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Meliora.

ART. 1.-CONTINENTAL CHARITIES.

1. Şix Months Among the Charities of Europe. By John de

Liefde. Two vols. London: Strahan. 1865.

2. Penitentiaries and Reformatories. (Odds and Ends. No. 6.)

Edinburgh: Edmonston and Douglas. 3. The Quarterly Review. October, 1860. Article II.,

Deaconesses.'

4. The Fortnightly Review. December 1, 1865. Article VII.,

"The Condition of our State Hospitals.'

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TINGLAND owes much to its insularity. Much of our

, from it. Some may call it narrowness, as Frenchmen do; but no strength of character is possible without it.

It is a mistake, however, to assume, with M. Cousin and others, that geographical limits and physical formation account for everything, although we would give his theory great scope as far as our own isles are concerned. Certain elements of character that Frenchmen call insular, were peculiar to the Teutonic races that have made Britain what it is, long before they landed upon our shores. They are qualities of race, as much as any features can be; but have, no doubt, been heightened by the character of the country itself. Our commerce could scarcely have grown to be what it is but for a certain sharpness of boundary between us and other people. What our vessels convey to all parts of the world would, doubtless, have been supplied by other nations had they geographically intervened, and our relations would have been more confined to the people in our immediate proximity. Hence, as it has been said, the sea, which seemed to disjoin us from all the world, has proved to be our ring of marriage with all nations. And yet Dr. Arnold wrote, thirty-six years ago, that if we were Vol. 9.–No. 33.

not

not physically a very active people, our disunion from the continent would make us pretty nearly as bad as the Chinese.'

We cannot help our geographical conditions. An elevation of 600 feet of the area of the British Isles and channels, according to Sir H. de la Beche and others, would unite us to the continent of Europe again, and the Thames might once more be a tributary of the Rhine; but we do not know that it is much to be desired. We can get on very well without it, and not be very self-centred either. It is too late now to complain of our insularity, since we have been doing all we can to destroy it. We have loved home with a strong Teutonic affection, but it has made us not sentimentalists, but philosophers. For what is philosophy but 'home-sickness, as Novalis called it-'the wish to be everywhere at home?' We have fought with our neighbours and against them; loved them, hated them, and suffered with them. We have learned from them, and they have been taught by us. Our politics have been affected by theirs, theirs by ours; our habits, customs, fashions, and modes of speech even, have been mutually re-active. We have bridged the channel by books, hidden it by newspapers, destroyed it by telegraphs, and, nevertheless, it exists, and we cannot lose our nationality even in the wildest cosmopolitanism. A certain tinge of race colours us still. Our communion has been literary, commercial, political, and social, but it has not been complete. Travels, newspapers, and books have not embraced every relation, or disclosed every imperium in imperio. Here and there an individual has seen and narrated with fidelity and skill some small portion of this hidden life, and generous sympathisers have been on either side to cheer and enlighten each other's labour. But there are many problems we have in common, many activities, many glaring wants, social anomalies, and fervid wishes, that the public at large has known very little about. A little pamphlet, a review article, a hastily-written book or two, or a casual allusion in a newspaper, has served to show their existence, and little more." Absorbed in our own schemes, we have been too often forgetful that others were working in the same field, and might warn or encourage, rebuke or sustain us. The poor, the weak, the helpless, the sinful, the despairing, are everywhere ; and charity has the same large heart, if it may not have the same fruitful brain and cunning hand. For love lies deeper than race, and faith is stronger than nationality.

In most other avenues of our activity we have profited by our interchanges, but in matters of public charity our knowledge has been small and our profit less. Yet here, surely, we

may

may learn as much as anywhere else. Nearly all the absurd scientific paradoxes of otherwise acute minds, as Professor de Morgan has shown, have arisen from their ignorance of what has been already done and determined on the special subjects taken up, and made possible for the future. 'Only prove to me that it is impossible, and I set about it this very evening,' a sanguine, self-complacent savan once said to him, after he had been lecturing upon the squaring of the circle; and no doubt the silly man kept his word.* Had M. Comte, the ‘high priest' of positivism, only thoughtfully considered how the scheme of Pythagoras ended in the 'mummeries of an impotent freemasonry, and the enthusiastic ceremonies of half-witted ascetics,' he would never have elaborated his, in many respects absurd, Politique Positive,' although we have been latterly told to regard it as presenting hypotheses, rather than doctrines and an actual organic polity. A comparison of general efforts, past and present, but especially the latter, is as surely necessary to a sound system of charitable organisation and administration, as it is in any other department of human lifo and labour. The result of such a comparison, if it could be made--and it is possible—would be immensely beneficial. There would be fewer failures and more successes. Peculiarities of climate, crime, and criminal race, must have their determining influences; and it may be found that one country has been blindly labouring on in a certain way, at great expense and anxiety, to effect that which was impossible, unless its own national laws were altered and its special schemes simplified. Another country has met a special form of social or sexual heresy in a plain, thorough, and satisfactory manner, whilst others are floundering about midway between justico and mercy, harshness and imbecility. It is right these things should be known and carefully examined. A pigmy may stand on an Alp, if he only be a pigmy after all, and one may enter into the labours of another if he have neither the wit nor the wisdom to invent and construct for himself. It is only fair that this broad comparison and self-examination should reach to philanthropic studies, as it has reached everything else. As an organ, “Meliora' has always aimed to act in this spirit, but much yet remains to be done that can be done by no mere analytical or suggestive criticism. A work like the one at the head of our article is a valuable contribution to what one may call comparative sociology, from its special point of view. If some one would give us as much information

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* For this special reference see • Budget of Paradoxes,' No. XXXII. 'Athenæum,' October 14, 1:05 ; but the whole series is interesting.

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