Page:Essays and phantasies by James Thomson.djvu/212

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OPEN SECRET SOCIETIES

many sneak and spy to get promotion, how many would swear falsely to any extent to escape a punishment, how few in the smallest matter dare act against the ordinary opinion of their comrades. And perhaps as a rule the officers are even less heroic than the men. A few of the brotherhood are in the army, a number not so small in the navy; the others are scattered through all trades and professions, are of all ages and of both sexes; you shall find them not in camps nor in men-of-war, but in garrets and lighthouses, in huts and cottages, in hospitals and schools, in wild forests and sober manses. And they abound rather among the poor and ignorant who wrestle naked with the fierce myrmidons of destiny, than among the rich and learned who fight within golden armour and shoot scientific missiles from afar.

There is the Open Secret Society of the Saints. In how many books, in how many lovely lives, have their mysteries

longish siege? These bookwrights are as ready to bestow plenary absolution on every soldier who fairly did his duty there, as was Pope Urban on the first crusaders, "What shall I do to be saved?" asks the scamp or debauchee or desperado of a novel; "Go to the Crimea and thou shalt be saved," exclaims the enraptured novelist.

[Since the above was written, the general acclamation and worship of that vilest Blatant Beast, Jingoism, the most dastardly as it is the most vauntful and rapacious and bloodthirsty of big Bullies, have revealed an immeasurably deeper degradation of our English manhood than could have been foreboded sixteen years ago. The Court, the Senate, Pall-Malldom, the majority of the nobles and clergy and middle classes, have vied with the slums, the music halls, the hirelings of the Press, and the cosmopolitan gamblers of the Exchange, in despicable glorification of this hideous Idol, whose front is of brass and the rest of it clay tempered with blood. We have crouched at the feet of the sons of Levi for discipline in English honour and patriotism; our Queen has hailed our fitting Tyrtaeus in a bard of vulgar comic songs. Soldiers successful— or even unsuccessful!—in brutally iniquitous battue-wars against tribes of ill-armed savages, have been bepraised and honoured and dowered as if they were the heroes of another Waterloo. All signs point to a thoroughly disastrous and disgraceful collapse of our whole military system should we find ourselves involved in a European war.—March, 1881.]