IN the remarkable letter in which you, as an educated man, ask the daughters of educated men for an opinion as to how to prevent war, you suggest certain practical measures by which we can help you to prevent war. These are, it appears, that we should sign a manifesto pledging ourselves to ‘protect culture and intellectual liberty,’ and that we should join a certain society, devoted to certain measures whose aim, needless to say, is to preserve peace — which society, like the other societies, is, needless to say, in need of funds.
We have given, so far as we are able, an opinion as to how, by the use of our influence upon education, upon the professions, we can help you to prevent war. Now we must consider how we can help you to prevent war by protecting culture and intellectual liberty, since you assure us that there is a connection between those rather abstract words and these very positive photographs from Spain — the photographs of dead bodies and ruined houses.
But if it was surprising to be asked for an opinion on how to prevent war, it is still more surprising to be asked to help you to protect culture and intellectual liberty. For have not the daughters of educated men paid into their brothers’ education fund from the year 1262 to the year 1870 all the money that was to educate themselves, barring such miserable sums as went to pay the governess, the German teacher, and the dancing master? Yet here comes your letter informing them that the whole of that vast, that fabulous sum — for, whether counted in cash or in things done without, the sum that lies behind their brothers’ education fund is vast — has been wasted or wrongly applied. If the schools and universities, with their great wealth and elaborate machinery for mind training and body training, have failed, what reason is there to think that your society, sponsored though it is by distinguished names, is going to succeed, or that your manifesto, signed though it is by still more distinguished names, is going to convert ?
To ask the daughters of educated men who have to earn their livings by reading and writing to sign your manifesto would be of no value to the cause of disinterested culture and intellectual liberty, because, directly they had signed it, they would have to be at the desk writing those books, lectures, and articles by which culture is prostituted and intellectual liberty is sold into slavery.
Thus, Sir, it becomes clear that we must make our appeal only to those daughters of educated men who have enough money to live upon. But what, such a woman may well ask, is meant by this gentleman’s ‘disinterested’ culture, and how am I to protect that and intellectual liberty in practice?
Let us refer her to the tradition which has long been honored in the private house — the tradition of chastity. ’We are asking you, Madam, to pledge yourself not to commit adultery of the brain, because it is a much more serious offense than the other.’
‘Adultery of the brain,’ she may reply, ‘means writing what I do not want to write for the sake of money. Therefore you ask me to refuse all publishers, editors, lecture agents, and so on, who bribe me to write or to speak what I do not want to write or speak for the sake of money?’
‘That is so, Madam; and we further ask that if you should receive proposals for such sales you will resent them and expose them as you would resent or expose such proposals for selling your body, both for your own sake and for the sake of others. But we would have you observe that the verb “to adulterate” means, according to the dictionary, “to falsify by admixture of baser ingredients.” Advertisement and publicity are also adulterers. Thus, culture mixed with personal charm and culture mixed with advertisement and publicity are also adulterated forms of culture. We must ask you to abjure them; not to appear on public platforms; not to allow your private face to be published, or details of your private life; not to avail yourself, in short, of any of the forms of brain prostitution which are so insidiously suggested by the pimps and panders of the brain-selling trade. And medals, honors, degrees — all the baubles and labels by which brain merit is advertised and certified — we must ask you to refuse them absolutely, since they are all tokens that culture has been prostituted and intellectual liberty sold into captivity.
‘The private printing press is an actual fact, and not beyond the reach of a moderate income. Typewriters and duplicators are actual facts and even cheaper. By using these cheap and so far unforbidden instruments you can at once rid yourself of the pressure of boards, policies, and editors. They will speak your own mind, in your own words, at your own time, at your own length, at your own bidding. And that, we are agreed, is our definition of “intellectual liberty.”’
‘But,’ she may say, ‘the public? How can that be reached without putting my own mind through the mincing machine and turning it into sausage?’
‘The public, Madam,’ we may assure her, ‘is very like ourselves; it lives in rooms; it walks in streets, and is said, moreover, to be tired of sausage. Fling leaflets down basements; expose them on stalls; trundle them along streets on barrows to be sold for a penny or given away. Find out new ways of approaching the public; single it into separate people instead of massing it into one monster, gross in body, feeble in mind. And then reflect — since you have enough to live on; you have a room, not necessarily “cosy” or “handsome,” but still silent, private; a room where, safe from publicity and its poison, you could, even asking a reasonable fee for the service, speak the truth to artists, to writers, about pictures, music, books, without fear of affecting their sales, which are exiguous, or wounding their vanity, which is notorious. Are not the best critics people, and is not spoken criticism the only criticism worth having?
‘Those, then, are some of the active ways in which you, as a writer of your own tongue, can put your opinion into practice. But if you are passive, — a reader, not a writer, — then you must adopt not active but passive methods of protecting culture and intellectual liberty.’
‘And what may they be?’ she will ask.
‘To abstain, obviously. Not to subscribe to papers that encourage intellectual slavery; not to attend lectures that prostitute culture; for we are agreed that to write at the command of another what you do not want to write is to be enslaved, and to mix culture with personal charm or advertisement is to prostitute culture. By these active and passive measures you would do all in your power to break the ring, the vicious circle, the dance round and round the mulberry tree — the poison tree of intellectual harlotry.
‘The ring once broken, the captive would be freed. For who can doubt that, once writers had the chance of writing what they enjoy writing, they would find it so much more pleasurable that they would refuse to write on any other terms; and who can doubt that readers, once they had the chance of reading what writers enjoy writing, would find it so much more nourishing than what is written for money that they would refuse to be palmed off with the stale substitute any longer?’
Now, Sir, let us consider your final and inevitable request: that we should subscribe to the funds of your society. With your letter before us, we have your assurance that you are fighting with us, not against us. That fact is so inspiring that a celebration seems called for. What could be more fitting, now that we can bury the old word ‘feminist,’ than to write more dead words, corrupt words, obsolete words, upon sheets of paper and burn them — the words ‘tyrant,’ ‘dictator,’ for example? Alas, those words are not yet obsolete. We can still sec traces of dictatorship revealed in newspapers, still smell a peculiar and unmistakable odor of masculine tyranny in the region of Whitehall and Westminster.
And abroad the Monster has come more openly to the surface. There is no mistaking him there. He has widened his scope. He is interfering now with your liberty; he is dictating how you shall live; he is making distinctions, not merely between the sexes, but between the races. You are feeling in your own persons what your mothers felt when they were shut out, when they were shut up, because they were women. Now you are being shut out, you are being shut up, because you are Jews, because you are democrats, because of race, because of religion.
It is not a photograph that you look upon any longer; there you go, traipsing along in the procession yourselves. And that makes a difference. The whole iniquity of dictatorship, whether in Oxford or Cambridge, in Whitehall or Downing Street, against Jews or against women, in England or in Germany, in Italy or in Spain, is now apparent to you. But now we are fighting together. That fact is so inspiring, even if no celebration is yet possible, that if this guinea you have requested could be multiplied a million times all those guineas should be at your service without any other conditions than those that you have imposed upon yourself. Take this one guinea, then, and use it to assert ‘the rights of all — all men and women — to the respect in their persons of the great principles of Justice and Equality and Liberty.’
Only one further request of yours remains to be considered — it is that we should fill up a form and become members of your society. What can be simpler than to fill up a form and join the society to which this guinea has just been contributed? On the face of it, how easy, how simple; but in the depths, how difficult, how complicated. . . .
Society is far less satisfactory to us women, who have enjoyed, compared with you, so few of its goods, so many of its evils. Inevitably, therefore, we look upon society as an ill-fitting form which distorts the truth, deforms the mind, fetters the will. Inevitably we look upon societies as conspiracies and conglomerations which sink the private brother, whom many of us have reason to respect, and inflate in his stead a monstrous male, loud of voice, hard of fist, childishly intent upon ruling the floor of the earth with chalk marks, going through mystic rites and enjoying the dubious pleasures of power and dominion, while we, ‘his women,’ are firmly locked in the private house within.
For these reasons, which are not pure reason but are part emotion and part memory, — for who shall analyze the complexity of the mind that now holds so deep a reservoir of time past within it? — it seems impossible to fill up your form and join your society. For by so doing we should merely merge ourselves in you; follow and repeat and score deeper the old worn ruts in which society, like a gramophone whose needle has stuck, is grinding out with intolerable unanimity ‘three hundred millions spent upon arms.’
Let us, then, draw rapidly in outline the kind of society which the daughters of educated men might found and join, outside your society, but in coöperation with its ends. In the first place this new society, you will be relieved to learn, would have no Honorary Treasurer, for it would need no funds. It would have no office, no committee, no secretary, no note paper, even. It would call no meetings; it would hold no conferences. If name it must have, it could be called the Outsiders’ Society. It would consist of educated men’s daughters working in their own class — how, indeed, can they work in any other? — and by their own methods for liberty, equality, and peace.
Their first duty, to which they would not bind themselves by oath, would be, of course, not to fight with arms. This is easy for them to observe, for in fact, as the papers inform us, ‘the Army Council have no intention of opening recruiting for any women’s corps.’ Next, they would refuse in the event of war to make munitions or to nurse the wounded. The third duty to which they would pledge themselves is one of considerable difficulty, and calls not only for courage and initiative, but for the special knowledge of the educated man’s daughter.
It is, briefly, not to incite their brothers to fight, or to dissuade them, but to maintain an attitude of complete indifference. As fighting clearly is a sex characteristic which the woman cannot share, — the counterpart, some claim, of the maternal instinct which the man cannot share, — so is it an instinct which she cannot judge. The Outsider, therefore, must leave her brother free to deal with this instinct by himself.
But the Outsider will make it her duty to base her indifference not merely upon instinct, but upon reason and facts. And she will enforce it in her own case. As, in most countries, she loses her nationality upon marriage, she will insist that it is, on the whole, an advantage, since any form that brands nationality upon a free person is a stigma — a restriction, rather than a liberation. She will bind herself to take no part in patriotic demonstrations; to assent to no form of national self-praise; to make no part of any claque or audience that encourages war, absenting herself from military displays, tournaments, prize givings, and all such ceremonies as encourage the desire to impose our civilization or ‘our ’ dominion upon other people.
But there is another way in which the Outsiders can bind themselves to carry out this duty — a more positive, if a still more difficult way. And that is by earning their own livings; by continuing to earn those livings while the war is in progress. History is at hand to assure us that this method has a psychological influence, a strong dissuasive force upon war-makers. In the last war the daughters of workingmen proved it by showing that they could do their brother’s work in his absence. They thus roused his jealousy and his anxiety lest his place should have been filled in his absence, and provided him with a strong incentive to end the war.
It follows that an Outsider must make it her business to press for a living wage in all the professions now open to her sex; further, she must create new professions in which she can earn the right to an independent opinion. Therefore she must bind herself to press for a money wage for the unpaid worker in her own class — the daughters and sisters of educated men who are now paid on the truck system, with food, lodging, and a pittance of forty pounds a year. But above all she must press for a wage to be paid by the State legally to the mothers of educated men. It is the most effective way in which we can ensure that the married woman shall have a mind and a will of her own, with which, if his mind and will are good in her eyes, to support her husband, if bad to resist him — in any case to cease to be ‘his woman,’ and to be herself.
Consider, even at the risk of a digression, what effect this proposed wage for those whose profession is marriage and motherhood would have upon the birth rate, in the very class where the birth rate is falling, in the very class where births are desirable — the educated class. Just as the increase in the pay of soldiers has resulted, the papers say, in additional recruits to the force of arm-bearers, so the same inducement would serve to recruit the child-bearing force, which we can hardly deny to be as necessary and as honorable, but which, because of its poverty and its hardships, is now failing to attract recruits. If the State paid your wife a living wage for her work (which, sacred though it is, can scarcely be called more sacred than that of the clergyman; yet, as his work is paid for without derogation, so may hers be) — if this step were taken, your own slavery would be lightened. No longer need you go to the office at nine-thirty and stay there till six. No longer would you be the Saturday caller, the albatross on the neck of society, the sympathy addict, the deflated work slave calling for replenishment; or, as Herr Hitler puts it, the hero requiring recreation, or, as Signor Mussolini puts it, the wounded warrior requiring female dependents to bandage his wounds. But since three hundred millions or so have to be spent upon the arm-bearers, such expenditure for wages to mothers is obviously, to use a convenient word applied by the politicians, ‘ impracticable,’ and it is time to return to more feasible projects.
The Outsiders, then, would bind themselves, not only to earn their own livings, but to earn them so expertly that their refusal to earn them would be a matter of concern to the work master. Also, they would bind themselves to remain outside any profession hostile to freedom, such as the making or the improvement of the weapons of war. And they would bind themselves to refuse to take office or honor from any society which, while professing to respect liberty, restricts it, like the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge. And in all this, and in much more than we have time to particularize, they would be helped, you will agree, by their position as Outsiders, that freedom from unreal loyalties, that freedom from interested motives, which are at present assured them by the State.
Broadly speaking, the main distinction between us who are outside society and you who are inside society must be that, whereas you will make use of the means provided by your position, — Leagues, Conferences, public campaigns, great names, and all such public measures as your wealth and political influence place within your reach, — we, remaining outside, will experiment, not with public means in public, but with private means in private.
Let us examine three experiments only, in order that we may prove our statement that the Society of Outsiders is in being.
Speaking at a bazaar last week at the Plumstead Common Baptist Church, the mayoress [of Woolwich] said: . . . ’I myself would not even do as much as darn a sock to help in a war.’ These remarks are resented by the majority of the Woolwich public, who hold that the mayoress was, to say the least, rather tactless. Some 12,000 Woolwich electors are employed in Woolwich Arsenal on armament making.
Speaking of the wrork of the great voluntary associations for the playing of certain games, Miss Clarke [Miss E. R. Clarke of the Board of Education] referred to the women’s organizations for hockey, lacrosse, netball, and cricket, and pointed out that under their rules there could be no cup or award of any kind to a successful team. The ‘gates’ for their matches might be a little smaller than for the men’s games, but their players played the game for the love of it, and they seemed to be proving that cups and awards are not necessary to stimulate interest, for each year the number of players steadily continued to increase.
For our third example let us choose what we may call an experiment in passivity.
A remarkable change in the attitude of young women to the Church was discussed by Canon F. R. Barry, vicar of St. Mary the Virgin [the University Church] at Oxford last night. . . . The task before the Church, he said, was nothing less than to make civilization moral, and this was a great coöperative task which demanded all that Christians could bring to it. It simply could not be carried through by men alone. For a century, or a couple of centuries, women had predominated in the congregations in roughly the ratio of 75 per cent to 25 per cent. The whole situation was now changing, and what the keen observer would notice in almost any church in England was the paucity of young women. . . . Among the student population the young women were, on the whole, farther away from the Church of England and the Christian faith than the young men.
It is, as we have said, a passive experiment. For while the first example was an outspoken refusal to knit socks in order to discourage war, and the second was an attempt to stimulate non-competitive interest in games, the third is an attempt to prove what happens if the daughters of educated men absent themselves from church. Without being in itself more valuable than the others, it is of more practical interest because it is obviously the kind of experiment that great numbers of Outsiders can practise with very little difficulty or danger to themselves. (What light this throws upon the power of Outsiders to abolish or modify other institutions of which they disapprove; whether, if they ceased to attend public dinners, public dinners would cease to be eaten; whether, if they refused honors, your sex would refuse them too; whether, if they absented themselves from lectures upon English literature, such lectures would cease and English literature would spring into a new vitality, are questions, frivolous questions, that may well amuse our leisure and stimulate our curiosity.)
The results of one such experiment are positive and they are encouraging: there can be no doubt that the Church is becoming concerned about the attitude to the Church of educated men’s daughters at the universities. There is the report of the Archbishops’ Commission on the Ministry of Women to prove it.
When, in the year 1935, the daughters of educated men said that they wished to have the profession of religion opened to them, the priests of that profession, who correspond roughly to the doctors and barristers in the other professions, were forced to give psychological as well as theological grounds for their refusal to admit women. They therefore called in Professor Grensted, D. D., the Nolloth Professor of the Philosophy of the Christian Religion in the University of Oxford, and asked him to indicate the psychological grounds for the opinions and recommendations put forward by the Commission, favoring the ‘continuous tradition of male priesthood.’ This was the first fact that he investigated.
It is clearly a fact of the very greatest practical importance that strong feeling is aroused by any suggestion that women should be admitted to the status and functions of the threefold Order of the Ministry. The evidence before the Commission went to show that this feeling is predominantly hostile to such proposals. . . . This strength of feeling, conjoined with a wide variety of rational explanations, is clear evidence of the presence of powerful and widespread subconscious motive. In the absence of detailed analytical material, of which there seems to be no record in this particular connection, it nevertheless remains clear that infantile fixation plays a predominant part in determining the strong emotion with which this whole subject is commonly approached.
The exact nature of this fixation must necessarily differ with different individuals, and suggestions which can be made as to its origin can only be general in character. But, whatever be the exact value and interpretation of the material upon which theories of the 'Œdipus complex’ and the ‘castration complex’ have been founded, it is clear that the general acceptance of male dominance, and still more of feminine inferiority, resting upon subconscious ideas of woman as ‘man manqué,’has its background in infantile conceptions of this type. These commonly, and even usually, survive in the adult, despite the irrationality, and betray their presence, below the level of conscious thought, by the strength of the emotions to which they give rise. It is strongly in support of this view that the admission of women to Holy Orders, and especially to the ministry of the sanctuary, is so commonly regarded as something shameful. This sense of shame cannot be regarded in any other light than as a non-rational sextaboo.
As Professor Grensted gave his evidence, we, the daughters of educated men, seemed to be watching a surgeon at work — an impartial and scientific operator, who, as he dissected the human mind, by human means laid bare for all to see what cause, what root, lies at the bottom of our fear. It is an egg. Its scientific name is ‘infantile fixation.’ We, being unscientific, have named it wrongly. An egg we called it; a germ. We smelt it in the atmosphere; we detected its presence in Whitehall, in the Universities, in the Church. Now undoubtedly the Professor has defined it and named it and described it so accurately that no daughter of an educated man, however uneducated she may be, can miscall it or misinterpret it in the future. It is possible that she has suspected it for two thousand years at least; but now the familiar feeling is named.
Let us examine this ‘infantile fixation ’ in order that we may see what bearing it has upon the question you have put us. There are so many cases of infantile fixation, as defined by Professor Grensted, in Victorian biography that we scarcely know which to choose. The case of Mr. Barrett of Wimpole Street is perhaps the most famous and the best authenticated. But let us choose one that is less well-known. There is the case of Mr. Jex Blake. Here we have a father who is not confronted with his daughter’s marriage but with his daughter’s wish to earn her living. That wish also would seem to have aroused in the father a very strong emotion, and an emotion which also seems to have its origin in the levels below conscious thought. Again, with your leave, we will call it a case of infantile fixation.
The daughter, Sophia, was offered a small sum for teaching mathematics; and she asked her father’s permission to take it. That permission was instantly and heatedly refused. ‘Dearest, I have only this moment heard that you contemplate being paid for the tutorship. It would be quite beneath you, darling, and I cannot consent to it.’ (The italics are the father’s.) ‘Take the post as one of honor and usefulness, and I shall be glad. But to be paid for the work would be to alter the thing completely and would lower you sadly in the eyes of almost everybody.’
Why was it beneath her, she asked, why should it lower her? Taking money for work did not lower Tom in anybody’s eyes. That, Mr. Jex Blake explained, was quite a different matter: Tom was a man; Tom had a family to support; Tom had therefore taken ‘the plain path of duty.’
Still Sophia was not satisfied. She argued — not only was she poor and wanted the money, but also she felt strongly ‘the honest, and I believe perfectly justifiable, pride of earning.’ Thus pressed, Mr. Jex Blake at last gave, under a semi-transparent cover, the real reason why he objected to her taking money. He offered to give her the money himself if she would refuse to take it from the college. It was plain, therefore, that he did not object to her taking money; what he objected to was her taking money from another man.
We can have no doubt concerning what emotion was at the root of this objection. He wished to keep his daughter in his own power. If she took money from him, she remained in his power; if she took it from another man, not only was she becoming independent of Mr. Jex Blake — she was becoming dependent upon another man. That he wished her to depend upon him, and felt obscurely that this desirable dependence could only be secured by financial dependence, is proved indirectly by another of his veiled statements. ‘If you married to-morrow to my liking — and I don’t believe you would ever marry otherwise — I should give you a good fortune.’ If she became a wage earner, she could dispense with the fortune and marry whom she liked.
The case of Mr. Jex Blake is very easily diagnosed, but it is a very important case because it is a normal, a typical case. Mr. Jex Blake was no monster of Wimpole Street; he was an ordinary father, doing what thousands of other Victorian fathers, whose cases remain unpublished, were doing daily. It is a case, therefore, that explains much that lies at the root of Victorian psychology — that psychology of the sexes which is still, Professor Grensted tells us, so obscure. The daughter’s desire to earn her living rouses two different forms of jealousy. Each is strong separately; together they are very strong. It is further significant that in order to justify this very strong emotion, which has its origin below the levels of conscious thought, Mr. Jex Blake had recourse to one of the commonest of all evasions — the argument which is not an argument, but an appeal to the emotions. He appealed to her womanhood.
There can be no question — the infantile fixation is powerful, even when a mother feels it. But when the father is infected it has a threefold power: he has nature to protect him, he has law to protect him, he has property to protect him. Thus protected, the Reverend Patrick Brontë could cause ‘acute pain’ to his daughter Charlotte for several months by making her promise not to marry when she wished and could steal several months of her short married happiness without incurring any censure from the society in which he practised the profession of a priest of the Church of England; though had he tortured a dog, or stolen a watch, that same society would have unfrocked him and cast him forth. Society, it seems, was a father, and afflicted with the infantile fixation too.
Ignorant as we are of human motives, and ill supplied with words, let us admit that no one word expresses the force which in the nineteenth century opposed itself to the force of the fathers. All we can safely say about that force is that it was a force of tremendous power. It forced open the doors of the private house. It opened Bond Street and Piccadilly; it. opened cricket grounds and football grounds; it shriveled flounces and stays; it made the oldest profession in the world — so it is said, but Whitaker supplies no figures — unprofitable. The fathers, who had triumphed over the strongest emotions of strong men, had to yield.
If that full stop were the end of the story, the final slam of the door, we could turn once more to your letter, Sir, and to the form which you have asked us to fill up. But it was not the end; it was the beginning. Indeed, though we have used the past tense, we shall soon find ourselves using the present. The fathers in private, it is true, yielded; the door was forced open. But the fathers massed together outside, in societies, in professions, were even more subject, it would seem, to the disease of infantile fixation than the fathers in private life. That they were affected by the same disease would appear, if we compare the symptoms, to be indisputable.
One motive, the love motive, which is so easily apparent in the cases already quoted and so difficult for the daughters either to fight or to recognize, was absent, it is true. But the disease had acquired another motive which made it still more virulent. For now the fathers had to protect something that lay as deep in them as womanhood, as daughterhood, lay in their daughters: let us call it ’manhood’ itself and have done with it. A man who could not earn his living had failed in the prime attribute of manliness — the ability to support a wife and family. It was that right which was now challenged. To protect that — and from women — gave and gives rise, it can scarcely be doubted, to an emotion below the levels of conscious thought and of the utmost violence. It is for this reason, to quote Professor Grensted, that ‘the admission of women to Holy Orders ’ — or indeed to any profession, for they are all Holy Orders — ‘is so commonly regarded as something shameful. This sense of shame cannot be regarded in any other light than as a non-rational sex-taboo.’
And if, Sir, pausing in England, we turn on the radio of the daily press, we shall hear what the fathers who are infected with infantile fixation are now saying: —
Homes are the real places of the women.
. . . Let them go back to their homes. . . . The Government should give work to men.
• • . A strong protest is to be made by the Ministry of Labor. ... A woman has been appointed. . . . Women must not rule over men. . . . There are two worlds, one for women, the other for men. . . . Women are tired of their freedom. . . . Let them learn to cook our dinners. . . . Women have failed. . . . They have failed at the Bar. . . . They have failed in medicine. . . . They have failed. . . . They have failed. . . . They have failed. . . .
Why, the clamor, the uproar, that infantile fixation is making at this very moment, Sir, is such that we can hardly hear ourselves speak; it takes the words out of our mouths; it makes us say what we have not said. As we listen to the voices we seem to hear an infant crying in the night, the black night that now covers Europe, and with no language but a cry,’Ay, ay, ay, ay . .’ But it is not a new cry; it is a very old cry. We are looking at a picture again, the same picture of dead bodies and ruined houses that caused us, at the beginning of this letter, to feel the same emotions. You called them ‘horror and disgust.’ We called them ‘horror and disgust.’
But that picture has changed as this letter proceeded; another picture has formed, as pictures will, on the top of that picture. A figure has imposed itself upon the foreground. It is the figure of a man. Some claim, others deny, that it is Man himself, the quintessence of virility, the perfect type of which all others are imperfect adumbrations. He is a man, certainly; there can be no doubt of that. His eyes are glazed; his eyes glare. His body, which is braced in an unnatural position, is tightly cased in a uniform. Upon the breast of that uniform are sewn several medals and mystic symbols. His hand is upon a sword. He is called, in German or Italian, Führer or Duce — in our own language, Tyrant or Dictator. And behind him lie ruined houses and dead bodies — women and children as well as men.
That is the picture that has imposed itself upon this letter. It would seem that it is the same picture that has imposed itself upon your own letter — the same picture, but looked at inevitably from a different angle. We are both agreed that the picture is the picture of evil; we are both determined to do what we can, you by your methods, we by ours, to destroy the evil which that picture represents. And we may both be wrong, not only in the methods by which we attempt to destroy that evil, but in our judgment.
Many men of the highest education maintain that the picture is a picture, not of evil, but of good. War, it is argued, brings out the noblest qualities of mankind. The Dictator, it is claimed, is neither a menace nor a monster, but, on the contrary, the consummation of manhood. He is the embodiment of the State; the State is supreme; both men and women must obey its commands, whether they are just or unjust. Obedience is all.
On the other hand, some men also of the highest education maintain that the picture is the picture of evil. War is inhuman, horrible, unnatural, beastly. The Dictator is a monster. His commands must be disobeyed. The State is not supreme. The State is made of human beings — of free men and women, who must think for themselves.
What judge is there to decide which opinion is right, which wrong? There is no judge; there is no certainty in heaven above or on earth below. All we can do is to examine that picture as clearly as sex and class allow; to bring to bear upon it such illumination as history, biography, and the daily paper put within our reach; and to examine both reasons and emotions as dispassionately as we can.
That is what we have attempted. The Society of Outsiders — to give it too pompous a name — is the result. The rules — to speak too pedantically — are an attempt to embody the findings of that inquiry. At length, then, we have reached what must serve, temporarily at least, for an answer to your question. Given our sex, our past, our education, our traditions, the best way in which we can help you to prevent war is to keep those rules. The best way in which we can help you to prevent war, as society is at present and as we are at present, is to remain outside your society. I have every confidence, Sir, that you will read those words aright, and therefore will not elaborate them further.
To return, finally, to the form which you have sent and ask us to fill up, we will leave it, for the reasons given above, unsigned. But in order to prove as substantially as possible that our aims are identical with your own, here is the guinea: a free gift, given freely to help you to assert ‘ the rights of all — all men and women — to the respect in their persons of the great principles of Justice and Equality and Liberty.’
- Readers should understand that the beginning of Mrs. Woolf’s essay appeared in the Atlantic for May, although this concluding portion may be read independently with satisfaction. — EDITOR↩