The Uses of Sentiment

Raymond Blathwayt
Pall Mall Gazette Sept. 1892

To the Editor of the Pall Mall Gazette.

[3] Sir,–About a month ago I stood upon the esplanade at Eastbourne gazing out upon the sun-lit sea at an old hulk which was slowly and solemnly "glimmering away to the lonely deep." It was the brave old Foudroyant on her last voyage. A group of noisy young cockneys stood by me wondering why on earth a ship was sailing upon the ocean without either masts, sails, or rudders. I told them the history of the old fighter, how Abercrombie had died in her, how Nelson had waved his flag of victory from her peak, how the Admiralty, scenting a good bargain, had sold her for firewood to a German tradesman. They listened in silence until I had told my story, and then said they, "Well, it’s a blooming shame! that’s wot it is, it’s a blooming shame." And they were right, sir. It is a bloomin' shame. It's a bloomin' shame that we should refuse our Tates when they offer us national portrait galleries; that our artists should be driven to sell their chefs d’oeuvre to foreign nations; that we should allow our historic villages to be razed to the ground, because the houses, not having been repaired since the days of Edward III., are not quite up to modem requirements in the way of bathrooms and electric lighting; that we should sell the warships upon which the greatest battles of our history have been fought, and wherein the bravest of our sons have bled and died, for firewood to the German Fatherland. It's a bloomin’ shame, without a doubt, that these things should be done by those who are our rulers. But do these same hide-bound, red-tape-tied gentry realize how genuine a thing is British sentiment, how priceless a gem it is that they are so ruthlessly treading beneath their feet? And no one who goes about amongst the so-called masses can have failed to notice how really charmingly sentimental, in the best sense of the word, our people are. A hundred times over I have seen the joy of some poor outcast rough as he has been handed a flower at the close of one of our Gordon League Sunday evenings. In many of them sentiment,, romance–call it what you will–is the one redeeming feature of their otherwise weary and barren lives.

Only to-day I had a most striking instance of sentiment come beneath my notice. I was about to enter my house, when a plain, simply-dressed working man came up to me with a note in his hand, and touching his hat, he said, "I think this is for you, sir," and then he added, "Will you give me the envelope, sir, as a great favour?" I looked at it, and seeing it bore the signature of Professor Huxley, I replied, "Certainly I will; but why do you ask for it? "Well," said he, 'ifs got Professor Huxley's signature, and it will be something for me to show my mates and keep for my children. He have done me and my like a lot of good; no man more." The man did not ask for money; only for an autograph. Now that was sentiment, and very pretty sentiment too. But our rulers appear to ignore all this; they do not realize apparently that the very thing which refines and ennobles an individual, is also the very thing that refines and ennobles a nation, which is , after all, but a collection of individuals. Our best chance for the future lies in the cultivation of this spirit. The Empire will never be put to shame by a "sentimental' Democracy. If indeed our rulers are without sentiment, so are not the great masses of the people; if they cannot understand how vigorous and potential a factor in the life and well-being of this great empire national sentiment really is, there are those who can and do. Intangible as it appears to be, there is yet no stronger or more powerful influence in our midst to-day than that of popular sentiment. The whole question of Imperial Federation lies bound up, I firmly believe, in the one simple word "sentiment." We may talk of privileged taxation and protective tariffs and inter-imperial Zollvereins till we are black in the face, but so far as Australia, Canada, India, and South Africa are concerned, it is both with them and ourselves a question of popular sentiment–popular sentiment which will mean in the end Imperial salvation. And as with the greater England beyond the seas, so is it with our England here at home, The keeping of it in peace and in prosperity, the encouragement of true patriotism, lies in a knowledge of, and consideration for, the popular sentiment. The Cabinet that learns that truth and acts upon it is the Cabinet that of all others will best govern and most truly represent the nation in whose heart sentiment has never yet died down, nor ever will.–I am, Sir,

your obedient servant,



C. Blinderman & D. Joyce
Clark University