Crotchet Castle, by Thomas Love Peacock

Chapter VI: Theories

But when they came to shape the model,

Not one could fit the other’s noddle.

— BUTLER.

Meanwhile, the last course, and the dessert, passed by. When the ladies had withdrawn, young Crotchet addressed the company.

MR. CROTCHET, JUN. There is one point in which philosophers of all classes seem to be agreed: that they only want money to regenerate the world.

MR. MAC QUEDY. No doubt of it. Nothing is so easy as to lay down the outlines of perfect society. There wants nothing but money to set it going. I will explain myself clearly and fully by reading a paper. (Producing a large scroll.) “In the infancy of society —”

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Pray, Mr. Mac Quedy, how is it that all gentlemen of your nation begin everything they write with the “infancy of society?”

MR. MAC QUEDY. Eh, sir, it is the simplest way to begin at the beginning. “In the infancy of society, when government was invented to save a percentage; say two and a half per cent. —”

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I will not say any such thing.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, say any percentage you please.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I will not say any percentage at all.

MR. MAC QUEDY. “On the principle of the division of labour —”

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Government was invented to spend a percentage.

MR. MAC QUEDY. To save a percentage.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir, to spend a percentage; and a good deal more than two and a half percent. Two hundred and fifty per cent.: that is intelligible.

MR. MAC QUEDY. —“In the infancy of society —”

MR. TOOGOOD. — Never mind the infancy of society. The question is of society in its maturity. Here is what it should be. (Producing a paper.) I have laid it down in a diagram.

MR. SKIONAR. Before we proceed to the question of government, we must nicely discriminate the boundaries of sense, understanding, and reason. Sense is a receptivity —

MR. CROTCHET, JUN. We are proceeding too fast. Money being all that is wanted to regenerate society, I will put into the hands of this company a large sum for the purpose. Now let us see how to dispose of it.

MR. MAC QUEDY. We will begin by taking a committee-room in London, where we will dine together once a week, to deliberate.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. If the money is to go in deliberative dinners, you may set me down for a committee man and honorary caterer.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Next, you must all learn political economy, which I will teach you, very compendiously, in lectures over the bottle.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I hate lectures over the bottle. But pray, sir, what is political economy?

MR. MAC QUEDY. Political economy is to the state what domestic economy is to the family.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No such thing, sir. In the family there is a paterfamilias, who regulates the distribution, and takes care that there shall be no such thing in the household as one dying of hunger, while another dies of surfeit. In the state it is all hunger at one end, and all surfeit at the other. Matchless claret, Mr. Crotchet.

MR. CROTCHET. Vintage of fifteen, Doctor.

MR. MAC QUEDY. The family consumes, and so does the state.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Consumes, air! Yes: but the mode, the proportions: there is the essential difference between the state and the family. Sir, I hate false analogies.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, the analogy is not essential. Distribution will come under its proper head.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Come where it will, the distribution of the state is in no respect analogous to the distribution of the family. The paterfamilias, sir: the paterfamilias.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, let that pass. The family consumes, and in order to consume, it must have supply.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, sir, Adam and Eve knew that, when they delved and span.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Very true, sir (reproducing his scroll). “In the infancy of society —”

MR. TOOGOOD. The reverend gentleman has hit the nail on the head. It is the distribution that must be looked to; it is the paterfamilias that is wanting in the State. Now here I have provided him. (Reproducing his diagram.)

MR. TRILLO. Apply the money, sir, to building and endowing an opera house, where the ancient altar of Bacchus may flourish, and justice may be done to sublime compositions. (Producing a part of a manuscript opera.)

MR. SKIONAR. No, sir, build sacella for transcendental oracles to teach the world how to see through a glass darkly. (Producing a scroll.)

MR. TRILLO. See through an opera-glass brightly.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. See through a wine-glass full of claret; then you see both darkly and brightly. But, gentlemen, if you are all in the humour for reading papers, I will read you the first half of my next Sunday’s sermon. (Producing a paper.)

OMNES. No sermon! No sermon!

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Then I move that our respective papers be committed to our respective pockets.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Political economy is divided into two great branches, production and consumption.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Yes, sir; there are two great classes of men: those who produce much and consume little; and those who consume much and produce nothing. The fruges consumere nati have the best of it. Eh, Captain! You remember the characteristics of a great man according to Aristophanes: [Greek text]. Ha! ha! ha! Well, Captain, even in these tight-laced days, the obscurity of a learned language allows a little pleasantry.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Very true, sir; the pleasantry and the obscurity go together; they are all one, as it were — to me at any rate (aside).

MR. MAC QUEDY. Now, sir —

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Pray, sir, let your science alone, or you will put me under the painful necessity of demolishing it bit by bit, as I have done your exordium. I will undertake it any morning; but it is too hard exercise after dinner.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Well, sir, in the meantime I hold my science established.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. And I hold it demolished.

MR. CROTCHET, JUN. Pray, gentlemen, pocket your manuscripts, fill your glasses, and consider what we shall do with our money.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Build lecture-rooms, and schools for all.

MR. TRILLO. Revive the Athenian theatre; regenerate the lyrical drama.

MR. TOOGOOD. Build a grand cooperative parallelogram, with a steam-engine in the middle for a maid of all work.

MR. FIREDAMP. Drain the country, and get rid of malaria, by abolishing duck-ponds.

DR. MORBIFIC. Found a philanthropic college of anticontagionists, where all the members shall be inoculated with the virus of all known diseases. Try the experiment on a grand scale.

MR. CHAINMAIL. Build a great dining-hall; endow it with beef and ale, and hang the hall round with arms to defend the provisions.

MR. HENBANE. Found a toxicological institution for trying all poisons and antidotes. I myself have killed a frog twelve times, and brought him to life eleven; but the twelfth time he died. I have a phial of the drug, which killed him, in my pocket, and shall not rest till I have discovered its antidote.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. I move that the last speaker be dispossessed of his phial, and that it be forthwith thrown into the Thames.

MR. HENBANE. How, sir? my invaluable, and, in the present state of human knowledge, infallible poison?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Let the frogs have all the advantage of it.

MR. CROTCHET. Consider, Doctor, the fish might participate. Think of the salmon.

REV DR. FOLLIOTT. Then let the owner’s right-hand neighbour swallow it.

MR. EAVESDROP. Me, sir! What have I done, sir, that I am to be poisoned, sir?

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, you have published a character of your facetious friend, the Reverend Doctor F., wherein you have sketched off me; me, sir, even to my nose and wig. What business have the public with my nose and wig?

MR. EAVESDROP. Sir, it is all good-humoured; all in bonhomie: all friendly and complimentary.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, the bottle, la Dive Bouteille, is a recondite oracle, which makes an Eleusinian temple of the circle in which it moves. He who reveals its mysteries must die. Therefore, let the dose be administered. Fiat experimentum in anima vili.

MR. EAVESDROP. Sir, you are very facetious at my expense.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, you have been very unfacetious, very inficete at mine. You have dished me up, like a savoury omelette, to gratify the appetite of the reading rabble for gossip. The next time, sir, I will respond with the argumentum baculinum. Print that, sir: put it on record as a promise of the Reverend Doctor F., which shall be most faithfully kept, with an exemplary bamboo.

MR. EAVESDROP. Your cloth protects you, sir.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. My bamboo shall protect me, sir.

MR. CROTCHET. Doctor, Doctor, you are growing too polemical.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Sir, my blood boils. What business have the public with my nose and wig?

MR. CROTCHET. Doctor! Doctor!

MR. CROTCHET, JUN. Pray, gentlemen, return to the point. How shall we employ our fund?

MR. PHILPOT. Surely in no way so beneficially as in exploring rivers. Send a fleet of steamboats down the Niger, and another up the Nile. So shall you civilise Africa, and establish stocking factories in Abyssinia and Bambo.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. With all submission, breeches and petticoats must precede stockings. Send out a crew of tailors. Try if the King of Bambo will invest in inexpressibles.

MR. CROTCHET, JUN. Gentlemen, it is not for partial, but for general benefit, that this fund is proposed: a grand and universally applicable scheme for the amelioration of the condition of man.

SEVERAL VOICES. That is my scheme. I have not heard a scheme but my own that has a grain of common sense.

MR. TRILLO. Gentlemen, you inspire me. Your last exclamation runs itself into a chorus, and sets itself to music. Allow me to lead, and to hope for your voices in harmony.

After careful meditation,

And profound deliberation,

On the various pretty projects which have just been shown,

Not a scheme in agitation,

For the world’s amelioration,

Has a grain of common sense in it, except my own.

SEVERAL VOICES. We are not disposed to join in any such chorus.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Well, of all these schemes, I am for Mr. Trillo’s. Regenerate the Athenian theatre. My classical friend here, the Captain, will vote with, me.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. I, sir? oh! of course, sir.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Surely, Captain, I rely on you to uphold political economy.

CAPTAIN FITZCHROME. Me, sir! oh, to be sure, sir.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Pray, sir, will political economy uphold the Athenian theatre?

MR. MAC QUEDY. Surely not. It would be a very unproductive investment.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Then the Captain votes against you. What, sir, did not the Athenians, the wisest of nations, appropriate to their theatre their most sacred and intangible fund? Did not they give to melopoeia, choregraphy, and the sundry forms of didascalics, the precedence of all other matters, civil and military? Was it not their law, that even the proposal to divert this fund to any other purpose should be punished with death? But, sir, I further propose that the Athenian theatre being resuscitated, the admission shall be free to all who can expound the Greek choruses, constructively, mythologically, and metrically, and to none others. So shall all the world learn Greek: Greek, the Alpha and Omega of all knowledge. At him who sits not in the theatre shall be pointed the finger of scorn: he shall be called in the highway of the city, “a fellow without Greek.”

MR. TRILLO. But the ladies, sir, the ladies.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Every man may take in a lady: and she who can construe and metricise a chorus, shall, if she so please, pass in by herself.

MR. TRILLO. But, sir, you will shut me out of my own theatre. Let there at least be a double passport, Greek and Italian.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. No, sir; I am inexorable. No Greek, no theatre.

MR. TRILLO. Sir, I cannot consent to be shut out from my own theatre.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. You see how it is, Squire Crotchet the younger; you can scarcely find two to agree on a scheme, and no two of those can agree on the details. Keep your money in your pocket. And so ends the fund for regenerating the world.

MR. MAC QUEDY. Nay, by no means. We are all agreed on deliberative dinners.

REV. DR. FOLLIOTT. Very true; we will dine and discuss. We will sing with Robin Hood, “If I drink water while this doth last;” and while it lasts we will have no adjournment, if not to the Athenian theatre.

MR. TRILLO. Well, gentlemen, I hope this chorus at least will please you:—

If I drink water while this doth last,

May I never again drink wine:

For how can a man, in his life of a span,

Do anything better than dine?

Well dine and drink, and say if we think

That anything better can be,

And when we have dined, wish all mankind

May dine as well as we.

And though a good wish will fill no dish

And brim no cup with sack,

Yet thoughts will spring as the glasses ring,

To illume our studious track.

On the brilliant dreams of our hopeful schemes

The light of the flask shall shine;

And we’ll sit till day, but we’ll find the way

To drench the world with wine.

The schemes for the world’s regeneration evaporated in a tumult of voices.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 16:24