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bodyguard, but to the gloomy forecast of his critics. Ultimately and speedily, withal. One may reasonably expect the last decisive touches to be given to the destiny of China beyond the Wall before the new Political Adviser celebrates the first anniversary of his nomination. Nay, I feel tempted to say within six months—six calendar months.
E. J. DILLON.
SOCIAL ASPECTS OF HOME RULE
LATELY arrived from the West of Ireland, we strolled leisurely one fine morning down the main street of an English country town, moralising by the way on the many striking differences between England and the Sister Isle.
On one side of a narrow sea-ill-drained fields, ill-kept cottages, untidy fences, broken gates. On the other side—the trim hedges and picturesque homesteads of the average English landscape. Obvious, however, as are these differences in the country, it is in the towns that they are most painfully emphasised. Here our eyes, fresh from the grey desolation of Irish towns and villages, noted with pleasure, not unmixed with envy, the old Georgian houses, solidly comfortable, and the quaint half-timbered structures, here and there overhanging the red-tiled sidewalk; even the well-filled shops and staring red-brick villas, each with its neat patch of lawn and garden, contributed to the general air of cleanliness, order, and well-being. What should we find in an Irish town of similar status? A broad main street with its uneven surface inadequately mended, as regards the worst holes, by rough patches of broken stones; cheerless whitewashed houses, two or three stories high, the ground-floors being shops which give facilities for drink in addition to their other wares; dirty sidewalks, with groups of men at every corner, leaning against the wall smoking and spitting complacently; dirty thumb-marks at the side of door and window; here and there a few seedy geraniums peeping through hermetically closed windows; but generally little attempt at external decoration of any kind. This in the more aristocratic quarter. In the outskirts smaller houses of the same uncompromising type, only meaner in scale and general appearance, degenerating at either end of the town into squalid lines of hovels, whose moss-grown thatch seems to threaten collapse at any moment.
Can the contrast between the two pictures, a sample in each case of the rule and not the exception, be attributed merely to the greater wealth and prosperity of England, or must we look deeper for an explanation of the phenomenon ?
If, as we readily admit, the wealth of England far exceeds that of Ireland, so also does her poverty, both in its nature and extent. Careful search, however, must be made for English poverty. For the most part it is decently concealed behind windows guarded by muslin and flower-pots; it does not commonly obtrude itself on the notice of the passer-by. Irish poverty, on the other hand, flaunts its rags, thrusts itself on your notice at every streetcorner, and looks out at the broken doors and windows of dirty hovels in the guise of slipshod men and unkempt women.
To say that poverty is no vice is to utter a platitude. So far as it affords occasion, as it does so often, for patient heroism and self-denial, it is very much the reverse. But the manifestations of it in dirt, disorder, and carelessness of the decencies and amenities of life are surely vices, and of a type that saps a nation's self-respect. Of this self-advertising form of poverty we Irish are surely the most able exponents. That pauperism is not so common with us, as a stranger might infer from the appearance of the country, is generally admitted. In fact, it may be broadly stated that Ireland is now on the high road to a reasonable prosperity. Moderate fortunes are not uncommon. Many an Irish farmer, living in a style that an English labourer would despise, will give his daughter on her marriage a dowry of 5001. or 10001.
The desire of the lower and middle ranks in England-to keep up appearances at all costs--and the kindred ambition to rise from their own class to that above it, or at any rate to appear to their neighbours to do so, has no counterpart in Ireland. This is probably due to the practical non-existence in Ireland of a middle class, as the term is generally understood. This class is said to be the backbone of England. Be that as it may, it serves at least as an incentive to its social inferiors to rise to its dizzy heights of respectability and material comfort.
There is a use in the very snobbery of the English lower orders which makes each man and woman wish at any rate to be called 'lady' and 'gentleman.' It implies at least some corresponding effort to live up to the outward ideals of those much misused terms.
Self-assertion and emulation of this kind, though not unknown, are comparatively rare among Irish country folk, whose natural good breeding, where still unspoilt by American influences would put to shame the manners of many of their fancied superiors in birth and education. Still, as we have already hinted, those unattractive tendencies may have on the whole a beneficial influence on the character of a people, for they supply an incentive to progress, both moral and material. Their antithesis is an excessive humility and self-mistrust, combined with a certain indifference to material comfort and prosperity. This results in what we take to be one of our most serious national failings—a want of self-respect, leading to slovenliness, inefficiency, and consequent failure in almost everything undertaken.
It is very difficult for the average Britisher to understand Ireland. Before he can hope to do so he must learn to regard her as being to England as much a foreign country as, let us say, France or Germany. Not obviously so, of course. The ordinary tourist, visiting the South or West of Ireland, will probably notice nothing more distinctive than a certain look of poverty, and the comparative absence of town or factory. But a closer acquaintance will soon reveal, to the intelligent stranger, notable idiosyncrasies in habits and modes of thought, as well as speech. He will learn that there lurks, deep at the root of the national character, an almost Oriental fatalism, the result perhaps of a religious philosophy, which teaches a disregard, not only relative, but absolute, for the affairs of this life, and leads to an acquiescence in the doctrine of 'things as they are,' rather than to that ideal of 'things as they should be.'
The same intelligent stranger will perhaps revise his previous conceptions of the Celt as a merry, light-hearted soul, constantly cracking jokes which, when quoted, betray usually a somewhat venerable flavour. This, like most generalisations on the subject of national characteristics, contains a certain modicum of truth, along with a good deal of exaggeration. Its basis is the fact that the Celt is generally at his best when associating with the Saxon, whom he is popularly supposed to hate and despise. He is in consequence a general favourite, voted 'a thoroughly good fellow--so Irish, you know.'
It is strange, but true, that friendship has its origin more often in unlikeness than in likeness of character and temperament. The Englishman is apt to like the Irishman rather than dislike him for qualities that he does not himself possess, and which, if truth be told, he would not care to possess. His ready praise of Ireland and all things Irish sometimes surprises the Irishman, who cannot always share his generous enthusiasm.
In return, the Celt likes, or at any rate gets on with, the Saxon much better than with his fellow-countrymen, with whom he too often finds himself at variance-thanks to some petty jealousy, local antagonism, or some other of the hundred and one trifling reasons that go to make up one's likes and dislikes.
The foregoing considerations will serve for introduction to another blemish, as we think it, in the Irish charactera blemish which offers a serious obstacle to successful self-government. For want of better summary of its symptoms, we may call it an incompatibility of temper between Irishmen of the same social status. It is often assumed by the British public that the Irish tenant lives, so to speak, at daggers drawn with his landlord,
the landlord being regarded, according to individual political leanings, as either a petty tyrant or a cowed or boycotted worm. As a matter of fact, the two parties, as a rule, live on friendly, if somewhat distant, terms with one another. The people are still ready to regard the gentry as their natural leaders, or would be so with a little encouragement.
To this subject we shall refer again. It has been introduced here merely to explain and qualify our criticism of the attitude of Irishmen to each other.
It is not with his landlord or with those removed from him by nationality, creed, or social standing that the Irishman most often quarrels. It is rather his next-door neighbour, more especially if such neighbour be also his cousin, brother, parent, son, or otherwise related to him by ties of duty or kinship, who will be the object of his enmity.
Deadly and long lived sometimes are these feuds between neighbours, poisoning the social life of a rural neighbourhood and supplying a fresh incentive to the rising generation to escape from an environment of petty spite or active malevolence by flying the country. Occasionally these feuds arise on a larger scale and come out in faction fights with their 'casualties,' even nowadays, in the shape of broken heads and more serious injuries. Bad, however, as these physical outrages may be, they are not so mischievous as the spirit of savagery and revenge of which they are the outcome.
When the Irish peasant or farmer is not quarrelling with his neighbour he is often, for one cause or another, afraid of him. The fear is sometimes of what his neighbour may say about him, for he dreads sarcasm and ridicule more, perhaps, than anything else. At other times, not without reason, he is afraid of what he may do to him. The jibe, the taunt, the practical joke may have even deadly consequence both for author and victim.
Not only are the lower classes in Ireland prone to quarrel among themselves on the most trivial occasion, they are to an extraordinary degree mutually suspicious and mistrustful. Not altogether without cause, we fear. Are not the dreary annals of Irish history filled with records of pledges broken and friends betrayed? It has often been said that if you roast an Irishman you will always find another Irishman to turn the spit. The truth of the saying in a general sense is undeniable. A Scot will help a brother Scot up the social ladder, at least so long as such help will not prejudice his own chances. An Irishman will kick away the ladder rather than let his fellow-countryman get his foot upon one of the higher rungs. All the while, if he be, like most successful Irishmen, a politician, he will talk loudly enough of Patriotism, of Ireland a Nation,' of 'Love and Brotherhood.'