MAN, the ordinary human male, is a curious animal. While mastering the world with his pluck, skill, enterprise, he is in matters of Love for the most part a child. The passion plays havoc with him; nor does he ride the Lion, as Ariadne is fabled to have done.
In this he differs from the other sex; and the difference can be seen in earliest years. When the boy is on his rocking horse, the girl is caressing her doll. When the adolescent youth, burning to master a real quadruped, is still somewhat contemptuous of Love's power, "sweet seventeen" has already lost and regained her heart several times, and is accomplished in all the finesse of feeling.
To the grown man love remains little more than a plaything. Affairs, politics, fighting, moneymaking, creative art, constructive industry, are his serious business; the affections are his relaxation; passion is the little fire with which he toys, and
which every now and then flares out and burns him up. His affections, his passions, are probably as a rule stronger than woman's; but he never attains to understand them or be master of their craft. With woman all this is reversed.
A man pelts along on his hobby--his business, his career, his latest invention, or what not--forgetful that there is such a thing in the world as the human heart; then all of a sudden he 'falls in love,' tumbles headlong in the most ludicrous way, fills the air with his cries, struggles frantically like a fly in treacle: and all the time hasn't the faintest idea whether he has been inveigled into the situation, or whether he got there of his own accord, or what he wants now he is there. Suicides, broken hearts, lamentations, and certainly a whole panorama, marvellous in beauty, of lyrical poetry and art, mark the experience of love's distress in Man. Woman in the same plight neither howls nor cries, she does not commit suicide or do anything extravagant, she creates not a single poem or work of art of any account; but she simply goes her way and suffers in silence, shaping her life to the new conditions. Never for a moment does she forget that her one serious object is Love; but never for a moment does she 'give herself away' or lose her head, in the pursuit of that object.
It is perhaps in a kind of revenge for this that man for so many centuries has made woman his serf. Feeling that she really somehow mastered him on the affectional plane, he in revenge on the physical plane has made the most of his superior strength, and of his power over her; or, more probably, not thinking about it at all, he has simply allowed all along the sex-passion (so strong in him) to prompt him to this mastery.
For the sex-passion in man is undoubtedly a force--huge and fateful--which has to be reckoned with. Perhaps (speaking broadly) all the passions and powers, the intellect and affections and emotions and all, are really profounder and vaster in Man than in Woman-are more varied, root deeper, and have wider scope; but then the woman has this advantage, that her powers are more co-ordinated, are in harmony with each other, where his are disjointed or in conflict. A girl comes of age sooner than a boy. And the coming-of-age of Love (which harmonises all the faculties in the human being) may take place early in the woman, while in the man it is delayed long and long, perhaps never completely effected. The problem is so much bigger, so much more complex, with him; it takes longer for its solution. Women are sometimes impatient with men on this score; but then they
do not see, judging from their own little flock, what a big herd of cattle the man has to bring home.
Anyhow, the point is that Man with his great uncoordinated nature has during these later centuries dominated the other sex, and made himself the ruler of society. In consequence of which we naturally have a society made after his pattern--a society advanced in mechanical and intellectual invention, with huge passional and emotional elements, but all involved in whirling confusion and strife--a society ungrown, which on its material side may approve itself a great success, but on its more human and affectional side seems at times an utter failure.
This ungrown, half-baked sort of character is conspicuous in the class of men who organise the modern world--the men of the English-speaking well-to-do class. The boy of this class begins life at a public school. He does not learn much from the masters; but he knocks about among his fellows in cricket and football and athletics, and turns out with an excellent organising capacity and a tolerably firm and reliable grip on the practical and material side of life--qualities which are of first-rate importance, and which give the English ruling classes a similar mission in the world to the Romans of the early Empire. A
certain standard too (for what it is worth) of schoolboy honor and fairness is thumped into him. It is very narrow and conventional, but at its best rises as high as a conception of self-sacrifice and duty, though never to the conception of love. At the same time a strong and lavish diet and an easy life stimulate his functional energies and his animal passions to a high degree.
Here certainly is some splendid material, and if well pounded into shape, kneaded and baked, might result in a useful upper crust for society. But alas! it remains, or actually degenerates into, a most fatuous dough. The boy never learns anything after he leaves school. He gets no more thumps. He glides easily into the higher walks of the world--backed by his parents' money--into Law or Army or Church or Civil Service or Commerce. He has really no serious fights to fight, or efforts to make, sees next to nothing of actual life; has an easy time, can marry pretty well whom he chooses, or console himself with unmarried joys; and ultimately settles down into the routine and convention of his particular profession--a picture of beefy self-satisfaction. Affection and tenderness of feeling, though latent in him, have never, owing to the unfortunate conditions of his life, been developed; but their place begins
to be taken by a rather dreary cynicism. Sex, always strong, still even now in its waning days, retains the first place; and the mature man, having no adequate counterpoise to it in the growth of his sympathetic nature, is fain to find his highest restraints or sanctions in the unripe code of his school-days or the otiose conventions and prejudices of the professional clique to which he belongs.
So it comes about that the men who have the sway of the world to-day are in the most important matters quite ungrown; they really have never come of age in any adequate sense. Like Ephraim they are "a cake not turned." Wherever they turn up: in Lords or Commons, Civil or Military, Law or Church or Medicine, the judge on the bench, the Bishop, the ruler of India, the exploiter of South Africa, the man who booms a company in the city, or who builds up a great commercial trust and gets a title for supporting a Government: it is much the same. Remove the distinctive insignia of their clique and office, and you find underneath--no more than a public school-boy. Perhaps, indeed, rather less; for while the school-boy mind is there, and the school-boy code of life and honor, the enthusiasm and the promise of youth are gone.
It is certainly very maddening at times to think that the Destinies of the world, the organisation of
society, the wonderful scope of possible statesman. ship, the mighty issues of trade and industry, the loves of Women, the lives of criminals, the fate of savage nations, should be in the hands of such a set of general nincompoops; men so fatuous that it actually does not hurt them to see the streets crammed with prostitutes by night, or the parks by day with the semi-lifeless bodies of tramps; men, to whom it seems quite natural that our marriage and social institutions should lumber along over the bodies of women, as our commercial institutions grind over the bodies of the poor, and our "imperial" enterprise over the bodies of barbarian races, destroyed by drink and devilry. But then no doubt the world is made like that. Assuredly it is no wonder that the more go-ahead Women (who have come round to the light by their own way, and through much darkness and suffering) should rise in revolt; or that the Workmen (finding their lives in the hands of those who do not know what life is) should do the same.
Leaving now the Middle-class man of to-day, the great representative of modern civilisation, and the triumphant outcome of so many centuries of human progress, to enjoy his distinctions--we may turn for a moment to the only other great body of men who are of any importance: the more capable and energetic manual workers.
In the man of this class we have a type superior in many ways to the other. In the first place he knows something of what Life is; from an early age probably he has had to do something towards his own living. Anyhow he has been called upon in a thousand ways to help his parents, or his brothers and sisters, and has developed a fair capacity of sympathy and affection--a thing which can hardly be said of the public school boy; while his work, narrow though it may be, has given him a certain definite ability and grasp of actual fact. If, as is now happening in hundreds of thousands of cases, there is superadded to all this some of the general culture which arises from active reading and study, it is clear that the result is going to be considerable. It may not count much to-day, but it will to-morrow.
On the other hand this class is lamentably wanting in the very point where the other man excels--the organising faculty. Take a workman from the bench, where he has never so to speak had to look beyond his nose, and place him in a position of responsibility and command, and he is completely at sea. He turns out hopelessly slattern and ineffectual, or a martinet or a bully; he has no sense of perspective and stickles absurdly over little points while he lets the great ones go; and it is almost
impossible for him to look before and after as he should do, or bring to a proper focus a whole field of considerations. In all this he is a mere child: and evidently by himself unfit to rule the world.
In many respects the newer Women and the Workmen resemble each other. Both have been bullied and sat upon from time immemorial, and are beginning to revolt; both are good at detailed and set or customary work, both are bad at organisation; both are stronger on the emotional than on the intellectual side; and both have an ideal of better things, but do not quite see their way to carry it out. Their best hope perhaps lies in their both getting hold of the Middle-class Man and thumping him on each side till they get him to organise the world for them. The latter has no ideal, no object, no enthusiasm, of his own. He cannot set himself to work; and consequently he is just made use of by the commercial spirit of the day. It is really lamentable to think how his great organising capacity--which might create a holy Human empire of the world--is simply at present the tool of the Jew and the Speculator. In Parliamentary, Military, Indian, Home or Colonial politics, the quondam public school-boy is just led by the nose by the money-grubbing interest, to
serve its purposes; and half the time has not the sense to see that he is being so led.
It might seem that it would be the greatest blessing and benefit to the man of this class to find him an ideal to work to. Certainly it is his only real and conceivable function to form an alliance with the two other great classes of the modern nations-the women and the workmen-and organise for them. Whether he will see it so, we know not; but if this might come about great things would happen in the world.