MR. MATTHEW ARNOLD'S PRAISE OF CULTURE.* MR. ARNOLD complains very
properly of a critic who called one of his essays an elegant jeremiad,—the compositions of Jeremiah being those among the Hebrew prophets to which he is least attracted, which are in truth most antipathetic to his nature. Probably the critic was only thinking of the complaints about his age and time which are to be found in Mr. Arnold's essays, and it would seem sarcastic to liken him to the writer of Lamentations, without much thought of whether they had anything else in common or not. But there may be very different types of complainers, and the comparison of him with Jeremiah, harsh, and crabbed, and always at the highest pitch, with little sweetness or melody, was perhaps as unapt a one as could have been taken up. This could hardly have been said if Mr. Arnold had been compared to a prophet, using that word in its most general sense. Of course, he is not the least like the men who came up out of the wilderness nursed into fanaticism by solitary musing, unkempt, rugged, and fierce, and who denounced woe and doom upon idolatrous nations ; but he resembles the prophet race in one of his intellectual attitudes, that of a teacher of disagreeable doctrine, separating himself from popular illusions, and standing by the wayside to tell people of the wrong paths they are following, beseeching and entreating in a variety of tones, and never weary of remonstrances. The latter characteristic is very marked in the present essay. It is not an analysis of any topic, not an inquiry, which was the old-fashioned idea of a book called by that name, butan effusion or series of effusions in which the author's mind is poured out without much order, and one or two principal ideas are iterated and reiterated with manifold illustration and choice of expression. It has almost all the 'characteristics of prophecy except the rapture and enthusiasm and .fiery zeal which have come to be associated with the name, though
Mr. Arnold's example may itself prove how much there may be of the essence of prophecy without the usual accompaniments. cur own day has not been without a prophet of the rugged sort in Thomas Carlyle, who always appears at least to be moved to utterance by heat of spirit, though he cannot be so natural and unconscious as the type he imitates ; but Mr. Arnold is in every way more modern, and his milder and more refilled utterances should tell better in an age when strong stimulants, of other descriptions as well as the alcoholic, are very much out of favour.
The principal besetting thought of Mr. Arnold is one which we discussed at the time when the first of these effusions was published in the Coothill Magazine, and we are inclined to think it the most valuable contribution of the book to the main current of thinking on political subjects at the present time. That in the history of mankind there has been an alternative progress—at times in the direction of Hellenism, the culture and perfection of the whole man, at other times in the direction of Ilebraism, the strengthening of the moral fibre or sense of duty ; that each alternative is imperfect and incomplete, and the endeavour should be to combine both ; and that at the present time in this country, and among English-speaking communities, it is Hellenism which is neglected, and which should therefore be preached up by those who wish to see progress in the right direction : such is the central notion which has taken possession of the writer, and which, notwithstanding misapprehensions and one-sided statements with which it is buttressed, is of no little validity. If it is a conspicuous defect of many people, and the largest masses of people among us at the present time, that they believe in the notion of duty almost to the exclusion of a belief of the importance and difficulty of knowing what duty is, of seeking out the " intelligible law of things," and striving not to lose life itself in the means of living, then a preacher may be forgiven much who recalls the forgotten idea. Much the same may be said of the subsidiary leading notions which find vent in these pages, for instance, the worship of machinery, which Mr. Arnold considers to be an outcome of the unchecked 1 lebraizing element. In the excessive anxiety to do what is right, an easy and obvious notion of what right is is taken up, so that action may at once begin, and the monitions of an inquiring spirit which starts doubts as to the worth of the action itself, or its complete suitability to always changing circumstances, are summarily dismissed. People thus get into their heads certain half-notions which they follow mechanically, and to the hurt of their own natures and society. Whether the Englishman's notions of personal liberty, or of free trade, and the like, arc altogether of this character, or even largely so, as Mr..Arnold assumes, is of less consequence than the fact that all the notions of uncultured men are too apt to become of this fixed stamp ; every motive grows mechanical ; so that a book which batters at the habit, and insists on a better way, can hardly err on the side of excess. It is no objection to some of the ideas which are preached that they have no very distinct connection with the other notions insisted on, although this is the reason of their introduction. It is thus very dubious whether there is much warrant for the association of the two notions of anarchy and culture ; the one is not necessarily the special opposite of the other, at least not that anarchy which appears to he in Mr. Arnold's mind, judging of the instances he gives. It is rather a long step to argue from the Hyde Park riots, or a certain insecurity in London streets which arose from a deficiency of police, that the English people are not Ilellenistic enough —that their exclusive devotion to Hebraistieawl mechanical notions has brought them to this pass. Ilebraistic nations have not failed in establishing the outward order of society and supremacy of law, whatever else they have failed in. This is precisely one of those notions which may be taken up and pursued mechanically, and in which a Hebraistic people was therefore likely to succeed. But we may thoroughly sympathize for all that with Mr. Arnold's dislike of anarchy or the least appearance of social disorder, though we should be more inclined to ascribe the facts of which he complains to much more partial and temporary causes, coupled with an absence of timidity about them, derived from an inward assurance in most men's minds that they would not be allowed to go far. It is somewhat of a mistake to discover a tendency to social anarchy in the mistakes of a chief of police, who was very good at one time, but had grown somewhat passe; and in the errors of a Home Secretary, weak and vacillating, and representing a government which was rather invidiously placed. Still it is good to have the supremacy of law vigilantly watched, and the least appearance of evil tracked out and condemned. But for such writing as Mr. Arnold's, events that need not have indicated any
rooted mischief might have finished by teaching a lesson of lawlessness that would have cost us much to unteach.
The same remark might be made of another idea which seems to have much weight with Mr. Arnold,—the value of great institutions, and most of all the State and minor institutions which it can estab lish, as a means of stimulating the better self in men, setting up an external standard of excellence, and giving weight to the notion of a right reason superior to the interest of classes, however numerous and strong. It is not a vital part of his preaching of culture, nor is it necessary to correct anarchy, especially anarchy in that narrow sense in which he has sometimes used the word, and it is introduced somewhat incidentally in the application of his sermon to a criticism of liberal action in the matter of the Irish Church, but nothing could be better as a good text for a new series of prophecies. Thus the book is rich in pieces of thinking, if not as a whole, and although it may be full of errors and false impressions and exaggerations. But no more can be expected in a prophet than great emphasis upon one or two ideas into which he has got insight, and which he manages to impress upon people by happy repetition and the intellectual energy which has no end to its repertory of words and illustrations for dressing out the old thought. What is peculiar to Mr. Arnold is the exceeding sug gestiveness of his most occasional glances at men and things, and an exquisiteness of style for which any writer might envy him, and which never grows stale. We are always coming upon some thing fresh and bright, whether it be the discovery of Jacobinism in the thinking and advocacy of the adherents of positivism, or a discrimination between St. Paul and theologians who blunderingly quote his words and miss his meaning ; or a comparison between England of the present day and the England of Elizabeth in respect of real greatness as distinguished from mere bulk of riches or material power ; or the classification of English Philistines into Barbarians, Philistines proper, and the Populace—the former being the Philistines of the aristocracy, self-contained and with governing instincts, possessing external gifts and sweetness, but deficient in light ; the Philistines proper being the middle-classes generally and the majority of the working-classes, who, as Mr. Arnold rightly notes, closely resemble the middle-classes; an 1 the populace being what the rest of the world means by the residuum." Mr. Arnold's phrases are themselves a possession. Ile has all Mr. Disraeli's knack plus a sincerity which Mr. Disraeli has not, and grafted on a poetic and intellectual temperament of a transcendently higher stamp.
Very unnecessarily Mr. Arnold enters into a defence of his abstinence from taking a part in the Liberal political movement of the time. His function being to prophesy, to call people's attention to forgotten things, and make them uncomfortable about their omissions, there is nothing for him but to communicate his thought. There are plenty of other people to do the active work of the world. But unfortunately in justifying his abstention, which did not need any defence, he has done not a little to spoil the effect of his prophecy by showing an ignorance on certain points of " the intelligible law of things " which will cause his authority to be distrusted. Thus, in a criticism of the Liberal movement on the Irish question, while he is quite right in assailing blind voluntaryism and other influences which cause the remedy for the Irish Church grievance to be levelling-down and not levelling-up, he is wrong in concluding that the idea of National Church Establishments is relatively so valuable that the process of levelling-down is not worth having. He forgets that the Irish difficulty will not wait—that English Philistines have beets guilty of other sins besides Nonconformity, and of unjust dealing with Ireland among others ; that the Philistines being convinced of the latter, though not of the former, it is expedient for the safety of the Empire to take advantage of their best convictions. Besides, as all moralists agree that the quickest way to become just and perfect is to do the duty that lies nearest, the reflex effect of a right action being so great, it is plain that by being wrought up to an act of just dealing to Ireland, English Philistines are being educated in the most effective way for acting oil just aspirations in politics,—are being brought into the temper, in short, when teaching about establishmants could be listened to. We are not disputing that Mr. Arnold is himself right in keeping aloof, but a little more discrimination would give his utterances more weight. In political economy he is absolutely at sea. He has a vague impression that the blind pursuit of free trade produces an accumulating pauperism along with the wealth it also produces ; that the stook notions encourage over-population ; and that the thing to be taught is apparently Malthusianism. No doubt the generation which legislated free trade was most imperfect, and there is a world of work before us in far more important matters, like education ; but what is certain is that free trade is not bad, and is not responsible for pauperism, which, taking the whole free-trade period into account, has not accumulated. Its necessary tendency in the conditions of modern life is to diminish pauperism, as Mr. Arnold will see it has done, if he only reads the accounts of popular distress which was so appalling before the free-trade time. On the other hand, pauperism will be little affected one way or the other by Mr. Arnold's own remedy—changing the popular belief about large families. A diminishing population may just as well have an accumulating pauperism as a growing one. This is the "law of things" in the matter. The true remedy is education, to make people better workers and make the workers more thrifty ; and unless you get these, putting on the screw to repress population will not give us a less proportion of poor.