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Anticipations

Quite similar households to this would be even more common among those neither independent nor engaged in work of a primarily functional nature, but endeavouring quite ostensibly to acquire wealth by political or business ingenuity and activity, and also among the great multitude of artists, writers, and that sort of people, whose works are their children. In comparison with the state of affairs fifty years ago, the child-infested household is already conspicuously rare in these classes.

These are two highly probably ménages among the central mass of the people of the coming time. But there will be many others. The ménage à deux, one may remark, though it may be without the presence of children, is not necessarily childless. Parentage is certainly part of the pride of many men—though, curiously enough, it does not appear to be felt among modern European married women as any part of their honour. Many men will probably achieve parentage, therefore, who will not succeed in inducing, or who may possibly even be very loth to permit, their wives to undertake more than the first beginnings of motherhood. From the moment of its birth, unless it is kept as a pet, the child of such marriages will be nourished, taught, and trained almost as though it were an orphan, it will have a succession of bottles and foster-mothers for body and mind from the very beginning. Side by side with this increasing number of childless homes, therefore, there may develop a system of Kindergarten boarding schools. Indeed, to a certain extent such schools already exist, and it is one of the unperceived contrasts of this and any former time how common such a separation of parents and children becomes. Except in the case of the illegitimate and orphans, and the children of impossible (many public-house children, e.g.), or wretched homes, boarding schools until quite recently were used only for quite big boys and girls. But now, at every seaside town, for example, one sees a multitude of preparatory schools, which are really not simply educational institutions, but supplementary homes. In many cases these are conducted and very largely staffed by unmarried girls and women who are indeed, in effect, assistant mothers. This class of capable schoolmistresses is one of the most interesting social developments of this period. For the most part they are women who from emotional fastidiousness, intellectual egotism, or an honest lack of passion, have refused the common lot of marriage, women often of exceptional character and restraint, and it is well that, at any rate, their intelligence and character should not pass fruitlessly out of being. Assuredly for this type the future has much in store.

There are, however, still other possibilities to be considered in this matter. In these Anticipations it is impossible to ignore the forces making for a considerable relaxation of the institution of permanent monogamous marriage in the coming years, and of a much greater variety of establishments than is suggested by these possibilities within the pale. I guess, without attempting to refer to statistics, that our present society must show a quite unprecedented number and increasing number of male and female celibates—not religious celibates, but people, for the most part, whose standard of personal comfort has such a relation to their earning power that they shirk or cannot enter the matrimonial grouping. The institution of permanent monogamous marriage—except in the ideal Roman Catholic community, where it is based on the sanction of an authority which in real Roman Catholic countries a large proportion of the men decline to obey—is sustained at present entirely by the inertia of custom, and by a number of sentimental and practical considerations, considerations that may very possibly undergo modification in the face of the altered relationship of husband and wife that the present development of childless ménages is bringing about. The practical and sustaining reason for monogamy is the stability it gives to the family; the value of a stable family lies in the orderly upbringing in an atmosphere of affection that it secures in most cases for its more or less numerous children. The monogamous family has indisputably been the civilizing unit of the pre-mechanical civilized state. It must be remembered that both for husband and wife in most cases monogamic life marriage involves an element of sacrifice, it is an institution of late appearance in the history of mankind, and it does not completely fit the psychology or physiology of any but very exceptional characters in either sex. For the man it commonly involves considerable restraint; he must ride his imagination on the curb, or exceed the code in an extremely dishonouring, furtive, and unsatisfactory manner while publicly professing an impossible virtue; for the woman it commonly implies many uncongenial submissions. There are probably few married couples who have escaped distressful phases of bitterness and tears, within the constraint of their, in most cases, practically insoluble bond. But, on the other hand, and as a reward that in the soberer, mainly agricultural civilization of the past, and among the middling class of people, at any rate, has sufficed, there comes the great development of associations and tendernesses that arises out of intimate co-operation in an established home, and particularly out of the linking love and interest of children's lives....

But how does this fit into the childless, disunited, and probably shifting ménage of our second picture?

It must be borne in mind that it has been the middling and lower mass of people, the tenants and agriculturists, the shopkeepers, and so forth, men needing before all things the absolutely loyal help of wives, that has sustained permanent monogamic marriage whenever it has been sustained. Public monogamy has existed on its merits—that is, on the merits of the wife. Merely ostensible reasons have never sufficed. No sort of religious conviction, without a real practical utility, has ever availed to keep classes of men, unhampered by circumstances, to its restrictions. In all times, and holding all sorts of beliefs, the specimen humanity of courts and nobilities is to be found developing the most complex qualifications of the code. In some quiet corner of Elysium the bishops of the early Georges, the ecclesiastical dignitaries of the contemporary French and Spanish courts, the patriarchs of vanished Byzantium, will find a common topic with the spiritual advisers of the kingdoms of the East in this difficult theme,—the theme of the concessions permissible and expedient to earnest believers encumbered with leisure and a superfluity of power.... It is not necessary to discuss religious development, therefore, before deciding this issue. We are dealing now with things deeper and forces infinitely more powerful than the mere convictions of men.

Will a generation to whom marriage will be no longer necessarily associated with the birth and rearing of children, or with the immediate co-operation and sympathy of husband and wife in common proceedings, retain its present feeling for the extreme sanctity of the permanent bond? Will the agreeable, unemployed, childless woman, with a high conception of her personal rights, who is spending her husband's earnings or income in some pleasant discrepant manner, a type of woman there are excellent reasons for anticipating will become more frequent—will she continue to share the honours and privileges of the wife, mother, and helper of the old dispensation? and in particular, will the great gulf that is now fixed by custom between her and the agreeable unmarried lady who is similarly employed remain so inexorably wide? Charity is in the air, and why should not charming people meet one another? And where is either of these ladies to find the support that will enable her to insist upon the monopoly that conventional sentiment, so far as it finds expression, concedes her? The danger to them both of the theory of equal liberty is evident enough. On the other hand, in the case of the unmarried mother who may be helped to hold her own, or who may be holding her own in the world, where will the moral censor of the year 1950 find his congenial following to gather stones? Much as we may regret it, it does very greatly affect the realities of this matter, that with the increased migration of people from home to home amidst the large urban regions that, we have concluded, will certainly obtain in the future, even if moral reprobation and minor social inconveniences do still attach to certain sorts of status, it will probably be increasingly difficult to determine the status of people who wish to conceal it for any but criminal ends.

In another direction there must be a movement towards the relaxation of the marriage law and of divorce that will complicate status very confusingly. In the past it has been possible to sustain several contrasting moral systems in each of the practically autonomous states of the world, but with a development and cheapening of travel and migration that is as yet only in its opening phase, an increasing conflict between dissimilar moral restrictions must appear. Even at present, with only the most prosperous classes of the American and Western European countries migrating at all freely, there is a growing amount of inconvenience arising out of these—from the point of view of social physiology—quite arbitrary differences. A man or woman may, for example, have been the injured party in some conjugal complication, may have established a domicile and divorced the erring spouse in certain of the United States, may have married again there with absolute local propriety, and may be a bigamist and a criminal in England. A child may be a legal child in Denmark or Australia, and a bastard in this austerer climate. These things are, however, only the first intimations of much more profound reactions. Almost all the great European Powers, and the United States also, are extending their boundaries to include great masses of non-Christian polygamous peoples, and they are permeating these peoples with railways, printed matter, and all the stimulants of our present state. With the spread of these conveniences there is no corresponding spread of Christianity. These people will not always remain in the ring fence of their present regions; their superseded princes, and rulers, and public masters, and managers, will presently come to swell the shareholding mass of the appropriating Empire. Europeans, on the other hand, will drift into these districts, and under the influence of their customs, intermarriages and interracial reaction will increase; in a world which is steadily abolishing locality, the compromise of local concessions, of localized recognition of the "custom of the country," cannot permanently avail. Statesmen will have to face the alternative of either widening the permissible variations of the marriage contract, or of acute racial and religious stresses, of a vast variety of possible legal betrayals, and the appearance of a body of self-respecting people, outside the law and public respect, a body that will confer a touch of credit upon, because it will share the stigma of, the deliberately dissolute and criminal. And whether the moral law shrivels relatively by mere exclusiveness—as in religious matters the Church of England, for example, has shrivelled to the proportions of a mere sectarian practice—or whether it broadens itself to sustain justice in a variety of sexual contracts, the nett result, so far as our present purpose goes, will be the same. All these forces, making for moral relaxation in the coming time, will probably be greatly enhanced by the line of development certain sections of the irresponsible wealthy will almost certainly follow.

Let me repeat that the shareholding rich man of the new time is in a position of freedom almost unparalleled in the history of men. He has sold his permission to control and experiment with the material wealth of the community for freedom—for freedom from care, labour, responsibility, custom, local usage and local attachment. He may come back again into public affairs if he likes—that is his private concern. Within the limits of the law and his capacity and courage, he may do as the imagination of his heart directs. Now, such an experimental and imperfect creature as man, a creature urged by such imperious passions, so weak in imagination and controlled by so feeble a reason, receives such absolute freedom as this only at infinite peril. To a great number of these people, in the second or third generation, this freedom will mean vice, the subversion of passion to inconsequent pleasures. We have on record, in the personal history of the Roman emperors, how freedom and uncontrolled power took one representative group of men, men not entirely of one blood nor of one bias, but reinforced by the arbitrary caprice of adoption and political revolution. We have in the history of the Russian empresses a glimpse of similar feminine possibilities. We are moving towards a time when, through this confusion of moral standards I have foretold, the pressure of public opinion in these matters must be greatly relaxed, when religion will no longer speak with a unanimous voice, and when freedom of escape from disapproving neighbours will be greatly facilitated. In the past, when depravity had a centre about a court, the contagion of its example was limited to the court region, but every idle rich man of this great, various, and widely diffused class, will play to a certain extent the moral rôle of a court. In these days of universal reading and vivid journalism, every novel infraction of the code will be known of, thought about, and more or less thoroughly discussed by an enormous and increasing proportion of the common people. In the past it has been possible for the churches to maintain an attitude of respectful regret towards the lapses of the great, and even to co-operate in these lapses with a sympathetic privacy, while maintaining a wholesome rigour towards vulgar vice. But in the coming time there will be no Great, but many rich, the middling sort of people will probably be better educated as a whole than the rich, and the days of their differential treatment are at an end.

It is foolish, in view of all these things, not to anticipate and prepare for a state of things when not only will moral standards be shifting and uncertain, admitting of physiologically sound ménages of very variable status, but also when vice and depravity, in every form that is not absolutely penal, will be practised in every grade of magnificence and condoned. This means that not only will status cease to be simple and become complex and varied, but that outside the system of ménages now recognized, and under the disguise of which all other ménages shelter, there will be a vast drifting and unstable population grouped in almost every conceivable form of relation. The world of Georgian England was a world of Homes; the world of the coming time will still have its Homes, its real Mothers, the custodians of the human succession, and its cared-for children, the inheritors of the future, but in addition to this Home world, frothing tumultuously over and amidst these stable rocks, there will be an enormous complex of establishments, and hotels, and sterile households, and flats, and all the elaborate furnishing and appliances of a luxurious extinction.

And since in the present social chaos there does not yet exist any considerable body of citizens—comparable to the agricultural and commercial middle class of England during the period of limited monarchy—that will be practically unanimous in upholding any body of rules of moral restraint, since there will probably not appear for some generations any body propounding with wide-reaching authority a new definitely different code to replace the one that is now likely to be increasingly disregarded, it follows that the present code with a few interlined qualifications and grudging legal concessions will remain nominally operative in sentiment and practice while being practically disregarded, glossed, or replaced in numberless directions. It must be pointed out that in effect, what is here forecast for questions of ménage and moral restraints has already happened to a very large extent in religious matters. There was a time when it was held—and I think rightly—that a man's religious beliefs, and particularly his method of expressing them, was a part not of his individual but of his social life. But the great upheavals of the Reformation resulted finally in a compromise, a sort of truce, that has put religious belief very largely out of intercourse and discussion. It is conceded that within the bounds of the general peace and security a man may believe and express his belief in matters of religion as he pleases, not because it is better so, but because for the present epoch there is no way nor hope of attaining unanimous truth. There is a decided tendency that will, I believe, prevail towards the same compromise in the question of private morals. There is a convention to avoid all discussion of creeds in general social intercourse; and a similar convention to avoid the point of status in relation to marriage, one may very reasonably anticipate, will be similarly recognized.

But this impending dissolution of a common standard of morals does not mean universal depravity until some great reconstruction obtains any more than the obsolescence of the Conventicle Act means universal irreligion. It means that for one Morality there will be many moralities. Each human being will, in the face of circumstances, work out his or her particular early training as his or her character determines. And although there will be a general convention upon which the most diverse people will meet, it will only be with persons who have come to identical or similar conclusions in the matter of moral conduct and who are living in similar ménages, just as now it is only with people whose conversation implies a certain community or kinship of religious belief, that really frequent and intimate intercourse will go on. In other words, there will be a process of moral segregation[31] set up. Indeed, such a process is probably already in operation, amidst the deliquescent social mass. People will be drawn together into little groups of similar ménages having much in common. And this—in view of the considerations advanced in the first two chapters, considerations all converging on the practical abolition of distances and the general freedom of people to live anywhere they like over large areas—will mean very frequently an actual local segregation. There will be districts that will be clearly recognized and marked as "nice," fast regions, areas of ramshackle Bohemianism, regions of earnest and active work, old-fashioned corners and Hill Tops. Whole regions will be set aside for the purposes of opulent enjoyment—a thing already happening, indeed, at points along the Riviera to-day. Already the superficial possibilities of such a segregation have been glanced at. It has been pointed out that the enormous urban region of the future may present an extraordinary variety of districts, suburbs, and subordinate centres within its limiting boundaries, and here we have a very definite enforcement of that probability.

In the previous chapter I spoke of boating centres and horsey suburbs, and picturesque hilly districts and living places by the sea, of promenade centres and theatrical districts; I hinted at various fashions in architecture, and suchlike things, but these exterior appearances will be but the outward and visible sign of inward and more spiritual distinctions. The people who live in the good hunting country and about that glittering Grand Stand, will no longer be even pretending to live under the same code as those picturesque musical people who have concentrated on the canoe-dotted river. Where the promenaders gather, and the bands are playing, and the pretty little theatres compete, the pleasure seeker will be seeking such pleasure as he pleases, no longer debased by furtiveness and innuendo, going his primrose path to a congenial, picturesque, happy and highly desirable extinction. Just over the hills, perhaps, a handful of opulent shareholders will be pleasantly preserving the old traditions of a landed aristocracy, with servants, tenants, vicar, and other dependents all complete, and what from the point of view of social physiology will really be an arrested contingent of the Abyss, but all nicely washed and done good to, will pursue home industries in model cottages in a quite old English and exemplary manner. Here the windmills will spin and the waterfalls be trapped to gather force, and the quiet-eyed master of the machinery will have his office and perhaps his private home. Here about the great college and its big laboratories there will be men and women reasoning and studying; and here, where the homes thicken among the ripe gardens, one will hear the laughter of playing children, the singing of children in their schools, and see their little figures going to and fro amidst the trees and flowers....

And these segregations, based primarily on a difference in moral ideas and pursuits and ideals, will probably round off and complete themselves at last as distinct and separate cultures. As the moral ideas realize themselves in ménage and habits, so the ideals will seek to find expression in a literature, and the passive drifting together will pass over into a phase of more or less conscious and intentional organization. The segregating groups will develop fashions of costume, types of manners and bearing, and even, perhaps, be characterized by a certain type of facial expression. And this gives us a glimpse, an aspect of the immediate future of literature. The kingdoms of the past were little things, and above the mass of peasants who lived and obeyed and died, there was just one little culture to which all must needs conform. Literature was universal within the limits of its language. Where differences of view arose there were violent controversies, polemics, and persecutions, until one or other rendering had won its ascendency. But this new world into which we are passing will, for several generations at least, albeit it will be freely inter-communicating and like a whispering gallery for things outspoken, possess no universal ideals, no universal conventions: there will be the literature of the thought and effort of this sort of people, and the literature, thought, and effort of that.[32] Life is already most wonderfully arbitrary and experimental, and for the coming century this must be its essential social history, a great drifting and unrest of people, a shifting and regrouping and breaking up again of groups, great multitudes seeking to find themselves.

The safe life in the old order, where one did this because it was right, and that because it was the custom, when one shunned this and hated that, as lead runs into a mould, all that is passing away. And presently, as the new century opens out, there will become more and more distinctly emergent many new cultures and settled ways. The grey expanse of life to-day is grey, not in its essence, but because of the minute confused mingling and mutual cancelling of many-coloured lives. Presently these tints and shades will gather together here as a mass of one colour, and there as a mass of another. And as these colours intensify and the tradition of the former order fades, as these cultures become more and more shaped and conscious, as the new literatures grow in substance and power, as differences develop from speculative matter of opinion to definite intentions, as contrasts and affinities grow sharper and clearer, there must follow some very extensive modifications in the collective public life. But one series of tints, one colour must needs have a heightening value amidst this iridescent display. While the forces at work in the wealthy and purely speculative groups of society make for disintegration, and in many cases for positive elimination, the forces that bring together the really functional people will tend more and more to impose upon them certain common characteristics and beliefs, and the discovery of a group of similar and compatible class interests upon which they can unite. The practical people, the engineering and medical and scientific people, will become more and more homogeneous in their fundamental culture, more and more distinctly aware of a common "general reason" in things, and of a common difference from the less functional masses and from any sort of people in the past. They will have in their positive science a common ground for understanding the real pride of life, the real reason for the incidental nastiness of vice, and so they will be a sanely reproductive class, and, above all, an educating class. Just how much they will have kept or changed of the deliquescent morality of to-day, when in a hundred years or so they do distinctively and powerfully emerge, I cannot speculate now. They will certainly be a moral people. They will have developed the literature of their needs, they will have discussed and tested and thrashed out many things, they will be clear where we are confused, resolved where we are undecided and weak. In the districts of industrial possibility, in the healthier quarters of the town regions, away from the swamps and away from the glare of the midnight lights, these people will be gathered together. They will be linked in professions through the agency of great and sober papers—in England the Lancet, the British Medical Journal, and the already great periodicals of the engineering trades, foreshadow something, but only a very little, of what these papers may be. The best of the wealthy will gravitate to their attracting centres.... Unless some great catastrophe in nature break down all that man has built, these great kindred groups of capable men and educated, adequate women must be, under the operation of the forces we have considered so far, the element finally emergent amidst the vast confusions of the coming time.

FOOTNOTES:

[30] That interesting book by Mr. George Sutherland, Twentieth Century Inventions, is very suggestive on these as on many other matters.

[31] I use the word "segregation" here and always as it is used by mineralogists to express the slow conveyance of diffused matter upon centres of aggregation, such a process as, for example, must have occurred in the growth of flints.

[32] Already this is becoming apparent enough. The literary "Boom," for example, affected the entire reading public of the early nineteenth century. It was no figure of speech that "everyone" was reading Byron or puzzling about the Waverley mystery, that first and most successful use of the unknown author dodge. The booming of Dickens, too, forced him even into the reluctant hands of Omar's Fitzgerald. But the factory-syren voice of the modern "boomster" touches whole sections of the reading public no more than fog-horns going down Channel. One would as soon think of Skinner's Soap for one's library as So-and-so's Hundred Thousand Copy Success. Instead of "everyone" talking of the Great New Book, quite considerable numbers are shamelessly admitting they don't read that sort of thing. One gets used to literary booms just as one gets used to motor cars, they are no longer marvellous, universally significant things, but merely something that goes by with much unnecessary noise and leaves a faint offence in the air. Distinctly we segregate. And while no one dominates, while for all this bawling there are really no great authors of imperial dimensions, indeed no great successes to compare with the Waverley boom, or the boom of Macaulay's History, many men, too fine, too subtle, too aberrant, too unusually fresh for any but exceptional readers, men who would probably have failed to get a hearing at all in the past, can now subsist quite happily with the little sect they have found, or that has found them. They live safely in their islands; a little while ago they could not have lived at all, or could have lived only on the shameful bread of patronage, and yet it is these very men who are often most covetously bitter against the vulgar preferences of the present day.



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