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in every drawing-room. His “unmistakable distinction" saves him from the dubious compliment involved in universal recognition. But although his contribution to literature is not weighty enough to place him among the front-rank immortals, whom all know by name and a certain percentage read, its quality secured him the applause of the best contemporary judges, and has gained him a permanent niche in the temple of fame. “The world," said Walter Savage Landor, “will never see again two such delightful volumes as the Essays of Elia; no man living is capable of writing the worst twenty pages of them."

“His memory," wrote Southey, “ will retain its fragrance as long as the best spice that ever was expended upon one of the Pharaohs.” * Save to the 'sour complexioned’ and matter of fact,” says his most distinguished biographer, Lamb is “one of the most dearly loved among English men of letters," and there is "every sign that this love is one which no changes, either of fashion or taste, will diminish."

66

Are not his footsteps followed by the eyes

Of all the good and wise,
Tho' the warm day is over, yet they seek

Upon the lofty peak.
Of his pure mind the roseate light that glows

O’er death's perennial snows.

51

THE ETHICS OF COMMON LIFE.

BY JOHN LEE, B.A. It is easy to build up a system of Ethics. That is to say, setting out from the central idea that there is an ought-to-do and a can-do, it is by no means difficult to theorise on their union. We may conceive, for example, that every unit is hedonistically inclined, that he or she acts for his or her own happiness, or on the other hand, that he or she acts partially for the good of the race, and partially for his or her own good. Again, we may regard the deliverance of common sense as absolute, as authoritative, and from that we may deduce a body corporate of morals with a main content that the duty thus assigned must be performed whatever may be the result either to the agent or to the agent's fellows.

Having thus set out, the construction of a method of ethics is not an insuperable task. Such a method may have codified declarations, and these codified declarations may contain positive elements, such, for example, as benevolence and justice, and wisdom and prudence. But when we have completed our task, the question before us is an obvious one. What is the bearing of a method of ethics upon practical life?

Here, I take it, the scientific treatment of ethics comes to an end. Our lives are essentially rapid and complex. The influences which affect us are manifold ; the motives which inspire us are counter-agent and confusing; the results which lure us are conflicting and often illusory. Of what use is a method of ethics for a village grocer or a

a

city clerk, for after all, our lives, whatever sphere we may occupy, are in their essentials comparable to those of the village grocer and the city clerk? In other words, to what effect has the study of ethics been brought to influence the day-by-day lives of ourselves and those around us? Herein, I consider, lies a most interesting problem.

One answer is made at this point. There are those who say the only practical ethical system is religion. In reply to this assertion it may be asserted that religion, in any form whatsoever, only affects the minority of mankind, so that for the majority there is some other code of conduct. Ah, replies the religious, but religion affects a wider area than is at first apparent; an atheist has read the Bible at his mother's knee; he has become indirectly influenced by religious sanctions to which he himself denies assent. It may be rejoined to such a plea that if any man rejects religion, to the same extent that he rejects it, religion cannot be regarded as an ethical sanction to that man. Moreover, of church and chapel-going people—and they are probably the minority--what proportion is affected by the inner ethical sanction of the religion to which they openly adhere? It must be admitted that the proportion is probably very small. So that for the great bulk of our community religion does not supply the direct sanction, nor the direct authority of right and wrong.

Nor does legislation supply the deficiency. At once it must be admitted that a wide area of human conduct cannot possibly be affected by legislation. To many of us the complex statute law of the land has no practical existence. We do not think that in our conduct of family affairs, and in our relations to our fellows, we are governed by enactment. Of course the fact is we are not governed by enactment in the great bulk of our worldly affairs. Apart from the question of common law, there is a great residue of action which is not touched by law at all. For example, it is recognised as our duty to be kindly, affectionate and courteous. What system of legislation could enforce this threefold duty ? At best legislation can only act negatively by restraining infringements; it can only in rare instances enjoin duties.

But what are duties? By whom are they enjoined ? What is the sanction, the reward of performance or the punishment of neglect? The minority may say duty is that which God tells me to perform, either by the mouth of a church, a Bible, or a conscience. The majority, however, while they might say with their lips that they had some such supernatural authority, only too manifestly live regardless of the existence of God, and only too manifestly perform multitudinous actions without reference either to God or authority. But, say some, there is conscience. And what, we ask, is conscience? Does conscience ever err ? Common notions say it does, for we hear that conscience may be deadened ; on the other hand, it may be quickened, so that the individual can control this authoritative guide.

In the search, therefore, for a method of ethics of common life we seem to be baffled at every point. Scientific ethics apparently is out of court, for we know that men do not, and cannot sit down in the cool hour, of which Bishop Butler spoke, and weigh up whether conflicting courses of action will bring more pleasure hedonists would put it; or would obey the moral senseas the intuitionists would speak; or would tend towards the attainment of a personal ideal—as Professor Green would say. Religious sanctions are clearly inoperative in the bulk of cases; legislative sanctions fall far short of offering a complete solution. What is left ?

There is of course the conventional standard of right

as the

and wrong. That many men act with a single eye to the opinion of their fellows there can be no manner of doubt, but does this offer anything approaching a method of ethics? At the very best conventional ethics but call upon us to evade -- not wrong-doing, but discovery; they offer us no other standard, they have no other attractive force. Provided we escape publicity we have satisfied conventional standards. Moreover, as Prof. Sidgwick pointed out, there are often two conventional standards the exoteric and the esoteric. In public the conventional standard ruthlessly condemns; in private, there is shrugging of shoulders, with a hint that “ boys must be boys,” translated into the jargon which fits the particular occasion. Smoke-room ethics and leading-article ethics are very different standards indeed.

Now the man-in-the-street has been pretty evident of late. It has been said, on reasonably good authority, that he is as wise as the Cabinet Ministers. Suppose the manin-the-street becomes suddenly imbued with a desire for high ethical action. He admits that hitherto he has worked for a living; he has read, and slept, and ate, and smoked for his own enjoyment; he has kept his wife and children in comfort, and showered due affection upon them. Yet he feels that his life has been motive-less; he has no ethical or moral purpose. He lets his wife go to church, and sends his children to Sunday school, that others may rob him of the sacred portion of his parental duty, for he does not bother about these things himself. He has jogged along quietly and comfortably. He has robbed no one, nor has he, by slander, taken away any good name; but still he knows there is no moral enthusiasm or virtue or spirit in his life. What does he propose to do?

Ah, he says, there is a science of conduct called “Ethics,” I will get at it and see if there I can learn

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