Visit and Search: Dialogues of Whitehead

Philosopher, author, and mathematician, Alfred North Whitehead was born in England in 1861, taught long, full years at Cambridge University and at the University of London, and brought his career to a golden sunset at Harvard. He was one of the most illuminating conversationalists of our time. After his retirement, the world still wore a path to his door, and one of his frequent visitors was LUCIEN PRICE.Mr. Price, the author of We Northmen and Winged Sandals, has recorded with the discipline and accuracy of a trained journalist the audacity and the probing of the philosopher’s mind in his new book, Dialogues of Whitehead, which is appearing under the Atlantic-Little, Brown imprint. His record of the conversations was read and authorized by Whitehead.



SEPTEMBER 11, 1945. — So the war had ended, but people were still benumbed and not. yet fully able to realize it. Summer was moving toward the threshold of autumn in a procession of days glowing with sun-gold and sea-blue. Since the slaughter had slopped, it was once more possible to feel that the world was beautiful, and on the shores of Nahant Bay it is never more radiant than at summer’s end.

In the midst of this, Sir Richard Livingstone had arrived from England by plane ("high priority” for a civilian) and had gone to spend two days at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. His destination was Toronto, where he was to deliver four lectures at the University. For another two days of rest and quiet beside the sea be came to Swampscott; we then drove on Thursday forenoon into Cambridge for luncheon with the Whiteheads. As there was a strenuous fortnight awaiting him at Toronto before his return to England by plane, he had made no other engagements.

His younger son, Captain Rupert Livingstone, had been killed in this second war, as had Whitehead’s in the first. This bond was present wordlessly.

The four of us sat in Whitehead’s book-walled study. It was flooded by golden sunshine through a south window which stood wide open to the warm, still air, and in the trees outside the cicadas were shrilling. Scot and Englishman, the two are a contrast in type: Whitehead the fair, florid Briton of Kent and East Anglia; Livingstone, tall, slender, sandy-haired and sandy-complexioned, though just now unwontedly reddened by exposure to the blazing sunlight and sea glare of New England’s September on the North Shore.

Their renewals of acquaintance were quicklydisposed of; a brief pause, then Livingstone asked, “What do you think has been the effect of science on our world?”

“Before I answer, what do you think?”

“Hasn’t science abolished slavery?”

“If you had said that about the year 1900, yes. But the acceleration of change in the past, let me say, fifty years has altered the whole situation. I’m not speaking of the atomic bomb for the present, since it. is only the latest, in a series, and too recent to be appraised anyhow.”

“When the atomic bomb was announced,”said Livingstone, “ I he scientists, it seemed to me, were somewhat frivolous in their view of it, but the people were alarmed.”

“I mean,”resumed Whitehead, “that the conditions of our lives have been basically more altered in the past fifty years than they were in the previous two thousand — I might say three thousand. My answer to your first question would be, I think that we are on the threshold of an age of liberation, a better life for the masses, a new burst of liberated creative energy, a new form of society; or mankind may all but exterminate itself and desolate this planet.”

“Suppose,” said Livingstone, “some of the greatest Greeks were to come back and see us as we are now . . . Thucydides, Plato, Pericles, Aristotle?”

“Aristotle would be inexpressibly shocked at the way his generalizations have gone overboard. Mind you, I don’t say his ideas — species, genera, and all that, sort of thing — haven’t proved vastly useful. Aristotle discovered all the half-truths which were necessary to the creation of science.”

Copyright 1954, by Lucien Price.

“Aristotle’s Ethics, on the other hand,” rejoined Livingstone, “seem to me to stand up better.”

Whitehead looked dissent. “I grant you, they are admirably definite,” said he. “Plato’s ideas on that subject tend, in comparison, to be vague. Hut I prefer the vagueness.”

“The Greeks didn t like vagueness,” remarked Livingstone. “In that sense Plato may almost be said to be atypical. They liked outline to be distinct and subject-matter to be clearly organized within definite form.”

“I prefer Plato,”Whitehead resumed. “He seems to me to have been the one man in the ancient world who would not have been surprised at what has happened, because his thought, constantly took into account the unpredictable, the limitless possibilities of things. There is always more chance of hitting on something valuable when you aren’t too sure what you want to hit upon.” He turned again to Livingstone, and continued, “There’s something I want to ask you: Am I right in thinking that German scholarship is quite wrong in trying to identify Plato with some explicit conclusion in his Dialogues, with some single speaker and a final point of view? It seems to me that was just what he was trying to avoid. Take his letters: assuming that he wrote them, and even if he didn’t, they would state a prevailing frame of mind in ancient times about his work: namely, that there is no Platonic system of philosophy. What he did was explore various aspects of a problem and then leave us with them. He seems to me to have had, more than anyone else, a supreme sense of the limitless possibilities of the universe.”

“About. German scholarship, I’m not at the moment. prepared to say,” replied Livingstone, “but all through Aristotle one can see his resistance to the influence of Plato, and all through him the influence of Plato’s thought is inescapable.”

Let me speak personally for a moment,” said Whitehead. I had a good classical education, and when I went up to Cambridge early in the 1880’s my mathematical training was continued under good teachers. Now nearly everything was supposed to be known about physics that could be known — except a few spots, such as electromagnetic phenomena which remained (or so it was thought) to be coördinated with the Newtonian principles. But, for the rest, physics was supposed to be nearly a closed subject. Those investigations to coördinate went on through the next dozen years. By the middle of the 1890’s t here were a few tremors, a slight, shiver as of all not being quite secure, but no one sensed what was coming. By 1900 the Newtonian physics were demolished, done for! Still speaking personally, it had a profound effect on me; I have been fooled once, and I’ll be damned if I’ll be fooled again! Einstein is supposed to have made an epochal discovery. I am respectful and interested, but also skeptical. There is no more reason to suppose that Einstein’s relativity is anything final than Newton s Principia. The danger is dogmatic thought; it plays the devil with religion, and science is not immune from it. I am, as you see, a thoroughgoing evolutionist. Millions of years ago our earth began to cool off and forms of life began in their simplest aspects. Where did they come from? They must have been inherent in the total scheme of things; must have existed in potentiality in the most minute particles first of this fiery, and later of this watery and earthy planet. Does it not strike you how absurd it. is to start from the five end one-half or six feet of our own bodies as our scale of physical measurement?”

“Overdoing the idea,”said Livingstone, quoting it in Greek, “that ‘man is the measure of all things.'”

“Our notions of physical dimension,” assented Whitehead, “are absurdly arbitrary. It doesn’t strike me as at all impossible that, the smallest pebble might contain within it a universe as complex as the one we know, and that the universe or universes which we have recently begun to apprehend may be as minute in the scale of what lies beyond as that in the pebble to the one we know; or that the vastness might be as much greater in the opposite direction — the direction of what we consider the infinitely small. . . . Development, I believe, goes by jumps. Fifty thousand years ago, let us say, there would have been a lucky jump; embodied in one man, or in one family, or in a few families, and, after an interval, another great, advance following from that.”

It was suggested that we may be living in the midst of one of those “jumps” — if it doesn’t extinguish us.

Whitehead considered this, then said, “Whytalk about ‘the laws of Nature’ when what, we mean is the characteristic behavior of phenomena within certain limits at a given stage of development in a given epoch — so far as those can be ascertained ? ”


As the laughter subsided, Whitehead said to Livingstone, “But come, let’s drop all this; I want to talk about your admirable books on education, especially adult education. How idiotic it is to dismiss children from school at sixteen, or even at eighteen, and consider them capable of coping with the complexities of life.”

“My idea, as you know,” said Livingstone, “is that education must continue throughout life for everybody, at the varying levels of ability and aptitude, and that that is the only way a modern democracy is workable or can continue to exist.”

“What we want,”said Whitehead, is to elicit as nearly as possible all the latent capacities of human talent. No way of doing this adequately has ever been devised. A certain class of talents will be elicited under certain forms of social organization favorable to their development, but in a very limited range and in very limited conditions of space and time. We never seem to have found a way to elicit the complete spread of man’s potential capabilities.”

Mrs. Whitehead returned to the study. Luncheon was not quite ready, so seating herself on the cushioned leg-rest of her husband’s armchair facing the two Englishmen, she plunged into a discussion of our two countries.

“The thing one mustn’t do,”she was addressing herself to Livingstone, “and it is so fatally easy, is to compare. They are not comparable; each is itself. We have lived here twenty-one years, and it is the differences which keep coming out. When we first came here after the other war, the hope that I saw in the faces was ‘choky’ — all these voting things looking forward to life eagerly.”

“Having just arrived by airplane in Baltimore last Sunday afternoon,”said Livingstone smiling, “I am in a perfect position to write a book about America.”

“’The longer one lives here, the less competent one feels to write it,”said site. “But don t be put off by externals; to us, many of them arc misleading.”

“I’ll tell you one of them,”said Whitehead, “if Lucien will forgive me; the newspapers.

“I could damn them more explicitly. But don’t, mind me!”

“To glance at their front pages,”he continued, “you might suppose that a principal occupation was murdering one another.”

“Remember, Allie,” she cautioned him, “that when we used to go from England to the Continent, the crime on the Continent seemed tremendous, and was tremendous.”

“I do remember; and the impression given by the front pages of the newspapers is quite fallacious. It isn’t news when you ask a stranger, anybody in the whole scale of American life, the direction to some place, and he goes out of his way two streets to set you right, yet it is this that is absolutely typical among these people, who seem to me to possess more native kindness than any people who ever lived on the face of the earth.”

“Were you required to sign papers for admission to this country?" she asked of Livingstone.

“I don’t recall anything unusual or formidable.”

“Oh, but that is so; you wouldn’t. It was when we were coming over here to stay — this is what I mean by not being put off by externals — Alfred and I were required to sign sworn statements that we had never spent longer than ten months in jail!

“No, I don’t remember signing anything like that,” says Livingstone.

“But Gilbert Murray does,”I offered a correction. “When he came over here in 1926, like you merely to deliver a series of lectures, he said foreigners had to sign a paper answering the questions: Are you an anarchist? Are you a polygamist?”

“My God!” said Mrs. Whitehead. Regaining her equanimity, she continued: “For nine years after we came here to stay, we used to have students in, one evening a week. First and last, the number of boys and girls who went through our rooms would have run into the hundreds. They came from all sorts of homes, including the farms and what you would call something next door to a slum, and yet I tell you that the gentleness of their manners, their good taste and really good breeding, were virtually invariable. That was in the brave days of the Volstead Act, when people, and especially older people, were filling up before ever they started out to dine. And yet in all that time only one drunk came, and he, if you please, a scion of Boston blue-blood! At the other extreme was a boy who turned up from New York, the East Side. About half way through the evening he stretched himself, sighed, and said, ‘Isn’t the world wonderful?’ ‘What do you mean?' I asked him. ‘Why,’said he, ‘a few weeks ago I was rolling barrels in the streets of New York, and now here I am amidst luxury and all these books.’ (Well, of course, our apartments down by the river were never anything special.) What he meant was that this was his first time in such surroundings — but not his last! He became one of Alfred’s most brilliant pupils, and has done very well.”

“The social constituency of English universities,”remarked Livingstone, “has changed greatly.”He cited instances: “The net incomes of the parents of our last year’s scholars in Corpus were £400, £688, £361, £318, £1065” [these figures have been made precise since that conversation]. “Two did not claim the extra emolument and therefore were well off; but there were two weekly wage-earners, £3/10/0 per week, and £8 per week.

“It seems to me,” said Whitehead, “that the English universities, Oxford and Cambridge perhaps in especial, are returning more nearly to their function in the Middle Ages, of training the gifted boys from the poorer classes. In the eighteenth century they trained young aristocrats at most, or the sons of country squires at least, with a few scholars from the poorer classes, and in the nineteenth century, they drew largely from the more prosperous parts of the middle and professional classes, — people like us, for example, for whom the world seemed to have been made fairly safe and enjoyable; but now they are beginning to get the children of the working class.”

“From what you have been telling me,” said Livingstone, “and from what I have observed here on previous visits and even a little on this one too, it seems to me that democracy in England is vertical, that is, an equalitarian feeling that runs from top to bottom of society, cutting through classes, — and that in America, where classes are less defined, democracy is more horizontal.” He indicated the two dimensions by gestures of his hands.

“Let us give you an example of how horizontal it is here,” Whitehead said. “Taxicab chauffeurs here in Cambridge and Boston are good conversationalists; they have something really interesting to say. Quite recently we had one driving us home from Boston; he slowed down, and drove by side streets (explaining to us that he wasn’t lengthening the distance, but only the time), conversing animatedly with us, and we with him, and when he let us out at our door, he said, ‘This is the most enjoyable conversation I have had for a long while.’”


LUNCHEON was announced. We went out to the table. Conversation turned to English novelists. “Women, it seems to me, write better novels than men,” said Whitehead. “Men are too apt to go off in search of abstract ideas and try to fit life to them; women are more likely to give us the intimacies which make life and character vivid to us. How does it seem to you?” he appealed to Livingstone.

“As you spoke, I was thinking of Mrs. Gaskell, and I would agree.”

“One exception I would make,” Whitehead continued, “not a genius of the first rank, but an admirable talent for precisely what he did: present the average life and thought of his time through a fairly representative class, the clergy. I mean Anthony Trollope.”

“You ought to know,” exclaimed his wife. “Heavens, you were steeped in it and so was I from my early twenties on. And don’t forget that it all but spoiled every member of your family in your generation except you. I grant you that Trollope does it well; only perhaps a trifle too well.”

“At least, pettie, he got it. right,” said Whitehead, beaming across the table at her. “We agree about that! Reading him, I can hear my father and his clerical friends talking. Even the jokes sound natural. We lived near Canterbury and saw a good deal of the cathedral clergy.”

“But women novelists don’t draw men well,” conceded Mrs. Whitehead. “When it comes to their favorite figures of men, something usually goes wrong.”

The question arose whether men novelists drew women any better, with comparisons between George Meredith and George Eliot.

Ihackeray, said Whitehead, “has immense art, but he is too narrowly confined to a class; he carries you all over England and the Continent, but in the end his books are always about much the same kind of people.”

“He was writing of a class, too,” added she, “to which he didn’t, belong, and which he saw from the outside with a mixture of fascination and repugnance, never able to make up his mind.”

“One nineteenth-century English novel that I think will last,”said Livingstone, “is Pickwick.” In his Greek Genius Livingstone parallels the jollity of Christmas at Dingley Dell with the picture of country life in Attica in the Peace of Aristophanes.

Pickwick, he continued, “is not only literature; it is also history. That is what the English are really like.”

“A moment ago,” said Whitehead, “I was saying that I thought women wrote the best novels.” (He paused and gave us a mischievous twinkle.) “I would almost say that Dickens was one of the best, women novelists!”

“How about Galsworthy?”

Livingstone thought his people weren’t very real.

“Galsworthy, like Thackeray,”said Mrs. Whitehead, “was another ‘outsider.’ ”

“As with novels, so with letters,” Whitehead carried it forward. “Women write better letters than men. They put in what we want to know, how people felt about things, how they lived, what they ate and wore, what they worried about — all those immediacies which make the life of an epoch live again. History should be written more from letters. Who cares about the Battle of Crecy, dates, places, and all that we are crammed with in the name of history? What had they to do with it? History is from day to day; and it is not events, it is sociology; it is the progress of thought.”

“The trouble with formal history, it seems to me,” said Livingstone, “is that it gives us the conclusions, the end results, without showing us how these results were arrived at.”

“Precisely,” assented Whitehead; “the clashes are only the last step in the process; what we need to know is the progress of ideas and ferments which produced the clashes.”

“Another historical source which should be more used, though the French have made more use of it than the English, and effective use, too, is memoirs,” said Mrs. Whitehead. “English literature is not very rich in memoirs, and those we have are likely to be bleak and dreary. French memoirs, on the contrary, are vivacious and full of reality. It’s true they often record scandalous escapades, but. with such spirit that, while one does not condone, one is not depressed. The equivalents in English memoirs I find repellent, and the people unamiable.”

They began casting about for those who could be said to have written history well in the nineteenth century in England.

“Not Macaulay,” said Mrs. Whitehead, “with that much-touted ‘style’ . . . rhetorical periods, ‘tum-te-tum-te-tum,’ the sort of House of Commons speech that was effective in that epoch, and all quite superficial.”

“Don’t forget,” says Livingstone, “that Macaulay managed to make the reading of history popular, no small achievement.”

“So did Strachey,” said she, “but that didn’t make what he wrote good history.”

“I don’t like it,” said Livingstone, “any better than you do, but it is often very good writing.”

“That I grant you; and what he says is often very funny, but it is not funny when others try to say it like him.”


WHITEHEADS and Livingstone, Cambridge and Oxford, began playing a kind of tennis game as between their two universities, comparing their whimsicalities, their merits and defects.

“I arrived there,” said Mrs. Whitehead, “in the Year of the Thirty Brides, and I assure you, it was not an easy place for brides.”

“There had just, been a change in the university statutes,” explained Whitehead, “permitting dons to marry. Before that, in order to marry, one had to take holy orders, and as most of them no longer believed in the Articles to which they were obliged to subscribe, they found ways of satisfying their consciences by all sorts of far-fetched interpretations of those theological concepts which, I should say, did the Broad Church no particular good. The result was, as Evelyn says, that thirty or forty brides arrived in Cambridge all at once, some of them, like her, quite young; others by no means young.”

“But I learned fast,” said Mrs. Whitehead. “Having been born and reared in France, I had read a good deal in French, but, being transplanted abruptly to England, hadn’t read what one is expected to have read in English. One of the dons, seated next me at a dinner party, began questioning me about my English reading. Naturally, I didn’t come off very well. ‘I see that you read nothing!' said he, and ceased to attend to me for the rest, of the evening. And his lack of interest in me lasted some years. No, it was not an easy place for brides.”

“Nor always for bridegrooms,” added Whitehead. “You remember the Verralls and Jim Stephen?” he asked her.

She suddenly choked with laughter. “But be sure and explain to Sir Richard,” she cautioned him, “that that was before poor Stephen went ‘off.'”

“lie was down visiting us at Cambridge,” pursued Whitehead, “when we lived next the Verralls; our gardens adjoined.”

“Only a one-brick thickness of wall between them,” Mrs. Whitehead put in.

“Now Verrall talked in a high, squeaky voice” (he mimicked it) “and Jim Stephen was a deadly mimic. He began mocking Verrall in an imaginary scene of Verrall proposing to his wife. Poor Evelyn was horrified and made frantic gestures to him to stop. ‘They can hear; just over the wall,’said she in whispers. ‘What of it?’ says Stephen. ‘Do them good!’ ”

As between the two universities, Livingstone questioned whether there was much to choose in man’s inhumanity to man.

“At Cambridge,” said Whitehead, “what civilization we got, came from outside. But at Oxford, you civilize your people inside the university.”

“Oxford is more sociological,”admitted Livingstone. “At Cambridge you train mathematicians and scientists.”

“What saved me for civilization,” said Whitehead, “were two things. One was The Apostles. It was a discussion club of twelve members, undergraduates.”

“And what was the other?” asked Livingstone.

“Being taken out of Cambridge and plunged into the University of London for fifteen years.”

“What do you think that did for you?” Livingstone inquired in a gently chaffing tone.

“Stirred me about among all sorts of people; and, added to that, was my experience in the university Senate.”

“The sociological cast of Oxford,” observed Livingstone, “is generally accredited to the classical ‘Greats.’ I say the classical Greats, because even the men who take modern Greats and do well in them admit that they aren’t as effective, aren’t as powerful.”

“Just, what do you conceive to be the effect on a man of the classical Greats?” inquired Whitehead.

“In Newman’s Nature of University Education there is a definition of a gentleman,” replied Livingstone. “It covers about three pages, and comes nearer to defining what you inquire than anything else I know. It’s all the more forceful since Newman doesn’t approve of the type he is describing and leaves you in no doubt about it, for, as an example, he cites the Emperor Julian, ‘the apostate from Christian Truth, the foe of Christian education,’” and he quoted, “ ‘a gentleman’s religion is of a liberal and generous character; it is based upon honor; vice is evil, because it is unworthy, despicable, and odious.’ ”

“Poor Newman,” exclaimed Mrs. Whitehead, “that sensitive, defenseless, skinless creature! Ecorce. Who could blame him?”

“I saw him once,” said Whitehead.

“To speak with him?” asked Livingstone.


“Can you remember what he said?”

“It is too long ago.” Whitehead looked preoccupied for a moment, then exclaimed suddenly, “There’s a question I would like to ask of a Jesuit priest . . .”

“Then ask it in your study,” proposed Mrs. Whitehead, rising. The conversation was temporarily adjourned.


THERE was a question you wanted to put to a Jesuit priest,” prompted Livingstone, when we were again in the study.

“Yes. ft is this: ‘Is there laughter in Heaven?’ The humorlessness of the Bibie is amazing.”

“I tried rereading the Old Testament a while ago,” replied Livingstone. “Much of it is superb in every way; but bits are . . . Well, you remember Oscar Wilde’s ‘When I think of all the harm that book has done, I despair of writing anything to equal it.'”

“Had the Hebrews no sense of humor?” asked Whitehead.

“When something is very serious, don’t we lose a bit of it by laughing about it? Doesn’t laughter diminish it in value?”

“Suppose we consider the arts,” proposed Whitehead. “Do we find humor there?”

Livingstone thought it might be hard to find in the greatest art, say religious paint mg of the Italian Renaissance. “I doubt,” said he, “whether it goes with the greatest thought or art.”

“There’s plenty of laughler in the comedies of Aristophanes,”I said, “and his works are both art and religion.”

“Yes,” said Livingstone, “but I always think Aristophanes is at his best in the parts where he isn’t joking.”

“Still, on the main issue, I challenge you: Laughter is a divine attribute. And the absence of laughter from the Hebraic religions is a serious matter to us of the Northern European races, for laughter plays a large part in our lives, and we are forced to do our laughing almost entirely outside of our religion.”

“How could it be done inside religion?” asked Livingstone.

“It has been done. There is a liberal arts college in New England which had better be nameless, since things were going badly in it during the 1920’s and 1930’s.”

“You are quite right about that,” said Whitehead, to my consternation, “I was invited there to lecture in 1930, and I could see that for myself.”

J hen you must be clairvoyant, for we mean the same college. The boys were out of hand; were required to attend daily chapel and church on Sundays, but if they didn’t like the visiting preacher (and they mostly didn’t) they would cough him down and no way could be found to stop them, But there was one preacher who came there repeatedly, whom the boys heard gladly. He was a man of intellect and of great moral earnestness, and he also had a lively sense of humor. Between his passages of earnestness he could keep the boys rocking with laughter. They adored him. . . . As for laughter in Greek religion we needn’t stop with Aristophanes. It begins as far back as Homer; the first book of the Iliad ends with gods laughing on Olympus.”

“There is a fragment of a lost satyr play,” Livingstone conceded, “in which Prometheus has stolen fire from heaven, and the satyrs think it so beautiful that they try to kiss it, and get their beards singed.”

“The Hebrews,” resumed Whitehead, “had a most intense ethical perception though within a very limbed range. It is ‘the beauty of holiness.’ In that, no one else approaches them, but the range is narrow.”

(Sometime afterward we did come up with sundry examples in Holy Writ of what, by stretching the definition, might be interpreted as humor. One was the prophet Elijah taunting the priests of Baal with the impotency of their god, though he also ordered them to be slaughtered by their late sectaries (I Kings 18.40); another was the prophet Elisha conjuring bears to 1ear two and forty children who had taunted him with his bald head (II Kings 2.24); a third was Hainan hanged on the gallows fifty cubits high which he had built for Mordecai (Esther 7.10); and a fourth was St. Paul’s incident with the silversmiths of Ephesus, which is first-rate satire (Acts 19.24), but it had to be admitted that none of these was the kind of hilarity which has audiences rolling in the aisles.)

“The Greeks,” said Livingstone, in reply to Whitehead’s last remark, “had everything which the Hebrews lacked.”

“Touching this problem on its modern side,” Whitehead continued, “the Librarians, I think, come the nearest to having found a way to adapt the Christian ideas to the world we live in now — and with the Unitarians I group those other religious people who are so nearly like them, the Congregationalists. And by the way, a few days ago I even had a letter from an Episcopalian Bishop commending me for my philosophy. I couldn’t but think he was a good deal more like an eighteenth-century English Bishop in respect to lbs breadth of religious thought than a twentiethcentury one. . . . Sec here,” he said abruptly, turning to Livingstone, “at the risk of being rude,

I am going to ask you a personal question — you needn’t answer it if you don’t want to: How did you vote in the last election?”

“For Labor.”

“Good! So would I have had I been there.”

“It happened that our local candidate was a very good one.”

“I would have voted for the Labor candidate, even if he had been a poor one, unless he had been too great an ass.”

“Did you expect the result that came?" asked Mrs. Whitehead.

“No,” said Livingstone. “The most that anyone seems to have expected was a sharp diminution of the Conservative seats.”

“What went wrong with Churchill’s campaign?” she asked.

“He is thought to have got into the hands of Beaverbrook.”

“We’ve known Churchill and followed his career since the Boer War,” she continued. “He seems to be one half hero and the other half bounder. In a fight he is superb, but the moment the fighting stops, the bounder comes uppermost.”

“It’s greatly to the credit of the British electorate, I think,” said Livingstone, “that there was no raking up of dead bodies and dead issues. Baldwin and Chamberlain were left out of the controversy. The only time I know of when one of them was brought in was during a discussion in the House of Commons about sending our iron railing off to war. ‘Leave Baldwin his railings,’said a Member. ‘He’ll need them to protect him from the people!’ The remark was drowned in boos, and it was made by a Conservative Member.”

“There is no diminution of Churchill’s popularity,” resumed Mrs. Whitehead. “He is still ‘good old Winnie!” and gets the more cheers when he appears in public, more than the Labor Premier. The people admire him and honor him, but they won’t vote for him. To me it seems an extraordinarv manifestation of political good sense on the part of the British electorate.”

“Yes,” said Livingstone, who, being a Platonist, is well acquainted with the valid criticisms of “the democratic man.” “It. makes one believe in democracy.”

“What do you think are the chances of your getting a military man for President alter this war?" Whitehead appealed to me.

“We have had two melancholy experiences in that kind which arc pretty vividly remembered.”

“But General MacArthur is making a play for it,” said Mrs. Whitehead.

“That may be. As a military man he is admirable, but he also has a sense of theatre, and that, in American public life, doesn’t wear too well.”

“Eisenhower,” said Whitehead, “is a really great figure. How about him?”

No one cared to predict.

“One great change in the American frame of mind which you must take into account,” Mrs. Whitehead addressed Livingstone, “is that they now know that the world is not safe, even for them. We, for our part, never were safe, and we have mostly known it, unless it were for a brief period toward the end of the nineteenth century. What a comfortable — and vanished — world that was! — The world of Queen Victoria. What a figure of legend she is now!”

“is Queen Victoria ever known to have made a joke?” asked Whitehead suddenly reverting to our discussion of humor.

“‘We are not amused,’” quoted Livingstone. “At least, she had a negative sense of humor; she knew what she thought was not funny.”

“But she once said, Mr. Gladstone addresses me as if I were a public meeting.'

“Yes,” said Mrs. Whitehead, “but did she know that remark was funny?”

“Wasn’t it disgraceful,”said Whitehead, “the way ‘Dizzy’ sucked up to her. Disraeli’s eminence is a striking instance of political detachment. They didn’t like him, but they knew he had ability and accepted him as a political representative.”

The clock in the tower of Memorial Hall struck a booming “Three!” There was an afternoon train for Toronto which Sir Richard must be aboard. We stood, to take our leave.

“Shall you,” asked Whitehead genially, “feel let down when no one any longer walks before you carrying a poker?” The allusion was to the Degree Ceremony at Oxford, when the academic procession enters the Sheldonian Theatre, the Vice-Chancellor preceded by his staves as the symbols of authority.

“My children,” replied Livingstone, “amuse themselves by asking why I don’t turn around and walk in the opposite direction. At the same time our Registrar, who has had long experience in it, says that the custom of standing when the ViceChancellor enters the Hebdomadal Council does have a good effect on getting to the business seriously. Ritual has a place in life. The deference may not be for a personality, or even for the institution; but it can be for the ideas embodied in the ceremony.”