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anything of the sort. A politician of Cabinet rank could not be seen on the same platform with a Social Democrat, particularly when the Social Democrat's avowed object is "getting his name up." Besides, they are not really strong men, these politicians : they stand on their personal dignity : you can huff them—"give 'em the 'ump,” as they say at the East End—as easily as you can tease a child. And naturally you do it, when it serves your turn. So instead of having the dragon up and fighting him, they transform him into a rat with their plutocratic enchantments, and thrust him down into the cellar, to nibble with his million teeth at their foundation pillars. And he is making fair progress, I assure you-very fair progress.

Need I finish up the demonstration as to moral force by showing how the proletarian, once convinced that Socialism will benefit him suddenly takes high ground, and out-moralises the moralists with his appeals to Justice, to Humanity, to Brotherhood, to everything that begins with a capital letter? I think not: I only warn you that if you suppose he will not find principles to act upon in his own interest, and to give him the moral carnestness which only principle can give to those who have not fathomed what living means, you rather deceive yourself. With which final chord on the concertina, I close the entertainment.




HE supposed incompatibility of Socialism and Literature is

one of those gloomy prognostications which sometimes afflict the spirits of literary men. And it must be frankly admitted that, if there should prove to be any natural antagonism between the two, their collision would indeed be "very awkward” (to reapply George Stephenson's historic saying) for literature, since Socialism is a moral and economic force which, once started, is not in the least likely to be deflected from its career. There is, however, good reason to believe that these anxieties are superfluous: the spread of Socialistic principles does not imply the corresponding triumph of vandalism over culture, but rather the reverse ; and an estimate of the probable effects of Socialism on literature may tend to reassure those who see in the coming nationalisation of letters a still more disquieting phenomenon than the nationalisation of machinery and land.

Slowly, but surely, the new ideal of co-operation is forcing itself more and more on the minds of thoughtful men, and irrevocably displacing the old superannuated formula of internecine competition; already it begins to be apparent that Socialism—the administration of the State in the interests of the whole, and not a part, of its citizens—is not only ethically just but economically inevitable. Accordingly, we see that a sauve qui peut is setting in among those very powers whose authority was most confidently invoked against the revolutionary gospel ; for science, after blustering awhile, is prudently disposed to take up a "scientific frontier,” '. which shall freely admit of future convenient readjustments; while religion has bethought itself of the very timely consideration that the welfare of the masses is precisely the question which the Churches have most at heart. And what of literature? It is full time that it, too, should begin to form some clear conception of the part it is prepared to play in the great struggle, and of the position, it will hereafter fill. Let us assume, then, that Socialism, in some form or other, is ultimately certain to be realised : to discuss the

various forms is beside our present purpose, the one essential feature of any socialistic régime being that every citizen would, as a matter of course, be assured of a competent livelihood, while none would be able to inherit or amass any nucleus of inordinate wealth. In a State where riches and poverty were alike unknown, where private simplicity went hand-in-hand with public munificence, where the very notion of self-aggrandisement at the expense of one's fellows was held in utter detestation-what, in such a State, would be the probable condition of literature ?

It is noticeable that in the history of every nation a certain stage of artificial society—the stage which sees the accumulation of big fortunes on one side and the pinch of extreme poverty on the other -is accompanied by a corresponding outburst of the cacoëthes scribendi, the “itch for authorship,” which is the bane of all true literary feeling This evil manifests itself in two different dircctions. First, we have the well-to-do, dilettante authors, who, being blessed with what is called, on the lucus a non lucendo principle, an “independence,” to wit, the privilege of living in absolute dependence on the labour of others, are able to indulge their private whims at the expense of the community by writing books which are not wanted, and setting other people to print, publish, distribute, review, and in some cases actually to read them. Secondly, there is the not less mischievous, though personally far less contemptible, class of needy, struggling writers, who have taken to the literary profession, as one might take to a pedlar's or costermonger's business, for the cogent reason that in the break-neck competition of modern society it chanced to offer itself as the readiest means of earning a precarious living Like the unhappy vendors of boot-laces, matches, and other sweated goods, who importune unwilling purchasers along the pavements of our chief thoroughfares, so do these impecunious scribblers, the gutter-men of literature' flood the market with more or less worthless productions, and vie with their wealthier fellow-penmen in swelling the annual bulk of that vast national refuse-heap which is the receptacle for the ceaseless emptyings of our innumerable literary dustbins.

The inevitable result of this double process is the grievous degradation of literature. The vast majority of both classes—of the

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rich men who live to write, and the poor men who write to live-
have no natural capacity for the work they have undertaken ; there
is no distinction or individuality about them which can be held to
justify their choice ; they are the mere blacklegs of the profession,
without purpose and without self-respect, who debase the standard
of literary workmanship, and spoil the market for those craftsmen
who have the true artistic gift. For, of course, it is not to be denied,
but rather to be welcomed as a matter for sincerest rejoicing, that
there are many such real workers, albeit a small proportion of the
entire number, who, in spite of the discouragements of the existing
system, do produce good results; though it is important to note
that these are usually the men who are not only writers, but have
some other and more vital interest in the realities of life.
rate, it is certain that where there is true individuality, where an
author has positively something to say and a distinct faculty for
saying it, things are at present so arranged as to put him entirely
at a disadvantage ; he finds himself everywhere jostled and ham-
pered by a crowd of self-seeking adventurers, while the venerable
Bumble, who holds the power of the purse, is not usually observed
to lend a favourable ear to the promulgators of original opinions.
All which things being considered, it is not surprising that a deep,
pessimism, which is not less unmistakable because it is often veiled.
in the guise of persiflage, has settled down on our literature.

What, then, would Socialism do to remedy these evils ? To take only that one essential condition of any conceivable Socialist State—the certainty that every citizen, man or woman, would be provided with the means of earning a sufficient and honourable livelihood-can it be doubted that this alone would revolutionise the profession of letters ? For consider briefly what it implies. While all necessary writing work, journalistic, clerical, official, and the like, would be organised and paid on the same scale as any other, there would be an end to the existence of a self-appointed literary class except, possibly, where the possession of real talent gave promise of public utility. Henceforth there would be no idle rich gentlemen, who, for sheer lack of anything better to do, would cumber the world with translations from Horace or Heine, or dissertations on art, or volumes of travels, or (that last indignity) their own “reminis

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cences.” There would be no poverty-stricken quill-drivers, compelled, in defiance of the inward monitor and the public neglect, to “dree their weird” to the bitter end, and write the more because they write in vain. Incalculable would be the benefit of the mere lessening of the number of published books, and a fair field would thus be opened for those authors who are attracted to writing by a natural and spontaneous aptitude. It was long ago discovered by the poet Ovid that the best remedy for blighted love is regular occupation, and it may safely be surmised that the blighted littérateur would be directed, in a Socialist community, to find comfort in the same infallible prescription. The "itch for authorship” would not survive the establishment of a system where everyone could put his hand, and, indeed, would be compelled to put his hand, to some wholesome and productive employment; and together with the cacoëthes scribendi would vanish, we may reasonably hope, that prevalent habit of morbid introspection and that tone of cultured cynicism which have so largely paralysed the literary strength of the present generation.

In the prophetic sketch which has been given of the organised society of the future by the author of Looking Backward, it is observable that a successful writer is permitted to support himself by pen alone, and to claim immunity from the ordinary work which the State requires of its citizens ; but Mr. Bellamy, as if conscious that he is here on perilous ground, is careful to add that the popular judgment, by which success is conferred, would be far less partial and erratic than that of nineteenth-century readers, so that the literary class thus established would be at once a smaller and more efficient

There is little to be gained by speculating on the minor details of the Socialism of a century hence, which, whatever it may prove to be, will not be the tyranny that its opponents anticipate ; but, pace Mr. Bellamy, it may be hoped that in a socialised community there will be no authors, successsul or the contrary, who would desire to be put on a different footing to their fellows. For literature (here I refer to belles lettres and the ornamental departments of writing) is not, and never can be," work” in the ordinary sense of the term, nor can it be made a fair equivalent for such work; and though it may be desirable in special cases, and


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