A MODERN UTOPIA
H. G. Wells
This book is in all probability the last of a series of writings, of which—disregarding certain earlier disconnected essays—my Anticipations was the beginning. Originally I intended Anticipations to be my sole digression from my art or trade (or what you will) of an imaginative writer. I wrote that book in order to clear up the muddle in my own mind about innumerable social and political questions, questions I could not keep out of my work, which it distressed me to touch upon in a stupid haphazard way, and which no one, so far as I knew, had handled in a manner to satisfy my needs. But Anticipations did not achieve its end. I have a slow constructive hesitating sort of mind, and when I emerged from that undertaking I found I had still most of my questions to state and solve. In Mankind in the Making, therefore, I tried to review the social organisation in a different way, to consider it as an educational process instead of dealing with it as a thing with a future history, and if I made this second book even less satisfactory from a literary standpoint than the former (and this is my opinion), I blundered, I think, more edifyingly—at least from the point of view of my own instruction. I ventured upon several themes with a greater frankness than I had used in Anticipations, and came out of that second effort guilty of much rash writing, but with a considerable development of formed opinion. In many matters I had shaped out at last a certain personal certitude, upon which I feel I shall go for the rest of my days. In this present book I have tried to settle accounts with a number of issues left over or opened up by its two predecessors, to correct them in some particulars, and to give the general picture of a Utopia that has grown up in my mind during the course of these speculations as a state of affairs at once possible and more desirable than the world in which I live. But this book has brought me back to imaginative writing again. In its two predecessors the treatment of social organisation had been purely objective; here my intention has been a little wider and deeper, in that I have tried to present not simply an ideal, but an ideal in reaction with two personalities. Moreover, since this may be the last book of the kind I shall ever publish, I have written into it as well as I can the heretical metaphysical scepticism upon which all my thinking rests, and I have inserted certain sections reflecting upon the established methods of sociological and economic science....
The last four words will not attract the butterfly reader, I know. I have done my best to make the whole of this book as lucid and entertaining as its matter permits, because I want it read by as many people as possible, but I do not promise anything but rage and confusion to him who proposes to glance through my pages just to see if I agree with him, or to begin in the middle, or to read without a constantly alert attention. If you are not already a little interested and open-minded with regard to social and political questions, and a little exercised in self-examination, you will find neither interest nor pleasure here. If your mind is “made up” upon such issues your time will be wasted on these pages. And even if you are a willing reader you may require a little patience for the peculiar method I have this time adopted.
That method assumes an air of haphazard, but it is not so careless as it seems. I believe it to be—even now that I am through with the book—the best way to a sort of lucid vagueness which has always been my intention in this matter. I tried over several beginnings of a Utopian book before I adopted this. I rejected from the outset the form of the argumentative essay, the form which appeals most readily to what is called the “serious” reader, the reader who is often no more than the solemnly impatient parasite of great questions. He likes everything in hard, heavy lines, black and white, yes and no, because he does not understand how much there is that cannot be presented at all in that way; wherever there is any effect of obliquity, of incommensurables, wherever there is any levity or humour or difficulty of multiplex presentation, he refuses attention. Mentally he seems to be built up upon an invincible assumption that the Spirit of Creation cannot count beyond two, he deals only in alternatives. Such readers I have resolved not to attempt to please here. Even if I presented all my tri-clinic crystals as systems of cubes--! Indeed I felt it would not be worth doing. But having rejected the “serious” essay as a form, I was still greatly exercised, I spent some vacillating months, over the scheme of this book. I tried first a recognised method of viewing questions from divergent points that has always attracted me and which I have never succeeded in using, the discussion novel, after the fashion of Peacock's (and Mr. Mallock's) development of the ancient dialogue; but this encumbered me with unnecessary characters and the inevitable complication of intrigue among them, and I abandoned it. After that I tried to cast the thing into a shape resembling a little the double personality of Boswell's Johnson, a sort of interplay between monologue and commentator; but that too, although it got nearer to the quality I sought, finally failed. Then I hesitated over what one might call “hard narrative.” It will be evident to the experienced reader that by omitting certain speculative and metaphysical elements and by elaborating incident, this book might have been reduced to a straightforward story. But I did not want to omit as much on this occasion. I do not see why I should always pander to the vulgar appetite for stark stories. And in short, I made it this. I explain all this in order to make it clear to the reader that, however queer this book appears at the first examination, it is the outcome of trial and deliberation, it is intended to be as it is. I am aiming throughout at a sort of shot-silk texture between philosophical discussion on the one hand and imaginative narrative on the other.
H. G. WELLS.
There are works, and this is one of them, that are best begun with a portrait of the author. And here, indeed, because of a very natural misunderstanding this is the only course to take. Throughout these papers sounds a note, a distinctive and personal note, a note that tends at times towards stridency; and all that is not, as these words are, in Italics, is in one Voice. Now, this Voice, and this is the peculiarity of the matter, is not to be taken as the Voice of the ostensible author who fathers these pages. You have to clear your mind of any preconceptions in that respect. The Owner of the Voice you must figure to yourself as a whitish plump man, a little under the middle size and age, with such blue eyes as many Irishmen have, and agile in his movements and with a slight tonsorial baldness—a penny might cover it—of the crown. His front is convex. He droops at times like most of us, but for the greater part he bears himself as valiantly as a sparrow. Occasionally his hand flies out with a fluttering gesture of illustration. And his Voice (which is our medium henceforth) is an unattractive tenor that becomes at times aggressive. Him you must imagine as sitting at a table reading a manuscript about Utopias, a manuscript he holds in two hands that are just a little fat at the wrist. The curtain rises upon him so. But afterwards, if the devices of this declining art of literature prevail, you will go with him through curious and interesting experiences. Yet, ever and again, you will find him back at that little table, the manuscript in his hand, and the expansion of his ratiocinations about Utopia conscientiously resumed. The entertainment before you is neither the set drama of the work of fiction you are accustomed to read, nor the set lecturing of the essay you are accustomed to evade, but a hybrid of these two. If you figure this owner of the Voice as sitting, a little nervously, a little modestly, on a stage, with table, glass of water and all complete, and myself as the intrusive chairman insisting with a bland ruthlessness upon his “few words” of introduction before he recedes into the wings, and if furthermore you figure a sheet behind our friend on which moving pictures intermittently appear, and if finally you suppose his subject to be the story of the adventure of his soul among Utopian inquiries, you will be prepared for some at least of the difficulties of this unworthy but unusual work.
But over against this writer here presented, there is also another earthly person in the book, who gathers himself together into a distinct personality only after a preliminary complication with the reader. This person is spoken of as the botanist, and he is a leaner, rather taller, graver and much less garrulous man. His face is weakly handsome and done in tones of grey, he is fairish and grey-eyed, and you would suspect him of dyspepsia. It is a justifiable suspicion. Men of this type, the chairman remarks with a sudden intrusion of exposition, are romantic with a shadow of meanness, they seek at once to conceal and shape their sensuous cravings beneath egregious sentimentalities, they get into mighty tangles and troubles with women, and he has had his troubles. You will hear of them, for that is the quality of his type. He gets no personal expression in this book, the Voice is always that other's, but you gather much of the matter and something of the manner of his interpolations from the asides and the tenour of the Voice.
So much by way of portraiture is necessary to present the explorers of the Modern Utopia, which will unfold itself as a background to these two enquiring figures. The image of a cinematograph entertainment is the one to grasp. There will be an effect of these two people going to and fro in front of the circle of a rather defective lantern, which sometimes jams and sometimes gets out of focus, but which does occasionally succeed in displaying on a screen a momentary moving picture of Utopian conditions. Occasionally the picture goes out altogether, the Voice argues and argues, and the footlights return, and then you find yourself listening again to the rather too plump little man at his table laboriously enunciating propositions, upon whom the curtain rises now.
The Utopia of a modern dreamer must needs
differ in one fundamental aspect from the Nowheres and Utopias men planned
Our business here is to be Utopian, to make vivid and credible, if we can, first this facet and then that, of an imaginary whole and happy world. Our deliberate intention is to be not, indeed, impossible, but most distinctly impracticable, by every scale that reaches only between to-day and to-morrow. We are to turn our backs for a space upon the insistent examination of the thing that is, and face towards the freer air, the ampler spaces of the thing that perhaps might be, to the projection of a State or city “worth while,” to designing upon the sheet of our imaginations the picture of a life conceivably possible, and yet better worth living than our own. That is our present enterprise. We are going to lay down certain necessary starting propositions, and then we shall proceed to explore the sort of world these propositions give us....
It is no doubt an optimistic enterprise. But it is good for awhile to be free from the carping note that must needs be audible when we discuss our present imperfections, to release ourselves from practical difficulties and the tangle of ways and means. It is good to stop by the track for a space, put aside the knapsack, wipe the brows, and talk a little of the upper slopes of the mountain we think we are climbing, would but the trees let us see it.
There is to be no inquiry here of policy and method. This is to be a holiday from politics and movements and methods. But for all that, we must needs define certain limitations. Were we free to have our untrammelled desire, I suppose we should follow Morris to his Nowhere, we should change the nature of man and the nature of things together; we should make the whole race wise, tolerant, noble, perfect—wave our hands to a splendid anarchy, every man doing as it pleases him, and none pleased to do evil, in a world as good in its essential nature, as ripe and sunny, as the world before the Fall. But that golden age, that perfect world, comes out into the possibilities of space and time. In space and time the pervading Will to Live sustains for evermore a perpetuity of aggressions. Our proposal here is upon a more practical plane at least than that. We are to restrict ourselves first to the limitations of human possibility as we know them in the men and women of this world to-day, and then to all the inhumanity, all the insubordination of nature. We are to shape our state in a world of uncertain seasons, sudden catastrophes, antagonistic diseases, and inimical beasts and vermin, out of men and women with like passions, like uncertainties of mood and desire to our own. And, moreover, we are going to accept this world of conflict, to adopt no attitude of renunciation towards it, to face it in no ascetic spirit, but in the mood of the Western peoples, whose purpose is to survive and overcome. So much we adopt in common with those who deal not in Utopias, but in the world of Here and Now.
Certain liberties, however, following the best Utopian precedents, we may take with existing fact. We assume that the tone of public thought may be entirely different from what it is in the present world. We permit ourselves a free hand with the mental conflict of life, within the possibilities of the human mind as we know it. We permit ourselves also a free hand with all the apparatus of existence that man has, so to speak, made for himself, with houses, roads, clothing, canals, machinery, with laws, boundaries, conventions, and traditions, with schools, with literature and religious organisation, with creeds and customs, with everything, in fact, that it lies within man's power to alter. That, indeed, is the cardinal assumption of all Utopian speculations old and new; the Republic and Laws of Plato, and More's Utopia, Howells' implicit Altruria, and Bellamy's future Boston, Comte's great Western Republic, Hertzka's Freeland, Cabet's Icaria, and Campanella's City of the Sun, are built, just as we shall build, upon that, upon the hypothesis of the complete emancipation of a community of men from tradition, from habits, from legal bonds, and that subtler servitude possessions entail. And much of the essential value of all such speculations lies in this assumption of emancipation, lies in that regard towards human freedom, in the undying interest of the human power of self-escape, the power to resist the causation of the past, and to evade, initiate, endeavour, and overcome.
There are very definite artistic limitations also.
There must always be a certain effect of hardness and thinness about Utopian speculations. Their common fault is to be comprehensively jejune. That which is the blood and warmth and reality of life is largely absent; there are no individualities, but only generalised people. In almost every Utopia—except, perhaps, Morris's “News from Nowhere”—one sees handsome but characterless buildings, symmetrical and perfect cultivations, and a multitude of people, healthy, happy, beautifully dressed, but without any personal distinction whatever. Too often the prospect resembles the key to one of those large pictures of coronations, royal weddings, parliaments, conferences, and gatherings so popular in Victorian times, in which, instead of a face, each figure bears a neat oval with its index number legibly inscribed. This burthens us with an incurable effect of unreality, and I do not see how it is altogether to be escaped. It is a disadvantage that has to be accepted. Whatever institution has existed or exists, however irrational, however preposterous, has, by virtue of its contact with individualities, an effect of realness and rightness no untried thing may share. It has ripened, it has been christened with blood, it has been stained and mellowed by handling, it has been rounded and dented to the softened contours that we associate with life; it has been salted, maybe, in a brine of tears. But the thing that is merely proposed, the thing that is merely suggested, however rational, however necessary, seems strange and inhuman in its clear, hard, uncompromising lines, its unqualified angles and surfaces.
There is no help for it, there it is! The Master suffers
with the last and least of his successors. For all the humanity he wins to,
through his dramatic device of dialogue, I doubt if anyone has ever been warmed
to desire himself a citizen in the
No less than a planet will serve the purpose of a modern
Utopia. Time was when a mountain valley or an island seemed to promise
sufficient isolation for a polity to maintain itself intact from outward force;
That leaves no room for a modern Utopia in Central Africa,
Out beyond Sirius, far in the deeps of space, beyond the flight of a cannon-ball flying for a billion years, beyond the range of unaided vision, blazes the star that is our Utopia's sun. To those who know where to look, with a good opera-glass aiding good eyes, it and three fellows that seem in a cluster with it—though they are incredible billions of miles nearer—make just the faintest speck of light. About it go planets, even as our planets, but weaving a different fate, and in its place among them is Utopia, with its sister mate, the Moon. It is a planet like our planet, the same continents, the same islands, the same oceans and seas, another Fuji-Yama is beautiful there dominating another Yokohama—and another Matterhorn overlooks the icy disorder of another Theodule. It is so like our planet that a terrestrial botanist might find his every species there, even to the meanest pondweed or the remotest Alpine blossom....
Only when he had gathered that last and turned about to find his inn again, perhaps he would not find his inn!
Suppose now that two of us were actually to turn about in
just that fashion. Two, I think, for to face a strange planet, even though it be a wholly civilised one, without some other familiar
backing, dashes the courage overmuch. Suppose that we were indeed so translated
even as we stood. You figure us upon some high pass in the Alps, and though
I—being one easily made giddy by stooping—am no botanist myself, if my
companion were to have a specimen tin under his arm—so long as it is not
painted that abominable popular Swiss apple green—I would make it no occasion
for quarrel! We have tramped and botanised and come to a rest, and, sitting
among rocks, we have eaten our lunch and finished our bottle of Yvorne, and
fallen into a talk of Utopias, and said such things as I have been saying. I
could figure it myself upon that little neck of the Lucendro Pass, upon the
shoulder of the Piz Lucendro, for there once I lunched and talked very
pleasantly, and we are looking down upon the Val Bedretto, and Villa and
Fontana and Airolo try to hide from us under the mountain side—three-quarters
of a mile they are vertically below. (Lantern.) With
that absurd nearness of effect one gets in the Alps, we see the little train a
dozen miles away, running down the Biaschina to
And behold! in the twinkling of an eye we are in that other world!
We should scarcely note the change. Not a cloud would have gone from the sky. It might be the remote town below would take a different air, and my companion the botanist, with his educated observation, might almost see as much, and the train, perhaps, would be gone out of the picture, and the embanked straightness of the Ticino in the Ambri-Piotta meadows—that might be altered, but that would be all the visible change. Yet I have an idea that in some obscure manner we should come to feel at once a difference in things.
The botanist's glance would, under a subtle attraction, float back to Airolo. “It's queer,” he would say quite idly, “but I never noticed that building there to the right before.”
“That to the right—with a queer sort of thing--”
“I see now. Yes. Yes, it's certainly an odd-looking affair.... And big, you know! Handsome! I wonder--”
That would interrupt our Utopian speculations. We should both discover that the little towns below had changed—but how, we should not have marked them well enough to know. It would be indefinable, a change in the quality of their grouping, a change in the quality of their remote, small shapes.
I should flick a few crumbs from my knee, perhaps. “It's odd,” I should say, for the tenth or eleventh time, with a motion to rise, and we should get up and stretch ourselves, and, still a little puzzled, turn our faces towards the path that clambers down over the tumbled rocks and runs round by the still clear lake and down towards the Hospice of St. Gotthard—if perchance we could still find that path.
Long before we got to that, before even we got to the great high road, we should have hints from the stone cabin in the nape of the pass—it would be gone or wonderfully changed—from the very goats upon the rocks, from the little hut by the rough bridge of stone, that a mighty difference had come to the world of men.
And presently, amazed and amazing, we should happen on a man—no Swiss—dressed in unfamiliar clothing and speaking an unfamiliar speech....
Before nightfall we should be drenched in wonders, but still we should have wonder left for the thing my companion, with his scientific training, would no doubt be the first to see. He would glance up, with that proprietary eye of the man who knows his constellations down to the little Greek letters. I imagine his exclamation. He would at first doubt his eyes. I should inquire the cause of his consternation, and it would be hard to explain. He would ask me with a certain singularity of manner for “Orion,” and I should not find him; for the Great Bear, and it would have vanished. “Where?” I should ask, and “where?” seeking among that scattered starriness, and slowly I should acquire the wonder that possessed him.
Then, for the first time, perhaps, we should realise from this unfamiliar heaven that not the world had changed, but ourselves—that we had come into the uttermost deeps of space.
We need suppose no linguistic impediments to intercourse. The whole world will surely have a common language, that is quite elementarily Utopian, and since we are free of the trammels of convincing story-telling, we may suppose that language to be sufficiently our own to understand. Indeed, should we be in Utopia at all, if we could not talk to everyone? That accursed bar of language, that hostile inscription in the foreigner's eyes, “deaf and dumb to you, sir, and so—your enemy,” is the very first of the defects and complications one has fled the earth to escape.
But what sort of language would we have the world speak, if
we were told the miracle of
If I may take a daring image, a mediæval liberty, I would suppose that in this lonely place the Spirit of Creation spoke to us on this matter. “You are wise men,” that Spirit might say—and I, being a suspicious, touchy, over-earnest man for all my predisposition to plumpness, would instantly scent the irony (while my companion, I fancy, might even plume himself), “and to beget your wisdom is chiefly why the world was made. You are so good as to propose an acceleration of that tedious multitudinous evolution upon which I am engaged. I gather, a universal tongue would serve you there. While I sit here among these mountains—I have been filing away at them for this last aeon or so, just to attract your hotels, you know—will you be so kind--? A few hints--?”
Then the Spirit of Creation might transiently smile, a smile that would be like the passing of a cloud. All the mountain wilderness about us would be radiantly lit. (You know those swift moments, when warmth and brightness drift by, in lonely and desolate places.)
Yet, after all, why should two men be
smiled into apathy by the Infinite? Here we are, with our knobby little heads,
our eyes and hands and feet and stout hearts, and if not us or ours, still the
endless multitudes about us and in our loins are to come at last to the
Now you as a botanist would, I suppose, incline to something as they say, “scientific.” You wince under that most offensive epithet—and I am able to give you my intelligent sympathy—though “pseudo-scientific” and “quasi-scientific” are worse by far for the skin. You would begin to talk of scientific languages, of Esperanto, La Langue Bleue, New Latin, Volapuk, and Lord Lytton, of the philosophical language of Archbishop Whateley, Lady Welby's work upon Significs and the like. You would tell me of the remarkable precisions, the encyclopædic quality of chemical terminology, and at the word terminology I should insinuate a comment on that eminent American biologist, Professor Mark Baldwin, who has carried the language biological to such heights of expressive clearness as to be triumphantly and invincibly unreadable. (Which foreshadows the line of my defence.)
You make your ideal clear, a scientific language you demand, without ambiguity, as precise as mathematical formulæ, and with every term in relations of exact logical consistency with every other. It will be a language with all the inflexions of verbs and nouns regular and all its constructions inevitable, each word clearly distinguishable from every other word in sound as well as spelling.
That, at any rate, is the sort of thing one hears demanded, and if only because the demand rests upon implications that reach far beyond the region of language, it is worth considering here. It implies, indeed, almost everything that we are endeavouring to repudiate in this particular work. It implies that the whole intellectual basis of mankind is established, that the rules of logic, the systems of counting and measurement, the general categories and schemes of resemblance and difference, are established for the human mind for ever—blank Comte-ism, in fact, of the blankest description. But, indeed, the science of logic and the whole framework of philosophical thought men have kept since the days of Plato and Aristotle, has no more essential permanence as a final expression of the human mind, than the Scottish Longer Catechism. Amidst the welter of modern thought, a philosophy long lost to men rises again into being, like some blind and almost formless embryo, that must presently develop sight, and form, and power, a philosophy in which this assumption is denied. [Footnote: The serious reader may refer at leisure to Sidgwick's Use of Words in Reasoning (particularly), and to Bosanquet's Essentials of Logic, Bradley's Principles of Logic, and Sigwart's Logik; the lighter minded may read and mark the temper of Professor Case in the British Encyclopædia, article Logic (Vol. XXX.). I have appended to his book a rude sketch of a philosophy upon new lines, originally read by me to the Oxford Phil. Soc. in 1903.]
All through this Utopian excursion, I must warn you, you shall feel the thrust and disturbance of that insurgent movement. In the reiterated use of “Unique,” you will, as it were, get the gleam of its integument; in the insistence upon individuality, and the individual difference as the significance of life, you will feel the texture of its shaping body. Nothing endures, nothing is precise and certain (except the mind of a pedant), perfection is the mere repudiation of that ineluctable marginal inexactitude which is the mysterious inmost quality of Being. Being, indeed!—there is no being, but a universal becoming of individualities, and Plato turned his back on truth when he turned towards his museum of specific ideals. Heraclitus, that lost and misinterpreted giant, may perhaps be coming to his own....
There is no abiding thing in what we know. We change from weaker to stronger lights, and each more powerful light pierces our hitherto opaque foundations and reveals fresh and different opacities below. We can never foretell which of our seemingly assured fundamentals the next change will not affect. What folly, then, to dream of mapping out our minds in however general terms, of providing for the endless mysteries of the future a terminology and an idiom! We follow the vein, we mine and accumulate our treasure, but who can tell which way the vein may trend? Language is the nourishment of the thought of man, that serves only as it undergoes metabolism, and becomes thought and lives, and in its very living passes away. You scientific people, with your fancy of a terrible exactitude in language, of indestructible foundations built, as that Wordsworthian doggerel on the title-page of Nature says, “for aye,” are marvellously without imagination!
The language of Utopia will no doubt be one and indivisible; all mankind will, in the measure of their individual differences in quality, be brought into the same phase, into a common resonance of thought, but the language they will speak will still be a living tongue, an animated system of imperfections, which every individual man will infinitesimally modify. Through the universal freedom of exchange and movement, the developing change in its general spirit will be a world-wide change; that is the quality of its universality. I fancy it will be a coalesced language, a synthesis of many. Such a language as English is a coalesced language; it is a coalescence of Anglo-Saxon and Norman French and Scholar's Latin, welded into one speech more ample and more powerful and beautiful than either. The Utopian tongue might well present a more spacious coalescence, and hold in the frame of such an uninflected or slightly inflected idiom as English already presents, a profuse vocabulary into which have been cast a dozen once separate tongues, superposed and then welded together through bilingual and trilingual compromises. [Footnote: Vide an excellent article, La Langue Française en l'an 2003, par Leon Bollack, in La Revue, 15 Juillet, 1903.] In the past ingenious men have speculated on the inquiry, “Which language will survive?” The question was badly put. I think now that this wedding and survival of several in a common offspring is a far more probable thing.
This talk of languages, however, is a digression. We were on
our way along the faint path that runs round the rim of the
There is more, perhaps, in that than appears at the first suggestion.
That proposition gives one characteristic difference between a modern Utopia and almost all its predecessors. It is to be a world Utopia, we have agreed, no less; and so we must needs face the fact that we are to have differences of race. Even the lower class of Plato's Republic was not specifically of different race. But this is a Utopia as wide as Christian charity, and white and black, brown, red and yellow, all tints of skin, all types of body and character, will be there. How we are to adjust their differences is a master question, and the matter is not even to be opened in this chapter. It will need a whole chapter even to glance at its issues. But here we underline that stipulation; every race of this planet earth is to be found in the strictest parallelism there, in numbers the same—only, as I say, with an entirely different set of traditions, ideals, ideas, and purposes, and so moving under those different skies to an altogether different destiny.
There follows a curious development of this to anyone clearly impressed by the uniqueness and the unique significance of individualities. Races are no hard and fast things, no crowd of identically similar persons, but massed sub-races, and tribes and families, each after its kind unique, and these again are clusterings of still smaller uniques and so down to each several person. So that our first convention works out to this, that not only is every earthly mountain, river, plant, and beast in that parallel planet beyond Sirius also, but every man, woman, and child alive has a Utopian parallel. From now onward, of course, the fates of these two planets will diverge, men will die here whom wisdom will save there, and perhaps conversely here we shall save men; children will be born to them and not to us, to us and not to them, but this, this moment of reading, is the starting moment, and for the first and last occasion the populations of our planets are abreast.
We must in these days make some such supposition. The alternative is a Utopia of dolls in the likeness of angels—imaginary laws to fit incredible people, an unattractive undertaking.
For example, we must assume there is a man such as I might have been, better informed, better disciplined, better employed, thinner and more active—and I wonder what he is doing!—and you, Sir or Madam, are in duplicate also, and all the men and women that you know and I. I doubt if we shall meet our doubles, or if it would be pleasant for us to do so; but as we come down from these lonely mountains to the roads and houses and living places of the Utopian world-state, we shall certainly find, here and there, faces that will remind us singularly of those who have lived under our eyes.
There are some you never wish to meet again, you say, and some, I gather, you do. “And One--!”
It is strange, but this figure of the botanist will not keep in place. It sprang up between us, dear reader, as a passing illustrative invention. I do not know what put him into my head, and for the moment, it fell in with my humour for a space to foist the man's personality upon you as yours and call you scientific—that most abusive word. But here he is, indisputably, with me in Utopia, and lapsing from our high speculative theme into halting but intimate confidences. He declares he has not come to Utopia to meet again with his sorrows.
I protest, even warmly, that neither he nor his sorrows were in my intention.
He is a man, I should think, of thirty-nine, a man whose life has been neither tragedy nor a joyous adventure, a man with one of those faces that have gained interest rather than force or nobility from their commerce with life. He is something refined, with some knowledge, perhaps, of the minor pains and all the civil self-controls; he has read more than he has suffered, and suffered rather than done. He regards me with his blue-grey eye, from which all interest in this Utopia has faded.
“It is a trouble,” he says, “that has come into my life only for a month or so—at least acutely again. I thought it was all over. There was someone--”
It is an amazing story to hear upon a mountain crest in Utopia, this Hampstead affair, this story of a Frognal heart. “Frognal,” he says, is the place where they met, and it summons to my memory the word on a board at the corner of a flint-dressed new road, an estate development road, with a vista of villas up a hill. He had known her before he got his professorship, and neither her “people” nor his—he speaks that detestable middle-class dialect in which aunts and things with money and the right of intervention are called “people”!—approved of the affair. “She was, I think, rather easily swayed,” he says. “But that's not fair to her, perhaps. She thought too much of others. If they seemed distressed, or if they seemed to think a course right--” ...
Have I come to Utopia to hear this sort of thing?
It is necessary to turn the botanist's thoughts into a
worthier channel. It is necessary to override these modest regrets, this
intrusive, petty love story. Does he realise this is indeed Utopia? Turn your
mind, I insist, to this Utopia of mine, and leave these earthly troubles to
their proper planet. Do you realise just where the propositions necessary to a
modern Utopia are taking us? Everyone on earth will have to be
here;—themselves, but with a difference. Somewhere here in this world is, for
example, Mr. Chamberlain, and the King is here (no doubt incognito), and all
But these famous names do not appeal to him.
My mind goes from this prominent and typical personage to that, and for a time I forget my companion. I am distracted by the curious side issues this general proposition trails after it. There will be so-and-so, and so-and-so. The name and figure of Mr. Roosevelt jerks into focus, and obliterates an attempt to acclimatise the Emperor of the Germans. What, for instance, will Utopia do with Mr. Roosevelt? There drifts across my inner vision the image of a strenuous struggle with Utopian constables, the voice that has thrilled terrestrial millions in eloquent protest. The writ of arrest, drifting loose in the conflict, comes to my feet; I impale the scrap of paper, and read—but can it be?—“attempted disorganisation?... incitements to disarrange?... the balance of population?”
The trend of my logic for once has led us into a facetious alley. One might indeed keep in this key, and write an agreeable little Utopia, that like the holy families of the mediæval artists (or Michael Angelo's Last Judgement) should compliment one's friends in various degrees. Or one might embark upon a speculative treatment of the entire Almanach de Gotha, something on the lines of Epistemon's vision of the damned great, when
“Xerxes was a crier of mustard.
That incomparable catalogue! That incomparable catalogue! Inspired by the Muse of Parody, we might go on to the pages of “Who's Who,” and even, with an eye to the obdurate republic, to “Who's Who in America,” and make the most delightful and extensive arrangements. Now where shall we put this most excellent man? And this?...
But, indeed, it is doubtful if we shall meet any of these doubles during our Utopian journey, or know them when we meet them. I doubt if anyone will be making the best of both these worlds. The great men in this still unexplored Utopia may be but village Hampdens in our own, and earthly goatherds and obscure illiterates sit here in the seats of the mighty.
That again opens agreeable vistas left of us and right.
But my botanist obtrudes his personality again. His thoughts have travelled by a different route.
“I know,” he says, “that she will be happier here, and that they will value her better than she has been valued upon earth.”
His interruption serves to turn me back from my momentary contemplation of those popular effigies inflated by old newspapers and windy report, the earthly great. He sets me thinking of more personal and intimate applications, of the human beings one knows with a certain approximation to real knowledge, of the actual common substance of life. He turns me to the thought of rivalries and tendernesses, of differences and disappointments. I am suddenly brought painfully against the things that might have been. What if instead of that Utopia of vacant ovals we meet relinquished loves here, and opportunities lost and faces as they might have looked to us?
I turn to my botanist almost reprovingly. “You know, she won't be quite the same lady here that you knew in Frognal,” I say, and wrest myself from a subject that is no longer agreeable by rising to my feet.
“And besides,” I say, standing above him, “the chances against our meeting her are a million to one.... And we loiter! This is not the business we have come upon, but a mere incidental kink in our larger plan. The fact remains, these people we have come to see are people with like infirmities to our own—and only the conditions are changed. Let us pursue the tenour of our inquiry.”
With that I lead the way round the edge of the
(You figure him doing it.)
Down the mountain we shall go and down the passes, and as the valleys open the world will open, Utopia, where men and women are happy and laws are wise, and where all that is tangled and confused in human affairs has been unravelled and made right.
Now what sort of question would first occur to two men
descending upon the planet of a Modern Utopia? Probably grave
solicitude about their personal freedom. Towards the Stranger, as I have
already remarked, the Utopias of the past displayed their least amiable aspect.
Would this new sort of
We should take comfort in the thought that universal
Toleration is certainly a modern idea, and it is upon modern ideas that this
The idea of individual liberty is one that has grown in importance and grows with every development of modern thought. To the classical Utopists freedom was relatively trivial. Clearly they considered virtue and happiness as entirely separable from liberty, and as being altogether more important things. But the modern view, with its deepening insistence upon individuality and upon the significance of its uniqueness, steadily intensifies the value of freedom, until at last we begin to see liberty as the very substance of life, that indeed it is life, and that only the dead things, the choiceless things, live in absolute obedience to law. To have free play for one's individuality is, in the modern view, the subjective triumph of existence, as survival in creative work and offspring is its objective triumph. But for all men, since man is a social creature, the play of will must fall short of absolute freedom. Perfect human liberty is possible only to a despot who is absolutely and universally obeyed. Then to will would be to command and achieve, and within the limits of natural law we could at any moment do exactly as it pleased us to do. All other liberty is a compromise between our own freedom of will and the wills of those with whom we come in contact. In an organised state each one of us has a more or less elaborate code of what he may do to others and to himself, and what others may do to him. He limits others by his rights, and is limited by the rights of others, and by considerations affecting the welfare of the community as a whole.
Individual liberty in a community is not, as mathematicians would say, always of the same sign. To ignore this is the essential fallacy of the cult called Individualism. But in truth, a general prohibition in a state may increase the sum of liberty, and a general permission may diminish it. It does not follow, as these people would have us believe, that a man is more free where there is least law and more restricted where there is most law. A socialism or a communism is not necessarily a slavery, and there is no freedom under Anarchy. Consider how much liberty we gain by the loss of the common liberty to kill. Thereby one may go to and fro in all the ordered parts of the earth, unencumbered by arms or armour, free of the fear of playful poison, whimsical barbers, or hotel trap-doors. Indeed, it means freedom from a thousand fears and precautions. Suppose there existed even the limited freedom to kill in vendetta, and think what would happen in our suburbs. Consider the inconvenience of two households in a modern suburb estranged and provided with modern weapons of precision, the inconvenience not only to each other, but to the neutral pedestrian, the practical loss of freedoms all about them. The butcher, if he came at all, would have to come round in an armoured cart....
It follows, therefore, in a modern Utopia, which finds the final hope of the world in the evolving interplay of unique individualities, that the State will have effectually chipped away just all those spendthrift liberties that waste liberty, and not one liberty more, and so have attained the maximum general freedom.
There are two distinct and contrasting methods of limiting liberty; the first is Prohibition, “thou shalt not,” and the second Command, “thou shalt.” There is, however, a sort of prohibition that takes the form of a conditional command, and this one needs to bear in mind. It says if you do so-and-so, you must also do so-and-so; if, for example, you go to sea with men you employ, you must go in a seaworthy vessel. But the pure command is unconditional; it says, whatever you have done or are doing or want to do, you are to do this, as when the social system, working through the base necessities of base parents and bad laws, sends a child of thirteen into a factory. Prohibition takes one definite thing from the indefinite liberty of a man, but it still leaves him an unbounded choice of actions. He remains free, and you have merely taken a bucketful from the sea of his freedom. But compulsion destroys freedom altogether. In this Utopia of ours there may be many prohibitions, but no indirect compulsions—if one may so contrive it—and few or no commands. As far as I see it now, in this present discussion, I think, indeed, there should be no positive compulsions at all in Utopia, at any rate for the adult Utopian—unless they fall upon him as penalties incurred.
What prohibitions should we be under, we two Uitlanders in this Utopian world? We should certainly not be free to kill, assault, or threaten anyone we met, and in that we earth-trained men would not be likely to offend. And until we knew more exactly the Utopian idea of property we should be very chary of touching anything that might conceivably be appropriated. If it was not the property of individuals it might be the property of the State. But beyond that we might have our doubts. Are we right in wearing the strange costumes we do, in choosing the path that pleases us athwart this rock and turf, in coming striding with unfumigated rücksacks and snow-wet hobnails into what is conceivably an extremely neat and orderly world? We have passed our first Utopian now, with an answered vague gesture, and have noted, with secret satisfaction, there is no access of dismay; we have rounded a bend, and down the valley in the distance we get a glimpse of what appears to be a singularly well-kept road....
I submit that to the modern minded man it can be no sort of Utopia worth desiring that does not give the utmost freedom of going to and fro. Free movement is to many people one of the greatest of life's privileges—to go wherever the spirit moves them, to wander and see—and though they have every comfort, every security, every virtuous discipline, they will still be unhappy if that is denied them. Short of damage to things cherished and made, the Utopians will surely have this right, so we may expect no unclimbable walls and fences, nor the discovery of any laws we may transgress in coming down these mountain places.
And yet, just as civil liberty itself is a compromise defended by prohibitions, so this particular sort of liberty must also have its qualifications. Carried to the absolute pitch the right of free movement ceases to be distinguishable from the right of free intrusion. We have already, in a comment on More's Utopia, hinted at an agreement with Aristotle's argument against communism, that it flings people into an intolerable continuity of contact. Schopenhauer carried out Aristotle in the vein of his own bitterness and with the truest of images when he likened human society to hedgehogs clustering for warmth, and unhappy when either too closely packed or too widely separated. Empedocles found no significance in life whatever except as an unsteady play of love and hate, of attraction and repulsion, of assimilation and the assertion of difference. So long as we ignore difference, so long as we ignore individuality, and that I hold has been the common sin of all Utopias hitherto, we can make absolute statements, prescribe communisms or individualisms, and all sorts of hard theoretic arrangements. But in the world of reality, which—to modernise Heraclitus and Empedocles—is nothing more nor less than the world of individuality, there are no absolute rights and wrongs, there are no qualitative questions at all, but only quantitative adjustments. Equally strong in the normal civilised man is the desire for freedom of movement and the desire for a certain privacy, for a corner definitely his, and we have to consider where the line of reconciliation comes.
The desire for absolute personal privacy is perhaps never a very strong or persistent craving. In the great majority of human beings, the gregarious instinct is sufficiently powerful to render any but the most temporary isolations not simply disagreeable, but painful. The savage has all the privacy he needs within the compass of his skull; like dogs and timid women, he prefers ill-treatment to desertion, and it is only a scarce and complex modern type that finds comfort and refreshment in quite lonely places and quite solitary occupations. Yet such there are, men who can neither sleep well nor think well, nor attain to a full perception of beautiful objects, who do not savour the best of existence until they are securely alone, and for the sake of these even it would be reasonable to draw some limits to the general right of free movement. But their particular need is only a special and exceptional aspect of an almost universal claim to privacy among modern people, not so much for the sake of isolation as for congenial companionship. We want to go apart from the great crowd, not so much to be alone as to be with those who appeal to us particularly and to whom we particularly appeal; we want to form households and societies with them, to give our individualities play in intercourse with them, and in the appointments and furnishings of that intercourse. We want gardens and enclosures and exclusive freedoms for our like and our choice, just as spacious as we can get them—and it is only the multitudinous uncongenial, anxious also for similar developments in some opposite direction, that checks this expansive movement of personal selection and necessitates a compromise on privacy.
Glancing back from our Utopian mountain side down which this discourse marches, to the confusions of old earth, we may remark that the need and desire for privacies there is exceptionally great at the present time, that it was less in the past, that in the future it may be less again, and that under the Utopian conditions to which we shall come when presently we strike yonder road, it may be reduced to quite manageable dimensions. But this is to be effected not by the suppression of individualities to some common pattern, [Footnote: More's Utopia. “Whoso will may go in, for there is nothing within the houses that is private or anie man's owne.”] but by the broadening of public charity and the general amelioration of mind and manners. It is not by assimilation, that is to say, but by understanding that the modern Utopia achieves itself. The ideal community of man's past was one with a common belief, with common customs and common ceremonies, common manners and common formulæ; men of the same society dressed in the same fashion, each according to his defined and understood grade, behaved in the same fashion, loved, worshipped, and died in the same fashion. They did or felt little that did not find a sympathetic publicity. The natural disposition of all peoples, white, black, or brown, a natural disposition that education seeks to destroy, is to insist upon uniformity, to make publicity extremely unsympathetic to even the most harmless departures from the code. To be dressed “odd,” to behave “oddly,” to eat in a different manner or of different food, to commit, indeed, any breach of the established convention is to give offence and to incur hostility among unsophisticated men. But the disposition of the more original and enterprising minds at all times has been to make such innovations.
This is particularly in evidence in this present age. The almost cataclysmal development of new machinery, the discovery of new materials, and the appearance of new social possibilities through the organised pursuit of material science, has given enormous and unprecedented facilities to the spirit of innovation. The old local order has been broken up or is now being broken up all over the earth, and everywhere societies deliquesce, everywhere men are afloat amidst the wreckage of their flooded conventions, and still tremendously unaware of the thing that has happened. The old local orthodoxies of behaviour, of precedence, the old accepted amusements and employments, the old ritual of conduct in the important small things of the daily life and the old ritual of thought in the things that make discussion, are smashed up and scattered and mixed discordantly together, one use with another, and no world-wide culture of toleration, no courteous admission of differences, no wider understanding has yet replaced them. And so publicity in the modern earth has become confusedly unsympathetic for everyone. Classes are intolerable to classes and sets to sets, contact provokes aggressions, comparisons, persecutions and discomforts, and the subtler people are excessively tormented by a sense of observation, unsympathetic always and often hostile. To live without some sort of segregation from the general mass is impossible in exact proportion to one's individual distinction.
Of course things will be very different in Utopia. Utopia will be saturated with consideration. To us, clad as we are in mountain-soiled tweeds and with no money but British bank-notes negotiable only at a practically infinite distance, this must needs be a reassuring induction. And Utopian manners will not only be tolerant, but almost universally tolerable. Endless things will be understood perfectly and universally that on earth are understood only by a scattered few; baseness of bearing, grossness of manner, will be the distinctive mark of no section of the community whatever. The coarser reasons for privacy, therefore, will not exist here. And that savage sort of shyness, too, that makes so many half-educated people on earth recluse and defensive, that too the Utopians will have escaped by their more liberal breeding. In the cultivated State we are assuming it will be ever so much easier for people to eat in public, rest and amuse themselves in public, and even work in public. Our present need for privacy in many things marks, indeed, a phase of transition from an ease in public in the past due to homogeneity, to an ease in public in the future due to intelligence and good breeding, and in Utopia that transition will be complete. We must bear that in mind throughout the consideration of this question.
Yet, after this allowance has been made, there still remains
a considerable claim for privacy in Utopia. The room, or apartments, or home,
or mansion, whatever it may be a man or woman maintains, must be private, and
under his or her complete dominion; it seems harsh and intrusive to forbid a
central garden plot or peristyle, such as one sees in Pompeii, within the house
walls, and it is almost as difficult to deny a little private territory beyond
the house. Yet if we concede that, it is clear that without some further
provision we concede the possibility that the poorer townsman (if there are to
be rich and poor in the world) will be forced to walk through endless miles of
high fenced villa gardens before he may expand in his little scrap of reserved
open country. Such is already the poor Londoner's miserable fate.... Our Utopia
will have, of course, faultless roads and beautifully arranged inter-urban
communications, swift trains or motor services or what not, to diffuse its
population, and without some anticipatory provisions, the prospect of the
residential areas becoming a vast area of defensively walled villa
This is a quantitative question, be it remembered, and not to be dismissed by any statement of principle. Our Utopians will meet it, I presume, by detailed regulations, very probably varying locally with local conditions. Privacy beyond the house might be made a privilege to be paid for in proportion to the area occupied, and the tax on these licences of privacy might increase as the square of the area affected. A maximum fraction of private enclosure for each urban and suburban square mile could be fixed. A distinction could be drawn between an absolutely private garden and a garden private and closed only for a day or a couple of days a week, and at other times open to the well-behaved public. Who, in a really civilised community, would grudge that measure of invasion? Walls could be taxed by height and length, and the enclosure of really natural beauties, of rapids, cascades, gorges, viewpoints, and so forth made impossible. So a reasonable compromise between the vital and conflicting claims of the freedom of movement and the freedom of seclusion might be attained....
And as we argue thus we draw nearer and nearer to the road
that goes up and over the Gotthard crest and down the Val Tremola towards
What sort of road would that be?
Freedom of movement in a Utopia planned under modern conditions must involve something more than unrestricted pedestrian wanderings, and the very proposition of a world-state speaking one common tongue carries with it the idea of a world population travelled and travelling to an extent quite beyond anything our native earth has seen. It is now our terrestrial experience that whenever economic and political developments set a class free to travel, that class at once begins to travel; in England, for example, above the five or six hundred pounds a year level, it is hard to find anyone who is not habitually migratory, who has not been frequently, as people say, “abroad.” In the Modern Utopia travel must be in the common texture of life. To go into fresh climates and fresh scenery, to meet a different complexion of humanity and a different type of home and food and apparatus, to mark unfamiliar trees and plants and flowers and beasts, to climb mountains, to see the snowy night of the North and the blaze of the tropical midday, to follow great rivers, to taste loneliness in desert places, to traverse the gloom of tropical forests and to cross the high seas, will be an essential part of the reward and adventure of life, even for the commonest people.... This is a bright and pleasant particular in which a modern Utopia must differ again, and differ diametrically, from its predecessors.
We may conclude from what has been done in places upon our
earth that the whole Utopian world will be open and accessible and as safe for
the wayfarer as
On this account alone no places will be so congested as these two are now on earth. With freedom to go everywhere, with easy access everywhere, with no dread of difficulties about language, coinage, custom, or law, why should everyone continue to go to just a few special places? Such congestions are merely the measure of the general inaccessibility and insecurity and costliness of contemporary life, an awkward transitory phase in the first beginnings of the travel age of mankind.
No doubt the Utopian will travel in many ways. It is unlikely there will be any smoke-disgorging steam railway trains in Utopia, they are already doomed on earth, already threatened with that obsolescence that will endear them to the Ruskins of to-morrow, but a thin spider's web of inconspicuous special routes will cover the land of the world, pierce the mountain masses and tunnel under the seas. These may be double railways or monorails or what not—we are no engineers to judge between such devices—but by means of them the Utopian will travel about the earth from one chief point to another at a speed of two or three hundred miles or more an hour. That will abolish the greater distances.... One figures these main communications as something after the manner of corridor trains, smooth-running and roomy, open from end to end, with cars in which one may sit and read, cars in which one may take refreshment, cars into which the news of the day comes printing itself from the wires beside the track; cars in which one may have privacy and sleep if one is so disposed, bath-room cars, library cars; a train as comfortable as a good club. There will be no distinctions of class in such a train, because in a civilised world there would be no offence between one kind of man and another, and for the good of the whole world such travelling will be as cheap as it can be, and well within the reach of any but the almost criminally poor.
Such great tramways as this will be used when the Utopians wish to travel fast and far; thereby you will glide all over the land surface of the planet; and feeding them and distributing from them, innumerable minor systems, clean little electric tramways I picture them, will spread out over the land in finer reticulations, growing close and dense in the urban regions and thinning as the population thins. And running beside these lighter railways, and spreading beyond their range, will be the smooth minor high roads such as this one we now approach, upon which independent vehicles, motor cars, cycles, and what not, will go. I doubt if we shall see any horses upon this fine, smooth, clean road; I doubt if there will be many horses on the high roads of Utopia, and, indeed, if they will use draught horses at all upon that planet. Why should they? Where the world gives turf or sand, or along special tracts, the horse will perhaps be ridden for exercise and pleasure, but that will be all the use for him; and as for the other beasts of burthen, on the remoter mountain tracks the mule will no doubt still be a picturesque survival, in the desert men will still find a use for the camel, and the elephant may linger to play a part in the pageant of the East. But the burthen of the minor traffic, if not the whole of it, will certainly be mechanical. This is what we shall see even while the road is still remote, swift and shapely motor-cars going past, cyclists, and in these agreeable mountain regions there will also be pedestrians upon their way. Cycle tracks will abound in Utopia, sometimes following beside the great high roads, but oftener taking their own more agreeable line amidst woods and crops and pastures; and there will be a rich variety of footpaths and minor ways. There will be many footpaths in Utopia. There will be pleasant ways over the scented needles of the mountain pinewoods, primrose-strewn tracks amidst the budding thickets of the lower country, paths running beside rushing streams, paths across the wide spaces of the corn land, and, above all, paths through the flowery garden spaces amidst which the houses in the towns will stand. And everywhere about the world, on road and path, by sea and land, the happy holiday Utopians will go.
The population of Utopia will be a migratory population
beyond any earthly precedent, not simply a travelling population, but
migratory. The old Utopias were all localised, as localised as a parish
councillor; but it is manifest that nowadays even quite ordinary people live
over areas that would have made a kingdom in those former days, would have
filled the Athenian of the Laws with incredulous astonishment. Except for the
habits of the very rich during the
And with this loosening of the fetters of locality from the feet of men, necessarily there will be all sorts of fresh distributions of the factors of life. On our own poor haphazard earth, wherever men work, wherever there are things to be grown, minerals to be won, power to be used, there, regardless of all the joys and decencies of life, the households needs must cluster. But in Utopia there will be wide stretches of cheerless or unhealthy or toilsome or dangerous land with never a household; there will be regions of mining and smelting, black with the smoke of furnaces and gashed and desolated by mines, with a sort of weird inhospitable grandeur of industrial desolation, and the men will come thither and work for a spell and return to civilisation again, washing and changing their attire in the swift gliding train. And by way of compensation there will be beautiful regions of the earth specially set apart and favoured for children; in them the presence of children will remit taxation, while in other less wholesome places the presence of children will be taxed; the lower passes and fore hills of these very Alps, for example, will be populous with homes, serving the vast arable levels of Upper Italy.
So we shall see, as we come down by our little lake in the
lap of Lucendro, and even before we reach the road, the first scattered chalets
and households in which these migrant people live, the upper summer homes. With
the coming of summer, as the snows on the high
One figures one of the more urban highways, one of those
along which the light railways of the second order run, such as that in the
valley of Urseren, into which we should presently come. I figure it as one
would see it at night, a band a hundred yards perhaps in width, the footpath on
either side shaded with high trees and lit softly with orange glowlights; while
down the centre the tramway of the road will go, with sometimes a nocturnal
tram-car gliding, lit and gay but almost noiselessly, past. Lantern-lit
cyclists will flit along the track like fireflies, and ever and again some
humming motor-car will hurry by, to or from the Rhoneland or the Rhineland or
I figure it at night, because so it is we should see it first.
We should come out from our mountain valley into the minor road that runs down the lonely rock wilderness of the San Gotthard Pass, we should descend that nine miles of winding route, and so arrive towards twilight among the clustering homes and upland unenclosed gardens of Realp and Hospenthal and Andermatt. Between Realp and Andermatt, and down the Schoellenen gorge, the greater road would run. By the time we reached it, we should be in the way of understanding our adventure a little better. We should know already, when we saw those two familiar clusters of chalets and hotels replaced by a great dispersed multitude of houses—we should see their window lights, but little else—that we were the victims of some strange transition in space or time, and we should come down by dimly-seen buildings into the part that would answer to Hospenthal, wondering and perhaps a little afraid. We should come out into this great main roadway—this roadway like an urban avenue—and look up it and down, hesitating whether to go along the valley Furka-ward, or down by Andermatt through the gorge that leads to Göschenen....
People would pass us in the twilight, and then more people; we should see they walked well and wore a graceful, unfamiliar dress, but more we should not distinguish.
“Good-night!” they would say to us in clear, fine voices. Their dim faces would turn with a passing scrutiny towards us.
We should answer out of our perplexity: “Good-night!”—for by the conventions established in the beginning of this book, we are given the freedom of their tongue.
Were this a story, I should tell at length how much we were helped by the good fortune of picking up a Utopian coin of gold, how at last we adventured into the Utopian inn and found it all marvellously easy. You see us the shyest and most watchful of guests; but of the food they put before us and the furnishings of the house, and all our entertainment, it will be better to speak later. We are in a migratory world, we know, one greatly accustomed to foreigners; our mountain clothes are not strange enough to attract acute attention, though ill-made and shabby, no doubt, by Utopian standards; we are dealt with as we might best wish to be dealt with, that is to say as rather untidy, inconspicuous men. We look about us and watch for hints and examples, and, indeed, get through with the thing. And after our queer, yet not unpleasant, dinner, in which we remark no meat figures, we go out of the house for a breath of air and for quiet counsel one with another, and there it is we discover those strange constellations overhead. It comes to us then, clear and full, that our imagination has realised itself; we dismiss quite finally a Rip-Van-Winkle fancy we have entertained, all the unfamiliarities of our descent from the mountain pass gather together into one fullness of conviction, and we know, we know, we are in Utopia.
We wander under the trees by the main road, watching the dim passers-by as though they were the phantoms of a dream. We say little to one another. We turn aside into a little pathway and come to a bridge over the turbulent Reuss, hurrying down towards the Devil's Bridge in the gorge below. Far away over the Furka ridge a pallid glow preludes the rising of the moon.
Two lovers pass us whispering, and we follow them with our eyes. This Utopia has certainly preserved the fundamental freedom, to love. And then a sweet-voiced bell from somewhere high up towards Oberalp chimes two-and-twenty times.
I break the silence. “That might mean ten o'clock,” I say.
My companion leans upon the bridge and looks down into the dim river below. I become aware of the keen edge of the moon like a needle of incandescent silver creeping over the crest, and suddenly the river is alive with flashes.
He speaks, and astonishes me with the hidden course his thoughts have taken.
“We two were boy and girl lovers like that,” he says, and jerks a head at the receding Utopians. “I loved her first, and I do not think I have ever thought of loving anyone but her.”
It is a curiously human thing, and, upon my honour, not one I had designed, that when at last I stand in the twilight in the midst of a Utopian township, when my whole being should be taken up with speculative wonder, this man should be standing by my side, and lugging my attention persistently towards himself, towards his limited futile self. This thing perpetually happens to me, this intrusion of something small and irrelevant and alive, upon my great impressions. The time I first saw the Matterhorn, that Queen among the Alpine summits, I was distracted beyond appreciation by the tale of a man who could not eat sardines—always sardines did this with him and that; and my first wanderings along the brown streets of Pompeii, an experience I had anticipated with a strange intensity, was shot with the most stupidly intelligent discourse on vehicular tariffs in the chief capitals of Europe that it is possible to imagine. And now this man, on my first night in Utopia, talks and talks and talks of his poor little love affair.
It shapes itself as the most trite and feeble of tragedies, one of those stories of effortless submission to chance and custom in which Mr. Hardy or George Gissing might have found a theme. I do but half listen at first—watching the black figures in the moonlit roadway pacing to and fro. Yet—I cannot trace how he conveys the subtle conviction to my mind—the woman he loves is beautiful.
They were boy and girl together, and afterwards they met again as fellow students in a world of comfortable discretions. He seems to have taken the decorums of life with a confiding good faith, to have been shy and innocent in a suppressed sort of way, and of a mental type not made for worldly successes; but he must have dreamt about her and loved her well enough. How she felt for him I could never gather; it seemed to be all of that fleshless friendliness into which we train our girls. Then abruptly happened stresses. The man who became her husband appeared, with a very evident passion. He was a year or so older than either of them, and he had the habit and quality of achieving his ends; he was already successful, and with the promise of wealth, and I, at least, perceived, from my botanist's phrasing, that his desire was for her beauty.
As my botanist talked I seemed to see the whole little drama, rather clearer than his words gave it me, the actors all absurdly in Hampstead middle-class raiment, meetings of a Sunday after church (the men in silk hats, frock coats, and tightly-rolled umbrellas), rare excursions into evening dress, the decorously vulgar fiction read in their homes, its ambling sentimentalities of thought, the amiably worldly mothers, the respectable fathers, the aunts, the “people”—his “people” and her “people”—the piano music and the song, and in this setting our friend, “quite clever” at botany and “going in” for it “as a profession,” and the girl, gratuitously beautiful; so I figured the arranged and orderly environment into which this claw of an elemental force had thrust itself to grip.
The stranger who had come in got what he wanted; the girl considered that she thought she had never loved the botanist, had had only friendship for him—though little she knew of the meaning of those fine words—they parted a little incoherently and in tears, and it had not occurred to the young man to imagine she was not going off to conventional life in some other of the endless Frognals he imagined as the cellular tissue of the world.
But she wasn't.
He had kept her photograph and her memory sweet, and if ever he had strayed from the severest constancy, it seemed only in the end to strengthen with the stuff of experience, to enhance by comparative disappointment his imagination of what she might have meant to him.... Then eight years afterwards they met again.
By the time he gets to this part of his story we have, at my initiative, left the bridge and are walking towards the Utopian guest house. The Utopian guest house! His voice rises and falls, and sometimes he holds my arm. My attention comes and goes. “Good-night,” two sweet-voiced Utopians cry to us in their universal tongue, and I answer them “Good-night.”
“You see,” he persists, “I saw her only a week ago. It was
Before us, through the tall pine stems, shine the lights of our Utopian inn.
He talks vaguely of ill-usage. “The husband is vain, boastful, dishonest to the very confines of the law, and a drunkard. There are scenes and insults--”
“She told you?”
“Not much, but someone else did. He brings other women almost into her presence to spite her.”
“And it's going on?” I interrupt.
“Need it go on?”
“What do you mean?”
“Lady in trouble,” I say. “Knight at hand. Why not stop this dismal grizzling and carry her off?” (You figure the heroic sweep of the arm that belongs to the Voice.) I positively forget for the moment that we are in Utopia at all.
“Take her away from him! What's all this emotion of yours worth if it isn't equal to that!”
Positively he seems aghast at me.
“Do you mean elope with her?”
“It seems a most suitable case.”
For a space he is silent, and we go on through the trees. A Utopian tram-car passes and I see his face, poor bitted wretch! looking pinched and scared in its trailing glow of light.
“That's all very well in a novel,” he says. “But how could I
go back to my laboratory, mixed classes with young ladies, you know, after a
thing like that? How could we live and where could we live? We might have a
He halts and then flies out viciously: “Ugh! There are times when I could strangle him with my hands.”
Which is nonsense.
He flings out his lean botanising hands in an impotent gesture.
“My dear Man!” I say, and say no more.
For a moment I forget we are in Utopia altogether.
Let us come back to Utopia. We were speaking of travel.
Besides roadways and railways and tramways, for those who go to and fro in the earth the Modern Utopians will have very many other ways of travelling. There will be rivers, for example, with a vast variety of boats; canals with diverse sorts of haulage; there will be lakes and lagoons; and when one comes at last to the borders of the land, the pleasure craft will be there, coming and going, and the swift great passenger vessels, very big and steady, doing thirty knots an hour or more, will trace long wakes as they go dwindling out athwart the restless vastness of the sea.
They will be just beginning to fly in Utopia. We owe much to
In Utopia, a great multitude of selected men, chosen volunteers, will be collaborating upon this new step in man's struggle with the elements. Bacon's visionary House of Saloman [Footnote: In The New Atlantis.] will be a thing realised, and it will be humming with this business. Every university in the world will be urgently working for priority in this aspect of the problem or that. Reports of experiments, as full and as prompt as the telegraphic reports of cricket in our more sportive atmosphere, will go about the world. All this will be passing, as it were, behind the act drop of our first experience, behind this first picture of the urbanised Urseren valley. The literature of the subject will be growing and developing with the easy swiftness of an eagle's swoop as we come down the hillside; unseen in that twilight, unthought of by us until this moment, a thousand men at a thousand glowing desks, a busy specialist press, will be perpetually sifting, criticising, condensing, and clearing the ground for further speculation. Those who are concerned with the problems of public locomotion will be following these aeronautic investigations with a keen and enterprising interest, and so will the physiologist and the sociologist. That Utopian research will, I say, go like an eagle's swoop in comparison with the blind-man's fumbling of our terrestrial way. Even before our own brief Utopian journey is out, we may get a glimpse of the swift ripening of all this activity that will be in progress at our coming. To-morrow, perhaps, or in a day or so, some silent, distant thing will come gliding into view over the mountains, will turn and soar and pass again beyond our astonished sight....
But my friend and his great trouble turn my mind from these questions of locomotion and the freedoms that cluster about them. In spite of myself I find myself framing his case. He is a lover, the most conventional of Anglican lovers, with a heart that has had its training, I should think, in the clean but limited schoolroom of Mrs. Henry Wood....
In Utopia I think they will fly with stronger pinions, it will not be in the superficialities of life merely that movement will be wide and free, they will mount higher and swoop more steeply than he in his cage can believe. What will their range be, their prohibitions? what jars to our preconceptions will he and I receive here?
My mind flows with the free, thin flow that it has at the end of an eventful day, and as we walk along in silence towards our inn I rove from issue to issue, I find myself ranging amidst the fundamental things of the individual life and all the perplexity of desires and passions. I turn my questionings to the most difficult of all sets of compromises, those mitigations of spontaneous freedom that constitute the marriage laws, the mystery of balancing justice against the good of the future, amidst these violent and elusive passions. Where falls the balance of freedoms here? I pass for a time from Utopianising altogether, to ask the question that, after all, Schopenhauer failed completely to answer, why sometimes in the case of hurtful, pointless, and destructive things we want so vehemently....
I come back from this unavailing glance into the deeps to the general question of freedoms in this new relation. I find myself far adrift from the case of the Frognal botanist, and asking how far a modern Utopia will deal with personal morals.
As Plato demonstrated long ago, the principles of the relation of State control to personal morals may be best discussed in the case of intoxication, the most isolated and least complicated of all this group of problems. But Plato's treatment of this issue as a question of who may or may not have the use of wine, though suitable enough in considering a small State in which everybody was the effectual inspector of everybody, is entirely beside the mark under modern conditions, in which we are to have an extraordinarily higher standard of individual privacy and an amplitude and quantity of migration inconceivable to the Academic imagination. We may accept his principle and put this particular freedom (of the use of wine) among the distinctive privileges of maturity, and still find all that a modern would think of as the Drink Question untouched.
That question in Utopia will differ perhaps in the proportion of its factors, but in no other respect, from what it is upon earth. The same desirable ends will be sought, the maintenance of public order and decency, the reduction of inducements to form this bad and wasteful habit to their lowest possible minimum, and the complete protection of the immature. But the modern Utopians, having systematised their sociology, will have given some attention to the psychology of minor officials, a matter altogether too much neglected by the social reformer on earth. They will not put into the hands of a common policeman powers direct and indirect that would be dangerous to the public in the hands of a judge. And they will have avoided the immeasurable error of making their control of the drink traffic a source of public revenue. Privacies they will not invade, but they will certainly restrict the public consumption of intoxicants to specified licensed places and the sale of them to unmistakable adults, and they will make the temptation of the young a grave offence. In so migratory a population as the Modern Utopian, the licensing of inns and bars would be under the same control as the railways and high roads. Inns exist for the stranger and not for the locality, and we shall meet with nothing there to correspond with our terrestrial absurdity of Local Option.
The Utopians will certainly control this trade, and as certainly punish personal excesses. Public drunkenness (as distinguished from the mere elation that follows a generous but controlled use of wine) will be an offence against public decency, and will be dealt with in some very drastic manner. It will, of course, be an aggravation of, and not an excuse for, crime.
But I doubt whether the State will go beyond that. Whether an adult shall use wine or beer or spirits, or not, seems to me entirely a matter for his doctor and his own private conscience. I doubt if we explorers shall meet any drunken men, and I doubt not we shall meet many who have never availed themselves of their adult freedom in this respect. The conditions of physical happiness will be better understood in Utopia, it will be worth while to be well there, and the intelligent citizen will watch himself closely. Half and more of the drunkenness of earth is an attempt to lighten dull days and hopelessly sordid and disagreeable lives, and in Utopia they do not suffer these things. Assuredly Utopia will be temperate, not only drinking, but eating with the soundest discretion. Yet I do not think wine and good ale will be altogether wanting there, nor good, mellow whisky, nor, upon occasion, the engaging various liqueur. I do not think so. My botanist, who abstains altogether, is of another opinion. We differ here and leave the question to the earnest reader. I have the utmost respect for all Teetotalers, Prohibitionists, and Haters and Persecutors of Innkeepers, their energy of reform awakens responsive notes in me, and to their species I look for a large part of the urgent repair of our earth; yet for all that--
My botanist would still argue.
Thank Heaven this is my book, and that the ultimate decision rests with me. It is open to him to write his own Utopia and arrange that everybody shall do nothing except by the consent of the savants of the Republic, either in his eating, drinking, dressing or lodging, even as Cabet proposed. It is open to him to try a News from Nowhere Utopia with the wine left out. I have my short way with him here quite effectually. I turn in the entrance of our inn to the civil but by no means obsequious landlord, and with a careful ambiguity of manner for the thing may be considered an outrage, and I try to make it possible the idea is a jest—put my test demand....
“You see, my dear Teetotaler?—he sets before me tray and glass and...” Here follows the necessary experiment and a deep sigh.... “Yes, a bottle of quite excellent light beer! So there are also cakes and ale in Utopia! Let us in this saner and more beautiful world drink perdition to all earthly excesses. Let us drink more particularly to the coming of the day when men beyond there will learn to distinguish between qualitative and quantitative questions, to temper good intentions with good intelligence, and righteousness with wisdom. One of the darkest evils of our world is surely the unteachable wildness of the Good.” § 7
So presently to bed and to sleep, but not at once to sleep. At first my brain, like a dog in unfamiliar quarters, must turn itself round for a time or so before it lies down. This strange mystery of a world of which I have seen so little as yet—a mountain slope, a twilit road, a traffic of ambiguous vehicles and dim shapes, the window lights of many homes—fills me with curiosities. Figures and incidents come and go, the people we have passed, our landlord, quietly attentive and yet, I feel, with the keenest curiosity peeping from his eyes, the unfamiliar forms of the house parts and furnishings, the unfamiliar courses of the meal. Outside this little bedroom is a world, a whole unimagined world. A thousand million things lie outside in the darkness beyond this lit inn of ours, unthought-of possibilities, overlooked considerations, surprises, riddles, incommensurables, a whole monstrous intricate universe of consequences that I have to do my best to unravel. I attempt impossible recapitulations and mingle the weird quality of dream stuff with my thoughts.
Athwart all this tumult of my memory goes this queer figure of my unanticipated companion, so obsessed by himself and his own egotistical love that this sudden change to another world seems only a change of scene for his gnawing, uninvigorating passion. It occurs to me that she also must have an equivalent in Utopia, and then that idea and all ideas grow thin and vague, and are dissolved at last in the rising tide of sleep....
These modern Utopians with the universally diffused good manners, the universal education, the fine freedoms we shall ascribe to them, their world unity, world language, world-wide travellings, world-wide freedom of sale and purchase, will remain mere dreamstuff, incredible even by twilight, until we have shown that at that level the community will still sustain itself. At any rate, the common liberty of the Utopians will not embrace the common liberty to be unserviceable, the most perfect economy of organisation still leaves the fact untouched that all order and security in a State rests on the certainty of getting work done. How will the work of this planet be done? What will be the economics of a modern Utopia?
Now in the first place, a state so vast and complex as this world Utopia, and with so migratory a people, will need some handy symbol to check the distribution of services and commodities. Almost certainly they will need to have money. They will have money, and it is not inconceivable that, for all his sorrowful thoughts, our botanist, with his trained observation, his habit of looking at little things upon the ground, would be the one to see and pick up the coin that has fallen from some wayfarer's pocket. (This, in our first hour or so before we reach the inn in the Urseren Thal.) You figure us upon the high Gotthard road, heads together over the little disk that contrives to tell us so much of this strange world.
It is, I imagine, of gold, and it will be a convenient accident if it is sufficient to make us solvent for a day or so, until we are a little more informed of the economic system into which we have come. It is, moreover, of a fair round size, and the inscription declares it one Lion, equal to “twaindy” bronze Crosses. Unless the ratio of metals is very different here, this latter must be a token coin, and therefore legal tender for but a small amount. (That would be pain and pleasure to Mr. Wordsworth Donisthorpe if he were to chance to join us, for once he planned a Utopian coinage, [Footnote: A System of Measures, by Wordsworth Donisthorpe.] and the words Lion and Cross are his. But a token coinage and “legal tender” he cannot abide. They make him argue.) And being in Utopia, that unfamiliar “twaindy” suggests at once we have come upon that most Utopian of all things, a duodecimal system of counting.
My author's privilege of details serves me here. This Lion
is distinctly a beautiful coin, admirably made, with its value in fine, clear
letters circling the obverse side, and a head thereon—of
So for the first time we learn definitely of the
It dates—so much of this present Utopia of ours dates. Those former Utopists were bitterly against gold. You will recall the undignified use Sir Thomas More would have us put it to, and how there was no money at all in the Republic of Plato, and in that later community for which he wrote his Laws an iron coinage of austere appearance and doubtful efficacy.... It may be these great gentlemen were a little hasty with a complicated difficulty, and not a little unjust to a highly respectable element.
Gold is abused and made into vessels of dishonour, and abolished from ideal society as though it were the cause instead of the instrument of human baseness; but, indeed, there is nothing bad in gold. Making gold into vessels of dishonour and banishing it from the State is punishing the hatchet for the murderer's crime. Money, did you but use it right, is a good thing in life, a necessary thing in civilised human life, as complicated, indeed, for its purposes, but as natural a growth as the bones in a man's wrist, and I do not see how one can imagine anything at all worthy of being called a civilisation without it. It is the water of the body social, it distributes and receives, and renders growth and assimilation and movement and recovery possible. It is the reconciliation of human interdependence with liberty. What other device will give a man so great a freedom with so strong an inducement to effort? The economic history of the world, where it is not the history of the theory of property, is very largely the record of the abuse, not so much of money as of credit devices to supplement money, to amplify the scope of this most precious invention; and no device of labour credits [Footnote: Edward Bellamy's Looking Backward, Ch. IX.] or free demand of commodities from a central store [Footnote: More's Utopia and Cabet's Icaria.] or the like has ever been suggested that does not give ten thousand times more scope for that inherent moral dross in man that must be reckoned with in any sane Utopia we may design and plan.... Heaven knows where progress may not end, but at any rate this developing State, into which we two men have fallen, this Twentieth Century Utopia, has still not passed beyond money and the use of coins.
Now if this Utopian world is to be in some degree parallel to contemporary thought, it must have been concerned, it may be still concerned, with many unsettled problems of currency, and with the problems that centre about a standard of value. Gold is perhaps of all material substances the best adapted to the monetary purpose, but even at that best it falls far short of an imaginable ideal. It undergoes spasmodic and irregular cheapening through new discoveries of gold, and at any time it may undergo very extensive and sudden and disastrous depreciation through the discovery of some way of transmuting less valuable elements. The liability to such depreciations introduces an undesirable speculative element into the relations of debtor and creditor. When, on the one hand, there is for a time a check in the increase of the available stores of gold, or an increase in the energy applied to social purposes, or a checking of the public security that would impede the free exchange of credit and necessitate a more frequent production of gold in evidence, then there comes an undue appreciation of money as against the general commodities of life, and an automatic impoverishment of the citizens in general as against the creditor class. The common people are mortgaged into the bondage of debt. And on the other hand an unexpected spate of gold production, the discovery of a single nugget as big as St. Paul's, let us say—a quite possible thing—would result in a sort of jail delivery of debtors and a financial earthquake.
It has been suggested by an ingenious thinker that it is possible to use as a standard of monetary value no substance whatever, but instead, force, and that value might be measured in units of energy. An excellent development this, in theory, at any rate, of the general idea of the modern State as kinetic and not static; it throws the old idea of the social order and the new into the sharpest antithesis. The old order is presented as a system of institutions and classes ruled by men of substance; the new, of enterprises and interests led by men of power.
Now I glance at this matter in the most incidental manner, as a man may skim through a specialist's exposition in a popular magazine. You must figure me, therefore, finding from a casual periodical paper in our inn, with a certain surprise at not having anticipated as much, the Utopian self of that same ingenious person quite conspicuously a leader of thought, and engaged in organising the discussion of the currency changes Utopia has under consideration. The article, as it presents itself to me, contains a complete and lucid, though occasionally rather technical, explanation of his newest proposals. They have been published, it seems, for general criticism, and one gathers that in the modern Utopia the administration presents the most elaborately detailed schemes of any proposed alteration in law or custom, some time before any measure is taken to carry it into effect, and the possibilities of every detail are acutely criticised, flaws anticipated, side issues raised, and the whole minutely tested and fined down by a planetful of critics, before the actual process of legislation begins.
The explanation of these proposals involves an anticipatory glance at the local administration of a Modern Utopia. To anyone who has watched the development of technical science during the last decade or so, there will be no shock in the idea that a general consolidation of a great number of common public services over areas of considerable size is now not only practicable, but very desirable. In a little while heating and lighting and the supply of power for domestic and industrial purposes and for urban and inter-urban communications will all be managed electrically from common generating stations. And the trend of political and social speculation points decidedly to the conclusion that so soon as it passes out of the experimental stage, the supply of electrical energy, just like drainage and the supply of water, will fall to the local authority. Moreover, the local authority will be the universal landowner. Upon that point so extreme an individualist as Herbert Spencer was in agreement with the Socialist. In Utopia we conclude that, whatever other types of property may exist, all natural sources of force, and indeed all strictly natural products, coal, water power, and the like, are inalienably vested in the local authorities (which, in order to secure the maximum of convenience and administrative efficiency, will probably control areas as large sometimes as half England), they will generate electricity by water power, by combustion, by wind or tide or whatever other natural force is available, and this electricity will be devoted, some of it to the authority's lighting and other public works, some of it, as a subsidy, to the World-State authority which controls the high roads, the great railways, the inns and other apparatus of world communication, and the rest will pass on to private individuals or to distributing companies at a uniform fixed rate for private lighting and heating, for machinery and industrial applications of all sorts. Such an arrangement of affairs will necessarily involve a vast amount of book-keeping between the various authorities, the World-State government and the customers, and this book-keeping will naturally be done most conveniently in units of physical energy.
It is not incredible that the assessment of the various local administrations for the central world government would be already calculated upon the estimated total of energy, periodically available in each locality, and booked and spoken of in these physical units. Accounts between central and local governments could be kept in these terms. Moreover, one may imagine Utopian local authorities making contracts in which payment would be no longer in coinage upon the gold basis, but in notes good for so many thousands or millions of units of energy at one or other of the generating stations.
Now the problems of economic theory will have undergone an enormous clarification if, instead of measuring in fluctuating money values, the same scale of energy units can be extended to their discussion, if, in fact, the idea of trading could be entirely eliminated. In my Utopia, at any rate, this has been done, the production and distribution of common commodities have been expressed as a problem in the conversion of energy, and the scheme that Utopia was now discussing was the application of this idea of energy as the standard of value to the entire Utopian coinage. Every one of those giant local authorities was to be free to issue energy notes against the security of its surplus of saleable available energy, and to make all its contracts for payment in those notes up to a certain maximum defined by the amount of energy produced and disposed of in that locality in the previous year. This power of issue was to be renewed just as rapidly as the notes came in for redemption. In a world without boundaries, with a population largely migratory and emancipated from locality, the price of the energy notes of these various local bodies would constantly tend to be uniform, because employment would constantly shift into the areas where energy was cheap. Accordingly, the price of so many millions of units of energy at any particular moment in coins of the gold currency would be approximately the same throughout the world. It was proposed to select some particular day when the economic atmosphere was distinctly equable, and to declare a fixed ratio between the gold coinage and the energy notes; each gold Lion and each Lion of credit representing exactly the number of energy units it could buy on that day. The old gold coinage was at once to cease to be legal tender beyond certain defined limits, except to the central government, which would not reissue it as it came in. It was, in fact, to become a temporary token coinage, a token coinage of full value for the day of conversion at any rate, if not afterwards, under the new standard of energy, and to be replaceable by an ordinary token coinage as time went on. The old computation by Lions and the values of the small change of daily life were therefore to suffer no disturbance whatever.
The economists of Utopia, as I apprehended them, had a
different method and a very different system of theories from those I have read
on earth, and this makes my exposition considerably more difficult. This
article upon which I base my account floated before me in an unfamiliar,
perplexing, and dream-like phraseology. Yet I brought away an impression that
here was a rightness that earthly economists have failed to grasp. Few earthly
economists have been able to disentangle themselves from patriotisms and
politics, and their obsession has always been international trade. Here in
I have tried to indicate the drift of these remarkable
proposals, but about them clustered an elaborate mass
of keen and temperate discussion. Into the details of that discussion I will
not enter now, nor am I sure I am qualified to render the multitudinous aspect
of this complicated question at all precisely. I read the whole thing in the
course of an hour or two of rest after lunch—it was either the second or third
day of my stay in Utopia—and we were sitting in a little inn at the end of the
The difference between the social and economic sciences as they exist in our world [Footnote: But see Gidding's Principles of Sociology, a modern and richly suggestive American work, imperfectly appreciated by the British student. See also Walter Bagehot's Economic Studies.] and in this Utopia deserves perhaps a word or so more. I write with the utmost diffidence, because upon earth economic science has been raised to a very high level of tortuous abstraction by the industry of its professors, and I can claim neither a patient student's intimacy with their productions nor—what is more serious—anything but the most generalised knowledge of what their Utopian equivalents have achieved. The vital nature of economic issues to a Utopia necessitates, however, some attempt at interpretation between the two.
In Utopia there is no distinct and separate science of economics. Many problems that we should regard as economic come within the scope of Utopian psychology. My Utopians make two divisions of the science of psychology, first, the general psychology of individuals, a sort of mental physiology separated by no definite line from physiology proper, and secondly, the psychology of relationship between individuals. This second is an exhaustive study of the reaction of people upon each other and of all possible relationships. It is a science of human aggregations, of all possible family groupings, of neighbours and neighbourhood, of companies, associations, unions, secret and public societies, religious groupings, of common ends and intercourse, and of the methods of intercourse and collective decision that hold human groups together, and finally of government and the State. The elucidation of economic relationships, depending as it does on the nature of the hypothesis of human aggregation actually in operation at any time, is considered to be subordinate and subsequent to this general science of Sociology. Political economy and economics, in our world now, consist of a hopeless muddle of social assumptions and preposterous psychology, and a few geographical and physical generalisations. Its ingredients will be classified out and widely separated in Utopian thought. On the one hand there will be the study of physical economies, ending in the descriptive treatment of society as an organisation for the conversion of all the available energy in nature to the material ends of mankind—a physical sociology which will be already at such a stage of practical development as to be giving the world this token coinage representing energy—and on the other there will be the study of economic problems as problems in the division of labour, having regard to a social organisation whose main ends are reproduction and education in an atmosphere of personal freedom. Each of these inquiries, working unencumbered by the other, will be continually contributing fresh valid conclusions for the use of the practical administrator.
In no region of intellectual activity will our hypothesis of
freedom from tradition be of more value in devising a Utopia than here. From
its beginning the earthly study of economics has been infertile and unhelpful,
because of the mass of unanalysed and scarcely suspected assumptions upon which
it rested. The facts were ignored that trade is a bye-product and not an
essential factor in social life, that property is a plastic and fluctuating
convention, that value is capable of impersonal treatment only in the case of
the most generalised requirements. Wealth was measured by the standards of
exchange. Society was regarded as a practically unlimited number of avaricious
adult units incapable of any other subordinate groupings than business
partnerships, and the sources of competition were assumed to be inexhaustible.
Upon such quicksands rose an edifice that aped the securities of material
science, developed a technical jargon and professed the discovery of “laws.”
Our liberation from these false presumptions through the rhetoric of Carlyle
and Ruskin and the activities of the Socialists, is more apparent than real.
The old edifice oppresses us still, repaired and altered by indifferent
builders, underpinned in places, and with a slight change of name. “Political
Economy” has been painted out, and instead we read “Economics—under entirely
new management.” Modern Economics differs mainly from old Political Economy in
having produced no Adam Smith. The old “Political Economy” made certain
generalisations, and they were mostly wrong; new Economics evades
generalisations, and seems to lack the intellectual power to make them. The
science hangs like a gathering fog in a valley, a fog which begins nowhere and
goes nowhere, an incidental, unmeaning inconvenience
to passers-by. Its most typical exponents display a disposition to disavow
generalisations altogether, to claim consideration as “experts,” and to make
immediate political application of that conceded claim. Now
The older Utopias were all relatively small states; Plato's Republic, for example, was to be smaller than the average English borough, and no distinction was made between the Family, the Local Government, and the State. Plato and Campanella—for all that the latter was a Christian priest—carried communism to its final point and prescribed even a community of husbands and wives, an idea that was brought at last to the test of effectual experiment in the Oneida Community of New York State (1848-1879). This latter body did not long survive its founder, at least as a veritable communism, by reason of the insurgent individualism of its vigorous sons. More, too, denied privacy and ruled an absolute community of goods, at any rate, and so, coming to the Victorian Utopias, did Cabet. But Cabet's communism was one of the “free store” type, and the goods were yours only after you had requisitioned them. That seems the case in the “Nowhere” of Morris also. Compared with the older writers Bellamy and Morris have a vivid sense of individual separation, and their departure from the old homogeneity is sufficiently marked to justify a doubt whether there will be any more thoroughly communistic Utopias for ever.
A Utopia such as this present one, written in the opening of
the Twentieth Century, and after the most exhaustive discussion—nearly a
century long—between Communistic and Socialistic ideas on the one hand, and
Individualism on the other, emerges upon a sort of effectual conclusion to
those controversies. The two parties have so chipped and amended each other's initial
propositions that, indeed, except for the labels still flutteringly adhesive to
the implicated men, it is hard to choose between them. Each side established a
good many propositions, and we profit by them all. We of the succeeding
generation can see quite clearly that for the most part the heat and zeal of
these discussions arose in the confusion of a quantitative for a qualitative
question. To the onlooker, both Individualism and Socialism are, in the
absolute, absurdities; the one would make men the slaves of the violent or
rich, the other the slaves of the State official, and the way of sanity runs,
perhaps even sinuously, down the intervening valley. Happily the dead past
buries its dead, and it is not our function now to adjudicate the preponderance
of victory. In the very days when our political and economic order is becoming
steadily more Socialistic, our ideals of intercourse turn more and more to a
fuller recognition of the claims of individuality. The State is to be
progressive, it is no longer to be static, and this alters the general
condition of the Utopian problem profoundly; we have to provide not only for
food and clothing, for order and health, but for initiative. The factor that
Biologically the species is the accumulation of the experiments of all its successful individuals since the beginning, and the World State of the Modern Utopist will, in its economic aspect, be a compendium of established economic experience, about which individual enterprise will be continually experimenting, either to fail and pass, or to succeed and at last become incorporated with the undying organism of the World State. This organism is the universal rule, the common restriction, the rising level platform on which individualities stand.
Within this scheme, which makes the State the source of all energy, and the final legatee, what will be the nature of the property a man may own? Under modern conditions—indeed, under any conditions—a man without some negotiable property is a man without freedom, and the extent of his property is very largely the measure of his freedom. Without any property, without even shelter or food, a man has no choice but to set about getting these things; he is in servitude to his needs until he has secured property to satisfy them. But with a certain small property a man is free to do many things, to take a fortnight's holiday when he chooses, for example, and to try this new departure from his work or that; with so much more, he may take a year of freedom and go to the ends of the earth; with so much more, he may obtain elaborate apparatus and try curious novelties, build himself houses and make gardens, establish businesses and make experiments at large. Very speedily, under terrestrial conditions, the property of a man may reach such proportions that his freedom oppresses the freedom of others. Here, again, is a quantitative question, an adjustment of conflicting freedoms, a quantitative question that too many people insist on making a qualitative one.
The object sought in the code of property laws that one would find in operation in Utopia would be the same object that pervades the whole Utopian organisation, namely, a universal maximum of individual freedom. Whatever far-reaching movements the State or great rich men or private corporations may make, the starvation by any complication of employment, the unwilling deportation, the destruction of alternatives to servile submissions, must not ensue. Beyond such qualifications, the object of Modern Utopian statesmanship will be to secure to a man the freedom given by all his legitimate property, that is to say, by all the values his toil or skill or foresight and courage have brought into being. Whatever he has justly made he has a right to keep, that is obvious enough; but he will also have a right to sell and exchange, and so this question of what may be property takes really the form of what may a man buy in Utopia?
A modern Utopian most assuredly must have a practically unqualified property in all those things that become, as it were, by possession, extensions and expressions of his personality; his clothing, his jewels, the tools of his employment, his books, the objects of art he may have bought or made, his personal weapons (if Utopia have need of such things), insignia, and so forth. All such things that he has bought with his money or acquired—provided he is not a professional or habitual dealer in such property—will be inalienably his, his to give or lend or keep, free even from taxation. So intimate is this sort of property that I have no doubt Utopia will give a man posthumous rights over it—will permit him to assign it to a successor with at the utmost the payment of a small redemption. A horse, perhaps, in certain districts, or a bicycle, or any such mechanical conveyance personally used, the Utopians might find it well to rank with these possessions. No doubt, too, a house and privacy owned and occupied by a man, and even a man's own household furniture, might be held to stand as high or almost as high in the property scale, might be taxed as lightly and transferred under only a slightly heavier redemption, provided he had not let these things on hire, or otherwise alienated them from his intimate self. A thorough-going, Democratic Socialist will no doubt be inclined at first to object that if the Utopians make these things a specially free sort of property in this way, men would spend much more upon them than they would otherwise do, but indeed that will be an excellent thing. We are too much affected by the needy atmosphere of our own mismanaged world. In Utopia no one will have to hunger because some love to make and have made and own and cherish beautiful things. To give this much of property to individuals will tend to make clothing, ornamentation, implements, books, and all the arts finer and more beautiful, because by buying such things a man will secure something inalienable—save in the case of bankruptcy—for himself and for those who belong to him. Moreover, a man may in his lifetime set aside sums to ensure special advantages of education and care for the immature children of himself and others, and in this manner also exercise a posthumous right. [Footnote: But a Statute of Mortmain will set a distinct time limit to the continuance of such benefactions. A periodic revision of endowments is a necessary feature in any modern Utopia.]
For all other property, the Utopians will have a scantier respect; even money unspent by a man, and debts to him that bear no interest, will at his death stand upon a lower level than these things. What he did not choose to gather and assimilate to himself, or assign for the special education of his children, the State will share in the lion's proportion with heir and legatee.
This applies, for example, to the property that a man creates and acquires in business enterprises, which are presumably undertaken for gain, and as a means of living rather than for themselves. All new machinery, all new methods, all uncertain and variable and non-universal undertakings, are no business for the State; they commence always as experiments of unascertained value, and next after the invention of money, there is no invention has so facilitated freedom and progress as the invention of the limited liability company to do this work of trial and adventure. The abuses, the necessary reforms of company law on earth, are no concern of ours here and now, suffice it that in a Modern Utopia such laws must be supposed to be as perfect as mortal laws can possibly be made. Caveat vendor will be a sound qualification of Caveat emptor in the beautifully codified Utopian law. Whether the Utopian company will be allowed to prefer this class of share to that or to issue debentures, whether indeed usury, that is to say lending money at fixed rates of interest, will be permitted at all in Utopia, one may venture to doubt. But whatever the nature of the shares a man may hold, they will all be sold at his death, and whatever he has not clearly assigned for special educational purposes will—with possibly some fractional concession to near survivors—lapse to the State. The “safe investment,” that permanent, undying claim upon the community, is just one of those things Utopia will discourage; which indeed the developing security of civilisation quite automatically discourages through the fall in the rate of interest. As we shall see at a later stage, the State will insure the children of every citizen, and those legitimately dependent upon him, against the inconvenience of his death; it will carry out all reasonable additional dispositions he may have made for them in the same event; and it will insure him against old age and infirmity; and the object of Utopian economics will be to give a man every inducement to spend his surplus money in intensifying the quality of his surroundings, either by economic adventures and experiments, which may yield either losses or large profits, or in increasing the beauty, the pleasure, the abundance and promise of life.
Besides strictly personal possessions and shares in business adventures, Utopia will no doubt permit associations of its citizens to have a property in various sorts of contracts and concessions, in leases of agricultural and other land, for example; in houses they may have built, factories and machinery they may have made, and the like. And if a citizen prefer to adventure into business single-handed, he will have all the freedoms of enterprise enjoyed by a company; in business affairs he will be a company of one, and his single share will be dealt with at his death like any other shares.... So much for the second kind of property. And these two kinds of property will probably exhaust the sorts of property a Utopian may possess.
The trend of modern thought is entirely against private
property in land or natural objects or products, and in Utopia these things
will be the inalienable property of the
The property of a parent in his children, and of a husband in his wife, seems to be undergoing a steadily increasing qualification in the world of to-day, but the discussion of the Utopian state of affairs in regard to such property may be better reserved until marriage becomes our topic. Suffice it here to remark, that the increasing control of a child's welfare and upbringing by the community, and the growing disposition to limit and tax inheritance are complementary aspects of the general tendency to regard the welfare and free intraplay of future generations no longer as the concern of parents and altruistic individuals, but as the predominant issue of statesmanship, and the duty and moral meaning of the world community as a whole.
From the conception of mechanical force as coming in from Nature to the service of man, a conception the Utopian proposal of a coinage based on energy units would emphasise, arise profound contrasts between the modern and the classical Utopias. Except for a meagre use of water power for milling, and the wind for sailing—so meagre in the latter case that the classical world never contrived to do without the galley slave—and a certain restricted help from oxen in ploughing, and from horses in locomotion, all the energy that sustained the old-fashioned State was derived from the muscular exertion of toiling men. They ran their world by hand. Continual bodily labour was a condition of social existence. It is only with the coming of coal burning, of abundant iron and steel, and of scientific knowledge that this condition has been changed. To-day, I suppose, if it were possible to indicate, in units of energy, the grand total of work upon which the social fabric of the United States or England rests, it would be found that a vastly preponderating moiety is derived from non-human sources, from coal and liquid fuel, and explosives and wind and water. There is every indication of a steady increase in this proportion of mechanical energy, in this emancipation of men from the necessity of physical labour. There appears no limit to the invasion of life by the machine.
Now it is only in the last three hundred years that any
human being seems to have anticipated this. It stimulates the imagination to
remark how entirely it was overlooked as a modifying cause in human
development. [Footnote: It is interesting to note how little even Bacon seems
to see of this, in his New Atlantis.] Plato clearly had no ideas about machines
at all as a force affecting social organisation. There was nothing in his world
to suggest them to him. I suppose there arose no invention, no new mechanical
appliance or method of the slightest social importance through all his length
of years. He never thought of a State that did not rely for its force upon
human muscle, just as he never thought of a State that was not primarily
organised for warfare hand to hand. Political and moral inventions he saw
enough of and to spare, and in that direction he still stimulates the
imagination. But in regard to all material possibilities he deadens rather than
stimulates. [Footnote: The lost Utopia of Hippodamus provided rewards for
inventors, but unless Aristotle misunderstood him, and it is certainly the fate
of all Utopias to be more or less misread, the inventions contemplated were
political devices.] An infinitude of nonsense about
the Greek mind would never have been written if the distinctive intellectual
and artistic quality of Plato's time, its extraordinarily clear definition of
certain material conditions as absolutely permanent, coupled with its
politico-social instability, had been borne in mind. The food of the Greek
imagination was the very antithesis of our own nourishment. We are educated by
our circumstances to think no revolution in appliances and economic
organisation incredible, our minds play freely about possibilities that would
have struck the men of the Academy as outrageous extravagance, and it is in
regard to politico-social expedients that our imaginations fail.
By sheer inadvertence, therefore, Plato commenced the
tradition of Utopias without machinery, a tradition we find Morris still
loyally following, except for certain mechanical barges and such-like toys, in
his News from Nowhere. There are some foreshadowings of mechanical possibilities
in the New Atlantis, but it is only in the nineteenth century that Utopias
appeared in which the fact is clearly recognised that the social fabric rests
no longer upon human labour. It was, I believe, Cabet [Footnote: Cabet, Voyage
en Icarie, 1848.] who first in a Utopian work insisted upon the escape of man
from irksome labours through the use of machinery. He is the great primitive of
modern Utopias, and Bellamy is his American equivalent. Hitherto, either slave
labour (Phaleas), [Footnote: Aristotle's Politics, Bk. II., Ch. VIII.] or at
least class distinctions involving unavoidable labour in the lower class, have
been assumed—as Plato does, and as Bacon in the New Atlantis probably intended
to do (More gave his Utopians bondsmen sans phrase for their most disagreeable
toil); or there is—as in Morris and the outright Return-to-Nature Utopians—a
bold make-believe that all toil may be made a joy, and with that a levelling
down of all society to an equal participation in labour. But indeed this is
against all the observed behaviour of mankind. It needed the Olympian
unworldliness of an irresponsible rich man of the shareholding type, a Ruskin
or a Morris playing at life, to imagine as much. Road-making under Mr. Ruskin's
auspices was a joy at
If toil is a blessing, never was blessing so effectually disguised, and the very people who tell us that, hesitate to suggest more than a beautiful ease in the endless day of Heaven. A certain amount of bodily or mental exercise, a considerable amount of doing things under the direction of one's free imagination is quite another matter. Artistic production, for example, when it is at its best, when a man is freely obeying himself, and not troubling to please others, is really not toil at all. It is quite a different thing digging potatoes, as boys say, “for a lark,” and digging them because otherwise you will starve, digging them day after day as a dull, unavoidable imperative. The essence of toil is that imperative, and the fact that the attention must cramp itself to the work in hand—that it excludes freedom, and not that it involves fatigue. So long as anything but a quasi-savage life depended upon toil, so long was it hopeless to expect mankind to do anything but struggle to confer just as much of this blessing as possible upon one another. But now that the new conditions physical science is bringing about, not only dispense with man as a source of energy but supply the hope that all routine work may be made automatic, it is becoming conceivable that presently there may be no need for anyone to toil habitually at all; that a labouring class—that is to say, a class of workers without personal initiative—will become unnecessary to the world of men.
The plain message physical science has for the world at large is this, that were our political and social and moral devices only as well contrived to their ends as a linotype machine, an antiseptic operating plant, or an electric tram-car, there need now at the present moment be no appreciable toil in the world, and only the smallest fraction of the pain, the fear, and the anxiety that now makes human life so doubtful in its value. There is more than enough for everyone alive. Science stands, a too competent servant, behind her wrangling underbred masters, holding out resources, devices, and remedies they are too stupid to use. [Footnote: See that most suggestive little book, Twentieth Century Inventions, by Mr. George Sutherland.] And on its material side a modern Utopia must needs present these gifts as taken, and show a world that is really abolishing the need of labour, abolishing the last base reason for anyone's servitude or inferiority.
The effectual abolition of a labouring and servile class will make itself felt in every detail of the inn that will shelter us, of the bedrooms we shall occupy. You conceive my awakening to all these things on the morning after our arrival. I shall lie for a minute or so with my nose peeping over the coverlet, agreeably and gently coming awake, and with some vague nightmare of sitting at a common table with an unavoidable dustman in green and gold called Boffin, [Footnote: Vide William Morris's News from Nowhere.] fading out of my mind. Then I should start up. You figure my apprehensive, startled inspection of my chamber. “Where am I?” that classic phrase, recurs. Then I perceive quite clearly that I am in bed in Utopia.
Utopia! The word is enough to bring anyone out of bed, to the nearest window, but thence I see no more than the great mountain mass behind the inn, a very terrestrial looking mountain mass. I return to the contrivances about me, and make my examination as I dress, pausing garment in hand to hover over first this thing of interest and then that.
The room is, of course, very clear and clean and simple; not by any means cheaply equipped, but designed to economise the labour of redding and repair just as much as is possible. It is beautifully proportioned, and rather lower than most rooms I know on earth. There is no fireplace, and I am perplexed by that until I find a thermometer beside six switches on the wall. Above this switch-board is a brief instruction: one switch warms the floor, which is not carpeted, but covered by a substance like soft oilcloth; one warms the mattress (which is of metal with resistance coils threaded to and fro in it); and the others warm the wall in various degrees, each directing current through a separate system of resistances. The casement does not open, but above, flush with the ceiling, a noiseless rapid fan pumps air out of the room. The air enters by a Tobin shaft. There is a recess dressing-room, equipped with a bath and all that is necessary to one's toilette, and the water, one remarks, is warmed, if one desires it warm, by passing it through an electrically heated spiral of tubing. A cake of soap drops out of a store machine on the turn of a handle, and when you have done with it, you drop that and your soiled towels and so forth, which also are given you by machines, into a little box, through the bottom of which they drop at once, and sail down a smooth shaft. A little notice tells you the price of your room, and you gather the price is doubled if you do not leave the toilette as you found it. Beside the bed, and to be lit at night by a handy switch over the pillow, is a little clock, its face flush with the wall. The room has no corners to gather dirt, wall meets floor with a gentle curve, and the apartment could be swept out effectually by a few strokes of a mechanical sweeper. The door frames and window frames are of metal, rounded and impervious to draught. You are politely requested to turn a handle at the foot of your bed before leaving the room, and forthwith the frame turns up into a vertical position, and the bedclothes hang airing. You stand at the doorway and realise that there remains not a minute's work for anyone to do. Memories of the fœtid disorder of many an earthly bedroom after a night's use float across your mind.
And you must not imagine this dustless, spotless, sweet apartment as anything but beautiful. Its appearance is a little unfamiliar of course, but all the muddle of dust-collecting hangings and witless ornament that cover the earthly bedroom, the valances, the curtains to check the draught from the ill-fitting wood windows, the worthless irrelevant pictures, usually a little askew, the dusty carpets, and all the paraphernalia about the dirty, black-leaded fireplace are gone. But the faintly tinted walls are framed with just one clear coloured line, as finely placed as the member of a Greek capital; the door handles and the lines of the panels of the door, the two chairs, the framework of the bed, the writing table, have all that final simplicity, that exquisite finish of contour that is begotten of sustained artistic effort. The graciously shaped windows each frame a picture—since they are draughtless the window seats are no mere mockeries as are the window seats of earth—and on the sill, the sole thing to need attention in the room, is one little bowl of blue Alpine flowers.
The same exquisite simplicity meets one downstairs.
Our landlord sits down at table with us for a moment, and seeing we do not understand the electrically heated coffee-pot before us, shows us what to do. Coffee and milk we have, in the Continental fashion, and some excellent rolls and butter.
He is a swarthy little man, our landlord, and overnight we saw him preoccupied with other guests. But we have risen either late or early by Utopian standards, we know not which, and this morning he has us to himself. His bearing is kindly and inoffensive, but he cannot conceal the curiosity that possesses him. His eye meets ours with a mute inquiry, and then as we fall to, we catch him scrutinising our cuffs, our garments, our boots, our faces, our table manners. He asks nothing at first, but says a word or so about our night's comfort and the day's weather, phrases that have an air of being customary. Then comes a silence that is interrogative.
“Excellent coffee,” I say to fill the gap.
“And excellent rolls,” says my botanist.
Our landlord indicates his sense of our approval.
A momentary diversion is caused by the entry of an elfin-tressed little girl, who stares at us half impudently, half shyly, with bright black eyes, hesitates at the botanist's clumsy smile and nod, and then goes and stands by her father and surveys us steadfastly.
“You have come far?” ventures our landlord, patting his daughter's shoulder.
I glance at the botanist. “Yes,” I say, “we have.”
I expand. “We have come so far that this country of yours seems very strange indeed to us.”
“Not only the mountains.”
“You came up out of the
“No—not that way.”
“By the Oberalp?”
“Not up from the lake?”
He looks puzzled.
“We came,” I say, “from another world.”
He seems trying to understand. Then a thought strikes him, and he sends away his little girl with a needless message to her mother.
“Ah!” he says. “Another world—eh? Meaning--?”
“Another world—far in the deeps of space.”
Then at the expression of his face one realises that a Modern Utopia will probably keep its more intelligent citizens for better work than inn-tending. He is evidently inaccessible to the idea we think of putting before him. He stares at us a moment, and then remarks, “There's the book to sign.”
We find ourselves confronted with a book, a little after the fashion of the familiar hotel visitors' book of earth. He places this before us, and beside it puts pen and ink and a slab, upon which ink has been freshly smeared.
“Thumbmarks,” says my scientific friend hastily in English.
“You show me how to do it,” I say as quickly.
He signs first, and I look over his shoulder.
He is displaying more readiness than I should have expected. The book is ruled in broad transverse lines, and has a space for a name, for a number, and a thumbmark. He puts his thumb upon the slab and makes the thumbmark first with the utmost deliberation. Meanwhile he studies the other two entries. The “numbers” of the previous guests above are complex muddles of letters and figures. He writes his name, then with a calm assurance writes down his number, A.M.a.1607.2.???. I am wrung with momentary admiration. I follow his example, and fabricate an equally imposing signature. We think ourselves very clever. The landlord proffers finger bowls for our thumbs, and his eye goes, just a little curiously, to our entries.
I decide it is advisable to pay and go before any conversation about our formulæ arises.
As we emerge into the corridor, and the morning sunlight of the Utopian world, I see the landlord bending over the book.
“Come on,” I say. “The most tiresome thing in the world is explanations, and I perceive that if we do not get along, they will fall upon us now.”
I glance back to discover the landlord and a gracefully robed woman standing outside the pretty simplicity of the Utopian inn, watching us doubtfully as we recede.
“Come on,” I insist.
We should go towards the Schoellenen gorge, and as we went, our fresh morning senses would gather together a thousand factors for our impression of this more civilised world. A Modern Utopia will have done with yapping about nationality, and so the ugly fortifications, the barracks and military defilements of the earthly vale of Urseren will be wanting. Instead there will be a great multitude of gracious little houses clustering in college-like groups, no doubt about their common kitchens and halls, down and about the valley slopes. And there will be many more trees, and a great variety of trees—all the world will have been ransacked for winter conifers. Despite the height of the valley there will be a double avenue along the road. This high road with its tramway would turn with us to descend the gorge, and we should hesitate upon the adventure of boarding the train. But now we should have the memory of our landlord's curious eye upon us, and we should decide at last to defer the risk of explanations such an enterprise might precipitate.
We should go by the great road for a time, and note something of the difference between Utopian and terrestrial engineering.
The tramway, the train road, the culverts, and bridges, the Urnerloch tunnel, into which the road plunges, will all be beautiful things.
There is nothing in machinery, there is nothing in embankments and railways and iron bridges and engineering devices to oblige them to be ugly. Ugliness is the measure of imperfection; a thing of human making is for the most part ugly in proportion to the poverty of its constructive thought, to the failure of its producer fully to grasp the purpose of its being. Everything to which men continue to give thought and attention, which they make and remake in the same direction, and with a continuing desire to do as well as they can, grows beautiful inevitably. Things made by mankind under modern conditions are ugly, primarily because our social organisation is ugly, because we live in an atmosphere of snatch and uncertainty, and do everything in an underbred strenuous manner. This is the misfortune of machinery, and not its fault. Art, like some beautiful plant, lives on its atmosphere, and when the atmosphere is good, it will grow everywhere, and when it is bad nowhere. If we smashed and buried every machine, every furnace, every factory in the world, and without any further change set ourselves to home industries, hand labour, spade husbandry, sheep-folding and pig minding, we should still do things in the same haste, and achieve nothing but dirtiness, inconvenience, bad air, and another gaunt and gawky reflection of our intellectual and moral disorder. We should mend nothing.
But in Utopia a man who designs a tram road will be a cultivated man, an artist craftsman; he will strive, as a good writer, or a painter strives, to achieve the simplicity of perfection. He will make his girders and rails and parts as gracious as that first engineer, Nature, has made the stems of her plants and the joints and gestures of her animals. To esteem him a sort of anti-artist, to count every man who makes things with his unaided thumbs an artist, and every man who uses machinery as a brute, is merely a passing phase of human stupidity. This tram road beside us will be a triumph of design. The idea will be so unfamiliar to us that for a time it will not occur to us that it is a system of beautiful objects at all. We shall admire its ingenious adaptation to the need of a district that is buried half the year in snow, the hard bed below, curved and guttered to do its own clearing, the great arched sleeper masses, raising the rails a good two yards above the ground, the easy, simple standards and insulators. Then it will creep in upon our minds, “But, by Jove! This is designed!”
Indeed the whole thing will be designed.
Later on, perhaps, we may find students in an art school working in competition to design an electric tram, students who know something of modern metallurgy, and something of electrical engineering, and we shall find people as keenly critical of a signal box or an iron bridge as they are on earth of--! Heavens! what are they critical about on earth?
The quality and condition of a dress tie!
We should make some unpatriotic comparisons with our own planet, no doubt.
Presently we recognise the fellow of the earthly Devil's Bridge, still intact as a footway, spanning the gorge, and old memories turn us off the road down the steep ruin of an ancient mule track towards it. It is our first reminder that Utopia too must have a history. We cross it and find the Reuss, for all that it has already lit and warmed and ventilated and cleaned several thousands of houses in the dale above, and for all that it drives those easy trams in the gallery overhead, is yet capable of as fine a cascade as ever it flung on earth. So we come to a rocky path, wild as one could wish, and descend, discoursing how good and fair an ordered world may be, but with a certain unformulated qualification in our minds about those thumb marks we have left behind.
“Do you recall the
“People make that an argument for obstructing change, instead of helping it forward!”
And here perforce an episode intrudes. We are invaded by a talkative person.
He overtakes us and begins talking forthwith in a fluty, but not unamiable, tenor. He is a great talker, this man, and a fairly respectable gesticulator, and to him it is we make our first ineffectual tentatives at explaining who indeed we are; but his flow of talk washes that all away again. He has a face of that rubicund, knobby type I have heard an indignant mineralogist speak of as botryoidal, and about it waves a quantity of disorderly blond hair. He is dressed in leather doublet and knee breeches, and he wears over these a streaming woollen cloak of faded crimson that give him a fine dramatic outline as he comes down towards us over the rocks. His feet, which are large and handsome, but bright pink with the keen morning air, are bare, except for sandals of leather. (It was the only time that we saw anyone in Utopia with bare feet.) He salutes us with a scroll-like waving of his stick, and falls in with our slower paces.
“Climbers, I presume?” he says, “and you scorn these trams of theirs? I like you. So do I! Why a man should consent to be dealt with as a bale of goods holding an indistinctive ticket—when God gave him legs and a face—passes my understanding.”
As he speaks, his staff indicates the great mechanical road that runs across the gorge and high overhead through a gallery in the rock, follows it along until it turns the corner, picks it up as a viaduct far below, traces it until it plunges into an arcade through a jutting crag, and there dismisses it with a spiral whirl. “No!” he says.
He seems sent by
Our eyes meet, and I gather from the botanist that I am to open our case.
I do my best.
“You came from the other side of space!” says the man in the crimson cloak, interrupting me. “Precisely! I like that—it's exactly my note! So do I! And you find this world strange! Exactly my case! We are brothers! We shall be in sympathy. I am amazed, I have been amazed as long as I can remember, and I shall die, most certainly, in a state of incredulous amazement, at this remarkable world. Eh?... You found yourselves suddenly upon a mountain top! Fortunate men!” He chuckled. “For my part I found myself in the still stranger position of infant to two parents of the most intractable dispositions!”
“The fact remains,” I protest.
“A position, I can assure you, demanding Tact of an altogether superhuman quality!”
We desist for a space from the attempt to explain our remarkable selves, and for the rest of the time this picturesque and exceptional Utopian takes the talk entirely under his control....
An agreeable person, though a little distracting, he was,
and he talked, we recall, of many things. He impressed us, we found afterwards,
as a poseur beyond question, a conscious Ishmaelite in the world of wit, and in
some subtly inexplicable way as a most consummate ass. He talked first of the
excellent and commodious trams that came from over the passes, and ran down the
long valley towards middle
“What do we know of the beauty they replace? They are a mere rash. Why should we men play the part of bacteria upon the face of our Mother?”
“All life is that!”
“No! not natural life, not the plants and the gentle creatures that live their wild shy lives in forest and jungle. That is a part of her. That is the natural bloom of her complexion. But these houses and tramways and things, all made from ore and stuff torn from her veins--! You can't better my image of the rash. It's a morbid breaking out! I'd give it all for one—what is it?—free and natural chamois.”
“You live at times in a house?” I asked.
He ignored my question. For him, untroubled Nature was the
best, he said, and, with a glance at his feet, the most beautiful. He professed
himself a Nazarite, and shook back his Teutonic poet's shock of hair. So he
came to himself, and for the rest of our walk he kept to himself as the thread
of his discourse, and went over himself from top to toe, and strung thereon all
topics under the sun by way of illustrating his splendours. But especially his
foil was the relative folly, the unnaturalness and want of logic in his fellow
men. He held strong views about the extreme simplicity of everything, only that
men, in their muddle-headedness, had confounded it all. “Hence,
for example, these trams! They are always running up and down as though
they were looking for the lost simplicity of nature. ‘We dropped it here!’” He
earned a living, we gathered, “some considerable way above the minimum wage,”
which threw a chance light on the labour problem—by perforating records for
automatic musical machines—no doubt of the Pianotist and Pianola kind—and he
spent all the leisure he could gain in going to and fro in the earth lecturing
on “The Need of a Return to Nature,” and on “Simple Foods and Simple Ways.” He
did it for the love of it. It was very clear to us he had an inordinate impulse
to lecture, and esteemed us fair game. He had been lecturing on these topics in
He called our attention to his costume at an early stage. It was the embodiment of his ideal of Nature-clothing, and it had been made especially for him at very great cost. “Simply because naturalness has fled the earth, and has to be sought now, and washed out from your crushed complexities like gold.”
“I should have thought,” said I, “that any clothing whatever was something of a slight upon the natural man.”
“Not at all,” said he, “not at all! You forget his natural vanity!”
He was particularly severe on our artificial hoofs, as he called our boots, and our hats or hair destructors. “Man is the real King of Beasts and should wear a mane. The lion only wears it by consent and in captivity.” He tossed his head.
Subsequently while we lunched and he waited for the specific natural dishes he ordered—they taxed the culinary resources of the inn to the utmost—he broached a comprehensive generalisation. “The animal kingdom and the vegetable kingdom are easily distinguished, and for the life of me I see no reason for confusing them. It is, I hold, a sin against Nature. I keep them distinct in my mind and I keep them distinct in my person. No animal substance inside, no vegetable without;—what could be simpler or more logical? Nothing upon me but leather and allwool garments, within, cereals, fruit, nuts, herbs, and the like. Classification—order—man's function. He is here to observe and accentuate Nature's simplicity. These people”—he swept an arm that tried not too personally to include us—“are filled and covered with confusion.”
He ate great quantities of grapes and finished with a cigarette. He demanded and drank a great horn of unfermented grape juice, and it seemed to suit him well.
We three sat about the board—it was in an agreeable little arbour on a hill hard by the place where Wassen stands on earth, and it looked down the valley to the Uri Rothstock, and ever and again we sought to turn his undeniable gift of exposition to the elucidation of our own difficulties.
But we seemed to get little, his style was so elusive. Afterwards, indeed, we found much information and many persuasions had soaked into us, but at the time it seemed to us he told us nothing. He indicated things by dots and dashes, instead of by good hard assertive lines. He would not pause to see how little we knew. Sometimes his wit rose so high that he would lose sight of it himself, and then he would pause, purse his lips as if he whistled, and then till the bird came back to the lure, fill his void mouth with grapes. He talked of the relations of the sexes, and love—a passion he held in great contempt as being in its essence complex and disingenuous—and afterwards we found we had learnt much of what the marriage laws of Utopia allow and forbid.
“A simple natural freedom,” he said, waving a grape in an illustrative manner, and so we gathered the Modern Utopia did not at any rate go to that. He spoke, too, of the regulation of unions, of people who were not allowed to have children, of complicated rules and interventions. “Man,” he said, “had ceased to be a natural product!”
We tried to check him with questions at this most illuminating point, but he drove on like a torrent, and carried his topic out of sight. The world, he held, was overmanaged, and that was the root of all evil. He talked of the overmanagement of the world, and among other things of the laws that would not let a poor simple idiot, a “natural,” go at large. And so we had our first glimpse of what Utopia did with the feeble and insane. “We make all these distinctions between man and man, we exalt this and favour that, and degrade and seclude that; we make birth artificial, life artificial, death artificial.”
“You say We,” said I, with the first glimmering of a new idea, “but you don't participate?”
“Not I! I'm not one of your samurai, your voluntary noblemen who have taken the world in hand. I might be, of course, but I'm not.”
“Samurai!” I repeated, “voluntary noblemen!” and for the moment could not frame a question.
He whirled on to an attack on science, that stirred the botanist to controversy. He denounced with great bitterness all specialists whatever, and particularly doctors and engineers.
“Voluntary noblemen!” he said, “voluntary Gods I fancy they think themselves,” and I was left behind for a space in the perplexed examination of this parenthesis, while he and the botanist—who is sedulous to keep his digestion up to date with all the newest devices—argued about the good of medicine men.
“The natural human constitution,” said the blond-haired man, “is perfectly simple, with one simple condition—you must leave it to Nature. But if you mix up things so distinctly and essentially separated as the animal and vegetable kingdoms for example, and ram that in for it to digest, what can you expect?
“Ill health! There isn't such a thing—in the course of Nature. But you shelter from Nature in houses, you protect yourselves by clothes that are useful instead of being ornamental, you wash—with such abstersive chemicals as soap for example—and above all you consult doctors.” He approved himself with a chuckle. “Have you ever found anyone seriously ill without doctors and medicine about? Never! You say a lot of people would die without shelter and medical attendance! No doubt—but a natural death. A natural death is better than an artificial life, surely? That's—to be frank with you—the very citadel of my position.”
That led him, and rather promptly, before the botanist could rally to reply, to a great tirade against the laws that forbade “sleeping out.” He denounced them with great vigour, and alleged that for his own part he broke that law whenever he could, found some corner of moss, shaded from an excess of dew, and there sat up to sleep. He slept, he said, always in a sitting position, with his head on his wrists, and his wrists on his knees—the simple natural position for sleep in man.... He said it would be far better if all the world slept out, and all the houses were pulled down.
You will understand, perhaps, the subdued irritation I felt, as I sat and listened to the botanist entangling himself in the logical net of this wild nonsense. It impressed me as being irrelevant. When one comes to a Utopia one expects a Cicerone, one expects a person as precise and insistent and instructive as an American advertisement—the advertisement of one of those land agents, for example, who print their own engaging photographs to instil confidence and begin, “You want to buy real estate.” One expects to find all Utopians absolutely convinced of the perfection of their Utopia, and incapable of receiving a hint against its order. And here was this purveyor of absurdities!
And yet now that I come to think it over, is not this too one of the necessary differences between a Modern Utopia and those finite compact settlements of the older school of dreamers? It is not to be a unanimous world any more, it is to have all and more of the mental contrariety we find in the world of the real; it is no longer to be perfectly explicable, it is just our own vast mysterious welter, with some of the blackest shadows gone, with a clearer illumination, and a more conscious and intelligent will. Irrelevance is not irrelevant to such a scheme, and our blond-haired friend is exactly just where he ought to be here.
I ceased to listen to the argumentation of my botanist with this apostle of Nature. The botanist, in his scientific way, was, I believe, defending the learned professions. (He thinks and argues like drawing on squared paper.) It struck me as transiently remarkable that a man who could not be induced to forget himself and his personal troubles on coming into a whole new world, who could waste our first evening in Utopia upon a paltry egotistical love story, should presently become quite heated and impersonal in the discussion of scientific professionalism. He was—absorbed. I can't attempt to explain these vivid spots and blind spots in the imaginations of sane men; there they are!
“You say,” said the botanist, with a prevalent index finger, and the resolute deliberation of a big siege gun being lugged into action over rough ground by a number of inexperienced men, “you prefer a natural death to an artificial life. But what is your definition (stress) of artificial?...”
And after lunch too! I ceased to listen, flicked the end of my cigarette ash over the green trellis of the arbour, stretched my legs with a fine restfulness, leant back, and gave my mind to the fields and houses that lay adown the valley.
What I saw interwove with fragmentary things our garrulous friend had said, and with the trend of my own speculations....
The high road, with its tramways and its avenues on either side, ran in a bold curve, and with one great loop of descent, down the opposite side of the valley, and below crossed again on a beautiful viaduct, and dipped into an arcade in the side of the Bristenstock. Our inn stood out boldly, high above the level this took. The houses clustered in their collegiate groups over by the high road, and near the subordinate way that ran almost vertically below us and past us and up towards the valley of the Meien Reuss. There were one or two Utopians cutting and packing the flowery mountain grass in the carefully levelled and irrigated meadows by means of swift, light machines that ran on things like feet and seemed to devour the herbage, and there were many children and a woman or so, going to and fro among the houses near at hand. I guessed a central building towards the high road must be the school from which these children were coming. I noted the health and cleanliness of these young heirs of Utopia as they passed below.
The pervading quality of the whole scene was a sane order, the deliberate solution of problems, a progressive intention steadily achieving itself, and the aspect that particularly occupied me was the incongruity of this with our blond-haired friend.
On the one hand here was a state of affairs that implied a power of will, an organising and controlling force, the co-operation of a great number of vigorous people to establish and sustain its progress, and on the other this creature of pose and vanity, with his restless wit, his perpetual giggle at his own cleverness, his manifest incapacity for comprehensive co-operation.
Now, had I come upon a hopeless incompatibility? Was this the reductio ad absurdum of my vision, and must it even as I sat there fade, dissolve, and vanish before my eyes?
There was no denying our blond friend. If this Utopia is indeed to parallel our earth, man for man—and I see no other reasonable choice to that—there must be this sort of person and kindred sorts of persons in great abundance. The desire and gift to see life whole is not the lot of the great majority of men, the service of truth is the privilege of the elect, and these clever fools who choke the avenues of the world of thought, who stick at no inconsistency, who oppose, obstruct, confuse, will find only the freer scope amidst Utopian freedoms.
(They argued on, these two, as I worried my brains with riddles. It was like a fight between a cock sparrow and a tortoise; they both went on in their own way, regardless of each other's proceedings. The encounter had an air of being extremely lively, and the moments of contact were few. “But you mistake my point,” the blond man was saying, disordering his hair—which had become unruffled in the preoccupation of dispute—with a hasty movement of his hand, “you don't appreciate the position I take up.”)
“Ugh!” said I privately, and lighted another cigarette and went away into my own thoughts with that.
The position he takes up! That's the way of your intellectual
fool, the Universe over. He takes up a position, and he's going to be the most
brilliant, delightful, engaging and invincible of gay delicious creatures
defending that position you can possibly imagine. And even when the case is not
so bad as that, there still remains the quality. We
“take up our positions,” silly little contentious creatures that we are, we
will not see the right in one another, we will not patiently state and restate,
and honestly accommodate and plan, and so we remain at sixes and sevens. We've
all a touch of
It is not only such gross and palpable cases as our blond and tenoring friend. I could find the thing negligible were it only that. But when one sees the same thread woven into men who are leaders, men who sway vast multitudes, who are indeed great and powerful men; when one sees how unfair they can be, how unteachable, the great blind areas in their eyes also, their want of generosity, then one's doubts gather like mists across this Utopian valley, its vistas pale, its people become unsubstantial phantoms, all its order and its happiness dim and recede....
If we are to have any Utopia at all, we must have a clear common purpose, and a great and steadfast movement of will to override all these incurably egotistical dissentients. Something is needed wide and deep enough to float the worst of egotisms away. The world is not to be made right by acclamation and in a day, and then for ever more trusted to run alone. It is manifest this Utopia could not come about by chance and anarchy, but by co-ordinated effort and a community of design, and to tell of just land laws and wise government, a wisely balanced economic system, and wise social arrangements without telling how it was brought about, and how it is sustained against the vanity and self-indulgence, the moody fluctuations and uncertain imaginations, the heat and aptitude for partisanship that lurk, even when they do not flourish, in the texture of every man alive, is to build a palace without either door or staircase.
I had not this in mind when I began.
Somewhere in the Modern Utopia there must be adequate men, men the very antithesis of our friend, capable of self-devotion, of intentional courage, of honest thought, and steady endeavour. There must be a literature to embody their common idea, of which this Modern Utopia is merely the material form; there must be some organisation, however slight, to keep them in touch one with the other.
Who will these men be? Will they be a caste? a race? an organisation in the nature of a Church? ... And there came into my mind the words of our acquaintance, that he was not one of these “voluntary noblemen.”
At first that phrase struck me as being merely queer, and then I began to realise certain possibilities that were wrapped up in it.
The animus of our chance friend, at any rate, went to suggest that here was his antithesis. Evidently what he is not, will be the class to contain what is needed here. Evidently.
I was recalled from my meditations by the hand of the blond-haired man upon my arm.
I looked up to discover the botanist had gone into the inn.
The blond-haired man was for a moment almost stripped of pose.
“I say,” he said. “Weren't you listening to me?”
“No,” I said bluntly.
His surprise was manifest. But by an effort he recalled what he had meant to say.
“Your friend,” he said, “has been telling me, in spite of my sustained interruptions, a most incredible story.”
I wondered how the botanist managed to get it in. “About that woman?” I said.
“About a man and a woman who hate each other and can't get away from each other.”
“I know,” I said.
“It sounds absurd.”
“Why can't they get away? What is there to keep them together? It's ridiculous. I--”
“He would tell it to me.”
“It's his way.”
“He interrupted me. And there's no point in it. Is he--” he hesitated, “mad?”
“There's a whole world of people mad with him,” I answered after a pause.
The perplexed expression of the blond-haired man intensified. It is vain to deny that he enlarged the scope of his inquiry, visibly if not verbally. “Dear me!” he said, and took up something he had nearly forgotten. “And you found yourselves suddenly on a mountain side?... I thought you were joking.”
I turned round upon him with a sudden access of earnestness. At least I meant my manner to be earnest, but to him it may have seemed wild.
“You,” I said, “are an original sort of man. Do not be alarmed. Perhaps you will understand.... We were not joking.”
“But, my dear fellow!”
“I mean it! We come from an inferior world! Like this, but out of order.”
“No world could be more out of order--”
“You play at that and have your fun. But there's no limit to the extent to which a world of men may get out of gear. In our world--”
He nodded, but his eye had ceased to be friendly.
“Men die of starvation; people die by the hundred thousand needlessly and painfully; men and women are lashed together to make hell for each other; children are born—abominably, and reared in cruelty and folly; there is a thing called war, a horror of blood and vileness. The whole thing seems to me at times a cruel and wasteful wilderness of muddle. You in this decent world have no means of understanding--”
“No?” he said, and would have begun, but I went on too quickly.
“No! When I see you dandering through this excellent and hopeful world, objecting, obstructing, and breaking the law, displaying your wit on science and order, on the men who toil so ingloriously to swell and use the knowledge that is salvation, this salvation for which our poor world cries to heaven--”
“You don't mean to say,” he said, “that you really come from some other world where things are different and worse?”
“And you want to talk to me about it instead of listening to me?”
“Oh, nonsense!” he said abruptly. “You can't do it—really. I can assure you this present world touches the nadir of imbecility. You and your friend, with his love for the lady who's so mysteriously tied—you're romancing! People could not possibly do such things. It's—if you'll excuse me—ridiculous. He began—he would begin. A most tiresome story—simply bore me down. We'd been talking very agreeably before that, or rather I had, about the absurdity of marriage laws, the interference with a free and natural life, and so on, and suddenly he burst like a dam. No!” He paused. “It's really impossible. You behave perfectly well for a time, and then you begin to interrupt.... And such a childish story, too!”
He spun round upon his chair, got up, glanced at me over his shoulder, and walked out of the arbour. He stepped aside hastily to avoid too close an approach to the returning botanist. “Impossible,” I heard him say. He was evidently deeply aggrieved by us. I saw him presently a little way off in the garden, talking to the landlord of our inn, and looking towards us as he talked—they both looked towards us—and after that, without the ceremony of a farewell, he disappeared, and we saw him no more. We waited for him a little while, and then I expounded the situation to the botanist....
“We are going to have a very considerable amount of trouble explaining ourselves,” I said in conclusion. “We are here by an act of the imagination, and that is just one of those metaphysical operations that are so difficult to make credible. We are, by the standard of bearing and clothing I remark about us, unattractive in dress and deportment. We have nothing to produce to explain our presence here, no bit of a flying machine or a space travelling sphere or any of the apparatus customary on these occasions. We have no means beyond a dwindling amount of small change out of a gold coin, upon which I suppose in ethics and the law some native Utopian had a better claim. We may already have got ourselves into trouble with the authorities with that confounded number of yours!”
“You did one too!”
“All the more bother, perhaps, when the thing is brought home to us. There's no need for recriminations. The thing of moment is that we find ourselves in the position—not to put too fine a point upon it—of tramps in this admirable world. The question of all others of importance to us at present is what do they do with their tramps? Because sooner or later, and the balance of probability seems to incline to sooner, whatever they do with their tramps that they will do with us.”
“Unless we can get some work.”
“Exactly—unless we can get some work.”
The botanist leant forward on his arms and looked out of the arbour with an expression of despondent discovery. “I say,” he remarked; “this is a strange world—quite strange and new. I'm only beginning to realise just what it means for us. The mountains there are the same, the old Bristenstock and all the rest of it; but these houses, you know, and that roadway, and the costumes, and that machine that is licking up the grass there—only....”
He sought expression. “Who knows what will come in sight round the bend of the valley there? Who knows what may happen to us anywhere? We don't know who rules over us even ... we don't know that!”
“No,” I echoed, “we don't know that.”
The old Utopias—save for the breeding schemes of Plato and Campanella—ignored that reproductive competition among individualities which is the substance of life, and dealt essentially with its incidentals. The endless variety of men, their endless gradation of quality, over which the hand of selection plays, and to which we owe the unmanageable complication of real life, is tacitly set aside. The real world is a vast disorder of accidents and incalculable forces in which men survive or fail. A Modern Utopia, unlike its predecessors, dare not pretend to change the last condition; it may order and humanise the conflict, but men must still survive or fail.
Most Utopias present themselves as going concerns, as happiness in being; they make it an essential condition that a happy land can have no history, and all the citizens one is permitted to see are well looking and upright and mentally and morally in tune. But we are under the dominion of a logic that obliges us to take over the actual population of the world with only such moral and mental and physical improvements as lie within their inherent possibilities, and it is our business to ask what Utopia will do with its congenital invalids, its idiots and madmen, its drunkards and men of vicious mind, its cruel and furtive souls, its stupid people, too stupid to be of use to the community, its lumpish, unteachable and unimaginative people? And what will it do with the man who is “poor” all round, the rather spiritless, rather incompetent low-grade man who on earth sits in the den of the sweater, tramps the streets under the banner of the unemployed, or trembles—in another man's cast-off clothing, and with an infinity of hat-touching—on the verge of rural employment?
These people will have to be in the descendant phase, the species must be engaged in eliminating them; there is no escape from that, and conversely the people of exceptional quality must be ascendant. The better sort of people, so far as they can be distinguished, must have the fullest freedom of public service, and the fullest opportunity of parentage. And it must be open to every man to approve himself worthy of ascendency.
The way of Nature in this process is to kill the weaker and the sillier, to crush them, to starve them, to overwhelm them, using the stronger and more cunning as her weapon. But man is the unnatural animal, the rebel child of Nature, and more and more does he turn himself against the harsh and fitful hand that reared him. He sees with a growing resentment the multitude of suffering ineffectual lives over which his species tramples in its ascent. In the Modern Utopia he will have set himself to change the ancient law. No longer will it be that failures must suffer and perish lest their breed increase, but the breed of failure must not increase, lest they suffer and perish, and the race with them.
Now we need not argue here to prove that the resources of the world and the energy of mankind, were they organised sanely, are amply sufficient to supply every material need of every living human being. And if it can be so contrived that every human being shall live in a state of reasonable physical and mental comfort, without the reproduction of inferior types, there is no reason whatever why that should not be secured. But there must be a competition in life of some sort to determine who are to be pushed to the edge, and who are to prevail and multiply. Whatever we do, man will remain a competitive creature, and though moral and intellectual training may vary and enlarge his conception of success and fortify him with refinements and consolations, no Utopia will ever save him completely from the emotional drama of struggle, from exultations and humiliations, from pride and prostration and shame. He lives in success and failure just as inevitably as he lives in space and time.
But we may do much to make the margin of failure endurable. On earth, for all the extravagance of charity, the struggle for the mass of men at the bottom resolves itself into a struggle, and often a very foul and ugly struggle, for food, shelter, and clothing. Deaths outright from exposure and starvation are now perhaps uncommon, but for the multitude there are only miserable houses, uncomfortable clothes, and bad and insufficient food; fractional starvation and exposure, that is to say. A Utopia planned upon modern lines will certainly have put an end to that. It will insist upon every citizen being being properly housed, well nourished, and in good health, reasonably clean and clothed healthily, and upon that insistence its labour laws will be founded. In a phrasing that will be familiar to everyone interested in social reform, it will maintain a standard of life. Any house, unless it be a public monument, that does not come up to its rising standard of healthiness and convenience, the Utopian State will incontinently pull down, and pile the material and charge the owner for the labour; any house unduly crowded or dirty, it must in some effectual manner, directly or indirectly, confiscate and clear and clean. And any citizen indecently dressed, or ragged and dirty, or publicly unhealthy, or sleeping abroad homeless, or in any way neglected or derelict, must come under its care. It will find him work if he can and will work, it will take him to it, it will register him and lend him the money wherewith to lead a comely life until work can be found or made for him, and it will give him credit and shelter him and strengthen him if he is ill. In default of private enterprises it will provide inns for him and food, and it will—by itself acting as the reserve employer—maintain a minimum wage which will cover the cost of a decent life. The State will stand at the back of the economic struggle as the reserve employer of labour. This most excellent idea does, as a matter of fact, underlie the British institution of the workhouse, but it is jumbled up with the relief of old age and infirmity, it is administered parochially and on the supposition that all population is static and localised whereas every year it becomes more migratory; it is administered without any regard to the rising standards of comfort and self-respect in a progressive civilisation, and it is administered grudgingly. The thing that is done is done as unwilling charity by administrators who are often, in the rural districts at least, competing for low-priced labour, and who regard want of employment as a crime. But if it were possible for any citizen in need of money to resort to a place of public employment as a right, and there work for a week or month without degradation upon certain minimum terms, it seems fairly certain that no one would work, except as the victim of some quite exceptional and temporary accident, for less.
The work publicly provided would have to be toilsome, but not cruel or incapacitating. A choice of occupations would need to be afforded, occupations adapted to different types of training and capacity, with some residual employment of a purely laborious and mechanical sort for those who were incapable of doing the things that required intelligence. Necessarily this employment by the State would be a relief of economic pressure, but it would not be considered a charity done to the individual, but a public service. It need not pay, any more than the police need pay, but it could probably be done at a small margin of loss. There is a number of durable things bound finally to be useful that could be made and stored whenever the tide of more highly paid employment ebbed and labour sank to its minimum, bricks, iron from inferior ores, shaped and preserved timber, pins, nails, plain fabrics of cotton and linen, paper, sheet glass, artificial fuel, and so on; new roads could be made and public buildings reconstructed, inconveniences of all sorts removed, until under the stimulus of accumulating material, accumulating investments or other circumstances, the tide of private enterprise flowed again.
The State would provide these things for its citizen as though it was his right to require them; he would receive as a shareholder in the common enterprise and not with any insult of charity. But on the other hand it will require that the citizen who renders the minimum of service for these concessions shall not become a parent until he is established in work at a rate above the minimum, and free of any debt he may have incurred. The State will never press for its debt, nor put a limit to its accumulation so long as a man or woman remains childless; it will not even grudge them temporary spells of good fortune when they may lift their earnings above the minimum wage. It will pension the age of everyone who cares to take a pension, and it will maintain special guest homes for the very old to which they may come as paying guests, spending their pensions there. By such obvious devices it will achieve the maximum elimination of its feeble and spiritless folk in every generation with the minimum of suffering and public disorder.
But the mildly incompetent, the spiritless and dull, the poorer sort who are ill, do not exhaust our Utopian problem. There remain idiots and lunatics, there remain perverse and incompetent persons, there are people of weak character who become drunkards, drug takers, and the like. Then there are persons tainted with certain foul and transmissible diseases. All these people spoil the world for others. They may become parents, and with most of them there is manifestly nothing to be done but to seclude them from the great body of the population. You must resort to a kind of social surgery. You cannot have social freedom in your public ways, your children cannot speak to whom they will, your girls and gentle women cannot go abroad while some sorts of people go free. And there are violent people, and those who will not respect the property of others, thieves and cheats, they, too, so soon as their nature is confirmed, must pass out of the free life of our ordered world. So soon as there can be no doubt of the disease or baseness of the individual, so soon as the insanity or other disease is assured, or the crime repeated a third time, or the drunkenness or misdemeanour past its seventh occasion (let us say), so soon must he or she pass out of the common ways of men.
The dreadfulness of all such proposals as this lies in the possibility of their execution falling into the hands of hard, dull, and cruel administrators. But in the case of a Utopia one assumes the best possible government, a government as merciful and deliberate as it is powerful and decisive. You must not too hastily imagine these things being done—as they would be done on earth at present—by a number of zealous half-educated people in a state of panic at a quite imaginary “Rapid Multiplication of the Unfit.”
No doubt for first offenders, and for all offenders under five-and-twenty, the Modern Utopia will attempt cautionary and remedial treatment. There will be disciplinary schools and colleges for the young, fair and happy places, but with less confidence and more restraint than the schools and colleges of the ordinary world. In remote and solitary regions these enclosures will lie, they will be fenced in and forbidden to the common run of men, and there, remote from all temptation, the defective citizen will be schooled. There will be no masking of the lesson; “which do you value most, the wide world of humanity, or this evil trend in you?” From that discipline at last the prisoners will return.
But the others; what would a saner world do with them?
Our world is still vindictive, but the all-reaching State of
There would be no killing, no lethal chambers. No doubt Utopia will kill all deformed and monstrous and evilly diseased births, but for the rest, the State will hold itself accountable for their being. There is no justice in Nature perhaps, but the idea of justice must be sacred in any good society. Lives that statesmanship has permitted, errors it has not foreseen and educated against, must not be punished by death. If the State does not keep faith, no one will keep faith. Crime and bad lives are the measure of a State's failure, all crime in the end is the crime of the community. Even for murder Utopia will not, I think, kill.
I doubt even if there will be jails. No men are quite wise enough, good enough and cheap enough to staff jails as a jail ought to be staffed. Perhaps islands will be chosen, islands lying apart from the highways of the sea, and to these the State will send its exiles, most of them thanking Heaven, no doubt, to be quit of a world of prigs. The State will, of course, secure itself against any children from these people, that is the primary object in their seclusion, and perhaps it may even be necessary to make these island prisons a system of island monasteries and island nunneries. Upon that I am not competent to speak, but if I may believe the literature of the subject—unhappily a not very well criticised literature—it is not necessary to enforce this separation. [Footnote: See for example Dr. W. A. Chapple's The Fertility of the Unfit.]
About such islands patrol boats will go, there will be no
freedoms of boat building, and it may be necessary to have armed guards at the
creeks and quays. Beyond that the State will give these segregated failures
just as full a liberty as they can have. If it interferes any further it will
be simply to police the islands against the organisation of serious cruelty, to
maintain the freedom of any of the detained who wish it to transfer themselves
to other islands, and so to keep a check upon tyranny. The insane, of course,
will demand care and control, but there is no reason why the islands of the hopeless
drunkard, for example, should not each have a virtual autonomy, have at the
most a Resident and a guard. I believe that a community of drunkards might be
capable of organising even its own bad habit to the pitch of tolerable
existence. I do not see why such an island should not build and order for
itself and manufacture and trade. “Your ways are not our ways,” the
And you see the big convict steamship standing in to the
Altogether a very go-ahead looking little port it would be, and though this disembarkation would have none of the flow of hilarious good fellowship that would throw a halo of genial noise about the Islands of Drink, it is doubtful if the new arrivals would feel anything very tragic in the moment. Here at last was scope for adventure after their hearts.
This sounds more fantastic than it is. But what else is there to do, unless you kill? You must seclude, but why should you torment? All modern prisons are places of torture by restraint, and the habitual criminal plays the part of a damaged mouse at the mercy of the cat of our law. He has his little painful run, and back he comes again to a state more horrible even than destitution. There are no Alsatias left in the world. For my own part I can think of no crime, unless it is reckless begetting or the wilful transmission of contagious disease, for which the bleak terrors, the solitudes and ignominies of the modern prison do not seem outrageously cruel. If you want to go so far as that, then kill. Why, once you are rid of them, should you pester criminals to respect an uncongenial standard of conduct? Into such islands of exile as this a modern Utopia will have to purge itself. There is no alternative that I can contrive.
Will a Utopian be free to be idle?
Work has to be done, every day humanity is sustained by its collective effort, and without a constant recurrence of effort in the single man as in the race as a whole, there is neither health nor happiness. The permanent idleness of a human being is not only burthensome to the world, but his own secure misery. But unprofitable occupation is also intended by idleness, and it may be considered whether that freedom also will be open to the Utopian. Conceivably it will, like privacy, locomotion, and almost all the freedoms of life, and on the same terms—if he possess the money to pay for it.
That last condition may produce a shock in minds accustomed to the proposition that money is the root of all evil, and to the idea that Utopia necessarily implies something rather oaken and hand-made and primitive in all these relations. Of course, money is not the root of any evil in the world; the root of all evil in the world, and the root of all good too, is the Will to Live, and money becomes harmful only when by bad laws and bad economic organisation it is more easily attained by bad men than good. It is as reasonable to say food is the root of all disease, because so many people suffer from excessive and unwise eating. The sane economic ideal is to make the possession of money the clear indication of public serviceableness, and the more nearly that ideal is attained, the smaller is the justification of poverty and the less the hardship of being poor. In barbaric and disorderly countries it is almost honourable to be indigent and unquestionably virtuous to give to a beggar, and even in the more or less civilised societies of earth, so many children come into life hopelessly handicapped, that austerity to the poor is regarded as the meanest of mean virtues. But in Utopia everyone will have had an education and a certain minimum of nutrition and training; everyone will be insured against ill-health and accidents; there will be the most efficient organisation for balancing the pressure of employment and the presence of disengaged labour, and so to be moneyless will be clear evidence of unworthiness. In Utopia, no one will dream of giving to a casual beggar, and no one will dream of begging.
There will need to be, in the place of the British casual wards, simple but comfortable inns with a low tariff—controlled to a certain extent no doubt, and even in some cases maintained, by the State. This tariff will have such a definite relation to the minimum permissible wage, that a man who has incurred no liabilities through marriage or the like relationship, will be able to live in comfort and decency upon that minimum wage, pay his small insurance premium against disease, death, disablement, or ripening years, and have a margin for clothing and other personal expenses. But he will get neither shelter nor food, except at the price of his freedom, unless he can produce money.
But suppose a man without money in a district where
employment is not to be found for him; suppose the amount of employment to have
diminished in the district with such suddenness as to have stranded him there.
Or suppose he has quarrelled with the only possible employer, or that he does
not like his particular work. Then no doubt the
Such a free change of locality once or twice a year from a region of restricted employment to a region of labour shortage will be among the general privileges of the Utopian citizen.
But suppose that in no district in the world is there work within the capacity of this particular man?
Before we suppose that, we must take into consideration the
general assumption one is permitted to make in all Utopian speculations. All
Utopians will be reasonably well educated upon Utopian lines; there will be no
illiterates unless they are unteachable imbeciles, no rule-of-thumb toilers as
inadaptable as trained beasts. The Utopian worker will be as versatile as any
well-educated man is on earth to-day, and no Trade Union will impose a limit to
his activities. The world will be his
But even with that adaptability, it may be that sometimes he
will not find work. Such a disproportion between the work to be done and the
people to do it may arise as to present a surplus of labour everywhere. This
disproportion may be due to two causes: to an increase of population without a
corresponding increase of enterprises, or to a diminution of employment
throughout the world due to the completion of great enterprises, to economies
achieved, or to the operation of new and more efficient labour-saving
appliances. Through either cause, a
But the first cause may be anticipated by wise marriage laws.... The full discussion of these laws will come later, but here one may insist that Utopia will control the increase of its population. Without the determination and ability to limit that increase as well as to stimulate it whenever it is necessary, no Utopia is possible. That was clearly demonstrated by Malthus for all time.
The second cause is not so easily anticipated, but then,
though its immediate result in glutting the labour market is similar, its final
consequences are entirely different from those of the first. The whole trend of
a scientific mechanical civilisation is continually to replace labour by
machinery and to increase it in its effectiveness by organisation, and so quite
independently of any increase in population labour must either fall in value
until it can compete against and check the cheapening process, or if that is
prevented, as it will be in Utopia, by a minimum wage, come out of employment.
There is no apparent limit to this process. But a surplus of efficient labour
at the minimum wage is exactly the condition that should stimulate new
enterprises, and that in a State saturated with science and prolific in
invention will stimulate new enterprises. An increasing surplus of available
labour without an absolute increase of population, an increasing surplus of
labour due to increasing economy and not to proliferation, and which,
therefore, does not press on and disarrange the food supply, is surely the
ideal condition for a progressive civilisation. I am inclined to think that,
since labour will be regarded as a delocalised and fluid force, it will be the
The existence of our blond bare-footed friend was evidence
enough that in a modern Utopia a man will be free to be just as idle or
uselessly busy as it pleases him, after he has earned the minimum wage. He must
do that, of course, to pay for his keep, to pay his assurance tax against
ill-health or old age, and any charge or debt paternity may have brought upon
In any modern Utopia there must be many leisurely people. We are all too obsessed in the real world by the strenuous ideal, by the idea that the vehement incessant fool is the only righteous man. Nothing done in a hurry, nothing done under strain, is really well done. A State where all are working hard, where none go to and fro, easily and freely, loses touch with the purpose of freedom.
But inherited independence will be the rarest and least permanent of Utopian facts, for the most part that wider freedom will have to be earned, and the inducements to men and women to raise their personal value far above the minimum wage will be very great indeed. Thereby will come privacies, more space in which to live, liberty to go everywhere and do no end of things, the power and freedom to initiate interesting enterprises and assist and co-operate with interesting people, and indeed all the best things of life. The modern Utopia will give a universal security indeed, and exercise the minimum of compulsions to toil, but it will offer some acutely desirable prizes. The aim of all these devices, the minimum wage, the standard of life, provision for all the feeble and unemployed and so forth, is not to rob life of incentives but to change their nature, to make life not less energetic, but less panic-stricken and violent and base, to shift the incidence of the struggle for existence from our lower to our higher emotions, so to anticipate and neutralise the motives of the cowardly and bestial, that the ambitious and energetic imagination which is man's finest quality may become the incentive and determining factor in survival.
After we have paid for our lunch in the little inn that corresponds to Wassen, the botanist and I would no doubt spend the rest of the forenoon in the discussion of various aspects and possibilities of Utopian labour laws. We should examine our remaining change, copper coins of an appearance ornamental rather than reassuring, and we should decide that after what we had gathered from the man with the blond hair, it would, on the whole, be advisable to come to the point with the labour question forthwith. At last we should draw the deep breath of resolution and arise and ask for the Public Office. We should know by this time that the labour bureau sheltered with the post-office and other public services in one building.
The public office of Utopia would of course contain a few
surprises for two men from terrestrial
The office is in charge of a quick-eyed little woman of six and thirty perhaps, and she regards us with a certain keenness of scrutiny.
“Where are your papers?” she asks.
I think for a moment of the documents in my pocket, my passport chequered with visas and addressed in my commendation and in the name of her late Majesty by We, Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoigne Cecil, Marquess of Salisbury, Earl of Salisbury, Viscount Cranborne, Baron Cecil, and so forth, to all whom it may concern, my Carte d'Identité (useful on minor occasions) of the Touring Club de France, my green ticket to the Reading Room of the British Museum, and my Lettre d'Indication from the London and County Bank. A foolish humour prompts me to unfold all these, hand them to her and take the consequences, but I resist.
“Lost,” I say, briefly.
“Both lost?” she asks, looking at my friend.
“Both,” I answer.
I astonish myself by the readiness of my answer.
“I fell down a snow slope and they came out of my pocket.”
“And exactly the same thing happened to both of you?”
“No. He'd given me his to put with my own.” She raised her eyebrows. “His pocket is defective,” I add, a little hastily.
Her manners are too Utopian for her to follow that up. She seems to reflect on procedure.
“What are your numbers?” she asks, abruptly.
A vision of that confounded visitors' book at the inn above comes into my mind. “Let me see,” I say, and pat my forehead and reflect, refraining from the official eye before me. “Let me see.”
“What is yours?” she asks the botanist.
“A. B.,” he says, slowly, “little a, nine four seven, I think--”
“Don't you know?”
“Not exactly,” says the botanist, very agreeably. “No.”
“Do you mean to say neither of you know your own numbers?” says the little post-mistress, with a rising note.
“Yes,” I say, with an engaging smile and trying to keep up a good social tone. “It's queer, isn't it? We've both forgotten.”
“You're joking,” she suggests.
“Well,” I temporise.
“I suppose you've got your thumbs?”
“The fact is--” I say and hesitate. “We've got our thumbs, of course.”
“Then I shall have to send a thumb-print down to the office and get your number from that. But are you sure you haven't your papers or numbers? It's very queer.”
We admit rather sheepishly that it's queer, and question one another silently.
She turns thoughtfully for the thumb-marking slab, and as she does so, a man enters the office. At the sight of him she asks with a note of relief, “What am I to do, sir, here?”
He looks from her to us gravely, and his eye lights to curiosity at our dress. “What is the matter, madam?” he asks, in a courteous voice.
So far the impression we have had of our Utopia is one of a quite unearthly sanity, of good management and comprehensive design in every material thing, and it has seemed to us a little incongruous that all the Utopians we have talked to, our host of last night, the post-mistress and our garrulous tramp, have been of the most commonplace type. But suddenly there looks out from this man's pose and regard a different quality, a quality altogether nearer that of the beautiful tramway and of the gracious order of the mountain houses. He is a well-built man of perhaps five and thirty, with the easy movement that comes with perfect physical condition, his face is clean shaven and shows the firm mouth of a disciplined man, and his grey eyes are clear and steady. His legs are clad in some woven stuff deep-red in colour, and over this he wears a white shirt fitting pretty closely, and with a woven purple hem. His general effect reminds me somehow of the Knights Templars. On his head is a cap of thin leather and still thinner steel, and with the vestiges of ear-guards—rather like an attenuated version of the caps that were worn by Cromwell's Ironsides.
He looks at us and we interpolate a word or so as she explains and feel a good deal of embarrassment at the foolish position we have made for ourselves. I determine to cut my way out of this entanglement before it complicates itself further.
“The fact is--” I say.
“Yes?” he says, with a faint smile.
“We've perhaps been disingenuous. Our position is so entirely exceptional, so difficult to explain--”
“What have you been doing?”
“No,” I say, with decision; “it can't be explained like that.”
He looks down at his feet. “Go on,” he says.
I try to give the thing a quiet, matter-of-fact air. “You see,” I say, in the tone one adopts for really lucid explanations, “we come from another world. Consequently, whatever thumb-mark registration or numbering you have in this planet doesn't apply to us, and we don't know our numbers because we haven't got any. We are really, you know, explorers, strangers--”
“But what world do you mean?”
“It's a different planet—a long way away. Practically at an infinite distance.”
He looks up in my face with the patient expression of a man who listens to nonsense.
“I know it sounds impossible,” I say, “but here is the simple fact—we appear in your world. We appeared suddenly upon the neck of Lucendro—the Passo Lucendro—yesterday afternoon, and I defy you to discover the faintest trace of us before that time. Down we marched into the San Gotthard road and here we are! That's our fact. And as for papers--! Where in your world have you seen papers like this?”
I produce my pocket-book, extract my passport, and present it to him.
His expression has changed. He takes the document and examines it, turns it over, looks at me, and smiles that faint smile of his again.
“Have some more,” I say, and proffer the card of the T.C.F.
I follow up that blow with my green
“You'll get found out,” he says, with my documents in his hand. “You've got your thumbs. You'll be measured. They'll refer to the central registers, and there you'll be!”
“That's just it,” I say, “we sha'n't be.”
He reflects. “It's a queer sort of joke for you two men to play,” he decides, handing me back my documents.
“It's no joke at all,” I say, replacing them in my pocket-book.
The post-mistress intervenes. “What would you advise me to do?”
“No money?” he asks.
He makes some suggestions. “Frankly,” he says, “I think you have escaped from some island. How you got so far as here I can't imagine, or what you think you'll do.... But anyhow, there's the stuff for your thumbs.”
He points to the thumb-marking apparatus and turns to attend to his own business.
Presently we emerge from the office in a state between
discomfiture and amusement, each with a tramway ticket for
The old Utopias are sessile organisations; the new must square itself to the needs of a migratory population, to an endless coming and going, to a people as fluid and tidal as the sea. It does not enter into the scheme of earthly statesmanship, but indeed all local establishments, all definitions of place, are even now melting under our eyes. Presently all the world will be awash with anonymous stranger men.
Now the simple laws of custom, the homely methods of identification that served in the little communities of the past when everyone knew everyone, fail in the face of this liquefaction. If the modern Utopia is indeed to be a world of responsible citizens, it must have devised some scheme by which every person in the world can be promptly and certainly recognised, and by which anyone missing can be traced and found.
This is by no means an impossible demand. The total
population of the world is, on the most generous estimate, not more than
1,500,000,000, and the effectual indexing of this number of people, the record
of their movement hither and thither, the entry of various material facts, such
as marriage, parentage, criminal convictions and the like, the entry of the
new-born and the elimination of the dead, colossal task though it would be, is
still not so great as to be immeasurably beyond comparison with the work of the
post-offices in the world of to-day, or the cataloguing of such libraries as
that of the British Museum, or such collections as that of the insects in
Cromwell Road. Such an index could be housed quite comfortably on one side of
These index cards might conceivably be transparent and so contrived as to give a photographic copy promptly whenever it was needed, and they could have an attachment into which would slip a ticket bearing the name of the locality in which the individual was last reported. A little army of attendants would be at work upon this index day and night. From sub-stations constantly engaged in checking back thumb-marks and numbers, an incessant stream of information would come, of births, of deaths, of arrivals at inns, of applications to post-offices for letters, of tickets taken for long journeys, of criminal convictions, marriages, applications for public doles and the like. A filter of offices would sort the stream, and all day and all night for ever a swarm of clerks would go to and fro correcting this central register, and photographing copies of its entries for transmission to the subordinate local stations, in response to their inquiries. So the inventory of the State would watch its every man and the wide world write its history as the fabric of its destiny flowed on. At last, when the citizen died, would come the last entry of all, his age and the cause of his death and the date and place of his cremation, and his card would be taken out and passed on to the universal pedigree, to a place of greater quiet, to the ever-growing galleries of the records of the dead.
Such a record is inevitable if a Modern Utopia is to be achieved.
Yet at this, too, our blond-haired friend would no doubt
rebel. One of the many things to which some will make claim as a right, is that
of going unrecognised and secret whither one will. But that, so far as one's
fellow wayfarers were concerned, would still be possible. Only the State would
share the secret of one's little concealment. To the eighteenth-century
Liberal, to the old-fashioned nineteenth-century Liberal, that is to say to all
professed Liberals, brought up to be against the Government on principle, this
organised clairvoyance will be the most hateful of dreams. Perhaps, too, the
Individualist would see it in that light. But these are only the mental habits
acquired in an evil time. The old Liberalism assumed bad government, the more
powerful the government the worse it was, just as it assumed the natural
righteousness of the free individual. Darkness and secrecy were, indeed, the
natural refuges of liberty when every government had in it the near possibility
of tyranny, and the Englishman or American looked at the papers of a Russian or
a German as one might look at the chains of a slave. You imagine that father of
the old Liberalism, Rousseau, slinking off from his offspring at the door of
Such is the eye of the State that is now slowly beginning to apprehend our existence as two queer and inexplicable parties disturbing the fine order of its field of vision, the eye that will presently be focussing itself upon us with a growing astonishment and interrogation. “Who in the name of Galton and Bertillon,” one fancies Utopia exclaiming, “are you?”
I perceive I shall cut a queer figure in that focus. I shall affect a certain spurious ease of carriage no doubt. “The fact is, I shall begin....”
And now see how an initial hypothesis may pursue and
overtake its maker. Our thumb-marks have been taken,
they have travelled by pneumatic tube to the central office of the municipality
I have told them they will find no sign of us, but you see him going from gallery to gallery, from bay to bay, from drawer to drawer, and from card to card. “Here he is!” he mutters to himself, and he whips out a card and reads. “But that is impossible!” he says....
You figure us returning after a day or so of such Utopian
experiences as I must presently describe, to the central office in
I make my way to the desk of the man who has dealt with us before. “Well?” I say, cheerfully, “have you heard?”
His expression dashes me a little. “We've heard,” he says, and adds, “it's very peculiar.”
“I told you you wouldn't find out about us,” I say, triumphantly.
“But we have,” he says; “but that makes your freak none the less remarkable.”
“You've heard! You know who we are! Well—tell us! We had an idea, but we're beginning to doubt.”
“You,” says the official, addressing the botanist, “are--!”
And he breathes his name. Then he turns to me and gives me mine.
For a moment I am dumbfounded. Then I think of the entries we made at the inn in the Urserenthal, and then in a flash I have the truth. I rap the desk smartly with my finger-tips and shake my index-finger in my friend's face.
“By Jove!” I say in English. “They've got our doubles!”
The botanist snaps his fingers. “Of course! I didn't think of that.”
“Do you mind,” I say to this official, “telling us some more about ourselves?”
“I can't think why you keep it up,” he remarks, and then almost wearily tells me the facts about my Utopian self. They are a little difficult to understand. He says I am one of the samurai, which sounds Japanese, “but you will be degraded,” he says, with a gesture almost of despair. He describes my position in this world in phrases that convey very little.
“The queer thing,” he remarks, “is that you were in
“I am there still. At least--. I'm
sorry to be so much trouble to you, but do you mind following up that last clue
and inquiring if the person to whom the thumb-mark really belongs isn't in
The idea needs explanation. He says something incomprehensible
about a pilgrimage. “Sooner or later,” I say, “you will have to believe there
are two of us with the same thumb-mark. I won't trouble you with any apparent
nonsense about other planets and so forth again. Here I am. If I was in
“He was in
“It seems to me,” I say, “that the difficulties in this case
are only just beginning. How did I get from
“But here!” says the official, and waves what are no doubt photographic copies of the index cards.
“But we are not those individuals!”
“You are those individuals.”
“You will see,” I say.
He dabs his finger argumentatively upon the thumb-marks. “I see now,” he says.
“There is a mistake,” I maintain, “an unprecedented mistake. There's the difficulty. If you inquire you will find it begin to unravel. What reason is there for us to remain casual workmen here, when you allege we are men of position in the world, if there isn't something wrong? We shall stick to this wood-carving work you have found us here, and meanwhile I think you ought to inquire again. That's how the thing shapes to me.”
“Your case will certainly have to be considered further,” he says, with the faintest of threatening notes in his tone. “But at the same time”—hand out to those copies from the index again—“there you are, you know!”
When my botanist and I have talked over and exhausted every possibility of our immediate position, we should turn, I think, to more general questions.
I should tell him the thing that was becoming more and more
apparent in my own mind. Here, I should say, is a world, obviously on the face
of it well organised. Compared with our world, it is like a well-oiled engine
beside a scrap-heap. It has even got this confounded visual organ swivelling
about in the most alert and lively fashion. But that's by the way.... You have
only to look at all these houses below. (We should be sitting on a seat on the
Gütsch and looking down on the Lucerne of Utopia, a
I have compared the system of indexing humanity we have come upon to an eye, an eye so sensitive and alert that two strangers cannot appear anywhere upon the planet without discovery. Now an eye does not see without a brain, an eye does not turn round and look without a will and purpose. A Utopia that deals only with appliances and arrangements is a dream of superficialities; the essential problem here, the body within these garments, is a moral and an intellectual problem. Behind all this material order, these perfected communications, perfected public services and economic organisations, there must be men and women willing these things. There must be a considerable number and a succession of these men and women of will. No single person, no transitory group of people, could order and sustain this vast complexity. They must have a collective if not a common width of aim, and that involves a spoken or written literature, a living literature to sustain the harmony of their general activity. In some way they must have put the more immediate objects of desire into a secondary place, and that means renunciation. They must be effectual in action and persistent in will, and that means discipline. But in the modern world in which progress advances without limits, it will be evident that whatever common creed or formula they have must be of the simplest sort; that whatever organisation they have must be as mobile and flexible as a thing alive. All this follows inevitably from the general propositions of our Utopian dream. When we made those, we bound ourselves helplessly to come to this....
The botanist would nod an abstracted assent.
I should cease to talk. I should direct my mind to the confused mass of memories three days in Utopia will have given us. Besides the personalities with whom we have come into actual contact, our various hosts, our foreman and work-fellows, the blond man, the public officials and so on, there will be a great multitude of other impressions. There will be many bright snapshots of little children, for example, of girls and women and men, seen in shops and offices and streets, on quays, at windows and by the wayside, people riding hither and thither and walking to and fro. A very human crowd it has seemed to me. But among them were there any who might be thought of as having a wider interest than the others, who seemed in any way detached from the rest by a purpose that passed beyond the seen?
Then suddenly I recall that clean-shaven man who talked with us for a little while in the public office at Wassen, the man who reminded me of my boyish conception of a Knight Templar, and with him come momentary impressions of other lithe and serious-looking people dressed after the same manner, words and phrases we have read in such scraps of Utopian reading as have come our way, and expressions that fell from the loose mouth of the man with the blond hair....
But though I have come to a point where the problem of a Utopia has resolved itself very simply into the problem of government and direction, I find I have not brought the botanist with me. Frankly he cannot think so steadily onward as I can. I feel to think, he thinks to feel. It is I and my kind that have the wider range, because we can be impersonal as well as personal. We can escape ourselves. In general terms, at least, I understand him, but he does not understand me in any way at all. He thinks me an incomprehensible brute because his obsession is merely one of my incidental interests, and wherever my reasoning ceases to be explicit and full, the slightest ellipsis, the most transitory digression, he evades me and is back at himself again. He may have a personal liking for me, though I doubt it, but also he hates me pretty distinctly, because of this bias he cannot understand. My philosophical insistence that things shall be reasonable and hang together, that what can be explained shall be explained, and that what can be done by calculation and certain methods shall not be left to chance, he loathes. He just wants adventurously to feel. He wants to feel the sunset, and he thinks that on the whole he would feel it better if he had not been taught the sun was about ninety-two million miles away. He wants to feel free and strong, and he would rather feel so than be so. He does not want to accomplish great things, but to have dazzling things occur to him. He does not know that there are feelings also up in the clear air of the philosophic mountains, in the long ascents of effort and design. He does not know that thought itself is only a finer sort of feeling than his—good hock to the mixed gin, porter and treacle of his emotions, a perception of similitudes and oppositions that carries even thrills. And naturally he broods on the source of all his most copious feelings and emotions, women, and particularly upon the woman who has most made him feel. He forces me also to that.
Our position is unfortunate for me. Our return to the
Utopian equivalent of
“Vanished by hypothesis.”
“Oh! They're there still. It's we that have come hither.”
“Of course. I forgot. But still-- You know, there was an avenue of little trees along this quay with seats, and she was sitting looking out upon the lake.... I hadn't seen her for ten years.”
He looks about him still a little perplexed. “Now we are here,” he says, “it seems as though that meeting and the talk we had must have been a dream.”
He falls musing.
Presently he says: “I knew her at once. I saw her in profile. But, you know, I didn't speak to her directly. I walked past her seat and on for a little way, trying to control myself.... Then I turned back and sat down beside her, very quietly. She looked up at me. Everything came back—everything. For a moment or so I felt I was going to cry....”
That seems to give him a sort of satisfaction even in the reminiscence.
“We talked for a time just like casual acquaintances—about the view and the weather, and things like that.”
He muses again.
“In Utopia everything would have been different,” I say.
“I suppose it would.”
He goes on before I can say anything more.
“Then, you know, there was a pause. I had a sort of intuition that the moment was coming. So I think had she. You may scoff, of course, at these intuitions--”
I don't, as a matter of fact. Instead, I swear secretly. Always this sort of man keeps up the pretence of highly distinguished and remarkable mental processes, whereas—have not I, in my own composition, the whole diapason of emotional fool? Is not the suppression of these notes my perpetual effort, my undying despair? And then, am I to be accused of poverty?
But to his story.
“She said, quite abruptly, ‘I am not happy,’ and I told her, ‘I knew that the instant I saw you.’ Then, you know, she began to talk to me very quietly, very frankly, about everything. It was only afterwards I began to feel just what it meant, her talking to me like that.”
I cannot listen to this!
“Don't you understand,” I cry, “that we are in Utopia. She may be bound unhappily upon earth and you may be bound, but not here. Here I think it will be different. Here the laws that control all these things will be humane and just. So that all you said and did, over there, does not signify here—does not signify here!”
He looks up for a moment at my face, and then carelessly at my wonderful new world.
“Yes,” he says, without interest, with something of the tone of an abstracted elder speaking to a child, “I dare say it will be all very fine here.” And he lapses, thwarted from his confidences, into musing.
There is something almost dignified in this withdrawal into himself. For a moment I entertain an illusion that really I am unworthy to hear the impalpable inconclusiveness of what he said to her and of what she said to him.
I am snubbed. I am also amazed to find myself snubbed. I become breathless with indignation. We walk along side by side, but now profoundly estranged.
I regard the façade of the Utopian public offices of Lucerne—I had meant to call his attention to some of the architectural features of these—with a changed eye, with all the spirit gone out of my vision. I wish I had never brought this introspective carcass, this mental ingrate, with me.
I incline to fatalistic submission. I suppose I had no power to leave him behind.... I wonder and I wonder. The old Utopists never had to encumber themselves with this sort of man.
How would things be “different” in the Modern Utopia? After all it is time we faced the riddle of the problems of marriage and motherhood....
The Modern Utopia is not only to be a sound and happy
But it is a conceivable and possible thing that this margin of futile struggling, pain and discomfort and death might be reduced to nearly nothing without checking physical and mental evolution, with indeed an acceleration of physical and mental evolution, by preventing the birth of those who would in the unrestricted interplay of natural forces be born to suffer and fail. The method of Nature “red in tooth and claw” is to degrade, thwart, torture, and kill the weakest and least adapted members of every species in existence in each generation, and so keep the specific average rising; the ideal of a scientific civilisation is to prevent those weaklings being born. There is no other way of evading Nature's punishment of sorrow. The struggle for life among the beasts and uncivilised men means misery and death for the inferior individuals, misery and death in order that they may not increase and multiply; in the civilised State it is now clearly possible to make the conditions of life tolerable for every living creature, provided the inferiors can be prevented from increasing and multiplying. But this latter condition must be respected. Instead of competing to escape death and wretchedness, we may compete to give birth and we may heap every sort of consolation prize upon the losers in that competition. The modern State tends to qualify inheritance, to insist upon education and nurture for children, to come in more and more in the interests of the future between father and child. It is taking over the responsibility of the general welfare of the children more and more, and as it does so, its right to decide which children it will shelter becomes more and more reasonable.
How far will such conditions be prescribed? how far can they be prescribed in a Modern Utopia?
Let us set aside at once all nonsense of the sort one hears
in certain quarters about the human stud farm. [Footnote: See Mankind in the
Making, Ch. II.] State breeding of the population was a reasonable proposal for
Plato to make, in view of the biological knowledge of his time and the purely
tentative nature of his metaphysics; but from anyone in the days after
But to the modern thinker individuality is the significant fact of life, and the idea of the State, which is necessarily concerned with the average and general, selecting individualities in order to pair them and improve the race, an absurdity. It is like fixing a crane on the plain in order to raise the hill tops. In the initiative of the individual above the average, lies the reality of the future, which the State, presenting the average, may subserve but cannot control. And the natural centre of the emotional life, the cardinal will, the supreme and significant expression of individuality, should lie in the selection of a partner for procreation.
But compulsory pairing is one thing, and the maintenance of general limiting conditions is another, and one well within the scope of State activity. The State is justified in saying, before you may add children to the community for the community to educate and in part to support, you must be above a certain minimum of personal efficiency, and this you must show by holding a position of solvency and independence in the world; you must be above a certain age, and a certain minimum of physical development, and free of any transmissible disease. You must not be a criminal unless you have expiated your offence. Failing these simple qualifications, if you and some person conspire and add to the population of the State, we will, for the sake of humanity, take over the innocent victim of your passions, but we shall insist that you are under a debt to the State of a peculiarly urgent sort, and one you will certainly pay, even if it is necessary to use restraint to get the payment out of you: it is a debt that has in the last resort your liberty as a security, and, moreover, if this thing happens a second time, or if it is disease or imbecility you have multiplied, we will take an absolutely effectual guarantee that neither you nor your partner offend again in this matter.
“Harsh!” you say, and “Poor Humanity!”
You have the gentler alternative to study in your terrestrial slums and asylums.
It may be urged that to permit conspicuously inferior people to have one or two children in this way would be to fail to attain the desired end, but, indeed, this is not so. A suitably qualified permission, as every statesman knows, may produce the social effects without producing the irksome pressure of an absolute prohibition. Amidst bright and comfortable circumstances, and with an easy and practicable alternative, people will exercise foresight and self-restraint to escape even the possibilities of hardship and discomfort; and free life in Utopia is to be well worth this trouble even for inferior people. The growing comfort, self-respect, and intelligence of the English is shown, for example, in the fall in the proportion of illegitimate births from 2.2 per 1,000 in 1846-50 to 1.2 per 1,000 in 1890-1900, and this without any positive preventive laws whatever. This most desirable result is pretty certainly not the consequence of any great exaltation of our moral tone, but simply of a rising standard of comfort and a livelier sense of consequences and responsibilities. If so marked a change is possible in response to such progress as England has achieved in the past fifty years, if discreet restraint can be so effectual as this, it seems reasonable to suppose that in the ampler knowledge and the cleaner, franker atmosphere of our Utopian planet the birth of a child to diseased or inferior parents, and contrary to the sanctions of the State, will be the rarest of disasters.
And the death of a child, too, that most tragic event, Utopia will rarely know. Children are not born to die in childhood. But in our world, at present, through the defects of our medical science and nursing methods, through defects in our organisation, through poverty and carelessness, and through the birth of children that never ought to have been born, one out of every five children born dies within five years. It may be the reader has witnessed this most distressful of all human tragedies. It is sheer waste of suffering. There is no reason why ninety-nine out of every hundred children born should not live to a ripe age. Accordingly, in any Modern Utopia, it must be insisted they will.
All former Utopias have, by modern standards, erred on the side of over regulation in these matters. The amount of State interference with the marriage and birth of the citizens of a modern Utopia will be much less than in any terrestrial State. Here, just as in relation to property and enterprise, the law will regulate only in order to secure the utmost freedom and initiative.
Up to the beginning of this chapter, our Utopian speculations, like many Acts of Parliament, have ignored the difference of sex. “He” indeed is to be read as “He and She” in all that goes before. But we may now come to the sexual aspects of the modern ideal of a constitution of society in which, for all purposes of the individual, women are to be as free as men. This will certainly be realised in the Modern Utopia, if it can be realised at all—not only for woman's sake, but for man's.
But women may be free in theory and not in practice, and as long as they suffer from their economic inferiority, from the inability to produce as much value as a man for the same amount of work—and there can be no doubt of this inferiority—so long will their legal and technical equality be a mockery. It is a fact that almost every point in which a woman differs from a man is an economic disadvantage to her, her incapacity for great stresses of exertion, her frequent liability to slight illnesses, her weaker initiative, her inferior invention and resourcefulness, her relative incapacity for organisation and combination, and the possibilities of emotional complications whenever she is in economic dependence on men. So long as women are compared economically with men and boys they will be inferior in precisely the measure in which they differ from men. All that constitutes this difference they are supposed not to trade upon except in one way, and that is by winning or luring a man to marry, selling themselves in an almost irrevocable bargain, and then following and sharing his fortunes for “better or worse.”
But—do not let the proposition in its first crudity alarm you—suppose the Modern Utopia equalises things between the sexes in the only possible way, by insisting that motherhood is a service to the State and a legitimate claim to a living; and that, since the State is to exercise the right of forbidding or sanctioning motherhood, a woman who is, or is becoming, a mother, is as much entitled to wages above the minimum wage, to support, to freedom, and to respect and dignity as a policeman, a solicitor-general, a king, a bishop in the State Church, a Government professor, or anyone else the State sustains. Suppose the State secures to every woman who is, under legitimate sanctions, becoming or likely to become a mother, that is to say who is duly married, a certain wage from her husband to secure her against the need of toil and anxiety, suppose it pays her a certain gratuity upon the birth of a child, and continues to pay at regular intervals sums sufficient to keep her and her child in independent freedom, so long as the child keeps up to the minimum standard of health and physical and mental development. Suppose it pays more upon the child when it rises markedly above certain minimum qualifications, physical or mental, and, in fact, does its best to make thoroughly efficient motherhood a profession worth following. And suppose in correlation with this it forbids the industrial employment of married women and of mothers who have children needing care, unless they are in a position to employ qualified efficient substitutes to take care of their offspring. What differences from terrestrial conditions will ensue?
This extent of intervention will at least abolish two or three salient hardships and evils of the civilised life. It will abolish the hardship of the majority of widows, who on earth are poor and encumbered exactly in proportion as they have discharged the chief distinctive duty of a woman, and miserable, just in proportion as their standard of life and of education is high. It will abolish the hardship of those who do not now marry on account of poverty, or who do not dare to have children. The fear that often turns a woman from a beautiful to a mercenary marriage will vanish from life. In Utopia a career of wholesome motherhood would be, under such conditions as I have suggested, the normal and remunerative calling for a woman, and a capable woman who has borne, bred, and begun the education of eight or nine well-built, intelligent, and successful sons and daughters would be an extremely prosperous woman, quite irrespective of the economic fortunes of the man she has married. She would need to be an exceptional woman, and she would need to have chosen a man at least a little above the average as her partner in life. But his death, or misbehaviour, or misfortunes would not ruin her.
Now such an arrangement is merely the completed induction from the starting propositions that make some measure of education free and compulsory for every child in the State. If you prevent people making profit out of their children—and every civilised State—even that compendium of old-fashioned Individualism, the United States of America—is now disposed to admit the necessity of that prohibition—and if you provide for the aged instead of leaving them to their children's sense of duty, the practical inducements to parentage, except among very wealthy people, are greatly reduced. The sentimental factor in the case rarely leads to more than a solitary child or at most two to a marriage, and with a high and rising standard of comfort and circumspection it is unlikely that the birth-rate will ever rise very greatly again. The Utopians will hold that if you keep the children from profitable employment for the sake of the future, then, if you want any but the exceptionally rich, secure, pious, unselfish, or reckless to bear children freely, you must be prepared to throw the cost of their maintenance upon the general community.
In short, Utopia will hold that sound childbearing and rearing is a service done, not to a particular man, but to the whole community, and all its legal arrangements for motherhood will be based on that conception.
And after these preliminaries we must proceed to ask, first, what will be the Utopian marriage law, and then what sort of customs and opinions are likely to be superadded to that law?
The trend of our reasoning has brought us to the conclusion
Prolific marriage must be a profitable privilege. It must occur only under certain obvious conditions, the contracting parties must be in health and condition, free from specific transmissible taints, above a certain minimum age, and sufficiently intelligent and energetic to have acquired a minimum education. The man at least must be in receipt of a net income above the minimum wage, after any outstanding charges against him have been paid. All this much it is surely reasonable to insist upon before the State becomes responsible for the prospective children. The age at which men and women may contract to marry is difficult to determine. But if we are, as far as possible, to put women on an equality with men, if we are to insist upon a universally educated population, and if we are seeking to reduce the infantile death-rate to zero, it must be much higher than it is in any terrestrial State. The woman should be at least one-and-twenty; the man twenty-six or twenty-seven.
One imagines the parties to a projected marriage first
obtaining licenses which will testify that these conditions are satisfied. From
the point of view of the theoretical
So much for the preliminary conditions of matrimony. For those men and women who chose to ignore these conditions and to achieve any sort of union they liked the State would have no concern, unless offspring were born illegitimately. In that case, as we have already suggested, it would be only reasonable to make the parents chargeable with every duty, with maintenance, education, and so forth, that in the normal course of things would fall to the State. It would be necessary to impose a life assurance payment upon these parents, and to exact effectual guarantees against every possible evasion of the responsibility they had incurred. But the further control of private morality, beyond the protection of the immature from corruption and evil example, will be no concern of the State's. When a child comes in, the future of the species comes in; and the State comes in as the guardian of interests wider than the individual's; but the adult's private life is the entirely private life into which the State may not intrude.
Now what will be the nature of the Utopian contract of matrimony?
From the first of the two points of view named above, that of parentage, it is obvious that one unavoidable condition will be the chastity of the wife. Her infidelity being demonstrated, must at once terminate the marriage and release both her husband and the State from any liability for the support of her illegitimate offspring. That, at any rate, is beyond controversy; a marriage contract that does not involve that, is a triumph of metaphysics over common sense. It will be obvious that under Utopian conditions it is the State that will suffer injury by a wife's misconduct, and that a husband who condones anything of the sort will participate in her offence. A woman, therefore, who is divorced on this account will be divorced as a public offender, and not in the key of a personal quarrel; not as one who has inflicted a private and personal wrong. This, too, lies within the primary implications of marriage.
Beyond that, what conditions should a marriage contract in Utopia involve?
A reciprocal restraint on the part of the husband is clearly of no importance whatever, so far as the first end of matrimony goes, the protection of the community from inferior births. It is no wrong to the State. But it does carry with it a variable amount of emotional offence to the wife; it may wound her pride and cause her violent perturbations of jealousy; it may lead to her neglect, her solitude and unhappiness, and it may even work to her physical injury. There should be an implication that it is not to occur. She has bound herself to the man for the good of the State, and clearly it is reasonable that she should look to the State for relief if it does occur. The extent of the offence given her is the exact measure of her injury; if she does not mind nobody minds, and if her self-respect does not suffer nothing whatever is lost to the world; and so it should rest with her to establish his misconduct, and, if she thinks fit, to terminate the marriage.
A failure on either side to perform the elementary duties of
companionship, desertion, for example, should obviously give the other mate the
right to relief, and clearly the development of any disqualifying habit,
drunkenness, or drug-taking, or the like, or any serious crime or acts of
violence, should give grounds for a final release. Moreover, the modern
These are the fairly easy primaries of this question. We now come to the more difficult issues of the matter. The first of these is the question of the economic relationships of husband and wife, having regard to the fact that even in Utopia women, at least until they become mothers, are likely to be on the average poorer than men. The second is the question of the duration of a marriage. But the two interlock, and are, perhaps, best treated together in one common section. And they both ramify in the most complicated manner into the consideration of the general morale of the community.
This question of marriage is the most complicated and difficult in the whole range of Utopian problems. But it is happily not the most urgent necessity that it should be absolutely solved. The urgent and necessary problem is the ruler. With rulers rightly contrived and a provisional defective marriage law a Utopia may be conceived as existing and studying to perfect itself, but without rulers a Utopia is impossible though the theory of its matrimony be complete. And the difficulty in this question is not simply the difficulty of a complicated chess problem, for example, in which the whole tangle of considerations does at least lie in one plane, but a series of problems upon different levels and containing incommensurable factors.
It is very easy to repeat our initial propositions, to recall that we are on another planet, and that all the customs and traditions of the earth are set aside, but the faintest realisation of that demands a feat of psychological insight. We have all grown up into an invincible mould of suggestion about sexual things; we regard this with approval, that with horror, and this again with contempt, very largely because the thing has always been put to us in this light or that. The more emancipated we think ourselves the more subtle are our bonds. The disentanglement of what is inherent in these feelings from what is acquired is an extraordinary complex undertaking. Probably all men and women have a more or less powerful disposition to jealousy, but what exactly they will be jealous about and what exactly they will suffer seems part of the superposed factor. Probably all men and women are capable of ideal emotions and wishes beyond merely physical desires, but the shape these take are almost entirely a reaction to external images. And you really cannot strip the external off; you cannot get your stark natural man, jealous, but not jealous about anything in particular, imaginative without any imaginings, proud at large. Emotional dispositions can no more exist without form than a man without air. Only a very observant man who had lived all over the planet Earth, in all sorts of social strata, and with every race and tongue, and who was endowed with great imaginative insight, could hope to understand the possibilities and the limitations of human plasticity in this matter, and say what any men and any women could be induced to do willingly, and just exactly what no man and no woman could stand, provided one had the training of them. Though very young men will tell you readily enough. The proceedings of other races and other ages do not seem to carry conviction; what our ancestors did, or what the Greeks or Egyptians did, though it is the direct physical cause of the modern young man or the modern young lady, is apt to impress these remarkable consequences merely as an arrangement of quaint, comical or repulsive proceedings.
But there emerges to the modern inquirer certain ideals and desiderata that at least go some way towards completing and expanding the crude primaries of a Utopian marriage law set out in § 4.
The sound birth being assured, does there exist any valid reason for the persistence of the Utopian marriage union?
There are two lines of reasoning that go to establish a longer duration for marriage. The first of these rests upon the general necessity for a home and for individual attention in the case of children. Children are the results of a choice between individuals; they grow well, as a rule, only in relation to sympathetic and kindred individualities, and no wholesale character-ignoring method of dealing with them has ever had a shadow of the success of the individualised home. Neither Plato nor Socrates, who repudiated the home, seems ever to have had to do with anything younger than a young man. Procreation is only the beginning of parentage, and even where the mother is not the direct nurse and teacher of her child, even where she delegates these duties, her supervision is, in the common case, essential to its welfare. Moreover, though the Utopian State will pay the mother, and the mother only, for the being and welfare of her legitimate children, there will be a clear advantage in fostering the natural disposition of the father to associate his child's welfare with his individual egotism, and to dispense some of his energies and earnings in supplementing the common provision of the State. It is an absurd disregard of a natural economy to leave the innate philoprogenitiveness of either sex uncultivated. Unless the parents continue in close relationship, if each is passing through a series of marriages, the dangers of a conflict of rights, and of the frittering away of emotions, become very grave. The family will lose homogeneity, and its individuals will have for the mother varied and perhaps incompatible emotional associations. The balance of social advantage is certainly on the side of much more permanent unions, on the side of an arrangement that, subject to ample provisions for a formal divorce without disgrace in cases of incompatibility, would bind, or at least enforce ideals that would tend to bind, a man and woman together for the whole term of her maternal activity, until, that is, the last born of her children was no longer in need of her help.
The second system of considerations arises out of the artificiality of woman's position. It is a less conclusive series than the first, and it opens a number of interesting side vistas.
A great deal of nonsense is talked about the natural equality or inferiority of women to men. But it is only the same quality that can be measured by degrees and ranged in ascending and descending series, and the things that are essentially feminine are different qualitatively from and incommensurable with the distinctly masculine things. The relationship is in the region of ideals and conventions, and a State is perfectly free to determine that men and women shall come to intercourse on a footing of conventional equality or with either the man or woman treated as the predominating individual. Aristotle's criticism of Plato in this matter, his insistence upon the natural inferiority of slaves and women, is just the sort of confusion between inherent and imposed qualities that was his most characteristic weakness. The spirit of the European people, of almost all the peoples now in the ascendant, is towards a convention of equality; the spirit of the Mahometan world is towards the intensification of a convention that the man alone is a citizen and that the woman is very largely his property. There can be no doubt that the latter of these two convenient fictions is the more primitive way of regarding this relationship. It is quite unfruitful to argue between these ideals as if there were a demonstrable conclusion, the adoption of either is an arbitrary act, and we shall simply follow our age and time if we display a certain bias for the former.
If one looks closely into the various practical expansions
of these ideas, we find their inherent falsity works itself out in a very
natural way so soon as reality is touched. Those who
insist upon equality work in effect for assimilation, for a similar treatment
of the sexes. Plato's women of the governing class, for example, were to strip
for gymnastics like men, to bear arms and go to war, and follow most of the
masculine occupations of their class. They were to have the same education and
to be assimilated to men at every doubtful point. The Aristotelian attitude, on
the other hand, insists upon specialisation. The men are to rule and fight and
toil; the women are to support motherhood in a state of natural inferiority.
The trend of evolutionary forces through long centuries of human development
has been on the whole in this second direction, has been towards
differentiation. [Footnote: See
The former alternative leads either to a romantic organisation of society in which men will live and fight and die for wonderful, beautiful, exaggerated creatures, or it leads to the hareem. It would probably lead through one phase to the other. Women would be enigmas and mysteries and maternal dignitaries that one would approach in a state of emotional excitement and seclude piously when serious work was in hand. A girl would blossom from the totally negligible to the mystically desirable at adolescence, and boys would be removed from their mother's educational influence at as early an age as possible. Whenever men and women met together, the men would be in a state of inflamed competition towards one another, and the women likewise, and the intercourse of ideas would be in suspense. Under the latter alternative the sexual relation would be subordinated to friendship and companionship; boys and girls would be co-educated—very largely under maternal direction, and women, disarmed of their distinctive barbaric adornments, the feathers, beads, lace, and trimmings that enhance their clamorous claim to a directly personal attention would mingle, according to their quality, in the counsels and intellectual development of men. Such women would be fit to educate boys even up to adolescence. It is obvious that a marriage law embodying a decision between these two sets of ideas would be very different according to the alternative adopted. In the former case a man would be expected to earn and maintain in an adequate manner the dear delight that had favoured him. He would tell her beautiful lies about her wonderful moral effect upon him, and keep her sedulously from all responsibility and knowledge. And, since there is an undeniably greater imaginative appeal to men in the first bloom of a woman's youth, she would have a distinct claim upon his energies for the rest of her life. In the latter case a man would no more pay for and support his wife than she would do so for him. They would be two friends, differing in kind no doubt but differing reciprocally, who had linked themselves in a matrimonial relationship. Our Utopian marriage so far as we have discussed it, is indeterminate between these alternatives.
We have laid it down as a general principle that the private
morals of an adult citizen are no concern for the State. But that involves a
decision to disregard certain types of bargain. A sanely contrived State will
refuse to sustain bargains wherein there is no plausibly fair exchange, and if
private morality is really to be outside the scope of the State then the
affections and endearments most certainly must not be regarded as negotiable
commodities. The State, therefore, will absolutely ignore the distribution of
these favours unless children, or at least the possibility of
children, is involved. It follows that it will refuse to recognise any
debts or transfers of property that are based on such considerations. It will
be only consistent, therefore, to refuse recognition in the marriage contract
to any financial obligation between husband and wife, or any settlements
qualifying that contract, except when they are in the nature of accessory
provision for the prospective children. [Footnote: Unqualified gifts for love
by solvent people will, of course, be quite possible and permissible,
unsalaried services and the like, provided the standard of life is maintained
and the joint income of the couple between whom the services hold does not sink
below twice the minimum wage.] So far the
But to any further definition of the marriage relation the World State of Utopia will not commit itself. The wide range of relationships that are left possible, within and without the marriage code, are entirely a matter for the individual choice and imagination. Whether a man treat his wife in private as a goddess to be propitiated, as a “mystery” to be adored, as an agreeable auxiliary, as a particularly intimate friend, or as the wholesome mother of his children, is entirely a matter for their private intercourse: whether he keep her in Oriental idleness or active co-operation, or leave her to live her independent life, rests with the couple alone, and all the possible friendship and intimacies outside marriage also lie quite beyond the organisation of the modern State. Religious teaching and literature may affect these; customs may arise; certain types of relationship may involve social isolation; the justice of the statesman is blind to such things. It may be urged that according to Atkinson's illuminating analysis [Footnote: See Lang and Atkinson's Social Origins and Primal Law.] the control of love-making was the very origin of the human community. In Utopia, nevertheless, love-making is no concern of the State's beyond the province that the protection of children covers. [Footnote: It cannot be made too clear that though the control of morality is outside the law the State must maintain a general decorum, a systematic suppression of powerful and moving examples, and of incitations and temptations of the young and inexperienced, and to that extent it will, of course, in a sense, exercise a control over morals. But this will be only part of a wider law to safeguard the tender mind. For example, lying advertisements, and the like, when they lean towards adolescent interests, will encounter a specially disagreeable disposition in the law, over and above the treatment of their general dishonesty.] Change of function is one of the ruling facts in life, the sac that was in our remotest ancestors a swimming bladder is now a lung, and the State which was once, perhaps, no more than the jealous and tyrannous will of the strongest male in the herd, the instrument of justice and equality. The State intervenes now only where there is want of harmony between individuals—individuals who exist or who may presently come into existence.
It must be reiterated that our reasoning still leaves Utopian marriage an institution with wide possibilities of variation. We have tried to give effect to the ideal of a virtual equality, an equality of spirit between men and women, and in doing so we have overridden the accepted opinion of the great majority of mankind. Probably the first writer to do as much was Plato. His argument in support of this innovation upon natural human feeling was thin enough—a mere analogy to illustrate the spirit of his propositions; it was his creative instinct that determined him. In the atmosphere of such speculations as this, Plato looms very large indeed, and in view of what we owe to him, it seems reasonable that we should hesitate before dismissing as a thing prohibited and evil, a type of marriage that he made almost the central feature in the organisation of the ruling class, at least, of his ideal State. He was persuaded that the narrow monogamic family is apt to become illiberal and anti-social, to withdraw the imagination and energies of the citizen from the services of the community as a whole, and the Roman Catholic Church has so far endorsed and substantiated his opinion as to forbid family relations to its priests and significant servants. He conceived of a poetic devotion to the public idea, a devotion of which the mind of Aristotle, as his criticisms of Plato show, was incapable, as a substitute for the warm and tender but illiberal emotions of the home. But while the Church made the alternative to family ties celibacy [Footnote: The warm imagination of Campanella, that quaint Calabrian monastic, fired by Plato, reversed this aspect of the Church.] and participation in an organisation, Plato was far more in accordance with modern ideas in perceiving the disadvantage that would result from precluding the nobler types of character from offspring. He sought a way to achieve progeny, therefore, without the narrow concentration of the sympathies about the home, and he found it in a multiple marriage in which every member of the governing class was considered to be married to all the others. But the detailed operation of this system he put tentatively and very obscurely. His suggestions have the experimental inconsistency of an enquiring man. He left many things altogether open, and it is unfair to him to adopt Aristotle's forensic method and deal with his discussion as though it was a fully-worked-out project. It is clear that Plato intended every member of his governing class to be so “changed at birth” as to leave paternity untraceable; mothers were not to know their children, nor children their parents, but there is nothing to forbid the supposition that he intended these people to select and adhere to congenial mates within the great family. Aristotle's assertion that the Platonic republic left no scope for the virtue of continence shows that he had jumped to just the same conclusions a contemporary London errand boy, hovering a little shamefacedly over Jowett in a public library, might be expected to reach.
Aristotle obscures Plato's intention,
it may be accidentally, by speaking of his marriage institution as a community
of wives. When reading Plato he could not or would not escape reading in his
own conception of the natural ascendency of men, his idea of property in women
and children. But as Plato intended women to be conventionally equal to men,
this phrase belies him altogether; community of husbands and wives would be
truer to his proposal. Aristotle condemns Plato as roundly as any commercial
room would condemn him to-day, and in much the same spirit; he asserts rather
than proves that such a grouping is against the nature of man. He wanted to
have women property just as he wanted to have slaves
property, he did not care to ask why, and it distressed his conception of
convenience extremely to imagine any other arrangement. It is no doubt true
that the natural instinct of either sex is exclusive of participators in
intimacy during a period of intimacy, but it was probably Aristotle who gave
Plato an offensive interpretation in this matter. No one would freely submit to
such a condition of affairs as multiple marriage
carried out, in the spirit of the Aristotelian interpretation, to an obscene
completeness, but that is all the more reason why the modern Utopia should not
refuse a grouped marriage to three or more freely consenting persons. There is
no sense in prohibiting institutions which no sane people could ever want to
abuse. It is claimed—though the full facts are difficult to ascertain—that a
group marriage of over two hundred persons was successfully organised by John
Humphrey Noyes at Oneida Creek. [Footnote: See John H. Noyes's History of
American Socialisms and his writings generally. The bare facts of this and the
other American experiments are given, together with more recent matter, by
Morris Hillquirt, in The History of Socialism in the
Out of respect for Plato we cannot ignore this possibility of multiple marriage altogether in our Utopian theorising, but even if we leave this possibility open we are still bound to regard it as a thing so likely to be rare as not to come at all under our direct observation during our Utopian journeyings. But in one sense, of course, in the sense that the State guarantees care and support for all properly born children, our entire Utopia is to be regarded as a comprehensive marriage group. [Footnote: The Thelema of Rabelais, with its principle of “Fay ce que vouldras” within the limits of the order, is probably intended to suggest a Platonic complex marriage after the fashion of our interpretation.]
It must be remembered that a modern Utopia must differ from
the Utopias of any preceding age in being world-wide; it is not, therefore, to
be the development of any special race or type of culture, as Plato's developed
an Athenian-Spartan blend, or More, Tudor England. The modern Utopia is to be,
before all things, synthetic. Politically and socially, as linguistically, we
must suppose it a synthesis; politically it will be a synthesis of once widely
different forms of government; socially and morally, a synthesis of a great
variety of domestic traditions and ethical habits. Into the modern Utopia there
must have entered the mental tendencies and origins that give our own world the
polygamy of the Zulus and of
But now we are in a better position to describe the houses
and ways of the Utopian townships about the
Our inn is one of those inns and lodging houses which have a
minimum tariff, inns which are partly regulated, and, in the default of private
enterprise, maintained and controlled by the
This quadrangle type of building is the prevalent element in
Utopian Lucerne, and one may go from end to end of the town along corridors and
covered colonnades without emerging by a gateway into the open roads at all.
Small shops are found in these colonnades, but the larger stores are usually
housed in buildings specially adapted to their needs. The majority of the
residential edifices are far finer and more substantial than our own modest
shelter, though we gather from such chance glimpses as we get of their
arrangements that the labour-saving ideal runs through every grade of this
servantless world; and what we should consider a complete house in earthly
The autonomy of the household has been reduced far below terrestrial conditions by hotels and clubs, and all sorts of co-operative expedients. People who do not live in hotels seem usually to live in clubs. The fairly prosperous Utopian belongs, in most cases, to one or two residential clubs of congenial men and women. These clubs usually possess in addition to furnished bedrooms more or less elaborate suites of apartments, and if a man prefers it one of these latter can be taken and furnished according to his personal taste. A pleasant boudoir, a private library and study, a private garden plot, are among the commonest of such luxuries. Devices to secure roof gardens, loggias, verandahs, and such-like open-air privacies to the more sumptuous of these apartments, give interest and variety to Utopian architecture. There are sometimes little cooking corners in these flats—as one would call them on earth—but the ordinary Utopian would no more think of a special private kitchen for his dinners than he would think of a private flour mill or dairy farm. Business, private work, and professional practice go on sometimes in the house apartments, but often in special offices in the great warren of the business quarter. A common garden, an infant school, play rooms, and a playing garden for children, are universal features of the club quadrangles.
Two or three main roads with their tramways, their cyclists' paths, and swift traffic paths, will converge on the urban centre, where the public offices will stand in a group close to the two or three theatres and the larger shops, and hither, too, in the case of Lucerne, the head of the swift railway to Paris and England and Scotland, and to the Rhineland and Germany will run. And as one walks out from the town centre one will come to that mingling of homesteads and open country which will be the common condition of all the more habitable parts of the globe.
Here and there, no doubt, will stand quite solitary homesteads, homesteads that will nevertheless be lit and warmed by cables from the central force station, that will share the common water supply, will have their perfected telephonic connection with the rest of the world, with doctor, shop, and so forth, and may even have a pneumatic tube for books and small parcels to the nearest post-office. But the solitary homestead, as a permanent residence, will be something of a luxury—the resort of rather wealthy garden lovers; and most people with a bias for retirement will probably get as much residential solitude as they care for in the hire of a holiday châlet in a forest, by remote lagoons or high up the mountain side.
The solitary house may indeed prove to be very rare indeed in Utopia. The same forces, the same facilitation of communications that will diffuse the towns will tend to little concentrations of the agricultural population over the country side. The field workers will probably take their food with them to their work during the day, and for the convenience of an interesting dinner and of civilised intercourse after the working day is over, they will most probably live in a college quadrangle with a common room and club. I doubt if there will be any agricultural labourers drawing wages in Utopia. I am inclined to imagine farming done by tenant associations, by little democratic unlimited liability companies working under elected managers, and paying not a fixed rent but a share of the produce to the State. Such companies could reconstruct annually to weed out indolent members. [Footnote: Schemes for the co-operative association of producers will be found in Dr. Hertzka's Freeland.] A minimum standard of efficiency in farming would be insured by fixing a minimum beneath which the rent must not fall, and perhaps by inspection. The general laws respecting the standard of life would, of course, apply to such associations. This type of co-operation presents itself to me as socially the best arrangement for productive agriculture and horticulture, but such enterprises as stock breeding, seed farming and the stocking and loan of agricultural implements are probably, and agricultural research and experiment certainly, best handled directly by large companies or the municipality or the State.
But I should do little to investigate this question; these
are presented as quite incidental impressions. You must suppose that for the
most part our walks and observations keep us within the more urban quarters of
The factory that employs us is something very different from the ordinary earthly model. Our business is to finish making little wooden toys—bears, cattle men, and the like—for children. The things are made in the rough by machinery, and then finished by hand, because the work of unskilful but interested men—and it really is an extremely amusing employment—is found to give a personality and interest to these objects no machine can ever attain.
We carvers—who are the riffraff of Utopia—work in a long shed together, nominally by time; we must keep at the job for the length of the spell, but we are expected to finish a certain number of toys for each spell of work. The rules of the game as between employer and employed in this particular industry hang on the wall behind us; they are drawn up by a conference of the Common Council of Wages Workers with the employers, a common council which has resulted in Utopia from a synthesis of the old Trades Unions, and which has become a constitutional power; but any man who has skill or humour is presently making his own bargain with our employer more or less above that datum line.
Our employer is a quiet blue-eyed man with a humorous smile. He dresses wholly in an indigo blue, that later we come to consider a sort of voluntary uniform for Utopian artists. As he walks about the workshop, stopping to laugh at this production or praise that, one is reminded inevitably of an art school. Every now and then he carves a little himself or makes a sketch or departs to the machinery to order some change in the rough shapes it is turning out. Our work is by no means confined to animals. After a time I am told to specialise in a comical little Roman-nosed pony; but several of the better paid carvers work up caricature images of eminent Utopians. Over these our employer is most disposed to meditate, and from them he darts off most frequently to improve the type.
It is high summer, and our shed lies open at either end. On one hand is a steep mountain side down which there comes, now bridging a chasm, now a mere straight groove across a meadow, now hidden among green branches, the water-slide that brings our trees from the purple forest overhead. Above us, but nearly hidden, hums the machine shed, but we see a corner of the tank into which, with a mighty splash, the pine trees are delivered. Every now and then, bringing with him a gust of resinous smell, a white-clad machinist will come in with a basketful of crude, unwrought little images, and will turn them out upon the table from which we carvers select them.
(Whenever I think of Utopia that faint and fluctuating smell of resin returns to me, and whenever I smell resin, comes the memory of the open end of the shed looking out upon the lake, the blue-green lake, the boats mirrored in the water, and far and high beyond floats the atmospheric fairyland of the mountains of Glarus, twenty miles away.)
The cessation of the second and last spell of work comes about midday, and then we walk home, through this beautiful intricacy of a town to our cheap hotel beside the lake.
We should go our way with a curious contentment, for all that we were earning scarcely more than the minimum wage. We should have, of course, our uneasiness about the final decisions of that universal eye which has turned upon us, we should have those ridiculous sham numbers on our consciences; but that general restlessness, that brooding stress that pursues the weekly worker on earth, that aching anxiety that drives him so often to stupid betting, stupid drinking, and violent and mean offences will have vanished out of mortal experience.
I should find myself contrasting my position with my preconceptions about a Utopian visit. I had always imagined myself as standing outside the general machinery of the State—in the distinguished visitors' gallery, as it were—and getting the new world in a series of comprehensive perspective views. But this Utopia, for all the sweeping floats of generalisation I do my best to maintain, is swallowing me up. I find myself going between my work and the room in which I sleep and the place in which I dine, very much as I went to and fro in that real world into which I fell five-and-forty years ago. I find about me mountains and horizons that limit my view, institutions that vanish also without an explanation, beyond the limit of sight, and a great complexity of things I do not understand and about which, to tell the truth, I do not formulate acute curiosities. People, very unrepresentative people, people just as casual as people in the real world, come into personal relations with us, and little threads of private and immediate interest spin themselves rapidly into a thickening grey veil across the general view. I lose the comprehensive interrogation of my first arrival; I find myself interested in the grain of the wood I work, in birds among the tree branches, in little irrelevant things, and it is only now and then that I get fairly back to the mood that takes all Utopia for its picture.
We spend our first surplus of Utopian money in the reorganisation of our wardrobes upon more Utopian lines; we develop acquaintance with several of our fellow workers, and of those who share our table at the inn. We pass insensibly into acquaintanceships and the beginnings of friendships. The World Utopia, I say, seems for a time to be swallowing me up. At the thought of detail it looms too big for me. The question of government, of its sustaining ideas, of race, and the wider future, hang like the arch of the sky over these daily incidents, very great indeed, but very remote. These people about me are everyday people, people not so very far from the minimum wage, accustomed much as the everyday people of earth are accustomed to take their world as they find it. Such enquiries as I attempt are pretty obviously a bore to them, pass outside their range as completely as Utopian speculation on earth outranges a stevedore or a member of Parliament or a working plumber. Even the little things of daily life interest them in a different way. So I get on with my facts and reasoning rather slowly. I find myself looking among the pleasant multitudes of the streets for types that promise congenial conversation.
My sense of loneliness is increased during this interlude by the better social success of the botanist. I find him presently falling into conversation with two women who are accustomed to sit at a table near our own. They wear the loose, coloured robes of soft material that are the usual wear of common adult Utopian women; they are both dark and sallow, and they affect amber and crimson in their garments. Their faces strike me as a little unintelligent, and there is a faint touch of middle-aged coquetry in their bearing that I do not like. Yet on earth we should consider them women of exceptional refinement. But the botanist evidently sees in this direction scope for the feelings that have wilted a little under my inattention, and he begins that petty intercourse of a word, of a slight civility, of vague enquiries and comparisons that leads at last to associations and confidences. Such superficial confidences, that is to say, as he finds satisfactory.
This throws me back upon my private observations.
The general effect of a Utopian population is vigour.
Everyone one meets seems to be not only in good health but in training; one
rarely meets fat people, bald people, or bent or grey. People who would be
obese or bent and obviously aged on earth are here in good repair, and as a
consequence the whole effect of a crowd is livelier and more invigorating than
on earth. The dress is varied and graceful; that of the women reminds one most
of the Italian fifteenth century; they have an abundance of soft and
beautifully-coloured stuffs, and the clothes, even of the poorest, fit
admirably. Their hair is very simply but very carefully and beautifully
dressed, and except in very sunny weather they do not wear hats or bonnets.
There is little difference in deportment between one class and another; they
all are graceful and bear themselves with quiet dignity, and among a group of
them a European woman of fashion in her lace and feathers, her hat and metal
ornaments, her mixed accumulations of “trimmings,” would look like a barbarian
tricked out with the miscellaneous plunder of a museum. Boys and girls wear
much the same sort of costume—brown leather shoes, then a sort of combination
of hose and close-fitting trousers that reaches from toe to waist, and over
this a beltless jacket fitting very well, or a belted tunic. Many slender women
wear the same sort of costume. We should see them in it very often in such a
But these, of course, are generalisations. These are the mere translation of the social facts we have hypotheticated into the language of costume. There will be a great variety of costume and no compulsions. The doubles of people who are naturally foppish on earth will be foppish in Utopia, and people who have no natural taste on earth will have inartistic equivalents. Everyone will not be quiet in tone, or harmonious, or beautiful. Occasionally, as I go through the streets to my work, I shall turn round to glance again at some robe shot with gold embroidery, some slashing of the sleeves, some eccentricity of cut, or some discord or untidiness. But these will be but transient flashes in a general flow of harmonious graciousness; dress will have scarcely any of that effect of disorderly conflict, of self-assertion qualified by the fear of ridicule, that it has in the crudely competitive civilisations of earth.
I shall have the seeker's attitude of mind during those few
Then I should see grave-faced girls, girls of that budding age when their bearing becomes delusively wise, and the old deception of my youth will recur to me; “Could you and I but talk together?” I should think. Women will pass me lightly, women with open and inviting faces, but they will not attract me, and there will come beautiful women, women with that touch of claustral preoccupation which forbids the thought of any near approach. They are private and secret, and I may not enter, I know, into their thoughts....
I go as often as I can to the seat by the end of old Kapelbrucke, and watch the people passing over.
I shall find a quality of dissatisfaction throughout all these days. I shall come to see this period more and more distinctly as a pause, as a waiting interlude, and the idea of an encounter with my double, which came at first as if it were a witticism, as something verbal and surprising, begins to take substance. The idea grows in my mind that after all this is the “someone” I am seeking, this Utopian self of mine. I had at first an idea of a grotesque encounter, as of something happening in a looking glass, but presently it dawns on me that my Utopian self must be a very different person from me. His training will be different, his mental content different. But between us there will be a strange link of essential identity, a sympathy, an understanding. I find the thing rising suddenly to a preponderance in my mind. I find the interest of details dwindling to the vanishing point. That I have come to Utopia is the lesser thing now; the greater is that I have come to meet myself.
I spend hours trying to imagine the encounter, inventing little dialogues. I go alone to the Bureau to find if any news has come to hand from the Great Index in Paris, but I am told to wait another twenty-four hours. I cease absolutely to be interested in anything else, except so far as it leads towards intercourse with this being who is to be at once so strangely alien and so totally mine.
Wrapped up in these preoccupations as I am, it will certainly be the botanist who will notice the comparative absence of animals about us.
He will put it in the form of a temperate objection to the Utopian planet.
He is a professed lover of dogs and there are none. We have seen no horses and only one or two mules on the day of our arrival, and there seems not a cat in the world. I bring my mind round to his suggestion. “This follows,” I say.
It is only reluctantly that I allow myself to be drawn from my secret musings into a discussion of Utopian pets.
I try to explain that a phase in the world's development is inevitable when a systematic world-wide attempt will be made to destroy for ever a great number of contagious and infectious diseases, and that this will involve, for a time at any rate, a stringent suppression of the free movement of familiar animals. Utopian houses, streets and drains will be planned and built to make rats, mice, and such-like house parasites impossible; the race of cats and dogs—providing, as it does, living fastnesses to which such diseases as plague, influenza, catarrhs and the like, can retreat to sally forth again—must pass for a time out of freedom, and the filth made by horses and the other brutes of the highway vanish from the face of the earth. These things make an old story to me, and perhaps explicitness suffers through my brevity.
My botanist fails altogether to grasp what the disappearance of diseases means. His mind has no imaginative organ of that compass. As I talk his mind rests on one fixed image. This presents what the botanist would probably call a “dear old doggie”—which the botanist would make believe did not possess any sensible odour—and it has faithful brown eyes and understands everything you say. The botanist would make believe it understood him mystically, and I figure his long white hand—which seems to me, in my more jaundiced moments, to exist entirely for picking things and holding a lens—patting its head, while the brute looked things unspeakable....
The botanist shakes his head after my explanation and says quietly, “I do not like your Utopia, if there are to be no dogs.”
Perhaps that makes me a little malicious. Indeed I do not hate dogs, but I care ten thousand times more for a man than for all the brutes on the earth, and I can see, what the botanist I think cannot, that a life spent in the delightful atmosphere of many pet animals may have too dear a price....
I find myself back again at the comparison of the botanist
and myself. There is a profound difference in our imaginations, and I wonder
whether it is the consequence of innate character or of training and whether he
is really the human type or I. I am not altogether without imagination, but
what imagination I have has the most insistent disposition to square itself
with every fact in the universe. It hypothesises very boldly, but on the other
hand it will not gravely make believe. Now the botanist's imagination is always
busy with the most impossible make-believe. That is the way with all children I
know. But it seems to me one ought to pass out of it. It isn't as though the
world was an untidy nursery; it is a place of splendours indescribable for all
who will lift its veils. It may be he is essentially different from me, but I
am much more inclined to think he is simply more childish. Always it is
make-believe. He believes that horses are beautiful creatures for example, dogs
are beautiful creatures, that some women are inexpressibly lovely, and he makes
believe that this is always so. Never a word of criticism of horse or dog or
woman! Never a word of criticism of his impeccable friends! Then there is his
botany. He makes believe that all the vegetable kingdom is mystically perfect
and exemplary, that all flowers smell deliciously and are exquisitely
beautiful, that Drosera does not hurt flies very much, and that onions do not
smell. Most of the universe does not interest this nature lover at all. But I
know, and I am querulously incapable of understanding why everyone else does
not know, that a horse is beautiful in one way and quite ugly in another, that
everything has this shot-silk quality, and is all the finer for that. When
people talk of a horse as an ugly animal I think of its beautiful moments, but
when I hear a flow of indiscriminate praise of its beauty I think of such an
aspect as one gets for example from a dog-cart, the fiddle-shaped back, and
that distressing blade of the neck, the narrow clumsy place between the ears,
and the ugly glimpse of cheek. There is, indeed, no beauty whatever save that transitory thing that comes and comes again; all
beauty is really the beauty of expression, is really kinetic and momentary.
That is true even of those triumphs of static endeavour achieved by
But where are we drifting? All such things, I hold, are cases of more and less, and of the right moment and the right aspect, even the things I most esteem. There is no perfection, there is no enduring treasure. This pet dog's beautiful affection, I say, or this other sensuous or imaginative delight, is no doubt good, but it can be put aside if it is incompatible with some other and wider good. You cannot focus all good things together.
All right action and all wise action is surely sound judgment and courageous abandonment in the matter of such incompatibilities. If I cannot imagine thoughts and feelings in a dog's brain that cannot possibly be there, at least I can imagine things in the future of men that might be there had we the will to demand them....
“I don't like this Utopia,” the botanist repeats. “You don't understand about dogs. To me they're human beings—and more! There used to be such a jolly old dog at my aunt's at Frognal when I was a boy--”
But I do not heed his anecdote. Something—something of the nature of conscience—has suddenly jerked back the memory of that beer I drank at Hospenthal, and puts an accusing finger on the memory.
I never have had a pet animal, I confess, though I have been fairly popular with kittens. But with regard to a certain petting of myself--?
Perhaps I was premature about that beer. I have had no pet animals, but I perceive if the Modern Utopia is going to demand the sacrifice of the love of animals, which is, in its way, a very fine thing indeed, so much the more readily may it demand the sacrifice of many other indulgences, some of which are not even fine in the lowest degree.
It is curious this haunting insistence upon sacrifice and discipline!
It is slowly becoming my dominant thought that the sort of
people whose will this Utopia embodies must be people a little heedless of
small pleasures. You cannot focus all good things at the same time. That is my
chief discovery in these meditations at
We lie in the petal-strewn grass under some Judas trees beside the lake shore, as I meander among these thoughts, and each of us, disregardful of his companion, follows his own associations.
“Very remarkable,” I say, discovering that the botanist has come to an end with his story of that Frognal dog.
“You'd wonder how he knew,” he says.
I nibble a green blade.
“Do you realise quite,” I ask, “that within a week we shall face our Utopian selves and measure something of what we might have been?”
The botanist's face clouds. He rolls over, sits up abruptly and puts his lean hands about his knees.
“I don't like to think about it,” he says. “What is the good of reckoning ... might have beens?”
It is pleasant to think of one's puzzling the organised
wisdom of so superior a planet as this Utopia, this moral
The official eye is more eloquent than the official lips and
asks almost urgently, “What in this immeasurable universe have you managed to
do to your thumbs? And why?” But he is only a very inferior sort of official
indeed, a mere clerk of the post, and he has all the guarded reserve of your
thoroughly unoriginal man. “You are not the two persons I ascertained you
were,” he says, with the note of one resigned to communion with unreason;
“because you”—he indicates me—“are evidently at your residence in
The botanist blesses his heart.
“Consequently”—the official sighs at the burthen of such nonsense, “you will have to go and consult with—the people you ought to be.”
I betray a faint amusement.
“You will have to end by believing in our planet,” I say.
He waggles a negation with his head. He would intimate his
position is too responsible a one for jesting, and both of us in our several
ways enjoy the pleasure we poor humans have in meeting with intellectual inferiority.
“The Standing Committee of Identification,” he says, with an eye on a
memorandum, “has remitted your case to the Research Professor of Anthropology
“What else can we do?” says the botanist.
“There's no positive compulsion,” he remarks, “but your work here will probably cease. Here--” he pushed the neat slips of paper towards us—“are your tickets for London, and a small but sufficient supply of money,”—he indicates two piles of coins and paper on either hand of him—“for a day or so there.” He proceeds in the same dry manner to inform us we are invited to call at our earliest convenience upon our doubles, and upon the Professor, who is to investigate our case.
He pulls down the corners of his mouth in a wry deprecatory smile, eyes us obliquely under a crumpled brow, shrugs his shoulders, and shows us the palms of his hands.
On earth, where there is nationality, this would have been a Frenchman—the inferior sort of Frenchman—the sort whose only happiness is in the routine security of Government employment.
We shall find ourselves there with not a little amazement. It will be our first experience of the swift long distance travel of Utopia, and I have an idea—I know not why—that we should make the journey by night. Perhaps I think so because the ideal of long-distance travel is surely a restful translation less suitable for the active hours.
We shall dine and gossip and drink coffee at the pretty
little tables under the lantern-lit trees, we shall visit the theatre, and
decide to sup in the train, and so come at last to the station. There we shall
find pleasant rooms with seats and books—luggage all neatly elsewhere—and doors
that we shall imagine give upon a platform. Our cloaks and hats and such-like
outdoor impedimenta will be taken in the hall and neatly labelled for
“Where is the train for
“This is the train for
There will be a shutting of doors, and the botanist and I, trying not to feel too childish, will walk exploring through the capacious train.
The resemblance to a club will strike us both. “A good club,” the botanist will correct me.
When one travels beyond a certain speed, there is nothing but fatigue in looking out of a window, and this corridor train, twice the width of its poor terrestrial brother, will have no need of that distraction. The simple device of abandoning any but a few windows, and those set high, gives the wall space of the long corridors to books; the middle part of the train is indeed a comfortable library with abundant armchairs and couches, each with its green-shaded light, and soft carpets upon the soundproof floor. Further on will be a news-room, with a noiseless but busy tape at one corner, printing off messages from the wires by the wayside, and further still, rooms for gossip and smoking, a billiard room, and the dining car. Behind we shall come to bedrooms, bathrooms, the hairdresser, and so forth.
“When shall we start?” I ask presently, as we return, rather like bashful yokels, to the library, and the old gentleman reading the Arabian Nights in the armchair in the corner glances up at me with a sudden curiosity.
The botanist touches my arm and nods towards a pretty little lead-paned window, through which we see a village sleeping under cloudy moonlight go flashing by. Then a skylit lake, and then a string of swaying lights, gone with the leap of a camera shutter.
Two hundred miles an hour!
We resort to a dignified Chinese steward and secure our berths. It is perhaps terrestrial of us that we do not think of reading the Utopian literature that lines the middle part of the train. I find a bed of the simple Utopian pattern, and lie for a time thinking—quite tranquilly—of this marvellous adventure.
I wonder why it is that to lie securely in bed, with the light out, seems ever the same place, wherever in space one may chance to be? And asleep, there is no space for us at all. I become drowsy and incoherent and metaphysical....
The faint and fluctuating drone of the wheels below the car, re-echoed by the flying track, is more perceptible now, but it is not unpleasantly loud, merely a faint tinting of the quiet....
No sea crossing breaks our journey; there is nothing to
prevent a Channel tunnel in that other planet; and I wake in
The train has been in
How will a great city of
To answer that question well one must
needs be artist and engineer, and I am neither. Moreover, one must
employ words and phrases that do not exist, for this world still does not dream
of the things that may be done with thought and steel, when the engineer is
sufficiently educated to be an artist, and the artistic intelligence has been
quickened to the accomplishment of an engineer. How can one write of these
things for a generation which rather admires that inconvenient and gawky muddle
of ironwork and Flemish architecture, the
Art has scarcely begun in the world.
There have been a few forerunners and that is all. Leonardo, Michael Angelo; how they would have exulted in the liberties of steel! There are no more pathetic documents in the archives of art than Leonardo's memoranda. In these, one sees him again and again reaching out as it were, with empty desirous hands, towards the unborn possibilities of the engineer. And Dürer, too, was a Modern, with the same turn towards creative invention. In our times these men would have wanted to make viaducts, to bridge wild and inaccessible places, to cut and straddle great railways athwart the mountain masses of the world. You can see, time after time, in Dürer's work, as you can see in the imaginary architectural landscape of the Pompeian walls, the dream of structures, lighter and bolder than stone or brick can yield.... These Utopian town buildings will be the realisation of such dreams.
Here will be one of the great meeting places of mankind.
Here—I speak of Utopian London—will be the traditional centre of one of the
great races in the commonalty of the
One will come into this place as one comes into a noble
mansion. They will have flung great arches and domes of glass above the wider
spaces of the town, the slender beauty of the perfect metal-work far overhead
will be softened to a fairy-like unsubstantiality by the mild
Great multitudes of people will pass softly to and fro in this central space, beautiful girls and youths going to the University classes that are held in the stately palaces about us, grave and capable men and women going to their businesses, children meandering along to their schools, holiday makers, lovers, setting out upon a hundred quests; and here we shall ask for the two we more particularly seek. A graceful little telephone kiosk will put us within reach of them, and with a queer sense of unreality I shall find myself talking to my Utopian twin. He has heard of me, he wants to see me and he gives me clear directions how to come to him.
I wonder if my own voice sounds like that.
“Yes,” I say, “then I will come as soon as we have been to our hotel.”
We indulge in no eloquence upon this remarkable occasion. Yet I feel an unusual emotional stir. I tremble greatly, and the telephonic mouthpiece rattles as I replace it.
And thence the botanist and I walk on to the apartments that have been set aside for us, and into which the poor little rolls of the property that has accumulated about us in Utopia, our earthly raiment, and a change of linen and the like, have already been delivered. As we go I find I have little to say to my companion, until presently I am struck by a transitory wonder that he should have so little to say to me.
“I can still hardly realise,” I say, “that I am going to see myself—as I might have been.”
“No,” he says, and relapses at once into his own preoccupation.
For a moment my wonder as to what he should be thinking about brings me near to a double self-forgetfulness.
I realise we are at the entrance of our hotel before I can formulate any further remark.
“This is the place,” I say.
It falls to few of us to interview our better selves. My Utopian self is, of course, my better self—according to my best endeavours—and I must confess myself fully alive to the difficulties of the situation. When I came to this Utopia I had no thought of any such intimate self-examination.
The whole fabric of that other universe sways for a moment as I come into his room, into his clear and ordered work-room. I am trembling. A figure rather taller than myself stands against the light.
He comes towards me, and I, as I advance to meet him, stumble against a chair. Then, still without a word, we are clasping hands.
I stand now so that the light falls upon him, and I can see his face better. He is a little taller than I, younger looking and sounder looking; he has missed an illness or so, and there is no scar over his eye. His training has been subtly finer than mine; he has made himself a better face than mine.... These things I might have counted upon. I can fancy he winces with a twinge of sympathetic understanding at my manifest inferiority. Indeed, I come, trailing clouds of earthly confusion and weakness; I bear upon me all the defects of my world. He wears, I see, that white tunic with the purple band that I have already begun to consider the proper Utopian clothing for grave men, and his face is clean shaven. We forget to speak at first in the intensity of our mutual inspection. When at last I do gain my voice it is to say something quite different from the fine, significant openings of my premeditated dialogues.
“You have a pleasant room,” I remark, and look about a little disconcerted because there is no fireplace for me to put my back against, or hearthrug to stand upon. He pushes me a chair, into which I plump, and we hang over an immensity of conversational possibilities.
“I say,” I plunge, “what do you think of me? You don't think I'm an impostor?”
“Not now that I have seen you. No.”
“Am I so like you?”
“Like me and your story—exactly.”
“You haven't any doubt left?” I ask.
“Not in the least, since I saw you enter. You come from the world beyond Sirius, twin to this. Eh?”
“And you don't want to know how I got here?”
“I've ceased even to wonder how I got here,” he says, with a laugh that echoes mine.
He leans back in his chair, and I in mine, and the absurd parody of our attitude strikes us both.
“Well?” we say, simultaneously, and laugh together.
I will confess this meeting is more difficult even than I anticipated.
Our conversation at that first encounter would do very little to develop the Modern Utopia in my mind. Inevitably, it would be personal and emotional. He would tell me how he stood in his world, and I how I stood in mine. I should have to tell him things, I should have to explain things--.
No, the conversation would contribute nothing to a modern Utopia.
And so I leave it out.
But I should go back to my botanist in a state of emotional relaxation. At first I should not heed the fact that he, too, had been in some manner stirred. “I have seen him,” I should say, needlessly, and seem to be on the verge of telling the untellable. Then I should fade off into: “It's the strangest thing.”
He would interrupt me with his own preoccupation. “You know,” he would say, “I've seen someone.”
I should pause and look at him.
“She is in this world,” he says.
“Who is in this world?”
I have not heard her name before, but I understand, of course, at once.
“I saw her,” he explains.
“I'm certain it was her. Certain. She was far away across those gardens near here—and before I had recovered from my amazement she had gone! But it was Mary.”
He takes my arm. “You know I did not understand this,” he says. “I did not really understand that when you said Utopia, you meant I was to meet her—in happiness.”
“It works out at that.”
“You haven't met her yet.”
“I shall. It makes everything different. To tell you the truth I've rather hated this Utopia of yours at times. You mustn't mind my saying it, but there's something of the Gradgrind--”
Probably I should swear at that.
“What?” he says.
“But you spoke?”
“I was purring. I'm a Gradgrind—it's quite right—anything you can say about Herbert Spencer, vivisectors, materialistic Science or Atheists, applies without correction to me. Begbie away! But now you think better of a modern Utopia? Was the lady looking well?”
“It was her real self. Yes. Not the broken woman I met—in the real world.”
“And as though she was pining for you.”
He looks puzzled.
“Look there!” I say.
We are standing high above the ground in the loggia into which our apartments open, and I point across the soft haze of the public gardens to a tall white mass of University buildings that rises with a free and fearless gesture, to lift saluting pinnacles against the clear evening sky. “Don't you think that rather more beautiful than—say—our National Gallery?”
He looks at it critically. “There's a lot of metal in it,” he objects. “What?”
I purred. “But, anyhow, whatever you can't see in that, you can, I suppose, see that it is different from anything in your world—it lacks the kindly humanity of a red-brick Queen Anne villa residence, with its gables and bulges, and bow windows, and its stained glass fanlight, and so forth. It lacks the self-complacent unreasonableness of Board of Works classicism. There's something in its proportions—as though someone with brains had taken a lot of care to get it quite right, someone who not only knew what metal can do, but what a University ought to be, somebody who had found the Gothic spirit enchanted, petrified, in a cathedral, and had set it free.”
“But what has this,” he asks, “to do with her?”
“Very much,” I say. “This is not the same world. If she is here, she will be younger in spirit and wiser. She will be in many ways more refined--”
“No one--” he begins, with a note of indignation.
“No, no! She couldn't be. I was wrong there. But she will be different. Grant that at any rate. When you go forward to speak to her, she may not remember—very many things you may remember. Things that happened at Frognal—dear romantic walks through the Sunday summer evenings, practically you two alone, you in your adolescent silk hat and your nice gentlemanly gloves.... Perhaps that did not happen here! And she may have other memories—of things—that down there haven't happened. You noted her costume. She wasn't by any chance one of the samurai?”
He answers, with a note of satisfaction, “No! She wore a womanly dress of greyish green.”
“Probably under the Lesser Rule.”
“I don't know what you mean by the Lesser Rule. She wasn't one of the samurai.”
“And, after all, you know—I keep on reminding you, and you keep on losing touch with the fact, that this world contains your double.”
He pales, and his countenance is disturbed. Thank Heaven, I've touched him at last!
“This world contains your double. But, conceivably, everything may be different here. The whole romantic story may have run a different course. It was as it was in our world, by the accidents of custom and proximity. Adolescence is a defenceless plastic period. You are a man to form great affections,—noble, great affections. You might have met anyone almost at that season and formed the same attachment.”
For a time he is perplexed and troubled by this suggestion.
“No,” he says, a little doubtfully. “No. It was herself.” ... Then, emphatically, “No!”
For a time we say no more, and I fall musing about my strange encounter with my Utopian double. I think of the confessions I have just made to him, the strange admissions both to him and myself. I have stirred up the stagnations of my own emotional life, the pride that has slumbered, the hopes and disappointments that have not troubled me for years. There are things that happened to me in my adolescence that no discipline of reason will ever bring to a just proportion for me, the first humiliations I was made to suffer, the waste of all the fine irrecoverable loyalties and passions of my youth. The dull base caste of my little personal tragi-comedy—I have ostensibly forgiven, I have for the most part forgotten—and yet when I recall them I hate each actor still. Whenever it comes into my mind—I do my best to prevent it—there it is, and these detestable people blot out the stars for me.
I have told all that story to my double, and he has listened with understanding eyes. But for a little while those squalid memories will not sink back into the deeps.
We lean, side by side, over our balcony, lost in such egotistical absorptions, quite heedless of the great palace of noble dreams to which our first enterprise has brought us.
I can understand the botanist this afternoon; for once we are in the same key. My own mental temper has gone for the day, and I know what it means to be untempered. Here is a world and a glorious world, and it is for me to take hold of it, to have to do with it, here and now, and behold! I can only think that I am burnt and scarred, and there rankles that wretched piece of business, the mean unimaginative triumph of my antagonist--
I wonder how many men have any real freedom of mind, are, in truth, unhampered by such associations, to whom all that is great and noble in life does not, at times at least, if not always, seem secondary to obscure rivalries and considerations, to the petty hates that are like germs in the blood, to the lust for self-assertion, to dwarfish pride, to affections they gave in pledge even before they were men.
The botanist beside me dreams, I know, of vindications for that woman.
All this world before us, and its order and liberty, are no more than a painted scene before which he is to meet Her at last, freed from “that scoundrel.”
He expects “that scoundrel” really to be present and, as it were, writhing under their feet....
I wonder if that man was a scoundrel. He has gone wrong on earth, no doubt, has failed and degenerated, but what was it sent him wrong? Was his failure inherent, or did some net of cross purposes tangle about his feet? Suppose he is not a failure in Utopia!...
I wonder that this has never entered the botanist's head.
He, with his vaguer mind, can overlook—spite of my ruthless reminders—all that would mar his vague anticipations. That, too, if I suggested it, he would overcome and disregard. He has the most amazing power of resistance to uncongenial ideas; amazing that is, to me. He hates the idea of meeting his double, and consequently so soon as I cease to speak of that, with scarcely an effort of his will, it fades again from his mind.
Down below in the gardens two children pursue one another, and one, near caught, screams aloud and rouses me from my reverie.
I follow their little butterfly antics until they vanish beyond a thicket of flowering rhododendra, and then my eyes go back to the great façade of the University buildings.
But I am in no mood to criticise architecture.
Why should a modern Utopia insist upon slipping out of the hands of its creator and becoming the background of a personal drama—of such a silly little drama?
The botanist will not see Utopia in any other way. He tests it entirely by its reaction upon the individual persons and things he knows; he dislikes it because he suspects it of wanting to lethal chamber his aunt's “dear old doggie,” and now he is reconciled to it because a certain “Mary” looks much younger and better here than she did on earth. And here am I, near fallen into the same way of dealing!
We agreed to purge this State and all the people in it of traditions, associations, bias, laws, and artificial entanglements, and begin anew; but we have no power to liberate ourselves. Our past, even its accidents, its accidents above all, and ourselves, are one.
CHAPTER THE NINTH The Samurai
Neither my Utopian double nor I love emotion sufficiently to cultivate it, and my feelings are in a state of seemly subordination when we meet again. He is now in possession of some clear, general ideas about my own world, and I can broach almost at once the thoughts that have been growing and accumulating since my arrival in this planet of my dreams. We find our interest in a humanised state-craft, makes us, in spite of our vast difference in training and habits, curiously akin.
I put it to him that I came to Utopia with but very vague
ideas of the method of government, biassed, perhaps, a little in favour of
certain electoral devices, but for the rest indeterminate, and that I have come
to perceive more and more clearly that the large intricacy of Utopian
organisation demands more powerful and efficient method of control than
electoral methods can give. I have come to distinguish among the varied costumes
and the innumerable types of personality Utopia presents, certain men and women
of a distinctive costume and bearing, and I know now that these people
constitute an order, the samurai, the “voluntary
nobility,” which is essential in the scheme of the
To clarify our comparison he tells me something of the
history of Utopia, and incidentally it becomes necessary to make a correction
in the assumptions upon which I have based my enterprise. We are assuming a
world identical in every respect with the real planet Earth, except for the
profoundest differences in the mental content of life. This implies a different
literature, a different philosophy, and a different history, and so soon as I
come to talk to him I find that though it remains unavoidable that we should
assume the correspondence of the two populations, man for man—unless we would
face unthinkable complications—we must assume also that a great succession of
persons of extraordinary character and mental gifts, who on earth died in childhood
or at birth, or who never learnt to read, or who lived and died amidst savage
or brutalising surroundings that gave their gifts no scope, did in Utopia
encounter happier chances, and take up the development and application of
social theory—from the time of the first Utopists in a steady onward progress
down to the present hour. [Footnote: One might assume as an alternative to this
that amidst the four-fifths of the Greek literature now lost to the world,
there perished, neglected, some book of elementary significance, some earlier
Novum Organum, that in Utopia survived to achieve the profoundest
consequences.] The differences of condition, therefore, had widened with each
successive year. Jesus Christ had been born into a liberal and progressive
Roman Empire that spread from the Arctic Ocean to the
And through this empire the flow of thought, the flow of
intention, poured always more abundantly. There were wars, but they were
conclusive wars that established new and more permanent relations,
that swept aside obstructions, and abolished centres of decay; there
were prejudices tempered to an ordered criticism, and hatreds that merged at
last in tolerant reactions. It was several hundred years ago that the great
organisation of the samurai came into its present form. And it was this
organisation's widely sustained activities that had shaped and established the
This organisation of the samurai was a quite deliberate
invention. It arose in the course of social and political troubles and
complications, analogous to those of our own time on earth, and was, indeed,
the last of a number of political and religious experiments dating back to the
first dawn of philosophical state-craft in
Inevitably such an order must have first arisen among a
clash of social forces and political systems as a revolutionary organisation.
It must have set before itself the attainment of some such Utopian ideal as
this modern Utopia does, in the key of mortal imperfection, realise. At first
it may have directed itself to research and discussion, to the elaboration of
its ideal, to the discussion of a plan of campaign, but at some stage it must
have assumed a more militant organisation, and have prevailed against and
assimilated the pre-existing political organisations, and to all intents and
purposes have become this present synthesised
“Something of this kind,” I should tell my double, “had
arisen in our thought”—I jerk my head back to indicate an infinitely distant
planet—“just before I came upon these explorations. The idea had reached me,
for example, of something to be called a
I added some particulars.
“Our movement had something of that spirit in the beginning,” said my Utopian double. “But while your men seem to be thinking disconnectedly, and upon a very narrow and fragmentary basis of accumulated conclusions, ours had a fairly comprehensive science of human association, and a very careful analysis of the failures of preceding beginnings to draw upon. After all, your world must be as full as ours was of the wreckage and decay of previous attempts; churches, aristocracies, orders, cults....”
“Only at present we seem to have lost heart altogether, and now there are no new religions, no new orders, no new cults—no beginnings any more.”
“But that's only a resting phase, perhaps. You were saying--”
“Oh!—let that distressful planet alone for a time! Tell me how you manage in Utopia.”
The social theorists of Utopia, my double explained, did not base their schemes upon the classification of men into labour and capital, the landed interest, the liquor trade, and the like. They esteemed these as accidental categories, indefinitely amenable to statesmanship, and they looked for some practical and real classification upon which to base organisation. [Footnote: In that they seem to have profited by a more searching criticism of early social and political speculations than our earth has yet undertaken. The social speculations of the Greeks, for example, had just the same primary defect as the economic speculations of the eighteenth century—they began with the assumption that the general conditions of the prevalent state of affairs were permanent.] But, on the other hand, the assumption that men are unclassifiable, because practically homogeneous, which underlies modern democratic methods and all the fallacies of our equal justice, is even more alien to the Utopian mind. Throughout Utopia there is, of course, no other than provisional classifications, since every being is regarded as finally unique, but for political and social purposes things have long rested upon a classification of temperaments, which attends mainly to differences in the range and quality and character of the individual imagination.
This Utopian classification was a rough one, but it served its purpose to determine the broad lines of political organisation; it was so far unscientific that many individuals fall between or within two or even three of its classes. But that was met by giving the correlated organisation a compensatory looseness of play. Four main classes of mind were distinguished, called, respectively, the Poietic, the Kinetic, the Dull, and the Base. The former two are supposed to constitute the living tissue of the State; the latter are the fulcra and resistances, the bone and cover of its body. They are not hereditary classes, nor is there any attempt to develop any class by special breeding, simply because the intricate interplay of heredity is untraceable and incalculable. They are classes to which people drift of their own accord. Education is uniform until differentiation becomes unmistakable, and each man (and woman) must establish his position with regard to the lines of this abstract classification by his own quality, choice, and development....
The Poietic or creative class of mental individuality embraces a wide range of types, but they agree in possessing imaginations that range beyond the known and accepted, and that involve the desire to bring the discoveries made in such excursions, into knowledge and recognition. The scope and direction of the imaginative excursion may vary very greatly. It may be the invention of something new or the discovery of something hitherto unperceived. When the invention or discovery is primarily beauty then we have the artistic type of Poietic mind; when it is not so, we have the true scientific man. The range of discovery may be narrowed as it is in the art of Whistler or the science of a cytologist, or it may embrace a wide extent of relevance, until at last both artist or scientific inquirer merge in the universal reference of the true philosopher. To the accumulated activities of the Poietic type, reacted upon by circumstances, are due almost all the forms assumed by human thought and feeling. All religious ideas, all ideas of what is good or beautiful, entered life through the poietic inspirations of man. Except for processes of decay, the forms of the human future must come also through men of this same type, and it is a primary essential to our modern idea of an abundant secular progress that these activities should be unhampered and stimulated.
The Kinetic class consists of types, various, of course, and
merging insensibly along the boundary into the less representative constituents
of the Poietic group, but distinguished by a more restricted range of
imagination. Their imaginations do not range beyond the known, experienced, and
accepted, though within these limits they may imagine as vividly
or more vividly than members of the former group. They are often very
clever and capable people, but they do not do, and they do not desire to do,
new things. The more vigorous individuals of this class are the most teachable
people in the world, and they are generally more moral and more trustworthy
than the Poietic types. They live,—while the Poietics are always something of
experimentalists with life. The characteristics of either of these two classes
may be associated with a good or bad physique, with excessive or defective
energy, with exceptional keenness of the senses in some determinate direction
or such-like “bent,” and the Kinetic type, just as the Poietic type, may
display an imagination of restricted or of the most universal range. But a
fairly energetic Kinetic is probably the nearest thing to that ideal our
earthly anthropologists have in mind when they speak of the “
The Utopians distinguished two extremes of this Kinetic
class according to the quality of their imaginative preferences, the Dan and
Below these two classes in the Utopian scheme of things, and merging insensibly into them, come the Dull. The Dull are persons of altogether inadequate imagination, the people who never seem to learn thoroughly, or hear distinctly, or think clearly. (I believe if everyone is to be carefully educated they would be considerably in the minority in the world, but it is quite possible that will not be the reader's opinion. It is clearly a matter of an arbitrary line.) They are the stupid people, the incompetent people, the formal, imitative people, the people who, in any properly organised State, should, as a class, gravitate towards and below the minimum wage that qualifies for marriage. The laws of heredity are far too mysterious for such offspring as they do produce to be excluded from a fair chance in the world, but for themselves, they count neither for work nor direction in the State.
Finally, with a bold disregard of the logician's
classificatory rules, these Utopian statesmen who devised the
Obviously, this is the rudest of classifications, and no Utopian has ever supposed it to be a classification for individual application, a classification so precise that one can say, this man is “poietic,” and that man is “base.” In actual experience these qualities mingle and vary in every possible way. It is not a classification for Truth, but a classification to an end. Taking humanity as a multitude of unique individuals in mass, one may, for practical purposes, deal with it far more conveniently by disregarding its uniquenesses and its mixed cases altogether, and supposing it to be an assembly of poietic, kinetic, dull, and base people. In many respects it behaves as if it were that. The State, dealing as it does only with non-individualised affairs, is not only justified in disregarding, but is bound to disregard, a man's special distinction, and to provide for him on the strength of his prevalent aspect as being on the whole poietic, kinetic, or what not. In a world of hasty judgments and carping criticism, it cannot be repeated too often that the fundamental ideas of a modern Utopia imply everywhere and in everything, margins and elasticities, a certain universal compensatory looseness of play.
Now these Utopian statesmen who founded the World State put the problem of social organisation in the following fashion:—To contrive a revolutionary movement that shall absorb all existing governments and fuse them with itself, and that must be rapidly progressive and adaptable, and yet coherent, persistent, powerful, and efficient.
The problem of combining progress with political stability had never been accomplished in Utopia before that time, any more than it has been accomplished on earth. Just as on earth, Utopian history was a succession of powers rising and falling in an alternation of efficient conservative with unstable liberal States. Just as on earth, so in Utopia, the kinetic type of men had displayed a more or less unintentional antagonism to the poietic. The general life-history of a State had been the same on either planet. First, through poietic activities, the idea of a community has developed, and the State has shaped itself; poietic men have arisen first in this department of national life, and then that, and have given place to kinetic men of a high type—for it seems to be in their nature that poietic men should be mutually repulsive, and not succeed and develop one another consecutively—and a period of expansion and vigour has set in. The general poietic activity has declined with the development of an efficient and settled social and political organisation; the statesman has given way to the politician who has incorporated the wisdom of the statesman with his own energy, the original genius in arts, letters, science, and every department of activity to the cultivated and scholarly man. The kinetic man of wide range, who has assimilated his poietic predecessor, succeeds with far more readiness than his poietic contemporary in almost every human activity. The latter is by his very nature undisciplined and experimental, and is positively hampered by precedents and good order. With this substitution of the efficient for the creative type, the State ceases to grow, first in this department of activity, and then in that, and so long as its conditions remain the same it remains orderly and efficient. But it has lost its power of initiative and change; its power of adaptation is gone, and with that secular change of conditions which is the law of life, stresses must arise within and without, and bring at last either through revolution or through defeat the release of fresh poietic power. The process, of course, is not in its entirety simple; it may be masked by the fact that one department of activity may be in its poietic stage, while another is in a phase of realisation. In the United States of America, for example, during the nineteenth century, there was great poietic activity in industrial organisation, and none whatever in political philosophy; but a careful analysis of the history of any period will show the rhythm almost invariably present, and the initial problem before the Utopian philosopher, therefore, was whether this was an inevitable alternation, whether human progress was necessarily a series of developments, collapses, and fresh beginnings, after an interval of disorder, unrest, and often great unhappiness, or whether it was possible to maintain a secure, happy, and progressive State beside an unbroken flow of poietic activity.
Clearly they decided upon the second alternative. If, indeed, I am listening to my Utopian self, then they not only decided the problem could be solved, but they solved it.
He tells me how they solved it.
A modern Utopia differs from all the older Utopias in its recognition of the need of poietic activities—one sees this new consideration creeping into thought for the first time in the phrasing of Comte's insistence that “spiritual” must precede political reconstruction, and in his admission of the necessity of recurrent books and poems about Utopias—and at first this recognition appears to admit only an added complication to a problem already unmanageably complex. Comte's separation of the activities of a State into the spiritual and material does, to a certain extent, anticipate this opposition of poietic and kinetic, but the intimate texture of his mind was dull and hard, the conception slipped from him again, and his suppression of literary activities, and his imposition of a rule of life upon the poietic types, who are least able to sustain it, mark how deeply he went under. To a large extent he followed the older Utopists in assuming that the philosophical and constructive problem could be done once for all, and he worked the results out simply under an organised kinetic government. But what seems to be merely an addition to the difficulty may in the end turn out to be a simplification, just as the introduction of a fresh term to an intricate irreducible mathematical expression will at times bring it to unity.
Now philosophers after my Utopian pattern, who find the ultimate significance in life in individuality, novelty and the undefined, would not only regard the poietic element as the most important in human society, but would perceive quite clearly the impossibility of its organisation. This, indeed, is simply the application to the moral and intellectual fabric of the principles already applied in discussing the State control of reproduction (in Chapter the Sixth, § 2). But just as in the case of births it was possible for the State to frame limiting conditions within which individuality plays more freely than in the void, so the founders of this modern Utopia believed it possible to define conditions under which every individual born with poietic gifts should be enabled and encouraged to give them a full development, in art, philosophy, invention, or discovery. Certain general conditions presented themselves as obviously reasonable:—to give every citizen as good an education as he or she could acquire, for example; to so frame it that the directed educational process would never at any period occupy the whole available time of the learner, but would provide throughout a marginal free leisure with opportunities for developing idiosyncrasies, and to ensure by the expedient of a minimum wage for a specified amount of work, that leisure and opportunity did not cease throughout life.
But, in addition to thus making poietic activities universally possible, the founders of this modern Utopia sought to supply incentives, which was an altogether more difficult research, a problem in its nature irresolvably complex, and admitting of no systematic solution. But my double told me of a great variety of devices by which poietic men and women were given honour and enlarged freedoms, so soon as they produced an earnest of their quality, and he explained to me how great an ambition they might entertain.
There were great systems of laboratories attached to every
municipal force station at which research could be conducted under the most
favourable conditions, and every mine, and, indeed, almost every great
industrial establishment, was saddled under its lease
with similar obligations. So much for poietic ability and
research in physical science. The
“And finally,” said my double, “our Rules ensure a considerable understanding of the importance of poietic activities in the majority of the samurai, in whose hands as a class all the real power of the world resides.”
“Ah!” said I, “and now we come to the thing that interests
me most. For it is quite clear, in my mind, that these samurai form the real
body of the State. All this time that I have spent going to and fro in this
planet, it has been growing upon me that this order of men and women, wearing
such a uniform as you wear, and with faces strengthened by discipline and
touched with devotion, is the Utopian reality; but that for them, the whole
fabric of these fair appearances would crumble and tarnish, shrink and shrivel,
until at last, back I should be amidst the grime and disorders of the life of
earth. Tell me about these samurai, who remind me of Plato's guardians, who
look like Knights Templars, who bear a name that recalls the swordsmen of
“I follow the Common Rule, as many men do,” said my double, answering my allusion to his uniform almost apologetically. “But my own work is, in its nature, poietic; there is much dissatisfaction with our isolation of criminals upon islands, and I am analysing the psychology of prison officials and criminals in general with a view to some better scheme. I am supposed to be ingenious with expedients in this direction. Typically, the samurai are engaged in administrative work. Practically the whole of the responsible rule of the world is in their hands; all our head teachers and disciplinary heads of colleges, our judges, barristers, employers of labour beyond a certain limit, practising medical men, legislators, must be samurai, and all the executive committees, and so forth, that play so large a part in our affairs are drawn by lot exclusively from them. The order is not hereditary—we know just enough of biology and the uncertainties of inheritance to know how silly that would be—and it does not require an early consecration or novitiate or ceremonies and initiations of that sort. The samurai are, in fact, volunteers. Any intelligent adult in a reasonably healthy and efficient state may, at any age after five-and-twenty, become one of the samurai, and take a hand in the universal control.”
“Provided he follows the Rule.”
“Precisely—provided he follows the Rule.”
“I have heard the phrase, ‘voluntary nobility.’”
“That was the idea of our Founders. They made a noble and privileged order—open to the whole world. No one could complain of an unjust exclusion, for the only thing that could exclude from the order was unwillingness or inability to follow the Rule.”
“But the Rule might easily have been made exclusive of special lineages and races.”
“That wasn't their intention. The Rule was planned to exclude the dull, to be unattractive to the base, and to direct and co-ordinate all sound citizens of good intent.”
“And it has succeeded?”
“As well as anything finite can. Life is still imperfect, still a thick felt of dissatisfactions and perplexing problems, but most certainly the quality of all its problems has been raised, and there has been no war, no grinding poverty, not half the disease, and an enormous increase of the order, beauty, and resources of life since the samurai, who began as a private aggressive cult, won their way to the rule of the world.”
“I would like to have that history,” I said. “I expect there was fighting?” He nodded. “But first—tell me about the Rule.”
“The Rule aims to exclude the dull and base altogether, to discipline the impulses and emotions, to develop a moral habit and sustain a man in periods of stress, fatigue, and temptation, to produce the maximum co-operation of all men of good intent, and, in fact, to keep all the samurai in a state of moral and bodily health and efficiency. It does as much of this as well as it can, but, of course, like all general propositions, it does not do it in any case with absolute precision. On the whole, it is so good that most men who, like myself, are doing poietic work, and who would be just as well off without obedience, find a satisfaction in adhesion. At first, in the militant days, it was a trifle hard and uncompromising; it had rather too strong an appeal to the moral prig and harshly righteous man, but it has undergone, and still undergoes, revision and expansion, and every year it becomes a little better adapted to the need of a general rule of life that all men may try to follow. We have now a whole literature, with many very fine things in it, written about the Rule.”
He glanced at a little book on his desk, took it up as if to show it me, then put it down again.
“The Rule consists of three parts; there is the list of things that qualify, the list of things that must not be done, and the list of things that must be done. Qualification exacts a little exertion, as evidence of good faith, and it is designed to weed out the duller dull and many of the base. Our schooling period ends now about fourteen, and a small number of boys and girls—about three per cent.—are set aside then as unteachable, as, in fact, nearly idiotic; the rest go on to a college or upper school.”
“All your population?”
“With that exception.”
“Of course. And they pass out of college at eighteen. There are several different college courses, but one or other must be followed and a satisfactory examination passed at the end—perhaps ten per cent. fail—and the Rule requires that the candidate for the samurai must have passed.”
“But a very good man is sometimes an idle schoolboy.”
“We admit that. And so anyone who has failed to pass the college leaving examination may at any time in later life sit for it again—and again and again. Certain carefully specified things excuse it altogether.”
“That makes it fair. But aren't there people who cannot pass examinations?”
“People of nervous instability--”
“But they may be people of great though irregular poietic gifts.”
“Exactly. That is quite possible. But we don't want that sort of people among our samurai. Passing an examination is a proof of a certain steadiness of purpose, a certain self-control and submission--”
“Of a certain ‘ordinariness.’”
“Exactly what is wanted.”
“Of course, those others can follow other careers.”
“Yes. That's what we want them to do. And, besides these two
educational qualifications, there are two others of a similar kind of more
debateable value. One is practically not in operation now. Our Founders put it
that a candidate for the samurai must possess what they called a Technique,
and, as it operated in the beginning, he had to hold the qualification for a
doctor, for a lawyer, for a military officer, or an engineer, or teacher, or
have painted acceptable pictures, or written a book, or something of the sort.
He had, in fact, as people say, to ‘be something,’ or to have ‘done something.’
It was a regulation of vague intention even in the beginning, and it became
catholic to the pitch of absurdity. To play a violin skilfully has been
accepted as sufficient for this qualification. There may have been a reason in
the past for this provision; in those days there were many daughters of
prosperous parents—and even some sons—who did nothing whatever but idle
uninterestingly in the world, and the organisation might have suffered by their
invasion, but that reason has gone now, and the requirement remains a merely
ceremonial requirement. But, on the other hand, another has developed. Our
Founders made a collection of several volumes, which they called, collectively,
the Book of the Samurai, a compilation of articles and extracts, poems and
prose pieces, which were supposed to embody the idea of the order. It was to
play the part for the samurai that the Bible did for the ancient Hebrews. To
tell you the truth, the stuff was of very unequal merit; there was a lot of
very second-rate rhetoric, and some nearly namby-pamby verse. There was also
included some very obscure verse and prose that had the trick of seeming wise.
But for all such defects, much of the Book, from the very beginning, was
splendid and inspiring matter. From that time to this, the Book of the Samurai
has been under revision, much has been added, much rejected, and some
deliberately rewritten. Now, there is hardly anything in it that is not
beautiful and perfect in form. The whole range of noble emotions finds
expression there, and all the guiding ideas of our
“A man who died a little time ago.”
“I knew that man on earth. And he was in Utopia, too! He was a great red-faced man, with fiery hair, a noisy, intolerant maker of enemies, with a tender heart—and he was one of the samurai?”
“He defied the Rules.”
“He was a great man with wine. He wrote like wine; in our world he wrote wine; red wine with the light shining through.”
“He was on the Committee that revised our Canon. For the revising and bracing of our Canon is work for poietic as well as kinetic men. You knew him in your world?”
“I wish I had. But I have seen him. On earth he wrote a thing ... it would run—
“Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever Gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul....”
“We have that here. All good earthly things are in Utopia also. We put that in the Canon almost as soon as he died,” said my double.
“We have now a double Canon, a very fine First Canon, and a Second Canon of work by living men and work of inferior quality, and a satisfactory knowledge of both of these is the fourth intellectual qualification for the samurai.”
“It must keep a sort of uniformity in your tone of thought.”
“The Canon pervades our whole world. As a matter of fact, very much of it is read and learnt in the schools.... Next to the intellectual qualification comes the physical, the man must be in sound health, free from certain foul, avoidable, and demoralising diseases, and in good training. We reject men who are fat, or thin and flabby, or whose nerves are shaky—we refer them back to training. And finally the man or woman must be fully adult.”
“Twenty-one? But you said twenty-five!”
“The age has varied. At first it was twenty-five or over; then the minimum became twenty-five for men and twenty-one for women. Now there is a feeling that it ought to be raised. We don't want to take advantage of mere boy and girl emotions—men of my way of thinking, at any rate, don't—we want to get our samurai with experiences, with a settled mature conviction. Our hygiene and regimen are rapidly pushing back old age and death, and keeping men hale and hearty to eighty and more. There's no need to hurry the young. Let them have a chance of wine, love, and song; let them feel the bite of full-bodied desire, and know what devils they have to reckon with.”
“But there is a certain fine sort of youth that knows the desirability of the better things at nineteen.”
“They may keep the Rule at any time—without its privileges. But a man who breaks the Rule after his adult adhesion at five-and-twenty is no more in the samurai for ever. Before that age he is free to break it and repent.”
“And now, what is forbidden?”
“We forbid a good deal. Many small pleasures do no great harm, but we think it well to forbid them, none the less, so that we can weed out the self-indulgent. We think that a constant resistance to little seductions is good for a man's quality. At any rate, it shows that a man is prepared to pay something for his honour and privileges. We prescribe a regimen of food, forbid tobacco, wine, or any alcoholic drink, all narcotic drugs--”
“In all the round world of Utopia there is no meat. There used to be. But now we cannot stand the thought of slaughter-houses. And, in a population that is all educated, and at about the same level of physical refinement, it is practically impossible to find anyone who will hew a dead ox or pig. We never settled the hygienic question of meat-eating at all. This other aspect decided us. I can still remember, as a boy, the rejoicings over the closing of the last slaughter-house.”
“You eat fish.”
“It isn't a matter of logic. In our barbaric past horrible flayed carcases of brutes dripping blood, were hung for sale in the public streets.” He shrugged his shoulders.
“They do that still in
He looked again at my laxer, coarser face, and did not say whatever thought had passed across his mind.
“Originally the samurai were forbidden usury, that is to say the lending of money at fixed rates of interest. They are still under that interdiction, but since our commercial code practically prevents usury altogether, and our law will not recognise contracts for interest upon private accommodation loans to unprosperous borrowers, it is now scarcely necessary. The idea of a man growing richer by mere inaction and at the expense of an impoverishing debtor, is profoundly distasteful to Utopian ideas, and our State insists pretty effectually now upon the participation of the lender in the borrower's risks. This, however, is only one part of a series of limitations of the same character. It is felt that to buy simply in order to sell again brings out many unsocial human qualities; it makes a man seek to enhance profits and falsify values, and so the samurai are forbidden to buy to sell on their own account or for any employer save the State, unless some process of manufacture changes the nature of the commodity (a mere change in bulk or packing does not suffice), and they are forbidden salesmanship and all its arts. Consequently they cannot be hotel-keepers, or hotel proprietors, or hotel shareholders, and a doctor—all practising doctors must be samurai—cannot sell drugs except as a public servant of the municipality or the State.”
“That, of course, runs counter to all our current terrestrial ideas,” I said. “We are obsessed by the power of money. These rules will work out as a vow of moderate poverty, and if your samurai are an order of poor men--”
“They need not be. Samurai who have invented, organised, and developed new industries, have become rich men, and many men who have grown rich by brilliant and original trading have subsequently become samurai.”
“But these are exceptional cases. The bulk of your money-making business must be confined to men who are not samurai. You must have a class of rich, powerful outsiders--”
“I don't see the evidences of them.”
“As a matter of fact, we have such people! There are rich traders, men who have made discoveries in the economy of distribution, or who have called attention by intelligent, truthful advertisement to the possibilities of neglected commodities, for example.”
“But aren't they a power?”
“Why should they be?”
“Wealth is power.”
I had to explain that phrase.
He protested. “Wealth,” he said, “is no sort of power at all unless you make it one. If it is so in your world it is so by inadvertency. Wealth is a State-made thing, a convention, the most artificial of powers. You can, by subtle statesmanship, contrive what it shall buy and what it shall not. In your world it would seem you have made leisure, movement, any sort of freedom, life itself, purchaseable. The more fools you! A poor working man with you is a man in discomfort and fear. No wonder your rich have power. But here a reasonable leisure, a decent life, is to be had by every man on easier terms than by selling himself to the rich. And rich as men are here, there is no private fortune in the whole world that is more than a little thing beside the wealth of the State. The samurai control the State and the wealth of the State, and by their vows they may not avail themselves of any of the coarser pleasures wealth can still buy. Where, then, is the power of your wealthy man?”
“But, then—where is the incentive--?”
“Oh! a man gets things for himself with wealth—no end of things. But little or no power over his fellows—unless they are exceptionally weak or self-indulgent persons.”
I reflected. “What else may not the samurai do?”
“Acting, singing, or reciting are forbidden them, though they may lecture authoritatively or debate. But professional mimicry is not only held to be undignified in a man or woman, but to weaken and corrupt the soul; the mind becomes foolishly dependent on applause, over-skilful in producing tawdry and momentary illusions of excellence; it is our experience that actors and actresses as a class are loud, ignoble, and insincere. If they have not such flamboyant qualities then they are tepid and ineffectual players. Nor may the samurai do personal services, except in the matter of medicine or surgery; they may not be barbers, for example, nor inn waiters, nor boot cleaners. But, nowadays, we have scarcely any barbers or boot cleaners; men do these things for themselves. Nor may a man under the Rule be any man's servant, pledged to do whatever he is told. He may neither be a servant nor keep one; he must shave and dress and serve himself, carry his own food from the helper's place to the table, redd his sleeping room, and leave it clean....”
“That is all easy enough in a world as ordered as yours. I suppose no samurai may bet?”
“Absolutely not. He may insure his life and his old age for the better equipment of his children, or for certain other specified ends, but that is all his dealings with chance. And he is also forbidden to play games in public or to watch them being played. Certain dangerous and hardy sports and exercises are prescribed for him, but not competitive sports between man and man or side and side. That lesson was learnt long ago before the coming of the samurai. Gentlemen of honour, according to the old standards, rode horses, raced chariots, fought, and played competitive games of skill, and the dull, cowardly and base came in thousands to admire, and howl, and bet. The gentlemen of honour degenerated fast enough into a sort of athletic prostitute, with all the defects, all the vanity, trickery, and self-assertion of the common actor, and with even less intelligence. Our Founders made no peace with this organisation of public sports. They did not spend their lives to secure for all men and women on the earth freedom, health, and leisure, in order that they might waste lives in such folly.”
“We have those abuses,” I said, “but some of our earthly games have a fine side. There is a game called cricket. It is a fine, generous game.”
“Our boys play that, and men too. But it is thought rather puerile to give very much time to it; men should have graver interests. It was undignified and unpleasant for the samurai to play conspicuously ill, and impossible for them to play so constantly as to keep hand and eye in training against the man who was fool enough and cheap enough to become an expert. Cricket, tennis, fives, billiards--. You will find clubs and a class of men to play all these things in Utopia, but not the samurai. And they must play their games as games, not as displays; the price of a privacy for playing cricket, so that they could charge for admission, would be overwhelmingly high.... Negroes are often very clever at cricket. For a time, most of the samurai had their sword-play, but few do those exercises now, and until about fifty years ago they went out for military training, a fortnight in every year, marching long distances, sleeping in the open, carrying provisions, and sham fighting over unfamiliar ground dotted with disappearing targets. There was a curious inability in our world to realise that war was really over for good and all.”
“And now,” I said, “haven't we got very nearly to the end of your prohibitions? You have forbidden alcohol, drugs, smoking, betting, and usury, games, trade, servants. But isn't there a vow of Chastity?”
“That is the Rule for your earthly orders?”
“Yes—except, if I remember rightly, for Plato's Guardians.”
“There is a Rule of Chastity here—but not of Celibacy. We know quite clearly that civilisation is an artificial arrangement, and that all the physical and emotional instincts of man are too strong, and his natural instinct of restraint too weak, for him to live easily in the civilised State. Civilisation has developed far more rapidly than man has modified. Under the unnatural perfection of security, liberty and abundance our civilisation has attained, the normal untrained human being is disposed to excess in almost every direction; he tends to eat too much and too elaborately, to drink too much, to become lazy faster than his work can be reduced, to waste his interest upon displays, and to make love too much and too elaborately. He gets out of training, and concentrates upon egoistic or erotic broodings. The past history of our race is very largely a history of social collapses due to demoralisation by indulgences following security and abundance. In the time of our Founders the signs of a world-wide epoch of prosperity and relaxation were plentiful. Both sexes drifted towards sexual excesses, the men towards sentimental extravagances, imbecile devotions, and the complication and refinement of physical indulgences; the women towards those expansions and differentiations of feeling that find expression in music and costly and distinguished dress. Both sexes became unstable and promiscuous. The whole world seemed disposed to do exactly the same thing with its sexual interest as it had done with its appetite for food and drink—make the most of it.”
“Satiety came to help you,” I said.
“Destruction may come before satiety. Our Founders organised motives from all sorts of sources, but I think the chief force to give men self-control is Pride. Pride may not be the noblest thing in the soul, but it is the best King there, for all that. They looked to it to keep a man clean and sound and sane. In this matter, as in all matters of natural desire, they held no appetite must be glutted, no appetite must have artificial whets, and also and equally that no appetite should be starved. A man must come from the table satisfied, but not replete. And, in the matter of love, a straight and clean desire for a clean and straight fellow-creature was our Founders' ideal. They enjoined marriage between equals as the samurai's duty to the race, and they framed directions of the precisest sort to prevent that uxorious inseparableness, that connubiality which will reduce a couple of people to something jointly less than either. That Canon is too long to tell you now. A man under the Rule who loves a woman who does not follow it, must either leave the samurai to marry her, or induce her to accept what is called the Woman's Rule, which, while it excepts her from the severer qualifications and disciplines, brings her regimen of life into a working harmony with his.”
“Suppose she breaks the Rule afterwards?”
“He must leave either her or the order.”
“There is matter for a novel or so in that.”
“There has been matter for hundreds.”
“Is the Woman's Rule a sumptuary law as well as a regimen? I mean—may she dress as she pleases?”
“Not a bit of it,” said my double. “Every woman who could command money used it, we found, to make underbred aggressions on other women. As men emerged to civilisation, women seemed going back to savagery—to paint and feathers. But the samurai, both men and women, and the women under the Lesser Rule also, all have a particular dress. No difference is made between women under either the Great or the Lesser Rule. You have seen the men's dress—always like this I wear. The women may wear the same, either with the hair cut short or plaited behind them, or they may have a high-waisted dress of very fine, soft woollen material, with their hair coiled up behind.”
“I have seen it,” I said. Indeed, nearly all the women had seemed to be wearing variants of that simple formula. “It seems to me a very beautiful dress. The other—I'm not used to. But I like it on girls and slender women.”
I had a thought, and added, “Don't they sometimes, well—take a good deal of care, dressing their hair?”
My double laughed in my eyes. “They do,” he said.
“And the Rule?”
“The Rule is never fussy,” said my double, still smiling.
“We don't want women to cease to be beautiful, and consciously beautiful, if you like,” he added. “The more real beauty of form and face we have, the finer our world. But costly sexualised trappings--”
“I should have thought,” I said, “a class of women who traded on their sex would have arisen, women, I mean, who found an interest and an advantage in emphasising their individual womanly beauty. There is no law to prevent it. Surely they would tend to counteract the severity of costume the Rule dictates.”
“There are such women. But for all that the Rule sets the key of everyday dress. If a woman is possessed by the passion for gorgeous raiment she usually satisfies it in her own private circle, or with rare occasional onslaughts upon the public eye. Her everyday mood and the disposition of most people is against being conspicuous abroad. And I should say there are little liberties under the Lesser Rule; a discreet use of fine needlework and embroidery, a wider choice of materials.”
“You have no changing fashions?”
“None. For all that, are not our dresses as beautiful as yours?”
“Our women's dresses are not beautiful at all,” I said, forced for a time towards the mysterious philosophy of dress. “Beauty? That isn't their concern.”
“Then what are they after?”
“My dear man! What is all my world after?”
I should come to our third talk with a great curiosity to hear of the last portion of the Rule, of the things that the samurai are obliged to do.
There would be many precise directions regarding his health, and rules that would aim at once at health and that constant exercise of will that makes life good. Save in specified exceptional circumstances, the samurai must bathe in cold water, and the men must shave every day; they have the precisest directions in such matters; the body must be in health, the skin and muscles and nerves in perfect tone, or the samurai must go to the doctors of the order, and give implicit obedience to the regimen prescribed. They must sleep alone at least four nights in five; and they must eat with and talk to anyone in their fellowship who cares for their conversation for an hour, at least, at the nearest club-house of the samurai once on three chosen days in every week. Moreover, they must read aloud from the Book of the Samurai for at least ten minutes every day. Every month they must buy and read faithfully through at least one book that has been published during the past five years, and the only intervention with private choice in that matter is the prescription of a certain minimum of length for the monthly book or books. But the full Rule in these minor compulsory matters is voluminous and detailed, and it abounds with alternatives. Its aim is rather to keep before the samurai by a number of sample duties, as it were, the need of, and some of the chief methods towards health of body and mind, rather than to provide a comprehensive rule, and to ensure the maintenance of a community of feeling and interests among the samurai through habit, intercourse, and a living contemporary literature. These minor obligations do not earmark more than an hour in the day. Yet they serve to break down isolations of sympathy, all sorts of physical and intellectual sluggishness and the development of unsocial preoccupations of many sorts.
Women samurai who are married, my double told me, must bear children—if they are to remain married as well as in the order—before the second period for terminating a childless marriage is exhausted. I failed to ask for the precise figures from my double at the time, but I think it is beyond doubt that it is from samurai mothers of the Greater or Lesser Rule that a very large proportion of the future population of Utopia will be derived. There is one liberty accorded to women samurai which is refused to men, and that is to marry outside the Rule, and women married to men not under the Rule are also free to become samurai. Here, too, it will be manifest there is scope for novels and the drama of life. In practice, it seems that it is only men of great poietic distinction outside the Rule, or great commercial leaders, who have wives under it. The tendency of such unions is either to bring the husband under the Rule, or take the wife out of it. There can be no doubt that these marriage limitations tend to make the samurai something of an hereditary class. Their children, as a rule, become samurai. But it is not an exclusive caste; subject to the most reasonable qualifications, anyone who sees fit can enter it at any time, and so, unlike all other privileged castes the world has seen, it increases relatively to the total population, and may indeed at last assimilate almost the whole population of the earth.
So much my double told me readily.
But now he came to the heart of all his explanations, to the will and motives at the centre that made men and women ready to undergo discipline, to renounce the richness and elaboration of the sensuous life, to master emotions and control impulses, to keep in the key of effort while they had abundance about them to rouse and satisfy all desires, and his exposition was more difficult.
He tried to make his religion clear to me.
The leading principle of the Utopian religion is the repudiation of the doctrine of original sin; the Utopians hold that man, on the whole, is good. That is their cardinal belief. Man has pride and conscience, they hold, that you may refine by training as you refine his eye and ear; he has remorse and sorrow in his being, coming on the heels of all inconsequent enjoyments. How can one think of him as bad? He is religious; religion is as natural to him as lust and anger, less intense, indeed, but coming with a wide-sweeping inevitableness as peace comes after all tumults and noises. And in Utopia they understand this, or, at least, the samurai do, clearly. They accept Religion as they accept Thirst, as something inseparably in the mysterious rhythms of life. And just as thirst and pride and all desires may be perverted in an age of abundant opportunities, and men may be degraded and wasted by intemperance in drinking, by display, or by ambition, so too the nobler complex of desires that constitutes religion may be turned to evil by the dull, the base, and the careless. Slovenly indulgence in religious inclinations, a failure to think hard and discriminate as fairly as possible in religious matters, is just as alien to the men under the Rule as it would be to drink deeply because they were thirsty, eat until glutted, evade a bath because the day was chilly, or make love to any bright-eyed girl who chanced to look pretty in the dusk. Utopia, which is to have every type of character that one finds on earth, will have its temples and its priests, just as it will have its actresses and wine, but the samurai will be forbidden the religion of dramatically lit altars, organ music, and incense, as distinctly as they are forbidden the love of painted women, or the consolations of brandy. And to all the things that are less than religion and that seek to comprehend it, to cosmogonies and philosophies, to creeds and formulæ, to catechisms and easy explanations, the attitude of the samurai, the note of the Book of Samurai, will be distrust. These things, the samurai will say, are part of the indulgences that should come before a man submits himself to the Rule; they are like the early gratifications of young men, experiences to establish renunciation. The samurai will have emerged above these things.
The theology of the Utopian rulers will be saturated with that same philosophy of uniqueness, that repudiation of anything beyond similarities and practical parallelisms, that saturates all their institutions. They will have analysed exhaustively those fallacies and assumptions that arise between the One and the Many, that have troubled philosophy since philosophy began. Just as they will have escaped that delusive unification of every species under its specific definition that has dominated earthly reasoning, so they will have escaped the delusive simplification of God that vitiates all terrestrial theology. They will hold God to be complex and of an endless variety of aspects, to be expressed by no universal formula nor approved in any uniform manner. Just as the language of Utopia will be a synthesis, even so will its God be. The aspect of God is different in the measure of every man's individuality, and the intimate thing of religion must, therefore, exist in human solitude, between man and God alone. Religion in its quintessence is a relation between God and man; it is perversion to make it a relation between man and man, and a man may no more reach God through a priest than love his wife through a priest. But just as a man in love may refine the interpretation of his feelings and borrow expression from the poems and music of poietic men, so an individual man may at his discretion read books of devotion and hear music that is in harmony with his inchoate feelings. Many of the samurai, therefore, will set themselves private regimens that will help their secret religious life, will pray habitually, and read books of devotion, but with these things the Rule of the order will have nothing to do.
Clearly the God of the samurai is a transcendental and mystical God. So far as the samurai have a purpose in common in maintaining the State, and the order and progress of the world, so far, by their discipline and denial, by their public work and effort, they worship God together. But the fount of motives lies in the individual life, it lies in silent and deliberate reflections, and at this, the most striking of all the rules of the samurai aims. For seven consecutive days in the year, at least, each man or woman under the Rule must go right out of all the life of man into some wild and solitary place, must speak to no man or woman, and have no sort of intercourse with mankind. They must go bookless and weaponless, without pen or paper, or money. Provisions must be taken for the period of the journey, a rug or sleeping sack—for they must sleep under the open sky—but no means of making a fire. They may study maps beforehand to guide them, showing any difficulties and dangers in the journey, but they may not carry such helps. They must not go by beaten ways or wherever there are inhabited houses, but into the bare, quiet places of the globe—the regions set apart for them.
This discipline, my double said, was invented to secure a certain stoutness of heart and body in the members of the order, which otherwise might have lain open to too many timorous, merely abstemious, men and women. Many things had been suggested, swordplay and tests that verged on torture, climbing in giddy places and the like, before this was chosen. Partly, it is to ensure good training and sturdiness of body and mind, but partly, also, it is to draw their minds for a space from the insistent details of life, from the intricate arguments and the fretting effort to work, from personal quarrels and personal affections, and the things of the heated room. Out they must go, clean out of the world.
Certain great areas are set apart for these yearly
pilgrimages beyond the securities of the State. There are thousands of square
miles of sandy desert in Africa and Asia set apart; much of the
“It is good?” I said.
“It is good,” my double answered. “We civilised men go back to the stark Mother that so many of us would have forgotten were it not for this Rule. And one thinks.... Only two weeks ago I did my journey for the year. I went with my gear by sea to Tromso, and then inland to a starting-place, and took my ice-axe and rücksack, and said good-bye to the world. I crossed over four glaciers; I climbed three high mountain passes, and slept on moss in desolate valleys. I saw no human being for seven days. Then I came down through pine woods to the head of a road that runs to the Baltic shore. Altogether it was thirteen days before I reported myself again, and had speech with fellow creatures.”
“And the women do this?”
“The women who are truly samurai—yes. Equally with the men. Unless the coming of children intervenes.”
I asked him how it had seemed to him, and what he thought about during the journey.
“There is always a sense of effort for me,” he said, “when I leave the world at the outset of the journey. I turn back again and again, and look at the little office as I go up my mountain side. The first day and night I'm a little disposed to shirk the job—every year it's the same—a little disposed, for example, to sling my pack from my back, and sit down, and go through its contents, and make sure I've got all my equipment.”
“There's no chance of anyone overtaking you?”
“Two men mustn't start from the same office on the same route within six hours of each other. If they come within sight of each other, they must shun an encounter, and make no sign—unless life is in danger. All that is arranged beforehand.”
“It would be, of course. Go on telling me of your journey.”
“I dread the night. I dread discomfort and bad weather. I only begin to brace up after the second day.”
“Don't you worry about losing your way?”
“No. There are
“Then one begins to get into it. The first two days one is
apt to have the events of one's journey, little incidents of travel, and
thoughts of one's work and affairs, rising and fading and coming again; but
then the perspectives begin. I don't sleep much at nights on these journeys; I
lie awake and stare at the stars. About dawn, perhaps, and in the morning
sunshine, I sleep! The nights this last time were very short, never more than
twilight, and I saw the glow of the sun always, just over the edge of the
world. But I had chosen the days of the new moon, so that I could have a
glimpse of the stars.... Years ago, I went from the Nile across the
“You think of death?”
“Not of my own. But when I go among snows and desolations—and usually I take my pilgrimage in mountains or the north—I think very much of the Night of this World—the time when our sun will be red and dull, and air and water will lie frozen together in a common snowfield where now the forests of the tropics are steaming.... I think very much of that, and whether it is indeed God's purpose that our kind should end, and the cities we have built, the books we have written, all that we have given substance and a form, should lie dead beneath the snows.”
“You don't believe that?”
“No. But if it is not so--. I went threading my way among gorges and precipices, with my poor brain dreaming of what the alternative should be, with my imagination straining and failing. Yet, in those high airs and in such solitude, a kind of exaltation comes to men.... I remember that one night I sat up and told the rascal stars very earnestly how they should not escape us in the end.”
He glanced at me for a moment as though he doubted I should understand.
“One becomes a personification up there,” he said. “One becomes the ambassador of mankind to the outer world.
“There is time to think over a lot of things. One puts one's self and one's ambition in a new pair of scales....
“Then there are hours when one is just exploring the wilderness like a child. Sometimes perhaps one gets a glimpse from some precipice edge of the plains far away, and houses and roadways, and remembers there is still a busy world of men. And at last one turns one's feet down some slope, some gorge that leads back. You come down, perhaps, into a pine forest, and hear that queer clatter reindeer make—and then, it may be, see a herdsman very far away, watching you. You wear your pilgrim's badge, and he makes no sign of seeing you....
“You know, after these solitudes, I feel just the same queer
disinclination to go back to the world of men that I feel when I have to leave
it. I think of dusty roads and hot valleys, and being looked at by many people.
I think of the trouble of working with colleagues and opponents. This last
journey I outstayed my time, camping in the pine woods for six days. Then my
thoughts came round to my proper work again. I got keen to go on with it, and
so I came back into the world. You come back physically clean—as though you had
had your arteries and veins washed out. And your brain has been cleaned,
too.... I shall stick to the mountains now until I am old, and then I shall
sail a boat in
“That's better than a tumbled bed,” said I, “and some boy of a doctor jabbing you with injections, and distressful people hovering about you.”
“Yes,” said my double; “in Utopia we who are samurai die better than that.... Is that how your great men die?”
It came to me suddenly as very strange that, even as we sat and talked, across deserted seas, on burning sands, through the still aisles of forests, and in all the high and lonely places of the world, beyond the margin where the ways and houses go, solitary men and women sailed alone or marched alone, or clambered—quiet, resolute exiles; they stood alone amidst wildernesses of ice, on the precipitous banks of roaring torrents, in monstrous caverns, or steering a tossing boat in the little circle of the horizon amidst the tumbled, incessant sea, all in their several ways communing with the emptiness, the enigmatic spaces and silences, the winds and torrents and soulless forces that lie about the lit and ordered life of men.
I saw more clearly now something I had seen dimly already, in the bearing and the faces of this Utopian chivalry, a faint persistent tinge of detachment from the immediate heats and hurries, the little graces and delights, the tensions and stimulations of the daily world. It pleased me strangely to think of this steadfast yearly pilgrimage of solitude, and how near men might come then to the high distances of God.
After that I remember we fell talking of the discipline of
the Rule, of the Courts that try breaches of it, and interpret doubtful
cases—for, though a man may resign with due notice and be free after a certain
time to rejoin again, one deliberate breach may exclude a man for ever—of the
system of law that has grown up about such trials, and of the triennial council
that revises and alters the Rule. From that we passed to the discussion of the
general constitution of this
My double mentioned a few scattered details of the electoral methods, but as at that time I believed we were to have a number of further conversations, I did not exhaust my curiosities upon this subject. Indeed, I was more than a little preoccupied and inattentive. The religion of the samurai was after my heart, and it had taken hold of me very strongly.... But presently I fell questioning him upon the complications that arise in the Modern Utopia through the differences between the races of men, and found my attention returning. But the matter of that discussion I shall put apart into a separate chapter. In the end we came back to the particulars of this great Rule of Life that any man desiring of joining the samurai must follow.
I remember how, after our third bout of talking, I walked back through the streets of Utopian London to rejoin the botanist at our hotel.
My double lived in an apartment in a great building—I should judge about where, in our London, the Tate Gallery squats, and, as the day was fine, and I had no reason for hurry, I went not by the covered mechanical way, but on foot along the broad, tree-set terraces that follow the river on either side.
It was afternoon, and the mellow
No Utopians wear black, and for all the frequency of the
samurai uniform along the
The radiated influence of the uniform of the samurai has
been to keep costume simple, and this, perhaps, emphasises the general effect
of vigorous health, of shapely bodies. Everyone is well grown and well
nourished; everyone seems in good condition; everyone walks well, and has that
clearness of eye that comes with cleanness of blood. In
I hang upon that. I have seen one or two fat people here—they are all the more noticeable because they are rare. But wrinkled age? Have I yet in Utopia set eyes on a bald head?
The Utopians have brought a sounder physiological science than ours to bear upon regimen. People know better what to do and what to avoid, how to foresee and forestall coming trouble, and how to evade and suppress the subtle poisons that blunt the edge of sensation. They have put off the years of decay. They keep their teeth, they keep their digestions, they ward off gout and rheumatism, neuralgia and influenza and all those cognate decays that bend and wrinkle men and women in the middle years of existence. They have extended the level years far into the seventies, and age, when it comes, comes swiftly and easily. The feverish hurry of our earth, the decay that begins before growth has ceased, is replaced by a ripe prolonged maturity. This modern Utopia is an adult world. The flushed romance, the predominant eroticisms, the adventurous uncertainty of a world in which youth prevails, gives place here to a grave deliberation, to a fuller and more powerful emotion, to a broader handling of life.
Yet youth is here.
Amidst the men whose faces have been made fine by thought and steadfast living, among the serene-eyed women, comes youth, gaily-coloured, buoyantly healthy, with challenging eyes, with fresh and eager face....
For everyone in Utopia who is sane enough to benefit, study and training last until twenty; then comes the travel year, and many are still students until twenty-four or twenty-five. Most are still, in a sense, students throughout life, but it is thought that, unless responsible action is begun in some form in the early twenties, will undergoes a partial atrophy. But the full swing of adult life is hardly attained until thirty is reached. Men marry before the middle thirties, and the women rather earlier, few are mothers before five-and-twenty. The majority of those who become samurai do so between twenty-seven and thirty-five. And, between seventeen and thirty, the Utopians have their dealings with love, and the play and excitement of love is a chief interest in life. Much freedom of act is allowed them so that their wills may grow freely. For the most part they end mated, and love gives place to some special and more enduring interest, though, indeed, there is love between older men and fresh girls, and between youths and maturer women. It is in these most graceful and beautiful years of life that such freedoms of dress as the atmosphere of Utopia permits are to be seen, and the crude bright will and imagination of youth peeps out in ornament and colour.
Figures come into my sight and possess me for a moment and pass, and give place to others; there comes a dusky little Jewess, red-lipped and amber-clad, with a deep crimson flower—I know not whether real or sham—in the dull black of her hair. She passes me with an unconscious disdain; and then I am looking at a brightly-smiling, blue-eyed girl, tall, ruddy, and freckled warmly, clad like a stage Rosalind, and talking gaily to a fair young man, a novice under the Rule. A red-haired mother under the Lesser Rule goes by, green-gowned, with dark green straps crossing between her breasts, and her two shock-headed children, bare-legged and lightly shod, tug at her hands on either side. Then a grave man in a long, fur-trimmed robe, a merchant, maybe, debates some serious matter with a white-tunicked clerk. And the clerk's face--? I turn to mark the straight, blue-black hair. The man must be Chinese....
Then come two short-bearded men in careless indigo blue raiment, both of them convulsed with laughter—men outside the Rule, who practise, perhaps, some art—and then one of the samurai, in cheerful altercation with a blue-robed girl of eight. “But you could have come back yesterday, Dadda,” she persists. He is deeply sunburnt, and suddenly there passes before my mind the picture of a snowy mountain waste at night-fall and a solitary small figure under the stars....
When I come back to the present thing again, my eye is caught at once by a young negro, carrying books in his hand, a prosperous-looking, self-respecting young negro, in a trimly-cut coat of purple-blue and silver.
I am reminded of what my double said to me of race.
Above the sphere of the elemental cravings and necessities, the soul of man is in a perpetual vacillation between two conflicting impulses: the desire to assert his individual differences, the desire for distinction, and his terror of isolation. He wants to stand out, but not too far out, and, on the contrary, he wants to merge himself with a group, with some larger body, but not altogether. Through all the things of life runs this tortuous compromise, men follow the fashions but resent ready-made uniforms on every plane of their being. The disposition to form aggregations and to imagine aggregations is part of the incurable nature of man; it is one of the great natural forces the statesman must utilise, and against which he must construct effectual defences. The study of the aggregations and of the ideals of aggregations about which men's sympathies will twine, and upon which they will base a large proportion of their conduct and personal policy, is the legitimate definition of sociology.
Now the sort of aggregation to which men and women will
refer themselves is determined partly by the strength and idiosyncrasy of the
individual imagination, and partly by the reek of ideas that chances to be in
the air at the time. Men and women may vary greatly both in their innate and
their acquired disposition towards this sort of larger body or that, to which
their social reference can be made. The “natural” social reference of a man is
probably to some rather vaguely conceived tribe, as the “natural” social
reference of a dog is to a pack. But just as the social reference of a dog may
be educated until the reference to a pack is completely replaced by a reference
to an owner, so on his higher plane of educability the social reference of the
civilised man undergoes the most remarkable transformations. But the power and
scope of his imagination and the need he has of response sets limits to this
process. A highly intellectualised mature mind may refer for its data very
consistently to ideas of a higher being so remote and
indefinable as God, so comprehensive as humanity, so far-reaching as the
purpose in things. I write “may,” but I doubt if this exaltation of reference
is ever permanently sustained. Comte, in his Positive Polity, exposes his soul
with great freedom, and the curious may trace how, while he professes and quite
honestly intends to refer himself always to his “Greater Being” Humanity, he
narrows constantly to his projected “
The statesman, both for himself and others, must recognise
this inadequacy of grasp, and the necessity for real and imaginary aggregations
to sustain men in their practical service of the order of the world. He must be
a sociologist; he must study the whole science of aggregations in relation to
He will, of course, know that few men are even rudely consistent in such matters, that the same man in different moods and on different occasions, is capable of referring himself in perfect good faith, not only to different, but to contradictory larger beings, and that the more important thing about an aggregatory idea from the State maker's point of view is not so much what it explicitly involves as what it implicitly repudiates. The natural man does not feel he is aggregating at all, unless he aggregates against something. He refers himself to the tribe; he is loyal to the tribe, and quite inseparably he fears or dislikes those others outside the tribe. The tribe is always at least defensively hostile and usually actively hostile to humanity beyond the aggregation. The Anti-idea, it would seem, is inseparable from the aggregatory idea; it is a necessity of the human mind. When we think of the class A as desirable, we think of Not-A as undesirable. The two things are as inevitably connected as the tendons of our hands, so that when we flatten down our little fingers on our palms, the fourth digit, whether we want it or not, comes down halfway. All real working gods, one may remark, all gods that are worshipped emotionally, are tribal gods, and every attempt to universalise the idea of God trails dualism and the devil after it as a moral necessity.
When we inquire, as well as the unformed condition of terrestrial sociology permits, into the aggregatory ideas that seem to satisfy men, we find a remarkable complex, a disorderly complex, in the minds of nearly all our civilised contemporaries. For example, all sorts of aggregatory ideas come and go across the chameleon surfaces of my botanist's mind. He has a strong feeling for systematic botanists as against plant physiologists, whom he regards as lewd and evil scoundrels in this relation, but he has a strong feeling for all botanists, and, indeed, all biologists, as against physicists, and those who profess the exact sciences, all of whom he regards as dull, mechanical, ugly-minded scoundrels in this relation; but he has a strong feeling for all who profess what is called Science as against psychologists, sociologists, philosophers, and literary men, whom he regards as wild, foolish, immoral scoundrels in this relation; but he has a strong feeling for all educated men as against the working man, whom he regards as a cheating, lying, loafing, drunken, thievish, dirty scoundrel in this relation; but so soon as the working man is comprehended together with those others, as Englishmen—which includes, in this case, I may remark, the Scottish and Welsh—he holds them superior to all other sorts of European, whom he regards, &c....
Now one perceives in all these aggregatory ideas and rearrangements of the sympathies one of the chief vices of human thought, due to its obsession by classificatory suggestions. [Footnote: See Chapter the First, § 5, and the Appendix.] The necessity for marking our classes has brought with it a bias for false and excessive contrast, and we never invent a term but we are at once cramming it with implications beyond its legitimate content. There is no feat of irrelevance that people will not perform quite easily in this way; there is no class, however accidental, to which they will not at once ascribe deeply distinctive qualities. The seventh sons of seventh sons have remarkable powers of insight; people with a certain sort of ear commit crimes of violence; people with red hair have souls of fire; all democratic socialists are trustworthy persons; all people born in Ireland have vivid imaginations and all Englishmen are clods; all Hindoos are cowardly liars; all curly-haired people are good-natured; all hunch-backs are energetic and wicked, and all Frenchmen eat frogs. Such stupid generalisations have been believed with the utmost readiness, and acted upon by great numbers of sane, respectable people. And when the class is one's own class, when it expresses one of the aggregations to which one refers one's own activities, then the disposition to divide all qualities between this class and its converse, and to cram one's own class with every desirable distinction, becomes overwhelming.
It is part of the training of the philosopher to regard all such generalisations with suspicion; it is part of the training of the Utopist and statesman, and all good statesmen are Utopists, to mingle something very like animosity with that suspicion. For crude classifications and false generalisations are the curse of all organised human life.
Disregarding classes, cliques, sets, castes, and the like
minor aggregations, concerned for the most part with details and minor aspects
of life, one finds among the civilised peoples of the world certain broad types
of aggregatory idea. There are, firstly, the national ideas, ideas which, in
their perfection, require a uniformity of physical and mental type, a common
idiom, a common religion, a distinctive style of costume, decoration, and
thought, and a compact organisation acting with
complete external unity. Like the Gothic cathedral, the national idea is never
found complete with all its parts; but one has in
The second sort of aggregatory ideas, running very often
across the boundaries of national ideas and in conflict with them, are
religious ideas. In
In the last hundred years a novel development of material
forces, and especially of means of communication, has done very much to break
up the isolations in which nationality perfected its prejudices and so to
render possible the extension and consolidation of such a world-wide culture as
mediæval Christendom and Islam foreshadowed. The first onset of these expansive
developments has been marked in the world of mind by an expansion of political
ideals—Comte's “Western Republic” (1848) was the first Utopia that involved the
synthesis of numerous States—by the development of “Imperialisms” in the place
of national policies, and by the search for a basis for wider political unions
in racial traditions and linguistic affinities. Anglo-Saxonism, Pan-Germanism,
and the like are such synthetic ideas. Until the eighties, the general tendency
of progressive thought was at one with the older Christian tradition which
ignored “race,” and the aim of the expansive liberalism movement, so far as it
had a clear aim, was to Europeanise the world, to extend the franchise to
negroes, put Polynesians into trousers, and train the teeming myriads of India
to appreciate the exquisite lilt of The Lady of the Lake. There is always some
absurdity mixed with human greatness, and we must not let the fact that the
middle Victorians counted Scott, the suffrage and pantaloons among the supreme
blessings of life, conceal from us the very real
nobility of their dream of
We of this generation have seen a flood of reaction against
such universalism. The great intellectual developments that centre upon the
No generalisations about race are too extravagant for the
inflamed credulity of the present time. No attempt is ever made to distinguish
differences in inherent quality—the true racial differences—from artificial
differences due to culture. No lesson seems ever to be drawn from history of
the fluctuating incidence of the civilising process first upon this race and
then upon that. The politically ascendant peoples of the present phase are
understood to be the superior races, including such types as the Sussex farm
labourer, the Bowery tough, the London hooligan, and the Paris apache; the
races not at present prospering politically, such as the Egyptians, the Greeks,
the Spanish, the Moors, the Chinese, the Hindoos, the Peruvians, and all
uncivilised people are represented as the inferior races, unfit to associate
with the former on terms of equality, unfit to intermarry with them on any
terms, unfit for any decisive voice in human affairs. In the popular
imagination of Western Europe, the Chinese are becoming bright gamboge in
colour, and unspeakably abominable in every respect; the people who are
black—the people who have fuzzy hair and flattish noses, and no calves to speak
of—are no longer held to be within the pale of humanity. These superstitions
work out along the obvious lines of the popular logic. The depopulation of the
Congo Free State by the Belgians, the horrible massacres of Chinese by European
soldiery during the
“Science” is supposed to lend its sanction to race mania, but it is only “science” as it is understood by very illiterate people that does anything of the sort—“scientists'” science, in fact. What science has to tell about “The Races of Man” will be found compactly set forth by Doctor J. Deinker, in the book published under that title. [Footnote: See also an excellent paper in the American Journal of Sociology for March, 1904, The Psychology of Race Prejudice, by W. I. Thomas.] From that book one may learn the beginnings of race charity. Save for a few isolated pools of savage humanity, there is probably no pure race in the whole world. The great continental populations are all complex mixtures of numerous and fluctuating types. Even the Jews present every kind of skull that is supposed to be racially distinctive, a vast range of complexion—from blackness in Goa, to extreme fairness in Holland—and a vast mental and physical diversity. Were the Jews to discontinue all intermarriage with “other races” henceforth for ever, it would depend upon quite unknown laws of fecundity, prepotency, and variability, what their final type would be, or, indeed, whether any particular type would ever prevail over diversity. And, without going beyond the natives of the British Isles, one can discover an enormous range of types, tall and short, straight-haired and curly, fair and dark, supremely intelligent and unteachably stupid, straightforward, disingenuous, and what not. The natural tendency is to forget all this range directly “race” comes under discussion, to take either an average or some quite arbitrary ideal as the type, and think only of that. The more difficult thing to do, but the thing that must be done if we are to get just results in this discussion, is to do one's best to bear the range in mind.
Let us admit that the average Chinaman is probably different
in complexion, and, indeed, in all his physical and psychical proportions, from
the average Englishman. Does that render their association upon terms of
equality in a
For my own part I do not think that it would. But it is evident that any precise answer can be made only when anthropology has adopted much more exact and exhaustive methods of inquiry, and a far more precise analysis than its present resources permit.
Be it remembered how doubtful and tainted is
the bulk of our evidence in these matters. These are extraordinarily
subtle inquiries, from which few men succeed in disentangling the threads of
their personal associations—the curiously interwoven strands of self-love and
self-interest that affect their inquiries. One might almost say that instinct
fights against such investigations, as it does undoubtedly against many
necessary medical researches. But while a long special training, a high
tradition and the possibility of reward and distinction, enable the medical
student to face many tasks that are at once undignified and physically
repulsive, the people from whom we get our anthropological information are
rarely men of more than average intelligence, and of no mental training at all.
And the problems are far more elusive. It surely needs at least the gifts and
training of a first-class novelist, combined with a sedulous patience that
probably cannot be hoped for in combination with these, to gauge the all-round
differences between man and man. Even where there are no barriers of language
and colour, understanding may be nearly impossible. How few educated people
seem to understand the servant class in
For my own part I am disposed to discount all adverse
judgments and all statements of insurmountable differences between race and
race. I talk upon racial qualities to all men who have had opportunities of
close observation, and I find that their insistence upon these differences is
usually in inverse proportion to their intelligence. It may be the chance of my
encounters, but that is my clear impression. Common sailors will generalise in
the profoundest way about Irishmen, and Scotchmen, and Yankees, and Nova
Scotians, and “Dutchies,” until one might think one talked of different species
of animal, but the educated explorer flings clear of all these delusions. To
him men present themselves individualised, and if they classify it is by some
skin-deep accident of tint, some trick of the tongue, or habit of gesture, or
such-like superficiality. And after all there exists to-day available one kind
at least of unbiassed anthropological evidence. There are photographs. Let the
reader turn over the pages of some such copiously illustrated work as The
Living Races of Mankind, [Footnote: The Living Races of Mankind, by H. N.
Hutchinson, J. W. Gregory, and R. Lydekker. (
In one matter the careless and prejudiced nature of accepted
racial generalisations is particularly marked. A great and increasing number of
people are persuaded that “half-breeds” are peculiarly evil creatures—as
hunchbacks and bastards were supposed to be in the middle
ages. The full legend of the wickedness of the half-breed is best to be
learnt from a drunken mean white from
Suppose, now, there is such a thing as an all-round inferior race. Is that any reason why we should propose to preserve it for ever in a condition of tutelage? Whether there is a race so inferior I do not know, but certainly there is no race so superior as to be trusted with human charges. The true answer to Aristotle's plea for slavery, that there are “natural slaves,” lies in the fact that there are no “natural” masters. Power is no more to be committed to men without discipline and restriction than alcohol. The true objection to slavery is not that it is unjust to the inferior but that it corrupts the superior. There is only one sane and logical thing to be done with a really inferior race, and that is to exterminate it.
Now there are various ways of exterminating a race, and most of them are cruel. You may end it with fire and sword after the old Hebrew fashion; you may enslave it and work it to death, as the Spaniards did the Caribs; you may set it boundaries and then poison it slowly with deleterious commodities, as the Americans do with most of their Indians; you may incite it to wear clothing to which it is not accustomed and to live under new and strange conditions that will expose it to infectious diseases to which you yourselves are immune, as the missionaries do the Polynesians; you may resort to honest simple murder, as we English did with the Tasmanians; or you can maintain such conditions as conduce to “race suicide,” as the British administration does in Fiji. Suppose, then, for a moment, that there is an all-round inferior race; a Modern Utopia is under the hard logic of life, and it would have to exterminate such a race as quickly as it could. On the whole, the Fijian device seems the least cruel. But Utopia would do that without any clumsiness of race distinction, in exactly the same manner, and by the same machinery, as it exterminates all its own defective and inferior strains; that is to say, as we have already discussed in Chapter the Fifth, § 1, by its marriage laws, and by the laws of the minimum wage. That extinction need never be discriminatory. If any of the race did, after all, prove to be fit to survive, they would survive—they would be picked out with a sure and automatic justice from the over-ready condemnation of all their kind.
Is there, however, an all-round inferior race in the world? Even the Australian black-fellow is, perhaps, not quite so entirely eligible for extinction as a good, wholesome, horse-racing, sheep-farming Australian white may think. These queer little races, the black-fellows, the Pigmies, the Bushmen, may have their little gifts, a greater keenness, a greater fineness of this sense or that, a quaintness of the imagination or what not, that may serve as their little unique addition to the totality of our Utopian civilisation. We are supposing that every individual alive on earth is alive in Utopia, and so all the surviving “black-fellows” are there. Every one of them in Utopia has had what none have had on earth, a fair education and fair treatment, justice, and opportunity. Suppose that the common idea is right about the general inferiority of these people, then it would follow that in Utopia most of them are childless, and working at or about the minimum wage, and some will have passed out of all possibility of offspring under the hand of the offended law; but still—cannot we imagine some few of these little people—whom you must suppose neither naked nor clothed in the European style, but robed in the Utopian fashion—may have found some delicate art to practise, some peculiar sort of carving, for example, that justifies God in creating them? Utopia has sound sanitary laws, sound social laws, sound economic laws; what harm are these people going to do?
Some may be even prosperous and admired, may have married women of their own or some other race, and so may be transmitting that distinctive thin thread of excellence, to take its due place in the great synthesis of the future.
And, indeed, coming along that terrace in Utopia, I see a little figure, a little bright-eyed, bearded man, inky black, frizzy haired, and clad in a white tunic and black hose, and with a mantle of lemon yellow wrapped about his shoulders. He walks, as most Utopians walk, as though he had reason to be proud of something, as though he had no reason to be afraid of anything in the world. He carries a portfolio in his hand. It is that, I suppose, as much as his hair, that recalls the Quartier Latin to my mind. § 4
I had already discussed the question of race with the
“But you would not like,” he cried in horror, “your daughter to marry a Chinaman or a negro?”
“Of course,” said I, “when you say Chinaman, you think of a creature with a pigtail, long nails, and insanitary habits, and when you say negro you think of a filthy-headed, black creature in an old hat. You do this because your imagination is too feeble to disentangle the inherent qualities of a thing from its habitual associations.”
“Insult isn't argument,” said the botanist.
“Neither is unsound implication. You make a question of race into a question of unequal cultures. You would not like your daughter to marry the sort of negro who steals hens, but then you would also not like your daughter to marry a pure English hunchback with a squint, or a drunken cab tout of Norman blood. As a matter of fact, very few well-bred English girls do commit that sort of indiscretion. But you don't think it necessary to generalise against men of your own race because there are drunken cab touts, and why should you generalise against negroes? Because the proportion of undesirables is higher among negroes, that does not justify a sweeping condemnation. You may have to condemn most, but why all? There may be—neither of us knows enough to deny—negroes who are handsome, capable, courageous.”
“Ugh!” said the botanist.
“How detestable you must find Othello!”
It is my Utopia, and for a moment I could almost find it in my heart to spite the botanist by creating a modern Desdemona and her lover sooty black to the lips, there before our eyes. But I am not so sure of my case as that, and for the moment there shall come nothing more than a swart-faced, dusky Burmese woman in the dress of the Greater Rule, with her tall Englishman (as he might be on earth) at her side. That, however, is a digression from my conversation with the botanist.
“And the Chinaman?” said the botanist.
“I think we shall have all the buff and yellow peoples intermingling pretty freely.”
“Chinamen and white women, for example.”
“Yes,” I said, “you've got to swallow that, anyhow; you shall swallow that.”
He finds the idea too revolting for comment.
I try and make the thing seem easier for him. “Do try,” I said, “to grasp a Modern Utopian's conditions. The Chinaman will speak the same language as his wife—whatever her race may be—he will wear costume of the common civilised fashion, he will have much the same education as his European rival, read the same literature, bow to the same traditions. And you must remember a wife in Utopia is singularly not subject to her husband....”
The botanist proclaims his invincible conclusion: “Everyone would cut her!”
“This is Utopia,” I said, and then sought once more to tranquillise his mind. “No doubt among the vulgar, coarse-minded people outside the Rule there may be something of the sort. Every earthly moral blockhead, a little educated, perhaps, is to be found in Utopia. You will, no doubt, find the ‘cut’ and the ‘boycott,’ and all those nice little devices by which dull people get a keen edge on life, in their place here, and their place here is somewhere--”
I turned a thumb earthward. “There!”
The botanist did not answer for a little while. Then he said, with some temper and great emphasis: “Well, I'm jolly glad anyhow that I'm not to be a permanent resident in this Utopia, if our daughters are to be married to Hottentots by regulation. I'm jolly glad.”
He turned his back on me.
Now did I say anything of the sort?...
I had to bring him, I suppose; there's no getting away from him in this life. But, as I have already observed, the happy ancients went to their Utopias without this sort of company.
What gives the botanist so great an advantage in all his Anti-Utopian utterances is his unconsciousness of his own limitations. He thinks in little pieces that lie about loose, and nothing has any necessary link with anything else in his mind. So that I cannot retort upon him by asking him, if he objects to this synthesis of all nations, tongues and peoples in a World State, what alternative ideal he proposes.
People of this sort do not even feel the need of alternatives. Beyond the scope of a few personal projects, meeting Her again, and things like that, they do not feel that there is a future. They are unencumbered by any baggage of convictions whatever, in relation to that. That, at least, is the only way in which I can explain our friend's high intellectual mobility. Attempts to correlate statesmanship, which they regard with interest as a dramatic interplay of personalities, with any secular movement of humanity, they class with the differential calculus and Darwinism, as things far too difficult to be anything but finally and subtly wrong.
So the argument must pass into a direct address to the reader.
If you are not prepared to regard a world-wide synthesis of
all cultures and polities and races into one
The alternatives fall roughly under three headings. The first is to assume there is a best race, to define as well as one can that best race, and to regard all other races as material for extermination. This has a fine, modern, biological air (“Survival of the Fittest”). If you are one of those queer German professors who write insanity about Welt-Politik, you assume the best race is the “Teutonic”; Cecil Rhodes affected that triumph of creative imagination, the “Anglo-Saxon race”; my friend, Moses Cohen, thinks there is much to be said for the Jew. On its premises, this is a perfectly sound and reasonable policy, and it opens out a brilliant prospect for the scientific inventor for what one might call Welt-Apparat in the future, for national harrowing and reaping machines, and race-destroying fumigations. The great plain of China (“Yellow Peril”) lends itself particularly to some striking wholesale undertaking; it might, for example, be flooded for a few days, and then disinfected with volcanic chlorine. Whether, when all the inferior races have been stamped out, the superior race would not proceed at once, or after a brief millennial period of social harmony, to divide itself into sub-classes, and begin the business over again at a higher level, is an interesting residual question into which we need not now penetrate.
That complete development of a scientific Welt-Politik is
not, however, very widely advocated at present, no doubt from a want of
confidence in the public imagination. We have, however, a very audible and
influential school, the Modern Imperialist school, which distinguishes its own
race—there is a German, a British, and an Anglo-Saxon section in the school,
and a wider teaching which embraces the whole “white race” in one remarkable
tolerance—as the superior race, as one, indeed, superior enough to own slaves,
collectively, if not individually; and the exponents of this doctrine look with
a resolute, truculent, but slightly indistinct eye to a future in which all the
rest of the world will be in subjection to these elect. The ideals of this type
are set forth pretty clearly in Mr. Kidd's Control of the Tropics. The whole
world is to be administered by the “white” Powers—Mr. Kidd did not anticipate
Next comes the rather incoherent
alternative that one associates in
Neither of these two schools of policy, neither the international laisser faire of the Liberals, nor “hustle to the top” Imperialism, promise any reality of permanent progress for the world of men. They are the resort, the moral reference, of those who will not think frankly and exhaustively over the whole field of this question. Do that, insist upon solutions of more than accidental applicability, and you emerge with one or other of two contrasted solutions, as the consciousness of kind or the consciousness of individuality prevails in your mind. In the former case you will adopt aggressive Imperialism, but you will carry it out to its “thorough” degree of extermination. You will seek to develop the culture and power of your kind of men and women to the utmost in order to shoulder all other kinds from the earth. If on the other hand you appreciate the unique, you will aim at such a synthesis as this Utopia displays, a synthesis far more credible and possible than any other Welt-Politik. In spite of all the pageant of modern war, synthesis is in the trend of the world. To aid and develop it, could be made the open and secure policy of any great modern empire now. Modern war, modern international hostility is, I believe, possible only through the stupid illiteracy of the mass of men and the conceit and intellectual indolence of rulers and those who feed the public mind. Were the will of the mass of men lit and conscious, I am firmly convinced it would now burn steadily for synthesis and peace.
It would be so easy to bring about a world peace within a
few decades, was there but the will for it among men! The great empires that
exist need but a little speech and frankness one with another. Within, the
riddles of social order are already half solved in books and thought, there are
the common people and the subject peoples to be educated and drilled, to be led
to a common speech and a common literature, to be assimilated and made
citizens; without, there is the possibility of treaties. Why, for example,
Stupidity—nothing but stupidity, a stupid brute jealousy, aimless and unjustifiable.
The coarser conceptions of aggregation are at hand, the hostile, jealous patriotisms, the blare of trumpets and the pride of fools; they serve the daily need though they lead towards disaster. The real and the immediate has us in its grip, the accidental personal thing. The little effort of thought, the brief sustained effort of will, is too much for the contemporary mind. Such treaties, such sympathetic international movements, are but dream stuff yet on earth, though Utopia has realised them long since and already passed them by.
As I walk back along the river terrace to the hotel where the botanist awaits me, and observe the Utopians I encounter, I have no thought that my tenure of Utopia becomes every moment more precarious. There float in my mind vague anticipations of more talks with my double and still more, of a steady elaboration of detail, of interesting journeys of exploration. I forget that a Utopia is a thing of the imagination that becomes more fragile with every added circumstance, that, like a soap-bubble, it is most brilliantly and variously coloured at the very instant of its dissolution. This Utopia is nearly done. All the broad lines of its social organisation are completed now, the discussion of all its general difficulties and problems. Utopian individuals pass me by, fine buildings tower on either hand; it does not occur to me that I may look too closely. To find the people assuming the concrete and individual, is not, as I fondly imagine, the last triumph of realisation, but the swimming moment of opacity before the film gives way. To come to individual emotional cases, is to return to the earth.
I find the botanist sitting at a table in the hotel courtyard.
“Well?” I say, standing before him.
“I've been in the gardens on the river terrace,” he answers, “hoping I might see her again.”
“Nothing better to do?”
“Nothing in the world.”
“You'll have your double back from
“I don't want it,” he replies, compactly.
I shrug my shoulders, and he adds, “At least with him.”
I let myself down into a seat beside him.
For a time I sit restfully enjoying his companionable silence, and thinking fragmentarily of those samurai and their Rules. I entertain something of the satisfaction of a man who has finished building a bridge; I feel that I have joined together things that I had never joined before. My Utopia seems real to me, very real, I can believe in it, until the metal chair-back gives to my shoulder blades, and Utopian sparrows twitter and hop before my feet. I have a pleasant moment of unhesitating self-satisfaction; I feel a shameless exultation to be there. For a moment I forget the consideration the botanist demands; the mere pleasure of completeness, of holding and controlling all the threads possesses me.
“You will persist in believing,” I say, with an aggressive expository note, “that if you meet this lady she will be a person with the memories and sentiments of her double on earth. You think she will understand and pity, and perhaps love you. Nothing of the sort is the case.” I repeat with confident rudeness, “Nothing of the sort is the case. Things are different altogether here; you can hardly tell even now how different are--”
I discover he is not listening to me.
“What is the matter?” I ask abruptly.
He makes no answer, but his expression startles me.
“What is the matter?” and then I follow his eyes.
A woman and a man are coming through the great archway—and instantly I guess what has happened. She it is arrests my attention first—long ago I knew she was a sweetly beautiful woman. She is fair, with frank blue eyes, that look with a sort of tender receptivity into her companion's face. For a moment or so they remain, greyish figures in the cool shadow, against the sunlit greenery of the gardens beyond.
“It is Mary,” the botanist whispers with white lips, but he stares at the form of the man. His face whitens, it becomes so transfigured with emotion that for a moment it does not look weak. Then I see that his thin hand is clenched.
I realise how little I understand his emotions.
A sudden fear of what he will do takes hold of me. He sits white and tense as the two come into the clearer light of the courtyard. The man, I see, is one of the samurai, a dark, strong-faced man, a man I have never seen before, and she is wearing the robe that shows her a follower of the Lesser Rule.
Some glimmering of the botanist's feelings strikes through to my slow sympathies. Of course—a strange man! I put out a restraining hand towards his arm. “I told you,” I say, “that very probably, most probably, she would have met some other. I tried to prepare you.”
“Nonsense,” he whispers, without looking at me. “It isn't that. It's—that scoundrel--”
He has an impulse to rise. “That scoundrel,” he repeats.
“He isn't a scoundrel,” I say. “How do you know? Keep still! Why are you standing up?”
He and I stand up quickly, I as soon as he. But now the full meaning of the group has reached me. I grip his arm. “Be sensible,” I say, speaking very quickly, and with my back to the approaching couple. “He's not a scoundrel here. This world is different from that. It's caught his pride somehow and made a man of him. Whatever troubled them there--”
He turns a face of white wrath on me, of accusation, and for the moment of unexpected force. “This is your doing,” he says. “You have done this to mock me. He—of all men!” For a moment speech fails him, then; “You—you have done this to mock me.”
I try to explain very quickly. My tone is almost propitiatory.
“I never thought of it until now. But he's-- How did I know he was the sort of man a disciplined world has a use for?”
He makes no answer, but he looks at me with eyes that are positively baleful, and in the instant I read his mute but mulish resolve that Utopia must end.
“Don't let that old quarrel poison all this,” I say almost entreatingly. “It happened all differently here—everything is different here. Your double will be back to-morrow. Wait for him. Perhaps then you will understand--”
He shakes his head, and then bursts out with, “What do I want with a double? Double! What do I care if things have been different here? This--”
He thrusts me weakly back with his long, white hand. “My God!” he says almost forcibly, “what nonsense all this is! All these dreams! All Utopias! There she is--! Oh, but I have dreamt of her! And now--”
A sob catches him. I am really frightened by this time. I still try to keep between him and these Utopians, and to hide his gestures from them.
“It's different here,” I persist. “It's different here. The emotion you feel has no place in it. It's a scar from the earth—the sore scar of your past--”
“And what are we all but scars? What is life but a scarring? It's you—you who don't understand! Of course we are covered with scars, we live to be scarred, we are scars! We are the scars of the past! These dreams, these childish dreams--!”
He does not need to finish his sentence, he waves an unteachable destructive arm.
My Utopia rocks about me.
For a moment the vision of that great courtyard hangs real. There the Utopians live real about me, going to and fro, and the great archway blazes with sunlight from the green gardens by the riverside. The man who is one of the samurai, and his lady, whom the botanist loved on earth, pass out of sight behind the marble flower-set Triton that spouts coolness in the middle of the place. For a moment I see two working men in green tunics sitting on a marble seat in the shadow of the colonnade, and a sweet little silver-haired old lady, clad all in violet, and carrying a book, comes towards us, and lifts a curious eye at the botanist's gestures. And then--
“Scars of the past! Scars of the past! These fanciful, useless dreams!”
There is no jerk, no sound, no hint
of material shock. We are in
I see that I am standing beside an iron seat of poor design in that grey and gawky waste of asphalte—Trafalgar Square, and the botanist, with perplexity in his face, stares from me to a poor, shrivelled, dirt-lined old woman—my God! what a neglected thing she is!—who proffers a box of matches....
He buys almost mechanically, and turns back to me.
“I was saying,” he says, “the past rules us absolutely. These dreams--”
His sentence does not complete itself. He looks nervous and irritated.
“You have a trick at times,” he says instead, “of making your suggestions so vivid--”
He takes a plunge. “If you don't mind,” he says in a sort of quavering ultimatum, “we won't discuss that aspect of the question—the lady, I mean—further.”
He pauses, and there still hangs a faint perplexity between us.
“But--” I begin.
For a moment we stand there, and my dream of Utopia runs off
me like water from an oiled slab. Of course—we lunched at our club. We came
“You can't conceivably understand,” he says.
“The fact remains,” he goes on, taking up the thread of his argument again with an air of having defined our field, “we are the scars of the past. That's a thing one can discuss—without personalities.”
“No,” I say rather stupidly, “no.”
“You are always talking as though you could kick the past to pieces; as though one could get right out from oneself and begin afresh. It is your weakness—if you don't mind my being frank—it makes you seem harsh and dogmatic. Life has gone easily for you; you have never been badly tried. You have been lucky—you do not understand the other way about. You are—hard.”
I answer nothing.
He pants for breath. I perceive that in our discussion of his case I must have gone too far, and that he has rebelled. Clearly I must have said something wounding about that ineffectual love story of his.
“You don't allow for my position,” he says, and it occurs to me to say, “I'm obliged to look at the thing from my own point of view....”
One or other of us makes a move. What a lot of filthy, torn paper is scattered about the world! We walk slowly side by side towards the dirt-littered basin of the fountain, and stand regarding two grimy tramps who sit and argue on a further seat. One holds a horrible old boot in his hand, and gesticulates with it, while his other hand caresses his rag-wrapped foot. “Wot does Cham'lain si?” his words drift to us. “W'y, 'e says, wot's the good of 'nvesting your kepital where these 'ere Americans may dump it flat any time they like....”
(Were there not two men in green sitting on a marble seat?)
We walk on, our talk suspended, past a ruthlessly clumsy
hoarding, towards where men and women and children are struggling about a
string of omnibuses. A newsvendor at the corner spreads a newspaper placard
upon the wood pavement, pins the corners down with stones, and we glimpse
something about:— MASSACRE IN ODESSA. DISCOVERY OF HUMAN
Dear old familiar world!
An angry parent in conversation with a sympathetic friend jostles against us. “I'll knock his blooming young 'ed orf if 'e cheeks me again. It's these 'ere brasted Board Schools--”
An omnibus passes, bearing on a board beneath an incorrectly drawn Union Jack an exhortation to the true patriot to “Buy Bumper's British-Boiled Jam.”...
I am stunned beyond the possibility of discussion for a space. In this very place it must have been that the high terrace ran with the gardens below it, along which I came from my double to our hotel. I am going back, but now through reality, along the path I passed so happily in my dream. And the people I saw then are the people I am looking at now—with a difference.
The botanist walks beside me, white and nervously jerky in his movements, his ultimatum delivered.
We start to cross the road. An open carriage drives by, and we see a jaded, red-haired woman, smeared with paint, dressed in furs, and petulantly discontented. Her face is familiar to me, her face, with a difference.
Why do I think of her as dressed in green?
Of course!—she it was I saw leading her children by the hand!
Comes a crash to our left, and a
running of people to see a cab-horse down on the slippery, slanting pavement
We go on up the street.
A heavy-eyed young Jewess, a draggled prostitute—no crimson flower for her hair, poor girl!—regards us with a momentary speculation, and we get a whiff of foul language from two newsboys on the kerb.
“We can't go on talking,” the botanist begins, and ducks aside just in time to save his eye from the ferule of a stupidly held umbrella. He is going to treat our little tiff about that lady as closed. He has the air of picking up our conversation again at some earlier point.
He steps into the gutter, walks round outside a negro hawker, just escapes the wheel of a hansom, and comes to my side again.
“We can't go on talking of your Utopia,” he says, “in a noise and crowd like this.”
We are separated by a portly man going in the opposite
direction, and join again. “We can't go on talking of Utopia,” he repeats, “in
“I've been living in Utopia,” I answer, tacitly adopting his tacit proposal to drop the lady out of the question.
“At times,” he says, with a queer laugh, “you've almost made me live there too.”
He reflects. “It doesn't do, you know. No! And I don't know whether, after all, I want--”
We are separated again by half-a-dozen lifted flagstones, a burning brazier, and two engineers concerned with some underground business or other—in the busiest hour of the day's traffic.
“Why shouldn't it do?” I ask.
“It spoils the world of everyday to let your mind run on impossible perfections.”
“I wish,” I shout against the traffic, “I could smash the world of everyday.”
My note becomes quarrelsome. “You may accept this as the world of reality, you may consent to be one scar in an ill-dressed compound wound, but so—not I! This is a dream too—this world. Your dream, and you bring me back to it—out of Utopia--”
The crossing of
The face of a girl who is passing westward, a student girl,
rather carelessly dressed, her books in a carrying-strap, comes across my field
of vision. The westward sun of
After all, after all, dispersed, hidden, disorganised, undiscovered, unsuspected even by themselves, the samurai of Utopia are in this world, the motives that are developed and organised there stir dumbly here and stifle in ten thousand futile hearts....
I overtake the botanist, who got ahead at the crossing by the advantage of a dust-cart.
“You think this is real because you can't wake out of it,” I say. “It's all a dream, and there are people—I'm just one of the first of a multitude—between sleeping and waking—who will presently be rubbing it out of their eyes.”
A pinched and dirty little girl, with sores upon her face, stretches out a bunch of wilting violets, in a pitifully thin little fist, and interrupts my speech. “Bunch o' vi'lets—on'y a penny.”
“No!” I say curtly, hardening my heart.
A ragged and filthy nursing mother, with her last addition to our Imperial People on her arm, comes out of a drinkshop, and stands a little unsteadily, and wipes mouth and nose comprehensively with the back of a red chapped hand....
“Isn't that reality?” says the botanist, almost triumphantly, and leaves me aghast at his triumph.
“That!” I say belatedly. “It's a thing in a nightmare!”
He shakes his head and smiles—exasperatingly.
I perceive quite abruptly that the botanist and I have reached the limits of our intercourse.
“The world dreams things like that,” I say, “because it suffers from an indigestion of such people as you.”
His low-toned self-complacency, like the faded banner of an obstinate fort, still flies unconquered. And you know, he's not even a happy man with it all!
For ten seconds or more I am furiously seeking in my mind for a word, for a term of abuse, for one compendious verbal missile that shall smash this man for ever. It has to express total inadequacy of imagination and will, spiritual anæmia, dull respectability, gross sentimentality, a cultivated pettiness of heart....
That word will not come. But no other word will do. Indeed the word does not exist. There is nothing with sufficient vituperative concentration for this moral and intellectual stupidity of educated people....
“Er--” he begins.
No! I can't endure him.
With a passionate rapidity of movement, I leave his side, dart between a carriage and a van, duck under the head of a cab-horse, and board a 'bus going westward somewhere—but anyhow, going in exactly the reverse direction to the botanist. I clamber up the steps and thread my swaying way to the seat immediately behind the driver.
“There!” I say, as I whack myself down on the seat and pant.
When I look round the botanist is out of sight.
But I am back in the world for all that, and my Utopia is done.
It is good discipline for the Utopist to visit this world occasionally.
But from the front seat on the top of an omnibus on a sunny
September afternoon, the Strand, and Charing Cross corner, and
There are moments in the life of every philosopher and dreamer when he feels himself the flimsiest of absurdities, when the Thing in Being has its way with him, its triumphant way, when it asks in a roar, unanswerably, with a fine solid use of the current vernacular, “What Good is all this—Rot about Utopias?”
One inspects the Thing in Being with something of the diffident speculation of primitive man, peering from behind a tree at an angry elephant.
(There is an omen in that image. On how many occasions must that ancestor of ours have had just the Utopist's feeling of ambitious unreality, have decided that on the whole it was wiser to go very quietly home again, and leave the big beast alone? But, in the end, men rode upon the elephant's head, and guided him this way or that.... The Thing in Being that roars so tremendously about Charing Cross corner seems a bigger antagonist than an elephant, but then we have better weapons than chipped flint blades....)
After all, in a very little time everything that impresses me so mightily this September afternoon will have changed or passed away for ever, everything. These omnibuses, these great, stalwart, crowded, many-coloured things that jostle one another, and make so handsome a clatter-clamour, will all have gone; they and their horses and drivers and organisation; you will come here and you will not find them. Something else will be here, some different sort of vehicle, that is now perhaps the mere germ of an idea in some engineer student's brain. And this road and pavement will have changed, and these impressive great buildings; other buildings will be here, buildings that are as yet more impalpable than this page you read, more formless and flimsy by far than anything that is reasoned here. Little plans sketched on paper, strokes of a pen or of a brush, will be the first materialisations of what will at last obliterate every detail and atom of these re-echoing actualities that overwhelm us now. And the clothing and gestures of these innumerable people, the character of their faces and bearing, these too will be recast in the spirit of what are now obscure and impalpable beginnings.
The new things will be indeed of the substance of the thing that is, but differing just in the measure of the will and imagination that goes to make them. They will be strong and fair as the will is sturdy and organised and the imagination comprehensive and bold; they will be ugly and smeared with wretchedness as the will is fluctuating and the imagination timid and mean.
Indeed Will is stronger than Fact, it can mould and overcome Fact. But this world has still to discover its will, it is a world that slumbers inertly, and all this roar and pulsation of life is no more than its heavy breathing.... My mind runs on to the thought of an awakening.
As my omnibus goes lumbering up
(Whup! says a motor brougham, and a policeman stays the traffic with his hand.)
All of us who partake of the samurai would know ourselves and one another!
For a moment I have a vision of this resurrection of the living, of a vague, magnificent answer, of countless myriads at attention, of all that is fine in humanity at attention, round the compass of the earth.
Then that philosophy of individual uniqueness resumes its sway over my thoughts, and my dream of a world's awakening fades.
I had forgotten....
Things do not happen like that. God is not simple, God is not theatrical, the summons comes to each man in its due time for him, with an infinite subtlety of variety....
If that is so, what of my Utopia?
This infinite world must needs be flattened to get it on one retina. The picture of a solid thing, although it is flattened and simplified, is not necessarily a lie. Surely, surely, in the end, by degrees, and steps, something of this sort, some such understanding, as this Utopia must come. First here, then there, single men and then groups of men will fall into line—not indeed with my poor faulty hesitating suggestions—but with a great and comprehensive plan wrought out by many minds and in many tongues. It is just because my plan is faulty, because it mis-states so much, and omits so much, that they do not now fall in. It will not be like my dream, the world that is coming. My dream is just my own poor dream, the thing sufficient for me. We fail in comprehension, we fail so variously and abundantly. We see as much as it is serviceable for us to see, and we see no further. But the fresh undaunted generations come to take on our work beyond our utmost effort, beyond the range of our ideas. They will learn with certainty things that to us are guesses and riddles....
There will be many Utopias. Each generation will have its
new version of Utopia, a little more certain and complete and real, with its
problems lying closer and closer to the problems of the Thing in Being. Until
at last from dreams Utopias will have come to be working drawings, and the
whole world will be shaping the final
The policeman drops his hand. “Come up,” says the 'bus driver, and the horses strain; “Clitter, clatter, cluck, clak,” the line of hurrying hansoms overtakes the omnibus going west. A dexterous lad on a bicycle with a bale of newspapers on his back dodges nimbly across the head of the column and vanishes up a side street.
The omnibus sways forward. Rapt and prophetic, his plump hands clasped round the handle of his umbrella, his billycock hat a trifle askew, this irascible little man of the Voice, this impatient dreamer, this scolding Optimist, who has argued so rudely and dogmatically about economics and philosophy and decoration, and indeed about everything under the sun, who has been so hard on the botanist and fashionable women, and so reluctant in the matter of beer, is carried onward, dreaming dreams, dreams that with all the inevitable ironies of difference, may be realities when you and I are dreams.
He passes, and for a little space we are left with his egoisms and idiosyncrasies more or less in suspense.
But why was he intruded? you ask. Why could not a modern Utopia be discussed without this impersonation—impersonally? It has confused the book, you say, made the argument hard to follow, and thrown a quality of insincerity over the whole. Are we but mocking at Utopias, you demand, using all these noble and generalised hopes as the backcloth against which two bickering personalities jar and squabble? Do I mean we are never to view the promised land again except through a foreground of fellow-travellers? There is a common notion that the reading of a Utopia should end with a swelling heart and clear resolves, with lists of names, formation of committees, and even the commencement of subscriptions. But this Utopia began upon a philosophy of fragmentation, and ends, confusedly, amidst a gross tumult of immediate realities, in dust and doubt, with, at the best, one individual's aspiration. Utopias were once in good faith, projects for a fresh creation of the world and of a most unworldly completeness; this so-called Modern Utopia is a mere story of personal adventures among Utopian philosophies.
Indeed, that came about without the writer's intention. So it was the summoned vision came. For I see about me a great multitude of little souls and groups of souls as darkened, as derivative as my own; with the passage of years I understand more and more clearly the quality of the motives that urge me and urge them to do whatever we do.... Yet that is not all I see, and I am not altogether bounded by my littleness. Ever and again, contrasting with this immediate vision, come glimpses of a comprehensive scheme, in which these personalities float, the scheme of a synthetic wider being, the great State, mankind, in which we all move and go, like blood corpuscles, like nerve cells, it may be at times like brain cells, in the body of a man. But the two visions are not seen consistently together, at least by me, and I do not surely know that they exist consistently together. The motives needed for those wider issues come not into the interplay of my vanities and wishes. That greater scheme lies about the men and women I know, as I have tried to make the vistas and spaces, the mountains, cities, laws, and order of Utopia lie about my talking couple, too great for their sustained comprehension. When one focuses upon these two that wide landscape becomes indistinct and distant, and when one regards that then the real persons one knows grow vague and unreal. Nevertheless, I cannot separate these two aspects of human life, each commenting on the other. In that incongruity between great and individual inheres the incompatibility I could not resolve, and which, therefore, I have had to present in this conflicting form. At times that great scheme does seem to me to enter certain men's lives as a passion, as a real and living motive; there are those who know it almost as if it was a thing of desire; even for me, upon occasion, the little lures of the immediate life are seen small and vain, and the soul goes out to that mighty Being, to apprehend it and serve it and possess. But this is an illumination that passes as it comes, a rare transitory lucidity, leaving the soul's desire suddenly turned to presumption and hypocrisy upon the lips. One grasps at the Universe and attains—Bathos. The hungers, the jealousies, the prejudices and habits have us again, and we are forced back to think that it is so, and not otherwise, that we are meant to serve the mysteries; that in these blinkers it is we are driven to an end we cannot understand. And then, for measured moments in the night watches or as one walks alone or while one sits in thought and speech with a friend, the wider aspirations glow again with a sincere emotion, with the colours of attainable desire....
That is my all about Utopia, and about the desire and need for Utopia, and how that planet lies to this planet that bears the daily lives of men.
A Portion of a Paper read to the Oxford Philosophical Society, November 8, 1903, and reprinted, with some Revision, from the Version given in Mind, vol. xiii. (N.S.), No. 51.
It seems to me that I may most propitiously attempt to interest you this evening by describing very briefly the particular metaphysical and philosophical system in which I do my thinking, and more particularly by setting out for your consideration one or two points in which I seem to myself to differ most widely from current accepted philosophy.
You must be prepared for things that will strike you as crude, for a certain difference of accent and dialect that you may not like, and you must be prepared too to hear what may strike you as the clumsy statement of my ignorant rediscovery of things already beautifully thought out and said. But in the end you may incline to forgive me some of this first offence.... It is quite unavoidable that, in setting out these intellectual foundations of mine, I should lapse for a moment or so towards autobiography.
A convergence of circumstances led to my having my knowledge
of concrete things quite extensively developed before I came to philosophical
examination at all. I have heard someone say that a savage or an animal is
mentally a purely objective being, and in that respect I was like a savage or
an animal until I was well over twenty. I was extremely unaware of the
subjective or introverted element in my being. I was a Positivist without
knowing it. My early education was a feeble one; it was one in which my private
observation, inquiry and experiment were far more important factors than any
instruction, or rather perhaps the instruction I received was less even than
what I learnt for myself, and it terminated at thirteen. I had come into pretty
intimate contact with the harder realities of life, with hunger in various
forms, and many base and disagreeable necessities, before I was fifteen. About
that age, following the indication of certain theological and speculative
curiosities, I began to learn something of what I will call deliberately and
justly, Elementary Science—stuff I got out of Cassell's Popular Educator and
cheap text-books—and then, through accidents and ambitions that do not matter
in the least to us now, I came to three years of illuminating and good
scientific work. The central fact of those three years was Huxley's course in
Comparative Anatomy at the school in
Now following hard upon this interlude with knowledge, came a time when I had to give myself to teaching, and it became advisable to acquire one of those Teaching Diplomas that are so widely and so foolishly despised, and that enterprise set me to a superficial, but suggestive study of educational method, of educational theory, of logic, of psychology, and so at last, when the little affair with the diploma was settled, to philosophy. Now to come to logic over the bracing uplands of comparative anatomy is to come to logic with a lot of very natural preconceptions blown clean out of one's mind. It is, I submit, a way of taking logic in the flank. When you have realised to the marrow, that all the physical organs of man and all his physical structure are what they are through a series of adaptations and approximations, and that they are kept up to a level of practical efficiency only by the elimination of death, and that this is true also of his brain and of his instincts and of many of his mental predispositions, you are not going to take his thinking apparatus unquestioningly as being in any way mysteriously different and better. And I had read only a little logic before I became aware of implications that I could not agree with, and assumptions that seemed to me to be altogether at variance with the general scheme of objective fact established in my mind.
I came to an examination of logical processes and of language with the expectation that they would share the profoundly provisional character, the character of irregular limitation and adaptation that pervades the whole physical and animal being of man. And I found the thing I had expected. And as a consequence I found a sort of intellectual hardihood about the assumptions of logic, that at first confused me and then roused all the latent scepticism in my mind.
My first quarrel with the accepted logic I developed long ago in a little paper that was printed in the Fortnightly Review in July 1891. It was called the “Rediscovery of the Unique,” and re-reading it I perceive not only how bad and even annoying it was in manner—a thing I have long known—but also how remarkably bad it was in expression. I have good reason for doubting whether my powers of expression in these uses have very perceptibly improved, but at any rate I am doing my best now with that previous failure before me.
That unfortunate paper, among other oversights I can no longer regard as trivial, disregarded quite completely the fact that a whole literature upon the antagonism of the one and the many, of the specific ideal and the individual reality, was already in existence. It defined no relations to other thought or thinkers. I understand now, what I did not understand then, why it was totally ignored. But the idea underlying that paper I cling to to-day. I consider it an idea that will ultimately be regarded as one of primary importance to human thought, and I will try and present the substance of that early paper again now very briefly, as the best opening of my general case. My opening scepticism is essentially a doubt of the objective reality of classification. I have no hesitation in saying that is the first and primary proposition of my philosophy.
I have it in my mind that classification is a necessary condition of the working of the mental implement, but that it is a departure from the objective truth of things, that classification is very serviceable for the practical purposes of life but a very doubtful preliminary to those fine penetrations the philosophical purpose, in its more arrogant moods, demands. All the peculiarities of my way of thinking derive from that.
A mind nourished upon anatomical study is of course permeated with the suggestion of the vagueness and instability of biological species. A biological species is quite obviously a great number of unique individuals which is separable from other biological species only by the fact that an enormous number of other linking individuals are inaccessible in time—are in other words dead and gone—and each new individual in that species does, in the distinction of its own individuality, break away in however infinitesimal degree from the previous average properties of the species. There is no property of any species, even the properties that constitute the specific definition, that is not a matter of more or less. If, for example, a species be distinguished by a single large red spot on the back, you will find if you go over a great number of specimens that red spot shrinking here to nothing, expanding there to a more general redness, weakening to pink, deepening to russet and brown, shading into crimson, and so on, and so on. And this is true not only of biological species. It is true of the mineral specimens constituting a mineral species, and I remember as a constant refrain in the lectures of Prof. Judd upon rock classification, the words “they pass into one another by insensible gradations.” That is true, I hold, of all things.
You will think perhaps of atoms of the elements as instances of identically similar things, but these are things not of experience but of theory, and there is not a phenomenon in chemistry that is not equally well explained on the supposition that it is merely the immense quantities of atoms necessarily taken in any experiment that mask by the operation of the law of averages the fact that each atom also has its unique quality, its special individual difference. This idea of uniqueness in all individuals is not only true of the classifications of material science; it is true, and still more evidently true, of the species of common thought, it is true of common terms. Take the word chair. When one says chair, one thinks vaguely of an average chair. But collect individual instances, think of armchairs and reading chairs, and dining-room chairs and kitchen chairs, chairs that pass into benches, chairs that cross the boundary and become settees, dentists' chairs, thrones, opera stalls, seats of all sorts, those miraculous fungoid growths that cumber the floor of the Arts and Crafts Exhibition, and you will perceive what a lax bundle in fact is this simple straightforward term. In co-operation with an intelligent joiner I would undertake to defeat any definition of chair or chairishness that you gave me. Chairs just as much as individual organisms, just as much as mineral and rock specimens, are unique things—if you know them well enough you will find an individual difference even in a set of machine-made chairs—and it is only because we do not possess minds of unlimited capacity, because our brain has only a limited number of pigeon-holes for our correspondence with an unlimited universe of objective uniques, that we have to delude ourselves into the belief that there is a chairishness in this species common to and distinctive of all chairs.
Let me repeat; this is of the very smallest importance in all the practical affairs of life, or indeed in relation to anything but philosophy and wide generalisations. But in philosophy it matters profoundly. If I order two new-laid eggs for breakfast, up come two unhatched but still unique avian individuals, and the chances are they serve my rude physiological purpose. I can afford to ignore the hens' eggs of the past that were not quite so nearly this sort of thing, and the hens' eggs of the future that will accumulate modification age by age; I can venture to ignore the rare chance of an abnormality in chemical composition and of any startling aberration in my physiological reaction; I can, with a confidence that is practically perfect, say with unqualified simplicity “two eggs,” but not if my concern is not my morning's breakfast but the utmost possible truth.
Now let me go on to point out whither this idea of uniqueness tends. I submit to you that syllogism is based on classification, that all hard logical reasoning tends to imply and is apt to imply a confidence in the objective reality of classification. Consequently in denying that I deny the absolute validity of logic. Classification and number, which in truth ignore the fine differences of objective realities, have in the past of human thought been imposed upon things. Let me for clearness' sake take a liberty here—commit, as you may perhaps think, an unpardonable insolence. Hindoo thought and Greek thought alike impress me as being overmuch obsessed by an objective treatment of certain necessary preliminary conditions of human thought—number and definition and class and abstract form. But these things, number, definition, class and abstract form, I hold, are merely unavoidable conditions of mental activity—regrettable conditions rather than essential facts. The forceps of our minds are clumsy forceps, and crush the truth a little in taking hold of it.
It was about this difficulty that the mind of Plato played a little inconclusively all his life. For the most part he tended to regard the idea as the something behind reality, whereas it seems to me that the idea is the more proximate and less perfect thing, the thing by which the mind, by ignoring individual differences, attempts to comprehend an otherwise unmanageable number of unique realities.
Let me give you a rough figure of what I am trying to convey in this first attack upon the philosophical validity of general terms. You have seen the results of those various methods of black and white reproduction that involve the use of a rectangular net. You know the sort of process picture I mean—it used to be employed very frequently in reproducing photographs. At a little distance you really seem to have a faithful reproduction of the original picture, but when you peer closely you find not the unique form and masses of the original, but a multitude of little rectangles, uniform in shape and size. The more earnestly you go into the thing, the closer you look, the more the picture is lost in reticulations. I submit the world of reasoned inquiry has a very similar relation to the world I call objectively real. For the rough purposes of every day the net-work picture will do, but the finer your purpose the less it will serve, and for an ideally fine purpose, for absolute and general knowledge that will be as true for a man at a distance with a telescope as for a man with a microscope it will not serve at all.
It is true you can make your net of logical interpretation finer and finer, you can fine your classification more and more—up to a certain limit. But essentially you are working in limits, and as you come closer, as you look at finer and subtler things, as you leave the practical purpose for which the method exists, the element of error increases. Every species is vague, every term goes cloudy at its edges, and so in my way of thinking, relentless logic is only another phrase for a stupidity,—for a sort of intellectual pigheadedness. If you push a philosophical or metaphysical inquiry through a series of valid syllogisms—never committing any generally recognised fallacy—you nevertheless leave a certain rubbing and marginal loss of objective truth and you get deflections that are difficult to trace, at each phase in the process. Every species waggles about in its definition, every tool is a little loose in its handle, every scale has its individual error. So long as you are reasoning for practical purposes about the finite things of experience, you can every now and then check your process, and correct your adjustments. But not when you make what are called philosophical and theological inquiries, when you turn your implement towards the final absolute truth of things. Doing that is like firing at an inaccessible, unmarkable and indestructible target at an unknown distance, with a defective rifle and variable cartridges. Even if by chance you hit, you cannot know that you hit, and so it will matter nothing at all.
This assertion of the necessary untrustworthiness of all reasoning processes arising out of the fallacy of classification in what is quite conceivably a universe of uniques, forms only one introductory aspect of my general scepticism of the Instrument of Thought.
I have now to tell you of another aspect of this scepticism of the instrument which concerns negative terms.
Classes in logic are not only represented by circles with a hard firm outline, whereas they have no such definite limits, but also there is a constant disposition to think of negative terms as if they represented positive classes. With words just as with numbers and abstract forms there are definite phases of human development. There is, you know, with regard to number, the phase when man can barely count at all, or counts in perfect good faith and sanity upon his fingers. Then there is the phase when he is struggling with the development of number, when he begins to elaborate all sorts of ideas about numbers, until at last he develops complex superstitions about perfect numbers and imperfect numbers, about threes and sevens and the like. The same is the case with abstracted forms, and even to-day we are scarcely more than heads out of the vast subtle muddle of thinking about spheres and ideally perfect forms and so on, that was the price of this little necessary step to clear thinking. You know better than I do how large a part numerical and geometrical magic, numerical and geometrical philosophy has played in the history of the mind. And the whole apparatus of language and mental communication is beset with like dangers. The language of the savage is, I suppose, purely positive; the thing has a name, the name has a thing. This indeed is the tradition of language, and to-day even, we, when we hear a name, are predisposed—and sometimes it is a very vicious disposition—to imagine forthwith something answering to the name. We are disposed, as an incurable mental vice, to accumulate intension in terms. If I say to you Wodget or Crump, you find yourself passing over the fact that these are nothings, these are, so to speak, mere blankety blanks, and trying to think what sort of thing a Wodget or a Crump may be. And where this disposition has come in, in its most alluring guise, is in the case of negative terms. Our instrument of knowledge persists in handling even such openly negative terms as the Absolute, the Infinite, as though they were real existences, and when the negative element is ever so little disguised, as it is in such a word as Omniscience, then the illusion of positive reality may be complete.
Please remember that I am trying to tell you my philosophy, and not arguing about yours. Let me try and express how in my mind this matter of negative terms has shaped itself. I think of something which I may perhaps best describe as being off the stage or out of court, or as the Void without Implications, or as Nothingness or as Outer Darkness. This is a sort of hypothetical Beyond to the visible world of human thought, and thither I think all negative terms reach at last, and merge and become nothing. Whatever positive class you make, whatever boundary you draw, straight away from that boundary begins the corresponding negative class and passes into the illimitable horizon of nothingness. You talk of pink things, you ignore, if you are a trained logician, the more elusive shades of pink, and draw your line. Beyond is the not pink, known and knowable, and still in the not pink region one comes to the Outer Darkness. Not blue, not happy, not iron, all the not classes meet in that Outer Darkness. That same Outer Darkness and nothingness is infinite space, and infinite time, and any being of infinite qualities, and all that region I rule out of court in my philosophy altogether. I will neither affirm nor deny if I can help it about any not things. I will not deal with not things at all, except by accident and inadvertence. If I use the word ‘infinite’ I use it as one often uses ‘countless,’ “the countless hosts of the enemy”—or ‘immeasurable’—“immeasurable cliffs”—that is to say as the limit of measurement rather than as the limit of imaginary measurability, as a convenient equivalent to as many times this cloth yard as you can, and as many again and so on and so on. Now a great number of apparently positive terms are, or have become, practically negative terms and are under the same ban with me. A considerable number of terms that have played a great part in the world of thought, seem to me to be invalidated by this same defect, to have no content or an undefined content or an unjustifiable content. For example, that word Omniscient, as implying infinite knowledge, impresses me as being a word with a delusive air of being solid and full, when it is really hollow with no content whatever. I am persuaded that knowing is the relation of a conscious being to something not itself, that the thing known is defined as a system of parts and aspects and relationships, that knowledge is comprehension, and so that only finite things can know or be known. When you talk of a being of infinite extension and infinite duration, omniscient and omnipotent and Perfect, you seem to me to be talking in negatives of nothing whatever. When you speak of the Absolute you speak to me of nothing. If however you talk of a great yet finite and thinkable being, a being not myself, extending beyond my imagination in time and space, knowing all that I can think of as known and capable of doing all that I can think of as done, you come into the sphere of my mental operations, and into the scheme of my philosophy....
These then are my first two charges against our Instrument of Knowledge, firstly, that it can work only by disregarding individuality and treating uniques as identically similar objects in this respect or that, so as to group them under one term, and that once it has done so it tends automatically to intensify the significance of that term, and secondly, that it can only deal freely with negative terms by treating them as though they were positive. But I have a further objection to the Instrument of Human Thought, that is not correlated to these former objections and that is also rather more difficult to convey.
Essentially this idea is to present a sort of stratification in human ideas. I have it very much in mind that various terms in our reasoning lie, as it were, at different levels and in different planes, and that we accomplish a large amount of error and confusion by reasoning terms together that do not lie or nearly lie in the same plane.
Let me endeavour to make myself a little less obscure by a most flagrant instance from physical things. Suppose some one began to talk seriously of a man seeing an atom through a microscope, or better perhaps of cutting one in half with a knife. There are a number of non-analytical people who would be quite prepared to believe that an atom could be visible to the eye or cut in this manner. But any one at all conversant with physical conceptions would almost as soon think of killing the square root of 2 with a rook rifle as of cutting an atom in half with a knife. Our conception of an atom is reached through a process of hypothesis and analysis, and in the world of atoms there are no knives and no men to cut. If you have thought with a strong consistent mental movement, then when you have thought of your atom under the knife blade, your knife blade has itself become a cloud of swinging grouped atoms, and your microscope lens a little universe of oscillatory and vibratory molecules. If you think of the universe, thinking at the level of atoms, there is neither knife to cut, scale to weigh nor eye to see. The universe at that plane to which the mind of the molecular physicist descends has none of the shapes or forms of our common life whatever. This hand with which I write is in the universe of molecular physics a cloud of warring atoms and molecules, combining and recombining, colliding, rotating, flying hither and thither in the universal atmosphere of ether.
You see, I hope, what I mean, when I say that the universe of molecular physics is at a different level from the universe of common experience;—what we call stable and solid is in that world a freely moving system of interlacing centres of force, what we call colour and sound is there no more than this length of vibration or that. We have reached to a conception of that universe of molecular physics by a great enterprise of organised analysis, and our universe of daily experiences stands in relation to that elemental world as if it were a synthesis of those elemental things.
I would suggest to you that this is only a very extreme instance of the general state of affairs, that there may be finer and subtler differences of level between one term and another, and that terms may very well be thought of as lying obliquely and as being twisted through different levels.
It will perhaps give a clearer idea of what I am seeking to convey if I suggest a concrete image for the whole world of a man's thought and knowledge. Imagine a large clear jelly, in which at all angles and in all states of simplicity or contortion his ideas are imbedded. They are all valid and possible ideas as they lie, none in reality incompatible with any. If you imagine the direction of up or down in this clear jelly being as it were the direction in which one moves by analysis or by synthesis, if you go down for example from matter to atoms and centres of force and up to men and states and countries—if you will imagine the ideas lying in that manner—you will get the beginning of my intention. But our Instrument, our process of thinking, like a drawing before the discovery of perspective, appears to have difficulties with the third dimension, appears capable only of dealing with or reasoning about ideas by projecting them upon the same plane. It will be obvious that a great multitude of things may very well exist together in a solid jelly, which would be overlapping and incompatible and mutually destructive, when projected together upon one plane. Through the bias in our Instrument to do this, through reasoning between terms not in the same plane, an enormous amount of confusion, perplexity and mental deadlocking occurs.
The old theological deadlock between predestination and free-will serves admirably as an example of the sort of deadlock I mean. Take life at the level of common sensation and common experience and there is no more indisputable fact than man's freedom of will, unless it is his complete moral responsibility. But make only the least penetrating of analyses and you perceive a world of inevitable consequences, a rigid succession of cause and effect. Insist upon a flat agreement between the two, and there you are! The Instrument fails.
It is upon these three objections, and upon an extreme suspicion of abstract terms which arises materially out of my first and second objections, that I chiefly rest my case for a profound scepticism of the remoter possibilities of the Instrument of Thought. It is a thing no more perfect than the human eye or the human ear, though like those other instruments it may have undefined possibilities of evolution towards increased range, and increased power.
So much for my main contention. But before I conclude I may—since I am here—say a little more in the autobiographical vein, and with a view to your discussion to show how I reconcile this fundamental scepticism with the very positive beliefs about world-wide issues I possess, and the very definite distinction I make between right and wrong.
I reconcile these things by simply pointing out to you that if there is any validity in my image of that three dimensional jelly in which our ideas are suspended, such a reconciliation as you demand in logic, such a projection of the things as in accordance upon one plane, is totally unnecessary and impossible.
This insistence upon the element of uniqueness in being, this subordination of the class to the individual difference, not only destroys the universal claim of philosophy, but the universal claim of ethical imperatives, the universal claim of any religious teaching. If you press me back upon my fundamental position I must confess I put faith and standards and rules of conduct upon exactly the same level as I put my belief of what is right in art, and what I consider right practice in art. I have arrived at a certain sort of self-knowledge and there are, I find, very distinct imperatives for me, but I am quite prepared to admit there is no proving them imperative on any one else. One's political proceedings, one's moral acts are, I hold, just as much self-expression as one's poetry or painting or music. But since life has for its primordial elements assimilation and aggression, I try not only to obey my imperatives, but to put them persuasively and convincingly into other minds, to bring about my good and to resist and overcome my evil as though they were the universal Good and the universal Evil in which unthinking men believe. And it is obviously in no way contradictory to this philosophy, for me, if I find others responding sympathetically to any notes of mine or if I find myself responding sympathetically to notes sounding about me, to give that common resemblance between myself and others a name, to refer these others and myself in common to this thing as if it were externalised and spanned us all.
Scepticism of the Instrument is for example not incompatible with religious association and with organisation upon the basis of a common faith. It is possible to regard God as a Being synthetic in relation to men and societies, just as the idea of a universe of atoms and molecules and inorganic relationships is analytical in relation to human life.
The repudiation of demonstration in any but immediate and verifiable cases that this Scepticism of the Instrument amounts to, the abandonment of any universal validity for moral and religious propositions, brings ethical, social and religious teaching into the province of poetry, and does something to correct the estrangement between knowledge and beauty that is a feature of so much mental existence at this time. All these things are self-expression. Such an opinion sets a new and greater value on that penetrating and illuminating quality of mind we call insight, insight which when it faces towards the contradictions that arise out of the imperfections of the mental instrument is called humour. In these innate, unteachable qualities I hold—in humour and the sense of beauty—lies such hope of intellectual salvation from the original sin of our intellectual instrument as we may entertain in this uncertain and fluctuating world of unique appearances....
So frankly I spread my little equipment of fundamental assumptions before you, heartily glad of the opportunity you have given me of taking them out, of looking at them with the particularity the presence of hearers ensures, and of hearing the impression they make upon you. Of course, such a sketch must have an inevitable crudity of effect. The time I had for it—I mean the time I was able to give in preparation—was altogether too limited for any exhaustive finish of presentation; but I think on the whole I have got the main lines of this sketch map of my mental basis true. Whether I have made myself comprehensible is a different question altogether. It is for you rather than me to say how this sketch map of mine lies with regard to your own more systematic cartography....
Here followed certain comments upon Personal Idealism, and Mr. F. C. S. Schiller's Humanism, of no particular value.