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Arr. III.-HOW TO OBSERVE.—MORALS AND MAN
NERS. BY HARRIET MARTINEAU. London: Charles Knight & Co., 22, Ludgate Street. 1838. pp. 238.
This work is the second of a series of Publications, commenced in 1835, under the general title, “ How to Observe," and intended to embrace, in successive articles, the several topics of Geology, Natural History, Agriculture, the Fine Arts, General Statistics, and Social Manners. It was thought, that " the best mode of exciting the love of observation, was by teaching How to Observe;'” and the great object proposed in the undertaking, was to call the attention of travellers and students to the points which it is most essential for them to remark in their respective departments of inquiry. Mr. De la Bèche opened the Series with the subject of Geology: after an interval of three years, during which her own powers of observation have been greatly exercised, Miss Martineau continues the design with the important topic of Morals and Manners, We shall lay before our readers a brief outline of the plan, and analysis of the contents of her work; and then offer a few remarks on the principles attempted to be established, and on the applications of them, which the writer suggests.
The subject is distributed under three general heads ;-Ist, Requisites for Observation; 2ndly, What to Observe; 3rdly, Mechanical Methods: and each of these parts, with the exception of the last, is again broken down into many sub-divisions. In the introduction to the first part, it is remarked, that, because men and manners present themselves to every one's observation, and are not usually considered as forming, like geology or architecture, a subject distinct and apart, therefore every one presumes to offer an opinion respecting them : whereas a proper scientific training, and a clear apprehension of first principles, are as essential to correct observation and luminous classification in moral as in physical inquiries. What this training and these principles should be, is explained in the three following chapters, which discuss the Philosophical, the Moral, the Mechanical, requisites for correct observation. First, then, of philosophical requisites :—The traveller must previously have made up his mind as to what it is that he wants to know, and not allow his regards to be attracted at random, without reference to any guiding principle. To try all nations -all manners, opinions, and institutions—by some abstract standard of perfection, which we have devised in our own minds, or have adopted from prepossession in favour of some particular people or state of society, is obviously unjust. The true principle, at once intelligible and universally applicable, is to weigh the conduciveness of all which exists, to the largest amount of social happiness. To judge candidly of men and manners, we must not mistake our own moral notions, traditionally imbibed, for the universal dictates of an infallible moral sense. Hence the importance to a traveller of having studied the theory of morals; that he may separate the broad principle, to which all the distinctions of right and wrong must be ultimately referred, from the ever-varying forms which the diversities of outward influence cause it to assume. From the constitution of the world there results an universal moral law, by which, in things essential, men of all nations and ages may be equitably judged; but under this higher law, particular tendencies and influences exist-the result of tradition or circumstance—which give birth to the diversities of national character, and occasion good or evil qualities to prevail in particular communities. What these good or evil qualities are, and how they are produced, a candid and intelligent traveller should make it the special object of his attention to ascertain ; and in reference to these powerfully modifying influences, which are superinduced from without, on the existing generation, and for which, therefore, it cannot be justly considered as responsible, he will be careful to estimate the various forms of individual character which fall under his notice. Such are some of the most important philosophical requisites for correct observation on society. The moral requisites must next be considered. A thoroughly correct observer should himself be morally perfect. But as this is impossible, the next best thing is to have a clear insight into our own besetting infirmities, and to be on our guard against them, and to make allowance for their influence on our judgments when we set out on a tour of observation among our fellow-men. Among the most effectual means of eliciting the moral truth latent in society, must be reckoned a spirit of sympathy in the observer.
“There is the same human heart everywhere,-the universal growth of mind and life,-ready to open to the sunshine of sympathy, flou. rishing in the enclosures of cities, and blossoming wherever dropped in the wilderness; but folding up when touched by chill, and drooping in gloom. As well might the Erl-king go and play the florist in the groves and plains of the tropics, as an unsympathizing man render an account of society. It will all turn to stubble and sapless rigidity before his eyes.”—p. 42.
Minds,—whether pure or gross, amiable or sullen, enlightened or prejudiced-attract to themselves kindred natures; and
in this respect the virtuous enjoy an incalculable advantage, for they draw out the good parts of humanity; and
" It is certain that the best part of every man's mind is far more a specimen of himself than the worst; and that the characteristics of a society, in like manner, are to be traced in the wisest and most genial of its prevailing ideas and common transactions, instead of those disgraceful ones which are common to all.”—p. 49.
Mechanical requisites must be added to the philosophical and moral, to complete the traveller. The simplest and least os tentatious mode of travelling is best suited for acquiring an extensive acquaintance with mankind : it brings us into contact with the greatest variety of characters and conditions; and least forbids freedom and openness of intercourse. Hence public conveyances, such as stages and steam-boats, afford far greater facilities of observation than travelling in a private carriage, with the encumbrance of servants and couriers. Miss Martineau considers the pedestrian as the wisest and happiest traveller, and has graphically described some of the privileges and exemptions which he enjoys. A knowledge of the language of the country, through which our wanderings lie,-if not to the extent of speaking it with the fluency and correctness of a native, which few travellers attain,—yet at least to that of understanding it readily and accurately, and of familiarity with its idiomatic phraseology—is a sine quá non to the obtaining of any solid knowledge, either of men or of things. While our acquaintance with a language is recent, and we understand it with difficulty, we attach a greater weight and solemnity to its forms of expression, than they are at all intended to convey.
Under the next general division of her work—What to Observe--Miss Martineau lays down the principle, that in order to inquire profitably into Morals and Manners, we must begin with the Study of Things,' and use the Discourse of Persons as a commentary upon them. The institutions and records of a nation, which embody and perpetuate its universal feeling and action, furnish the best interpretation to the varieties of individual character, and the discrepancies of individual opinion, which it presents to us. We must take general indications,afforded by Jiterature, art, manners, religion, government, and from these, reason down to the explanation of particular facts; instead of collecting anecdotes and recording observations of individuals, which have casually occurred to us in the course of our travels, and founding on these a sweeping generalisation respecting the whole fabric of society. Upon this principle, the most important objects of observation in the field of Morals and Manners may be classified in the following order : Religion-General Moral Notions—Domestic State Idea of Liberty-Progress-Discourse. Religions,—including the Heathen as well as the Christian--must not be distinguished by doctrine or form, but by their inward tendencies; and these tendencies, under which all the diversities of worship may be reduced, are three,—the Licentious, the Ascetic, and the Moderate. The Licentious and the Ascetic religions, in different ways, are ritual, and assimilate with despotic forms of government; the Moderate are in harmony with reason, are favourable to simplicity of manners, and seem to flourish best in an atmosphere of freedom. This distinction of religious tendencies Miss Martineau considers under a great variety of aspects. Of its justness and propriety we do not speak; our immediate object being simply to furnish our readers with an analysis of her work. The form and character of the places of Worship, the temper, influence, and estimation of the clergy, the predominant superstitions, the prevalence or infrequency of the practice of suicide—are the points on which we are especially directed to fix our attention, as affording the surest indications of the actual state of religion. The following extract, pp. 8183, exhibits a specimen of the mode in which the writer treats this part of her subject:
“The history of the Crusades does not present a more vivid picture of feudal society, than shines out from the nooks of our own cathedrals. The spirit of Monachism is as distinguishable as if the cowled ghosts of the victims were actually seen flitting along the aisles. What say the chantries ranged along the sides ? There perpetual prayers were to be kept up for the prosperity of a wealthy family and its retainers in life, and for their welfare after death. What says the chapter-house? There the powerful members of the Church hierarchy were wont to assemble, to use and confirm their rule. What say the cloisters ? Under their shelter did the monks go to and fro in life; and in the plot of ground enclosed by these sombre passages were they laid in death. What says the Ladye Chapel ? What say the niches with their stone basins ? They tell of the intercessory character of the sentiment, and of the ri. tual character of the worship of the times when they were set up. The handful of worshipers here collected from among the tens of thousands of a cathedral town also testify to the fact that such establishments could not be originated now, and are no longer in harmony with the spirit of the multitude. The contrast of the most modern sacred buildings tells as plain a tale :-the red brick meeting-house of the Friends ; the stone chapel of the less rigid Dissenters, standing back from the noise of the busy street; the aristocratic chapel nestling amidst the shades of the nobleman's park; and the village church in the meadow, with its neighbouring parsonage; these all tell of a diversity of opinion;
but also of something else. The more ancient buildings are scantily attended ; the more modern are thronged; and indeed, if they had not been wanted by numbers, they would not have been built. This speaks the decline of a ritual religion, and the preference of one which is more exclusively spiritual in its action.”
* * * * “No one who has travelled in Ireland can forget the aspect of its places of worship. The lowly Catholic chapels, with their beggarly ornaments of lace and crucifixes, placed in the midst of villages, the whole of whose inhabitants crowd within those four walls; and a little way off, in a field, or on an eminence by the road side, the Protestant church, one end in ruins, and with ample harbourage for the owl, while the rest is encompassed with nettles and thorns, and the mossy grave-stones are half hidden by rank grass. In a country where the sun rises upon contrasts like these, it is clear in what direction the religious sentiment of the people is indulged.
“What the stranger may thus learn in our own country, we may learn in his, whatever it be. The large plain churches of Massachusetts, their democratic benches (in the absence of aristocratic pews) silently filled for long hours of a Sabbath, as still as a summer noon, by hundreds and thousands who restore the tones of their pilgrim ancestors in their hymnsinging, and seem to carry about their likeness in their faces, cannot fail to instruct the observer.”
In speaking, pp. 104-5, of the general moral notions from which results the governing impulse of communities, and of the sympathy which pure and elevated minds have always met with, sooner or later, in their attempts to diffuse virtue and happiness, the writer remarks :
“ Thence arose the formation of communities for the fostering of holiness,-projects which, however mistaken in their methods and injurious in their consequences, have always commanded, and do still command, sympathy from the venerableness of their origin. Not all the stories of the abuses of monastic institutions can destroy the respect of every ingenuous mind for the spiritual preferences out of which they arose. The Crusades are still holy, notwithstanding all their defilements of vain-glory, superstition, and barbarism of various kinds. The retreat of the Pilgrim Fathers to the forests of the New World silences the ridicule of the thoughtless about the extravagances of Puritanism in England.
“ Thus far has the race advanced ; and, having thus advanced, there is reason to anticipate that the age may come when the individual worship of spiritual supremacy may expand into national; when a people may agree to govern one another with the smallest possible application of physical force; when goodness shall come to be naturally more honoured than birth, wealth, or even intellect; when ambition of territory shall be given up; when all thought of war shall be over ; when the