18 NOVEMBER 1916, Page 8

THE ENGLISH COUNTRY GENTLEMAN. J N a conversation about conditions after

the war the writer heard some one remark the other day that wealth would not be visibly diminished but that it would be in the hands of a

new class. The speaker was thinking of the contractors and manufacturers who are said to be making fortunes. Very likely a new character of some sort, though not a wholly new character we are sure, will belong to Park Lane, and I3elgrave Square, and Grosvenor Square after the war. All great epochs change the balance of wealth, and the epoch of the Great War will at least be equal in influence to that of what is called the Industrial Revolution. Incidentally the Great War is carrying an industrial revolution with it. The territorial class, as we know it, may take a further stride down the slope from the heights of affluence which long ago it held alone. But we think he would take a very short view who supposes that the territorial class will surrender its place of influence and repute to some new class. The territorial class may change, as it has in the past, but it will go on It will do better than go on ; it will carry on, for we are old-fashioned enough to think, in spite of the Land Reformers of the pre-bellum days (what do they think now, by the way 7), that the country gentleman class serves the State with higher public spirit than any other class that can be named. To think that a class which freely acknowledges responsibilities will go under is to credit the British people with less seriousness than they really possess. Perhaps the future necessities of agriculture may require great estates to be split up in order that the land may be cultivated more intensively. The general belief to-day is that intensive farming postulates smaller holdings, and it may easily be believed that the safety of the country will require us to produce a very large part of our food at home. But even so there will still

be a territorial class—men. rooted to the land, influencing the progress of the countryside, setting an example of service in rural affairs, and probably regarding the business of owning land as much

more of a profession than it is commonly held to be to-day. The war has been a great demonstration of the self-sacrifice and vehement sense of duty of the country gentlemen and their families. Nearly all classes of course have done nobly. But among the "press of knights" none commands our admiration more than the country gentleman. Others have gone to the war ; he has simply rushed into it.

We have before us a little book called The English Country Gentle man in Literature, by Mr. Guy N. Pocock (Blaekie and Son, Is.), and it shows very plainly a continuity of good fellowship and solid and likable qualities. These qualities may have many visible defects and limitations, but when a national emergency comes the good fellowship expresses itself in its highest form of intense loyalty to the community. The franklin described by Chaucer was the squire whom we like to think of as typical—a ruddy-faced John Bull of a man. With such a squire as one of his companions Chaucer set out from the Tabard on his Easter jaunt to Canterbury.

In the fourteenth century the pilgrimage was already more of a holiday than a religious observance. "Prototype of the foxhunting, sport-loving country gentleman of the eighteenth century," says Mr. Pocock, "he [the squire] loved to keep open house and an ample board. He is a member of Parliament, and a county magistrate ; and at session time his friend the lawyer is a frequent guest at his liberal table." Chaucer's description of his hospitality is unforgettable :—

" Withoute bake mete was nevere his hous, Of fiessch and fissch, and that so plentyuons,

Hit snewed in his hous of mete and drynko,

Of alle deyntees that men comic thynke.

After the sondry sesouns of the year, So changed he his mete and his soper. Ful many a fat partrich had he in mewe, And many a brem and many a lace in stews. Woo was his cook, but-if his sauce were Poynaunt and sharp, and ready al his gere."

We can see the amplitude of that groaning board when it snowed meat and drink. And the squire understood his food too ; his sauces were piquant and his " gere " (plate) was evidently cherished, Such was an early example of the men, with their faults as well as their virtues, who have done more unpaid service for the country than any other class. The type did not change materially till the Industrial Revolution. The vicissitudes in learning were more noticeable than anything else connected with the class. Macaulay's picture of a seventeenth-century squire, half a lout and half a very conscious aristocrat, knowing exactly who had and who had not armorial rights, is famous. The language of that squire was the language of the stables and the grooms. And to this day, though the language of well-bred men has practically reached a universal standard, there are old-fashioned phrases and pronunciations which relate longestablished members of the territorial class to their old origins— stray phrases and pronunciations in which the highest and the lowest classes meet on common ground. Adclison's Sir Roger de Coverley is a more genial and lovable figure of course than the regular type of eighteenth-century squire. He is as much above the norm as Macaulay's picture is probably below the seventeenthcentury norm. On the whole the eighteenth-century squire suffered by being made a familiar figure of theatrical comedy. Tony Lumpkin, Bob Acres, and Sir Tunbelly Clumsy are good-natured parodies, but still parodies. Squire Western with his alternations of plethoric wrath and beaming good nature is more true to type. The novelist was more serious than the dramatist.

Of all descriptions of the English country gentleman none is more pleasing than that of Washington Irving :—

"John Bull, to all appearance, is a plain, downright, matter-of-fact fellow, with much less of poetry about him than rich prose There is little of romance in his nature, but a vast deal of strong natural feeling. He excels in humour more than in wit ; is jolly rather than gay ; melancholy rather than morose • can easily be moved to a sudden tear, or surprised into a broad laugh; but he loathes sentiment, and has no turn for light pleasantry. He is a boon companion, if you allow him to have his humour, and to talk about himself ; and he will stand by a friend in a quarrel with life and purse, however soundly he may be cudgelled. In this last respect, to tell the truth, he has a propensity to be somewhat too ready. He is a busy-minded personage, who thinks not merely for himself and family, but for all the country round, and is most generously disposed to be everybody's champion. Ho is continually volunteering his services to settle his neighbours' affairs, and takes it in great dudgeon if they engage in any matter of consequence without asking his advice ; though he seldom engages in any friendly office of the kind without finishing by getting into a squabble with all parties, and then railing bitterly at their ingratitude. He unluckily took lessons in his youth in the noble science of defence, and having accomplished himself in the use of his limbs and his weapons, and become a perfect master at boxing and cudgel-play, he has had a troublesome life of it ever since. He cannot hear of a quarrel between the most distant of his neighbours, but he begins incontinently to fumble with the head of his cudgel, and consider whether his interest or honour does not require that he should meddle in the broil. Indeed, he has extended his relations of pride and policy so completely over the whole country, that no event can take place without infringing some of his finely-spun rights and dignities. Couched in his little domain, with these filaments stretching forth in every direction, he is like some choleric, bottle-bellied old spider, who has woven his web over a whole chamber, so that a fly cannot buzz, nor a breeze blow, without startling his repose, and causing him to sally forth wrathfully from his den. Though really a good-hearted, good-tempered old fellow at bottom, yet he is singularly fond of being in the midst of contention. It is one of his peculiarities, however, that he only relishes the beginning of an affray ; he always goes into a fight with alacrity, but comes out of it grumbling, even when victorious ; and though no one fights with more obstinacy to carry a contested point, yet, when the battle is over, and he comes to the reconciliation, he is so much taken up with the mere shaking of hands, that he is apt to let his antagonist pocket all that they have been quarrelling about. It is not, therefore, fighting that he ought so much to be on his guard against, as making friends.'

We cannot remember that any novelist has really done justice to the unfailing love of animals among country gentlemen, though Fielding has suggested it, and so has George Eliot in her account of the peculiar wrath of the squire in Silas Marner when he hears that his horse has been staked.

Mr. Pocock might easily have drawn on Ivanhoe for Anglo-Saxon and Norman scenes of country life, on W estuard Ho! for Tudor gentlemen, on Tristram Shandy for eighteenth-century gentlemen, and so on. He has not laid Shakespeare under contribution at all. But, after all, he does not profess to do more than choose a few examples. We should like, however, to say a special word in praise of the delightful scenes in Tristram Shandy which illustrate the very friendly and, in the best sense, familiar relations between employers and servants in the middle of the eighteenth century. Here was confidence and mutual affection meeting on easy terms without any injury to respect or dignity.

Tristram Shandy leads us on to a reflection on the probable changes in our own territorial class. Mr. Shandy, "of that ilk," for he lived at Shandy Hall, was partly a country gentleman and partly a pragmatical philosopher, but he was—or had been—also a Turkey merchant. The combination of landowner and merchant was comparatively rare in the eighteenth century. The English territorial class having no absurd Austrian-like exclusiveness in marriage, has continually imported new strains, but till comparatively recent times the importations came from retired administrators, retired soldiers and sailors, and so forth. The fusion of the merchant classes with the landowners is, however, already perfectly familiar. This will of course become more marked, and a very good thing it has been in the past, and a very good thing it will be in the future. The incoming stream of other interests, other knowledge, and other aptitudes is a splendid reinforcement of a more or less standing class. Nor does the reinforcement come only from one side. If the princes of trade contribute their capabilities, they derive the tradition of responsibility and public service which, whatever the critics may say, has always distinguished the landowners. As an example of other interests bursting in upon the comparative stagnation of a quiet English countryside, we remember hearing of a retired Anglo-Indian Judge who, when sitting as a Magistrate, used to take his notes in Persian—a language he had learned in the times when East India Company servants employed Persian as the regular language of the Indian Law Courts. As for the industrial reinforcement, perhaps we may justly attribute to it the sturdy Radical tone observable here and there among landowners who discountenance a too rigorous administration of the laws about poaching or an unscrupulous complaisance towards those enemies of the public who encroach upon common rights and rights of way.

We quoted last week from a pamphlet written in 1804 by a squire called Richard Whitworth, of Batchacro Park, Salop, about the right of Volunteers to resign. He was indeed a Radical squire of the sort we have in mind. We have other pamphlets by him before us, and we gather that he was continually up in arms against some abuse. He was always tilting at some public authority which had exceeded its rights or neglected its duties. Here, for example, is an essay pitched in the Socratic form of question and answer on the duties of the county in the matter of building bridges. His explanation of the narrowness of the existing bridges is Very interesting. The reason was that when the bridges were built all the merchandise was carried to the towns on pack-horses. This worthy squire, indeed, strikes right back, without knowing it, to the Anglo-Saxon obligation which historians call the Trinoda Nau8ea:1a8 : the triple obligation of serving in the host., of repairing and building bridges, and of building and maintaining fortresses, or, as we should say, digging trenches. We cannot leave the subject of the reinforcement of the country gentlemen with a better example, or one that offers more reassurance for the changes to come.


T DESIRE to put before your readers what I may call a fable

illustrative of some of the difficulties which must attend communication between the living and the dead if the conditions are what they are alleged to be. My fable is also designed to show what it is reasonable to expect and not to expect in the matter of positive statements as to the life beyond the grave.

Granted that the channels of communication are what they are, granted also that it is impossible to express the unknown in terms of the known, and granted further the imperfect working of the human brain when it is subject to the shock of personal emotion, we must not expect lucidity, but, on the contrary, a somewhat opaque mixture. Whether that mixture is what many people think it is, and whether we shall learn to clarify it, or whether it is an illusion of the brain exploited by man's power of self-deception assisted by baser influences, remains to be seen. But in any case, though there are of course certain dangers, it is right and reasonable to investigate the phenomena, or alleged phenomena, as long as they are investigated in a scientific spirit. No one proposes to stop chemical inquiry because foolish people may poison themselves or blow themselves up. Similarly, provided the dangers are understood, psychic investigation ought not to be forbidden or hindered merely because certain psychological and moral risks attach thereto.

Now for the fable to illustrate the conditions under which the spirits of dead men appear to communicate, or at any rate under which it is alleged that they are communicating. Let us suppose a son to have left home on an exploratory expedition into the heart of the Andes, an expedition accompanied by risks so great that his family have almost given up the hope of ever receiving any communication from him again. The son, however, survives the dangers and difficulties of his journey and arrives safely at the capital of Bolivia. Here he finds that an American inventor has just perfected

a new system of long-distance wireless telephony, but one which it is alleged cannot be worked except through the inventor's two experts at La Paz and in London. In order, that is, to get a communication through, the would-be telephoner must stand by the wireless expert and give him the message, and he in turn must give it to the wireless expert in London. The wireless expert in London must then pass it on to the father, who has been brought to the office to hear the message. This means that the form of the message would have to be as follows: "Tell my father that I am here, and that I want him to know that I am safe and well, &c." —" She says I am to tell you that he says he is alive and well &c., &c." A simple message of that kind is perhaps not very difficult to get through, and is not much hindered by the method of communication. But now suppose that the father, who had been summoned to the wireless office in London, is inclined to be somewhat suspicious of the new invention and very doubtful whether it is really his son who is communicating—suspects, in fact, that the whole thing is an imposture. Suppose, further, that he would be predisposed to adopt this attitude because he has heard of other people who have been grossly deceived and robbed of money and of happiness through impostors working an alleged invention of a similar kind. Even though he would like beyond anything else in the world to know that his son was alive and was communicating with him, he would feel it necessary to be sceptical. The very intensity of his desire to be assured of his son's safety would make him brace himself to defeat any idea of deception. He cannot accept the statements reeled off by the two operators, but must endeavour to get immediate proof that the communication is genuine.

Therefore he at once clamours for something which shall have evidential value. This of course is absolutely necessary. But then the trouble of this system of communication begins. The father demanding proof has to convey his inquiries through the minds of the two operators, and has to switch the interview off on to identification lines. But unfortunately these operators are not able to make their own minds act automatically and like a machine. Neither can entirely resist the temptation to help out and improve the communication—to make short-cuts, as they would say. They cannot help their own minds interpreting the expressions of the man on the other side. Be this as it may, there is no other way but to set going the memories of the father and of the son in order to establish.the identity of the traveller. And a bewildering business it is. "Can you tell me something which is not at the moment known to me, but which is known to other people, in order that I can verify it ? This will show that it is my son who is talking and not an impostor." In these circumstances, and especially ft the son had never thought of identification signs before, he may very well take some incident in his life which he has partially forgotten, or at any rate one where recollection has diverged a good deal frsna the recollection of others, and give it in such a way that it would distinctly suggest fraud or else total ignorance. And even if something of real evidential value might appear to emerge, it might be so much clouded by other matter as to lose its relevance. But what are we to say if, after inconclusive evidence of identity, the traveller—quite as deeply anxious to communicate with his father as the father with him—were to try, by means of the distracting mechanism we have described, to get through some account of the strange and soul-shaking experiences which he has undergone in his voyage of exploration ? Suppose he has made a wonderful discovery, has found a city inhabited by an entirely new people endowed with wonderful powers, talking a new language, with a new scheme of thought, and possessed of psychical powers far superior to and wholly different in kind as well as in degree from ours—people with a divergent attitude towards life and death, and further who live under different physical conditions from ours. He is passionately anxious to get some account of these wonders into his father's mind, but at once is perplexed with the difficulty of describing the unknown in terms of the known. Ought we to be surprised if in view of these facts the description—though it may contain unaccountable flashes—seems vague and occasionally ridiculous, and if the communications become dashed with doubt and hesitation, and often appear mean and absurd when one might most expect them to be full of moment and dignity ? Yet surely these unsatisfactory circumstances should not make a wise man say in a pet that he refuses to listen to any more messages. Rather it should make a reasonable person say that we must not expect perfection all in a moment from the Andean wire'ess system, or look to a half-developed invention for a limpid stream of exposition concerning the wonders of a newly discovered world

The system of communication I have described in my explanatory • ,

fable is not analogous in every particular to that which took place in the case of the communications between Raymond Lodge and his father and mother and his brothers and sisters described in Sir Oliver Lodge's book Raymond; or, Life and Death, but it is sufficiently like to be of service to the investigator. As a rule there was a " sensitive " who went into something in the nature of a trance, and an alleged spirit control, or, as I should say, operator on the other side, who purported to put Raymond Lodge's messages through, sometimes in the oratio oblique, "He says that, &c.," but constantly broken in upon by verbatim reports, "I do wish, Father, &c.," this being again interrupted by sotto race explanatory comments by the spirit medium—i.e., the medium at the son's end—and by interlarded scraps of dialogue between certain spirit interlocutors. Finally, there were raids on the conversations by other alleged communicators on the other side. To people who have never studied the matter in detail this muddle may seem to lead to nothing but a hopeless fog. Yet curiously out of this very muddle come in many cases some of the most impressive indications that we are dealing with realities and not folly or fraud. One occasionally catches, or once again let me say, since I do not want to beg the question, appears to catch, the mediums in the spirit world and here guessing at the communication which is being made, and guessing wrong—trying to improve the message and spoiling it. Yet all the time the father or other sitter, owing to the use of his own memory and logical faculty, has been able to see far quicker and better than the medium what the spirit communicator is driving at. Suppcse, ler instance, a spirit medium were to say : "He says something I cannot quite make out about a lady biting him when he was a little boy. Do you remember it ? " This of course sounds nonsense to an intermediary. Yet it may be the best of good sense if Lady Smith was the name of the family dog. But remember, though I want to make people realize how difficult the system of communication must be if it is to be evidential, and also how difficult if it is to tell us of things so unknown that they cannot be hitched on to any known thing here without something approaching intellectual dislocation, I do not want to prejudice the case or seem to be urging the readers of the Spectator to do so. I come with my little fable only to elucidate. At the very most my plea is a motion in arrest of judgment ! I ask the Court to delay judgment till they have weighed certain new evidence which has just come to hand. IGNOTIIS.