He will not be Jesuit enough to think that any end will justify an unjust law

The expression ‘the fat of the land’ is from Genesis 45, 18.

[As usual, dots between square brackets indicate cuts made by Sir Sidney Colvin. For full, correct and critical edition of this letter, see Mehew 1, 200].

To his mother [Colvin 1911, pp. 115-116]

[Menton, Hotel Mirabeau,] Sunday, January 4, 1874.

 My dear Mother,

[…] We have here fallen on the very pink of hotels. I do not say that it is more pleasantly conducted than the Pavillon, for that were impossible; but the rooms are so cheery and bright and new, and then the food! I never, I think, so fully appreciated the phrase ‘the fat of the land’ as I have done since I have been here installed. There was a dish of eggs at déjeûner the other day, over the memory of which I lick my lips in the silent watches.

P. Cezanne, Still Life With Bread And Eggs, 1865 [http://uploads0.wikipaintings.org/]

Now that the cold has gone again, I continue to keep well in body, and already I begin to walk a little more. My head is still a very feeble implement, and easily set a-spinning; and I can do nothing in the way of work beyond reading books that may, I hope, be of some use to me afterwards.

I was very glad to see that M’Laren was sat upon, and principally for the reason why. Deploring as I do much of the action of the Trades Unions, these conspiracy clauses and the whole partiality of the Master and Servant Act are a disgrace to our equal laws. Equal laws become a byeword when what is legal for one class becomes a criminal offence for another. It did my heart good to hear that man tell M’Laren how, as he had talked much of getting the franchise for working men, he must now be content to see them use it now they had got it. This is a smooth stone well planted in the foreheads of certain dilettanti radicals, after M’Laren’s fashion, who are willing to give the working men words and wind, and votes and the like, and yet think to keep all the advantages, just or unjust, of the wealthier classes without abatement. I do hope wise men will not attempt to fight the working men on the head of this notorious injustice. Any such step will only precipitate the action of the newly enfranchised classes, and irritate them into acting hastily; when what we ought to desire should be that they should act warily and little for many years to come, until education and habit may make them the more fit.

Duncan McLaren (1800-1886), Scotch politician and social reformer, for 16 years Member of Parliament for Edinburgh [http://ecx.images-amazon.com/]
Poster issued by the London Trades Council advertising a demonstration, held on June 2 1873 [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]
Duncan McLaren Memorial [http://upload.wikimedia.org/]
Duncan McLaren Memorial, near Loch Awe [http://heritagelandscapecreativity.files.wordpress.com/]

All this (intended for my father) is much after the fashion of his own correspondence. I confess it has left my own head exhausted; I hope it may not produce the same effect on yours. But I want him to look really into this question (both sides of it, and not the representations of rabid middle-class newspapers, sworn to support all the little tyrannies of wealth), and I know he will be convinced that this is a case of unjust law; and that, however desirable the end may seem to him, he will not be Jesuit enough to think that any end will justify an unjust law.

Here ends the political sermon of your affectionate (and somewhat dogmatical) son,

Robert Louis Stevenson

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2 Responses to He will not be Jesuit enough to think that any end will justify an unjust law

  1. rdury says:

    The Hotel Mirabeau has been destroyed, but next door on the same seafront street, the Villa Marina, where the two Georgian ladies lived, is still there: 33 avenue Porte de France.


  2. mafalda says:

    I know… but I’m keeping it for a next letter, when RLS goes there to tea!


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