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Beware of beans ! Pythagoras.
The right thing to do, if only possible, is to avoid politics altogether. Matters political are more satisfactorily treated in England than anywhere else that I know of: yet can a gentleman look at the work of a contested election in an English borough, or enter the lobby of the House of Commons, without a feeling of immeasurable disgust ? And in the House itself what contemptible motives are patent! In the Times report of today I find it stated that Professor Fawcett told the Prime Minister of England that he retained a majority merely by holding over his supporters the threat that if defeated he would dissolve or resign. I fear the erudite professor was quite right. The Premier likes office-I refer to no particular Premier—and his supporters like the pleasantest club in London'—and an election is confoundedly expensive. Hence a government of fatuity may continue to exist in this country long after public opinion has utterly condemned it. The brains may be out, but the man won't die. It seems to me that for some time the brains have been out of our English political organisation : that we go on without much harm is due to the imperturbable common sense of ordinary Englishmen.
Mr. Disraeli, in one of his incomparably brilliant books, has stated his opinion that English politics are too parochial. I agree with him that they are parochial—but I think it eminently fortunate. England is a huge parish. In a parish we naturally select the dullest and vainest fellows for churchwardens and overseers : this is precisely what occurs in our parliamentary representation. Is there any constituency in England (even Greenwich not excepted) that does not contain a man far abler, far fitter to represent it, than its actual representative? Why should first-class men be compelled to political drudgery? Select six hundred and fifty persons from any civilised part of England on any principle ... because they all have red bair, or all have the same name, or are all teetotallers, or are all six feet high, or all suffer from rheumatism, or all like Bass's ale, or all know the Greek alphabet ... and I suspect they would compare favourably with any parliament since the days of Simon de Montfort. The truth is that the best Englishmen will not be troubled about politics. And I think them wise. With such rapidity does public opinion act in these days, that a minister who had committed a long series of small follies without any punishment save universal ridicule, would be pulled up very short if he committed a very great folly.
My inference is, that while government in England is carried on in its present way those who desire long life should resolutely keep aloof from the machinery. Were men wise and strong, no government at all need exist; no man would annoy his neighbour, or do anything to require county courts and county magistrates to legislate for the repression of knaves and fools—surely a work demanding no supreme development of morality or of intellect. If there were no knaves or fools, no legislation would be requisite. Of course parliament is superior to its destiny
even as the ratcatcher is higher than the rat. But parliaments and governments of all kinds cannot be freed from the vice of their inception. They are solely designed to keep inferior persons in order. The higher minds of the race cannot be expected to do such dirty work.
Wherefore I say to the man who would in both senses live long—avoid politics. It is enough to manage one's own affairs, without interfering with other people's. The only thing to be gained by a modern political career is a knowledge of the weak side of the human race; and the worst of it is, that political work invariably developes men's weaknesses, bringing to the surface the innate rascality of one man, the unsuspected stupidity of another. The pitch of politics defiles us all. Aristides, if a candidate for the representation of Eatanswill, would have gone in for bribery and corruption. You can't reform it. Leave it alone. Catch the spirit of Hamlet when he exclaimed
The world is out of joint. O cursed spite,
That ever I was born to set it right. Hamlet did not set it particularly right, and he, poor fellow, was brought up to the business, having had the infinite misfortune of being born a prince. I can conceive nothing more dreadful.
The man who has the infinite good fortune