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13. The Rubbish Cart
Mr Harding was not a happy man as he walked down the palace pathway, and stepped
out into the close. His preferment and pleasant house were a second time gone from
him; but that he could endure. He had been schooled and insulted by a man young
enough to be his son; but that he could put up with. He could even draw from the very
injuries, which had been inflicted on him, some of that consolation, which we may
believe martyrs always receive from the injuries of their own sufferings, and which is
generally proportioned in it strength to the extent of cruelty with which martyrs are
treated. He had admitted to his daughter that he wanted the comfort of his old home,
and yet he could have returned to his lodgings in the High Street, if not with exultation,
at least with satisfaction, had that been all. But the venom of the chaplain's harangue
had worked into his blood, and had sapped the life of his sweet contentment.
'New men are carrying out new measures, and are eating away the useless rubbish of
past centuries.' What cruel words these had been; and how often are they now used
with all the heartless cruelty of a Slope! A man is sufficiently condemned if it can only be
shown that either in politics or religion he does not belong to some new school
established within the last score of years. He may then regard himself as rubbish and
expect to be carted away. A man is nothing now unless he has within him a full
appreciation of the new era; an ear in which it would seem that neither honesty nor truth
is very desirable, but in which success is the only touchstone of merit. We must laugh at
every thing that is established. Let the joke be ever so bad, ever so untrue to the real
principles of joking; nevertheless we must laugh--or else beware the cart. We must talk,
think, and live up to the spirit of the times, and write up to it too, if that cacoethes be
upon us, or else we are nought. New men and now measures, long credit and few
scruples, great success and wonderful ruin, such are now the tastes of Englishmen who
know how to live. Alas, alas! under the circumstances Mr Harding could not but feel that
he was an Englishman who did not know how to live. This new doctrine of Mr Slope and
the rubbish cart, new at least at Barchester, sadly disturbed his equanimity.
'The same thing is going on throughout the whole country!' 'Work is now required from
every man who receives wages!' and had he been living all his life receiving wages and
doing no work? Had he in truth so lived as to be now in his old age justly reckoned as
rubbish fit only to be hidden away in some huge dust hole? The school of men to whom
he professes to belong, the Grantlys, the Gwynnes, and the old high set of Oxford
divines, are afflicted with no such self-accusations as these which troubled Mr Harding.
They, as a rule, are as satisfied with the wisdom and propriety of their own conduct as
can be any Mr Slope, or any Dr Proudie, with his own. But unfortunately for himself, Mr
Harding had little of this self-reliance. When he heard himself designated as rubbish by
the Slopes of the world, he had no other recourse than to make inquiry within his own
bosom as to the truth of the designation. Alas, alas! the evidence seemed generally to
go against him.