone of the most powerful, and not ing a fortune and investing it in one of the worst, motives to human land." There is no need to multiexertion ; and there is not one that ply instances. If the shadow of can be spared. It is surely one of flunkeyism rests upon Scott and the least selfish. We shall not live Nelson, because they had set their to see it ; but, none the less, we hearts upon winning for their delike to think our children shall in- scendants a certain position and preherit, not the mere dross of gold cedence in society, and went to their and silver that we may have stored rest in the hope that posterity would for them, but such poor honour and recognise the claim, then you and respect as the world has seen fit I, good reader, will not be over to accord to us. Burke, in the Bri- careful to answer for ourselves in tish House of Commons, touched a this matter. chord that thrilled even in the cold For, be it remembered, in this breasts of politicians, when he said question of hereditary claims of that he had hoped to have been, place and worship, we must give and " according to his mediocrity, and take. If the successful general or the mediocrity of the age he lived the distinguished statesman looks in," in some sort “the founder of a to a peerage as the fitting reward of family;” but that, since he had lost his own services, and sees in the his son, he would not give “a peck future descent of his honours the of refuse wheat for all that is called testimony of a nation's gratitude fame and honour in the world.” outliving his own frail tenure of “A peerage—or Westminster Ab- life, he must have been content to bey!" was the hope with which recognise the same claim in the Nelson went into action at the Nile. inheritors of the honours of past There was truth enough in the generations. If you or I would wish apology offered by the Minister of that poor little Naboth’s vineyard the day for making him only a of ours to descend in security to our baron-that no man would think children's children, we must be conof measuring the pattern of Nelson's tent not to remove our neighbour's coronet ; but the explanation nei- landmarks, however inconveniently ther excused the meanness of the some coveted corner may interfere Government, nor soothed the hero's with our own. And the law of natural mortification. Sir Walter honours ought to be the same in Scott—as noble and kindly a spirit principle as the law of property. as was ever given to this lower Territorial possessions, or even moworld—took more pride and plea- ney in its baldest shape, are the sure in the smallest link that he warrants of successful exertion or could recover of his old family his- industry in some time past; for even

[ocr errors]
« السابقةمتابعة »