25 MARCH 1882, Page 11


ARE not the cultivated classes a little unjust, and even foolish, in their ridicule of popular " crazes ?" Many crazes are silly, some are injurious, and a few are wicked; but they are not all bad, and their badness or goodness cannot depend upon the numerousness of the people they affect, which is the true reason why they are condemned. A wish, or a fancy, or an impulse may be evil or ridiculous; but why, because it has occurred to a great many people all at once, does it become necessarily either the one or the other ? The many comprise only the individual reduplicated, and if the individual is not a fool for the momentary fancy, why should the many be? Take the very curious " Jumbo ' craze" which has recently passed over London, as an example, and see what it really means. It is an unfair example to take, because it ran such a violent course, and had such grotesque incidents, but still everybody knows about it, and it will do as well as another. The Zoologi- cal Society wisely or unwisely sold their biggest elephant, and partly because it was really an unusual specimen, a beast so big as to be an object of justifiable pride to beast collectors, partly because it was well known, and partly because it was supposed to be unwilling to go, all London went " crazy " over "Jumbo." The newspapers helped much less than usual. The Times was quite angry that anybody should think about an elephant, when that dreadful Mr. Gladstone was pro- posing the Closure, and suppressed most of the letters about him ; the Standard became scientific for the nonce, which did not raise popular enthusiasm ; and though the Daily Telegraph sang a hymn or two, it did not venture to suggest that " Jumbo's " birthday should supersede Christmas, which was comparatively almost an exhibition of indifference. Still, London went crazy. Everybody talked elephant for a fort- night, elephants appeared on note-paper, on wall-paper, on anti-macassars, in ivory, in metal, in cakes, in butter, every- where that they could possibly be placed, and especially in inappropriate situations. One man, who ought to be fined, christened his son "Jumbo," thereby condemning him to be a " rough " for life ; and one lady signified to the Gardens her intention of making a floral wreath big enough to go round the huge box in which the mighty beast was about to de- part. " Jumbo " was brought into Chancery, into Parliament, and into at least one sermon. Children by the hundred sent buns to "Jumbo" by post, and it is a positive, though nearly incredible, fact, that heaps of letters were received by his guar- dians directly addressed to the animal, many of them, to all appearance, written under a definite impression that he would somehow become aware of their contents. Then it became a mania to see" Jumbo." Nobody of any class was quite happy until he bad seen the elephant, walked through his cage, ridden

upon his back, or at least made one in a roaring crowd struggling to get into his house. The Gardens were visited by thousands, instead of hundreds, and it is asserted that the Society, which is almost always puzzlingly poor, has not only made enough to feel rich for a whole year, but to pay for some long-desired ,improvements in some of its houses, and make its big reptiles, in particular, much more comfortable. The alligators are to have room both to grow and to gape. There was, in fact, a true craze, and now it is over, everybody points to it as an evidence of the impulsiveness, and gregariousness, and bell- wetherishness of the English people, who must all do the same thing at once, and who threw away some tea thousand pounds upon the merest "fad."

What was the harm of it all, or wherein lay the special silliness ? An accident suddenly calls the attention of John Smith to the fact that at the north end of Regent's Park, a mile or two away from him, there is an unusually tine elephant, a beast so large, so ponderous, and so tractable, as to come up to the elephant ideal of early childhood., He reads a little about that elephant and all elephants, he tall;s a little about it, he finds out that he knows very little about elephants,—which way do an elephant's knees bend, 0 man of many sniffs ?—and he goes to see that elephant, paying his sixpence or his shilling for the privilege. Wherein lies the extreme folly of that series of proceedings ? John Smith's interest in all beasts, and especially very big beasts, and most of all in very curious beasts, has always existed, has been recognised by a hundred Governments and municipalities, and has up to-day been considered extremely innocent, not to say creditable to John Smith. That is his form of interest in natural history, and in him the philosopher finds it quite fitting, and even righteous, as a proof that he possesses the "intelligent curiosity," which is the origin of scientific pro- gress—and of vivisection. Why is it less intelligent, because there happen to be half a million of John Smiths, and because, time being limited, they bad all to see the elephant together, and so trod, sometimes a little heavily, on one another's toes ? It seems to us that the foolishness is not in him, but in the philosopher, who allows that one is one, but will not allow that a million, if it has any meaning at all, can be only a million ones. There would have been nothing ridiculous in Smith's interest, or his visit, or his expenditure, or his anxiety that his favourite should not be hurt, if he had been alone ; and that he was one of a crowd made no manner of difference, either intellectual or moral, to the matter, though it did make an immense and very beneficial difference to a most useful and enterprising, though rather cumbrously managed Society. So bitter, however, does the prejudice against numbers grow, that a feeling right in the individual is called a craze in a multitude, and that the sense of humanity which would earn respect for one becomes in a whole population almost odious. We really believe that there are many people in London, other- wise reasonable and good-tempered, and who would distinctly feel pleasure if a child protested against " poor Jumbo" being hurt, who had now rather he were hurt, because a hundred thou- sand children's protests made such an unbearable noise. And every one of them will then give you the statistics of London, with the fatness and mouthiness of diction by which men mark that the figures they are quoting feed some inner pride.

We very much doubt if the easy diffusibility of an emotion, a feeling, an interest, an opinion, call it what you like, does mark the weakness of the society in which such diffusibility appears. It takes metal to transmit electricity well. On the contrary, this peculiarity in any society rather marks the com- pleteness of its organisation, the strictness of the relation be- tween the parts and the whole, the excellent order and:working of the transmitting nerves. We try very hard to produce in an army, whether of soldiers or of workmen, precisely the condition of gregarious sensitiveness which, when it appears of itself in civil society, we affect to despise. Society would be very useless if it could not respond en mane, or, at all events, in great masses, to an impulse, and though it were to be wished that the impulse were always wise, still, we must put up with the evil, for the sake of the permanent good. The telephone is not a bad instrument because a man executed a swindle last week through its instrumentality—the worthy alderman who committed the prisoner evidently thought his guilt most seriously enhanced by his sacrilege upon science— nor is society the feebler because an impulse, be it of intellig- ence, be it of action, be it of mere emotion or curiosity, flies like a throb through the whole of it in a moment. Societies without that peculiarity, societies in which the pulsations stop suddenly, being barred by some ignorance, or prejudice, or segregating caste feeling, are paralytic societies, and cannot act. They can- not perform many of the functions for which societies exist— cannot, for example, help the distressed by the exertion of their whole aggregate force—to the great injury of humanity, and, we may add, as we have no wish to be too serious, to the in- definite inconvenience of society itself. We all forget how immensely our gregariousness helps us in daily life. Imagine London with everybody choosing to eat his meals at his own time ! It is foolish, the philosopher says, that because a book is the fashion, everybody should want that book. It may be foolish, or not, according to the book, which may be "John Iuglesant" or " Moths ; " but let us recognise that if people did not want

it, the book could hardly be produced at all, for excessive cost. Suppose individualism become perfect, and every man to want the novel exactly suited to him, and not to anybody else. Of course, as every human being is a self-enclosed entity, such a want does exist, as an ideal. Well, he would have to spend a fortune on his book, paying all that the author wanted, and the printer, and the paper-maker, and the bookseller, by himself, for his unique copy. What sort of a literature should we then get ? Some years since, every man in England said something sharp on the "tyranny of fashion" in the matter of hoops, and on the folly of the whole female community in rushing after a few bell-wethers to buy crinoline. Well, admit that fashion to have been foolish, though it has reappeared with every century, still, it might have been wise, and, but for the bell- wethering, there could have been no crinoline at all. The wires, if made for a single person with the same perfection; would have cost their weight in diamonds. " Everybody " is rushing to buy Swan's electric lamps. They may not be the best, or they may be—we have no opinion—but because of the rush Mr. Swan reduces their price to five shillings, which means that if they are the best, one hundred persons will be benefited by them, for every ten at the dearer price. Society, in that case, distinctly gains by its bell-wethering, as it often does also in more purely intellectual matters. There is a " craze " for electricity just now, and the savant in gas smiles scorn ; but the craze means the application of thousands of minds at once to the same phenomena, and the same search after the bits of truth lying about. They will find them much faster than if they were all searching separately, and all in different fields. Each, perhaps, will not find more— may, indeed, by reason of jostles and trampling, find less, but the total addition to the world's wealth will be a much richer "fine We venture to say that London, in the aggregate, knows more about elephants, their ways, food, proper treatment, and chances of survival, on account of the " Jumbo " craze, than could have been taught to London by the Zoological Gardens in a hundred years. That may be no gain, but that, if it be so, is the fault, not of the craze, but of the subject of that gregarious emotion, which in itself, properly directed, would have been a fine edu- cating force, even if it did not happen, as, we believe, will happen, that all elephants belonging to civilised men will be a little better kept.