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No. IV.



my last essay I showed that it was possible for a constitutional monarch to be, when occasion served, of firstrate use both at the outset and during the continuance of an administration; but that in matter of fact it was not likely that he would be useful. The requisite ideas, habits, and faculties far surpass the usual competence of an average man, educated in the common manner of sovereigns. The same arguments are entirely applicable at the close of an administration. But at that conjuncture the two most singular prerogatives of an English king-the power of creating new peers and the power of dissolving the Commons-come into play; and we cannot duly criticise the use or misuse of these powers till we know what the peers are and what the House of Commons is.

The use of the House of Lords-or, rather, of the Lords, in its dignified capacity-is very great. It does not attract so much reverence as the Queen, but it attracts very much. The office of an order of nobility is to impose on the common people-not necessarily to impose on them what is untrue, yet less what is hurtful; but

still to impose on their quiescent imaginations what would not otherwise be there. The fancy of the mass of men is incredibly weak; it can see nothing without a visible symbol, and there is much that it can scarcely make out with a symbol. Nobility is the symbol of mind. It has the marks from which the mass of men always used to infer mind, and often still infer it. A common clever man who goes into a country place will get no reverence; but the "old squire" will get reverence. Even after he is insolvent, when every one knows that his ruin is but a question of time, he will get five times as much respect from the common peasantry as the newlymade rich man who sits beside him. The common peasantry will listen to his nonsense more submissively than to the new man's sense. An old lord will get infinite respect. His very existence is so far useful that it awakens the sensation of obedience to a sort of mind in the coarse, dull, contracted multitude, who could neither appreciate or perceive any other.

This is the

He is

The order of nobility is of great use, too, not only in what it creates, but in what it prevents. It prevents the rule of wealth-the religion of gold. obvious and natural idol of the Anglo-Saxon. always trying to make money; he reckons everything in coin; he bows down before a great heap, and sneers as he passes a little heap. He has a "natural instinctive admiration of wealth for its own sake." And within good limits the feeling is quite right. So long as we play the game of industry vigorously and eagerly (and I hope we

shall long play it, for we must be very different from what we are if we do anything better), we shall of necessity respect and admire those who play successfully, and a little despise those who play unsuccessfully. Whether this feeling be right or wrong, it is useless to discuss; to a certain degree, it is involuntary: it is not for mortals to settle whether we will have it or not; nature settles for us that, within moderate limits, we must have it. But the admiration of wealth in many countries goes far beyond this; it ceases to regard in any degree the skill of acquisition; it respects wealth in the hands of the inheritor just as much as in the hands of the maker; it is a simple envy and love of a heap of gold as a heap of gold. From this our aristocracy preserves us. There is no country where a 66 poor devil of a millionnaire is so ill off as in England." The experiment is tried every day, and every day it is proved that money alone-money pur et simple -will not buy "London Society." Money is kept down, and, so to say, cowed by the predominant authority of a different power.

But it may be said that this is no gain; that worship for worship, the worship of money is as good as the worship of rank. Even granting that it were so, it is a great gain to society to have two idols; in the competition of idolatries, the true worship gets a chance. But it is not true that the reverence for rank—at least, for hereditary rank-is as base as the reverence for money. As the world has gone, manner has been half-hereditary in certain castes, and manner is one of the fine arts. It is the

style of society; it is in the daily-spoken intercourse of human beings what the art of literary expression is in their occasional written intercourse. In reverencing wealth we reverence not a man, but an appendix to a man; in reverencing inherited nobility, we reverence the probable possession of a great faculty-the faculty of bringing out what is in one. The unconscious grace of life may be in the middle classes: finely-mannered persons are born everywhere; but it ought to be in the aristocracy; and a man must be born with a hitch in his nerves if he has not some of it. It is a physiological possession of the race, though it is sometimes wanting in the individual.

There is a third idolatry from which that of rank preserves us, and perhaps it is the worst of any—that of office. The basest deity is a subordinate employé, and yet just now in civilised governments it is the commonest. In France and all the best of the Continent it rules like a superstition. It is to no purpose that you prove that the pay of petty officials is smaller than mercantile pay; that their work is more monotonous than mercantile work ; that their mind is less useful and their life more tame. They are still thought to be greater and better. They are decorés; they have a little red on the left breast of their coat, and no argument will answer that. In England, by the odd course of our society, what a theorist would desire has in fact turned up. The great offices, whether permanent or parliamentary, which require mind now give social prestige, and almost only those. An Under-Secretary of State with £2,000 a-year is a much greater man than

the director of a finance company with £5,000, and the country saves the difference. But except in a few offices like the Treasury, which were once filled with aristocratic people, and have an odour of nobility at second-hand, minor place is of no social use. A big grocer despises the exciseman; and what in many countries would be thought impossible, the exciseman envies the grocer. Solid wealth tells where there is no artificial dignity given to petty public functions. A clerk in the public service is "nobody;" and you could not make a common Englishman see why he should be anybody.

But it must be owned that this turning of society into a political expedient has half spoiled it. A great part of the "best" English people keep their mind in a state of decorous dulness. They maintain their dignity; they get obeyed; they are good and charitable to their dependants. But they have no notion of play of mind; no conception that the charm of society depends upon it. They think cleverness an antic, and have a constant though needless horror of being thought to have any of it. So much does this stiff dignity give the tone, that the few Englishmen capable of social brilliancy mostly secrete it. They reserve it for persons whom they can trust, and whom they know to be capable of appreciating its nuances. But a good government is well worth a great deal of social dulness. The dignified torpor of English society is inevitable if we give precedence, not to the cleverest classes, but to the oldest classes, and we have seen how useful that is.

The social prestige of the aristocracy is, as every one

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