The Contributors' Column
Eleanor RislEy of Ink, Arkansas, has lived a life of mental and material adventure. Born on a comfortable plantation, she found herself at the time of her narrative a young widow without resources and almost bereft of hope. One gift she has from heaven — the power of living in the moment without regret for the past or dread for the future. A little sunshine and a patch of woods or field to look at, and she is happy. Few readers of the Atlantic will pass by ‘The Abandoned Orchard’ once the first chapter is started, and we should like to add that her first published volume. The Road to Wildcat, just issued from the press, is as pleasant a narrative as the bookstores have to offer. Readers must remember that these chronicles of Mrs. Risley’s are stories of actual experience, touched with the radiance of one who loves to live. Susanne K. Langer, a tutor in philosophy at Radcliffe College, has come to recognize the importance of a completely neglected factor in American education. The experience of teaching philosophy to students has led her to measure the extreme difficulty which they encounter in their first efforts to think sub specie œternitatis.William Beebe has been for a dozen years the enthusiastic companion of Atlantic readers. Reverend Laita Griswold is rector of the Episcopal Church in Lenox, Massachusetts. Δ The early years of Kathryne Mary Frick were described in several extraordinary chapters printed in the April Atlantic.Walter Prichard Eaton lives at Sheffield, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshires. T. Swann Harding, Maryland scientist and philosopher, writes respecting his paper a comment of some importance:—
Another aspect of this problem of the engineer is discussed by Dr. Hanbury Hankin in his Com~ man Sense and Its Cultivation — really one of the finest expansive considerations of the theme of this article. He quotes President Morgan of Antioch College to the effect that the educated engineer succeeds less well in business than the uneducated contractor because, though the latter lacks the former’s ability at formal analysis, his subconscious intuition is a more valuable business asset than such disciplined power of formal analysis.
According to Hankin, ‘the act of forgetting [the very opposite of what formal education teaches] is a necessary prelude for putting data at the disposal of the subconscious mind for the purpose of subconscious judgment.’ Hence, the money-minded man, bothered as he is with little conscious knowledge, has ample subconscious data upon which to formulate sound intuitive judgments. We may say in Hankins terms, then, that our civilization too amply rewards the intuitive type of mind, too cheaply rewards experts who form reasoned judgments on a basis of conscious erudition, and has not perfected a mechanism efficiently to utilize the knowledge of the latter.
Theodore Morrison is a member of the Atlantic staff. A Aunt Coffin is as authentic as her art. Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., who describes them, is professor of art at Princeton University. Eugenie Courtright is the author of ‘Yours Lovingly,’ a sufficient credential of her knowledge of the Reservation. John L. Cable, an Ohio member of Congress, is the author of the bill enacted into law which has led several readers to describe their varying experiences in losing, keeping, and regaining American citizenship. Joseph Wood Krutch has written many philosophic papers for the Atlantic which have been widely recognized, and have recently helped to win him a fellowship in the Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. A. W. Smith, after years of service in the British Army, served as general manager of a vast lumber organization in Rangoon. Now in Boston he deals intelligently in rare woods. He knows them all, but if you leave it to him it will be teak. Δ The author of ‘Wondering’ is a young woman beset by tragic difficulties and now in the situation poignantly suggested by her spoken thoughts. Reverend Reinhold Niebuhr, a clergyman of wide experience, is now a professor in the Union Theological Seminary.
Samuel Scoville, Jr., lawyer and naturalist, provides a rich treasury of New England turns of speech. Dr. Alice Hamilton has the unique distinction of being the only woman on the medical faculty of Harvard University. George W. Alger is wisely informed on the prison situation. In 1919 he made an official investigation of the state prisons of New York. Again in 1926 he was appointed by Governor Smith Moreland Act Commissioner to make a further general investigation of the operation of the present system and of the Board of Parole. More recently, by appointment of Governor Roosevelt, he is acting as a member of a committee to study and report, on an enlarged and modernized parole board. Anna Louise Strong is now in Russia, where she is studying, not without sympathy, the course of the colossal experiment of the modern world. It is interesting to note that a booklet which she recently wrote on The Tractor Station — Highest Technique of Collectivization has been translated by the Russian authorities and an edition of 300,000 copies has been issued and mailed to peasants. Miss Strong is not blind to the cruelties and the injustice involved in the present transformation of the Russian people, but, as she writes, ‘Here are a hundred million people being shaken, willy-nilly, through three centuries in one decade, and the crisis is this spring.’
The Atlantic courts criticism and profits by it. But we have our principles, and the letters of some hundreds of subscribers castigating us for remarks we made during the last election on the systematic use of the forces of religious bigotry by the majority party in this country did not affect our old-fashioned notion that the poisoning of wells is no such crime against society as the fostering of lies known to be lies, and used only for their destructive power. In common candor we are forced to bring up this subject again by noting a recrudescence of poisonous propaganda. We print the following typical example which we have recently received through the mails, with a letter stating that, although the subject matter is copyright, ‘you may feel free to use any portion of it that will serve a good purpose.’ We believe this purpose is good.
SOLDIERS OF LIBERTY — AWAKE!
DO YOU KNOW THAT
(1) On November 7, 1928, in Washington, D. C., a resolution was unanimously passed by about 20 people ‘THAT IT IS THE SENSE OF THIS MEETING THAT HERBERT HOOVER SHALL NEVER BE ALLOWED TO ENTER THE WHITE HOUSE ALIVE’?
(2) On December 3, 1863, The Pope sent to the U. S. A. a written Challenge to the U. S. Government and Constitution, and that Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by a Roman Catholic in 1865 as the result of that 1863 Challenge?
(3) In 1929 The Pope issued another Challenge to the U. S. Government and Constitution preliminary to another onslaught thereon?
(4) People are asking: When will the next assassination take place? Who is to be the victim and what is to be the climax of the present wave of lawlessness and crime?
(5) For about 10 years ‘Rome’ has deliberately and purposely incited the people of the U. S. A. on the Prohibition Constitutional crisis? And that other destructive forces designed to weaken the allegiance of our citizens to the U. S. Constitution are working parallel with and aiding the forces of Evil in their campaign against Law and Order? . . .
(7) For 30 years before 1861 ‘Rome’ (The Papacy) deliberately and purposely incited the people of the U. S. A. on the Slavery Constitutional Crisis, which produced lawlessness and crime and ended in Civil War in 1861—65?
(8) The first gun against Fort Sumter in April, 1861, was fired by a Roman Catholic?
(9) Abraham Lincoln said that the Civil War 1861—65 was inspired and fostered by ‘ Rome ’ as the result of a ‘Roman’ Conspiracy against the U. S. A.?
(10) Abraham Lincoln knew of the Conspiracy, having been notified of same by Professor Morse of telegraph patent fame, and by Father Chiniquy, a Roman Priest, who also warned Lincoln that the Romanists intended to assassinate him?
(11) The present ‘Roman’ campaign against Prohibition is a part of the execution of the ‘Roman’ Conspiracy?
(12) The Democratic Party is now being used as the tool of ‘ Rome’ as a part of that same ‘Roman’ Conspiracy against the Liberties of the United States?
If you don’t know these things, you owe it to yourself, to your country, and to your children’s children to get the facts about them, which will he published in a monthly paper,
THE AMERICAN SENTINEL OF RELIGIOUS LIBERTY
1244 Tenth Street N. W., Washington, D. C. in a series of articles by ‘Brutus, Junior,’ starting immediately, taken from authentic books and records.
AND YOU OWE IT TO YOUR COUNTRY TO SMASH THE ROMANIZED, TAMMANYIZED DEMOCRATIC PARTY IN EVERY STATE OF THE UNION IN 1929&emdsash;31 BEFORE THE ROMAN COHORTS GET A STRANGLEHOLD ON THE U. S. A. IN THE 1932 PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION.
Please pass this to your friends.
‘Sentinel’ Subscription is $1.25 per annum.
Washington, D. C.,
October 21st, 1929.
This and more like it are distributed in huge volume through the United States Post Office. The censor’s attention is elsewhere.
To Miss Rachel Hening Johnson of California we are indebted for this apt comment on Duke Larson.
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
In the extremely interesting article of Duke Larson of Mongolia, he writes: ‘When one of these lamas dies, the spirit of the saint that has dwelt in him enters the body of a child who is born at the instant the lama dies.’
Compare an incident, in Stefansson’s My Life with the Eskimos. ‘Why do you call your child Mother?' he asked an Eskimo woman. ‘Because she is my mother,’ replied the stolid Eskimo, and only by patient questioning was he able to extract the information that the baby, born near the time of its grandmother’s death, had inherited the latter’s soul.
We print the following from Mr. Charles C. Marshall.
EDITOR, Atlantic Monthly
DEAR SIR : —
In his reply to my article published in your March number, Mr. Belloc assures your readers (p. 418) that the Catholic ‘accepts very few nonCatholics as his intellectual equals.’ Disconcerting to me as this assurance is, I feel that I should call attention to several statements of fact by Mr. Belloc which seem to me quite inaccurate and which, left uncorrected, will mislead the reader and cloud the issue.
He says that my use of the term ‘Roman Catholic,’ in lieu of ‘Catholic,’ is ‘meaningless or opprobrious.’ Knowing his habitual avoidance of the term, I should have avoided it had I supposed that my article was for his critical eye. Addressed as it was to the public, it was not objectionable, I think, that I should use the term, especially as I take issue with Mr. Belloc when he says that it is provincial, or invented by the Westminster Crown lawyers. The historical fact is that Pope Pius IV, promulgating the decrees of the Council of Trent, on November 13, 1564, solemnly designated his Church as the ‘Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church.’ So the term ‘Roman’ is ecumenical and not provincial, of Rome and not of Westminster, and should not be thought meaningless or opprobrious.
I did not maintain, as Mr. Belloc says (p. 414), that Catholics would use force or fraud against non-Catholics. Quite the contrary. I said they would not use force or fraud, but that where, in their opinion, it was expedient they would use the ballot to conform the constitutional order of the modern State to their doctrine, as they have done in Italy.
Mr. Belloc asserts (p. 410) that the Jewish body in Europe, when the Church was most powerful, was specially protected by the Church and the Popes. It is true that occasional Popes restrained, at times, Christian outrages against the Jews, but it is of clear historic record from 1200 to 1600 that the decrees of the Church Councils (Fourth Lateran and Basle) of Popes Innocent III, Eugenius IV, Nicholas V, Pius IV, compelled them to live apart in the ghettos, to pay extortionate taxes, to wear an odious badge (the green hat or cape), forbade them to live in the same house or to eat or trade with Christians, to practise medicine generally, to pursue high commerce, to acquire real estate, to testify in the courts against Christians, and banished them at times in whole or in part from the Papal States. The Jews survived oppression, not through these tender mercies of the Catholic Church and the Popes, but because they belonged to a race which, as Disraeli said, can do everything but fail.
To my statement that Pius X ordained a thirteenth-century philosophy for the twentieth century, Mr. Belloc replies (p. 420), ‘No such thing was ever “ordained.”’ But Pius X in his Encyclical Pascendi Gregis (1907) decreed: ‘We will and strictly ordain that scholastic philosophy be made the basis of the sacred sciences. . . . On this philosophical foundation the theological edifice is to be carefully raised.’ All confessors, preachers, parish priests, professors in religious congregations, and all who taught in ecclesiastical institutions, were compelled by Pius X to take an oath to adhere to all that which was prescribed in the Pascendi. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. X, p. 241, gives the opinion of Dr. Vermeersch of Louvain University that the Encyclical Pascendi contains in its doctrinal conclusions the infallible teaching of the Vicar of Jesus Christ.
Lastly, Mr. Belloc states (p. 415) that I am wrong in thinking that disobedience to the Pope involves necessarily a loss of salvation. But the Constitution Pastor Æternus of 1870 decreed (and each of the Popes since has expressly affirmed): ’We teach and declare that by the appointment of our Lord the Roman Church possesses a sovereignty . . . and that this power of jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff, which is truly episcopal, is immediate; to which all . . . both pastors and faithful . . . are bound, by their duty of hierarchical subordination and true obedience, to submit, not only in matters which belong to faith and morals, but also in those that appertain to the discipline and government of the Church throughout the world. . . . This is the teaching of Catholic truth, from which no one can deviate without loss of faith and of salvation.’
I would note a clerical error in my text on p. 411: the reference to ’Article 23 in the Concordat’ should read ’Article 23 in the Treaty.’
Mr. Newton’s paper on Jerusalem caused many readers to criticize, comment, and applaud. A chance reference therein to Allenby and Lawrence draws forth this interesting letter from a private in C Company, 2/14 London Regiment, 179 Brigade, 60th Division, B. E. F.
DEAR ATLANTIC, &EMDASH;
General Allenby was not ’just another conqueror and a very fortunate one,’ but the man who fought the one campaign of the late war which is likely to become a model of perfection for future military students. And if he was fortunate it was his own amazing boldness which called good fortune to his side. As to Lawrence being responsible for Allenby’s success, the first man to protest at such a notion would be Lawrence himself. Mr. Newton should read Revolt in the Desert more carefully, and with more collateral information to help him see its true proportions. Lawrence is a genuine hero of romance. His adventurous campaigning was of enormous value to the Allied cause. His book is a work of real beauty, and I believe every word of it. But I am sure also that if he had imagined it could be so misread, as apparently by Mr. Newton, he would have been at greater pains to stress proportions which he fancied must be selfevident.
Allenby took Jerusalem a long time before Lawrence’s assistance began to have any weight even in his future plans, and at a moment when they were physically too far apart to have the slightest effect upon each other. Lawrence then was hoping to come closer, truly, and Allenby’s farsighted backing, moral and material, kept, this hope alive; but it was not till nine months after Jerusalem had fallen that Lawrence, in the wide shiftings of the final drive, was able to converge and actually to become Allenby’s right flank. The war finished a few weeks after that, Lawrence’s efforts hastening the end by a few days probably. The Arab Revolt, Feisal, and Lawrence had been a nasty thorn in the Turkish ribs for two solid years, but their military significance was relatively small.
Mr. Newton states that Allenby took Jerusalem ‘without, firing a shot.’ I fired a few myself on the morning of December 8, and while that day lasted I witnessed the gradual reduction of my company almost to half the morning’s numbers. We marched into the city next day with platoons less than a dozen strong, while another brigade of the division was still dealing with the Turkish rear guard on the Mount of Olives. Admittedly that final assault of December 8 was a picnic to what the higher command had expected. The preparatory fighting during the previous two weeks, especially around such key positions as Nebi Samwil (the Tomb of Samuel), had been much bloodier, and some divisions had suffered very heavily. The crumpling and vanishing of the Turkish 20th Corps on that last day is still a military mystery, explained perhaps only by the lightning shift of our attacking divisions at the last moment, and the consequent complete surprise. But it will be seen that ‘without firing a shot’ does small justice to either Allenby or Falkenhayn, to say nothing of a dozen or so of my own friends who were buried where they fell on the hills above the village of Ain Karim.
So much for December 8 and 9, 1917. At that time Allenby’s entire force of possibly 100,000 men had been marching, manœuvring, and fighting almost daily for five weeks. They were often short of food, advancing too rapidly for their supplies to keep pace; always short of water, but specially trained to do without it. They had in those five weeks fought full-sized battles at Gaza, Beersheba, Sheria, Ramleh, and Junction Station, all before the right-hand swing toward Jerusalem began. So Jerusalem was not the only picnic, and there were plenty to follow in the early months of 1918, as the Turks were pressed gradually north toward Nabulus, and east to Jericho and the Jordan. The only real lull came with the summer, and during that lull Allenby made the plans which were destined to smash the Turkish armies at a single blow in September. He accomplished this with the enormous handicap of losing half his Palestine-trained troops. These were sent back in June to the French front, my battalion among them, glad to be nearer home, but with a nostalgia for Jerusalem which has lasted.
Personally I wish that people like Mr. Newton would not visit Jerusalem.
We end this discussion of Mr. Newton on a personal note, and quote the following from the Public Ledger,
A SUIT THAT SPOKE FOR ITSELF
It has been revealed at last just why Dr. A. Edward Newton, noted local book collector and art patron, wears the outrageous tweeds and checkered suits for which he is famous.
He was speaking at a luncheon of the CivicOpera Company at the Bellevue-Stratford. He was minus the huge red tie which he usually wears, but was attired in a business suit of large black and gray checks.
Beside him sat Mrs. Tracy, head of the opera company, who was attired more or less formally. A few places away was Alexander Smallens, beloved conductor of the Civic Opera Company, in formal morning attire. Ossip Gabrilowitsch, guest conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra, also was dressed in wing collar and swallowtail coat.
Dr. Newton rose as the first speaker of the day. His voice could not be heard distinctly in all parts of the large room.
’ I know that you will have difficulty in hearing me,’ he said. ‘In order to offset the lack of volume in my voice, I have worn this suit of clothes, which speaks for itself.’
We ourselves have come to a time of life when of all the arts the Art of Growing Old seems to us most admirable. We are glad to give space to the following letter from the former United States Senator from Colorado, whose public services our older readers will remember.
To THE ATLANTIC: —
Mr. Palmer’s article in your current number on ‘Growing Old’ is interesting. But his unique contention that old age comes as the result of effort is evidently founded upon his own experience, which is hardly broad enough to sustain a general principle which seems to ignore a longaccepted natural law. But, were it otherwise, his example will not appeal very strongly to the average man, since the strait-jacket regimen he prescribes is altogether too exacting for the end to be attained; for he who conforms day after day to its specific requirements would have little time left for the usual activities of everyday life. Old age attained at such a cost would seem to me not worth having.
Moreover, I am skeptical of the prescription. I doubt if it would work save in exceptional instances, chiefly because it would soon become too
irksome for continuance, which I assume is indispensable to its success.
I am an octogenarian, somewhat younger than Mr. Palmer, and am still in the active practice of my profession. My ‘start’ was not as wretched as his, but it was not a good one. No insurance company would give me a life policy until I was about thirty-five years of age. But my course of living has been very different from that of Mr. Palmer. I have been temperate in most things, but never abstemious. I have enjoyed stimulants in moderation, even in this era of hypocrisy. Milk has been a regular diet throughout my life. I drink it by the goblet; I would as soon think of sipping water when thirsty, I eat that which my appetite craves, but I never gormandize, and the older I grow the less I eat. A mild cathartic is occasionally desirable. I presume my discharges are normal, but I have seldom given them much concern.
I indulge in mild forms of exercise, principally walking, when I feel like it. At night I sleep or lie awake or toss about as the spirit moves. I change the weight of my apparel with the seasons or the latitudes, and the best tonic I know of is fresh air and plenty of it.
Religion of the denominational sort may or may not promote longevity, but it never appealed to me for any purpose. Mine is natural, if I have any. It is derived neither from dogma nor yet from revelation. I am at peace with my neighbors, which I am vain enough to think results from correct living.
I know nothing of and care less about the centuries-old problem of immortality, or whether it implies a future state. I know as much about it as other men, which is precisely nothing, So I waste neither time nor energy upon it. So with deities, of which there is a legion.
Neither do I worry about my physical pains, aches, or symptoms. I regard introversion as itself a disease and an insidious one. If I am ailing I have my physician tell me what to do and how to do it, and I obey his orders. If my illness is transient I resume my usual course of life when he tells me I can do so with impunity. When such a condition proves to be mortal, as it soon must be, I believe it will not greatly concern me, for death is the common end of man.
Old age crowning such a course of life is most enjoyable. At least I find it so. But if I had made its attainment the task of a lifetime, taking meticulous pains with the quantity and quality of my diet, exercising by rote so much a day, and in one direction, alternately lying flat on my back for rest, wearing raiment of identical weight and material at all times, and embracing religion as an aid to longevity, I should have been happily dead years ago, and glad of it.
C. S. THOMAS
The response to ‘Hamstringing Our Teachers’ would make a volume by itself. We quote from our correspondence a representative reply.
CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, OHIO
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
‘Hamstringing Our Teachers,’ in the March number, certainly goes home. I believe that every teacher will agree with most of Mr. Anderson’s statements. There are many other situations of a similar nature, however, that he does not mention.
In most large city systems at the present time, teachers are not permitted to have any definite opinion on such a question as prohibition. ’It is a controversial subject,’ says a Middle West city superintendent. On this assumption, teachers might likewise be expected to refrain from any expression of opinion on capital punishment, income tax, manager plan of city government, farm relief, prison reform, immigration, taxation, or the rights of a citizen.
There are doubtless many small communities where a teacher would have to take a definite stand in regard to prohibition.
In few places are teachers free to give information about their work to newspapers. Most city systems exercise a strict censorship in regard to such matters. If feature articles are to be given to the press, principal or superintendent must know about it, and if the article is printed, credit for the venture is usually bestowed upon the teacher’s superior rather than upon the teacher responsible for the work.
A few years ago the writer took a teaching position in a small Eastern Ohio town. Almost immediately the woman principal became antagonistic. We bad graduated from rival schools. In a short time the Presbyterian and Methodist ministers began a campaign to win me for their respective churches. Then a Fundamentalist girl pupil reported to her minister that I was teaching Evolution, and she came back saying that the minister had warned his young people not to listen to me. At that stage I became so ill that I was forced to resign, and the whole town breathed a sigh of relief. One of the ministers’ wives was promptly installed in my position in the hope that she might undo some of the damage I had wrought.
Readers of Owen Lattimore’s Atlantic papers, and especially of his delightful volume, The Desert Road to Turkestan, will enjoy this quotation from a recent letter from his winter headquarters in Mukden.
Our chief standby and local ally is Mr. Niu, or Cow, whose business is selling pictures of gods and ancient worthies for China New Year decoration. He has a five-year-old (that is, fouryear-old by our reckoning) son who smokes cigarettes in a brass cigarette holder, and does theatrical tricks with song and dance. So we do not lack social amenities. As far as that goes, the women spit as freely as the men, and that’s a ‘whole floorful,’ as one of the Heavenly Twins, or Helen’s Babies, or whoever it was, remarked of playing Jonah and the Whale after taking ipecacuanha, after eating paint. Eleanor follows up these cordial demonstrations by sprinkling the floor with disinfectant, and Moses follows up with a broom. Spitting is a sort of affable gesture, because a free flow of the bodily juices indicates a heart at ease and a tranquil spleen. . . .
Our quarters here are in a school. The people were so wary of us at first that, no one would let rooms to us; but the officials handsomely put the school at our disposal. It has a caretaker who is unbelievably ancient and feeble, ne and Moses share cooped-up sleeping quarters, and Moses says he got a transfer of lice at no extra charge. He has been frenziedly freezing his sleeping bag ever since.
We have n’t any lice yet, but my Manchu teacher has fleas, which also think they can teach us something. We have a Japanese kind of weapon which shoots out flea powder with admirable precision; but, as might be expected, the local flea has been raised on an anti-Japanese diet, and puts up a valiant front.
Miss Miriam Chase, of Wollaston, Massachusetts, makes this pertinent comment on the recent paper entitled ‘Try the Spirits.’
DEAR ATLANTIC, —
If Mr. Norman had added the last line of the wedding rhyme as it is known to those of us of‘ New England ancestry, making it read
Something borrowed and something blue,
And a sixpence in her shoe,
its origin would have been quite apparent, having evidently come over to New England from old England. _
The difficulty of writing over such a ridiculous signature as Iconoclast is that the impulse to agree violently with something that has been said will arise now and then. This month poor Iconoclast finds himself embarrassed by a whim of this kind. Mr. Griswold has provided an opportunity that cannot be overlooked for continuing the discussion broached last month. But to do our part faithfully, we should really be more at outs with him. Still, it is a poor agreement that will not brook a few exceptions, and sometimes the slender weapon of an amendment can be made to carve a few heads in the service of truth.
And now for Mr. Griswold, whose casque needs a little trimming from the Roundhead pattern to a shape more acceptable at court. Let us give him his due, and it will be hard to find adequate words to pay him the compliment that on one score he deserves. Mr. Griswold is an almost unique man. He has read a large array of books that he considers indecent and shocking. Yet he does not want a law passed about it. He does not want the reserves turned out to make a public crusade of his outraged morality. He is content to ask for critical condemnation of the authors, and to urge a more exacting standard of taste. Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth! This is a true specimen of tolerance, and we commend it as an example for imitation.
So far we are of Mr. Griswold’s party. Perhaps even more sympathy is justified. It is no uncommon experience to be disgusted by the current mode in fiction. But disgust can have a variety of causes. The very business of novels is with the passions. Therefore they are a bad diet. Mere satiety is enough to account for some of the spasms of revulsion which overtake the reading public. The need is to lay aside the passions for a while and cultivate the intelligence. People have learned the value of a balanced ration in vegetables, but go on stuffing themselves with a single kind of books. Mental and moral rickets is the natural consequence. A few of the greatest novels contain in themselves all the elements of intellectual nourishment. But such novels form one of the most limited societies in the world, and it is not every age that can elect even a single new member.
Not all disgust with the contemporary fare in novels can be laid to satiety. The novelists themselves are responsible for some of it. But it is well to remember that one can be disgusted by the deliberate intent of a master, or by the mere ineptitude of a pupil. We agree with Mr. Griswold that contemporary criticism has shown itself altogether too backward in detecting and condemning mere crudity and puerility. Critics who ought to know better have accepted au grand séricux books that go far to justify Mr. Griswold when he says that some novels of the day suggest the lucubrations of small boys in a haymow. A reader who falls in the way of such books will profoundly sympathize with Mr. Griswold’s outburst, and may easily fail to perceive its dangers.
Glance at the names in Mr. Griswold’s roster of indecency. Well-founded criticism cannot make such an indiscriminate mouthful of gnats and camels. The sense of propriety that can pass the same easy censure on Proust and Michael Arlen, Aldous Huxley and Percy Marks, is not to be trusted. It is perfectly appropriate, if one likes, to inquire into the standard of taste and morals among the secondary and fugitive writings of an age, although it seems a work of curiosity rather than serious criticism. But surely the main fact about the few men of genius which an age can boast is that they have contributed to the enrichment, knowledge, and pleasure of life. It is a topsy-turvy morality that elects to scold them for what it considers their offenses against taste when all for which they are to be treasured is allowed to pass as though it did not exist.
By what standard is public taste to be established? Actually it is a product of forces, the inertia of custom and settled modes of thought on one part, the fruitful and rebellious influence of genius on the other. It would be foolish to deny the public its right and interest in the matter as conservator; but it hardly seems possible to deny that genius is the productive agent. In a democratic world the mob finds plenty of encouragement to lecture its teachers; but the wise will know on which part the debt really inclines. When light is thrown on a dark corner, the public’s first impulse is to break the lamp. Genius is the great creator of light. It must be expected to produce shock and revolt. And when we take the trouble to consider it, how mechanical, how needless the business of being offended usually is! We smear our souls with all sorts of flattering unctions for the sake of purity, never suspecting that we might be cleaner and happier as well as more robust without them. If a man wishes to read his Proust or Joyce or Boccaccio out of admiration for them as masters, or interest in the phenomena they describe, it is possible for him to do so not only without harm but with profit. These books, on the other hand, are not for all tastes, and it is perfectly honorable to omit them. But is the cause of virtue really clarified by reading and then denouncing them?
The pity of it is that thousands of people will see Mr, Griswold’s offended reference to Joyce (and others like it) for every one who discovers S. Foster Damon’s patient and brilliant examination of Ulysses, revealing its astonishing intellectual background and the profundity and seriousness of its design. Mr. Griswold floes not seem to have approached the book as a student before condemning it as a judge. Mr. Damon, after half a dozen readings and a course of erudite research only made possible by an already ripened acquaintance with the whole stream of classic and modern literature, is almost relieved of the necessity of judging the book because he has shed so much light on it. Mr. Damon, too, has not escaped disgust, nor has he hesitated to speak of it; but he sees it in the transforming light of Joyce’s intention and design.
If Mr. Griswold accepts with so much unconcern the interpretation he places on Shakespeare’s sonnets, one might expect him to be more charitable toward Proust. When I read his remarks on the author of Remembrance of Things Past, it is hard for me not to picture Mr. Griswold devoting himself with conscientious horror to Sodom and Gomorrah and neglecting Proust’s other volumes. To me it is inconceivable that anyone who had in mind Swann’s Way could speak of Proust with other than gratitude and delight. Bless my soul! Has Mr. Griswold no word of praise for the inimitable painting of domestic scenes in the little town of Combray? For the painting of social scenes with a brilliance, humor, and depth of irony hard to match in any literature? For the profound and subtle analysis of Swann’s love affair with Odette? As one remembers the jealous Swann rapping angrily on the wrong window, or the theme from M. Vinteuil’s sonata that gathers all the associations of his life about a small phrase of music, as one recalls Proust’s intellect, brooding over and illuminating his sensitive impressions with a rich and ideal play of light, it seems as though Mr. Griswold might have allowed his readers to know that the important thing about Proust is the pleasure and enhancement of life for which the world is in debt to him. Nor should our debt as English readers to Proust’s translator be forgotten. For his work is nothing less than a permanent enrichment of our own tongue. Anyone who has devoutly and humbly studied the English masters and tried to practise their art will recognize it as a ‘well of English undefiled.’
Last of all, I can’t forbear a word in favor of Aldous Huxley. Poor Huxley! Have his cleverness and the detestable people he writes about — quite as odious to him as to his readers — brought him into disrepute with the respectable? What a pity that censors are unable to keep books from those who cannot appreciate them! One or two scenes in Huxley’s novels are as horrid as can well be imagined. But I like to remember him as the inventor of Gumbril’s patent small clothes, as the author of those inimitable Shandyan episodes in Crome Yellow that take one back to a day when novels were irresponsible and full of divagations — a much better kind of novel than the sort we get nowadays, burdened by strict causation of plot or bogged in a ‘stream of consciousness.’ One of these episodes will not pass from the language, I am sure. Though the rest of Huxley’s writings be forgotten, the parable of the dwarfs, Hercules and Filomena, will survive to entertain and touch generations yet unborn. Some anthologist will save it from oblivion, for a more perfect short reading in English will be hard to find.
THE OFFICE ICONOCLAST