Beelingo.com

Anticipations

IV

Certain Social Reactions

We are now in a position to point out and consider certain general ways in which the various factors and elements in the deliquescent society of the present time will react one upon another, and to speculate what definite statements, if any, it may seem reasonable to make about the individual people of the year 2000—or thereabouts—from the reaction of these classes we have attempted to define.

To begin with, it may prove convenient to speculate upon the trend of development of that class about which we have the most grounds for certainty in the coming time. The shareholding class, the rout of the Abyss, the speculator, may develop in countless ways according to the varying development of exterior influences upon them, but of the most typical portion of the central body, the section containing the scientific engineering or scientific medical sort of people, we can postulate certain tendencies with some confidence. Certain ways of thought they must develop, certain habits of mind and eye they will radiate out into the adjacent portions of the social mass. We can even, I think, deduce some conception of the home in which a fairly typical example of this body will be living within a reasonable term of years.

The mere fact that a man is an engineer or a doctor, for example, should imply now, and certainly will imply in the future, that he has received an education of a certain definite type; he will have a general acquaintance with the scientific interpretation of the universe, and he will have acquired certain positive and practical habits of mind. If the methods of thought of any individual in this central body are not practical and positive, he will tend to drift out of it to some more congenial employment. He will almost necessarily have a strong imperative to duty quite apart from whatever theological opinions he may entertain, because if he has not such an inherent imperative, life will have very many more alluring prospects than this. His religious conclusions, whatever they may be, will be based upon some orderly theological system that must have honestly admitted and reconciled his scientific beliefs; the emotional and mystical elements in his religion will be subordinate or absent. Essentially he will be a moral man, certainly so far as to exercise self-restraint and live in an ordered way. Unless this is so, he will be unable to give his principal energies to thought and work—that is, he will not be a good typical engineer. If sensuality appear at all largely in this central body, therefore,—a point we must leave open here—it will appear without any trappings of sentiment or mysticism, frankly on Pauline lines, wine for the stomach's sake, and it is better to marry than to burn, a concession to the flesh necessary to secure efficiency. Assuming in our typical case that pure indulgence does not appear or flares and passes, then either he will be single or more or less married. The import of that "more or less" will be discussed later, for the present we may very conveniently conceive him married under the traditional laws of Christendom. Having a mind considerably engaged, he will not have the leisure for a wife of the distracting, perplexing personality kind, and in our typical case, which will be a typically sound and successful one, we may picture him wedded to a healthy, intelligent, and loyal person, who will be her husband's companion in their common leisure, and as mother of their three or four children and manager of his household, as much of a technically capable individual as himself. He will be a father of several children, I think, because his scientific mental basis will incline him to see the whole of life as a struggle to survive; he will recognize that a childless, sterile life, however pleasant, is essentially failure and perversion, and he will conceive his honour involved in the possession of offspring.

Such a couple will probably dress with a view to decent convenience, they will not set the fashions, as I shall presently point out, but they will incline to steady and sober them, they will avoid exciting colour contrasts and bizarre contours. They will not be habitually promenaders, or greatly addicted to theatrical performances; they will probably find their secondary interests—the cardinal one will of course be the work in hand—in a not too imaginative prose literature, in travel and journeys and in the less sensuous aspects of music. They will probably take a considerable interest in public affairs. Their ménage, which will consist of father, mother, and children, will, I think, in all probability, be servantless.

They will probably not keep a servant for two very excellent reasons, because in the first place they will not want one, and in the second they will not get one if they do. A servant is necessary in the small, modern house, partly to supplement the deficiencies of the wife, but mainly to supplement the deficiencies of the house. She comes to cook and perform various skilled duties that the wife lacks either knowledge or training, or both, to perform regularly and expeditiously. Usually it must be confessed that the servant in the small household fails to perform these skilled duties completely. But the great proportion of the servant's duties consists merely in drudgery that the stupidities of our present-day method of house construction entail, and which the more sanely constructed house of the future will avoid. Consider, for instance, the wanton disregard of avoidable toil displayed in building houses with a service basement without lifts! Then most dusting and sweeping would be quite avoidable if houses were wiselier done. It is the lack of proper warming appliances which necessitates a vast amount of coal carrying and dirt distribution, and it is this dirt mainly that has so painfully to be removed again. The house of the future will probably be warmed in its walls from some power-generating station, as, indeed, already very many houses are lit at the present day. The lack of sane methods of ventilation also enhances the general dirtiness and dustiness of the present-day home, and gas-lighting and the use of tarnishable metals, wherever possible, involve further labour. But air will enter the house of the future through proper tubes in the walls, which will warm it and capture its dust, and it will be spun out again by a simple mechanism. And by simple devices such sweeping as still remains necessary can be enormously lightened. The fact that in existing homes the skirting meets the floor at right angles makes sweeping about twice as troublesome as it will be when people have the sense and ability to round off the angle between wall and floor.

So one great lump of the servant's toil will practically disappear. Two others are already disappearing. In many houses there are still the offensive duties of filling lamps and blacking boots to be done. Our coming house, however, will have no lamps to need filling, and, as for the boots, really intelligent people will feel the essential ugliness of wearing the evidence of constant manual toil upon their persons. They will wear sorts of shoes and boots that can be cleaned by wiping in a minute or so. Take now the bedroom work. The lack of ingenuity in sanitary fittings at present forbids the obvious convenience of hot and cold water supply to the bedroom, and there is a mighty fetching and carrying of water and slops to be got through daily. All that will cease. Every bedroom will have its own bath-dressing room which any well-bred person will be intelligent and considerate enough to use and leave without the slightest disarrangement. This, so far as "upstairs" goes, really only leaves bedmaking to be done, and a bed does not take five minutes to make. Downstairs a vast amount of needless labour at present arises out of table wear. "Washing up" consists of a tedious cleansing and wiping of each table utensil in turn, whereas it should be possible to immerse all dirty table wear in a suitable solvent for a few minutes and then run that off for the articles to dry. The application of solvents to window cleaning, also, would be a possible thing but for the primitive construction of our windows, which prevents anything but a painful rub, rub, rub, with the leather. A friend of mine in domestic service tells me that this rubbing is to get the window dry, and this seems to be the general impression, but I think it incorrect. The water is not an adequate solvent, and enough cannot be used under existing conditions. Consequently, if the window is cleaned and left wet, it dries in drops, and these drops contain dirt in solution which remain as spots. But water containing a suitable solvent could quite simply be made to run down a window for a few minutes from pinholes in a pipe above into a groove below, and this could be followed by pure rain water for an equal time, and in this way the whole window cleaning in the house could, I imagine, be reduced to the business of turning on a tap.

There remains the cooking. To-day cooking, with its incidentals, is a very serious business; the coaling, the ashes, the horrible moments of heat, the hot black things to handle, the silly vague recipes, the want of neat apparatus, and the want of intelligence to demand or use neat apparatus. One always imagines a cook working with a crimsoned face and bare blackened arms. But with a neat little range, heated by electricity and provided with thermometers, with absolutely controllable temperatures and proper heat screens, cooking might very easily be made a pleasant amusement for intelligent invalid ladies. Which reminds one, by-the-by, as an added detail to our previous sketch of the scenery of the days to come, that there will be no chimneys at all to the house of the future of this type, except the flue for the kitchen smells.[30] This will not only abolish the chimney stack, but make the roof a clean and pleasant addition to the garden spaces of the home.

I do not know how long all these things will take to arrive. The erection of a series of experimental labour-saving houses by some philanthropic person, for exhibition and discussion, would certainly bring about a very extraordinary advance in domestic comfort even in the immediate future, but the fashions in philanthropy do not trend in such practical directions; if they did, the philanthropic person would probably be too amenable to flattery to escape the pushful patentee and too sensitive to avail himself of criticism (which rarely succeeds in being both penetrating and polite), and it will probably be many years before the cautious enterprise of advertising firms approximates to the economies that are theoretically possible to-day. But certainly the engineering and medical sorts of person will be best able to appreciate the possibilities of cutting down the irksome labours of the contemporary home, and most likely to first demand and secure them.

The wife of this ideal home may probably have a certain distaste for vicarious labour, that so far as the immediate minimum of duties goes will probably carry her through them. There will be few servants obtainable for the small homes of the future, and that may strengthen her sentiments. Hardly any woman seems to object to a system of things which provides that another woman should be made rough-handed and kept rough-minded for her sake, but with the enormous diffusion of levelling information that is going on, a perfectly valid objection will probably come from the other side in this transaction. The servants of the past and the only good servants of to-day are the children of servants or the children of the old labour base of the social pyramid, until recently a necessary and self-respecting element in the State. Machinery has smashed that base and scattered its fragments; the tradition of self-respecting inferiority is being utterly destroyed in the world. The contingents of the Abyss, even, will not supply daughters for this purpose. In the community of the United States no native-born race of white servants has appeared, and the emancipated young negress degenerates towards the impossible—which is one of the many stimulants to small ingenuities that may help very powerfully to give that nation the industrial leadership of the world. The servant of the future, if indeed she should still linger in the small household, will be a person alive to a social injustice and the unsuccessful rival of the wife. Such servants as wealth will retain will be about as really loyal and servile as hotel waiters, and on the same terms. For the middling sort of people in the future maintaining a separate ménage there is nothing for it but the practically automatic house or flat, supplemented, perhaps, by the restaurant or the hotel.

Almost certainly, for reasons detailed in the second chapter of these Anticipations, this household, if it is an ideal type, will be situated away from the central "Town" nucleus and in pleasant surroundings. And I imagine that the sort of woman who would be mother and mistress of such a home would not be perfectly content unless there were a garden about the house. On account of the servant difficulty, again, this garden would probably be less laboriously neat than many of our gardens to-day—no "bedding-out," for example, and a certain parsimony of mown lawn....

To such a type of home it seems the active, scientifically trained people will tend. But usually, I think, the prophet is inclined to over estimate the number of people who will reach this condition of affairs in a generation or so, and to under estimate the conflicting tendencies that will make its attainment difficult to all, and impossible to many, and that will for many years tint and blotch the achievement of those who succeed with patches of unsympathetic colour. To understand just how modifications may come in, it is necessary to consider the probable line of development of another of the four main elements in the social body of the coming time. As a consequence and visible expression of the great new growth of share and stock property there will be scattered through the whole social body, concentrated here perhaps, and diffused there, but everywhere perceived, the members of that new class of the irresponsible wealthy, a class, as I have already pointed out in the preceding chapter, miscellaneous and free to a degree quite unprecedented in the world's history. Quite inevitably great sections of this miscellany will develop characteristics almost diametrically opposed to those of the typical working expert class, and their gravitational attraction may influence the lives of this more efficient, finally more powerful, but at present much less wealthy, class to a very considerable degree of intimacy.

The rich shareholder and the skilled expert must necessarily be sharply contrasted types, and of the two it must be borne in mind that it is the rich shareholder who spends the money. While occupation and skill incline one towards severity and economy, leisure and unlimited means involve relaxation and demand the adventitious interest of decoration. The shareholder will be the decorative influence in the State. So far as there will be a typical shareholder's house, we may hazard that it will have rich colours, elaborate hangings, stained glass adornments, and added interests in great abundance. This "leisure class" will certainly employ the greater proportion of the artists, decorators, fabric makers, and the like, of the coming time. It will dominate the world of art—and we may say, with some confidence, that it will influence it in certain directions. For example, standing apart from the movement of the world, as they will do to a very large extent, the archaic, opulently done, will appeal irresistibly to very many of these irresponsible rich as the very quintessence of art. They will come to art with uncritical, cultured minds, full of past achievements, ignorant of present necessities. Art will be something added to life—something stuck on and richly reminiscent—not a manner pervading all real things. We may be pretty sure that very few will grasp the fact that an iron bridge or a railway engine may be artistically done—these will not be "art" objects, but hostile novelties. And, on the other hand, we can pretty confidently foretell a spacious future and much amplification for that turgid, costly, and deliberately anti-contemporary group of styles of which William Morris and his associates have been the fortunate pioneers. And the same principles will apply to costume. A non-functional class of people cannot have a functional costume, the whole scheme of costume, as it will be worn by the wealthy classes in the coming years, will necessarily be of that character which is called fancy dress. Few people will trouble to discover the most convenient forms and materials, and endeavour to simplify them and reduce them to beautiful forms, while endless enterprising tradesmen will be alert for a perpetual succession of striking novelties. The women will ransack the ages for becoming and alluring anachronisms, the men will appear in the elaborate uniforms of "games," in modifications of "court" dress, in picturesque revivals of national costumes, in epidemic fashions of the most astonishing sort....

Now, these people, so far as they are spenders of money, and so far as he is a spender of money, will stand to this ideal engineering sort of person, who is the vitally important citizen of a progressive scientific State, in a competitive relation. In most cases, whenever there is something that both want, one against the other, the shareholder will get it; in most cases, where it is a matter of calling the tune, the shareholder will call the tune. For example, the young architect, conscious of exceptional ability, will have more or less clearly before him the alternatives of devoting himself to the novel, intricate, and difficult business of designing cheap, simple, and mechanically convenient homes for people who will certainly not be highly remunerative, and will probably be rather acutely critical, or of perfecting himself in some period of romantic architecture, or striking out some startling and attractive novelty of manner or material which will be certain, sooner or later, to meet its congenial shareholder. Even if he hover for a time between these alternatives, he will need to be a person not only of exceptional gifts, but what is by no means a common accompaniment of exceptional gifts, exceptional strength of character, to take the former line. Consequently, for many years yet, most of the experimental buildings and novel designs, that initiate discussion and develop the general taste, will be done primarily to please the more originative shareholders and not to satisfy the demands of our engineer or doctor; and the strictly commercial builders, who will cater for all but the wealthiest engineers, scientific investigators, and business men, being unable to afford specific designs, will—amidst the disregarded curses of these more intelligent customers—still simply reproduce in a cheaper and mutilated form such examples as happen to be set. Practically, that is to say, the shareholder will buy up almost all the available architectural talent.

This modifies our conception of the outer appearance of that little house we imagined. Unless it happens to be the house of an exceptionally prosperous member of the utilitarian professions, it will lack something of the neat directness implicit in our description, something of that inevitable beauty that arises out of the perfect attainment of ends—for very many years, at any rate. It will almost certainly be tinted, it may even be saturated, with the secondhand archaic. The owner may object, but a busy man cannot stop his life work to teach architects what they ought to know. It may be heated electrically, but it will have sham chimneys, in whose darkness, unless they are built solid, dust and filth will gather, and luckless birds and insects pass horrible last hours of ineffectual struggle. It may have automatic window-cleaning arrangements, but they will be hidden by "picturesque" mullions. The sham chimneys will, perhaps, be made to smoke genially in winter by some ingenious contrivance, there may be sham open fireplaces within, with ingle nooks about the sham glowing logs. The needlessly steep roofs will have a sham sag and sham timbered gables, and probably forced lichens will give it a sham appearance of age. Just that feeble-minded contemporary shirking of the truth of things that has given the world such stockbroker in armour affairs as the Tower Bridge and historical romance, will, I fear, worry the lucid mind in a great multitude of the homes that the opening half, at least, of this century will produce.

In quite a similar way the shareholding body will buy up all the clever and more enterprising makers and designers of clothing and adornment, he will set the fashion of almost all ornament, in bookbinding and printing and painting, for example, furnishing, and indeed of almost all things that are not primarily produced "for the million," as the phrase goes. And where that sort of thing comes in, then, so far as the trained and intelligent type of man goes, for many years yet it will be simply a case of the nether instead of the upper millstone. Just how far the influence and contagion of the shareholding mass will reach into this imaginary household of non-shareholding efficients, and just how far the influence of science and mechanism will penetrate the minds and methods of the rich, becomes really one of the most important questions with which these speculations will deal. For this argument that he will perhaps be able to buy up the architect and the tailor and the decorator and so forth is merely preliminary to the graver issue. It is just possible that the shareholder may, to a very large extent—in a certain figurative sense, at least—buy up much of the womankind that would otherwise be available to constitute those severe, capable, and probably by no means unhappy little establishments to which our typical engineers will tend, and so prevent many women from becoming mothers of a regenerating world. The huge secretion of irresponsible wealth by the social organism is certain to affect the tone of thought of the entire feminine sex profoundly—the exact nature of this influence we may now consider.

The gist of this inquiry lies in the fact that, while a man's starting position in this world of to-day is entirely determined by the conditions of his birth and early training, and his final position the slow elaborate outcome of his own sustained efforts to live, a woman, from the age of sixteen onward—as the world goes now—is essentially adventurous, the creature of circumstances largely beyond her control and foresight. A virile man, though he, too, is subject to accidents, may, upon most points, still hope to plan and determine his life; the life of a woman is all accident. Normally she lives in relation to some specific man, and until that man is indicated her preparation for life must be of the most tentative sort. She lives, going nowhere, like a cabman on the crawl, and at any time she may find it open to her to assist some pleasure-loving millionaire to spend his millions, or to play her part in one of the many real, original, and only derivatives of the former aristocratic "Society" that have developed themselves among independent people. Even if she is a serious and labour-loving type, some shareholder may tempt her with the prospect of developing her exceptional personality in ease and freedom and in "doing good" with his money. With the continued growth of the shareholding class, the brighter-looking matrimonial chances, not to speak of the glittering opportunities that are not matrimonial, will increase. Reading is now the privilege of all classes, there are few secrets of etiquette that a clever lower-class girl will fail to learn, there are few such girls, even now, who are not aware of their wide opportunities, or at least their wide possibilities, of luxury and freedom, there are still fewer who, knowing as much, do not let it affect their standards and conception of life. The whole mass of modern fiction written by women for women, indeed, down to the cheapest novelettes, is saturated with the romance of mésalliance. And even when the specific man has appeared, the adventurous is still not shut out of a woman's career. A man's affections may wander capriciously and leave him but a little poorer or a little better placed; for the women they wander from, however, the issue is an infinitely graver one, and the serious wandering of a woman's fancy may mean the beginning of a new world for her. At any moment the chances of death may make the wife a widow, may sweep out of existence all that she had made fundamental in her life, may enrich her with insurance profits or hurl her into poverty, and restore all the drifting expectancy of her adolescence....

Now, it is difficult to say why we should expect the growing girl, in whom an unlimited ambition and egotism is as natural and proper a thing as beauty and high spirits, to deny herself some dalliance with the more opulent dreams that form the golden lining to these precarious prospects? How can we expect her to prepare herself solely, putting all wandering thoughts aside, for the servantless cookery, domestic Kindergarten work, the care of hardy perennials, and low-pitched conversation of the engineer's home? Supposing, after all, there is no predestinate engineer! The stories the growing girl now prefers, and I imagine will in the future still prefer, deal mainly with the rich and free; the theatre she will prefer to visit will present the lives and loves of opulent people with great precision and detailed correctness; her favourite periodicals will reflect that life; her schoolmistress, whatever her principles, must have an eye to her "chances." And even after Fate or a gust of passion has whirled her into the arms of our busy and capable fundamental man, all these things will still be in her imagination and memory. Unless he is a person of extraordinary mental prepotency, she will almost insensibly determine the character of the home in a direction quite other than that of our first sketch. She will set herself to realize, as far as her husband's means and credit permit, the ideas of the particular section of the wealthy that have captured her. If she is a fool, her ideas of life will presently come into complete conflict with her husband's in a manner that, as the fumes of the love potion leave his brain, may bring the real nature of the case home to him. If he is of that resolute strain to whom the world must finally come, he may rebel and wade through tears and crises to his appointed work again. The cleverer she is, and the finer and more loyal her character up to a certain point, the less likely this is to happen, the more subtle and effective will be her hold upon her husband, and the more probable his perversion from the austere pursuit of some interesting employment, towards the adventures of modern money-getting in pursuit of her ideals of a befitting life. And meanwhile, since "one must live," the nursery that was implicit in the background of the first picture will probably prove unnecessary. She will be, perforce, a person not only of pleasant pursuits, but of leisure. If she endears herself to her husband, he will feel not only the attraction but the duty of her vacant hours; he will not only deflect his working hours from the effective to the profitable, but that occasional burning of the midnight oil, that no brain-worker may forego if he is to retain his efficiency, will, in the interests of some attractive theatrical performance or some agreeable social occasion, all too frequently have to be put off or abandoned.

This line of speculation, therefore, gives us a second picture of a household to put beside our first, a household, or rather a couple, rather more likely to be typical of the mass of middling sort of people in those urban regions of the future than our first projection. It will probably not live in a separate home at all, but in a flat in "Town," or at one of the subordinate centres of the urban region we have foreseen. The apartments will be more or less agreeably adorned in some decorative fashion akin to but less costly than some of the many fashions that will obtain among the wealthy. They will be littered with a miscellaneous literature, novels of an entertaining and stimulating sort predominating, and with bric-à-brac; in a childless household there must certainly be quaint dolls, pet images, and so forth, and perhaps a canary would find a place. I suspect there would be an edition or so of "Omar" about in this more typical household of "Moderns," but I doubt about the Bible. The man's working books would probably be shabby and relegated to a small study, and even these overlaid by abundant copies of the Financial—something or other. It would still be a servantless household, and probably not only without a nursery but without a kitchen, and in its grade and degree it would probably have social relations directly or intermediately through rich friends with some section, some one of the numerous cults of the quite independent wealthy.


1 of 2
2 of 2