A Literary Clinic
In a satirical dialogue from 1916, a bibliotherapist detailed how to treat ailing “patients” with tailored book recommendations.
The other day, on going by my friend Bagster's church, I saw a new sign over the vestry: —
‘Bibliopathic Institute. Book Treatment by Competent Specialists. Dr. Bagster meets patients by appointment. Free Clinic 2-4 p.m. Out-patients looked after in their homes by members of the Social Service Department. Young People's Lend-a-Thought Club every Sunday evening at 7:30. Tired Business Men in classes. Tired Business Men's tired wives given individual treatment. Tired mothers who are reading for health may leave their children in the Day Nursery.’
It had been several years since I had seen Bagster. At that time he had been recuperating after excessive and too widely diffused efforts for the public good. Indeed, the variety of his efforts for the public good had been too much for him. Nothing human was foreign to Bagster. All sorts of ideas flocked from the ends of the earth and claimed citizenship in his mind. No matter how foreign the idea might be, it was never interned as an alien enemy. The result was, he had suffered from the excessive immigration of ideas that were not easily assimilated by the native stock. I have sometimes thought that it might have been better if he had not allowed these aliens a controlling influence till they had taken out their first naturalization papers. But that was not Bagster's way.
Dropping into what once was known as the vestry of the church, but which is now the office of the Institute, I found a row of patients sitting with an air of expectant resignation. A business-like young woman attempted to put my name on an appointment card. I mumbled an excuse to the effect that I was a friend of the doctor and wished to remain so, and therefore would not call during office-hours.
The next day I was fortunate enough to find Bagster in one of his rare periods of leisure and to hear from his own lips an account of his new enterprise.
‘You know,’' he said, ‘I was unfortunate enough to be out of health several years ago, at the time the ministers began to go into Psychotherapy. I liked the idea and would have gone into it too, but I had to let my mind lie fallow for a while. It seemed too bad not to have a clinic. We ought all to be healthier than we are, and if we could get the right thoughts and hold on to them, we should get rid of a good many ills. Even the M.D.'s admit that. I read up on the subject and started into practice as soon as I got back. For a while, everything went well. When a patient came I would suggest to him a thought which he should hold for the benefit of his soul and body.’
‘What was the difficulty with the treatment?’
‘The fact is,’ said Bagster, ‘I ran out of thoughts. It's all very well to say, “Hold a thought.” But what if there is n't anything you can get a grip on? You know the law of the association of ideas. That's where the trouble lies. An idea will appear to be perfectly reliable, and you think you know just where to find it. But it falls in with idle associates and plays truant. When you want it, it isn’t there. And there are a lot of solid thoughts that have been knocking about in the minds of everybody till their edges are worn off. You can’t hold them. A thought to be held must be interesting. When I read that in the Psychology, I was staggered.
‘To be interesting, a thought must pass through the mind of an interesting person. In the process something happens to it. It is no longer an inorganic substance, but it is in such form that it can easily be assimilated by other minds. It is these humanized and individualized thoughts that can be profitably held.
'Then it struck me that this is what literature means. Here we have a stock of thoughts in such a variety of forms that they can be used, not only for food, but for medicine.
‘During the last year I have been working up a system of Biblio-therapeutics. I don't pay much attention to the purely literary or historical classifications. I don't care whether a book is ancient or modern, whether it is English or German, whether it is in prose or verse, whether it is a history or a collection of essays, whether it is romantic or realistic. I only ask, “What is its therapeutic value?”’
He went on didactically, as if he were addressing a class.
‘A book may be a stimulant or a sedative or an irritant or a soporific. The point is that it must do something to you, and you ought to know what it is. A book may be of the nature of a soothing syrup or it may be of the nature of a mustard plaster.
‘Literary critics make a great to-do about the multiplication of worthless or hurtful books. They make lists of good, bad, and indifferent. But despite this outcry, there is nothing so harmless as printed matter when it is left to itself. A man's thoughts never occupy so little space or waste so little of his neighbor's time as when neatly printed and pressed between the covers of a book. There they lie without power of motion. What if a book is dull? It can't follow you about. It can't button-hole you and say, "One word more." When you shut up a book, it stays shut.
‘The true function of a literary critic is not to pass judgment on the book, but to diagnose the condition of the person who has read it. What was his state of mind before reading and after reading? Was he better or worse for his experience?
‘If a book is dull, that is a matter between itself and its maker, but if it makes me duller than I should otherwise have been, I have a grievance. To pass judgment on the books on a library shelf without regard to their effects is like passing judgment on the contents of a drug store from the standpoint of mineralogy, without regard to physiology; on the glass jars which are mineralogically excellent — but are they good to eat?
‘The sensible man does not jump at conclusions, but asks expert advice. But many persons, when they take up a highly recommended book, feel in conscience bound to go through to the bitter end, whether it is good for them or not.
‘From my point of view, a book is a literary prescription put up for the benefit of some one who needs it. It may be simple or compounded of many ingredients. The ideas may unite in true chemical union or they may be insoluble in one another and form an emulsion.
‘The essays of Emerson form an emulsion. The sentences are tiny globules of wisdom which do not actually coalesce, but remain suspended in one another. They should be shaken before using.
‘Maeterlinck contains volatile elements which easily escape the careless reader. Chesterton's essays contain a great deal of solid common sense, but always in the form of an effervescent mixture. By mixing what we think with what we think we think, this effervescence invariably results.
‘Dante, we are told, belonged to the Guild of the Apothecaries. It was an excellent training for a literary man. Some writers, like Swift, always present truth in an acid form. Others prefer to add an edulcorant or sweetener.
‘Of this Edulcorating School was Thomas Fuller, who tells how he compounded his History. “I did not attemper my history to the palate of the government so as to sweeten it with any falsehood, but I made it palatable, so as not to give any wilful disgust to those in present power, and procure danger to myself by using over-tart or bitter expressions better forborne than inserted — without any prejudice to truth.”
‘A book being a literary prescription, it should be carefully put up. Thus I learned, when I looked up the subject, that a proper prescription should always contain: —
‘(1) A basis, or chief ingredient, intended to cure.
‘(2) An adjuvant, to assist the action and make it cure more quickly.
‘(3) A corrective, to prevent or lessen any undesirable effect.
‘(4) A vehicle, or excipient, to make it suitable for administration and pleasant to the patient.
‘I do not propose to go into literary pharmacy more than to say that there are sufficient tests of what is called literary style. In regard to a book, I ask, Does it have any basis or chief ingredient? Does the author furnish any corrective for his own exaggerations? Above all, is the remedy presented in a pleasant vehicle or excipient, so that it will go down easily?
‘I have said,’ continued Bagster, ‘that certain books are stimulants. They do not so much furnish us with thoughts as set us to thinking. They awaken faculties which we had allowed to be dormant. After reading them we actually feel differently and frequently we act differently. The book is a spiritual event.
‘Books that are true stimulants are not produced every year. They are not made to order, but are the products of original minds under the stress of peculiar circumstances. Each generation produces some writer who exerts a powerfully stimulating influence on his contemporaries, stirring emotion and leading to action. The book does something.
‘So Carlyle stimulated his generation to work, and Ruskin stimulated it to social service and to the appreciation of Art. Tolstoi stimulated the will to self-sacrifice, and Nietzsche has overstimulated the will to power. Rousseau furnished the stimulant to his generation, both to a political and educational revolution. In the sixteenth century. Lord Burleigh said of John Knox, “His voice is able in an hour to put more life in us than six hundred trumpets blaring in our ears.”
‘When the stimulants are fresh, there is no difficulty in getting them into use. Indeed, the difficulty is in enforcing moderation. The book with a new emotional appeal is taken up by the intelligent young people, who form the volunteer poison squad. If the poison squad survives, the book gets into general circulation among the more elderly readers whose motto is “Safety first.”
‘It is to be noticed that the full stimulating effect of most books is lessened after they have been kept long in stock. When to-day you uncork Rousseau, nothing pops. Calvin's Institutes had a most powerfully stimulating effect upon the more radical young people of his day. It is now between three and four centuries since that work was exposed to the air, and it has lost its original effervescence.
‘We must also take into effect the well-known principle of immunization. When a writer sets forth in a book certain powerful ideas, they may produce very little disturbance because everybody has had them before. There was a time when the poetry of Byron was considered to be very heady. Young men went wild over it. It stimulated them to all sorts of unusual actions. It modified their collars and their way of wearing the hair. Young men may still, as a necessary part of their college education, read The Corsair, but this required reading does not impel them toward a career of picturesque and heartbroken piracy. Pessimism has its fashions, and to-day is realistic rather than romantic and sentimental.
‘It is hard to get a blameless youth to enjoy the spiritual exaltation that comes from a sense of romantic guilt and a vast unquenchable revenge for the unfathomable injuries that came from the fact that he was born with a superior mind. But that was what our great-grandfathers felt when Byronism was in its early bloom. It was a feeling at once cosmical and egotistical. When we look at the placid, respectable portraits of our ancestors of the early nineteenth century, we can get no idea of the way in which they inwardly raged and exulted as they read.
The mind that broods on guilty woes
Is like a scorpion girt with fire
In circle narrowing as it glows,
The flames around the captive close
Till inly searched with thousand throes.
And maddening in her ire
One sole and sad relief she knows,
The sting she nourished for her foes.
‘“That means me,” says the promising young reader, as he inwardly rages because he is girt in by a commonplace community that stupidly refuses to acknowledge itself as his foe — in fact, doesn't know that he's there. What he wants is a foe on whom he can vent his poetic ire. When he can't find one, he falls into a mood of delicious self-pity.
The vacant bosom’s wilderness
Might thank the pain that made it less;
We loathe what none are left to share,
The keenest pangs that wretched find
Are rapture to the dreary void,
The leafless desert of the mind,
The waste of feeling unemployed.
‘There you have it. In each generation the pathetic consciousness of youth is of the waste of feeling unemployed. Byron appealed to the spiritually unemployed. But as an employment agent he was not so successful. The only employment that he suggested was a general vindictiveness. The heart once thus left desolate must fly at last from ease to hate. It almost seems that the remedy was worse than the disease. But our great-grandfathers, before they had troubles of their own, got a great deal of stimulation from Byron.
‘Bibliotherapy is such a new science that it is no wonder that there are many erroneous opinions as to the actual effect which any particular book may have. There is always room for the imagination in such matters. There has been a great change in the theory of stimulants. Here is a little book published in Saco, Maine, in 1829. It is Stewart's Healing Art, by Rev. W. Stewart, D.D., of Bloomfield, Somerset, Maine. Dr. Stewart, when he turned from theology to medicine, lost none of his zeal. He was a great believer in what he believed to be stimulants. In regard to the treatment of nightmare, he says, “It arises from a tarry condition of the blood. Half an ounce of my stimulating bitters, half an ounce of powders put in a quart of good rum, will cure the patient.”
‘I fear that among Dr. Stewart’s parishioners nightmare was a recurrent disease.
‘Physiologists have recently exploded the notion that alcohol is a stimulant. They now tell us that it is a depressant. The man who has imbibed freely feels brilliant, but he isn't. He is more dull than usual, but he doesn't know it. His critical faculty has been depressed, so that he has nothing to measure himself by. He has lost control of his mental machinery, and he is not strong enough to put on the brake.
‘Here is a stock of literary depressants which have been manufactured in large quantities. Here is a writer who turns out a thriller every six months. Every book has the same plot, the same characters, the same conclusion. The characters appear under different aliases. Their residences are different, but one might compile a directory of these unnoted names of fiction.
‘Here is a book that conveys the Impression that it is perfectly shocking. The author speaks of his work with bated breath. It is so strong. He wonders why it is allowed. And yet it contains nothing which the adult person did n't know before he was born. As for his newly discovered substitutes for ethics, they were the moral platitudes of the cave-dwellers.
‘The habitual reader who imbibes these beverages thinks that he is exhilarated. What he needs is a true stimulant, something that will stimulate his torpid faculty. There are other books which are often confused with true stimulants but which are really quite different both in their composition and effects—they are the counter-irritants.
‘A counter-irritant is a substance employed to produce an irritation in one part of the body in order to counteract a morbid condition in another part. Counter-irritants are superficial in their application, but sometimes remarkably efficacious. In medical practice, the commonest counter-irritants are mustard, croton-oil, turpentine, and Spanish flies. In recent bibliotherapeutic practice the commonest counter-irritant is Bernard Shaw. Irritating books are easy to write if one has learned the art, and the market is greatly overstocked. Still, there are cases in which literature that produces a state of exasperation is beneficial.
‘Here is a case in my practice. — A. X. Middle-aged. Intelligence middling. Circumstances comfortable. Opinions partially ossified, but giving him no inconvenience. Early in life was in the habit of imbibing new ideas, but now finds they don't agree with him, and for some years has been a total abstainer. Happily married—at least for himself. Is fully appreciative of his own virtues and has at times a sense of moral repletion. Is averse to any attempt at social betterment that may interfere with his own comfort.
‘He didn't come to me of his own accord — he was sent. He assured me that nothing was the matter with him and that he never felt better in his life.
‘“That is what I understood,” I said. “It is that which alarmed your friends. If you will coöperate with us, we will try to make you so uncomfortable that in your effort to escape from our treatment you may exercise faculties that may make you a useful member of society.
‘“You must read more novels. Not pleasant stories that make you forget yourself. They must be searching, drastic, stinging, relentless novels, without any alleviation of humor or any sympathy with human weakness, designed to make you miserable. They will show you up.
‘“I will give you a list with all the ingredients plainly indicated according to the provision of the pure food and drug law. Each one will make you feel bad in a new spot. When you are ashamed of all your sins, I will rub in a few caustic comments of Bernard Shaw to make you ashamed of all your virtues. By that time you will be in such a state of healthy exasperation as you have not known for years.”’
‘How did it come out?’ I asked.
‘That time I lost my patient,’ said Bagster. ‘It is curious about irritants, so much depends on the person. To some skins glycerine is very irritating. And there are some minds that are irritated by what is called gentle irony.
‘Here is one of the most irritating things ever written,’ he said, picking up Daniel Defoe's Shortest Way with the Dissenters. ‘To read Robinson Crusoe one wouldn't suppose that its author could drive his contemporaries almost frantic. There was nothing sharp about Defoe's style. He did not stab his opponents with a rapier-like wit. His style was always circumstantial. His manner was adhesive. Seriously and earnestly, as one who was working for good, he sought out the most sensitive spot and then with a few kind words he applied his blistering adhesive plaster. No wonder Defoe had to stand on a pillory.’
‘I suppose,’ I said, ‘you wouldn’t class all satires as counter-irritants.’
‘No,’ said Bagster. ‘Pure satire is not irritating. It belongs, not to medicine, but to surgery. When the operation is done skillfully, there is little shock. The patient is often unaware that anything has happened, like the saint in the old martyrology who, after he had been decapitated, walked off absent-mindedly with his head under his arm.’
Bagster opened the door of a case labeled Antipyretics. It contained what at first seemed an incongruous collection of books, among which I noticed The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, Sir Thomas Browne's Urne-Buriall, Trollope's novels, the Revised Statutes of Illinois, the poems of Ossian, Gray's Elegy, a history of Babylon, Sir Charles Grandison, Young's Night Thoughts, and Thomas Benton's Thirty Years in the United States Senate.
‘I don’t pretend that this collection has any scientific value. My method has been purely empirical. There are remedies that I have tried on individual patients. An antipyretic is something which depresses the temperature; it is useful in allaying fevers. I should not put these books in the same class except for therapeutic purposes. They have a tendency to cool us off. You know Emerson tells how, when he was coming out of a heated political meeting, Nature would put her hands on his head and say, “My little man, why so hot?” And there are books that do the same for us.
‘It takes a person of a philosophic mind to respond to the antipyretic influence of Marcus Aurelius. One of my patients confessed that in attempting to reach those philosophic heights he “felt considerable het up.”
‘In cases where the conscience has been overstimulated by incessant modern demands, I find Trollope a sovereign remedy. After unsuccessful attempts to live up to my own ideals, as well as to those of my neighbors, I drop down into the Cathedral Close, Barchester, and renew my acquaintance with Bishop Prouty and his excellent lady and the Dean and Chapter, including the minor canons. Everything is so morally secure. These persons have their ideals, and they are so easily lived up to. It is comforting now and then to come into a society where every one is doing his duty as he sees it, and nobody sees any duty which it would be troublesome for him to do.
‘Here is a somewhat different case. A. J. came to me complaining of great depression of spirits. On inquiry, I found he was a book-reviewer on a daily paper. I suspected that he was suffering from an occupational disease. Said that nobody loved him, he was a literary hangman whose duty it was to hang, draw, and quarter the books that were brought to him for execution. Nobody loves a hangman. Yet he was naturally of an affectionate disposition. I found that he was a man of fastidious taste, and a split infinitive caused him acute pain. Our social worker called at the house and found that, besides the agony caused by reading so many poor books, he had financial anxiety. The boss had said that if he continued to be so savage in his criticisms, he would lose his job. He has a wife and three children.
‘I talked to him soothingly about the general state of literature. It was too much to expect that a faultless masterpiece should be produced every week. It is hard enough to get people to read masterpieces, as it is. If they were produced in greater quantities it might be fatal to the reading habit.
‘“You set your standard too high at the beginning. You are like a taxicab driver who sets the hands of the dial at the seventy-live-cent mark before he starts his machine. This discourages the passenger. If it costs so much to stand still, he thinks it would be better to get out and walk. Start the day with some book that can be easily improved upon.”
‘I gave him a copy of the Congressional Record. “Every day before you sit down to your new books, read a chapter of this voluminous work.”
‘Yesterday he told me he had read a hundred pages. “By the way,” he said, “I have noticed a marked improvement in our young writers whose books come to my desk. Their style seems so clear and their expressions are so concise.”
‘After spending a certain time every day in reading the works of our lawmakers he had learned many lessons of literary tolerance. He used to be annoyed because every one wasn't as critical as he was. Now he is inclined to treat criticism as a special interest.
‘He read with approval a revelation concerning the Apocrypha given in 1833 to one of the Latter-day Saints. “Thus said the Lord unto you concerning the Apocrypha.. There are many things contained in it that are true, and there are many things contained in it that are not true. Whoso readeth it let him understand it. Whoso is enlightened shall obtain benefit. Whoso is not enlightened cannot be benefited. Therefore it is not needful that the Apocrypha should be translated.”
‘There is a great deal of sense in that. Those who are enlightened enough to read the Apocrypha will be benefited. Those who cannot be benefited will not read it. Perhaps it's just as well.
‘I have a patient, an aspiring politician, who almost went to pieces through his excessive devotion to his own interests in the last campaign. As he had identified his interests with those of his country, when he lost the election he felt that the country was ruined. He could, he told me, have stood his personal disappointment, but the sudden collapse of public righteousness was too much for him. Marcus Aurelius, Epictetus and Sir Thomas Browne's Urne-Buriall had no effect in allaying his feverish symptoms. I had him recite Gray's Elegy for three successive mornings. But the clinical chart showed that his temperature continued above normal.
‘Quite by accident, I recalled the volumes of Senator Benton. As a child I had often looked at them with awe in my grandfather's library. They were my symbol of Eternity. Thirty years in the United States Senate seemed such a long time.
‘I recommended the volumes to my patient. Yesterday he informed me that he felt differently about the election. He talked quite rationally and with a certain detachment that was encouraging. He had been thinking, he said, that perhaps thirty years after nobody would remember who gained this election. A great many things, he said, happen in this country in the course of thirty years that are not so important as they seem at the time. Indeed, the antipyretic action of Benton's book was so great that I feared that he might be cooled down too much, so that, as a corrective, I administered a tincture of Roosevelt.
‘'I have a patient who had been a stock-broker and had retired, hoping to enjoy his leisure. But the breaking up of his accustomed habits of thought was a serious matter. His one intellectual exercise had been following the market, and when there was no market for him to follow, he said he was all broken up.
‘He came to me for advice, and after detailing his symptoms asked if I couldn't give him a bracer; perhaps I could recommend a rattling good detective story. I notice that a large number of my patients want to furnish both the diagnosis and the treatment, expecting me only to furnish a favorable prognosis. I am told by medical friends that they have the same experience.
‘I sat down with my patient and talked with him about occupational diseases. I do not hold with some that a steady occupation is a disease. It only makes one liable to certain maladies. It upsets the original balance of Nature. You know Shakespeare says, “Goodness, growing to a plurisy, dies in his own too much.” Too-muchness in one direction leads to not-enoughness in another.
‘“"You have had an overdevelopment of certain virtues. You must restore the balance. For years your mind has been on the jump. It is like a kitten that will follow a mouse or a string as long as it is moving rapidly. You have been obsessed with the idea of price, and when you can't learn the price of anything you think that it has ceased to exist. It is as if you had spent all your life in a one-price clothing store where every garment had a tag indicating its exact value in dollars and cents. You are suddenly ushered into a drawing-room where you see a great many coats and trousers moving about without any tags. You go away feeling that the clothing business has gone to pieces. You need to learn that some things exist that are not for sale. Now I propose a thorough emotional reeducation. Your mind has been interested only in rapidly moving objects to which you, at each moment, ascribe a specific value. I want to turn your mind to the vague, the misty, the imponderable. Each day you are to take exercises in nebulosity. You are to float away into a realm where being and not being, doing and not doing, knowing and not knowing amount to very much the same thing.”
‘My patient rebelled. He said his wife had taken him once to a lecture on the Vedanta philosophy, and he felt that his constitution couldn't stand that treatment.
‘“I understand,” I said, “Orientalism does not agree with some constitutions. I will try something that appeals to ancestral feelings.”
‘I then arranged a set of daily exercises. It was based on the principle of a well-known teacher of longevity, who advises that we masticate our food diligently till it disappears through involuntary swallowing. I directed the patient to fix his mind on the price of his favorite stock, at the same time reading aloud a chapter of Ossian. He was to keep this up till the thought of the stock disappeared through involuntary inattention.
‘The cure is slow, but is progressing. I began by giving the patient as a thought to hold, the price of a hundred shares in New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. He was to hold the thought as he paced his room, inhaling deeply and reading, —
‘“A tale of the days of old, the deeds of the days of other years.
‘“From the wood-skirted fields of Lego ascend the gray-bosomed mists. Wide over Lora's stream is poured the vapor dark and deep. The spirit of all the winds strides from blast to blast, in the stormy night. A sound comes from the desert. It is Conar, King of Innisfail. His ghost sat on a gray ridge of smoke.”
‘“That is a queer thing for him to sit on,” said my patient.
‘I was greatly encouraged by this remark. He had got his mind off the stock. The cure was working. “Keep your eye on the ghost,” I said. “There he is—with bending eyes and dark winding locks of mist.”
‘After half an hour of rhythmic chanting, I found that his anxieties about the stock market had evaporated in an Ossianic mist, leaving his mind quite cool and composed. Yesterday when I made a professional call, I found him reciting the praise of Tel. & Tel.
‘“Dreams descended on Larthon, he saw seven spirits of his fathers. Son of Alpin, strike the string. Is there aught of joy in the harp? Pour it on the soul of Ossian. Green thorn of the hill of ghosts, that shakest thy head to nightly winds! Dost thou touch the shadowy harp robed with morning mists, when the rustling sun comes forth from his green-headed waves?”
‘He said he didn't have the slightest idea what it all meant, but he felt better for reciting it. He saw that he had been starved for this sort of thing. There was something misty and moist about the words. He liked the feel of them. If I hadn't prescribed Ossian, he might have taken to Futurism. Shadowy harps, and green-headed waves, and ghosts sitting on a gray ridge of smoke were just the thoughts he needed. They made the business world seem so much less uncertain.
‘After that, I had a little talk about mental hygiene. “What you said about the moist feeling of the words is very true. In these days of artificial heating and artificial lighting, we keep our minds too dry. We ought to have a spiritual hygrometer and consult it. While our consciousness may be all right, our sub-consciousness sufl"ers from the lack of humidity in our mental atmosphere. You know that our ancestors were people of the mists.”’
Bagster expounded the theory of literary antitoxins. ‘Each age has,’ he said, ‘its peculiar malady. There is one point on which everybody is abnormal. There is a general obsession which affects all classes. For a time, everybody thinks and feels in a certain way—and everybody is wrong. The general obsession may be witchcraft, or religious persecution, or war, or the notion that we can get something for nothing. Whatever the notion is, everybody has it.
‘Ordinary minds succumb to the epidemic. Unusually strong minds overcome the toxic elements of the time and recover. In their resistance they produce more antitoxin than they need for themselves. This can be used for the benefit of others.
‘Thackeray could not have written the Book of Snobs if snobbery had not been a malady of his time which it required a special effort on his part to overcome.
‘Plutarch's Lives is a powerful antitoxin for the evils of imperialism. But Plutarch lived when the Roman Empire was at its height. Plutarch's men were not the men he saw around him. They stood for the stern republican virtues which were most opposed to the tendencies of his age. One great use of the antitoxins is in the treatment of various forms of bigotry.’
Bagster showed me a cabinet over which he had inscribed the prayer of Father Taylor, ‘O Lord, save us from bigotry and bad rum. Thou knowest which is worse.’
He had shelves labeled Catholic Bigotry, Protestant Bigotry, Conservative Bigotry, Progressive Bigotry and the like. ‘When I first began to treat cases of this kind I tried to introduce the patient to some excellent person of the opposing party or sect, thinking thus to counteract the unfavorable impression that had been formed. But I soon found that this treatment was based on a mistake and only aggravated the symptoms. A bigot is defined as one who is illiberally attached to an opinion, system, or organization. His trouble is, not that he is attached to an opinion, but only that he is illiberally attached. My aim, therefore, is to make him liberally attached. To that end I try to make him acquainted with the actual thoughts of the best men of his own party and to show him that his inherited opinions are much more reasonable than he had supposed. After I have got my patient to recognize the best in his own party, I then introduce him to the same kind of person in another party. At least that is my plan.’
‘As a matter of fact,’ I asked, ‘do you have many patients who come to be cured of their intolerance?’
‘No,’ said Bagster, ‘people seldom come to a physician unless their disease causes them pain. Now, intolerance causes no pain to the intolerant person. It is the other fellow who suffers.’
‘And I suppose it is the other fellow who complains?’
‘Yes, generally,’ said Bagster. ‘The fact is that most persons prefer the toxins in their system to the antitoxins. Before you can do much for them, you must overcome their prejudices.’
‘But in this case the prejudice is the disease.’
‘Yes, and then getting them to see it is the treatment.’
Just at this moment Bagster was called away by a patient who had taken an overdose of war literature. I was sorry, because I wished to discuss with him books which are at the same time stimulants and sedatives. They put new life into us and then set the life pulse strong but slow.
Emerson says, —
That book is good
Which puts me in a working mood.
Unless to thought is added will
Apollo is an imbecile.
The book which puts us in a working mood is one which we are never able to read through. We start to read it and it puts us in a mood to do something else. We cannot sit poring over the printed page when our work seems suddenly so interesting and well worth while. So we go about our work with a new zest.
This seems very ungrateful; but when our working mood has exhausted itself, we return to our energizing volume with that kind of gratitude which has been defined as ‘the lively expectation of favors to come.’