Изображения страниц

If the public will not be compelled, by the progress of crime, to consider this matter, we are sure that they will soon be induced to do so by the fast-increasing expense which those prisons are accumulating on the country. Our prisons are neither diminishing nor checking crime; on the contrary, they are encouraging it to multiply. Yet if this alarming fact will not force the country to reflect, surely the other fact, that prisons are becoming so enormously costly, and that this inefficient mode of punishing the bad is emptying the pockets of the good, will not be disregarded. We are pensioning crime; we are supporting criminals like gentlemen; and—therefore swelling the list.

What are Mr Carlyle's views on the punishment of crime? Ever since he fell in love with Cromwell, he has been an inordinate admirer of the magistrate's sword and physical force. He has taken up the “mission” of preaching that crime, vice, and even imbecility, should be exterminated by a military despotism, and that the world is to be redeemed by bare strength of arm. If, in the Millenium, swords are to be turned into pruning-hooks, yet Mr Carlyle's creed is, that the sword must introduce the Millenium.

His tract upon “Model Prisons” ridicules most unmercifully the idea of the humanitarian’s, that criminals may be reformed by love and gentleness. Mr Carlyle says :

“ Howard abated the jail fever ; but it seems to me he has been the innocent cause of a far more distressing fever which rages high just now; what we may call the Benevolent-Platform Fever. Howard is to be regarded as the unlucky fountain of that tumultuous frothy ocean-tide of benevolent sentimentality, ' abolition of punishment,'all-absorbing' prison discipline,' and general morbid sympathy instead of hearty hatred for scoundrels, which is threatening to drown human society as in deluges, and leave, instead of an edifice of society' fit for the habitation of men, a continent of fetid ooze, inhabitable only by mud-gods and creatures that walk upon their belly. Few things more distress a sinking soul at this time. Most sick am I, O friends, of this sugary, disastrous jargon of philanthropy, the reign of love, new era of universal brotherhood, and not Paradise to the well-deserving, but Paradise to all-and-sundry, which possesses the benighted minds of men and women of our day. My friends, I think you are much mistaken about Paradise ! "No Paradise for anybody; he that cannot do without Paradise, go his ways:' suppose you tried that for a while? I reckon that the safer version.—Unhappy sugary brethren, this is all untrue; this other, contrary to the fact ; not a tatter of it will hang together in the wind and weather of fact. In brotherhood with the base and foolish, I for one do not mean to live. Not in brotherhood with them was life hitherto worth much to me; in pity, in hope not yet quite swallowed of disgust—otherwise in enmity that must last through eternity, in unappeasable aversion shall I have to live with these ! Brotherhood ? No, be the thought far from me. They are Adam's children, alas! yes, I will remember that, and never shall forget it; hence this rage and sorrow. But they have gone over to the dragons, they have quitted the father's house, and set up with the Old Serpent: till they return, how can they be brothers ? They are enemies, deadly to themselves and to me and to you, till then-till then, while hope yet lasts, I will treat them as brothers fallen insane; when hope has ended, with tears grown sacred and wrath grown sacred, I will cut them off in the name of God! It is at my peril if I do not. With the servant of Satan I dare not continue in partnership. Him I must put away, resolutely, and for ever; “lest,' as it is written, ‘I become partaker of his plagues.'

You would have saved the Sarawak Pirates, then ? The Almighty Maker is wroth that the Sarawak cutthroats, with their poisoned


[ocr errors]

spears, are away? What must his wrath be that the 30,000 needlewomen are still here, and the question prevenient grace not yet settled ! O my friends, in sad earnest-sad and deadly earnest, there much needs that God would mend all this, and that we should help him to mend it!” Many are the sentimentalists who deserve such reproof: still some of Mr Carlyle's words outrage both Christianity and humanity. If the Universal Maker has compassion and a Gospel for “the very chief of sinners,” we do not exactly see why Thomas Carlyle should have an “unappeasable aversion," and a hangman's rope for scoundrels. Times are changed, for Mr Carlyle once professed the closest “ brotherhood” with the greatest ruffians, brutes, and scoundrels that ever wore the human shape—the incarnate demons of the French Revolution. So far from “ cutting them off in the name of God,” he almost worshipped them as saints—and instead of treating them with wrath grown sacred,” he cherished them with love grown unprincipled, flagitious, and absurd. It seemed to do his heart good to keep company with the most bloody, filthy, and wicked of men. After associating with and admiring human fiends, he repudiates all brotherhood with fallen man. The following paragraph brings out his views more distinctly:

“ Hopeless for evermore such a project. These abject, ape, wolf, ox, imp, and other diabolic-animal specimens of humanity, who of the very gods could ever have commanded them by love! A collar round the neck, and a cartwhip flourished over the back ; these, in a just and steady human hand, were what the gods would have appointed them ; and now when, by long misconduct and neglect, they had sworn themselves into the Devil's regiment of the line, and got the seal of Chaos impressed on their visage, it was very doubtful whether even these would be of avail for the unfortunate commander of twelve hundred men! By love, without hope, except of peaceably teasing oakum, or fear except of a temporary dinner, he was to guide these men, and wisely constrain them—whitherward! Nowhither—that was his goal, if you think well of it—that was a second fundamental falsity in his problem. False in the warp and false in the woof, thought one of us; about as false a problem as any I have seen a good man set upon lately! To guide scoundrels by love;' that is a false woof, I take it—a method that will not hold together; hardly for the flower of men will love alone do, and for the sediment and scoundrelism of men it has not even a chance to do. And then to guide any class of men, scoundrel, or other, nowhither, which was this poor captain's problem in this prison, with oakum for its one element of hope or outlook, how can that prosper by 'love' or by any conceivable method! That is a warp wholly false. Out of which false warp, or originally false condition to start from, combined and daily woven into by your false woof, or methods of love and suchlike, there arises for our poor captain the falsest of problems, and for a man of his faculty the unfairest of situations. His problem was, not to command good men to do something, but bad men to do (with superficial dis. guises) nothing." Now, we do not see how clean and well-aired prisons, and a humane jailor, represent such “ love” as Mr Carlyle denounces. Would he have criminals put into prisons where no sanitary laws are observed—where damp, foul air, and unwholesome food were the order of the place? We believe, as we have already said, that many of our prisons are something more than health-preserving. They are not only comfortable, but almost luxurious. Still a visiter is little aware of the irksomeness, the penance, the real punishment which a criminal endures, who has to re

[ocr errors]

main for many months in such prisons, and who works at the light task of teasing oakum. Captivity and bondage are bondage and captivity in all circumstances. Mr Carlyle thus describes one of the London prisons :

“ Several months ago, some friends took me with them to see one of the London prisons--a prison of the exemplary or model kind; an immense circuit of buildings, cut out, girt with a high ring wall, from the lones and streets of the quarter, which is a dim and crowded one; gateway as to a fortified place; then a spacious court, like the square of a city; broad staircases, passages to interior courts; fronts of stately architecture all round. It lodges some thousand or twelve hundred prisoners, besides the officers of the establishment: surely one of the most perfect buildings within the compass of London. We looked at the apartments, sleeping-cells, dining-rooms, working-rooms, general courts, or special and private : excellent all—the ne-plus-ultra of human care and ingenuity. In my life I never saw so clean a building; probably no duke in England lives in a mansion of such perfect and thorough cleanness. The bread, the cocoa, soup, meat, all the various sorts of food, in their respective cookingplaces, we tasted-found them of excellence superlative. The prisoners sat at work, light work, picking oakum, and the like, in airy apartments with glass roofs, of agreeable temperature and perfect ventilation ; silent, or at least conversing only by secret signs: others were out, taking their hour of promenade in clean flagged courts; methodic composure, cleanliness, peace, substantial wholesome comfort, reigned everywhere supreme. The women in other apartments, some notable murderesses among them, all in the like state of methodic composure and substantial wholesome comfort, sat sewing. In long ranges of wash-houses, drying-houses, and whatever pertains to the getting up of clean linen, were certain others, with all conceivable mechanical furtherances, not too arduously working. The notable murderesses were, though with great precautions of privacy, pointed out to us; and we were requested not to look openly at them, or seem to notice them at all, as it was found to cherish their vanity' when visiters looked at them. Schools, too, were there; intelligent teachers, of both sexes, studiously instructing the still ignorant of these thieves.” It was all very pleasant for Mr Carlyle to pass through the prison cells; but would he have liked to remain there in durance for a year or so? We may fancy him to have confined his attention exclusively to the condition of a murderer. Of course, in visiting him, Mr Carlyle would have made the same remarks about the architectural stateliness of the prison. On being admitted to the condemned cell, he would have found a clergyman attending gratuitously to the spiritual welfare of the poor wretch.

" What a happy man!” Mr Carlyle would exclaim. · He is far more privileged than the honest and the virtuous of his fellow-countrymen, for he gets the benefit of clergy for nothing, and without a church-rate!”

Mr Carlyle also sees a turnkey in attendance, and would again exclaim _“ Happy man! He keeps a valet without having wages to pay. The scoundrel is better off than the good man whose hard hands are his only servants."

On the morning of execution, the poor wretch is offered a glass of wine. Mr Carlyle tastes it, and finds it of “excellence superlative.” ** What a sin," he cries out, “ to cherish this brute with generous wine, when thousands of virtuous men and women are doomed to drink coffeeslops!"

Mr Carlyle also gets a view of the nightcap to be put on when the criminal is about to be stretched for his last long sleep. He pronounces it remarkable for purity, and declares that “no duke in England sleeps in a nightcap of such perfect and thorough cleanness.” “Horrible!” he indignantly vociferates, “ that the finest cotton should cover that villanous head, when the brow of honest industry cannot get even a red Kilmarnock!”

He also sees the rope. “ A pretty soft collar that!” he exclaims, in wrath. “ The brute's neck should have been clasped in iron. Why didn't the sugary folks put beads and jewels upon the rope, to make it as ornamental as a lady's necklace ?”

Mr Carlyle then walks with the procession to the scaffold, muttering curses all the while that the criminal should have such respectable attendance. But his wrath is quite beyond restraint when he sees the huge hulk of a scaffold. “What!” he asks,“ have King Solomon's carpenters been here to rear such a splendid structure? What honest man ever finds such a conspicuous platform as that ruffian is now to be elevated to? I, Thomas Carlyle, a pretty considerable man in my own eyes, and in those of the world, never stood so high.”

Well, well; but now, ( Thomas, comes the test. You, Thomas, have envied the wretch's comforts—do you envy the awful sequel which closes these? Will you condescend to taste a little of THE HANGING, as you did of the wine?

So we suspect that Mr Carlyle, on trial, would find confinement in a prison not quite so pleasant as visiting and inspecting the cell for a few hours.

His description of two Chartist prisoners is amusing :" From an inner upper room or gallery, we looked down into a range of private courts, where certain Chartist Notabilities were undergoing their term. Chartist Notability First struck me very much: I had seen him about a year before, by involuntary accident, and much to my disgust, magnetising a silly young person, and had noted well the unlovely voracious look of him—his thick oily skin, his heavy dullburning eyes, his greedy mouth, the dusky, potent, insatiable animalism that looked out of every feature of him—a fellow adequate to animal-magnetise most things, I did suppose; and here was the post I now found him arrived at. Next neighbour to him was Notability Second, a philosophic or literary Chartist, walking rapidly to and fro in his private court, a clean high-walled place; the world and its cares quite excluded for some months to come; master of his own time and spiritual resources, to, as I supposed, a really enviable extent. What ' literary man' to an equal extent! I fancied I, for my own part, so left with paper and ink, and all taxes and botherations shut out from me, could have written such a book as no reader will here ever get of me. Never, 0 reader, never here in a mere house with taxes and botherations. Here, alas! one has to snatch one's poor book, bit by bit, as from a conflagration; and to think and live, comparatively, as if the house were not one's own, but mainly the world's and the devil's. Notability Second might have filled one with envy."

For the sake of getting such a book as Mr Carlyle could write, the public will be disposed to pray that he were in prison. Still, we halfsuspect that then he would regard with strong feelings of “hero-worship" Jack Sheppard, and, instead of writing a book, would endeavour to effect an escape. Most certainly, he would not report so favourably of the governor of the jail as he now does in the following paragraph:

• The captain of the place, a gentleman of ancient military or royal navy habits,


was one of the most perfect governors, professionally and by nature zealous for cleanliness, punctuality, good order of every kind; a humane heart, and yet a strong one; soft of speech and manner, yet with an inflexible rigour of command, so far as his limits went; ó iron hand in a velvet glove,' as Napoleon defined it-a man of real worth, challenging at once love and respect; the light of those mild bright eyes seemed to permeate the place as with an all-pervading vigilance, and kindly yet victorious illumination; in the soft definite voice it was as if nature herself were promulgating her orders, gentlest, inildest orders, which, however, in the end, there would be no disobeying, which in the end there would be no living without fulfilment of- a true

Aristos' and commander of men-a man worthy to have commanded and guided forward, in good ways, twelve hundred of the best common people in London or the world: he was here, for many years past, giving all his care and faculty to command, and guide forward in such ways as there were, twelve hundred of the worst, I looked with considerable admiration on this gentleman, and with considerable astonishment, the reverse of admiration, on the work he had here been set upon. This excellent captain was too old a commander to complain of anything ; indeed he struggled visibly the other way, to find in his own mind that all here was best; but I could sufficiently discern that, in his natural instincts, if not mounting up to the region of his thoughts, there was a continual protest going on against much of it; that nature and all his inarticulate persuasion (however much forbidden to articulate itself), taught him the futility and unfeasibility of the system followed here. The visiting magistrate, he gently regretted, rather than complained, had lately taken his treadwheel from him ---men were just now pulling it down; and how he was henceforth to enforce discipline on these bad subjects, was much a difficulty with him. “ They cared for nothing but the treadwheel, and for having their rations cut short;' of the two sole penalties, hard work and occasional hunger, there remained now only one, and that by no means the better one, as he thought. The 'sympathy' of visiters, tootheir 'pity' for his interesting scoundrel subjects, though he tried to like it, was evidently no joy to his practical mind. Pity! Yes; but pity for the scoundrel species !—for those who will not have pity on themselves, and will force the universe and the laws of nature to have nopity' on them? Meseems I could discover fitter objects of pity.”

Mr Carlyle's deliverance on the whole subject of prison discipline is that, at present, it is conducted upon totally wrong principles, and with absurd aims.

The spirit of this tract, if it were breathed into the laws and judges that have to deal with criminals, would transform justice, the heavenly guardian, into a fury of hell It is bloodthirsty and brutal, making Mr Carlyle's humour hideous, and his reasoning fiendish. The tract might have been written by “hangman's hands." He closes it by intimating that punishment is not the most pressing question of the day.

“ My clear opinion farther is, we had better quit the scoundrel province of reform -better close that under hatches, in some rapid summary manner, and go elsewhither with our reform efforts. A whole world, for want of reform, is drowning and sinking, threatening to swamp itself into a Stygian quagmire, uninhabitable by any nobleminded man. Let us to the well-heads, I say-to the chief fountain of these waters of bitterness, and there strike home and dig! To puddle in the embouchures and drowned outskirts, and ulterior and ultimate issues and cloacas of the affair ; what profit can there be in that ? Nothing to be saved there--nothing to be fished-up there, except, with endless peril and spread of pestilence, a miscellany of broken waifs and dead dogs! In the name of Heaven, quit that.”

Nos. 3 and 4 of the series are entitled “Downing Street,” and “ New

[ocr errors]
« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »