Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 2.djvu/738

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718
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

the Attorney-General that the English are not a scientific nation. Recently the Times, commenting on a speech of Mr. Gladstone, said: "There is truth, however, in the assertion that we are backward in appreciating and pursuing abstract knowledge."[1] Such statements exhibit the bias of anti-patriotism creating a belief that is wholly indefensible. As we shall presently see, they are flatly contradicted by facts, and can be accounted for only by supposing that those who make them have had a culture exclusively literary.

A convenient way of dealing with this bias of anti-patriotism will be to take an individual example of it. More than any other, Mr. Matthew Arnold has of late made himself an exponent of the feeling. His motive cannot be too highly respected, and for much that he has said in reproof of the vainglorious, entire approval may rightly be felt. Many grave defects in our social state, many absurdities in our modes of action, many errors in our estimates of ourselves, are to be pointed out, and dwelt upon, and great good is done by a writer who efficiently executes the task of making us feel our shortcomings. In his condemnation of the ascetic view of life which still prevails here, one may entirely agree. The undue estimation of material prosperity common with us is a fault justly insisted on by him. And the overweening-confidence so often shown in a divine favor gained by our greater national piety, is also an attitude of mind deservedly to be reprobated. But, by reaction, Mr. Arnold is, I think carried too far in the direction of anti-patriotism, and weakens the effect of his criticism by generating a re-reaction. Let us glance at some of his views:

 

The mode of procedure generally followed by Mr. Arnold is not that of judicially balancing the evidence, but that of meeting the expression of self-satisfied patriotism by some few facts calculated to cause dissatisfaction: not considering what is their quantitative value. To reprove a piece of national self-laudation uttered by Mr. Roebuck, he comments on the murder of an illegitimate child by its mother, reported in the same paper. Now this would be effective if infanticide were peculiar to England, or if he could show a larger proportion of infanticide here than elsewhere; but his criticism is at once cancelled on calling to mind the developed system of baby-farming round Paris, and the extensive getting-rid of infants to which it is instrumental. By following Mr. Arnold's method, it would be easy to dispose of his conclusions. Suppose, for instance, that I were to set down the many murders committed in England by foreigners, within our own memories, including those by Courvoisier, by Mrs. Manning, by Barthélemi, near Fitzroy Square, by a Frenchman, in Foley Place (about 1854-'57), that by Müller, that by Kohl, in the Essex marshes, that by Lani, in a brothel near the Haymarket, that by Marguérite Diblanc, the tragedy of the two young Germans (Mai and Nagel), at Chelsea, ending with

  1. Times, December 23, 1872.