THE WAR AS A FASHION.
a THE war is the fashion," bitterly remarks a writer at Sebastopol. Funds are got up for the wounded and the suffering, meetings are held to collect money and sympathy ; "and all this," exclaims the writer, " would be more gratifying to our feelings, if these demon- strations of active public sympathy were not accompanied by cer- tain unmistakeable signs that the war was the fashion for the sea- son." It is painful to reflect that a band of men so numerous yet so chivalrous as to excite absolute personal sympathy for the entire host, should become not the object of a pure and anxious feeling, but the idol of a fashion. Even Christmas presents, in such a spirit, come with a taint. That the multitude hold out their open hands in the single desire to benefit their fellow countrymen in trouble and danger, we devoutly believe ; but we cannot refrain from doubting whether amongst those who are active in procuring these aids, there are not men trading in conspicuously advertising themselves or their shop. It is pleasant when any kind of re- creation is consecrated by a thought of those who are absent and in trouble ; but can we not think of them without the amusement ? Are those who pay the money for " benefit "concert-tickets so lit- tle in earnest, that they cannot give their money unless they be stimulated by some appeal to their more habitual run of sentiment? Their hearts must be opened by the pleasures of self, their ears must be tickled into sympathy, their eyes must be pampered into patriotism, and the prime cost of the ticket is discount upon the money for the fund. The Laputans of fashionable England are ac- customed to be thus reminded of their duties by some ornamental "flapper." For years the literary and civic "friends of Poland" have annually been endeavouring to dance the destiny of that coun- try into good humour ; and now charity asking on behalf of our soldiers in the East panders to pleasure as a means of getting at the pockets. Belisarms dares not ask for an obelus unless as a per- centage on a concert-ticket. Sometimes the association of ideas becomes exceedingly repul- sive. At a country town there is a ball on behalf of the Patriotic Fund ; and amongst the " attractions " of the ball are Russian officers, whom it is the great object of the British fair to obtain for partners. The lovely young Lavinia will wheedle her papa out of a guinea towards the fund providing meat, blankets, and flannel for her brother Tom, the Ensign, who sits benumbed and hungry in the mud of the Crimea, with Russian bullets whistling about his ears, on condition that she may enjoy a few ecstatic minutes whirling in the waltz with one of the officers of the host that is trying to kill brother Tom, and has murdered Tom's captain as he lay upon the ground wounded. This is only a short-hand description of the Patriotic Fund balls, with the attraction that "the Russian officers will attend." The war is the fashion ; and there are amongst us persons vrho. take themselves for patriots when they buy Balaklava braces or attend Sebastopol soirees.
It is curious that in a question of decorous quiet we should find our most signal examples at court and in a foreign country. No ostentatious gayeties have been observed lately at our own court ; the Emperor Napoleon and the Empress his wife in a marked man- ner abstain from personal gayeties. It would scarcely have excelled the bad taste of the vulgar if the friends of Sir John Franklin had got up balls to promote Arctic expeditions. Can we not be in earnest until we have exhausted trifling ? Possibly even the graver classes of the country may be in part responsible ; for trifling has its solemn as well as its glittering side. There is no doubt that we have been too like the spendthrift who yields to the stream of circumstances, without taking account for his own con- duct. Reckless of moral relations between states, leaving such matters only to our civilians, the Ministers have drifted into war without taking accourit of our motives in it ; and now find our- selves instruments of Providence in restoring the disturbed balance of justice, without having so much as defined to ourselves the real ob ject of the conquest into which we have gone. That also is trilling. If we had correctly reminded ourselves of those fundamental principles of our constitution and historical action by
which we have attained our independence and high position, we might have been able to discover by this time what principle it is that we have now set our countrymen to sustain with arms abroad —what object it is for which we are pouring out our blood. When we can say, in a few words, simple and distinct, what we are at war for, we may then more justly rebuke those for whom that object is not sufficient, and who are obliged to eke out their patriotism -by pleasuring.