PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION.
have seldom been more disappointed by the result of my best pains
given to any of my books, than by the earnest request of my
publisher, after the opinion of the public had been taken on the
"Ethics of the Dust," that I would "write no more in
dialogue!" However, I bowed to public judgment in this matter at
once (knowing also my inventive powers to be of the feeblest); but in
reprinting the book (at the prevailing request of my kind friend, Mr.
Henry Willett), I would pray the readers whom it may at first offend
by its disconnected method, to examine, nevertheless, with care, the
passages in which the principal speaker sums the conclusions of any
dialogue: for these summaries were written as introductions, for
young people, to all that I have said on the same matters in my
larger books; and, on re-reading them, they satisfy me better, and
seem to me calculated to be more generally useful, than anything else
I have done of the kind.The
summary of the contents of the whole book, beginning, "You may
at least earnestly believe," at p. 215, is thus the clearest
exposition I have ever yet given of the general conditions under
which the Personal Creative Power manifests itself in the forms of
matter; and the analysis of heathen conceptions of Deity, beginning
at p. 217, and closing at p. 229, not only prefaces, but very nearly
supersedes, all that in more lengthy terms I have since asserted, or
pleaded for, in "Aratra Pentelici," and the "Queen of
thus, however the book may fail in its intention of suggesting new
occupations or interests to its younger readers, I think it worth
reprinting, in the way I have also reprinted "Unto this
Last,"—page for page; that the students of my more advanced
works may be able to refer to these as the original documents of
them; of which the most essential in this book are these following.I.
The explanation of the baseness of the avaricious functions of the
Lower Pthah, p. 54, with his beetle-gospel, p. 59, "that a
nation can stand on its vices better than on its virtues,"
explains the main motive of all my books on Political Economy.II.
The examination of the connection between stupidity and crime, pp.
87-96, anticipated all that I have had to urge in Fors Clavigera
against the commonly alleged excuse for public wickedness,—"They
don't mean it—they don't know any better."III.
The examination of the roots of Moral Power, pp. 145-149, is a
summary of what is afterwards developed with utmost care in my
inaugural lecture at Oxford on the relation of Art to Morals; compare
in that lecture, sections 83-85, with the sentence in p. 147 of this
book, "Nothing is ever done so as really to please our Father,
unless we would also have done it, though we had had no Father to
know of it."This
sentence, however, it must be observed, regards only the general
conditions of action in the children of God, in consequence of which
it is foretold of them by Christ that they will say at the Judgment,
"When saw we thee?" It does not refer to the distinct cases
in which virtue consists in faith given to command, appearing to
foolish human judgment inconsistent with the Moral Law, as in the
sacrifice of Isaac; nor to those in which any directly-given command
requires nothing more of virtue than obedience.IV.
The subsequent pages, 149-158, were written especially to check the
dangerous impulses natural to the minds of many amiable young women,
in the direction of narrow and selfish religious sentiment: and they
contain, therefore, nearly everything which I believe it necessary
that young people should be made to observe, respecting the errors of
monastic life. But they in nowise enter on the reverse, or favorable
side: of which indeed I did not, and as yet do not, feel myself able
to speak with any decisiveness; the evidence on that side, as stated
in the text, having "never yet been dispassionately examined."V.
The dialogue with Lucilla, beginning at p. 96, is, to my own fancy,
the best bit of conversation in the book; and the issue of it, at p.
103, the most practically and immediately useful. For on the idea of
the inevitable weakness and corruption of human nature, has logically
followed, in our daily life, the horrible creed of modern "Social
science," that all social action must be scientifically founded
on vicious impulses. But on the habit of measuring and reverencing
our powers and talents that we may kindly use them, will be founded a
true Social science, developing, by the employment of them, all the
real powers and honorable feelings of the race.VI.
Finally, the account given in the second and third lectures, of the
real nature and marvelousness of the laws of crystallization, is
necessary to the understanding of what farther teaching of the beauty
of inorganic form I may be able to give, either in "Deucalion,"
or in my "Elements of Drawing." I wish however that the
second lecture had been made the beginning of the book; and would
fain now cancel the first altogether, which I perceive to be both
obscure and dull. It was meant for a metaphorical description of the
pleasures and dangers in the kingdom of Mammon, or of worldly wealth;
its waters mixed with blood, its fruits entangled in thickets of
trouble, and poisonous when gathered; and the final captivity of its
inhabitants within frozen walls of cruelty and disdain. But the
imagery is stupid and ineffective throughout; and I retain this
chapter only because I am resolved to leave no room for any one to
say that I have withdrawn, as erroneous in principle, so much as a
single sentence of any of my books written since 1860.One
license taken in this book, however, though often permitted to
essay-writers for the relief of their dullness, I never mean to take
more,—the relation of composed metaphor as of actual dream, pp. 27
and 171. I assumed, it is true, that in these places the supposed
dream would be easily seen to be an invention; but must not any more,
even under so transparent disguise, pretend to any share in the real
powers of Vision possessed by great poets and true painters.
VALLEY OF DIAMONDSA
very idle talk, by the dining-room fire, after raisin-and-almond
LECTURER; FLORRIE, ISABEL, MAY, LILY, and SIBYL.OLD
LECTURER (L.). Come here, Isabel, and tell me what the make- believe
was, this afternoon.ISABEL
(arranging herself very primly on the foot-stool). Such a dreadful
one! Florrie and I were lost in the Valley of Diamonds.L.
What! Sindbad's, which nobody could get out of? ISABEL. Yes; but
Florrie and I got out of it.L.
So I see. At least, I see you did; but are you sure Florrie did?ISABEL.
(putting her head round from behind L.'s sofa-cushion).Quite
sure. (Disappears again.)L.
I think I could be made to feel surer about it.(FLORRIE
reappears, gives L. a kiss, and again exit.)L.
I suppose it's all right; but how did you manage it?ISABEL.
Well, you know, the eagle that took up Sindbad was very large—very,
very large—the largest of all the eagles.L.
How large were the others?ISABEL.
I don't quite know—they were so far off. But this one was, oh, so
big! and it had great wings, as wide as—twice over the ceiling. So,
when it was picking up Sindbad, Florrie and I thought it wouldn't
know if we got on its back too: so I got up first, and then I pulled
up Florrie, and we put our arms round its neck, and away it flew.L.
But why did you want to get out of the valley? and why haven't you
brought me some diamonds?ISABEL.
It was because of the serpents. I couldn't pick up even the least
little bit of a diamond, I was so frightened.L.
You should not have minded the serpents.ISABEL.
Oh, but suppose that they had minded me?L.
We all of us mind you a little too much, Isabel, I'm afraid.ISABEL.
I tell you what, Isabel—I don't believe either Sindbad, orFlorrie,
or you, ever were in the Valley of Diamonds.ISABEL.
You naughty! when I tell you we were!L.
Because you say you were frightened at the serpents.ISABEL.
And wouldn't you have been?L.
Not at those serpents. Nobody who really goes into the valley is ever
frightened at them—they are so beautiful.ISABEL
(suddenly serious). But there's no real Valley of Diamonds, is there?L.
Yes, Isabel; very real indeed.FLORRIE
(reappearing). Oh, where? Tell me about it.L.
I cannot tell you a great deal about it; only I know it is very
different from Sindbad's. In his valley, there was only a diamond
lying here and there; but, in the real valley, there are diamonds
covering the grass in showers every morning, instead of dew: and
there are clusters of trees, which look like lilac trees; but, in
spring, all their blossoms are of amethyst.FLORRIE.
But there can't be any serpents there, then?L.
Because they don't come into such beautiful places.L.
I never said it was a beautiful place.FLORRIE.
What! not with diamonds strewed about it like dew?L.
That's according to your fancy, Florrie. For myself, I like dew
Oh, but the dew won't stay; it all dries!L.
Yes; and it would be much nicer if the diamonds dried too, for the
people in the valley have to sweep them off the grass, in heaps,
whenever they want to walk on it; and then the heaps glitter so, they
hurt one's eyes.FLORRIE.
Now you're just playing, you know.L.
So are you, you know.FLORRIE.
Yes, but you mustn't play.L.
That's very hard, Florrie; why mustn't I, if you may?FLORRIE.
Oh, I may, because I'm little, but you mustn't, because
you're—(hesitates for a delicate expression of magnitude).L.
(rudely taking the first that comes). Because I'm big? No; that's not
the way of it at all, Florrie. Because you're little, you should have
very little play; and because I'm big I should have a great deal.ISABEL
and FLORRIE (both). No—no—no—no. That isn't it at all. (ISABEL
sola, quoting Miss Ingelow.) "The lambs play always—they know
no better." (Putting her head very much on one side.) Ah, now
—please—please—tell us true; we want to know.L.
But why do you want me to tell you true, any more than the man who
wrote the "Arabian Nights"?ISABEL.
Because—because we like to know about real things; and you can tell
us, and we can't ask the man who wrote the stories.L.
What do you call real things?ISABEL.
Now, you know! Things that really are.L.
Whether you can see them or not?ISABEL.
Yes, if somebody else saw them.L.
But if nobody has ever seen them?ISABEL.
(evading the point). Well, but, you know, if there were a real Valley
of Diamonds, somebody MUST have seen it.L.
You cannot be so sure of that, Isabel. Many people go to real places,
and never see them; and many people pass through this valley, and
never see it.FLORRIE.
What stupid people they must be!L.
No, Florrie. They are much wiser than the people who do see it.MAY.
I think I know where it is.ISABEL.
Tell us more about it, and then we'll guess.L.
Well. There's a great broad road, by a river-side, leading up into
(gravely cunning, with emphasis on the last word). Does the road
really go UP?L.
You think it should go down into a valley? No, it goes up; this is a
valley among the hills, and it is as high as the clouds, and is often
full of them; so that even the people who most want to see it,
And what is the river beside the road like?L.
It ought to be very beautiful, because it flows over diamond
sand—only the water is thick and red.ISABEL.
It isn't all water.MAY.
Oh, please never mind that, Isabel, just now; I want to hear about
So the entrance to it is very wide, under a steep rock; only such
numbers of people are always trying to get in, that they keep
jostling each other, and manage it but slowly. Some weak ones are
pushed back, and never get in at all; and make great moaning as they
go away: but perhaps they are none the worse in the end.MAY.
And when one gets in, what is it like?L.
It is up and down, broken kind of ground: the road stops directly;
and there are great dark rocks, covered all over with wild gourds and
wild vines; the gourds, if you cut them, are red, with black seeds,
like water-melons, and look ever so nice; and the people of the place
make a red pottage of them: but you must take care not to eat any if
you ever want to leave the valley (though I believe putting plenty of
meal in it makes it wholesome). Then the wild vines have clusters of
the color of amber; and the people of the country say they are the
grape of Eshcol; and sweeter than honey: but, indeed, if anybody else
tastes them, they are like gall. Then there are thickets of bramble,
so thorny that they would be cut away directly, anywhere else; but
here they are covered with little cinque-foiled blossoms of pure
silver; and, for berries, they have clusters of rubies. Dark rubies,
which you only see are red after gathering them. But you may fancy
what blackberry parties the children have! Only they get their frocks
and hands sadly torn.LILY.
But rubies can't spot one's frocks, as blackberries do?L.
No; but I'll tell you what spots them—the mulberries. There are
great forests of them, all up the hills, covered with silk- worms,
some munching the leaves so loud that it is like mills at work; and
some spinning. But the berries are the blackest you ever saw; and,
wherever they fall, they stain a deep red; and nothing ever washes it
out again. And it is their juice, soaking through the grass, which
makes the river so red, because all its springs are in this wood. And
the boughs of the trees are twisted, as if in pain, like old olive
branches; and their leaves are dark. And it is in these forests that
the serpents are; but nobody is afraid of them. They have fine
crimson crests, and they are wreathed about the wild branches, one in
every tree, nearly; and they are singing serpents, for the serpents
are, in this forest, what birds are in ours.FLORRIE.
Oh, I don't want to go there at all, now.L.
You would like it very much indeed, Florrie, if you were there. The
serpents would not bite you; the only fear would be of your turning
Oh, dear, but that's worse.L.
You wouldn't think so if you really were turned into one, Florrie;
you would be very proud of your crest. And as long as you were
yourself (not that you could get there if you remained quite the
little Florrie you are now), you would like to hear the serpents
sing. They hiss a little through it, like the cicadas in Italy; but
they keep good time, and sing delightful melodies; and most of them
have seven heads, with throats which each take a note of the octave;
so that they can sing chords—it is very fine indeed. And the
fireflies fly round the edge of the forests all the night long; you
wade in fireflies, they make the fields look like a lake trembling
with reflection of stars; but you must take care not to touch them,
for they are not like Italian fireflies, but burn, like real sparks.FLORRIE.
I don't like it at all; I'll never go there.L.
I hope not, Florrie; or at least that you will get out again if you
do. And it is very difficult to get out, for beyond these serpent
forests there are great cliffs of dead gold, which form a labyrinth,
winding always higher and higher, till the gold is all split asunder
by wedges of ice; and glaciers, welded, half of ice seven times
frozen, and half of gold seven times frozen, hang down from them, and
fall in thunder, cleaving into deadly splinters, like the Cretan
arrowheads; and into a mixed dust of snow and gold, ponderous, yet
which the mountain whirlwinds are able to lift and drive in wreaths
and pillars, hiding the paths with a burial cloud, fatal at once with
wintry chill, and weight of golden ashes. So the wanderers in the
labyrinth fall, one by one, and are buried there:—yet, over the
drifted graves, those who are spared climb to the last, through coil
on coil of the path;—for at the end of it they see the king of the
valley, sitting on his throne: and beside him (but it is only a false
vision), spectra of creatures like themselves, sit on thrones, from
which they seem to look down on all the kingdoms of the world, and
the glory of them. And on the canopy of his throne there is an
inscription in fiery letters, which they strive to read, but cannot;
for it is written in words which are like the words of all languages,
and yet are of none. Men say it is more like their own tongue to the
English than it is to any other nation; but the only record of it is
by an Italian, who heard the king himself cry it as a war cry, "Pape
Satan, Pape Satan Aleppe." [Footnote: Dante, Inf. 7, I.]SIBYL.
But do they all perish there? You said there was a way through the
valley, and out of it.L.
Yes; but few find it. If any of them keep to the grass paths, where
the diamonds are swept aside; and hold their hands over their eyes so
as not to be dazzled, the grass paths lead forward gradually to a
place where one sees a little opening in the golden rocks. You were
at Chamouni last year, Sibyl; did your guide chance to show you the
pierced rock of the Aiguille du Midi?SIBYL.
No, indeed, we only got up from Geneva on Monday night; and it rained
all Tuesday; and we had to be back at Geneva again, early on
Of course. That is the way to see a country in a Sibylline manner, by
inner consciousness: but you might have seen the pierced rock in your
drive up, or down, if the clouds broke: not that there is much to see
in it; one of the crags of the aiguille- edge, on the southern slope
of it, is struck sharply through, as by an awl, into a little eyelet
hole; which you may see, seven thousand feet above the valley (as the
clouds flit past behind it, or leave the sky), first white, and then
dark blue. Well, there's just such an eyelet hole in one of the upper
crags of the Diamond Valley; and, from a distance, you think that it
is no bigger than the eye of a needle. But if you get up to it, they
say you may drive a loaded camel through it, and that there are fine
things on the other side, but I have never spoken with anybody who
had been through.SIBYL.
I think we understand it now. We will try to write it down, and think
Meantime, Florrie, though all that I have been telling you is very
true, yet you must not think the sort of diamonds that people wear in
rings and necklaces are found lying about on the grass. Would you
like to see how they really are found?FLORRIE.
Isabel—or Lily—run up to my room and fetch me the little box with
a glass lid, out of the top drawer of the chest of drawers. (Race
between LILY and ISABEL.)(Re-enter
ISABEL with the box, very much out of breath. LILY behind.)L.
Why, you never can beat Lily in a race on the stairs, can
(panting). Lily—beat me—ever so far—but she gave me—the
box—to carry in.L.
Take off the lid, then; gently.FLORRIE
(after peeping in, disappointed). There's only a great ugly brown
Not much more than that, certainly, Florrie, if people were wise. But
look, it is not a single stone; but a knot of pebbles fastened
together by gravel: and in the gravel, or compressed sand, if you
look close, you will see grains of gold glittering everywhere, all
through; and then, do you see these two white beads, which shine, as
if they had been covered with grease?FLORRIE.
May I touch them?L.
Yes; you will find they are not greasy, only very smooth. Well, those
are the fatal jewels; native here in their dust with gold, so that
you may see, cradled here together, the two great enemies of
mankind,—the strongest of all malignant physical powers that have
tormented our race.SIBYL.
Is that really so? I know they do great harm; but do they not also do
My dear child, what good? Was any woman, do you suppose, ever the
better for possessing diamonds? but how many have been made base,
frivolous, and miserable by desiring them? Was ever man the better
for having coffers full of gold? But who shall measure the guilt that
is incurred to fill them? Look into the history of any civilized
nations; analyze, with reference to this one cause of crime and
misery, the lives and thoughts of their nobles, priests, merchants,
and men of luxurious life. Every other temptation is at last
concentrated into this: pride, and lust, and envy, and anger all give
up their strength to avarice. The sin of the whole world is
essentially the sin of Judas. Men do not disbelieve their Christ; but
they sell Him.SIBYL.
But surely that is the fault of human nature? it is not caused by the
accident, as it were, of there being a pretty metal, like gold, to be
found by digging. If people could not find that, would they not find
something else, and quarrel for it instead?L.
No. Wherever legislators have succeeded in excluding, for a time,
jewels and precious metals from among national possessions, the
national spirit has remained healthy. Covetousness is not natural to
man—generosity is; but covetousness must be excited by a special
cause, as a given disease by a given miasma; and the essential nature
of a material for the excitement of covetousness is, that it shall be
a beautiful thing which can be retained without a use. The moment we
can use our possessions to any good purpose ourselves, the instinct
of communicating that use to others rises side by side with our
power. If you can read a book rightly, you will want others to hear
it; if you can enjoy a picture rightly, you will want others to see
it: learn how to manage a horse, a plough, or a ship, and you will
desire to make your subordinates good horsemen, ploughmen, or
sailors; you will never be able to see the fine instrument you are
master of, abused; but, once fix your desire on anything useless, and
all the purest pride and folly in your heart will mix with the
desire, and make you at last wholly inhuman, a mere ugly lump of
stomach and suckers, like a cuttle-fish.SIBYL.
But surely, these two beautiful things, gold and diamonds, must have
been appointed to some good purpose?L.
Quite conceivably so, my dear: as also earthquakes and pestilences;
but of such ultimate purposes we can have no sight. The practical,
immediate office of the earthquake and pestilence is to slay us, like
moths; and, as moths, we shall be wise to live out of their way. So,
the practical, immediate office of gold and diamonds is the
multiplied destruction of souls (in whatever sense you have been
taught to understand that phrase); and the paralysis of wholesome
human effort and thought on the face of God's earth: and a wise
nation will live out of the way of them. The money which the English
habitually spend in cutting diamonds would, in ten years, if it were
applied to cutting rocks instead, leave no dangerous reef nor
difficult harbor round the whole island coast. Great Britain would be
a diamond worth cutting, indeed, a true piece of regalia. (Leaves
this to their thoughts for a little while.) Then, also, we poor
mineralogists might sometimes have the chance of seeing a fine
crystal of diamond unhacked by the jeweler.SIBYL.
Would it be more beautiful uncut?L.
No; but of infinite interest. We might even come to know something
about the making of diamonds.SIBYL.
I thought the chemists could make them already?L.
In very small black crystals, yes; but no one knows how they are
formed where they are found; or if indeed they are formed there at
all. These, in my hand, look as if they had been swept down with the
gravel and gold; only we can trace the gravel and gold to their
native rocks, but not the diamonds. Read the account given of the
diamond in any good work on mineralogy;—you will find nothing but
lists of localities of gravel, or conglomerate rock (which is only an
old indurated gravel). Some say it was once a vegetable gum; but it
may have been charred wood; but what one would like to know is,
mainly, why charcoal should make itself into diamonds in India, and
only into black lead in Borrowdale.SIBYL.
Are they wholly the same, then?L.
There is a little iron mixed with our black lead; but nothing to
hinder its crystallization. Your pencils in fact are all pointed with
formless diamond, though they would be H H H pencils to purpose, if
But what IS crystallization?L.
A pleasant question, when one's half asleep, and it has been tea-time
these two hours. What thoughtless things girls are!SYBIL.
Yes, we are; but we want to know, for all that.L.
My dear, it would take a week to tell you.SIBYL.
Well, take it, and tell us.L.
But nobody knows anything about it.SIBYL.
Then tell us something that nobody knows.L.
Get along with you, and tell Dora to make tea.(The
house rises; but of course the LECTURER wanted to be forced to
lecture again, and was.)