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THERE is one of the sayings of Ana- plain that no man can be accepted as charsis Clootz which has always seemed à suitable object of worship. The to me both true and profound. Watch- strongest, wisest, best of men is no ing the revolutionary populace, and more than a man. He knows only noting their readiness to repose a
a miserable fraction of what is to be blind faith in the leader of the mo- known; his power extends only to a ment, the “advocate of the human small fraction of what ought to be
was moved to exclaim, France, done; his character is flawed in guéris des individus (France, cure every direction by pride, by temper, thyself of this passion for individuals). and by prejudice. Therefore I canThe advice is as sound to-day as it not allow myself to cherish for my was a hundred years ago. Not by fellow man any admiration except such way of paradox, but in sober earnest, as is strongly qualified by criticism. I maintain that our deference to great To the Hero-worshipper all criticism men is the direct cause of much er- appears to savour of disrespect, but roneous thought and misguided effort. this is not really so.
My critical We have all made acquaintance with faculty, poor as it may be, was given the doctrine of Hero-worship as it is to guide me through a deceitful world, revealed to us in the book of the pro- in which sham Heroes do everywhere phecies of Carlyle, and especially in abound. I cannot dispense with this those eloquent lectures which he de- guide, unless you can offer me the livered in London five-and-forty years guidance of absolute truth and ago. There is much in the doctrine wisdom. which none need desire to dispute. If men are not to be worshipped, We are all ready to admit that a great men especially are not to be regreat man ought to begenerously appre- garded with that admiration which ciated and loyally aided in his work; knows no critical limit. For what is we may even recognise in his great greatness? It would be unjust to qualities an express revelation of the confound Hero-worship with the vuldivine. But this statement, ample as gar worship of success. But, after all, it is, would not be ample enough for the recognisable Heroes—those that Carlyle. The hero himself must be have temples and worshippers—are the accepted as divine ; heroes are to be men who have succeeded. worshipped, and worship is defined as cess, as we know, is often determined, “admiration without limit.” This not by the purity of a man's good exaltation of the great man is accom- qualities, but by the nice combination panied by a corresponding abasement and co-operation of good and evil. Any of the average man.
Mirabeau is the one of the divinities of Carlyle's Panone Frenchman of the age who has theon would serve to illustrate this eyes to see; as for Frenchmen in the truth. What would Cromwell be mass, they may be summed
and set without his craft, or Burns without aside in a phrase—so many millions, his animal nature, or Goethe without “ mostly fools." As a humble unit his cool indifference to others? But among the so many millions of man- let us take one sufficient examplekind, I desire to protest against this the great Napoleon. It is impossible view of human life.
not to admire the man. Turn over I protest against it first, because it any volume of his correspondence is wholly irrational. It is almost too and you find yourself in the presence
of a mighty intellect. His ruthless, a false god. Mozley gives you at least luminous, straightforward way of
some measure of the man he describes ; dealing with a practical problem is Carlyle gives you none, and would like a revelation. But why was Na- probably have throttled you had you poleon so great ? Because during his asked him to measure Cromwell by whole life he never thought twice about the standards which apply to other suppressing any moral impulse which could not be made to serve his personal It is just the same when the hero ambition. If he had been a good man happens to be a living person. How he would have attained some kind of interesting, for example, and how success, and Mr. Carlyle, lecturing at various is the character of Mr. GladWillis's Rooms in the year 1840, would stone! But the hero of the pious perhaps have included him among the Gladstonian's worship is neither inteheroes--and perhaps not. Just be- resting nor various. A more intolerable cause he was a low man, because the embodiment of unrelieved excellence current of his intellectual energy was and monotonous pent in the narrowest channel, Na- moulded out of plaster of Paris. poleon became unquestionably great. If a religion is irrational, it is pretty
One proof of the irrationality of sure to be demoralising; Hero-worship Hero-worship is found in the worship- certainly retards moral progress, and per's inability to describe his Hero in that for several reasons. In the first clear and satisfactory terms. There place it degrades the worshipper by are few literary achievements to be depriving him of that independence of compared with Carlyle's Cromwell,' judgment which is the only safe basis few books in any language which ex- for a responsible being to stand on. hibit so wonderful a combination of in- My standards of right may be very dustrious accuracy and poetic power. imperfect, but they are my own; I But does it enable us to understand must think and live by them, not by Cromwell ? Surely not. Carlyle is the second-hand inspiration of somejustly chargeable with the superfici- body else's virtue. There is no human ality which he himself charged on character fit to serve me for a model. Scott. He gives us a life-like present- Should a man argue thus with himself, ment of his hero, his clothes, his “I will act thus because so-and-so my outer man, the country in which he Hero has done the same ; or again, lived. But when he comes to the “This act must be noble and right inner man, his purposes and motives, because so-and-so, my Hero, did it”; we find ourselves in contact, not with in the one case, and in the other, he a man but
with a cloudy portent of forfeits his individuality and accepts Energy, Veracity, and other abstrac
a morally inferior position. Wilfully tions spelt with capital letters. The suppressing his own judgment, he may roll of the devout biographer's style, end by doing what is bad himself and broken only by ejaculations of approving of the bad deeds of others. praise, becomes at last positively İf the Hero is a living man, the wearisome; you put down the volume act of worship is twice cursed; it and look round impatiently for some injures him who renders and him who historian who has not bound himself accepts it. Carlyle is perfectly right by a religious obligation to admire when he tells us that we do not know every act of Oliver, Lord Protector. how to treat our Great Men. He is, Perhaps you find solace in Mozley's naturally, bitter and eloquent in essay, the work of a High Church- describing the lot of a man of letters; man, who thought it right to be less than fair to the great Puritan; but at
“Toil, envy, want, the patron, and the
jail." the same time the work of a critic, who sets out to describe a Man, and not But this is only half the truth.
Our kindness is
more fatal no doubt about anything. We don't, all than our cruelty; our worship does of us, even endeavour to do what we more than our indifference to re- know we ought to do ; and therefore it press the noble rage of genius. We is pleasant to hold on by the priest or all can see the harm that is caused by the minister, who is professionally worshipping sham Heroes ; but that is committed to a pious life. It is not not my point. What I want to bring surprising that a great preacher should out is this, that, even when a truly be to many of us the highest kind of great man is worshipped by an honest Hero, or that any preacher, not being and loyal commonplace man, there is personally contemptible, should be a an element of moral danger in the Hero to his own parish or congregarelation between the two. The voice tion. Much satire has been expended of fervent, unlimited praise may well on this phase of Hero-worship, but I excite in our minds a sympathetic have no desire to be satirical. It fear. Remember the words that were would be unjust to ignore the sacredspoken of King Herod : “It is the ness of the relation between the priest voice of a god and not of a man. or minister, and the people whom he This exclamation may have been, and helps to live a higher life than their very likely was, a genuine outburst of neighbours. But there is in any Hero-worship. The holiday crowd at such relation an element of dangerCæsarea saw before them a striking an element of “voluntary humility figure—a prince who had held his own, and worshipping of angels.” It is so and rather more than his own, among comforting to think that if you have the great powers of his day. The no spring of faith and aspiration in king rises, and makes a fluent, sonorous yourself you can find one in some other speech, in itself a kind of miracle to the average inarticulate man, and Consider again what Hero-worship there swells out the cry : “It is the does for us in the world of literature voice of a god, and not of a man.” and speculation. A great thinker rot Alas for such gods! they are all eaten only assists, but directs the thoughts by worms and give up the ghost, of others; a great writer not only sooner or later.
influences but forms the style of I hope nobody will suppose that my others. Now it is right that I should purpose in making these remarks is be assisted and influenced by men merely to criticise the writings of Mr. greater than myself; it is not right Carlyle, a person of whom we have that I should be directed and formed. lately heard quite enough from critics To me the greatest of thinkers is no far abler than myself. My purpose is authority; he is an advocate whom I not literary, but practical ; it would am bound to hear with respect, renot be necessary to attack Hero- serving my own right to form an worship at all, if it were not that this independent judgment. As to the doctrine is working great mischief all expression of thought, it is surely round us in society.
plain that nothing could be more Consider first how the habit of fatal to the highest qualities of style Hero-worship tends to support the than the imitation of a model, howprinciple of sacerdotalism in religion. ever excellent that model may be. In all our churches there are many But it is perhaps in the world of people who believe in the existence of politics that the evils of Hero-worship a distinct crder of men, having a are most plainly seen; and they never special vocation and aptitude for were more evident than in our own sanctity. We can't, all of us, quite country at the present time. During believe what we think we ought to the last fifty years we have been passbelieve ; and therefore we put faith in ing from one type of government to a priest or minister who seems to have another. For many generations this kingdom was in the hands of a govern- on with equal success by the other ing class, the gentlemen “who made great party in the State. Mr. Gladthe name of England great, and ran stone had to lead a party composed of her deep in debt." Those men had Whigs and Radicals, High Churchmen, many faults, but they had one invalu- Dissenters, and Unbelievers, Palmerable political merit--they were not stonians and Cobdenites, Economists Hero-worshippers. They disliked being and Sentimentalists. Most Liberals governed despotically by a man of were at first disposed to regard Mr. genius; they thwarted Strafford and Gladstone with suspicion; many LibeCromwell; they gave way unwillingly rals, it is now obvious, are still far before Disraeli and Gladstone. They from putting entire trust in him ; prevented the centralisation of political but many it seems to be no less power, and therein they did well. obvious) still follow him because he
Aristocracy is gone, and popular is their indispensable man, without government has taken its place. I whom they cannot even face a general think, for my own part, that there election. Some years ago, a Welsh was good reason for making the member of Parliament told his conchange, and that good results have stituents that he would rather be followed it. But we may have to governed despotically by Mr. Gladconsider very seriously whether de- stone than constitutionally by his mocracy is not deficient in the saving Conservative rivals—a saying fit to virtue of aristocracy. Large masses be pondered by those who imagine of men are prone to Hero-worship in that personal government came to an its most exaggerated form; and this end with the execution of Charles the tendency is worked on continually for First. party purposes. Where many opinions If we look beyond our own country prevail among the citizens, it is not
we see the same influence at work, easy to form a party strong enough turning the principle of popular goand homogeneous enough to carry on vernment against itself. Napoleon the business of government. Poli- the Third gave France universal sufticians, as a rule, are very intolerant; frage, because he knew that the peaeach is bent on having all his own santry would demand a Cæsar.
Since way; they will not combine except the Empire fell, French politics have under force majeure ; and the most been in a state of unstable equilibrium, effective force for the purpose is the because there has been no man big influence of a party Hero. Lord enough to personify the people and Beaconsfield, for example, formed a impose silence on the factions. Prince strong party out of very heterogene- Bismarck, again, insisted on making
materials - Protectionists and universal suffrage the basis of the Peelites, High Churchmen and Orange Empire which he founded. He knew Protestants, the old landed interest that his countrymen would demand an and the Nouveaux Riches. Perhaps no individual to govern them, and he had section of the party had entire con- a shrewd notion who the individual fidence in its leader; but they followed would be. him because he was their indispensable It is to be noted that the principle man-the man without whom they of political Hero-worship is could not win an election or form a dangerous in this than in any other government. So they worked hard to nation. For in England all political make him a popular Hero; they in- processes are slow, and the evolution vented an impressive legend, and set of a party Hero is no exception to the up that ritual which has been so won- rule. A party leader usually comes to derfully developed by the Primrose his kingdom between sixty and League.
seventy, about the time when his The same process has been carried mind and conscience begin to work
rather too easily on their hinges. And treat them as exceptional, and give all thus it happens that, as Mr. Cobden the attention and interest we can to said, “ the authority of an English the study of the average man. statesman increases in exact propor- quite aware that the average man is tion as his capacity declines.”
not a client to do one credit. He There are some practical correctives affords no scope for rhetoric; he is which might perhaps do something to limited, apathetic, prosaic. But after abate the evils which I have been try- all, he is the important person for ing to describe. In the first place, whose benefit Churches and Parties sensible people should take pains to and Saints and Heroes are created. dissociate themselves from the open If any
historian will give us an and avowed worship of Heroes. When adequate biography of Mr. Gladstone, men lay hold of an eminent person,
we shall all receive it with gratitude. and make him the object of what the But I for one shall be even more Americans call a boom, we may, with grateful to the man who will give me all due courtesy, assert our right to a true picture of the mind of the form our
own judgment. And in average Midlothian elector. Depend doing so, we may be sure that we shall on it, that would be a document from not offend the Hero, if he is a Hero. which we should learn more than from No true man likes to have “admira- the biography of any statesman, howtion without limit" roaring, and gush- ever distinguished. ing, and twittering round him all the In endeavouring to maintain a critiday long. A great man does not dis- cal habit of mind we shall, of course, dain our praise, but he disdains the expose ourselves to the violence of notion of being dependent on it. fanatics. If you presume to analyse When Dr. Keate was headmaster of your neighbour's religion, however Eton, he was called in to suppress a respectfully the analysis may be conrebellion among the boys. He executed ducted, he will probably regard you as justice so promptly and so fearlessly, an indifferent sceptic and a hardened that when he took his departure even cynic. There is really all the differthe rebels began to cheer. He turned ence in the world between the critic on them with a grim smile : “None of and the cynic. It would be cynical that, boys. If you may cheer me, you to assume that all Heroes are overmay hiss me." There was a true rated persons or that all popular judgheroic dignity in this remark.
ments are wrong. The critic makes Again, we can do much to preserve no such assumption ; he takes as much ourselves and others from error if we pleasure in discovering the true Hero bear in mind that genuine Heroes as in exposing the sham. But if his must always be few. There are never faculty is to be kept fit for use, he enough of them to justify us in count- must beware of mental prostration, ing on their aid ; we may, therefore, even in the presence of the true.