List Of Contents | Contents of Utopia of Usurers and other Essays
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passage about the beautiful souls possessed by some people called Salmon
and Gluckstein.  I think I like best the passage where he said that
Lyons's charming social acaccomplishments included a talent for "imitating
a Jew."  The article is accompanied with a large and somewhat leering
portrait of that shopkeeper, which makes the parlour-trick in question
particularly astonishing.  Another literary man, who certainly ought to
know better, wrote in another paper a piece of hero-worship about Mr.
Selfridge.  No doubt the fashion will spread, and the art of words, as
polished and pointed by Ruskin or Meredith, will be perfected yet further
to explore the labyrinthine heart of Harrod; or compare the simple
stoicism of Marshall with the saintly charm of Snelgrove.

Any man can be praised--and rightly praised.  If he only stands on two
legs he does something a cow cannot do.  If a rich man can manage to stand
on two legs for a reasonable time, it is called self-control.  If he has
only one leg, it is called (with some truth) self-sacrifice.  I could say
something nice (and true) about every man I have ever met.  Therefore, I
do not doubt I could find something nice about Lyons or Selfridge if I
searched for it.  But I shall not.  The nearest postman or cab-man will
provide me with just the same brain of steel and heart of gold as these
unlucky lucky men.  But I do resent the whole age of patronage being
revived under such absurd patrons; and all poets becoming court poets,
under kings that have taken no oath, nor led us into any battle.

III. Unbusinesslike Business

The fairy tales we were all taught did not, like the history we were all
taught, consist entirely of lies.  Parts of the tale of "Puss in Boots" or
"Jack and the Beanstalk" may strike the realistic eye as a little unlikely
and out of the common way, so to speak; but they contain some very solid
and very practical truths.  For instance, it may be noted that both in
"Puss in Boots" and "Jack and the Beanstalk" if I remember aright, the
ogre was not only an ogre but also a magician.  And it will generally be
found that in all such popular narratives, the king, if he is a wicked
king, is generally also a wizard.  Now there is a very vital human truth
enshrined in this.  Bad government, like good government, is a spiritual
thing.  Even the tyrant never rules by force alone; but mostly by fairy
tales.  And so it is with the modern tyrant, the great employer.  The
sight of a millionaire is seldom, in the ordinary sense, an enchanting
sight: nevertheless, he is in his way an enchanter.  As they say in the
gushing articles about him in the magazines, he is a fascinating
personality.  So is a snake.  At least he is fascinating to rabbits; and
so is the millionaire to the rabbit-witted sort of people that ladies and
gentlemen have allowed themselves to become.  He does, in a manner, cast a
spell, such as that which imprisoned princes and princesses under the
shapes of falcons or stags.  He has truly turned men into sheep, as Circe
turned them into swine.

Now, the chief of the fairy tales, by which he gains this glory and
glamour, is a certain hazy association he has managed to create between
the idea of bigness and the idea of practicality.  Numbers of the
rabbit-witted ladies and gentlemen do really think, in spite of themselves
and their experience, that so long as a shop has hundreds of different
doors and a great many hot and unhealthy underground departments (they
must be hot; this is very important), and more people than would be needed
for a man-of-war, or crowded cathedral, to say: "This way, madam," and
"The next article, sir," it follows that the goods are good.  In short,
they hold that the big businesses are businesslike.  They are not.  Any
housekeeper in a truthful mood, that is to say, any housekeeper in a bad
temper, will tell you that they are not.  But housekeepers, too, are human,
and therefore inconsistent and complex; and they do not always stick to
truth and bad temper.  They are also affected by this queer idolatry of
the enormous and elaborate; and cannot help feeling that anything so
complicated must go like clockwork.  But complexity is no guarantee of
accuracy--in clockwork or in anything else.  A clock can be as wrong as
the human head; and a clock can stop, as suddenly as the human heart.

But this strange poetry of plutocracy prevails over people against their
very senses.  You write to one of the great London stores or emporia,
asking, let us say, for an umbrella.  A month or two afterwards you
receive a very elaborately constructed parcel, containing a broken parasol.
You are very pleased.  You are gratified to reflect on what a vast
number of assistants and employees had combined to break that parasol.
You luxuriate in the memory of all those long rooms and departments and
wonder in which of them the parasol that you never ordered was broken.  Or
you want a toy elephant for your child on Christmas Day; as children, like
all nice and healthy people, are very ritualistic.  Some week or so after
Twelfth Night, let us say, you have the pleasure of removing three layers
of pasteboards, five layers of brown paper, and fifteen layers of tissue
paper and discovering the fragments of an artificial crocodile.  You smile
in an expansive spirit.  You feel that your soul has been broadened by the
vision of incompetence conducted on so large a scale.  You admire all the
more the colossal and Omnipresent Brain of the Organiser of Industry, who
amid all his multitudinous cares did not disdain to remember his duty of
smashing even the smallest toy of the smallest child.  Or, supposing you
have asked him to send you some two rolls of cocoa-nut matting: and
supposing (after a due interval for reflection) he duly delivers to you
the five rolls of wire netting.  You take pleasure in the consideration
of a mystery: which coarse minds might have called a mistake.  It consoles
you to know how big the business is: and what an enormous number of people
were needed to make such a mistake.

That is the romance that has been told about the big shops; in the
literature and art which they have bought, and which (as I said in my
recent articles) will soon be quite indistinguishable from their ordinary
advertisements.  The literature is commercial; and it is only fair to say
that the commerce is often really literary.  It is no romance, but only

The big commercial concerns of to-day are quite exceptionally incompetent.
They will be even more incompetent when they are omnipotent.  Indeed,
that is, and always has been, the whole point of a monopoly; the old and
sound argument against a monopoly.  It is only because it is incompetent
that it has to be omnipotent.  When one large shop occupies the whole of
one side of a street (or sometimes both sides), it does so in order that
men may be unable to get what they want; and may be forced to buy what
they don't want.  That the rapidly approaching kingdom of the Capitalists
will ruin art and letters, I have already said.  I say here that in the
only sense that can be called human, it will ruin trade, too.

I will not let Christmas go by, even when writing for a revolutionary
paper necessarily appealing to many with none of my religious sympathies,
without appealing to those sympathies.  I knew a man who sent to a great
rich shop for a figure for a group of Bethlehem.  It arrived broken.  I
think that is exactly all that business men have now the sense to do.

IV. The War on Holidays

The general proposition, not always easy to define exhaustively, that the
reign of the capitalist will be the reign of the cad--that is, of the
unlicked type that is neither the citizen nor the gentleman--can be
excellently studied in its attitude towards holidays.  The special
emblematic Employer of to-day, especially the Model Employer (who is the
worst sort) has in his starved and evil heart a sincere hatred of holidays.
I do not mean that he necessarily wants all his workmen to work until
they drop; that only occurs when he happens to be stupid as well as wicked.
I do not mean to say that he is necessarily unwilling to grant what he
would call "decent hours of labour." He may treat men like dirt; but if
you want to make money, even out of dirt, you must let it lie fallow by
some rotation of rest.  He may treat men as dogs, but unless he is a
lunatic he will for certain periods let sleeping dogs lie.

But humane and reasonable hours for labour have nothing whatever to do
with the idea of holidays.  It is not even a question of tenhours day and
eight-hours day; it is not a question of cutting down leisure to the space
necessary for food, sleep and exercise.  If the modern employer came to
the conclusion, for some reason or other, that he could get most out of
his men by working them hard for only two hours a day, his whole mental
attitude would still be foreign and hostile to holidays.  For his whole
mental attitude is that the passive time and the active time are alike
useful for him and his business.  All is, indeed, grist that comes to his
mill, including the millers.  His slaves still serve him in
unconsciousness, as dogs still hunt in slumber.  His grist is ground not
only by the sounding wheels of iron, but by the soundless wheel of blood
and brain.  His sacks are still filling silently when the doors are shut
on the streets and the sound of the grinding is low.

The Great Holiday

Now a holiday has no connection with using a man either by beating or
feeding him.  When you give a man a holiday you give him back his body and
soul.  It is quite possible you may be doing him an injury (though he
seldom thinks so), but that does not affect the question for those to whom
a holiday is holy.  Immortality is the great holiday; and a holiday, like
the immortality in the old theologies, is a double-edged privilege.  But
wherever it is genuine it is simply the restoration and completion of the
man.  If people ever looked at the printed word under their eye, the word
"recreation" would be like the word "resurrection," the blast of a trumpet.

A man, being merely useful, is necessarily incomplete, especially if he be
a modern man and means by being useful being "utilitarian." A man going
into a modern club gives up his hat; a man going into a modern factory
gives up his head.  He then goes in and works loyally for the old firm to
build up the great fabric of commerce (which can be done without a head),
but when he has done work he goes to the cloak-room, like the man at the
club, and gets his head back again; that is the germ of the holiday.  It
may be urged that the club man who leaves his hat often goes away with
another hat; and perhaps it may be the same with the factory hand who has
left his head.  A hand that has lost its head may affect the fastidious as
a mixed metaphor; but, God pardon us all, what an unmixed truth!  We could
almost prove the whole ease from the habit of calling human beings merely
"hands" while they are working; as if the hand were horribly cut off, like
the hand that has offended; as if, while the sinner entered heaven maimed,
his unhappy hand still laboured laying up riches for the lords of hell.
But to return to the man whom we found waiting for his head in the
cloak-room.  It may be urged, we say, that he might take the wrong head,
like the wrong hat; but here the similarity ceases.  For it has been
observed by benevolent onlookers at life's drama that the hat taken away
by mistake is frequently better than the real hat; whereas the head taken
away after the hours of toil is certainly worse: stained with the cobwebs
and dust of this dustbin of all the centuries.

The Supreme Adventure

All the words dedicated to places of eating and drinking are pure and
poetic words.  Even the word "hotel" is the word hospital.  And St. Julien,
whose claret I drank this Christmas, was the patron saint of innkeepers,
because (as far as I can make out) he was hospitable to lepers.  Now I do
not say that the ordinary hotel-keeper in Piccadilly or the Avenue de
l'Opera would embrace a leper, slap him on the back, and ask him to order
what he liked; but I do say that hospitality is his trade virtue.  And I
do also say it is well to keep before our eyes the supreme adventure of a
virtue.  If you are brave, think of the man who was braver than you.  If
you are kind, think of the man who was kinder than you.

That is what was meant by having a patron saint.  That is the link between
the poor saint who received bodily lepers and the great hotel proprietor
who (as a rule) receives spiritual lepers.  But a word yet weaker than
"hotel" illustrates the same point--the word "restaurant."  There again
you have the admission that there is a definite building or statue to
"restore"; that ineffaceable image of man that some call the image of God.
And that is the holiday; it is the restaurant or restoring thing that, by
a blast of magic, turns a man into himself.

This complete and reconstructed man is the nightmare of the modern
capitalist.  His whole scheme would crack across like a mirror of Shallot,
if once a plain man were ready for his two plain duties--ready to live and
ready to die.  And that horror of holidays which marks the modern
capitalist is very largely a horror of the vision of a whole human being:
something that is not a "hand" or a "head for figutes."  But an awful
creature who has met himself in the wilderness.  The employers will give
time to eat, time to sleep; they are in terror of a time to think.

To anyone who knows any history it is wholly needless to say that holidays
have been destroyed.  As Mr. Belloc, who knows much more history than you
or I, recently pointed out in the "Pall Mall Magazine," Shakespeare's
title of "Twelfth Night: or What You Will" simply meant that a winter
carnival for everybody went on wildly till the twelfth night after
Christmas.  Those of my readers who work for modern offices or factories
might ask their employers for twelve days' holidays after Christmas.  And
they might let me know the reply.


I confess I cannot see why mere blasphemy by itself should be an excuse
for tyranny and treason; or how the mere isolated fact of a man not
believing in God should be a reason for my believing in Him.

But the rather spinsterish flutter among some of the old Freethinkers has
put one tiny ripple of truth in it; and that affects the idea which I wish
to emphasise even to monotony in these pages.  I mean the idea that the
new community which the capitalists are now constructing will be a very
complete and absolute community; and one which will tolerate nothing
really independent of itself.  Now, it is true that any positive creed,
true or false, would tend to be independent of itself.  It might be Roman
Catholicism or Mahomedanism or Materialism; but, if strongly held, it
would be a thorn in the side of the Servile State.  The Moslem thinks all
men immortal: the Materialist thinks all men mortal.  But the Moslem does
not think the rich Sinbad will live forever; but the poor Sinbad will die

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