Page:The Yellow Book - 03.djvu/285

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By Max Beerbohm

suppressed or distorted utterly. "History," he would seem to have chuckled, "has nothing to do with the First Gentleman. But I will give him a niche in Natural History. He shall be king of the Beasts." He made no allowance for the extraordinary conditions under which any monarch finds himself, none for the unfortunate circumstances by which George was from the first hampered. He judged him as he judged Barnes Newcome and all the scoundrels he created. Moreover, he judged him by the moral standard of the Victorian Age. In fact he applied to his subject the wrong method in the wrong manner, and at the wrong time. And yet every one has taken him at his word. I feel that my essay may be scouted as a paradox; but I hope that many may recognise that I am not, out of mere boredom, endeavouring to stop my ears against popular platitude, but rather, in a spirit of real earnestness, to point out to the mob how it has been cruel to George. I do not despair of success. I think I shall make converts. For the mob is notoriously fickle, and so occasionally cheers the truth.

None, at all events, will deny that England to-day stands otherwise than she stood a hundred and thirty-two years ago, when George was born. We to-day are living a decadent life. All the while that we are prating of progress, we are really so deteriorate! There is nothing but feebleness in us. Our youths who spend their days in trying to build up their constitutions by sport or athletics, and their evenings in undermining them with poisonous and dyed drinks, our daughters who are ever searching for some new quack remedy for new imaginary megrim, what strength is there in them? We have our societies for the prevention of this and the promotion of that and the propagation of the other, because there are no individuals among us. Our sexes are already nearly assimilate. Real women are becoming nearly as rare as real ladies,