Life and Confessions of a Psychologist

by G. Stanley Hall. New York and London: D. Appleton & Co. 1923. 8vo. x + 023 pp, $5.00.
PRESUMABLY the author would like to have the exact wording of his title borne ever in mind. It might perhaps have been better to publish the book anonymously, save that to do so would have been to deprive it of the prestige of a wellknown personality.
To judge it as an autobiography is to expose it to at least one criticism — its lack of reticence. But we are reading the life and confessions of a psychologist; and the author tells us at the beginning and again at the end that the book was written primarily for his own sake, to enable him, by passing in careful review the events and influences of his life, to know himself better, and to understand how every item of his psychology and philosophy has grown out of his own life and his own basal and innate traits.
His object, of course, is a most generous one — to offer himself as a sort of ‘Exhibit A,’ in the hope that his fellow inquirers may find guidance and helpful suggestion from the scrutiny of a notable case in point. That is all very well; but the result of this intention, had it been strictly followed, would have been to put the book at once beyond the reach of the ordinary reader, and restrict its highest value to the trained psychologist.
Of this aspect of the book — a source-book in psychology — it is impossible to speak here intelligently; except to remark (with all due apologies) that the misgivings and hesitancies which the ordinary reader often feels toward the new science of psychology — the amazing pedantry with which it is encumbered, the ponderous method by which it labors out conclusions that any normal parent or ‘born’ pedagogue reaches by immediate intuition — seem to be shared also by the author, who in one place draws up a quite formidable catalogue of the shortcomings of modern psychology, and in another place speaks with refreshing approbation of the retention of ‘common sense’ in psychological study.
For the rest of it,the ordinary reader is thankful that Dr. Hall appears to forget, throughout the bulk of his volume, his avowed object in writing, and, instead of a psychological sourcebook, gives us a simple autobiography of absorbing interest. It is the story of a life rich in observation, in memories, in fervent human interest, in notable friendships, in sympathetic curiosity, and in an experience which is on the whole happy and healthy.
Beginning with an ideal boyhood, on a farm in the Massachusetts hills, passing on through boarding-school and college, a period of study in the Germany of the seventies, a brief but promising career at Johns Hopkins, then the presidency of the new Clark University, and all the trials and tribulations thereto pertaining, and ending at last where all such stories ought prope ly to end, — in the mellow Indian Summer of retirement from active labor, — the book carries you on with a rush of enthusiasm that is quite irresistible.
Whatever Dr. Hall’s attainments as a psychologist may be (and of that no question is here raised or suggested), he certainly knew how to live; alert, hopeful, observant, sympathetic, intensely interested in humanity, brave, persevering. One’s own zest for life is tremendously whetted by the book, which is perhaps the best of purposes to write for.
CHARLES E. PARK.