Wednesday, 1 June 2016

William Hurrell Mallock's Natural Wealth

I feel that the early success of William Hurrell Mallock was significant in setting him on a course for the doldrums. It was too easy and it established a sense of mission which was irony proof. The easily mocked fatuity of progressive thinkers and his tendency to reach the facile conclusion that they were wrong about everything led him to imagine that every aspect of Conservative thought was basically correct. The aristocracy and by extension land owning and rent extracting gentry were a reflection of the God given natural order. In 1882 five years after The New Republic he could offer this clubman level view of the Irish peasantry:

But in none of these places, except under foreign pressure, do the natives produce wealth.
It is not, however, only amongst tropical or sub-tropical savages that we can find parallels to our imaginary islanders. We can find them in Europe, in the very middle of civilisation. Not to go farther afield, we can find one in the Irish peasantry. The Irish have to labour it is true; but why? Because without labour they would perish with cold and hunger. The labour they do, however, is only just sufficient to raise them to that level on which without labour our islanders are placed naturally. It is the lowest level compatible with animal comfort. The Irish rise to that, and they develop some skill in the process; but in spite
of their skill, beyond that level they cannot rise. Necessity may be the mother of invention ; but it is the mother only of the invention of necessaries. With the attainment of the necessaries, their skill and their invention ceases. They can invent no more, because they want no more. They have no desire for a clean cottage with four or five rooms in it; they prefer a smoky hut. They have no desire for a house to put the pig in; they had far tsooner that it kept the family company. Not only have they no desire for such improvement ; they resent it if it is thrust upon them. Give them a clean cottage, they will instantly make it dirty. Put the pig in the pig-house, they will instantly have it back in the kitchen. What they want is not riches; it is simply a leisurely poverty. I have said this of the Irish, but it is not true only of them. They are simply a familiar type of the average of mankind in general wherever wealth is not directly before them, either in itself or in the means that lead to it. The average of mankind, all the world over, are, in that case,
exactly in the condition of our islanders. "Wealth not being before them, they are unable to desire it."
I know this is a hard saying
(from Social Equality) social equality

The answer to that is:
- Arrah, aman’t I making you wealthy sor, God be good to you and and all belonging to you.


skholiast said...

I first encountered Mallock (probably like a lot of people) via Tom Phillips' A Humument. It took me some years to learn that Mallock was worth more than fodder for fan-fiction by subtraction. Or one could call it high-level vandalism. I have no problem with Phillips' bibliomancy, wchih I find rather beautiful and bemusing; but it's nice to see people reading Mallock himself.

ombhurbhuva said...

Nice one Tom, a slice of life.
As it happens I’m reading A Human Document in the classic 3 Vol. format which it took an Irishman, George Moore, to kill, I believe. It’s written to some intellectual scheme of Mallock’s and it works in his travels to Hungary and encounters there. His visits to famous castles feature in it and his reflections on the death watch of feudalism in the Austro- Hungarian Empire mirrored of course by the decline of the great estates in England. The hero (Mallock landed gentry type) is reduced to letting his large house to a brewer and is now contemplating his marriage to a rich heiress who has an adjoining property. He is involved in some business of national importance (Mallock’s fantasy of discovering a pattern in the Blue Books) . In this he has received the attention of the minister.

He meets at the castle in Hungary a married woman a niece of his hostess, the Countess M. or was it N. She is married to a rich man away building a railway somewhere. Their brilliant marriage has not taken and she lives now for her children who are delicate. That allows the pair to meet again at Lichtenburg spa in Austria. The parallels between them, he pre-brilliant, she post-brilliant match has a piquancy which lacks the delicate clockwork of Austen but is not entirely false. Dorothy Richardson doesn’t care what became of them. She has to care now to care later. Such is the novelettish schema and I am now at the start of Vol. 2. Due to the preamble that I mentioned in a previous post
we know that a tragedy is unfolding. It won’t get away on Mallock like ‘Anna’ did on Tolstoy.

I enjoyed Embers by Sandor Marai which had also the theme of the last days of Empire in Hungary.