18 OCTOBER 1930, Page 20

A Hundred Years Ago



The thing least understood, as indeed it is least studied, is the heart of man ; we make laws, and shape moral rules, in careless ignorance of the main-spring of the actions to which they ace applicable. Every now and then, we have some exquisitely naive exhibition of the world's want of knowledge of moral anatomy. It finds out that a rogue, knave, or wanton, has a virtue, and straight it is in raptures as at the discovery of a prodigy. Ministers of state have been pardoned their public faults because of their household virtues—alas it will be soon that such household virtues are as incident to pickpockets and swindlers as to statesmen and princes. The affections are to be found, and found in their unalterable beauty, in every condition, even in the conditions of crime ; and there is no rock of vice so barren that some seed of virtue will not spring upon it in link with the better scheme of nature. In the Life of Hardy Vaux, the pickpocket, we trace abundant evidence of a fondly-attached husband and a true friend. Thieving apart, he seems to have been a pattern man. Born in a higher sphere, and a statesman, his private life would have consecrated his public pillage. Many other similar cases may be noted, but we prefer the more immediate one which occurred two weeks ago. It was discovered in examination at a police- office, that a girl of the town supported a little brother out of the wages of her infamy. People who have not learnt the curious fact that one vice does not necessarily destroy all virtues and affections of nature, were amazed and delighted at the prodigy ; and, according to order, the girl was made a wonder of, taken from her bad courses, and sent to a place of improvement ; it being thought quite impossible that a girl who loved her brother could have any predilection for a life of infamy. We see, by the news. papers, that she has made her escape, and returned to her habits. The world may thus put together two letters in the alphabet sf morality, and make out that one virtue may be compatible with one vice. The lesson is one of benevolence ; for it will teach to to look upon the abandoned with the thought that the most lovely natural affection and generous devotion may exist and flourish even in that depraved character.