Typos p. 175; ninteenth [= nineteenth]; p. 175: threequarters [= three-quarters]
Aristocracy in England
44 Evidence of Quality in England in the Sixteenth Century
We have seen that, owing to the independent inheritance of different parts of the face and body from parents who are disparate, ugliness, lack of quality and lowered stamina are more likely to characterize random-bred than inbred people. For, since facial, like bodily beauty, is above all symmetry and harmony, it is more likely to occur among the inbred and biologically uniform than among the random-bred who lack uniformity, because their features and bodily parts derive independently from disparate parents and stocks. This, as we have seen, is also true of animals. In short, features that look badly drawn occur more often among disparates than among similars.
Now, incredible as it may seem to modern people inured to the plainness and ugliness of present-day crowds, the English were once a good looking nation. And this, apart from the evidence presented in Section 43, indicates, as we might have expected, that, in certain areas inbreeding occurred among them throughout the centuries preceding the Industrial Revolution.
There are many independent witnesses to this prevalent beauty in England, at least in the sixteenth century about four hundred and fifty years after the large-scale mixture of stocks, when some of the results of segregation and endogamy might here and there be expected to have become manifest.
In Tudor England through Venetian Glasses (1930), Salter tells us: "The admiration of the Venetians for the good looks of the
Thomas Hardy, who probably knew these facts, remarks: "Physically beautiful men the glory of the race when it was young are almost an anachronism now" (Return of the Native, 1878, Book III, Chap. I. "Biologically uniform" instead of "young" would have been more accurate); whilst George Meredith, in 1875, also speaks of "handsome men" as "rarities" (Beauchamp's Career, Chap. 23), implying that this was not always so; and Bernard Shaw, in 1908, when the decline in good looks had become even more apparent, did not hesitate to declare that "we are, on the whole, an ugly, mean, ill-bred race".
The Queen who reigned in the latter half of the sixteenth century certainly delighted in personal beauty and, like Augustus, abhorred ugliness, crippledom and disease. "She refused," says Agnes Strickland, "the place of a gentleman usher to an unexceptionable person for no other objection than the lack of one tooth [she having lost her first tooth at forty-six], and whenever she went abroad all ugly, deformed and diseased persons were thrust out of her way by certain officers . . . at Kenilworth in 1575, she refused to look at a bridal dance, because the bride was ugly," and "seldom could be induced to bestow an appointment, either civil or ecclesiastical, on a mean-looking person". [(91) Elizabeth, Chaps. VI and VIII.] She made an exception in the case of the ancestor of the Cecils, the first Earl of Salisbury, whom Ranke describes as a cripple (verwachsen) and who was only five foot two in height, had a wry neck, crooked back, splay foot, and curvature of the spine. But her devotion and gratitude to his father doubtless outweighed her aversion in this case.
And this transformation, from a population good-looking enough to impress foreign visitors in the sixteenth century, to one the general ugliness of which is now equally impressive, must have taken place in hardly more than three hundred years. For we have the authority of a kindly and unimpeachable foreign witness, for asserting that as early as the middle of the ninteenth century, the English had already become an ugly people.
Nathaniel Hawthorne who, between 1853 and 1857, travelled all over this country and came into contact with all classes, repeatedly expresses himself as shocked by the prevailing ugliness of the population, high and low, and in the 621 demy 8vo pages of his English Notebooks only two encounters with beautiful women are recorded. One relates to a party of Americans, met on 16 September, 1855, and the other to a superb Jewess seen at the Mansion House on 4 April, 1856. The handsomest man he saw in England was a footman at Mrs. Heywood's. [(150) 12.4.1855.] Otherwise he has nothing but condemnation for the looks of the people of all classes.
He refers to the "coarseness" of the women (8.8.1853), also and significantly, to the "irregular-featured aspect" of Englishmen, and adds: "there is hardly a less beautiful object than the elderly John Bull, with his large body, protruding paunch, short legs, etc." (15.8.1853.) He writes of a "countless multitude of female children": "I should not have conceived it possible that so many children could have been collected together, without a single trace of beauty, or scarcely of intelligence, in so much as one individual; such mean, coarse, vulgar features and figures, betraying unmistakably a low origin." (20.8.1853.) Of a crowd of girls at some Liverpool festival, he writes, they "looked better developed and healthier than the men; but there was a woeful lack of beauty and grace not a pretty girl among them all coarse and vulgar". (27.8.1853.) On 24.9.1853, he writes: "The women of England are capable of being more atrociously ugly than any other human beings; and I have not as yet seen one whom we should distinguish as beautiful in America."
Of some "distinguished strangers" who had come to Liverpool for a session of the British Scientific Association, he says: "What chiefly struck me . . . was the lack of beauty in the women, and the horrible ugliness of not a few of them . . . my experience is that an English lady of forty or fifty is apt to become the most hideous animal that ever pretended to human shape" and so on for threequarters
Nevertheless, it seems clear that, in sixteenth-century England, at any rate, there were many in the population who still showed signs of having been inbred for generations, and in both the higher and lower strata of the nation a good proportion of people must have displayed that uniformity which, as we now know, is the basis of quality. Nor can it be questioned that, here and there, this quality must already have existed for some time. The wealth of examples of tasteful and conscientious workmanship, whether in architecture, sculpture, literature, music, and other arts, alone testify to this. Trevelyan, for instance, says of "Shakespeare's countrymen" that "they were craftsmen and creators at will", and speaks of the music of the Tudor period as "perhaps the best in Europe". [(59) Chaps. V, VI.] Indeed, he confirms Keith's claim that "in Queen Elizabeth's reign we were in the heyday of England's civilization". [(55) p. 75.] He postpones by a few years what he calls the "highest mark" attained by English domestic culture, which he places in 1634. But it is not to be supposed that this was either a sudden or a limited manifestation of quality; for English ecclesiastical architecture, alone, innumerable examples of which survive to beautify our cities and rural areas, proves that psycho-physical quality was present in the masses long before Elizabethan times. The fact, moreover, that these productions, although the concrete expression of human quality, must have been, as it were, taken for granted and regarded as anything but a tour de force, is shown by the small account in which their creators were held and, above all, by the small conceit which they themselves had of their own achievements. Such an attitude argues, not only the prevalence of artistic taste and skill, but also the prospect of always having this taste and skill to hand.
Thus, Thorold Rogers [(139) Chap. VI], says: "We know but few of the men who designed the great cathedrals, churches and castles of the Middle Ages, those buildings which are the wonder of our age for their vastness, their exquisite proportions and their equally exquisite detail. . . . It seems as though skill in architecture and intimate acquaintance with all which was necessary, not only for the design of the structure, but for good workmanship and endurance, were so common an accomplishment, that no one was at any pains to proclaim his own reputation or to record the reputation of another."
The fact that the pay of these artists was often no more than that of bowmen, and that they were hardly distinguished from what we should today call "skilled workmen", is a further proof of the pervasive psycho-physical quality in the nation; for, given a dearth of such talent, the rewards would have had to be much higher.
Here Rogers speaks of French cathedrals; but the same remarks apply to the conditions in England during the same period.
"The artist was commonly paid as an artisan," G. G. Coulton tells us "and reckoned as an artisan, and therefore artwork of all kinds was very cheap in comparison with modern prices." [(9) Chap. V.]
As for the fame accorded to these men of quality whose beautiful creations still make England and Continental Europe a vast museum of ancient objets d'art, Coulton says (ibid.): "The general evidence seems to indicate an ordinary artisan's estimation for the mason or wood carver, or painter, correspondent with his artisan's pay. It is noticeable, to begin with, how inconspicuous he is in romance and poetry; far less conspicuous than the modern artist."
The majority of these great artists, moreover, sprang, as in ancient Egypt, from the people a further indication of what is here claimed, that there must have been elements in the nation possessed of psycho-physical quality as the result of inbreeding and uniformity. Coulton tells us (ibid., Chap. XI) "it would be difficult to name a single mediæval artist, apart from a few churchmen, of whom we have any reason to suppose that his parentage was above the lower middle class, at the highest . . . the artist . . . came mainly from the poorer social strata".
Coulton does not see the rationale of all this. He merely states the facts. When, however, he attempts to theorize, he is so much carried away by his determination to disparage Catholic England, that he talks nonsense. For instance, he says [(9) Chaps. XI and XXI], "The general society of Chaucer's day had probably no better artistic taste than that of our own time", and he contends that if the article or product of quality and good taste was selected and approved by people of the period, it was because they could not choose the bad because it was not there! In the light of what has gone before in this treatise, he implies that, psycho-physically, the people of Chaucer's day were no different from the modern population of England, an implication which we now know is ridiculous.
Had Coulton appreciated what has all too briefly been shown in this Section that the innate quality of certain elements in the population was the source of their artistry, even his ardent desire to denigrate Catholic England would not have emboldened him to commit this blunder.
He himself never wearies of pointing out that the Church and religious inspiration had little to do with all this creative artistry
45 Why no Great Aristocracy was Produced
If the above is true, it seems strange that, with numbers of men of quality in the population, no great aristocracy should have come into being. We should not, however, exaggerate the amount of psycho-physical uniformity reached in England before the Industrial Era. The English of those days were certainly not as standardized in beauty as are our domestic cats, or as the negroes were when first encountered. Least of all should we imagine them as equal in uniformity to the ancient Egyptians.
If more uniformity, better general health and beauty, and a greater crop of highly gifted men, above all, gifted rulers, failed to appear, we must, therefore, look for the cause chiefly in the values and beliefs that controlled conduct. For, in spite of the many conditions favouring health, beauty, and faultless bodily build, it is clear that the psycho-physical state of the population was not as high as it should have been.
What were these conditions favouring health, etc? Apart from the inbreeding which, besides purifying the population of harmful recessive genes, secured uniformity and hence smooth functioning, there was the primitive state of medicine and its superstitious practices which, by their failure to offer effective artificial aids, made it difficult for any but the sound and robust to survive childhood or adolescence. There were also the bad sanitation, ignorance of hygiene, and the relative ignorance of the parts played by infection and contagion in disease. Small-pox alone is said to have carried off one-thirteenth of every generation. Infant mortality, too, was exceedingly high. Even as late as the Restoration, half the children born in one month died in the first few weeks of life. [(50) Chap. IX.] These factors probably combined to favour the survival of only the more viable in the nation.
Indeed the comparative stationariness of the population alone argues a high death-rate in proportion to the number of births, due largely to the toll of young lives. If in royal circles, where the most favourable conditions prevailed, the loss of young lives was heavy, what must it have been among the people? Edward I and Eleanor of Castile, for instance, had thirteen children. But only two of them, the nun-princess Mary and Edward II reached middle life. Some of them did not even survive the year 1280. [For other evidence, see (59) Chaps. Ill, V, and XI.] We cannot, as we might today, ascribe the stagnant population figures to the use of contraceptives. Also among the conditions favouring the survival of the more sound, we must remember that the nation was preponderatingly agricultural.
And yet there is no doubt that ill-health and deformity were not uncommon even among those who survived the many rigours of medieval life and of later centuries up to relatively recent times. Even the records of one family the Pastons, for example suffice to convince us that in circles which could command optimal conditions, the state of health was far from ideal. Whilst the accounts we
On the material side, as has already been noted, much of the ill-health, at least, may safely be ascribed to ignorance. But faulty diet, especially in the winter months, when too much salted meat and fish and too little vegetable produce was consumed, probably accounted for a good deal. In the light of modern knowledge, it is also probable that during these same months excessive quantities of cereals were taken.
It is on the spiritual side, in the realm of values, however, that we must seek the main causes for the partial defeat of those influences which, during the period under notice, conspired to favour high psycho-physical efficiency among the population, and the production of a great aristocracy.
Of these imponderabilia, the most important was the Socratic element in the Christian faith which, throughout English history and especially after the Reformation, prevented a biological appreciation of men by their fellows. There is no intention here to claim that the biological is the only important aspect of Man. For this would amount merely to emulating the error of the Socratics, but in reverse. All that is claimed, and with abundant justification, is that throughout the Christian era and the two or three centuries preceding it, there has been, owing to Socrates, an increasing tendency to lay most, if not all, the emphasis, on the so-called "soul" aspects of Man at the cost of his bodily aspects. Seeing that it is now established that Man is a psycho somatic (psycho-physical) whole, we can appreciate how precarious and, above all, how hostile to any policy of aristocratic breeding, must be any unilateral stress on only one of Man's two aspects. Opponents of this line of argument now cry in vain that our attitude is "materialistic"; for no enlightened thinker any longer believes that the Christian disregard of the somatic component in estimating a man's worth can continue to be sustained.
That this Socratic and ultimately Christian error was bound to have disastrous results, and inevitably made the production of a great aristocracy both in England and Continental Europe, difficult, if not impossible, could have been foretold from the moment when Socrates first pronounced it as a doctrine over two thousand years ago. And the fact that it has taken so long, not only to be condemned as unsound, but also to confront us with a state of affairs so desperate that even the most conservative scientists are beginning to recognize the urgent, necessity of eugenic reforms, must be ascribed not so
For, after all that has been seen above, it must be clear that if, thanks to this pernicious doctrine, the general population in all Christian nations is in dire need of eugenic reforms, what hope can there have been for an aristocracy a body of men who are above all psycho-physically the cream of a uniformly sound population and the exemplars of Flourishing Life?
That the influence of this over-emphasis on the soul has been progressive in the last two thousand years, until it has now become possible to be thoroughly unhealthy and yet thoroughly respectable, could be shown by innumerable examples. For a detailed treatment of the subject [(26) early chapters] and (147) and Abortion should be consulted. This much, however, is certain, that by deflecting the attention of the young for generations from essential somatic prerequisites in the desirable mate, in order to concentrate it chiefly on invisible qualities, either actually present or merely professed (usually the latter), the harm it has done is so incalculable and cumulative that, at the present day, he is either an uncritical, an ignorant, or an inaccurate witness, who claims one yes, only one wholly sound, harmonious, and faultlessly functioning creature in his circle of relations and friends.
Do you know any such? We don't.
The most disparate couples unite without the faintest suspicion of the enormity of their action. Faulty sight, faulty teeth, halitosis, bodily flaws of all kinds, asymmetrical features, a bad heredity, deaf-mutism, mental defect, even insanity, evidence of endocrine imbalance, and skeletal imperfections which in the female impair normal parturition, are cheerfully accepted if only people can find such "spiritual" qualities as the frivolous fashion of the day ordains. A "sense of humour", a "lack of nonsense", a good "girl-guide" manner, a taste in poetry, a gift for repartee, a weakness for sunsets and fine scenery these absurdities are allowed wholly to eclipse the presence of varicose veins, chronic visceroptosis, lordosis, kyphosis, colitis, respiratory and hepatic insufficiency, leuchorrhea, and the various manifestations of endocrine abnormalities, not to mention the diatheses of more serious disabilities.
These high flights of absurdity, however, belong to modern times. The English of the centuries following the Conquest and up to the Industrial Revolution, were not quite so mad. Besides, the demands of certain callings, whether of war or peace, imposed on an agricultural community a minimum of psycho-physical fitness which could not be ignored with impunity. The introduction of fire-arms, however, with its concomitants, the uselessness of armour and new
From Edward III, who married in 1328, to Charles I, who married in 1625, commissions regularly left these shores to examine the prospective brides of English Kings and of heirs apparent, in order to make sure that the bride would bear desirable offspring for the Royal line. And these commissions, which in the case of Henrietta Maria, consisted of a party of ladies, did not examine the bride only for her reaction to the jokes of the period, or for her soulfulness; they stripped her and carefully scrutinized her bodily build and development.
The report of Bishop Stapledon on Philippa of Hainault enters into the minutest details. He evidently saw her nude, because he reports that "she is brown of skin all over", and concludes "naught is amiss as far as a man can see". [G. G. Coulton (102) Chap. XLVI.] The exhaustive nature of these inquiries may be gathered from the long list of instructions given by King Henry VII to Francis Marsin, James Braybroke, and John Still, whom he sent to Spain to report on the young Queen of Naples, widow of Ferdinand II, whom he thought of taking as his second wife. Among over a score of other items, they were to note "her breasts and paps, whether they be big or small", and "whether there appear any hair about her lips or not". They were also ordered to speak to the young woman "at length" when she was fasting, so as to discover the "condition of her breath"; and they were also, of course, ordered to ascertain whether there were any "deformity or blemish in her body", etc. (Dr. James Gairdner: Memorials of King Henry VII, 1858, pp. 223239.)
Although these practices reveal a degree of realism never again to be reached, much less surpassed, by the English people after the Stuart dynasty, they were no doubt inadequate from the standpoint of producing psycho-physical quality either in a ruler or a subject stock. Long before they were dropped, the good results at which they aimed were inevitably defeated by political, religious, financial, and other minor considerations. Moreover, even if these pre-nuptial scrutinies were as rigorous as we are led to believe, they were never inspired by any concern about avoiding disparities, whether of stock morphology or of race. The Socratic elements in the Church
The qualities looked for in these pre-nuptial scrutinies were health, beauty, and the capacity to bear children in so far as these could be judged by the envoys. The rest was left to chance. Thus our Kings and their sons were ready to mate with any family having claims to high nobility or royalty anywhere on the Continent or at home, and no one can look at the Queens of England, from Matilda of Flanders to Catherine of Braganza, without being struck by the wild diversity of their origins.
No wonder physiognomical asymmetries were already apparent in Henry III and his son Edward I, and that aberrant types, like Edward II and his great-grandson Richard II, marred the noble record of the royal line. Nor can we be surprised at the madness which showed itself in Henry VI, in 1453. Whether there were any constitutional defects in Elizabeth Woodville it has not been possible to determine, but she appears to have been "always delicate" and she died at the early age of thirty-eight. Her progeny were hardly remarkable for stamina. Arthur died young; Henry VIII's vigour has been grossly exaggerated (see Frederick Chamberlain: The Private Character of Henry VIII); Mary, Queen of France died at the age of thirty-seven; whilst Margaret of Scotland, in spite of the propitious circumstances (age, etc.) of her early pregnancies, was desperately ill at the confinements that followed. It was suggested (147) that there was probably some renal trouble here. Evidently, then, Henry VII did not observe in his choice of Elizabeth Woodville the care which he took when he thought of marrying again. Nor did Henry VIII consider anything beyond his own fancy. For of all his children (there were twelve pregnancies), only four survived, one of whom. Henry, Duke of Richmond by his mistress, Elizabeth Blount, died at seventeen. Of the three others, Elizabeth alone survived to a great age, and even she must have been constitutionally odd. Edward died an adolescent, and Mary suffered all her life from amenorrha and is supposed to have died of cancer of the ovary at forty-two. In his choice of Jane Seymour, Henry, from the standpoint of dynastic security, was certainly reckless; for she is described as constitutionally delicate and Chapuys, the Emperor's ambassador, noticed her anæmic condition. It is impossible, therefore, not to infer that even the modicum of realism shown by the monarchs
Williamson, who speaks of John of Gaunt, younger son of Edward III and Philippa of Hainault, as "intrinsically worthless", claims that the decline in royal ability began with Edward II (13071327) and ran steadily on for about 180 years. [(49) Chap. IV, vi.] There was, however, only a temporary halt. With Henry VIII the decline was resumed and arrested again, though in appearance only, through the ability of Elizabeth's ministers. At all events, it may not be without significance, as an instance of the decline in the original forest stamina of the Norman and early Plantagenet rulers, that whereas Edward I lost none of his teeth before he died at the age of sixty-eight, Elizabeth, as we have seen, had her first tooth-extraction at the age of forty-six. Whereas, moreover, as far as reports can be relied upon, we are led to believe that men like Henry I, Stephen, Henry II, and his great-grandson, Edward I, were still of normal build with a good endocrine balance, we know that Edward IV, 150 years later, was most probably hypothyroid and, like Henry VIII after him, became very obese. There seems little doubt about Henry VIII's hypothyroidism, because he obviously had that "thinning of the outer parts of the eyebrows" which Kenneth Walker mentions as a characteristic of it. (Diagnosis of Man, 1948, p. 51.) That there was psycho-physical deterioration which paralleled the decline in ability of which Williamson speaks, is beyond question; nor, when we study the wild random breeding of the various dynasties, which has continued down to the present time, can we wonder at it.
With the gradual encroachment of the Socratic neglect of the body on the mating principles of their rulers, it is hardly likely that the English people themselves remained immune to its insidious influence. Indeed, we know from innumerable instances that they did not. It is only necessary to mention such outstanding cases as that of the old family of the Cobhams, who apparently raised no objection to the marriage of their daughter Elizabeth to the deformed first Earl of Salisbury; or of Elizabeth Paston who, in the Middle Ages, was beaten again and again and sometimes wounded because she hesitated to marry "a battened and ugly widower"; or of William Courten who, in the late sixteenth century, married a deaf and dumb girl, daughter of Peter Cremling, because she brought him £60,000; or of Lady Mary Grey described as "almost a dwarf" (38) and said by Neale to have been "crook-backed and very ugly" [(54) Chap. X], who, in 1565, married a Mr. Keys, the giant Sergeant-Porter at Court. This marriage so much infuriated the
Other considerations than beauty and "good breeding", in its purely biological sense, generally prevailed, and Trevelyan, speaking of times as far back as the Middle Ages, says: "The Pastons and other county families regarded the marriages of their children as counters in the game of family aggrandizement, useful to buy money and estates, or to secure the support of powerful patrons." [(59) Chap. III.] We have already seen how important is beauty of features and form as an indication at least of psycho-physical harmony and symmetry. And yet, if we look at the leading poets of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as I hinted above, we cannot help recognizing how the Socratic elements in Christianity had already succeeded at that relatively early period of English history in undermining the healthy instinct for beauty which should dominate the mating and other selecting impulses. In Spenser, for instance, divided views about beauty and ugliness are plainly present. In his Hymne in Honour of Beauty (20th stanza) he says:
This is pre-Socratic in all its purity. But in the two subsequent stanzas of the poem he ruins the whole effect of his first boldly-stated conviction.
And in the next stanza but one he sinks into the appalling sentiments which are the herald of the Prynnes, the Cromwells, and the Puritan vandals.
This flat contradiction of a healthy sentiment within about twenty-five lines is reminiscent of Shakespeare's similar tergiversations.
Milton, however, does not waver. By the time he appeared the Socratic influence may be said to have triumphed; for he throws the whole weight of his majestic verse on the side of Socrates and Clement of Alexandria.
Now it is reasonable to infer that these three poets were but reflecting the sentiments of their respective Ages and, therefore, that, apart from the other evidence adduced, the influences referred to, which were causing havoc in the mating of the English people in general, and not alone among their rulers, were already potent in the eighteenth century and had long been gaining strength.
But if so little attention was paid to health, beauty, and a sound heredity, it is surely not difficult to infer that none whatever was paid to morphological disparity (indeed one conspicuous example given above suggests this); and we may safely assume that, under the increasing influence of the Socratic contempt of the body throughout English history, the wildest disparities between couples became more and more common and were a no greater bar to marriage among the people than among their rulers.
Perhaps this is why, in the first half of the eighteenth century David Hume, in referring to the diversity of manners and points of view of the English, was already able to say: "Hence the English, of any people in the universe, have the least of national character, unless this very singularity may pass for such." (Of National Characters.)
So much for the Socratic influence as an obstacle to the production of a people of quality and consequently of an aristocracy.
46 The Subject of Section 45 continued.
Throughout the English Middle Ages and well beyond the Reformation, one of the most potent influences besides Socraticism which prevented the production of a people of quality and, out of
Nor is this difficult to understand. For, when once we begin to assess the value of men and women, not by what they are, but by what they have, psycho-physical essentials yield to matters having no necessary relation thereto. To put it briefly, an unwholesome cripple may be affluent, but he cannot be biologically and æsthetically desirable. If, therefore, our esteem for him is contingent on his affluence, he must hold a rank in our midst grossly excelling his actual national value.
In this sense it is not exorbitant to claim that ours is probably the first civilization, apart from that of the Romans, in which it has been possible to be most highly respected and respectable, while yet being psycho-physically utterly disreputable. That such a state of affairs, enduring over a long period, must have made the care and the production of a people of quality wellnigh impossible, hardly requires pointing out.
For, even if we allow that Christianity's preponderatingly moral standard introduced a non-biological and unæsthetic yard-stick, and allowed a gangrenous mental defective, professing love of Jesus and incapable of fornicating, to be set above a wholesome young man or woman who denied God and had a childish fondness for venery even so, we must rate much higher the day-by-day effect everywhere of the more potent pecuniary valuation. For, whereas a love of Jesus and a profound contempt for carnal pastimes, however sincerely felt, are confined to abstract concepts, the force of which diminishes as their metaphysical warrant loses its authority, the appraisement of wealth is related to visible, palpable, unmistakable additions to the persons of the wealthy, which leave no one in any doubt, and suffer no diminution through Rationalism. Wealth, as we saw in Section 13 above, can, so to speak, be worn on one's sleeve. It enables its owner to transmit constant and instantaneous signals
At most, it might perhaps be conceded that the one-sided moral assessment of Man established by Christianity tended to put a premium on stupidity and, therefore, in the long run to besot a nation in a way which the pecuniary assessment did not. The derivation of the word "silly" from selig (blessed), lends colour to this view. And, in this respect it is not without significance that, whilst in England at least, it ultimately became a crime to charge a man with moral turpitude, everybody was free to attack his neighbour's intelligence as scurrilously as he chose. A diatribe containing the words ass, donkey, blockhead, idiot, fool, ignoramus, etc., was not actionable. But let anyone call another a liar, thief, pickpocket, seducer, adulterer, or knave, and he was immediately threatened with a suit for damages. That in such an atmosphere, mere brains or the evidence of mere brains, tended to be rated below morals, was scarcely avoidable. And to this day, the extreme danger, especially in a democracy, of a high percentage of incurably stupid people in the population is still appreciated only by a few. Truth to tell, they are a far greater menace than the merely uneducated.
But, to return to the question of the steadily increasing influence of the pecuniary yard-stick throughout English history to the present day, it may be said in support of the above analysis, that it probably ran parallel with the progressive deterioration of human quality, due to the random breeding under Socratic values, coupled with gradually improving means of transport. For although, as we have seen, the various peoples of Europe inherited the vulgarest possible tradition from the Romans, whose patrician class had, from the earliest times, been a plutocracy, recognizing only wealth as a title to rank; there is much evidence that, in England at any rate, there was a time in the Middle Ages when people were content to work for a living and no more; and the majority, not aspiring to tokens of wealth which they could display to all, were happy if they had enough to satisfy their wants. [(135) Chap. I.] Williamson says in this connexion that in "rural England of the old order", which was divided into well marked classes, "Labour did not envy property, and property did not fear labour". [(49) Chap. VIII.]
This attitude argues both a better state of health and greater serenity than does the craving of all for outward signs of worth, and from it we may infer a relative absence of the inferiority neurosis
According to Trevelyan, the absence of envy endured up to Shakespeare's day; for he says: "Class divisions in Shakespeare's day were taken as a matter of course, without jealousy in those below." [(59) Chap. VI.] But in view of evidence to be adduced, it may be doubted whether the absence of envy towards honours and privileges not accessible to all could possibly have lasted so long. For even if the reasoning in Section 13 above is merely approximately sound and it is only partially true that the increasing demand for both democracy and class distinctions, dependent on pecuniary prestige alone, tend to follow the rise and spread of inferiority feelings in a people, it would still be difficult to square Trevelyan's statement with what we know to have been happening from the twelfth century onwards.
As early as Henry II's reign keenness about money was certainly noticeable, at least among the burgesses of England, for late in the twelfth century, Prior Warin's election as Abbot of St. Albans "was opposed because he was born of vulgar burgesses, and therefore likely to be keen about money". [(97) Chap, XII.]
Later on, the Sumptuary Laws, alone, which aimed at preventing the various classes from making the outward display of the classes above them, point to a temper at variance with Trevelyan's claim; for these laws began to be passed as early as 1363 two centuries before Shakespeare, and were again promulgated under Edward IV in 1462. Moreover, as early as the fifteenth century, foreigners were evidently struck by the venality and mercenary outlook of the English people; for, in the Italian Relation of England, quoted by Coulton [(19) pp. 2627] we read of "that greed of gain and that omnipotence of money, even in the moral sphere, which are so characteristic of England".
Nor, if we consult a sixteenth-century writer like Sir Thomas Smyth, do we find any support for Trevelyan's view. In the former's De Republica Anglorum (published posthumously in 1583) we read the following very significant passage:
"For whosoever studieth the lawes of the realme, who studieth the universities, and to be short, who can live idly and without manual labour, and will beare the port, charge and countenance of a gentleman, he shall be called master . . . and shall be taken for a gentleman." (Chap. 20. Italics are ours. A.M.L.)
Another condition essential to a "gentleman", according to this sixteenth-century author, was that he should "keepe aboute him idle servantes, who shall do nothing but waite upon him". (Chap. 21.)
So that here we have the evidence of a contemporary that the identification of a gentleman with a man of means who, in Veblen's
Further evidence of the ascendancy of pecuniary prestige in this century is supplied by Neale, in his (54), where he twice refers to the "usual mercenary motives of the Elizabethan marriage market" (Chaps. XIV and XV), and describes an altercation between James Colbrand and Edward More at the Chichester Parliamentary election of 1586. After each had tried to humiliate his opponent by casting his relative poverty in his teeth, More, in a final effort to shame Colbrand, exclaimed: "If thou canst dispend £200, I can dispend £400, and if thou canst dispend £400, I can dispend £800." To which Colbrand could find no better reply than to say, "Thou liest in thy throat." (Chap. XIII.)
A better example of the prevalent vulgarity of the Age could hardly be found. And this vulgarity of outlook is justly censured by Stubbs, who in [(22) Vol. Ill, Chap. XXI, Sec. 475] says: "The obsequious flattery of wealth, however acquired, and of rank, however won and worn, is a stain on the glories of the Elizabethan age as of later times, and does not become extinct even when it provokes an equally irrational reaction." We have seen in Section 13 above, why it does not become extinct.
As was claimed earlier in this Section, the most that an impartial social historian could concede, therefore, is not that the vulgar spiritual legacy of purse-proud Rome ever completely died out in these islands, but that it was probably at its weakest in the early Middle Ages and that, with the gradually increasing deterioration of the psycho-physical condition of the population, it tended to grow in importance until it assumed the prevalence it enjoys today. This would conform with the argument in Section 13 above and, what is more, lend it further support. The fact that the ever louder clamour for democratic institutions also accompanies the biological deterioration and the maniacal pursuit of pecuniary success, shows how interdependent the three phenomena probably are.
There is no need to emphasize any further the obstacle the supremacy of pecuniary prestige necessarily opposes to the valuation of men according to their psycho-physical quality. For wealth and the means of advertising it are so obviously extraneous to the human organism, and so completely divorced from personal health, harmony, beauty, stamina and, in fact, good breeding, that, from the moment the cash yard-stick becomes a primary test of human worth, every form of psycho-physical decline becomes not only possible, but hardly avoidable. As Walter Bagehot says: "In reverencing wealth we reverence not a man, but an appendix to a man." [(47) Chap. IV.]
In such conditions, quality among a people acquires secondary
When, therefore, Bagehot (ibid.) declares that one of the great uses of the order of nobility is that "it prevents the rule of wealth the religion of gold" which he says "is the obvious and natural idol of the Anglo-Saxon", he wholly overlooks the extent to which the gradually increasing worship of wealth had damaged both the conception and the Cause of Aristocracy in these islands, long before his time, and fails to appreciate that mere rank is not nobility. For, if a true nobility had existed say, from only the fifteenth century onwards pecuniary prestige would never have acquired the influence it certainly had as early as Elizabeth's reign, and would not have prevented the emergence of an élite based upon sterling human quality instead of on sterling. Truth to tell, therefore, in flat contradiction of Bagehot's statement, it may be said that the "nobility" we had in England from the Middle Ages onwards did not prevent the rule of wealth.
Either of the two influences examined the Socratic somatophobic values, or the supremacy of pecuniary prestige would alone have sufficed to make the production of a people of quality, and a fortiori of an Aristocracy, a difficult if not hopeless undertaking. The fact, however, that the two were combined and operated simultaneously, abundantly explains all that may still remain perplexing or mysterious in Chapter IV.
A few minor contributory causes of aristocratic failure in this country will now be considered.
47 Minor Causes of the Failure of Aristocracy
There can scarcely be an exception to the rule that where a governing class springs, as it were, from the loins of the native population which it governs, its traditions will be vastly different in character from those handed down by a governing class derived from victorious invaders.
This may be untrue of the ancient Peruvians [see a significant passage in (29) Chap. I], but on the whole the rule holds good. On the other hand, in Aristocracies sprung from the soil, such as those of Egypt and Venice, for instance, because no original act of violence inaugurated their political supremacy, high aristocratic standards appear to be possible. Nor should this surprise us. For, where a body of rulers springs from the population it ultimately rules, the normal processes by which a ruling class of quality emerges from a people of quality, are more likely to be observed, than where conquest has imposed it willy-nilly. This point will be appreciated more fully in Section 48 below. Besides, where such "normal processes" are followed, the ruler-class traditions are, from the very inception, bound to be superior to the traditions established by conquerors.
Certainly in England, the ruling class appears, from the very first, to have been stamped with the character of victorious invaders; hence, probably, the stubbornness with which, until the first decade of the twentieth century, a harsh spirit of exploitation, relaxed only under pressure from below, became fastened to their tradition. It is hardly conceivable, for instance, that an aristocracy such as that of Venice, could have lived cheek-by-jowl in the same stretch of territory as our pleasure-loving, self-indulgent, and largely idle governing classes did, with a working class as enslaved, wretched, and brutally exploited as were our proletariat of almost the whole of the nineteenth century, eight hundred years after the Conquest. Even a historian as sober and judicial as Charles Diehl would, we submit, support this view [see his (160), especially Chap. Ill, Part II, Sec. VII], and if they were able to do so, it is probably not unfair to claim that among other more important causes, their bad traditions were to some extent to blame.
Another minor cause of the failure of aristocracy in these islands is again connected with the traditions of rulership; but viewed from a different angle. It is admitted by authoritative historians that, after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Church was the principal civilizing agency of Europe. But we should err if we did not see precisely in the Church's influence one of the causes of the general failure of aristocracy in the chief countries of our continent.
The reason was that, apart from her championship of the Socratic attitude to the body which, as we have seen, was fatal to the aristocratic principle, and her failure to resist the over-valuation of mere wealth, the Church's political and sociological doctrine
For, as we have already pointed out, a mechanic is not compassionate, charitable, or unselfish, who oils his machine and keeps the working parts clean. He is doing the irreducible minimum which will make his job possible and enduring.
Instead of teaching that rulership could only endure and be practicable where it observed that minimum of far-sighted benevolence which characterized the Venetian aristocracy and which made Professor Diehl regard their government as "probablement un des meilleurs qu'il y eut au monde"; instead of teaching that it was neither kind nor unselfish nor in any way creditable in the ruler to be concerned with the welfare of the ruled, but simply as essential to his function as precision in joinery is to that of a builder of furniture, the Church taught that the ruler should try to cultivate the virtues of altruism, charity, and compassion, as if the necessity for compassion (except for the temporarily sick) and charity (except for delinquents and the victims of accidents, fires, and tempests) would not amount to a condemnation of the ruler's use of his function.
This gave the impression that securing the protection and welfare of the ruled was not an inherent necessity of the ruler's function, but a means of acquiring an extra feather in his cap. It was equivalent to assuring a carpenter that it was kind, unselfish, and charitable on his part not to use his chisel as a screw-driver or his file as a poker.
This lack of realism and maturity in the Church's attitude towards rulership made her influence in this sphere more detrimental than salutary. It reduced what should have been philosophical leadership to the plane of merely schoolmarmish sentimental exhortation, and was, of course, as utterly sterile as all exhortation invariably is.
The third minor cause of the failure of aristocracy in Britain and the last which is important enough to be considered, was the absence throughout the centuries of that highly developed sense of self-preservation in a body of rulers, which makes them see that their interests as a class are best secured by maintaining a high standard of honour, justice, and efficiency in their order. To regard their privileged position as a trust, to exercise vigilance and act as stern censors of each other's administration of this trust, and to punish by demotion and ostracism all those of their body who fell
As was hinted at the end of Chapter VII, there is no intention to imply that any other European aristocracy did better than the English. But again, Venice should be excepted. For it was precisely in their system of severe internal discipline that her aristocracy excelled all others. Nor does it seem far fetched to claim that it was probably for this reason that the Venetian aristocracy succeeded better than all others and proved able to maintain itself with prestige, honour, and power unimpaired for almost a thousand years, "without", as Professor Diehl says, "a revolution and almost without a change". [(160) Preface.] Bluntschli would certainly have supported this point of view, for in his remarks on aristocracy, he speaks of "the strict but impartial justice of the Venetians". (Theory of the State, 1895, Book VI, Chap. XIX.) For confirmation of both Bluntschli and Diehl, see Burckhardt (The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, p. 63).
In view of what has been alleged above, we may, therefore, conclude that it would have been more than surprising, it would have been actually unaccountable, had an Aristocracy, in the sense in which the term is understood in these pages, arisen in England at any time throughout her history; since, except for her insular position and the modicum of standardization, ergo quality, which, through the enforced inbreeding this position occasioned in certain limited areas, all the conditions for the production of a wellbred population and for the emergence of a native aristocracy out of it, were wanting. The most that was achieved was the appearance, sporadically, of individuals of high quality, at least up to the time of the Industrial Revolution. The peak of the period of this sporadic good breeding, as Keith suggests, probably occurred in Elizabeth's reign, only to be followed by a decline which, continuing to this day, may best be appreciated by noting the relative inferiority of the greatest figures which have appeared since the English Renaissance.
At no period, however, did the conditions favouring the production of people of quality supply them plentifully enough to establish in both the values and the behaviour of the people of