Varied Types eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 117 pages of information about Varied Types.
height of an almost horrible idealism, makes the collapse of the Restoration infinitely more excusable, but it does not make it any the less a collapse.  Nothing can efface the essential distinction that Puritanism was one of the world’s great efforts after the discovery of the true order, whereas it was the essence of the Restoration that it involved no effort at all.  It is true that the Restoration was not, as has been widely assumed, the most immoral epoch of our history.  Its vices cannot compare for a moment in this respect with the monstrous tragedies and almost suffocating secrecies and villainies of the Court of James I. But the dram-drinking and nose-slitting of the saturnalia of Charles II. seem at once more human and more detestable than the passions and poisons of the Renaissance, much in the same way that a monkey appears inevitably more human and more detestable than a tiger.  Compared with the Renaissance, there is something Cockney about the Restoration.  Not only was it too indolent for great morality, it was too indolent even for great art.  It lacked that seriousness which is needed even for the pursuit of pleasure, that discipline which is essential even to a game of lawn tennis.  It would have appeared to Charles II.’s poets quite as arduous to write “Paradise Lost” as to regain Paradise.

All old and vigorous languages abound in images and metaphors, which, though lightly and casually used, are in truth poems in themselves, and poems of a high and striking order.  Perhaps no phrase is so terribly significant as the phrase “killing time.”  It is a tremendous and poetical image, the image of a kind of cosmic parricide.  There are on the earth a race of revellers who do, under all their exuberance, fundamentally regard time as an enemy.  Of these were Charles II. and the men of the Restoration.  Whatever may have been their merits, and as we have said we think that they had merits, they can never have a place among the great representatives of the joy of life, for they belonged to those lower epicureans who kill time, as opposed to those higher epicureans who make time live.

Of a people in this temper Charles II. was the natural and rightful head.  He may have been a pantomime King, but he was a King, and with all his geniality he let nobody forget it.  He was not, indeed, the aimless flaneur that he has been represented.  He was a patient and cunning politician, who disguised his wisdom under so perfect a mask of folly that he not only deceived his allies and opponents, but has deceived almost all the historians that have come after him.  But if Charles was, as he emphatically was, the only Stuart who really achieved despotism, it was greatly due to the temper of the nation and the age.  Despotism is the easiest of all governments, at any rate for the governed.

It is indeed a form of slavery, and it is the despot who is the slave.  Men in a state of decadence employ professionals to fight for them, professionals to dance for them, and a professional to rule them.

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Varied Types from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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