The back streets, the hospitals, the gaols, the barracks, the camps-- every place in which any large number of persons congregated, were so many nests of pestilence, engendered by uncleanliness, which defiled alike the water which was drunk and the air which was breathed; and as a single fact, of which the tables of insurance companies assure us, the average of human life in England has increased twenty-five per cent. So are the services of all things constituted according to a Divine and wonderful order, and knit together in mutual dependence and mutual helpfulness--a fact to be remembered with hope and comfort: but also with awe and fear. And, to do that wisely and well, they must be more or less women of business, and to be women of business they must know something of the meaning of the words Capital, Profit, Price, Value, Labour, Wages, and of the relation between those two last. War is, without doubt, the most hideous physical curse which fallen man inflicts upon himself; and for this simple reason, that it reverses the very laws of nature, and is more cruel even than pestilence. Be sure this method will conquer.
Only by being accustomed in youth to converse with ladies, will the boy learn to treat hereafter his sweetheart or his wife like a gentleman. So down to the floor this heavy carbonic acid comes, and lies along it, just as it lies often in the bottom of old wells, or old brewers' vats, as a stratum of poison, killing occasionally the men who descend into it. But do not be a stranger to her. And if things are not going right, can it be anything but good for him to see that they are not going right? The breath which has been breathed out must not be breathed in again. It seems so much easier to women to do something for the poor, than for their own ladies' maids, and house-maids, and cooks. There is a process; going on perpetually in each of us, similar to that by which coals are burnt in the fire, oil in a lamp, wax in a candle, and the earth itself in a volcano. I should have said women rather than men.
These things neither the whirling wheel of fortune can change, nor the deceitful cavillings of worldlings separate, neither sickness abate, nor age abolish. It is good sometimes for Lazarus that he is not fit to sit at Dives's feast--good for him that he should receive his evil things in this life, and be comforted in the life to come. How much of it might be saved by a little rational education in those laws of nature which are the will of God about the welfare of our bodies, and which, therefore, we are as much bound to know and to obey, as we are bound to know and obey the spiritual laws whereon depends the welfare of our souls. Everything which makes it more easy to live; every sanitary reform, prevention of pestilence, medical discovery, amelioration of climate, drainage of soil, improvement in dwelling-houses, workhouses, gaols; every reformatory school, every hospital, every cure of drunkenness, every influence, in short, which has--so I am told--increased the average length of life in these islands, by nearly one-third, since the first establishment of life insurances, one hundred and fifty years ago; every influence of this kind, I say, saves persons alive who would otherwise have died; and the great majority of these will be, even in surgical and zymotic cases, those of least resisting power, who are thus preserved to produce in time a still less powerful progeny. In the old monkey-house of the Zoological Gardens, when the cages were on the old plan, tier upon tier, the poor little fellows in the uppermost tier--so I have been told--always died first of the monkey's constitutional complaint, consumption, simply from breathing the warm breath of their friends below. For to be discontented with the divine discontent, and to be ashamed with the noble shame, is the very germ and first upgrowth of all virtue.
Surely young men and women should be taught something of the causes of zymotic disease, and of scrofula, consumption, rickets, dipsomania, cerebral derangement, and such like. All I ask is, do to the poor soul as you would have her do to you in her place. There was certainly a period of severe exhaustion at the end of Elizabeth's reign, due both to the long Spanish and Irish wars and to the terrible endemics introduced from abroad; an exhaustion which may have caused, in part, the national weakness which hung upon us during the reign of the Stuarts. I am no pedant about schools; I care less what is taught than how it is taught. I know the temptation not to believe this is very great. It is easy to complain of these monstrosities: but impossible to cure them, it seems to me, without an education of the taste, an education in those laws of nature which produce beauty in form and beauty in colour.
Luckily for them, their houses were ill-built; their doors and windows would not shut. Can truth and fact harm any human being? For as in that which is above nature, so in nature itself; he that breaks one physical law is guilty of all. These facts justify the expression I just made use of--which may have seemed to some of you fantastical--that the fire and the candles in the crowded room were breathing the same breath as you were. This is in my eyes the second part of a woman's parish work. She will probably kill herself if she goes on; while sound knowledge would have saved her health, saved her heart, saved her friends, and helped the very loved ones for whom she labours, not always with success. These low situations, especially while the forests were yet thick on the hills around, were the perennial haunts of fever and ague, produced by subtle vegetable poisons, carried in the carbonic acid given off by rotten vegetation. We must teach men to mend their own matters, of their own reason, and their own free-will.
If you put a giant or an elephant, I should conceive, into that room, instead of a human being, the case would be reversed for a time: the elephant would put out the burning charcoal by the carbonic acid from his mighty lungs; and then, when he had exhausted all the air in the room, die likewise of his own carbonic acid. She does not know the rules of the game she is playing; and therefore she is playing it in the dark, in fear and suspicion, apt to judge of questions on personal grounds, often offending those with whom she has to do, and oftener still making herself miserable over matters of law or of business, on which a little sound knowledge would set her head and her heart at rest. It may be so: I believe the dogma to be much overstated just now. You will give opiates to the suffering, who must die nevertheless. Frequent sighing to get rid of it; heaviness of head; depression of the whole nervous system under the influence of the poison of the lungs; and when the poor child gets up from her weary work, what is the first thing she probably does? I should answer, in all courtesy and humility--for I sympathise deeply with such men and women, and respect them deeply likewise-- but are not people discontented already, from the lowest to the highest? A woman's first duties are to her own family, her own servants.
Have we not seen them reappear, under fearful forms, in Paris but the other day? But the man must see that the woman is in earnest: that if he will not repair the wrong by justice, she will, if possible as in those old legends , by self-sacrifice. These were the intellectual weaknesses which, as I read history, followed on physical degradation in Imperial Rome, in Alexandria, in Byzantium. Be a sister to her. Now, I think, we may see what ventilation means, and why it is needed. They do not like it, they will not respond to it, save in parishes which have been demoralised by officious and indiscriminate benevolence, and where the last remaining virtues of the poor, savage self-help and independence, have been exchanged as I have too often seen them exchanged for organised begging and hypocrisy. I say--women as well as men.
We who have both: what might we not do, if we would be true to our advantages, and to ourselves? Now, for this waste of words there is but one cure: and if I be told that it is a natural fault of women; that they cannot take the calm judicial view of matters which men boast, and often boast most wrongly, that they can take; that under the influence of hope, fear, delicate antipathy, honest moral indignation, they will let their eyes and ears be governed by their feelings; and Back to. Therefore they became in after years, not only the great colonisers and the great civilisers of the old world--the most practical people, I hold, which the world ever saw; but the parents of all sound physics as well as of all sound metaphysics. There are those who are of opinion--and I, after watching and comparing the histories of many families, indeed of every one with whom I have come in contact for now five-and-thirty years, in town and country, can only fear that their opinion is but too well founded on fact--that in the great majority of cases, in all classes whatsoever, the children are not equal to their parents, nor they, again, to their grand-parents of the beginning of the century; and that this degrading process goes on most surely and most rapidly in our large towns, and in proportion to the antiquity of those towns, and therefore in proportion to the number of generations during which the degrading influences have been at work. Nay, the very morals will suffer. The secret of thriving is thrift; saving of force; to get as much work as possible done with the least expenditure of power, the least jar and obstruction, least wear and tear.
And if it were so, what matter? But now, our doors and windows shut only too tight. Therefore the blood is not duly oxygenated, and the whole system goes wrong. I only entreat you to believe me, that by helping to educate the boys, or even when old enough , by taking a class as I have seen done with admirable effect of grown-up lads, you may influence for ever not only the happiness of your pupils, but of the girls whom they will hereafter marry. That this is the fact you can prove for yourselves by a simple experiment. The merest rudiments of Christianity, the merest rudiments of popular instruction, are enough, provided they be given by lips which speak as if they believed what they said, and with a look which shows real love for the pupil. She does not know the laws of business.
Let me entreat those who employ women in workrooms, if they have no time to read through such books as Dr. I must apologise if I say many things which are well known to many persons in this room: they ought to be well known to all: but it is generally best to assume total ignorance in one's hearers, and to begin from the beginning. But after none of these did the survival of the less fit suddenly become more easy; or the discovery of steam power, and the acquisition of a colonial empire, create at once a fresh demand for human beings and a fresh supply of food for them. For my part, I should like to make every man, woman, and child whom I meet discontented with themselves, even as I am discontented with myself. In the first years of this century, steam and commerce produced an enormous increase in the population.