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cruel pang

amongst the humbugs everything that passes with others for virtue and purity, it is repulsive ; though even in such a case we may half forgive a writer like Swift, whose bitterness shows that he has not parted with his illusions without a

Mandeville shares Swift's contempt for the human race; but his contempt, instead of urging him to the borders of madness, merely finds vent in a horse-laugh. He despises himself as well as his neighbours, and is content to be despicable. He is a scoffer, not a misanthrope. You are all Yahoos, he seems to say, and I am a Yahoo ; and solet us eat, drink, and be merry.

36. His view of this world is, therefore, the obverse of Shaftesbury's, of whom he speaks with bitter ridicule. "Two systems,' he says, 'cannot be more opposite than his lordship's and mine.' 1 The hunting after this pulchrum et honestum'-Shaftesbury's favourite expression is not much better than a wild-goose chase ;'? and, if we come to facts, 'there is not a quarter of the wisdom, solid knowledge, or intrinsic worth in the world that men talk of and compliment one another with ; and of virtue and religion there is not an hundredth part in reality of what there is in appear

This is his constant tone. Mandeville speaks in the favourite character of the man of the world, whose experience has shown him that statesmen are fools, and churchmen hypocrites, and that all the beautiful varnish of flimsy philosophy with which we deceive each other is unable to hide from him the vileness of the materials over which it forms a superficial film. He will not be beguiled from looking at the seamy side of things. Man is currupt from his head to his foot, as theologians truly tell us ; but the heaven which they throw in as a consolation is a mere delusion—a cheat invented to reconcile us to ourselves. Tell your fine stories to devotees or schoolgirls, he seems to say, but don't try to pass them off upon me, who have seen men and cities, and not taken my notions from books.

37. The particular paradox which gave the book its chief notoriety is summed up in the alternative title, Private Vices, Public Benefits.' The fallacy which lies at the bottom of his

ance.' 3

1 Mandeville's · Fable of the Bees,' p. 205. ? Ib. p. 210.

3 Ib. p. 508.

argument is sufficiently transparent, though it puzzled many able men at the time, and frequently reappears at the present day in slightly altered forms. The doctrine that consumption instead of saving is beneficial to labourers has a permanent popularity. Mandeville puts it in the most extravagant shape. It is,' he declares, “the sensual courtier that sets no limit to his luxury; the fickle strumpet that invents new fashions every week; the haughty duchess, that in equipage, entertainment, and all her behaviour, would imitate a princess; the profuse rake and lavish heir, that scatter about their money without wit or judgment, buy everything they see, and either destroy or give it away the next day; the covetous and perjured villain that squeezed an immense treasure from the tears of widows and orphans, and left the prodigals the money to spend'... it is of these that we are in need to set all varieties of labour to work, and to procure an honest livelihood to the vast numbers of working poor that are required to make a large society.'' He pronounces the Reformation to have been scarcely more efficacious in promoting prosperity 'than the silly and capricious invention of hoop'd petticoats.'' 'Religion,' he adds, 'is one thing and trade is another. He that gives most trouble to thousands of his neighbours, and invents the most operose manufactures, is, right or wrong, the greatest friend to society.'' Going still further, he thinks that even the destruction of capital may be useful. “The fire of London was a great calamity, but if the carpenters, bricklayers, smiths,' and others set at work

were to vote against those who lost by the fire, the rejoicings would equal, if not exceed, the complaints.'? doxes, it may be said, and useful at most as an extravagant statement of a foolish theory, may help to bring about its collapse. And yet the writer who propounded such glaring absurdities was capable of occasionally attacking a commercial fallacy with great keenness, and of anticipating the views of later authorities 3

38. Mandeville, in fact, has overlaid a very sound and sober thesis with a number of showy paradoxes which, perhaps,

Foolish para

2 Ib. p. 230.

"Mandeville, pp. 227, 228.

See e.g. his remarks, at p. 58, upon the balance of trade ; and at p. 465, on the division of labour.

he only half believed. When formally defending himself, he can represent his audacities as purely ironical. He confesses that he has used the words, What we call evil in this world, moral as well as natural, is the grand principle that makes us social creatures, the solid basis, the light and support of all trades without exception.'? The phrase, he admits, has an awkward sound ; but had he been writing for people who could not read between the lines, he would have explained in good set terms that he only meant to argue that every want was an evil ; that on the multiplicity of those wants depended all those mutual services which the individual members of a society pay to each other; and that, consequently, the greater variety there was of want, the greater the number of individuals who might find their private interest in labouring for the good of others; and, united together, compose one body.'? The streets of London, to use his own illustration, will grow dirtier as long as trade increases; and, to make his pages more attractive, he had expressed this doctrine as though he took the dirt to be the cause, instead of the necessary consequence. The fallacy, indeed, is imbedded too deeply in his argument to be discarded in this summary fashion, The doctrine that the heir who scatters, and not the man who accumulates, wealth, really sets labour at work, was so much in harmony with the ideas of the age, that even Berkeley's acuteness only suggests the answer that an honest man generally consumes as much as a knave. There is, however, a core of truth in the sophistry. Large expenditure is a bad commercial symptom, so far as it indicates that consumption is outrunning accumulation ; it is good so far as it indicates that large accumulations render large consumption possible. Mandeville, confusing the two cases, attacks the frugal Dutchman, who saves to supply his future wants, and the frugal savage, who, consuming little, yet consumes all that he produces, and produces little because he has no tastes and feels no wants. As against the savage his remarks are perfectly just. The growth of new desires is undoubtedly an essential condition towards the improvement of society, and every new desire brings new evils in its train.

39. The importance of the doctrine appears in its moral 1 Mandeville, p. 246.

8 Preface to p. viii.

2 Ib. p. 251.

aspect; and it was here that Mandeville gave most scandal, whilst here, too, he indulged in the most daring paradoxes. He is, in fact, radically opposed to the ascetic doctrine of theologians. Accept in all sincerity the doctrine of contempt for the world and its wealth, and the further doctrine that all natural passions are bad, and we should be a set of naked savages. He anticipates the teaching of later economists, that accumulation of wealth affords the essential material base of all the virtues of civilisation. And it is perfectly true that the industrial view of morality is, on this point, vitally opposed to the old theological view. Mandeville gives an appearance of paradox to his doctrine by admitting, with the divine, that the pursuit of wealth is intrinsically vicious, and by arguing, with the economist, that it is essential to civilisation. Luxury, he says emphatically, should include everything that is not necessary to the existence of a naked savage. Virtue consists in renouncing luxury. Hence the highest conceivable type of virtue is to be found in religious houses, where the inmates bind themselves by rigid vows of poverty and chastity to trample the flesh under foot ; or, rather it would be found there, if all monks and nuns did not cover the vilest sensuality under a mask of hypocrisy.? The ideal of a Trappist monk is plainly incompatible with the development of an industrious community. Pushing the theory to an extreme, which is, however, sanctioned by some less paradoxical authorities, he denies the name of virtuous to any doctrine which is prompted by natural instinct. The vilest women,' he tells us, have exerted themselves in behalf of their children 'as violently as the best.' And this, which might seem to prove that there is virtue even in the vilest, is converted to a proof that there is no virtue even in the most excellent. For, says Mandeville, we are prompted to such actions by a natural drift or inclination, without any consideration of the injury or benefit the society receives from it,' and 'there is no merit in pleasing ourselves.'3 A murderer or a highwayman would be thrilled with horror if, without being able to interfere, he should see a pretty child torn in pieces by 'a nasty overgrown sow,'* and, therefore, there is no virtue in compassion. In the same spirit, he argues with offensive coarseness, that modesty is no virtue, because it does not imply an extinction, but only a concealment, of the natural passions.

| Mandeville, p. 56. 2 Ib. p. 87.

* Ib. p. 156.

3 Ih. p. 35.

40. The military as well as the industrial virtues are condemned by theologians, and are yet necessary to society. Duelling, for example, is forbidden by divines, and yet is an essential part of the code of honour, without which there would be no living in a large nation. The contrast between honour and religion is vigorously summed up, and the conclusion is simple. “Religion is built on humility, honour on pride. How to reconcile them must be left to wiser heads than mine.' After describing a perfect gentleman, who might have stood for the portrait of Sir Charles Grandison, he argues that all his virtues might proceed from nothing but a thirst for praise ;3 and proves it by asserting that such a man would fight a duel in spite of his religious principles, and thus obeys man rather than God. In fact, Richardson found this dilemma a very awkward one.

This and much more might pass for an attack on the ascetic virtues, to which the writer has wilfully given the form of an attack upon virtue itself. It is, however, mixed up with a more unequivocal depreciation of human nature. Mandeville puts in its most offensive form the dogma that what we call virtue is but selfishness masquerading. His theory is summed up in the assertion that the moral virtues are the political offspring which flattery begot upon pride.'5 Lawgivers, moralists, and philosophers, it appears, entered into a strange conspiracy for their own vile purposes to persuade men into submission. For this purpose they "thoroughly examined all the strength and frailties of our nature,' 6 and discovered that flattery was the most powerful instrument for moving human beings. ‘Having by this artful way of flattery insinuated themselves into the hearts of men, they began to instruct them in the notions of honour and shame,' 6 and by various cunning devices of the same kind gradually persuaded the multitude to submit quietly to the yoke imposed upon them by the ambitious. This preposterous theory is precisely analogous 1 Mandeville, p. 131.

* Ib. p. 317, &c. 5 Ib. p. 18. Ib. p. 306, &c.

• Ib. p. 319.

o Ib. p. 14.

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