Culture and Anarchy eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 243 pages of information about Culture and Anarchy.
(to use the words which the Daily Telegraph puts in my mouth):—­“You mustn’t make a fuss because you have no vote,—­that is vulgarity; you mustn’t hold big meetings to agitate for reform bills and to repeal corn laws,—­that is the very height of vulgarity,”—­it is for this reason that I am called, sometimes an elegant Jeremiah, sometimes a spurious Jeremiah, a Jeremiah about the reality of whose mission the writer in the Daily [4] Telegraph has his doubts.  It is evident, therefore, that I have so taken my line as not to be exposed to the whole brunt of Mr. Frederic Harrison’s censure.  Still, I have often spoken in praise of culture; I have striven to make all my works and ways serve the interests of culture; I take culture to be something a great deal more than what Mr. Frederic Harrison and others call it:  “a desirable quality in a critic of new books.”  Nay, even though to a certain extent I am disposed to agree with Mr. Frederic Harrison, that men of culture are just the class of responsible beings in this community of ours who cannot properly, at present, be entrusted with power, I am not sure that I do not think this the fault of our community rather than of the men of culture.  In short, although, like Mr. Bright and Mr. Frederic Harrison, and the editor of the Daily Telegraph, and a large body of valued friends of mine, I am a liberal, yet I am a liberal tempered by experience, reflection, and renouncement, and I am, above all, a believer in culture.  Therefore I propose now to try and enquire, in the simple unsystematic way which best suits both my taste and my powers, what culture really is, what good it [5] can do, what is our own special need of it; and I shall seek to find some plain grounds on which a faith in culture—­both my own faith in it and the faith of others,—­may rest securely.

CHAPTER I

[5] The disparagers of culture make its motive curiosity; sometimes, indeed, they make its motive mere exclusiveness and vanity.  The culture which is supposed to plume itself on a smattering of Greek and Latin is a culture which is begotten by nothing so intellectual as curiosity; it is valued either out of sheer vanity and ignorance, or else as an engine of social and class distinction, separating its holder, like a badge or title, from other people who have not got it.  No serious man would call this culture, or attach any value to it, as culture, at all.  To find the real ground for the very differing estimate which serious people will set upon culture, we must find some motive for culture in the terms of which [6] may lie a real ambiguity; and such a motive the word curiosity gives us.  I have before now pointed out that in English we do not, like the foreigners, use this word in a good sense as well as in a bad sense; with us the word is always used in a somewhat disapproving sense; a liberal and intelligent eagerness about the things of the mind may be meant by a foreigner when

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Culture and Anarchy from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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