Mandeville. And superstition; and gained toleration.
Herbert. The question is, whether toleration is anything but indifference.
The Parson. Everything is tolerated now but Christian orthodoxy.
The fire-tender. It’s easy enough to make a brilliant catalogue of external achievements, but I take it that real progress ought to be in man himself. It is not a question of what a man enjoys, but what he can produce. The best sculpture was executed two thousand years ago. The best paintings are several centuries old. We study the finest architecture in its ruins. The standards of poetry are Shakespeare, Homer, Isaiah, and David. The latest of the arts, music, culminated in composition, though not in execution, a century ago.
The mistress. Yet culture in music certainly distinguishes the civilization of this age. It has taken eighteen hundred years for the principles of the Christian religion to begin to be practically incorporated in government and in ordinary business, and it will take a long time for Beethoven to be popularly recognized; but there is growth toward him, and not away from him, and when the average culture has reached his height, some other genius will still more profoundly and delicately express the highest thoughts.
Herbert. I wish I could believe it. The spirit of this age is expressed by the Calliope.
The Parson. Yes, it remained for us to add church-bells and cannon to the orchestra.
Our next door. It’s a melancholy thought to me that we can no longer express ourselves with the bass-drum; there used to be the whole of the Fourth of July in its patriotic throbs.
Mandeville. We certainly have made great progress in one art,—that of war.
The young lady. And in the humane alleviations of the miseries of war.
The fire-tender. The most discouraging symptom to me in our undoubted advance in the comforts and refinements of society is the facility with which men slip back into barbarism, if the artificial and external accidents of their lives are changed. We have always kept a fringe of barbarism on our shifting western frontier; and I think there never was a worse society than that in California and Nevada in their early days.
The young lady. That is because women were absent.
The fire-tender. But women are not absent in London and New York, and they are conspicuous in the most exceptionable demonstrations of social anarchy. Certainly they were not wanting in Paris. Yes, there was a city widely accepted as the summit of our material civilization. No city was so beautiful, so luxurious, so safe, so well ordered for the comfort of living, and yet it needed only a month or two to make it a kind of pandemonium of savagery. Its citizens were the barbarians who destroyed its own monuments of civilization. I don’t mean to say that there was no apology for what was done there in the deceit and fraud that preceded it, but I simply notice how ready the tiger was to appear, and how little restraint all the material civilization was to the beast.