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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/334

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THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

lamented friend Dr. Bence Jones, when a steamboat on the river, with its living freight, passed us. Practically acquainted with the moral and physical influence of pure oxygen, my friend exclaimed, "What a blessing for these people to be able thus to escape from London into the fresh air of the country!" I hold the physician to have been right, and, with all respect, the Bishop to have been wrong.

Bishop Blomfield also condemns resorting to tea-gardens on Sunday. But we may be sure that it is not the gardens, but the minds which the people bring to them, which produce disorder. These minds possess the culture of the city, to which the Bishop seems disposed to confine them. Wisely and soberly conducted—and it is perfectly possible to conduct them wisely and soberly—such places might be converted into aids toward a life which the Bishop would commend. Purification and improvement are often possible where extinction is neither possible nor desirable. I have spent many a Sunday afternoon in the public gardens of the little university town of Marburg, in the company of intellectual men and cultivated women, without observing a single occurrence which, as regards morality, might not be permitted in the Bishop's drawing-room. I will add to this another observation made at Dresden on a Sunday after the suppression of the insurrection by the Prussian soldiery in 1849. The victorious troops were encamped on the banks of the Elbe, and this is how they occupied themselves: Some were engaged in physical games and exercises which in England would be considered innocent in the extreme; some were conversing sociably; some singing the songs of Uhland, while others, from elevated platforms, recited to listening groups poems and passages from Goethe and Schiller. Through this crowd of military men passed and repassed the girls of the city, linked together with their arms round each other's necks. During hours of observation, I heard no word which was unfit for a modest ear; while from beginning to end I failed to notice a single case of intoxication.[1]

Here we touch the core of the whole matter—the appeal to experience. Sabbatical rigor has been tried, and the question is, Have its results been so conducive to good morals and national happiness as to render criminal every attempt to modify it? The advances made in all kinds of knowledge in this our age are known to be enormous; and the public desire for instruction, which the intellectual triumphs of the time naturally and inevitably arouse, is commensurate with the growth of knowledge. Must this desire, which is the motive power of all real and healthy progress, be quenched or left unsatisfied, lest Sunday observances, unknown to the early Christians, repudiated by the heroes of the Reformation, and insisted upon for the first time during a period of national gloom and suffering in the seventeenth century, should be

  1. The late Mr. Joseph Kay, as Traveling Bachelor of the University of Cambridge, has borne strong and earnest testimony to the "humanizing and civilizing influence" of the Sunday recreations of the German people.