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superstition under the splendid outside of a society which included many persons conspicuous for moral excellence, as well as intellectual culture. That possibility is not peculiar to the times of Louis XIV., though it was never more strikingly illustrated. If Mme. de Montespan patronised the fine arts and literature at one of the great periods, and was yet capable of the grossest superstition, we might perhaps find parallels nearer our own time. Modern impostors, it may be said, only practise spiritualism instead of sorcery. They do not, however, present the same strange problem. The curious point is that the sorcerers appeared to have had the most sincere belief in their own arts. They cheated their employers of course by deliberate jugglery, but they also performed their conjurations in their own interests. When Mme. de Montespan was unable to attend a 'black mass' on one occasion, the sorcerers honestly went through the whole hideous performance, though without spectators, and must have believed that it really communicated magical power to the ingredients in the chalice. They used arsenic, which seems to have been the only poison known to them; but they supposed that they could also cause death by invoking Ashtoreth and Asmodeus' over less dangerous materials. If a man really believes in the devil to this extent, one wonders that he should be willing to make an ally of so awkward a personage. There is a story of an Italian who first compelled his enemy to utter blasphemies and then killed him on the spot to make sure of his damnation. If he believed so firmly in the certainty of the penalty, it might be thought that he could hardly expect to escape on his own account. The regular Faust bargains with the devil suggest the same question, and the answer is apparently given by the facility with which the devil is generally supposed to be cheated. That seems to correspond to the tacit assumptions made by the sorcerers of this period. They considered the distinction between the priest and the magician in the same light as the distinction between a regular practitioner and a quack. It is more respectable to call in the physician, and you may perhaps believe that in the long run it will answer best. On the other hand, the quack appears to be frequently very successful, and he may be ready to undertake work which his dignified rival may be bound for various reasons to decline.
No doubt, it is a dangerous practice; people who deal with the devil must run a chance of burning their fingers; but then a
sufficient apology at the last moment may be expected to put things right, as Mme. de Brinvilliers became a saint upon the scaffold. The good and evil powers are regarded as being practically pretty much upon a level, although it may be granted that in the long run the good must be the strongest; but the difference is not so great as to prevent you from applying to each alternately. Of course, this is to say that the substance of the nominal religious belief has been turned into something hardly superior to the fetishism of the savage, and the morality been proportionally corrupted. One cannot imagine that such abominable wretches as the regular traders preserved anything that could by any stretch of courtesy be called a conscience; though even 'La Voisin' is said to have had some regard for her old mother and her children, and an interest in science and industry.' But one rather fancies that Mme. de Montespan, in her retirement, could manage to retain a certain self-complacency. She had, it was true, trafficked with the devil; she had agreed to the slaughter of infants, and her end had been thoroughly immoral, to separate man and wife and encourage the King to indulge in ruinous extravagance. To herself it would appear that she had been part of the rightful magnificence of the great monarch, and she had deserved the admired envy of the most civilised society in the world. If stern moralists like Bossuet had condemned her, and if she had tampered with forbidden arts, she could square her account by living an old age of comparative austerity. The sorcerers, she must have supposed, were meeting with their due reward; but she might consider herself not so much an accomplice of their crimes, as a purely innocent person who had been tempted to make occasional use of them, and might place the main responsibility upon their shoulders. How modern criminals manage to soothe their own consciences is another question; no doubt they have their modes of tricking themselves out of remorse, but it is certainly some advantage that they have not this particular excuse of temptation from agents of the devil, who may be used or be left to bear the blame and the penalty.
THE KILLARNEY HUNT.1
THE stag is up! and hound and pup
See! how he sails across the rails,
Who heads the crew? O'Donoghue
And then the Knight and Needham.
Away to Tork they wind and work
The scent 's in doubt, now, faith, they 're out!
For ould Jack Keogh he seen him go
And waves 'em with his wattle.
A full George crown they 've thrun him down, With that he 'll moist his throttle.
A fine view spot up here we 've got,
The musical rights are already secured.
The Parson's pasted to the Priest,
The farmer to the flunkey, Between the fool upon his mule, The cripple on his donkey.
Yoicks! tally ho! now off they go!
He 's through the brake, he 's in the lake,
He feels the land! he 's up the strand!
II. A LOWER-MIDDLE-CLASS BUDGET.
In asking me to deal with the proper expenditure of a yearly income of from 150l. to 2001. per annum the editor has set me a task of some difficulty. This difficulty will be appreciated by all who have ever plunged into the dialectics of a subject which in its nature depends so largely on the personal equation.
For in the first place we propose to legislate for a class which includes all those sorts and conditions of men which range between the skilled mechanic and the curate in priest's orders. In the second place we have to counsel those who have fallen from affluence to the penury of 150l. per annum, as well as those who have risen from penury to the affluence of the same income.
To those who have never had so much, life on 150l. to 2001. a year will look ridiculously easy, and, like old Eccles when he was asked whether with a pound a week and cheap liquor he could manage to kill himself in three months, they will look forward with pleasure to the chance of trying it. To those who have hitherto had twice as much the task may well appear almost beyond the bounds of possibility. So true it is, as Bishop Fraser has it, that living in comfort is a phrase entirely depending for its meaning on the ideas of him who uses it.'
With these two groups, which are, after all, the fringes of the matter, it will not be possible to deal particularly in the space at our disposal. We must rather concern ourselves with the bulk of the class which looks upon such an income as neither poverty nor riches, and which regards it as an amount upon which a prudent-minded man may properly marry. With the gay bachelor who has no domestic leanings we shall not concern ourselves.
That the subject is one of the highest importance to the nation as well as to the individual will be at once apparent when we remember that domestic economy (by which I do not mean mere domestic economicalness) is the unit of political economy, just as the family is the primordial unit of society; and that the lower middle class of which we write is the backbone of the commonwealth.