The Martyrdom Business

Samuel Byron Brittan, “Editorial Etchings,” Brittan’s Quarterly Journal, October 1873: 547-548

The Socialistic Carnivoracity.

Those who believe in the god of gregarious instincts and licentious affinities, and are accustomed to reduce their religion to practice—chiefly in the basement story of human nature—are reviving the ancient worship according to Moses, who does not appear to have been improved in character by his last reincarnation.  The most acceptable offerings appear to consist of bulls and rams.  Just now the whole atmosphere of their temple has an aroma of flesh, and one is reminded that “there is death in the pot.”  The great social science (?) stew simmers, and seethes, and smokes, while its foul savor goes up from the altar, day and night, before all men.  It corrupts the air of Christendom and is an offense in the nostrils of the heathen.  The flesh-worshipers, who believe in unlimited freedom of speech—as well as of every other function—will not of course feel incensed at these words of the scribe.

The Martyrdom Business.

We shall soon have abundant materials for another Book of Martyrs.  In former days, when the world was not so much progressed, it was presumed that a martyr must possess a certain elevation of thought, dignity of manner and exaltation of spirit.  But in these days we economize and use cheap materials and methods.  We contrive to do a larger business on a less capital of heart, and brain, and character.  We have a lively market, and there are frequent opportunities for individual enterprise.  We discover a great ambition to win the crown either by getting into the fire, into hot water, or into the mud; it matters not which, since the modern aspirants seem to be quite indifferent as to the nature of the element.

Well, so long as knaves and simpletons are ambitious to serve in this capacity, we can afford to acquiesce, and thus save our sensible people for other and more vital purposes.  The victims may each select his own method, and make his quietus in a manner best suited to his peculiar tastes, either by throwing himself from a broad platform against a solid wall, by crawling into a filthy sewer, or by drowning in a frog-pond.  Is not this a Republic, and are we not all free?  What a glorious thing it is to live where one may act like a fool, and enjoy the liberty of being a slave to his passions!  The modern trinity is “the world, the flesh, and the devil,” of which the worshipers are quite numerous just now.  Who comes next?  “O tempora O” Moses!


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