Charles Kingsley, Alton Locke, Tailor and Poet: Ch. 27

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"Then I will try some other paper."

"An' what for then? They that read him, winna read the ither; an' they that read the ither, winna read him. He has his ain set o' dupes like every ither editor; an' ye mun let him gang his gate, an' feed his ain kye with his ain hay. He'll no change it for your bidding."

"What an abominable thing this whole business of the press is then, if each editor is to be allowed to humbug his readers at his pleasure, without a possibility of exposing or contradicting him!"

"An' ye've just spoken the truth, laddie. There's na mair accursed inquisition, than this of thae self-elected popes, the editors. That puir auld Roman ane, ye can bring him forat when ye list, bad as he is. 'Fænum habet in cornu;' his name's ower his shop-door. But these anonymies—priests o' the order of Melchisedec by the deevil's side, without father or mither, beginning o' years nor end o' days—without a local habitation or a name-as kittle to baud as a brock in a cairn—"

"What do you mean, Mr. Mackaye?" asked I, for he was getting altogether unintelligibly Scotch, as was his custom when excited.

"Ou, I forgot; ye're a puir Southern body, an' no sensible to the gran' metaphoric powers o' the true Dawric. But it's an accursit state a'thegither, the noo, this, o' the anonymous press—oreeginally devised, ye ken, by Balaam the son o' Beor, for serving God wi'out the deevil's finding it out—an' noo, after the way o' human institutions, translated ower to help folks to serve the deevil without God's finding it out. I'm no' astonished at the puir expiring religious press for siccan a fa'; but for the working men to be a' that's bad—it's grewsome to behold. I'll tell ye what, my bairn, there's na salvation for the workmen, while they defile themselves this fashion, wi' a' the very idols o' their ain tyrants—wi' salvation by act o' parliament—irresponsible rights o' property—anonymous Balaamry—fechtin' that canny auld farrant fiend, Mammon, wi' his ain weapons—and then a' fleyed, because they get well beaten for their pains. I'm sair forfaughten this mony a year wi' watching the puir gowks, trying to do God's wark wi' the deevil's tools. Tak tent o' that."

And I did "tak tent o' it." Still there would have been as little present consolation as usual in Mackaye's unwelcome truths, even if the matter had stopped there. But, alas! it did not stop there. O'Flynn seemed determined to "run a muck" at me. Every week some fresh attack appeared. The very passages about the universities and church property, which had caused our quarrel, were paraded against me, with free additions and comments; and, at last, to my horror, out came the very story which I had all along dreaded, about the expurgation of my poems, with the coarsest allusions to petticoat influence—aristocratic kisses—and the Duchess of Devonshire canvassing draymen for Fox, &c., &c. How he got a clue to the scandal I cannot conceive. Mackaye and Crossthwaite, I had thought, were the only souls to whom I had ever breathed the secret, and they denied indignantly the having ever betrayed my weakness. How it came out, I say again, I cannot conceive; except because it is a great everlasting law, and sure to fulfil itself sooner or later, as we may see by the histories of every remarkable, and many an unremarkable, man—"There is nothing secret, but it shall be made manifest; and whatsoever ye have spoken in the closet, shall be proclaimed upon the house-tops."

For some time after that last exposure, I was thoroughly crest-fallen—and not without reason. I had been giving a few lectures among the working men, on various literary and social subjects. I found my audience decrease—and those who remained seemed more inclined to hiss than to applaud me. In vain I ranted and quoted poetry, often more violently than my own opinions justified. My words touched no responsive chord in my hearers' hearts; they had lost faith in me.

At last, in the middle of a lecture on Shelley, I was indulging, and honestly too, in some very glowing and passionate praise of the true nobleness of a man, whom neither birth nor education could blind to the evils of society; who, for the sake of the suffering many, could trample under foot his hereditary pride, and become an outcast for the People's Cause.