THE BELOVED

What is more beautiful or meet to be taken to the bosom than the
Englishman? Everybody loves him; his goings to and fro upon the earth
are as the progresses of one who has done all men good. He drops
fatness and blessings as he walks. He smiles benignity and graciousness
and “I-am-glad-to-see-you-all-looking-so-well.” And before him runs one
in plush, crying, “Who is the most popular man of this footstool?” And
all the people shall rejoice and say, “The Englishman–God bless him!”

Hence it comes to pass that in whatever part of the world the
Englishman may find himself, he has a feeling that he is thoroughly
at home. “I am as welcome as flowers in May,” he says. “These pore
foreigners, these pore ‘eathen are glad to see me. They never have
any money, pore devils! and were it not for our whirring spindles at
home, I verily believe they would have nothing to wear.” In brief, the
Englishman abroad is always in a sort of Father Christmassey, Santa
Claus frame of mind. He eats well, he drinks well, and he sleeps well.
He calls for the best, and he PAYS for it. It is a wonderful
thing to do, and it goes straight to the hearts of the “pore foreigner”
and the “pore ‘eathen.” This, at any rate, is the Englishman’s own
view. It is a pleasing, consoling, and stimulating view, and it would
ill become an unregenerate outsider rudely to disturb it. Indeed, I
question whether the Englishman in his blindness and adipose conceit
would allow you to disturb it.

When persons in France say, “_À bas l’Anglais_,” your fat Englishman
smiles, and says, “Little boys!” When people put rude pictures of
him on German postcards, he smiles again, and says that the flowing
tide of public opinion in Germany is entirely with him. When Dutch
farmers propose to throw him into the sea, he becomes very red in the
neck, splutters somewhat, and says, “I’m sure they will make excellent
subjects in time.” And when the savage Americans desire to chaw him up
and swallow him, he says, “You astonish me. I have always been under
the impression that blood was thicker than water.” His desire is to
live at peace with all men; but his notion of peace is to have his
hand in both your pockets and no questions asked. He owns two-thirds
of the habitable globe (_vide_ the geography books), and every pint of
sea is his (_pace_ the popular song); he owns also everything that is
worth owning. He is the Pierpont Morgan of the universe. Who could help
loving him?

On the other hand, the excellent J.B. has not escaped calumny. If I
were disposed to reproduce some of the slanders upon him, it goes
without saying that they would make a rather large chapter. All manner
of foreign writers have time and time again had a fling at the
Englishman. They love him, but their love is not blind. They perceive
that he has faults of a grievous nature, and they write accordingly.
Curiously enough, too, quite severe criticisms of John Bull have been
written in his own household. Mr. Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, for example,
who is an Englishman, and apparently innocent of Celtic taint, actually
goes so far as to call the Englishman an Anglo-Norman dog:

Down to the latest born, the hungriest of the pack,
The master-wolf of all men, called the Sassenach,
The Anglo-Norman dog, who goeth by land and sea,
As his forefathers went in chartered piracy,
Death, fire in his right hand.

And the English poet goes on to elaborate his indictment against the
Englishman, thus:

He hath outlived the day
Of the old single graspings, where each went his way
Alone to plunder all. He hath learned to curb his lusts
Somewhat, to smooth his brawls, to guide his passionate gusts,
His cry of “Mine, mine, mine!” in inarticulate wrath.
He dareth not make raid on goods his next friend hath
With open violence, nor loose his hand to steal,
Save in community and for the common weal

‘Twixt Saxon man and man. He is more congruous grown;
Holding a subtler plan to make the world his own
By organized self-seeking in the paths of power
He is new-drilled to wait. He knoweth his appointed hour
And his appointed prey. Of all he maketh tool,
Even of his own sad virtues, to cajole and rule.

We are told, further, that the Beloved has tarred Time’s features,
pock-marked Nature’s face, and “brought all to the same jakes,”
whatever that may mean. Also:

There is no sentient thing
Polluteth and defileth as this Saxon king,
This intellectual lord and sage of the new quest.
The only wanton he that fouleth his own nest,
And still his boast goeth forth.

This is an English opinion, and, consequently, worth the money. Mr.
Blunt assures us that in putting it forth he has the approval of no
less a philosopher than Mr. Herbert Spencer, and no less an idealist
than Mr. George Frederick Watts. “I have not,” says Mr. Blunt, “shrunk
from insisting on the truth that the hypocrisy and all-acquiring greed
of modern England is an atrocious spectacle–one which, if there be
any justice in Heaven, must bring a curse from God, as it has surely
already made the angels weep. The destruction of beauty in the name
of science, the destruction of happiness in the name of progress,
the destruction of reverence in the name of religion, these are the
Pharisaic crimes of all the white races; but there is something in the
Anglo-Saxon impiety crueller still: that it also destroys, as no other
race does, for its mere vainglorious pleasure. The Anglo-Saxon alone
has in our day exterminated, root and branch, whole tribes of mankind.
He alone has depopulated continents, species after species, of their
wonderful animal life, and is still yearly destroying; and this not
merely to occupy the land, for it lies in large part empty, but for his
insatiable lust of violent adventure, to make record bags and kill.”

When the Beloved comes across reading of this sort he no doubt sheds
bitter tears, and remembers how sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to
have a thankless child. And he goes on his way rejoicing, unimpressed
and unreformed.

The fact of the matter is, that from the beginning, John Bull, though
possessed of a great reputation for honesty and munificence, has never
really been any better than he should be. When he interfered between
tyrant and slave, when he went forth to conquer savage persons and to
annex savage lands which somehow invariably flowed with milk and honey,
he made a point of doing it with the air of a philanthropist, and for
centuries the world took him at his own estimate. Even in the late
war the great cry was that he did not want gold-mines. As a general
rule he never wants anything; but he always gets it. It is only of
late that the world has begun to find him out and that he himself has
begun to have qualms. He feels in his bones that something has gone
wrong with him. It may be a slight matter and not beyond repair, but
there it is. He cannot put his hand on his heart and say; “I am the
fine, substantial, sturdy, truth-speaking, incorruptible, magnanimous,
genial Englishman of half a century ago!” The fly has crept into the
ointment of his virtue, and the fragrance of it no longer remains. His
attitude at the present moment is the attitude of the anxious man who
perceives that life is a little too much for him, and keeps on saying,
“We shall have to buck up!”

He is in two minds about most things over which he was once cock-sure.
He could not quite tell you, for example, whether he continues to stand
at the head of the world’s commerce or not. Once there was no doubt
about it; now–well, it is a question of statistics, and you can prove
anything by statistics. Out of America men have come to buy English
things which were deemed unpurchasable. The American has come and seen
and purchased and done it quite quickly. The Englishman is a little
puzzled; his slow wits cannot altogether grasp the situation. “We must
buck up!” he says, “and take measures while there is yet time.” He
does not see that the newer order is upon him, and that inevitably and
for his good he must be considerably shaken up. His own day has been
a lengthy, a roseful, and a gaudy one; it has been a day of ease and
triumph and comfortable going, and the Beloved has become very wealthy
and a trifle stout in consequence. Whether to-morrow is going to be
his day, too, and whether it is going to be one of those nice loafing,
sunshiny kind of days that the Beloved likes, are open questions. It
is to be hoped devoutly that fate will be kind to him: he needs the
sympathy of all who are about him; he wants encouragement and support
and a restful time.

It is said that his Majesty of Portugal, who has just left these
shores, on being asked what had impressed him most during his
visit, replied, “The roast beef.” “Nothing else, sir?” inquired his
interlocutor. “Yes,” said the monarch; “the boiled beef.” And there
is a great deal in it. Through much devouring of beef the English
have undoubtedly waxed a trifle beefy. It is their beefiness and
suetiness–that fatty degeneration, in fact–which impress you.

Recognising his need of props and stays and abdominal belts, as it
were, the Beloved has latterly taken to remembering the Colonies. He
is now of opinion that he and his sturdy children over-seas should be
“knit together in bonds of closer unity,” “to present an unbroken front
to the world,” “should share the burdens and glories of Empire,” and so
on and so forth. The Colonies–good bodies!–saw it all at once. They
had been accustomed to be snubbed and neglected and left out of count,
and they had forgotten to whom they belonged. In his hour of need the
Beloved cried, “‘Elp! I said I didn’t want you, but I do–I do!” and
the Colonies sent to his aid, at a dollar a day per head, the prettiest
lot of freebooters and undesirable characters they found themselves
able to muster. Later, they sent several landau loads of premiers and
politicians, who were fed and flattered to their hearts’ content,
and went home, no doubt, greatly impressed with the English roast and
boiled beef. These gentlemen made speeches in return for their dinners;
they were allowed to visit the Colonial Office and kiss the hand of Mr.
Chamberlain; they saw Peter Robinson’s and the tuppenny tube: and the
bonds of Empire have been knit closer ever since.

Not to put too fine a point upon it, the Englishman’s attempt to
buttress himself up out of the Colonies has proved a ghastly failure.
The scheme fell flat. The English may want the Colonies, but the
Colonies do not want the English–at any rate, on bonds of unity lines.
The banner of Imperialism which has waved so gloriously during the
past lustrum will have to be furled and put away. The great Imperial
idea declines to work; it has been brought on the political stage half
a century too late. At best it was a fetch, and it has failed. The
All-Beloved will have to find some other way out. Whether he is quite
equal to the task may be reckoned another question. One supposes
that he will try; for there is life in the old dog yet, at any rate,
according to the old dog.