Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 47.djvu/33

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THE OFFICE OF LUXURY.

sunken in bundles; here, too, the objects have been rendered useless before deposition. Spears and swords were thrust violently, perpendicularly through the stratum containing the relics. At this locality, too, were found two or three boats; the largest, of oak, some seventy-seven feet long and about ten feet wide, was a fine piece of work. These were intentionally sunk. Some of the iron objects were magnificent pieces; certain sword blades were handsomely damascened. Roman workmanship or influence is shown by some of the objects from these mosses. A number of Roman coins from here range from about 60 to 217 a. d. Thus we may fix the age of the deposit.

We have but glanced at a few of many interesting matters which are fully illustrated in this great museum, of which Denmark is so justly proud (Fig. 22).


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THE OFFICE OF LUXURY.

By M. PAUL LEROY BEAULIEU.

THE question whether luxury is legitimate or illegitimate, useful or injurious, is most actively debated. The moralists claim that it is within their peculiar field, and it has been one of their favorite subjects for discussion from the days of antiquity down. We can not, however, leave it to them. Economists have an interest in it. It does not concern only precepts and rules for an edifying conduct of life, but bears also upon the direction that ought to be given to production, or to a considerable part of it at least, and upon the influence of certain kinds of consumption on the distribution of wealth and on the respective situations of different classes of society.

One of the difficulties encountered in the discussion, and no small one at that, is that of finding an exact definition of luxury. Most even of the best definitions are insufficient and vague. It is very hard to find an absolute formula for a thing so relative, fluctuating, and variable. The definition we would propose is that luxury consists of that superfluity of enjoyment which exceeds what the generality of the inhabitants of a country at a given time consider essential, not only for the necessities of existence but also for decency and comfort in life. It is, therefore, curiously variable, constantly taking a new position as the limit of ordinary enjoyment advances at a corresponding pace with the increasing wealth and refinement of a society. This definition has the merit of regarding luxury as relative and as changing in standard from age to age.

To the barbarians who ravaged the Roman Empire the simple