Reading Lord Macaulay
Still more edifying, even than Edinburgh wisdom, is the current Edinburgh ethics. Herein, also, the world has a new development; and as I am now about to retire a little while from the great business of this stirring age, to hide me, as it were, in a hole of the rock, while the loud-sounding century, with its steam-engines, printing-presses, and omniscient popular literature, flares and rushes roaring and gibbering by, I have a mind to set down a few of Macaulays sentences, as a kind of land-marks, just to remind me where the world and I parted. For I do, indeed, account this Reviewer a real type, and recognised spokesman of his age; and by the same token he is now, by virtue of his very reviewing, too, a Cabinet Minister. In his essay on Lord Bacon, he freely admits the treacherous, thoroughly false, and unprincipled character of the statesmen of that age; thinks, however, we must not be too hard on them; says, it is impossible to deny that they committed many acts which would justly bring down, on a statesman of our time, censures of the most serious kind (as that a man is a liar, an extortioner, a hypocrite, a suborner); but when we consider the state of morality in their age, and the unscrupulous character of the adversaries against whom they had to contend, etc. And the state of morality, it seems, varies, not with the age only, but with the climate also, in a wonderful manner. For the essayist, writing of Lord Clive and his villainies in India, pleads in behalf of Clive, that he knew he had to deal with men destitute of what in Europe is called honour; with men who would give any promise, without hesitation, and break any promise without shame; with men who would unscrupulously employ corruption, perjury, forgery, to compass their ends. And they knew that they had to deal with men destitute of what in Asia is called honesty - men who would unscrupulously employ- corruption, perjury, forgery, etc. - so, what were the poor men to do, on either side? - the state of morality was so low! When one is tempted to commit any wickedness, he ought, apparently, to ascertain this point - what is the state of morahty? How range the quotations? Is this an age (or a climate) adapted for open  robbery? Or does the air agree better with swindling and cheating? Or must one cant and pray, and pretend anxiety to convert the heathen - to compass ones ends? But to come back to Lord Clive, the great founder of British power in India; when the essayist comes to that point at which he cannot get over fairly telling us how Clive swindled Omichund by a forged paper, he says: But Clive was not a man to do anything by halves (too much British energy for that). We almost blush to write it. He forged Admiral Watsons name. Almost blush - but not just quite. Oh! Babington Macaulay. This approximation to blushing, on the part of the blue-and-yellow Reviewer, is a graceful, touching tribute to the lofty morahty of our blessed century.
For morality, now - Lord bless you - ranges very high; and Religion, also: through all our nineteenth-century British hterature there runs a tone of polite, though distant recognition of Almighty God, as one of the Great Powers; and though not resident, is actually maintained at His court. Yet British civilization gives Him assurances of friendly relations; and our venerable Church, and our beautiful liturgy, are relied upon as a sort of diplomatic Concordat, or Pragmatic Sanction, whereby we, occupied as we are, in grave commercial and political pursuits, carrying on our business, selling our cotton, and civilizing our heathen - bind ourselves, to let Him alone, if He lets us alone - if He will keep looking apart, contemplating the illustrious mare-milkers, and blameless Ethiopians, and never-minding us, we will keep up a most respectable Church for Him, and make our lower orders venerate it, and pay for it handsomely, and we will suffer no national infidelity, like the horrid French. For the venerable Church of England, and for our beautiful liturgy, the essayist has a becoming respect; and in his essay on Hallams Constitutional History, I find a sentence or two on this point worth transcribing. He is writing about the villains who reformed rehgion in England, and the other miscreants who accomplished the Glorious Revolution, and he says: It was, in one sense, fortunate, as we have already said, for the Church of England, that the Reformation in this country was effected by men who cared little about rehgion. And in the same manner it was fortunate for our civil Government that the Revolution was eftected by men who cared httle about their pohtical principles.
At such a crisis splendid talents and strong passions (by strong passions he means any kind of belief or principle) might have done more harm than good. But then he immediately adds - for we must keep up an elevated tone of morality now - But narrowness of intellect, and flexibility of principle, though they may be serviceable, can never be respectable. Why not? If scoundrels and blockheads can rear good, serviceable, visible churches for the saving of men, and glorious constitutions for the governing of men, what hinders them from being respectable? What else is respectable? Or, indeed, what is the use of the splendid talents and the strong passions at all? I am wasting my time, and exasperating the natural benignity of my temper, with this oceanic review of the Edinburgh Reviewer. But my time at least is not precious just now; and I will plunge into the mans essay on Lord Bacon, which cannot fail to be the most characteristic piece of British literature in the volimaes. This must be done to-morrow [...] (pp.20-23.)
below, threw off coat and waistcoat for coolness, and began to read Macaulay on Bacon - the great English teacher, as the reviewer calls him. And to do the reviewer justice, he understands Bacon, knows what Bacon did, and what he did not; and therefore sets small store by that illustrious Chimeras new method of investigating truth. He is not ignorant; but knows that Lord Bacons discovery of the inductive method, or Novum Organum, is the most genuine piece of mares-nesting recorded in the history of letters. And, to do Bacon himself justice, for all the impudence of his title (Instauratio Scientiarum) and the pretentiousness of his outrageous phraseology, he hardly pretended to be the original discoverer of wisdom, to the extent that many Baconians, learned stupid asses, have pretended for him. Apart from the induction and the method, and the utterly inexcusable terminology (far worse even than the coinage of Jeremy Bentham), Bacons true distinction as a philosopher was this - I accept the essayists description - The philosophy which he taught was essentizdly new. Its object was the good of mankind, in the sense in which the mass of mankind always have understood, and always will understand, the word good. The aim of the Platonic philosopher was to raise us far above vulgar wants; the aim of the Baconian philosophy was to supply our vulgar wants. The former aim was noble; but the latter was attainable. What the mass of mankind understand by the word good is, of course, pudding and praise and profit, comfort, power, luxury, supply of vulgar wants - all, in short, which Bacon included under the word commoda; and to minister to mankind in these things is, according to the great English teacher, the highest aim - the only aim and end - of true philosophy or wisdom. O Plato! Jesu! The former aim was noble, but the latter was attainable. On the contrary, I affirm that the former aim was both noble and, to many men, attainable; the latter not only ignoble, but to all men unattainable, and to the noblest men most. The essayist makes himself very merry with the absurdities of what they called philosophy in times of ante-Baconian darkness. It disdained to be useful, and was content to be stationary. It dealt largely in theories of moral perfection, which were so sublime  that they never could be more than theories: it attempts to solve insoluble enigmas: in exhortations to the attainment of unattainable frames of mind. It could not condescend to the humble office of ministering to the comfort of human beings.
Now the truth is, that Plato and Pythagoras did not undervalue comfort, and wealth, and human commoda at all: but they thought the task of attending to such matters was the business of ingenious tradespeople, and not of wise men and philosophers. If James Watt had appeared at Athens or Crotona with his steam-engine, he would certainly have got the credit of a clever person and praiseworthy mechanic - all he deserved: but they never would have thought of calling him philosopher for that. They did actually imagine - those ancient wise men - that it is true wisdom to raise our thoughts and aspirations above what the mass of mankind calls good - to regard truth, fortitude, honesty, purity, as the great objects of human effort, and not the supply of vulgar wants.
What a very poor fool Jesus Christ would have been, judged by the new philosophy, - for His aim and Platos were one. He disddned to be useful in the matter of our httle comforts - yes, indeed, He could not condescend to the humble office of ministering to the comfort of human beings. On the contrary, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are holy, if there be any virtue Why, good Messiah! this is the mere Academy over again. Have you considered that these are unattainable frames of mind? You offer us living bread, and water which he that drinketh shall not thirst again: - very beautiful, but too romantic. Can you help us to butter the mere farinaceous bread we have got, to butter it first on one side and then on the other? - to improve the elemental taste and somewhat too paradisiac weakness of this water? These are our vulgar wants: these are what the mass of mankind agrees to call good. Whatsoever things are snug, whatsoever things are influential - if there be any comfort, if there be any money, think on these things. Henceforth we acknowledge no light of the world which does not light our way to good things like these.
Almost this sounds profanely; but the profanity belongs to the  essayist. His comparison of Platos philosophy with modem inventive genius is exactly as reasonable as if he had compared the Christian religion with the same. Ancient philosophy was indeed natural religion - was an earnest striving after spritual [sic for spiritual] truth and good; it dealt with the supersensuous and nobler part of man; and its aim was to purify his nature, and give him hope of an immortal destiny amongst the enthroned gods on sainted seats.
Just so, says the essayist; that was what they called wisdom - this is what I, Lord Bacon and I, call wisdom. The end which the great Lord Bacon proposed to himself was the multiplying of human enjoyments and the mitigating of human sufferings. Anything beyond this we simply ignore; let all the inquirings, all the aspirings of mankind stop here. Leave off dreaming of your unattainable frames of mind, and be content with the truth as it is in Bacon.
I can imagine an enlightened inductive Baconian standing by with scornful nose as he listens to the Sermon on the Mount, and then taking the Preacher sternly to task - What mean you by all this - Bless them that curse you - Love your enemies - Be ye perfect as your Father in Heaven is perfect! What mortal man ever attained these frames of mind? Why not turn your considerable talents, friend, to something useful, something within reach? Can you make anything? - improve anything? - You are, if I mistake not, a carpenter by trade, and have been working somewhere in Gallilee; now, have you invented any little improvement in your own respectable trade? Have you improved the saw, the lathe, the plane? Can you render the loom a more perfect machine, or make a better job of the potters wheel? Have you in any shape economised materials, economised human labour, added to human enjoyment? Have you done, or can you show the way to do, any of all these things? No I Then away with him! Crucify him!
Ah ! but the enlightened Briton would say, Now you talk of religion; that is our strong point in this admirable age and country. Is not there our venerable Church? - our beautiful liturgy? There is a department for all that, with the excellent Archbishop of Canterbury at the head of it. If information is wanted about the other world, or salvation, or anything in that  line, you can apply at the head-office, or some of the subordinate stations.
True, there is a department, and offices, and salaries, more than enough; yet the very fact is, that modern British civilisation (which may be called the child of this great British teacher) is not only not Christian, but is not so much as Pagan. It takes not the smallest account of anything higher or greater than earth bestows. The hopeless confusion of ideas that made Bacon and Macaulay institute a comparison between ancient philosophy and modern ingenuity, is grown characteristic of the national mind and heart, and foreshadows national death. The mass of mankind agree to call money, power, and pleasure, good; and behold! the Spirit of the Age has looked on it, and pronounced it very good. The highest phase of human intellect and virtue is to be what this base spirit calls a philanthropist - that is, one who, by new inventions and comfortable contrivances, mitigates human suffering, heightens human pleasure. The grandest effort of godlike genius is to augment human power - power over the elements, power over uncivilised men - and all for our own comfort. Nay, by tremendous enginery of steam and electricity, and gunpowder - by capital and the law of progress, and the superhuman power of co-operation, this foul Spirit of the Age does veritably count upon scaling the heavens. The failure of Otus and Ephialtes, of Typhaeus and Enceladus, of the builders of Shinar, never daunts him a whit - for why? - they knew little of co-operation; electricity and steam and the principle of the arch were utterly hidden from them; civil engineering was in its infancy; how should they not fail?
The very capital generated ahd circulated, and utilised on so grand a scale by civilised men now-a-days, seems to modern Britons a power mighty enough to wield worlds; and its numen is worshipped by them accordingly, with filthy rites. The God of mere nature will, they assure themselves, think twice before He disturbs and quarrels with such a power as this; for indeed it is faithfully beheved in the City, by the moneyed circles there, that God the Father has money invested in the three-per-cents, which makes Him careful not to disturb the peace of the world, or suffer the blessed march of civilisation to be stopped.
Semble then, first, that the peace of the world is maintained so  long as it is only the unmoneyed circle that are robbed, starved, and slain; and, second, that nothing civilises either gods or men like holding stock.
But I am strong in the belief that the portentous confusion both of language and thought, which has brought us to all this, and which is no accidental misunderstanding, but a radical confounding of the English national intellect and language, a chronic addlement of the general brain, getting steadily worse now for two hundred years, is indeed more alarming than the gibbering of Babel, and is symptomatic of a more disastrous ending. By terrible signs and wonders it shall be made known that comfort is not the chief end of man. I do affirm, I - that Capital is not the ruler of the world - that the Almighty has no pecuniary interest in the stability of the funds or the European balance of power - finally, that no engineering, civil or military, can raise man above the heavens or shake the throne of God.
On that day some nations that do now bestride the narrow world will learn lessons of true philosophy, but not new philosophy, in sackcloth and ashes. And other nations, low enough in the dust now, will arise from their sackcloth and begin a new national life - to repeat, it may be, the same crimes and suffer the same penalties. For the progress of the species is circular; or possibly in trochoidal curves, with some sort of cycloid for deferent; or more properly it oscillates, describing an arc of a circle, pendulum-wise; and even measures time (by aeons) in that manner; or let us say, in one word, the world wags.
[Note Mitchel refers to 14 MSS pages on Macaulay and Bacon; p.31.]
It was to Bermuda, also, that Prospero, on a certain night, sent his Ariel to  fetch dew. Albeit, one might hardly know these isles for the still-vexed Bermoothes, for they lie sleeping on the glassy sea to-day, as tranquil as an infant on it's mother's bosom.And was it not here, too, that metaphysical Waller, having transported himself hither to shun the evil days, dreamed his Dream of the Summer Islands? and has not Moore, also, sung these cedars? Bermuda, then, has its associations; is even classical; in fact, is apparently a genuine fragment of the flowery earth, peering above the Atlantic flood here.
Hulking (British prison system)