18 DECEMBER 1909, Page 8

" G RA....0E, Sir, is a fruit of great cultivation :

it is not found among gross people." If it were not that Johnson's paradoxes have often more behind them than our axioms, one would be disposed to quote Wordsworth's "Simon Lee" and a hundred other people's experiences, and dismiss this oracle with an indignant protest. But it is worth ponder- ing. Could this pessimistic utterance be meant to qualify that handsome tribute which at another time the moralist

paid youth at the expense of age ? "Youth, Sir, has more virtue than we have." By " gross " he doubtless meant imperfectly educated, and the gratitude of the young does

not in common experience "oftener leave us mourning." The more familiar note is Falstaff's "You that are old consider not the capacities of us that are young." That note is as old as Homer, and has been heard echoing across eighteen centuries from one of Dr. Grenfell's papyri.

The claim of superiority it would of course be imprudent to dispute; but when one thinks of the many parental con- tributions to that superiority, and their scant recognition, one seems to see some force in Johnson's pessimism, especially when one dwells not merely on mechanical and economical service, but on all the lavish expense of thought and care which has fostered this higher type of the new generation. And when we come to geological "faults "—to types less absolutely suggestive of progress—do we not see a sublime unconsciousness of the fact that many of youth's virtues have no more solid basis than imaginative affection? Is it not the case that these assumptions—these ways of taking for granted—have been more common of late, and that they are the weak place in modern manners? Could any-

thing be more grotesquely self-complacent, more ungracious or more undiscriminating in the matter of values, than to

assume that all affection gives is merely one's due? Here we are at least within measurable distance of "gross people." We have heard that "nobody could be as wise as Lord Thurlow looked." And if some thousands of mediocre young people could be what they look to the eyes of affection, the number of "archangels" only a very little "damaged" would be nothing short of portentous.

Much might be said in support of classing Sancho with gross

people; but that becomes impossible if we recall his amfessio fulei to the Knight when he had fallen on evil days : "It shall never be said of me, The bread is eaten and the company

broke up ' "I But Thomas if. Kemple knew more about gratitude even than Sancho, and his knowledge is enshrined

in one of the noblest bits of brevity in literature. Nobilis mister non quiescit in dor.° (a generous gentleman takes no gift unmoved, if one must spoil it by paraphrase). What a different scope this has from the familiar motto, Noblesse oblige! That may lend itself to class-feeling and snobbery (we know that Byron once at least practically made this use of it). But Thomas a Kempis does not mean merely that one is anxious to repay service (not a few services are past all repaying), but that we may not calmly receive it as our due, that we must strive to make ourselves less unworthy of it. Yet one had better not press the application of these words to the claims of a parent living or dead. Bacon warns us off that holy ground : "The joys of parents are secret, and so are their griefs and fears." So too fancy might interpret Herrick:— " Pray hurt him not, though he be dead: He knows well who do love him :

And who with green turfs rear his head, And who do rudely move him."

But there is nothing invidious in reading into Thomas I Semple a very obvious appeal to public gratitude. Lord number', in his admirable address to the Edinburgh school- children last year told them that they could all contribute something to the fame of their country, 3.nd that its traditions

of achievement should be an " inspiration "; and certainly the thought of such achievement may help us to be less unworthy countrymen of those who have achieved. Yet does

not Lord Rosebery slightly overstate the case, or rather is not there a truer and more wholesome way of putting it ? Most

of the children could not hope, except in a negative sense, to contribute to the fame of their country. What is indis- putable and appalling is that the most insignificant can do irreparable injury to traditions of conduct and manners ; and it is there that a sense of public gratitude may enable us to make some return,—may enable the humblest school-child to resolve with "The Private of the Buffs" "That not thro' him Shall England come to shame."

The sphere of manners which lay their restraints on un- civilised egotism will offer many opportunities for thinking of our country and preserving her good name. And so will a rather special form of patriotism,—the belief in the English character. For it does concern patriotism to regard political

opponents as mistakenly sincere as well as absolutely mis- taken. Two rival historians once met out walking ; one of them had just published a book, and the other called out: "I have just read your book with great enjoyment." "But,"

said the author, "it's all wrong, isn't it F" "Yes," was the reply, "all absolutely wrong ! " That is the proper temper of disputants. Need our political opponents be in the nature of things probably dishonest and certainly unpatriotic ? We may give them credit for both honesty and patriotism without

any mitigation of voice in denouncing pig-headedness and =intelligence, or what seems amazing indifference to Imperial or domestic interests. A free imputation of motives is sure to destroy our great inheritance, the love of fair play. What the English character will then have lost is best told in a letter quoted by Professor Firth in his "Cromwell." "My affections to you are so unchangeable," writes Sir William Waller to Sir Ralph Hopton, "that hostility itself cannot violate my friendship to your person—but I must be true to my cause We are both upon the stage and we must act the parts assigned to us in this tragedy. Let us do it in a way of honour, and without personal animosities." And this "temper of heroic mould" was exhibited amid the clash

not of words but of swords ! When it is lightly assumed that our opponents have deserted the way of honour, that they must be men of inferior moral standards or short of patriotism, we can hardly be proud of or grateful to the national character, and at the same time think it so easy

for half of our fellow-countrymen to get rid of it. And if national character is matter for thankfulness, what shall we say of our native speech ?— " Fame enough for any private man

That Chatham's language was his mother tongue, And Wolfe's great name compatriot with his own."

Wordsworth's language is even stronger, conscious though he always is of his country's failings. One cannot forget the reason for our being "of earth's best blood." "We speak the tongue that Shakespeare spoke." Here again our best

return can hardly be more than a negative one. Not many of us, it is to be feared (or should we say h,oped 1,), will make additions to the language. But we may refuse to contribute to the degradation of Shakespeare's tongue. Lord Tennyson, it is said, exacted from friends a solemn promise that they would never hear "Like I do" without a horrified protest. Then there are those adjective-substantives which are in

every one's mouth, and do such grave injury to the decorum of a language. Here is an example of this new part of

speech from a bookstall. A twopenny row is labelled "Business Success Booklets" 1 We have here three things.

First, the two substantive-adjectives. (What is the case: genitive, dative, or ablative ?) Secondly, the money-scraping instinct writ large over all. Thirdly, a publisher's idea of attractive playfulness in the diminutive " booklet "1 What is the "soul of wit" compared with the virus of these three words ? Who would have thought it possible in such a compass to outrage grammar and propitiate greed and gaiety?

The only proper description of such a thing, exact, if equivocal, is advertisement reduced to its lowest terms !

And how baneful is that cheap attractiveness ! as fatal in its power for corruption as slovenliness, Caesar would have us "avoid a new word like a rock " ; but—using the cant hackneyed phrase because every one uses it—must not speech, to be kept pure, be equally sensitive about that There is a nice modern touch in Cicero which is worth recalling in this connexion. There happened to be a boom in spondaic endings for hexameters, and in one of his letters he accidentally dropped into one, from using a Greek name. His sensitive.. ness is at once alarmed. "There," he says to his friend, "you shall have that line cheap for one of your spondee-mongers "1 (venditabis si voles cnrov5etaCdrraw Timi). Those who take their great inheritance seriously, and know its sumptuous splendours, must very often be made uneasy by their gratitude ; for on every side they see the Periclea,n counsel perverted, and a love of decoration found compatible with the shabbiest economies. It was said of a distinguished man that "to have known him was a great responsibility." If only the twentieth century can attain to this sense of responsibility, and individuaLs to a sense of their own unworthiness in handling this precious heirloom, public gratitude will be a thing of no common significance.

Once more, there is a gratitude that is half public, half private. "Every man is a debtor to his profession." It should be something to every lawyer that the author of this saying was a lawyer of genius; something to every medical student that his was the calling of Sir Thomas Browne ; something to every schoolmaster that that great epic which is "only not the greatest of epics because it is not the first" was written by one schoolmaster, and had this tribute from another.

But business has its traditions as well as the professions.

Politics, business, and religion are called the three English interests, and Englishmen may be supposed to take the middle one seriously enough. That seriousness is a tradition for which we are indebted to the type our ancestors approved. "Caleb Garth's prince of darkness was a slack workman," one remembers. "The sight of exact work being turned out was such an inspiration that it helped him to a sort of religion and philosophy. He pronounced the word business reveren- tially and attached to it a peculiar dignity." (One would like to have heard him on "Business Success Booklets"!) There is no better English tradition than that of accuracy, and a tradesman may live up to it, and feel dignified and grateful for it, as legitimately as a great Indian civilian. It is said that we are losing this tradition; if so, there is some reason for Sir Arthur Helps's outburst, "Better tell lies in the newspapers than be habitually inaccurate"; but one hopes we may not be deprived just yet of so educating a theme of gratitude and national pride.

It vexed the righteous soul of Frederick Robertson half-a- century ago to hear simpering youths and maidens say, as they say still, "so very English !" Those who know better may quote Ovid with a new reading :—

"Ego me mule denique natum

Gratulor [knee patria est] moribus apta meis."

If Ovid only rejoices that he was born just when he was, and that his age snits his manners, we may substitute " country " for "age," and then permit the younger generation to congratulate themselves on their late appearance, provided always that they are so "very English" as to regard their manners as a legacy and a national trust,—as something to keep gratitude alive.