28 DECEMBER 1861, Page 13


quality which more than another develops itself with the progress of the English people it is self-restraint. The dis- like of exaggeration, always marked with a section of the community, seems to have permeated all classes, till we stand in some danger of being condemned as a cold, instead of merely a sober, race. Our language has become simple, till Sheridan, if he were alive again, would be declared turgid, and vien Burke criticized as too ornate ; Cobbett would discoid artisans with his undue violence, and Sir F. Burdett probably :licit only derisive laughter. We think Mr. Bright violent, but forty years ago a northern mob would have yelled at Mr. Bright as a secret "moderate," and the sort of men who harangued for Wilkes and liberty would seem to us only fit for a lunatic asylum. No crowd, except in Ireland, now gives itself up to the hysterics which used to follow every national movement during the Revolutionary war. No newspaper thinks of shrieking for war, as the newspapers did at the commencement of 1814. The chairing of members has become an infrequent exhibition, and a politician who allowed his carriage to be drawn by the populace through London would, ipso facto, stand condemned in the eyes of the middle class. Bonfires are so completely disused that the street folk would scarcely know how to make one, and a _" procession" is now generally composed of volunteers, tries to,keep time, and carefully holds its tongue. , Lon- doners would stand aghast if the City broke out into a paroxysm of fireworks, and small oratory, with excited knots at every corner, allegorical groups extemporized or the hour, processions with emblems and banners, mobs extremely drunk, and a few of the gentry leading each exhibition of feeling in a state of excitement bordering on lunacy. Men still drink, but open convivial drunkenness, ex- hibited by whole crowds in the public streets, is now the rarest of phenomena. We keep up only one festival, and that one is so coldly observed that on Wednesday night London was as silent as if some grand catastrophe had occurred. We shall accept the news of peace or war with America as if either event principally affected the Stock Exchange, and we have allowed the time of suspense to pass without one of the riotous public meetings which so late as 1835 would have expressed the popular will or advertised the popular disgust. Violent counsels, or language, or demonstrations, are rejected as soon as offered, and the whole nation, in its public capacity, seems to have formally accepted the aristocratic code.

It is, perhaps, this increasing morgue, this growing dislike for any- thing unnatural, or "got np," which makes it so exceedingly diffi- cult for Englishmen to express either national joy or national regret, in any reasonable manner. , We seem to have but two devices left to ex- press either—an illumination or a general stoppage of ordinary trade— neither ef which indicate in any degree the shades of national feeling. Both are excessively expensive, require deliberate premeditation, and lack, of necessity, the voluntary and spontaneous character which all popular demonstrations should possess. Both, too, are adapted only to excessive displays of feeling. An illumination, for example, celebrates a great victory or a peace after a long war, but it does not serve to receive a popular guest, or signify national contentment with a pro- -claination, or the acceptance of a new bill, or the arrival of a popular festival, or any other of the minor cauies of national con. gratulation. The two most effective devices for that purpose seem to have been gradually disused. "Firing the bells" from all steeples is, perhaps, as English an expression Qf national gladness as could be discovered, but it is falling into disuse, while the method universal on the Continent of hanging flags from the windows is condemned as tawdry and inconvenient. An outpour of the population into the streets in the French style, never very consonant to English manners, is wholly impossible in winter, and processions arc pronounced, sen- sibly enough, an egregious waste of time. The popular mind pro- bably will not be intensely rejoiced at a favourable answer from Washington, for this generation does not yet comprehend what war really means ; but if it did it would not in the least know how to ex- press itself, except by calling on the squares to "light up." It does not know how even to express its appreciation of Christmas. Charles Dickens still writes as if the "good feeling" and more punch; in which he sees the regeneration of society, were still visible signs of Christmas, and so they may be, in-doors; but in the streets, this Christmas was as dismal and silent as that most melancholy of eras—a London Sunday. There was, it is true, no drunkenness, no rioting, and no breach of the peace, and those deficiencies must be pronounced gains, but then there was no joyousness either. The people are learn* self-restraint so, successfully that, as the educated inan only smiles when his father would have laughed, so the co.ster- msugear,laughs when his grandfather would have huzzaed himself into temporary speechlessness and prostration. The lame tone was, we think, perceptible in the expression Of grief for Prince Albert. The people really and cordially sympathized with their Queen, and they regretted the Prince deeply for her sake, anti moderately for their own. They were perfectly willing to pay all respect to the dead, and show their sympathy with the living, bit they had no idea how to manage it. General mourning do ea not strike the eye among a people who wear habitually only black, and spe- cial mourning, a hit of white crape over the arm, for instance, which would change the whole aspect of London streets, like a sudden gleam of light, would. seem to a self-restrained and shy people « too particular." Hanging black cloth from the windows has never beep thought of, though, perhaps, the most effective demonstration of sorrow ever invented; and for funeral music we have, except in churches, no public resource. So the people fell back on their single device, and taxed the tradesmen of London two or three hundred thouszfd pounds by compelling all shops to shut. The evil of that arrange- ment, besides its excessive unfairness, is that it turns an occasion of mourning into a holiday, which an Englishman, who thinks a greet lunch the "proper" termination of a funeral, is almost certain to avail himself of. As it happened, the weather being excessively cold, London kept itself in-doors, and succeeded, consequently, in assuming an aspect of woe.begone misery which rather exceedeal than fell short of the oocasion. The city could have done no more for the Queen's death. Even the officials gave way to the prevailing notion, and actually stopped the post between twelve and five, a bit of downright unmeaning flunkeyism which jarred upon the genuine feeling of the people as much as the protracted mourning in which some of the papers indulged. That mourning aspect is in itself a most excellent device for displaying national respect and sorrow, and the Star, the only paper which neglected to assume it, was as mistaken injudgment as in feeling. Indifference to individual influences is one of the most unhealthy signs of the democratic spirit, proceeding as it does frosa an all-absorbing worship of that bad idol, the people, i.e. of oneself. But the observance to be real must be spontaneous, and, therefore, confined to the numbers which actually record the decease and funeral. All beyond that is laboured and unreal, intended not to express feeling, but to please some one or other who thinks feeling ought.to be felt.

There is no help for it except in the gradual change of manners; but it is nevertheless a defect in our social organization that we should observe the day of a great funeral and Christmas-day in precisely the same manner.