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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
to be born without a position and with a brain deserves congratulation. This, however, is a very rare condition in modern England. It is hard to avoid being some body-socially: it is hard to avoid being nobody — intellectually. I know several people who deem it their duty to keep a carriage and pair, and who, in consequence, never eat a good rump-steak or drink a bottle of sound claret. You cannot, indeed, live in a country district without having such neighbours; and I suppose it is the same in London—which city I avoid. I have been accused, by various kindly critics of my novels, of laying too much stress upon eating and drinking-without which it is not particularly easy to live. The Times (April 14, 1871), remarks that I talk a deal too much of eating, drinking, and smoking in Marquis and Merchant; but it goes on to say that one great charm about my
6 books—and it is a great charm in these
days, when poets and novelists are apt to write in a querulous dyspeptic strain, as if they studied human nature while crouching over the parlour fire—is that there is plenty of oxygen in them; they breathe a jovial out-of-doors atmosphere; we seem to be under the blue sky, and to hear a wholesome breeze rustling the tree-tops.' Mark the word dyspeptic, which I italicise. My friend in the Times answers himself. I am eupeptic: which I could not be unless I cared about what I eat and drink. He has divined my mode of work. I am now writing on a bird-haunted lawn, with a joyous wind tossing my lime-trees above me, and three dogs sleepily watching my proceedings, and wishing I would knock off work and take them to the Thames, and a bottle of hock close at
a hand. If I drank green tea or laudanum instead of hock, I should not offend my critics by writing of wine and ale. But, then, what would my books be like?
Again; the Athenæum (March 25, 1871), after reading me a friendly lecture on the same topic, hopes that I will give the public a shorter book in summer, in which not every chapter, but every page, shall flow with refreshing bumpers of Roederer and los Vougeot.' This is very much what I am trying to do at present. I want this to be a summer book that shall teach multitudes how to multiply their summers. I believe I shall succeed, if only I can get hold of a publisher with a grain of sense in his head. MeanwhileThere's a beautiful blonde for whom
O, her voice is divinely soft !
There is also a rare brunette,
beloved by me; Purple suns that in autumn set
Have not more magical hue than she.