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The Soul of ManOscar WildeThe Project Gutenberg EBook of The Soul of Man, by Oscar Wilde(#14 in our series by Oscar Wilde)...
THE SOUL OF MANThe chief advantage that would result from the establishment ofSocialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Soc...
unfair.Under Socialism all this will, of course, be altered. There willbe no people living in fetid dens and fetid rags, a...
often extremely demoralising, and that is, of course, one of thereasons why Socialism wants to get rid of the institution....
is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Withoutthem, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance t...
benefit?It will benefit in this way. Under the new conditionsIndividualism will be far freer, far finer, and far moreinten...
never have. Caesar, says Mommsen, was the complete and perfectman. But how tragically insecure was Caesar! Wherever there ...
the gospel that he preached was not that in such a community it isan advantage for a man to live on scanty, unwholesome fo...
without ever doing anything bad. He may commit a sin againstsociety, and yet realise through that sin his true perfection....
before Christ, there is such a thing as leaving mankind alone;there is no such thing as governing mankind. All modes ofgov...
so, when that system is abolished, will disappear. When eachmember of the community has sufficient for his wants, and is n...
work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible. Humanslavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On mechanical...
difference. If a man of science were told that the results of hisexperiments, and the conclusions that he arrived at, shou...
selects his own subject, and treats it as he chooses. The publicare quite right in their attitude. Art is Individualism, a...
himself at all, and consequently whether the work was not quiteunworthy of him, and either of a thoroughly second-rate ord...
of art, on the other hand, is a work whose style is obvious, old-fashioned, and common, and whose subject is deliberately ...
instances, having been carried to such excesses of brutality, isstill a great factor, a really remarkable power. The tyran...
interested in the drama, and as a certain advance has been made inthe drama within the last ten or fifteen years, it is im...
appreciation of such arts as the drama. For a picture and a statueare not at war with Time. They take no count of its succ...
different. The public clung with really pathetic tenacity to whatI believe were the direct traditions of the Great Exhibit...
Tasso in Ferraras madmans cell. It is better for the artist notto live with Princes. The Pope may be cultivated. Many Pope...
could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The conditionswill be done away with, and human nature will change. Th...
flowers in the garden to be both red and roses. UnderIndividualism people will be quite natural and absolutelyunselfish, a...
world. Mediaevalism, with its saints and martyrs, its love ofself-torture, its wild passion for wounding itself, its gashi...
Science as its methods. What it aims at is an Individualismexpressing itself through joy. This Individualism will be large...
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  1. 1. The Soul of ManOscar WildeThe Project Gutenberg EBook of The Soul of Man, by Oscar Wilde(#14 in our series by Oscar Wilde)Copyright laws are changing all over the world. Be sure to check thecopyright laws for your country before downloading or redistributingthis or any other Project Gutenberg eBook.This header should be the first thing seen when viewing this ProjectGutenberg file. Please do not remove it. Do not change or edit theheader without written permission.Please read the "legal small print," and other information about theeBook and Project Gutenberg at the bottom of this file. Included isimportant information about your specific rights and restrictions inhow the file may be used. You can also find out about how to make adonation to Project Gutenberg, and how to get involved.**Welcome To The World of Free Plain Vanilla Electronic Texts****eBooks Readable By Both Humans and By Computers, Since 1971*******These eBooks Were Prepared By Thousands of Volunteers!*****Title: The Soul of ManAuthor: Oscar WildeRelease Date: August, 1997 [EBook #1017][This file was first posted on August 10, 1997][Most recently updated: May 21, 2003]Edition: 10Language: EnglishCharacter set encoding: US-ASCII*** START OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK, THE SOUL OF MAN ***Transcribed by David Price, email ccx074@coventry.ac.uk
  2. 2. THE SOUL OF MANThe chief advantage that would result from the establishment ofSocialism is, undoubtedly, the fact that Socialism would relieve usfrom that sordid necessity of living for others which, in thepresent condition of things, presses so hardly upon almosteverybody. In fact, scarcely anyone at all escapes.Now and then, in the course of the century, a great man of science,like Darwin; a great poet, like Keats; a fine critical spirit, likeM. Renan; a supreme artist, like Flaubert, has been able to isolatehimself, to keep himself out of reach of the clamorous claims ofothers, to stand under the shelter of the wall, as Plato puts it,and so to realise the perfection of what was in him, to his ownincomparable gain, and to the incomparable and lasting gain of thewhole world. These, however, are exceptions. The majority ofpeople spoil their lives by an unhealthy and exaggerated altruism--are forced, indeed, so to spoil them. They find themselvessurrounded by hideous poverty, by hideous ugliness, by hideousstarvation. It is inevitable that they should be strongly moved byall this. The emotions of man are stirred more quickly than mansintelligence; and, as I pointed out some time ago in an article onthe function of criticism, it is much more easy to have sympathywith suffering than it is to have sympathy with thought.Accordingly, with admirable, though misdirected intentions, theyvery seriously and very sentimentally set themselves to the task ofremedying the evils that they see. But their remedies do not curethe disease: they merely prolong it. Indeed, their remedies arepart of the disease.They try to solve the problem of poverty, for instance, by keepingthe poor alive; or, in the case of a very advanced school, byamusing the poor.But this is not a solution: it is an aggravation of thedifficulty. The proper aim is to try and reconstruct society onsuch a basis that poverty will be impossible. And the altruisticvirtues have really prevented the carrying out of this aim. Justas the worst slave-owners were those who were kind to their slaves,and so prevented the horror of the system being realised by thosewho suffered from it, and understood by those who contemplated it,so, in the present state of things in England, the people who domost harm are the people who try to do most good; and at last wehave had the spectacle of men who have really studied the problemand know the life--educated men who live in the East End--comingforward and imploring the community to restrain its altruisticimpulses of charity, benevolence, and the like. They do so on theground that such charity degrades and demoralises. They areperfectly right. Charity creates a multitude of sins.There is also this to be said. It is immoral to use privateproperty in order to alleviate the horrible evils that result fromthe institution of private property. It is both immoral and
  3. 3. unfair.Under Socialism all this will, of course, be altered. There willbe no people living in fetid dens and fetid rags, and bringing upunhealthy, hunger-pinched children in the midst of impossible andabsolutely repulsive surroundings. The security of society willnot depend, as it does now, on the state of the weather. If afrost comes we shall not have a hundred thousand men out of work,tramping about the streets in a state of disgusting misery, orwhining to their neighbours for alms, or crowding round the doorsof loathsome shelters to try and secure a hunch of bread and anights unclean lodging. Each member of the society will share inthe general prosperity and happiness of the society, and if a frostcomes no one will practically be anything the worse.Upon the other hand, Socialism itself will be of value simplybecause it will lead to Individualism.Socialism, Communism, or whatever one chooses to call it, byconverting private property into public wealth, and substitutingco-operation for competition, will restore society to its propercondition of a thoroughly healthy organism, and insure the materialwell-being of each member of the community. It will, in fact, giveLife its proper basis and its proper environment. But for the fulldevelopment of Life to its highest mode of perfection, somethingmore is needed. What is needed is Individualism. If the Socialismis Authoritarian; if there are Governments armed with economicpower as they are now with political power; if, in a word, we areto have Industrial Tyrannies, then the last state of man will beworse than the first. At present, in consequence of the existenceof private property, a great many people are enabled to develop acertain very limited amount of Individualism. They are eitherunder no necessity to work for their living, or are enabled tochoose the sphere of activity that is really congenial to them, andgives them pleasure. These are the poets, the philosophers, themen of science, the men of culture--in a word, the real men, themen who have realised themselves, and in whom all Humanity gains apartial realisation. Upon the other hand, there are a great manypeople who, having no private property of their own, and beingalways on the brink of sheer starvation, are compelled to do thework of beasts of burden, to do work that is quite uncongenial tothem, and to which they are forced by the peremptory, unreasonable,degrading Tyranny of want. These are the poor, and amongst themthere is no grace of manner, or charm of speech, or civilisation,or culture, or refinement in pleasures, or joy of life. From theircollective force Humanity gains much in material prosperity. Butit is only the material result that it gains, and the man who ispoor is in himself absolutely of no importance. He is merely theinfinitesimal atom of a force that, so far from regarding him,crushes him: indeed, prefers him crushed, as in that case he isfar more obedient.Of course, it might be said that the Individualism generated underconditions of private property is not always, or even as a rule, ofa fine or wonderful type, and that the poor, if they have notculture and charm, have still many virtues. Both these statementswould be quite true. The possession of private property is very
  4. 4. often extremely demoralising, and that is, of course, one of thereasons why Socialism wants to get rid of the institution. Infact, property is really a nuisance. Some years ago people wentabout the country saying that property has duties. They said it sooften and so tediously that, at last, the Church has begun to sayit. One hears it now from every pulpit. It is perfectly true.Property not merely has duties, but has so many duties that itspossession to any large extent is a bore. It involves endlessclaims upon one, endless attention to business, endless bother. Ifproperty had simply pleasures, we could stand it; but its dutiesmake it unbearable. In the interest of the rich we must get rid ofit. The virtues of the poor may be readily admitted, and are muchto be regretted. We are often told that the poor are grateful forcharity. Some of them are, no doubt, but the best amongst the poorare never grateful. They are ungrateful, discontented,disobedient, and rebellious. They are quite right to be so.Charity they feel to be a ridiculously inadequate mode of partialrestitution, or a sentimental dole, usually accompanied by someimpertinent attempt on the part of the sentimentalist to tyranniseover their private lives. Why should they be grateful for thecrumbs that fall from the rich mans table? They should be seatedat the board, and are beginning to know it. As for beingdiscontented, a man who would not be discontented with suchsurroundings and such a low mode of life would be a perfect brute.Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is mansoriginal virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has beenmade, through disobedience and through rebellion. Sometimes thepoor are praised for being thrifty. But to recommend thrift to thepoor is both grotesque and insulting. It is like advising a manwho is starving to eat less. For a town or country labourer topractise thrift would be absolutely immoral. Man should not beready to show that he can live like a badly-fed animal. He shoulddecline to live like that, and should either steal or go on therates, which is considered by many to be a form of stealing. Asfor begging, it is safer to beg than to take, but it is finer totake than to beg. No: a poor man who is ungrateful, unthrifty,discontented, and rebellious, is probably a real personality, andhas much in him. He is at any rate a healthy protest. As for thevirtuous poor, one can pity them, of course, but one cannotpossibly admire them. They have made private terms with the enemy,and sold their birthright for very bad pottage. They must also beextraordinarily stupid. I can quite understand a man acceptinglaws that protect private property, and admit of its accumulation,as long as he himself is able under those conditions to realisesome form of beautiful and intellectual life. But it is almostincredible to me how a man whose life is marred and made hideous bysuch laws can possibly acquiesce in their continuance.However, the explanation is not really difficult to find. It issimply this. Misery and poverty are so absolutely degrading, andexercise such a paralysing effect over the nature of men, that noclass is ever really conscious of its own suffering. They have tobe told of it by other people, and they often entirely disbelievethem. What is said by great employers of labour against agitatorsis unquestionably true. Agitators are a set of interfering,meddling people, who come down to some perfectly contented class ofthe community, and sow the seeds of discontent amongst them. That
  5. 5. is the reason why agitators are so absolutely necessary. Withoutthem, in our incomplete state, there would be no advance towardscivilisation. Slavery was put down in America, not in consequenceof any action on the part of the slaves, or even any express desireon their part that they should be free. It was put down entirelythrough the grossly illegal conduct of certain agitators in Bostonand elsewhere, who were not slaves themselves, nor owners ofslaves, nor had anything to do with the question really. It was,undoubtedly, the Abolitionists who set the torch alight, who beganthe whole thing. And it is curious to note that from the slavesthemselves they received, not merely very little assistance, buthardly any sympathy even; and when at the close of the war theslaves found themselves free, found themselves indeed so absolutelyfree that they were free to starve, many of them bitterly regrettedthe new state of things. To the thinker, the most tragic fact inthe whole of the French Revolution is not that Marie Antoinette waskilled for being a queen, but that the starved peasant of theVendee voluntarily went out to die for the hideous cause offeudalism.It is clear, then, that no Authoritarian Socialism will do. Forwhile under the present system a very large number of people canlead lives of a certain amount of freedom and expression andhappiness, under an industrial-barrack system, or a system ofeconomic tyranny, nobody would be able to have any such freedom atall. It is to be regretted that a portion of our community shouldbe practically in slavery, but to propose to solve the problem byenslaving the entire community is childish. Every man must be leftquite free to choose his own work. No form of compulsion must beexercised over him. If there is, his work will not be good forhim, will not be good in itself, and will not be good for others.And by work I simply mean activity of any kind.I hardly think that any Socialist, nowadays, would seriouslypropose that an inspector should call every morning at each houseto see that each citizen rose up and did manual labour for eighthours. Humanity has got beyond that stage, and reserves such aform of life for the people whom, in a very arbitrary manner, itchooses to call criminals. But I confess that many of thesocialistic views that I have come across seem to me to be taintedwith ideas of authority, if not of actual compulsion. Of course,authority and compulsion are out of the question. All associationmust be quite voluntary. It is only in voluntary associations thatman is fine.But it may be asked how Individualism, which is now more or lessdependent on the existence of private property for its development,will benefit by the abolition of such private property. The answeris very simple. It is true that, under existing conditions, a fewmen who have had private means of their own, such as Byron,Shelley, Browning, Victor Hugo, Baudelaire, and others, have beenable to realise their personality more or less completely. Not oneof these men ever did a single days work for hire. They wererelieved from poverty. They had an immense advantage. Thequestion is whether it would be for the good of Individualism thatsuch an advantage should be taken away. Let us suppose that it istaken away. What happens then to Individualism? How will it
  6. 6. benefit?It will benefit in this way. Under the new conditionsIndividualism will be far freer, far finer, and far moreintensified than it is now. I am not talking of the greatimaginatively-realised Individualism of such poets as I havementioned, but of the great actual Individualism latent andpotential in mankind generally. For the recognition of privateproperty has really harmed Individualism, and obscured it, byconfusing a man with what he possesses. It has led Individualismentirely astray. It has made gain not growth its aim. So that manthought that the important thing was to have, and did not know thatthe important thing is to be. The true perfection of man lies, notin what man has, but in what man is.Private property has crushed true Individualism, and set up anIndividualism that is false. It has debarred one part of thecommunity from being individual by starving them. It has debarredthe other part of the community from being individual by puttingthem on the wrong road, and encumbering them. Indeed, socompletely has mans personality been absorbed by his possessionsthat the English law has always treated offences against a mansproperty with far more severity than offences against his person,and property is still the test of complete citizenship. Theindustry necessary for the making money is also very demoralising.In a community like ours, where property confers immensedistinction, social position, honour, respect, titles, and otherpleasant things of the kind, man, being naturally ambitious, makesit his aim to accumulate this property, and goes on wearily andtediously accumulating it long after he has got far more than hewants, or can use, or enjoy, or perhaps even know of. Man willkill himself by overwork in order to secure property, and really,considering the enormous advantages that property brings, one ishardly surprised. Ones regret is that society should beconstructed on such a basis that man has been forced into a groovein which he cannot freely develop what is wonderful, andfascinating, and delightful in him--in which, in fact, he missesthe true pleasure and joy of living. He is also, under existingconditions, very insecure. An enormously wealthy merchant may be--often is--at every moment of his life at the mercy of things thatare not under his control. If the wind blows an extra point or so,or the weather suddenly changes, or some trivial thing happens, hisship may go down, his speculations may go wrong, and he findshimself a poor man, with his social position quite gone. Now,nothing should be able to harm a man except himself. Nothingshould be able to rob a man at all. What a man really has, is whatis in him. What is outside of him should be a matter of noimportance.With the abolition of private property, then, we shall have true,beautiful, healthy Individualism. Nobody will waste his life inaccumulating things, and the symbols for things. One will live.To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, thatis all.It is a question whether we have ever seen the full expression of apersonality, except on the imaginative plane of art. In action, we
  7. 7. never have. Caesar, says Mommsen, was the complete and perfectman. But how tragically insecure was Caesar! Wherever there is aman who exercises authority, there is a man who resists authority.Caesar was very perfect, but his perfection travelled by toodangerous a road. Marcus Aurelius was the perfect man, says Renan.Yes; the great emperor was a perfect man. But how intolerable werethe endless claims upon him! He staggered under the burden of theempire. He was conscious how inadequate one man was to bear theweight of that Titan and too vast orb. What I mean by a perfectman is one who develops under perfect conditions; one who is notwounded, or worried or maimed, or in danger. Most personalitieshave been obliged to be rebels. Half their strength has beenwasted in friction. Byrons personality, for instance, wasterribly wasted in its battle with the stupidity, and hypocrisy,and Philistinism of the English. Such battles do not alwaysintensify strength: they often exaggerate weakness. Byron wasnever able to give us what he might have given us. Shelley escapedbetter. Like Byron, he got out of England as soon as possible.But he was not so well known. If the English had had any idea ofwhat a great poet he really was, they would have fallen on him withtooth and nail, and made his life as unbearable to him as theypossibly could. But he was not a remarkable figure in society, andconsequently he escaped, to a certain degree. Still, even inShelley the note of rebellion is sometimes too strong. The note ofthe perfect personality is not rebellion, but peace.It will be a marvellous thing--the true personality of man--when wesee it. It will grow naturally and simply, flowerlike, or as atree grows. It will not be at discord. It will never argue ordispute. It will not prove things. It will know everything. Andyet it will not busy itself about knowledge. It will have wisdom.Its value will not be measured by material things. It will havenothing. And yet it will have everything, and whatever one takesfrom it, it will still have, so rich will it be. It will not bealways meddling with others, or asking them to be like itself. Itwill love them because they will be different. And yet while itwill not meddle with others, it will help all, as a beautiful thinghelps us, by being what it is. The personality of man will be verywonderful. It will be as wonderful as the personality of a child.In its development it will be assisted by Christianity, if mendesire that; but if men do not desire that, it will develop nonethe less surely. For it will not worry itself about the past, norcare whether things happened or did not happen. Nor will it admitany laws but its own laws; nor any authority but its own authority.Yet it will love those who sought to intensify it, and speak oftenof them. And of these Christ was one.Know thyself was written over the portal of the antique world.Over the portal of the new world, Be thyself shall be written.And the message of Christ to man was simply Be thyself. That isthe secret of Christ.When Jesus talks about the poor he simply means personalities, justas when he talks about the rich he simply means people who have notdeveloped their personalities. Jesus moved in a community thatallowed the accumulation of private property just as ours does, and
  8. 8. the gospel that he preached was not that in such a community it isan advantage for a man to live on scanty, unwholesome food, to wearragged, unwholesome clothes, to sleep in horrid, unwholesomedwellings, and a disadvantage for a man to live under healthy,pleasant, and decent conditions. Such a view would have been wrongthere and then, and would, of course, be still more wrong now andin England; for as man moves northward the material necessities oflife become of more vital importance, and our society is infinitelymore complex, and displays far greater extremes of luxury andpauperism than any society of the antique world. What Jesus meant,was this. He said to man, You have a wonderful personality.Develop it. Be yourself. Dont imagine that your perfection liesin accumulating or possessing external things. Your affection isinside of you. If only you could realise that, you would not wantto be rich. Ordinary riches can be stolen from a man. Real richescannot. In the treasury-house of your soul, there are infinitelyprecious things, that may not be taken from you. And so, try to soshape your life that external things will not harm you. And tryalso to get rid of personal property. It involves sordidpreoccupation, endless industry, continual wrong. Personalproperty hinders Individualism at every step. It is to be notedthat Jesus never says that impoverished people are necessarilygood, or wealthy people necessarily bad. That would not have beentrue. Wealthy people are, as a class, better than impoverishedpeople, more moral, more intellectual, more well-behaved. There isonly one class in the community that thinks more about money thanthe rich, and that is the poor. The poor can think of nothingelse. That is the misery of being poor. What Jesus does say isthat man reaches his perfection, not through what he has, not eventhrough what he does, but entirely through what he is. And so thewealthy young man who comes to Jesus is represented as a thoroughlygood citizen, who has broken none of the laws of his state, none ofthe commandments of his religion. He is quite respectable, in theordinary sense of that extraordinary word. Jesus says to him, Youshould give up private property. It hinders you from realisingyour perfection. It is a drag upon you. It is a burden. Yourpersonality does not need it. It is within you, and not outside ofyou, that you will find what you really are, and what you reallywant. To his own friends he says the same thing. He tells themto be themselves, and not to be always worrying about other things.What do other things matter? Man is complete in himself. Whenthey go into the world, the world will disagree with them. That isinevitable. The world hates Individualism. But that is not totrouble them. They are to be calm and self-centred. If a mantakes their cloak, they are to give him their coat, just to showthat material things are of no importance. If people abuse them,they are not to answer back. What does it signify? The thingspeople say of a man do not alter a man. He is what he is. Publicopinion is of no value whatsoever. Even if people employ actualviolence, they are not to be violent in turn. That would be tofall to the same low level. After all, even in prison, a man canbe quite free. His soul can be free. His personality can beuntroubled. He can be at peace. And, above all things, they arenot to interfere with other people or judge them in any way.Personality is a very mysterious thing. A man cannot always beestimated by what he does. He may keep the law, and yet beworthless. He may break the law, and yet be fine. He may be bad,
  9. 9. without ever doing anything bad. He may commit a sin againstsociety, and yet realise through that sin his true perfection.There was a woman who was taken in adultery. We are not told thehistory of her love, but that love must have been very great; forJesus said that her sins were forgiven her, not because sherepented, but because her love was so intense and wonderful. Lateron, a short time before his death, as he sat at a feast, the womancame in and poured costly perfumes on his hair. His friends triedto interfere with her, and said that it was an extravagance, andthat the money that the perfume cost should have been expended oncharitable relief of people in want, or something of that kind.Jesus did not accept that view. He pointed out that the materialneeds of Man were great and very permanent, but that the spiritualneeds of Man were greater still, and that in one divine moment, andby selecting its own mode of expression, a personality might makeitself perfect. The world worships the woman, even now, as asaint.Yes; there are suggestive things in Individualism. Socialismannihilates family life, for instance. With the abolition ofprivate property, marriage in its present form must disappear.This is part of the programme. Individualism accepts this andmakes it fine. It converts the abolition of legal restraint into aform of freedom that will help the full development of personality,and make the love of man and woman more wonderful, more beautiful,and more ennobling. Jesus knew this. He rejected the claims offamily life, although they existed in his day and community in avery marked form. Who is my mother? Who are my brothers? hesaid, when he was told that they wished to speak to him. When oneof his followers asked leave to go and bury his father, Let thedead bury the dead, was his terrible answer. He would allow noclaim whatsoever to be made on personality.And so he who would lead a Christlike life is he who is perfectlyand absolutely himself. He may be a great poet, or a great man ofscience; or a young student at a University, or one who watchessheep upon a moor; or a maker of dramas, like Shakespeare, or athinker about God, like Spinoza; or a child who plays in a garden,or a fisherman who throws his net into the sea. It does not matterwhat he is, as long as he realises the perfection of the soul thatis within him. All imitation in morals and in life is wrong.Through the streets of Jerusalem at the present day crawls one whois mad and carries a wooden cross on his shoulders. He is a symbolof the lives that are marred by imitation. Father Damien wasChristlike when he went out to live with the lepers, because insuch service he realised fully what was best in him. But he wasnot more Christlike than Wagner when he realised his soul in music;or than Shelley, when he realised his soul in song. There is noone type for man. There are as many perfections as there areimperfect men. And while to the claims of charity a man may yieldand yet be free, to the claims of conformity no man may yield andremain free at all.Individualism, then, is what through Socialism we are to attain to.As a natural result the State must give up all idea of government.It must give it up because, as a wise man once said many centuries
  10. 10. before Christ, there is such a thing as leaving mankind alone;there is no such thing as governing mankind. All modes ofgovernment are failures. Despotism is unjust to everybody,including the despot, who was probably made for better things.Oligarchies are unjust to the many, and ochlocracies are unjust tothe few. High hopes were once formed of democracy; but democracymeans simply the bludgeoning of the people by the people for thepeople. It has been found out. I must say that it was high time,for all authority is quite degrading. It degrades those whoexercise it, and degrades those over whom it is exercised. When itis violently, grossly, and cruelly used, it produces a good effect,by creating, or at any rate bringing out, the spirit of revolt andIndividualism that is to kill it. When it is used with a certainamount of kindness, and accompanied by prizes and rewards, it isdreadfully demoralising. People, in that case, are less consciousof the horrible pressure that is being put on them, and so gothrough their lives in a sort of coarse comfort, like pettedanimals, without ever realising that they are probably thinkingother peoples thoughts, living by other peoples standards,wearing practically what one may call other peoples second-handclothes, and never being themselves for a single moment. He whowould be free, says a fine thinker, must not conform. Andauthority, by bribing people to conform, produces a very gross kindof over-fed barbarism amongst us.With authority, punishment will pass away. This will be a greatgain--a gain, in fact, of incalculable value. As one readshistory, not in the expurgated editions written for school-boys andpassmen, but in the original authorities of each time, one isabsolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked havecommitted, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted; anda community is infinitely more brutalised by the habitualemployment of punishment, than it is by the occurrence of crime.It obviously follows that the more punishment is inflicted the morecrime is produced, and most modern legislation has clearlyrecognised this, and has made it its task to diminish punishment asfar as it thinks it can. Wherever it has really diminished it, theresults have always been extremely good. The less punishment, theless crime. When there is no punishment at all, crime will eithercease to exist, or, if it occurs, will be treated by physicians asa very distressing form of dementia, to be cured by care andkindness. For what are called criminals nowadays are not criminalsat all. Starvation, and not sin, is the parent of modern crime.That indeed is the reason why our criminals are, as a class, soabsolutely uninteresting from any psychological point of view.They are not marvellous Macbeths and terrible Vautrins. They aremerely what ordinary, respectable, commonplace people would be ifthey had not got enough to eat. When private property is abolishedthere will be no necessity for crime, no demand for it; it willcease to exist. Of course, all crimes are not crimes againstproperty, though such are the crimes that the English law, valuingwhat a man has more than what a man is, punishes with the harshestand most horrible severity, if we except the crime of murder, andregard death as worse than penal servitude, a point on which ourcriminals, I believe, disagree. But though a crime may not beagainst property, it may spring from the misery and rage anddepression produced by our wrong system of property-holding, and
  11. 11. so, when that system is abolished, will disappear. When eachmember of the community has sufficient for his wants, and is notinterfered with by his neighbour, it will not be an object of anyinterest to him to interfere with anyone else. Jealousy, which isan extraordinary source of crime in modern life, is an emotionclosely bound up with our conceptions of property, and underSocialism and Individualism will die out. It is remarkable that incommunistic tribes jealousy is entirely unknown.Now as the State is not to govern, it may be asked what the Stateis to do. The State is to be a voluntary association that willorganise labour, and be the manufacturer and distributor ofnecessary commodities. The State is to make what is useful. Theindividual is to make what is beautiful. And as I have mentionedthe word labour, I cannot help saying that a great deal of nonsenseis being written and talked nowadays about the dignity of manuallabour. There is nothing necessarily dignified about manual labourat all, and most of it is absolutely degrading. It is mentally andmorally injurious to man to do anything in which he does not findpleasure, and many forms of labour are quite pleasurelessactivities, and should be regarded as such. To sweep a slushycrossing for eight hours, on a day when the east wind is blowing isa disgusting occupation. To sweep it with mental, moral, orphysical dignity seems to me to be impossible. To sweep it withjoy would be appalling. Man is made for something better thandisturbing dirt. All work of that kind should be done by amachine.And I have no doubt that it will be so. Up to the present, man hasbeen, to a certain extent, the slave of machinery, and there issomething tragic in the fact that as soon as man had invented amachine to do his work he began to starve. This, however, is, ofcourse, the result of our property system and our system ofcompetition. One man owns a machine which does the work of fivehundred men. Five hundred men are, in consequence, thrown out ofemployment, and, having no work to do, become hungry and take tothieving. The one man secures the produce of the machine and keepsit, and has five hundred times as much as he should have, andprobably, which is of much more importance, a great deal more thanhe really wants. Were that machine the property of all, every onewould benefit by it. It would be an immense advantage to thecommunity. All unintellectual labour, all monotonous, dull labour,all labour that deals with dreadful things, and involves unpleasantconditions, must be done by machinery. Machinery must work for usin coal mines, and do all sanitary services, and be the stoker ofsteamers, and clean the streets, and run messages on wet days, anddo anything that is tedious or distressing. At present machinerycompetes against man. Under proper conditions machinery will serveman. There is no doubt at all that this is the future ofmachinery, and just as trees grow while the country gentleman isasleep, so while Humanity will be amusing itself, or enjoyingcultivated leisure--which, and not labour, is the aim of man--ormaking beautiful things, or reading beautiful things, or simplycontemplating the world with admiration and delight, machinery willbe doing all the necessary and unpleasant work. The fact is, thatcivilisation requires slaves. The Greeks were quite right there.Unless there are slaves to do the ugly, horrible, uninteresting
  12. 12. work, culture and contemplation become almost impossible. Humanslavery is wrong, insecure, and demoralising. On mechanicalslavery, on the slavery of the machine, the future of the worlddepends. And when scientific men are no longer called upon to godown to a depressing East End and distribute bad cocoa and worseblankets to starving people, they will have delightful leisure inwhich to devise wonderful and marvellous things for their own joyand the joy of everyone else. There will be great storages offorce for every city, and for every house if required, and thisforce man will convert into heat, light, or motion, according tohis needs. Is this Utopian? A map of the world that does notinclude Utopia is not worth even glancing at, for it leaves out theone country at which Humanity is always landing. And when Humanitylands there, it looks out, and, seeing a better country, sets sail.Progress is the realisation of Utopias.Now, I have said that the community by means of organisation ofmachinery will supply the useful things, and that the beautifulthings will be made by the individual. This is not merelynecessary, but it is the only possible way by which we can geteither the one or the other. An individual who has to make thingsfor the use of others, and with reference to their wants and theirwishes, does not work with interest, and consequently cannot putinto his work what is best in him. Upon the other hand, whenever acommunity or a powerful section of a community, or a government ofany kind, attempts to dictate to the artist what he is to do, Arteither entirely vanishes, or becomes stereotyped, or degeneratesinto a low and ignoble form of craft. A work of art is the uniqueresult of a unique temperament. Its beauty comes from the factthat the author is what he is. It has nothing to do with the factthat other people want what they want. Indeed, the moment that anartist takes notice of what other people want, and tries to supplythe demand, he ceases to be an artist, and becomes a dull or anamusing craftsman, an honest or a dishonest tradesman. He has nofurther claim to be considered as an artist. Art is the mostintense mode of Individualism that the world has known. I aminclined to say that it is the only real mode of Individualism thatthe world has known. Crime, which, under certain conditions, mayseem to have created Individualism, must take cognisance of otherpeople and interfere with them. It belongs to the sphere ofaction. But alone, without any reference to his neighbours,without any interference, the artist can fashion a beautiful thing;and if he does not do it solely for his own pleasure, he is not anartist at all.And it is to be noted that it is the fact that Art is this intenseform of Individualism that makes the public try to exercise over itin an authority that is as immoral as it is ridiculous, and ascorrupting as it is contemptible. It is not quite their fault.The public has always, and in every age, been badly brought up.They are continually asking Art to be popular, to please their wantof taste, to flatter their absurd vanity, to tell them what theyhave been told before, to show them what they ought to be tired ofseeing, to amuse them when they feel heavy after eating too much,and to distract their thoughts when they are wearied of their ownstupidity. Now Art should never try to be popular. The publicshould try to make itself artistic. There is a very wide
  13. 13. difference. If a man of science were told that the results of hisexperiments, and the conclusions that he arrived at, should be ofsuch a character that they would not upset the received popularnotions on the subject, or disturb popular prejudice, or hurt thesensibilities of people who knew nothing about science; if aphilosopher were told that he had a perfect right to speculate inthe highest spheres of thought, provided that he arrived at thesame conclusions as were held by those who had never thought in anysphere at all--well, nowadays the man of science and thephilosopher would be considerably amused. Yet it is really a veryfew years since both philosophy and science were subjected tobrutal popular control, to authority--in fact the authority ofeither the general ignorance of the community, or the terror andgreed for power of an ecclesiastical or governmental class. Ofcourse, we have to a very great extent got rid of any attempt onthe part of the community, or the Church, or the Government, tointerfere with the individualism of speculative thought, but theattempt to interfere with the individualism of imaginative artstill lingers. In fact, it does more than linger; it isaggressive, offensive, and brutalising.In England, the arts that have escaped best are the arts in whichthe public take no interest. Poetry is an instance of what I mean.We have been able to have fine poetry in England because the publicdo not read it, and consequently do not influence it. The publiclike to insult poets because they are individual, but once theyhave insulted them, they leave them alone. In the case of thenovel and the drama, arts in which the public do take an interest,the result of the exercise of popular authority has been absolutelyridiculous. No country produces such badly-written fiction, suchtedious, common work in the novel form, such silly, vulgar plays asEngland. It must necessarily be so. The popular standard is ofsuch a character that no artist can get to it. It is at once tooeasy and too difficult to be a popular novelist. It is too easy,because the requirements of the public as far as plot, style,psychology, treatment of life, and treatment of literature areconcerned are within the reach of the very meanest capacity and themost uncultivated mind. It is too difficult, because to meet suchrequirements the artist would have to do violence to histemperament, would have to write not for the artistic joy ofwriting, but for the amusement of half-educated people, and sowould have to suppress his individualism, forget his culture,annihilate his style, and surrender everything that is valuable inhim. In the case of the drama, things are a little better: thetheatre-going public like the obvious, it is true, but they do notlike the tedious; and burlesque and farcical comedy, the two mostpopular forms, are distinct forms of art. Delightful work may beproduced under burlesque and farcical conditions, and in work ofthis kind the artist in England is allowed very great freedom. Itis when one comes to the higher forms of the drama that the resultof popular control is seen. The one thing that the public dislikeis novelty. Any attempt to extend the subject-matter of art isextremely distasteful to the public; and yet the vitality andprogress of art depend in a large measure on the continualextension of subject-matter. The public dislike novelty becausethey are afraid of it. It represents to them a mode ofIndividualism, an assertion on the part of the artist that he
  14. 14. selects his own subject, and treats it as he chooses. The publicare quite right in their attitude. Art is Individualism, andIndividualism is a disturbing and disintegrating force. Thereinlies its immense value. For what it seeks to disturb is monotonyof type, slavery of custom, tyranny of habit, and the reduction ofman to the level of a machine. In Art, the public accept what hasbeen, because they cannot alter it, not because they appreciate it.They swallow their classics whole, and never taste them. Theyendure them as the inevitable, and as they cannot mar them, theymouth about them. Strangely enough, or not strangely, according toones own views, this acceptance of the classics does a great dealof harm. The uncritical admiration of the Bible and Shakespeare inEngland is an instance of what I mean. With regard to the Bible,considerations of ecclesiastical authority enter into the matter,so that I need not dwell upon the point. But in the case ofShakespeare it is quite obvious that the public really see neitherthe beauties nor the defects of his plays. If they saw thebeauties, they would not object to the development of the drama;and if they saw the defects, they would not object to thedevelopment of the drama either. The fact is, the public make useof the classics of a country as a means of checking the progress ofArt. They degrade the classics into authorities. They use them asbludgeons for preventing the free expression of Beauty in newforms. They are always asking a writer why he does not write likesomebody else, or a painter why he does not paint like somebodyelse, quite oblivious of the fact that if either of them didanything of the kind he would cease to be an artist. A fresh modeof Beauty is absolutely distasteful to them, and whenever itappears they get so angry, and bewildered that they always use twostupid expressions--one is that the work of art is grosslyunintelligible; the other, that the work of art is grossly immoral.What they mean by these words seems to me to be this. When theysay a work is grossly unintelligible, they mean that the artist hassaid or made a beautiful thing that is new; when they describe awork as grossly immoral, they mean that the artist has said or madea beautiful thing that is true. The former expression hasreference to style; the latter to subject-matter. But theyprobably use the words very vaguely, as an ordinary mob will useready-made paving-stones. There is not a single real poet orprose-writer of this century, for instance, on whom the Britishpublic have not solemnly conferred diplomas of immorality, andthese diplomas practically take the place, with us, of what inFrance, is the formal recognition of an Academy of Letters, andfortunately make the establishment of such an institution quiteunnecessary in England. Of course, the public are very reckless intheir use of the word. That they should have called Wordsworth animmoral poet, was only to be expected. Wordsworth was a poet. Butthat they should have called Charles Kingsley an immoral novelistis extraordinary. Kingsleys prose was not of a very fine quality.Still, there is the word, and they use it as best they can. Anartist is, of course, not disturbed by it. The true artist is aman who believes absolutely in himself, because he is absolutelyhimself. But I can fancy that if an artist produced a work of artin England that immediately on its appearance was recognised by thepublic, through their medium, which is the public press, as a workthat was quite intelligible and highly moral, he would begin toseriously question whether in its creation he had really been
  15. 15. himself at all, and consequently whether the work was not quiteunworthy of him, and either of a thoroughly second-rate order, orof no artistic value whatsoever.Perhaps, however, I have wronged the public in limiting them tosuch words as immoral, unintelligible, exotic, andunhealthy. There is one other word that they use. That word ismorbid. They do not use it often. The meaning of the word is sosimple that they are afraid of using it. Still, they use itsometimes, and, now and then, one comes across it in popularnewspapers. It is, of course, a ridiculous word to apply to a workof art. For what is morbidity but a mood of emotion or a mode ofthought that one cannot express? The public are all morbid,because the public can never find expression for anything. Theartist is never morbid. He expresses everything. He standsoutside his subject, and through its medium produces incomparableand artistic effects. To call an artist morbid because he dealswith morbidity as his subject-matter is as silly as if one calledShakespeare mad because he wrote King Lear.On the whole, an artist in England gains something by beingattacked. His individuality is intensified. He becomes morecompletely himself. Of course, the attacks are very gross, veryimpertinent, and very contemptible. But then no artist expectsgrace from the vulgar mind, or style from the suburban intellect.Vulgarity and stupidity are two very vivid facts in modern life.One regrets them, naturally. But there they are. They aresubjects for study, like everything else. And it is only fair tostate, with regard to modern journalists, that they alwaysapologise to one in private for what they have written against onein public.Within the last few years two other adjectives, it may bementioned, have been added to the very limited vocabulary of art-abuse that is at the disposal of the public. One is the wordunhealthy, the other is the word exotic. The latter merelyexpresses the rage of the momentary mushroom against the immortal,entrancing, and exquisitely lovely orchid. It is a tribute, but atribute of no importance. The word unhealthy, however, admits ofanalysis. It is a rather interesting word. In fact, it is sointeresting that the people who use it do not know what it means.What does it mean? What is a healthy, or an unhealthy work of art?All terms that one applies to a work of art, provided that oneapplies them rationally, have reference to either its style or itssubject, or to both together. From the point of view of style, ahealthy work of art is one whose style recognises the beauty of thematerial it employs, be that material one of words or of bronze, ofcolour or of ivory, and uses that beauty as a factor in producingthe aesthetic effect. From the point of view of subject, a healthywork of art is one the choice of whose subject is conditioned bythe temperament of the artist, and comes directly out of it. Infine, a healthy work of art is one that has both perfection andpersonality. Of course, form and substance cannot be separated ina work of art; they are always one. But for purposes of analysis,and setting the wholeness of aesthetic impression aside for amoment, we can intellectually so separate them. An unhealthy work
  16. 16. of art, on the other hand, is a work whose style is obvious, old-fashioned, and common, and whose subject is deliberately chosen,not because the artist has any pleasure in it, but because hethinks that the public will pay him for it. In fact, the popularnovel that the public calls healthy is always a thoroughlyunhealthy production; and what the public call an unhealthy novelis always a beautiful and healthy work of art.I need hardly say that I am not, for a single moment, complainingthat the public and the public press misuse these words. I do notsee how, with their lack of comprehension of what Art is, theycould possibly use them in the proper sense. I am merely pointingout the misuse; and as for the origin of the misuse and the meaningthat lies behind it all, the explanation is very simple. It comesfrom the barbarous conception of authority. It comes from thenatural inability of a community corrupted by authority tounderstand or appreciate Individualism. In a word, it comes fromthat monstrous and ignorant thing that is called Public Opinion,which, bad and well-meaning as it is when it tries to controlaction, is infamous and of evil meaning when it tries to controlThought or Art.Indeed, there is much more to be said in favour of the physicalforce of the public than there is in favour of the publicsopinion. The former may be fine. The latter must be foolish. Itis often said that force is no argument. That, however, entirelydepends on what one wants to prove. Many of the most importantproblems of the last few centuries, such as the continuance ofpersonal government in England, or of feudalism in France, havebeen solved entirely by means of physical force. The very violenceof a revolution may make the public grand and splendid for amoment. It was a fatal day when the public discovered that the penis mightier than the paving-stone, and can be made as offensive asthe brickbat. They at once sought for the journalist, found him,developed him, and made him their industrious and well-paidservant. It is greatly to be regretted, for both their sakes.Behind the barricade there may be much that is noble and heroic.But what is there behind the leading-article but prejudice,stupidity, cant, and twaddle? And when these four are joinedtogether they make a terrible force, and constitute the newauthority.In old days men had the rack. Now they have the press. That is animprovement certainly. But still it is very bad, and wrong, anddemoralising. Somebody--was it Burke?--called journalism thefourth estate. That was true at the time, no doubt. But at thepresent moment it really is the only estate. It has eaten up theother three. The Lords Temporal say nothing, the Lords Spiritualhave nothing to say, and the House of Commons has nothing to sayand says it. We are dominated by Journalism. In America thePresident reigns for four years, and Journalism governs for everand ever. Fortunately in America Journalism has carried itsauthority to the grossest and most brutal extreme. As a naturalconsequence it has begun to create a spirit of revolt. People areamused by it, or disgusted by it, according to their temperaments.But it is no longer the real force it was. It is not seriouslytreated. In England, Journalism, not, except in a few well-known
  17. 17. instances, having been carried to such excesses of brutality, isstill a great factor, a really remarkable power. The tyranny thatit proposes to exercise over peoples private lives seems to me tobe quite extraordinary. The fact is, that the public have aninsatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worthknowing. Journalism, conscious of this, and having tradesman-likehabits, supplies their demands. In centuries before ours thepublic nailed the ears of journalists to the pump. That was quitehideous. In this century journalists have nailed their own ears tothe keyhole. That is much worse. And what aggravates the mischiefis that the journalists who are most to blame are not the amusingjournalists who write for what are called Society papers. The harmis done by the serious, thoughtful, earnest journalists, whosolemnly, as they are doing at present, will drag before the eyesof the public some incident in the private life of a greatstatesman, of a man who is a leader of political thought as he is acreator of political force, and invite the public to discuss theincident, to exercise authority in the matter, to give their views,and not merely to give their views, but to carry them into action,to dictate to the man upon all other points, to dictate to hisparty, to dictate to his country; in fact, to make themselvesridiculous, offensive, and harmful. The private lives of men andwomen should not be told to the public. The public have nothing todo with them at all. In France they manage these things better.There they do not allow the details of the trials that take placein the divorce courts to be published for the amusement orcriticism of the public. All that the public are allowed to knowis that the divorce has taken place and was granted on petition ofone or other or both of the married parties concerned. In France,in fact, they limit the journalist, and allow the artist almostperfect freedom. Here we allow absolute freedom to the journalist,and entirely limit the artist. English public opinion, that is tosay, tries to constrain and impede and warp the man who makesthings that are beautiful in effect, and compels the journalist toretail things that are ugly, or disgusting, or revolting in fact,so that we have the most serious journalists in the world, and themost indecent newspapers. It is no exaggeration to talk ofcompulsion. There are possibly some journalists who take a realpleasure in publishing horrible things, or who, being poor, look toscandals as forming a sort of permanent basis for an income. Butthere are other journalists, I feel certain, men of education andcultivation, who really dislike publishing these things, who knowthat it is wrong to do so, and only do it because the unhealthyconditions under which their occupation is carried on oblige themto supply the public with what the public wants, and to competewith other journalists in making that supply as full and satisfyingto the gross popular appetite as possible. It is a very degradingposition for any body of educated men to be placed in, and I haveno doubt that most of them feel it acutely.However, let us leave what is really a very sordid side of thesubject, and return to the question of popular control in thematter of Art, by which I mean Public Opinion dictating to theartist the form which he is to use, the mode in which he is to useit, and the materials with which he is to work. I have pointed outthat the arts which have escaped best in England are the arts inwhich the public have not been interested. They are, however,
  18. 18. interested in the drama, and as a certain advance has been made inthe drama within the last ten or fifteen years, it is important topoint out that this advance is entirely due to a few individualartists refusing to accept the popular want of taste as theirstandard, and refusing to regard Art as a mere matter of demand andsupply. With his marvellous and vivid personality, with a stylethat has really a true colour-element in it, with his extraordinarypower, not over mere mimicry but over imaginative and intellectualcreation, Mr Irving, had his sole object been to give the publicwhat they wanted, could have produced the commonest plays in thecommonest manner, and made as much success and money as a man couldpossibly desire. But his object was not that. His object was torealise his own perfection as an artist, under certain conditions,and in certain forms of Art. At first he appealed to the few: nowhe has educated the many. He has created in the public both tasteand temperament. The public appreciate his artistic successimmensely. I often wonder, however, whether the public understandthat that success is entirely due to the fact that he did notaccept their standard, but realised his own. With their standardthe Lyceum would have been a sort of second-rate booth, as some ofthe popular theatres in London are at present. Whether theyunderstand it or not the fact however remains, that taste andtemperament have, to a certain extent been created in the public,and that the public is capable of developing these qualities. Theproblem then is, why do not the public become more civilised? Theyhave the capacity. What stops them?The thing that stops them, it must be said again, is their desireto exercise authority over the artist and over works of art. Tocertain theatres, such as the Lyceum and the Haymarket, the publicseem to come in a proper mood. In both of these theatres therehave been individual artists, who have succeeded in creating intheir audiences--and every theatre in London has its own audience--the temperament to which Art appeals. And what is thattemperament? It is the temperament of receptivity. That is all.If a man approaches a work of art with any desire to exerciseauthority over it and the artist, he approaches it in such a spiritthat he cannot receive any artistic impression from it at all. Thework of art is to dominate the spectator: the spectator is not todominate the work of art. The spectator is to be receptive. He isto be the violin on which the master is to play. And the morecompletely he can suppress his own silly views, his own foolishprejudices, his own absurd ideas of what Art should be, or shouldnot be, the more likely he is to understand and appreciate the workof art in question. This is, of course, quite obvious in the caseof the vulgar theatre-going public of English men and women. Butit is equally true of what are called educated people. For aneducated persons ideas of Art are drawn naturally from what Arthas been, whereas the new work of art is beautiful by being whatArt has never been; and to measure it by the standard of the pastis to measure it by a standard on the rejection of which its realperfection depends. A temperament capable of receiving, through animaginative medium, and under imaginative conditions, new andbeautiful impressions, is the only temperament that can appreciatea work of art. And true as this is in the case of the appreciationof sculpture and painting, it is still more true of the
  19. 19. appreciation of such arts as the drama. For a picture and a statueare not at war with Time. They take no count of its succession.In one moment their unity may be apprehended. In the case ofliterature it is different. Time must be traversed before theunity of effect is realised. And so, in the drama, there may occurin the first act of the play something whose real artistic valuemay not be evident to the spectator till the third or fourth act isreached. Is the silly fellow to get angry and call out, anddisturb the play, and annoy the artists? No. The honest man is tosit quietly, and know the delightful emotions of wonder, curiosity,and suspense. He is not to go to the play to lose a vulgar temper.He is to go to the play to realise an artistic temperament. He isto go to the play to gain an artistic temperament. He is not thearbiter of the work of art. He is one who is admitted tocontemplate the work of art, and, if the work be fine, to forget inits contemplation and the egotism that mars him--the egotism of hisignorance, or the egotism of his information. This point about thedrama is hardly, I think, sufficiently recognised. I can quiteunderstand that were Macbeth produced for the first time before amodern London audience, many of the people present would stronglyand vigorously object to the introduction of the witches in thefirst act, with their grotesque phrases and their ridiculous words.But when the play is over one realises that the laughter of thewitches in Macbeth is as terrible as the laughter of madness inLear, more terrible than the laughter of Iago in the tragedy ofthe Moor. No spectator of art needs a more perfect mood ofreceptivity than the spectator of a play. The moment he seeks toexercise authority he becomes the avowed enemy of Art and ofhimself. Art does not mind. It is he who suffers.With the novel it is the same thing. Popular authority and therecognition of popular authority are fatal. Thackerays Esmondis a beautiful work of art because he wrote it to please himself.In his other novels, in Pendennis, in Philip, in Vanity Faireven, at times, he is too conscious of the public, and spoils hiswork by appealing directly to the sympathies of the public, or bydirectly mocking at them. A true artist takes no notice whateverof the public. The public are to him non-existent. He has nopoppied or honeyed cakes through which to give the monster sleep orsustenance. He leaves that to the popular novelist. Oneincomparable novelist we have now in England, Mr George Meredith.There are better artists in France, but France has no one whoseview of life is so large, so varied, so imaginatively true. Thereare tellers of stories in Russia who have a more vivid sense ofwhat pain in fiction may be. But to him belongs philosophy infiction. His people not merely live, but they live in thought.One can see them from myriad points of view. They are suggestive.There is soul in them and around them. They are interpretative andsymbolic. And he who made them, those wonderful quickly-movingfigures, made them for his own pleasure, and has never asked thepublic what they wanted, has never cared to know what they wanted,has never allowed the public to dictate to him or influence him inany way but has gone on intensifying his own personality, andproducing his own individual work. At first none came to him.That did not matter. Then the few came to him. That did notchange him. The many have come now. He is still the same. He isan incomparable novelist. With the decorative arts it is not
  20. 20. different. The public clung with really pathetic tenacity to whatI believe were the direct traditions of the Great Exhibition ofinternational vulgarity, traditions that were so appalling that thehouses in which people lived were only fit for blind people to livein. Beautiful things began to be made, beautiful colours came fromthe dyers hand, beautiful patterns from the artists brain, andthe use of beautiful things and their value and importance were setforth. The public were really very indignant. They lost theirtemper. They said silly things. No one minded. No one was a whitthe worse. No one accepted the authority of public opinion. Andnow it is almost impossible to enter any modern house withoutseeing some recognition of good taste, some recognition of thevalue of lovely surroundings, some sign of appreciation of beauty.In fact, peoples houses are, as a rule, quite charming nowadays.People have been to a very great extent civilised. It is only fairto state, however, that the extraordinary success of the revolutionin house-decoration and furniture and the like has not really beendue to the majority of the public developing a very fine taste insuch matters. It has been chiefly due to the fact that thecraftsmen of things so appreciated the pleasure of making what wasbeautiful, and woke to such a vivid consciousness of thehideousness and vulgarity of what the public had previously wanted,that they simply starved the public out. It would be quiteimpossible at the present moment to furnish a room as rooms werefurnished a few years ago, without going for everything to anauction of second-hand furniture from some third-rate lodging-house. The things are no longer made. However they may object toit, people must nowadays have something charming in theirsurroundings. Fortunately for them, their assumption of authorityin these art-matters came to entire grief.It is evident, then, that all authority in such things is bad.People sometimes inquire what form of government is most suitablefor an artist to live under. To this question there is only oneanswer. The form of government that is most suitable to the artistis no government at all. Authority over him and his art isridiculous. It has been stated that under despotisms artists haveproduced lovely work. This is not quite so. Artists have visiteddespots, not as subjects to be tyrannised over, but as wanderingwonder-makers, as fascinating vagrant personalities, to beentertained and charmed and suffered to be at peace, and allowed tocreate. There is this to be said in favour of the despot, that he,being an individual, may have culture, while the mob, being amonster, has none. One who is an Emperor and King may stoop downto pick up a brush for a painter, but when the democracy stoopsdown it is merely to throw mud. And yet the democracy have not sofar to stoop as the emperor. In fact, when they want to throw mudthey have not to stoop at all. But there is no necessity toseparate the monarch from the mob; all authority is equally bad.There are three kinds of despots. There is the despot whotyrannises over the body. There is the despot who tyrannises overthe soul. There is the despot who tyrannises over the soul andbody alike. The first is called the Prince. The second is calledthe Pope. The third is called the People. The Prince may becultivated. Many Princes have been. Yet in the Prince there isdanger. One thinks of Dante at the bitter feast in Verona, of
  21. 21. Tasso in Ferraras madmans cell. It is better for the artist notto live with Princes. The Pope may be cultivated. Many Popes havebeen; the bad Popes have been. The bad Popes loved Beauty, almostas passionately, nay, with as much passion as the good Popes hatedThought. To the wickedness of the Papacy humanity owes much. Thegoodness of the Papacy owes a terrible debt to humanity. Yet,though the Vatican has kept the rhetoric of its thunders, and lostthe rod of its lightning, it is better for the artist not to livewith Popes. It was a Pope who said of Cellini to a conclave ofCardinals that common laws and common authority were not made formen such as he; but it was a Pope who thrust Cellini into prison,and kept him there till he sickened with rage, and created unrealvisions for himself, and saw the gilded sun enter his room, andgrew so enamoured of it that he sought to escape, and crept outfrom tower to tower, and falling through dizzy air at dawn, maimedhimself, and was by a vine-dresser covered with vine leaves, andcarried in a cart to one who, loving beautiful things, had care ofhim. There is danger in Popes. And as for the People, what ofthem and their authority? Perhaps of them and their authority onehas spoken enough. Their authority is a thing blind, deaf,hideous, grotesque, tragic, amusing, serious, and obscene. It isimpossible for the artist to live with the People. All despotsbribe. The people bribe and brutalise. Who told them to exerciseauthority? They were made to live, to listen, and to love.Someone has done them a great wrong. They have marred themselvesby imitation of their inferiors. They have taken the sceptre ofthe Prince. How should they use it? They have taken the tripletiara of the Pope. How should they carry its burden? They are asa clown whose heart is broken. They are as a priest whose soul isnot yet born. Let all who love Beauty pity them. Though theythemselves love not Beauty, yet let them pity themselves. Whotaught them the trick of tyranny?There are many other things that one might point out. One mightpoint out how the Renaissance was great, because it sought to solveno social problem, and busied itself not about such things, butsuffered the individual to develop freely, beautifully, andnaturally, and so had great and individual artists, and great andindividual men. One might point out how Louis XIV., by creatingthe modern state, destroyed the individualism of the artist, andmade things monstrous in their monotony of repetition, andcontemptible in their conformity to rule, and destroyed throughoutall France all those fine freedoms of expression that had madetradition new in beauty, and new modes one with antique form. Butthe past is of no importance. The present is of no importance. Itis with the future that we have to deal. For the past is what manshould not have been. The present is what man ought not to be.The future is what artists are.It will, of course, be said that such a scheme as is set forth hereis quite unpractical, and goes against human nature. This isperfectly true. It is unpractical, and it goes against humannature. This is why it is worth carrying out, and that is why oneproposes it. For what is a practical scheme? A practical schemeis either a scheme that is already in existence, or a scheme thatcould be carried out under existing conditions. But it is exactlythe existing conditions that one objects to; and any scheme that
  22. 22. could accept these conditions is wrong and foolish. The conditionswill be done away with, and human nature will change. The onlything that one really knows about human nature is that it changes.Change is the one quality we can predicate of it. The systems thatfail are those that rely on the permanency of human nature, and noton its growth and development. The error of Louis XIV. was that hethought human nature would always be the same. The result of hiserror was the French Revolution. It was an admirable result. Allthe results of the mistakes of governments are quite admirable.It is to be noted also that Individualism does not come to man withany sickly cant about duty, which merely means doing what otherpeople want because they want it; or any hideous cant about self-sacrifice, which is merely a survival of savage mutilation. Infact, it does not come to man with any claims upon him at all. Itcomes naturally and inevitably out of man. It is the point towhich all development tends. It is the differentiation to whichall organisms grow. It is the perfection that is inherent in everymode of life, and towards which every mode of life quickens. Andso Individualism exercises no compulsion over man. On thecontrary, it says to man that he should suffer no compulsion to beexercised over him. It does not try to force people to be good.It knows that people are good when they are let alone. Man willdevelop Individualism out of himself. Man is now so developingIndividualism. To ask whether Individualism is practical is likeasking whether Evolution is practical. Evolution is the law oflife, and there is no evolution except towards Individualism.Where this tendency is not expressed, it is a case of artificially-arrested growth, or of disease, or of death.Individualism will also be unselfish and unaffected. It has beenpointed out that one of the results of the extraordinary tyranny ofauthority is that words are absolutely distorted from their properand simple meaning, and are used to express the obverse of theirright signification. What is true about Art is true about Life. Aman is called affected, nowadays, if he dresses as he likes todress. But in doing that he is acting in a perfectly naturalmanner. Affectation, in such matters, consists in dressingaccording to the views of ones neighbour, whose views, as they arethe views of the majority, will probably be extremely stupid. Or aman is called selfish if he lives in the manner that seems to himmost suitable for the full realisation of his own personality; if,in fact, the primary aim of his life is self-development. But thisis the way in which everyone should live. Selfishness is notliving as one wishes to live, it is asking others to live as onewishes to live. And unselfishness is letting other peoples livesalone, not interfering with them. Selfishness always aims atcreating around it an absolute uniformity of type. Unselfishnessrecognises infinite variety of type as a delightful thing, acceptsit, acquiesces in it, enjoys it. It is not selfish to think foroneself. A man who does not think for himself does not think atall. It is grossly selfish to require of ones neighbour that heshould think in the same way, and hold the same opinions. Whyshould he? If he can think, he will probably think differently.If he cannot think, it is monstrous to require thought of any kindfrom him. A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a redrose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other
  23. 23. flowers in the garden to be both red and roses. UnderIndividualism people will be quite natural and absolutelyunselfish, and will know the meanings of the words, and realisethem in their free, beautiful lives. Nor will men be egotistic asthey are now. For the egotist is he who makes claims upon others,and the Individualist will not desire to do that. It will not givehim pleasure. When man has realised Individualism, he will alsorealise sympathy and exercise it freely and spontaneously. Up tothe present man has hardly cultivated sympathy at all. He hasmerely sympathy with pain, and sympathy with pain is not thehighest form of sympathy. All sympathy is fine, but sympathy withsuffering is the least fine mode. It is tainted with egotism. Itis apt to become morbid. There is in it a certain element ofterror for our own safety. We become afraid that we ourselvesmight be as the leper or as the blind, and that no man would havecare of us. It is curiously limiting, too. One should sympathisewith the entirety of life, not with lifes sores and maladiesmerely, but with lifes joy and beauty and energy and health andfreedom. The wider sympathy is, of course, the more difficult. Itrequires more unselfishness. Anybody can sympathise with thesufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature--itrequires, in fact, the nature of a true Individualist--tosympathise with a friends success.In the modern stress of competition and struggle for place, suchsympathy is naturally rare, and is also very much stifled by theimmoral ideal of uniformity of type and conformity to rule which isso prevalent everywhere, and is perhaps most obnoxious in England.Sympathy with pain there will, of course, always be. It is one ofthe first instincts of man. The animals which are individual, thehigher animals, that is to say, share it with us. But it must beremembered that while sympathy with joy intensifies the sum of joyin the world, sympathy with pain does not really diminish theamount of pain. It may make man better able to endure evil, butthe evil remains. Sympathy with consumption does not cureconsumption; that is what Science does. And when Socialism hassolved the problem of poverty, and Science solved the problem ofdisease, the area of the sentimentalists will be lessened, and thesympathy of man will be large, healthy, and spontaneous. Man willhave joy in the contemplation of the joyous life of others.For it is through joy that the Individualism of the future willdevelop itself. Christ made no attempt to reconstruct society, andconsequently the Individualism that he preached to man could berealised only through pain or in solitude. The ideals that we oweto Christ are the ideals of the man who abandons society entirely,or of the man who resists society absolutely. But man is naturallysocial. Even the Thebaid became peopled at last. And though thecenobite realises his personality, it is often an impoverishedpersonality that he so realises. Upon the other hand, the terribletruth that pain is a mode through which man may realise himselfexercises a wonderful fascination over the world. Shallow speakersand shallow thinkers in pulpits and on platforms often talk aboutthe worlds worship of pleasure, and whine against it. But it israrely in the worlds history that its ideal has been one of joyand beauty. The worship of pain has far more often dominated the
  24. 24. world. Mediaevalism, with its saints and martyrs, its love ofself-torture, its wild passion for wounding itself, its gashingwith knives, and its whipping with rods--Mediaevalism is realChristianity, and the mediaeval Christ is the real Christ. Whenthe Renaissance dawned upon the world, and brought with it the newideals of the beauty of life and the joy of living, men could notunderstand Christ. Even Art shows us that. The painters of theRenaissance drew Christ as a little boy playing with another boy ina palace or a garden, or lying back in his mothers arms, smilingat her, or at a flower, or at a bright bird; or as a noble, statelyfigure moving nobly through the world; or as a wonderful figurerising in a sort of ecstasy from death to life. Even when theydrew him crucified they drew him as a beautiful God on whom evilmen had inflicted suffering. But he did not preoccupy them much.What delighted them was to paint the men and women whom theyadmired, and to show the loveliness of this lovely earth. Theypainted many religious pictures--in fact, they painted far toomany, and the monotony of type and motive is wearisome, and was badfor art. It was the result of the authority of the public in art-matters, and is to be deplored. But their soul was not in thesubject. Raphael was a great artist when he painted his portraitof the Pope. When he painted his Madonnas and infant Christs, heis not a great artist at all. Christ had no message for theRenaissance, which was wonderful because it brought an ideal atvariance with his, and to find the presentation of the real Christwe must go to mediaeval art. There he is one maimed and marred;one who is not comely to look on, because Beauty is a joy; one whois not in fair raiment, because that may be a joy also: he is abeggar who has a marvellous soul; he is a leper whose soul isdivine; he needs neither property nor health; he is a God realisinghis perfection through pain.The evolution of man is slow. The injustice of men is great. Itwas necessary that pain should be put forward as a mode of self-realisation. Even now, in some places in the world, the message ofChrist is necessary. No one who lived in modern Russia couldpossibly realise his perfection except by pain. A few Russianartists have realised themselves in Art; in a fiction that ismediaeval in character, because its dominant note is therealisation of men through suffering. But for those who are notartists, and to whom there is no mode of life but the actual lifeof fact, pain is the only door to perfection. A Russian who liveshappily under the present system of government in Russia musteither believe that man has no soul, or that, if he has, it is notworth developing. A Nihilist who rejects all authority, because heknows authority to be evil, and welcomes all pain, because throughthat he realises his personality, is a real Christian. To him theChristian ideal is a true thing.And yet, Christ did not revolt against authority. He accepted theimperial authority of the Roman Empire and paid tribute. Heendured the ecclesiastical authority of the Jewish Church, andwould not repel its violence by any violence of his own. He had,as I said before, no scheme for the reconstruction of society. Butthe modern world has schemes. It proposes to do away with povertyand the suffering that it entails. It desires to get rid of pain,and the suffering that pain entails. It trusts to Socialism and to
  25. 25. Science as its methods. What it aims at is an Individualismexpressing itself through joy. This Individualism will be larger,fuller, lovelier than any Individualism has ever been. Pain is notthe ultimate mode of perfection. It is merely provisional and aprotest. It has reference to wrong, unhealthy, unjustsurroundings. When the wrong, and the disease, and the injusticeare removed, it will have no further place. It will have done itswork. It was a great work, but it is almost over. Its spherelessens every day.Nor will man miss it. For what man has sought for is, indeed,neither pain nor pleasure, but simply Life. Man has sought to liveintensely, fully, perfectly. When he can do so without exercisingrestraint on others, or suffering it ever, and his activities areall pleasurable to him, he will be saner, healthier, morecivilised, more himself. Pleasure is Natures test, her sign ofapproval. When man is happy, he is in harmony with himself and hisenvironment. The new Individualism, for whose service Socialism,whether it wills it or not, is working, will be perfect harmony.It will be what the Greeks sought for, but could not, except inThought, realise completely, because they had slaves, and fed them;it will be what the Renaissance sought for, but could not realisecompletely except in Art, because they had slaves, and starvedthem. It will be complete, and through it each man will attain tohis perfection. The new Individualism is the new Hellenism.*** END OF THE PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK, THE SOUL OF MAN ***This file should be named slman10.txt or slman10.zipCorrected EDITIONS of our eBooks get a new NUMBER, slman11.txtVERSIONS based on separate sources get new LETTER, slman10a.txtProject Gutenberg eBooks are often created from several printededitions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the USunless a copyright notice is included. Thus, we usually do notkeep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.We are now trying to release all our eBooks one year in advanceof the official release dates, leaving time for better editing.Please be encouraged to tell us about any error or corrections,even years after the official publication date.Please note neither this listing nor its contents are final tilmidnight of the last day of the month of any such announcement.The official release date of all Project Gutenberg eBooks is atMidnight, Central Time, of the last day of the stated month. Apreliminary version may often be posted for suggestion, commentand editing by those who wish to do so.Most people start at our Web sites at:http://gutenberg.net orhttp://promo.net/pgThese Web sites include award-winning information about Project
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