He says: "There is the world of ideas, and there is the world of practice; the French are often for suppressing the one, and the English the other." Admitting the success of the English in action, Mr. Arnold thinks that it goes along with want of faith in speculative conclusions. But by putting ideas and practice in this antithesis, he implies his acceptance of the notion that effectual practice does not depend on superiority of ideas. This is an erroneous notion. Methods that answer are preceded by thoughts that are true. A successful enterprise presupposes an imagination of all the factors, and conditions, and results; which differs from the imagination leading to an unsuccessful enterprise in this, that what will happen is clearly and completely foreseen, instead of being foreseen vaguely and incompletely: there is greater ideality. Every scheme is an idea; every scheme, more or less new, implies an idea more or less original; every scheme proceeded with, implies an idea vivid enough to prompt action; and every scheme which succeeds, implies an idea so accurate and exhaustive that the results correspond with it. When an English company accommodates Amsterdam with water—an element the Dutch are very familiar with, and in the management of which they, centuries ago, gave us lessons—must we not say that, by leaving us to supply their chief city, they show a want of confidence in results ideally seen? Is it replied that the Dutch are not an ideal people? Then take the Italians. How happens it that such a pressing need as the draining of Naples has never suggested to Italian rulers or Italian people the taking of measures to achieve it; and how happens it that the idea of draining Naples, instead of emanating from French or Germans, supposed by Mr. Arnold to have more faith in ideas, emanates from a company of Englishmen, who are now proposing to do the work without cost to the municipality? Or what shall we infer as to relative faith in ideas, on learning that even within their respective territories the French and Germans wait for us to undertake new things for them? When we find that Toulouse and Bordeaux were lighted with gas by an English company, must we not infer lack of ideas in the people of those places? When we find that a body of Englishmen, the Rhone Hydraulic Company, seeing that at Bellegarde there are rapids having a fall of forty feet, made a tunnel carrying a fourth of the river, and so got 10,000 horse-power, which they are selling to manufacturers; and when we ask why this source of wealth was not utilized by the French themselves; must we not say that it was because the idea did not occur to them, or because it was not vivid and complete enough to prompt the enterprise? And when, on going north, we discover that not only in Belgium and Holland are the chief towns, Brussels, Antwerp, Lille, Ghent, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Haarlem, etc., lighted by our Continental Gas Association, but that this combination of Englishmen lights many towns in Germany also—Hanover, Aix-la-Chapelle, Stolberg,
- "Essays in Criticism," p. 12.
- Times, January 22, 1873.