Letters to and From the Editors

Dylan Thomas in Wales

SIR:
There have been, and certainly will be, greater and lesser poets than Dylan Thomas, but none more cruelly betrayed by friend and publisher than he, in John Malcolm Brinnin’s article, “Dylan Thomas in Wales,” in the October Atantic.
Shamelessly undraping the private life of Thomas, whoso poems were written “for the love of man and in praise of God,” Mr. Brinnin only reveals himself in the sickening spectacle of a disloyal friend, and the Atlantic in the pharisaical attitude of washing its hands very legally in Mrs. Thomas’s permission to publish the manuscript.
I think all of us owe an apology to the memory of this man who is no longer able to defend himself, and a full measure of compassion, understanding, and silence to the members of his living family, who should not be called upon to defend him under circumstances such as those.
MRS. EMBERT W. PETERSON
South Natick, Mass.

SIR:
Reading John Brinnin on “Dylan Thomas in Wales” is like seeing a magnificent picture of wondrous color in black and white.
It is a very interesting description. Yet the few brief, decisive words of Mrs. Thomas tell me much more than Brinnin’s entire narrative, even though they belie to an extent Brinnin’s positive factual representation of her as a woman who has divorced the art and finds herself left with the artist instead of the man. I suppose this actually illustrates her point that Brinnin observed only one shovelful “of overloaded feeling.”
LORNE COUTTS
Toronto. Out., Canada

SIR:
After thirty years of loyalty to the Atlantic it is with regret that I must write protesting your recent article on Dylan Thomas by John Brinnin.
It will be a long time before those of us who value Dylan Thomas as a major modern poet will get a clear picture of the man behind the work. Obviously he was a much disturbed person with certain weaknesses that proved fatal to him but, fortunately, not to his work. Meanwhile, such articles as John Brinnin’s cannot fail to distort the picture of the man and to create a false idea of him and of his family.
OLIVE ECKERSON
Glendale, Calif.

The book from which Mr. Brinnin’s account was drawn is a profoundly disturbing one; we realized that from the moment we read it in manuscript. There can be no question of the friendship which existed between Mr. Brinnin and the poet: the letters from Dylan Thomas which will appear in the volume make that touchingly clear. To us the book is not a betrayal of that friendship. I think it goes far to answer the accusation now so prevalent in England that America seduced Dylan Thomas; we find it a true and moving portrayal of a poet under pressure, and the pity of it is that neither Brinnin nor Caitlin nor any of his friends could protect him against the tragedy that engulfed him. — THE EDITOR

College Apron Strings

SIR:
Howard Mumford Jones says it exceedingly well in “Endergraduates on Apron Strings” in the October Atlantic. But with the terrible proclivity toward conformity which colleges now display, it needs to be said over and over. Fortunately there are still a few small colleges, of which I am happy to say Goddard is one, that recognize the dangers inherent in the prescribed curriculum. The faculties of these colleges refuse to accept the assumption that the intellectual needs of students are identical and can be met by survey courses in general education. Instead they believe that there are many roads to learning and that no one has yet demonstrated which subjects are most important in the education of men and women.
These colleges insist that the student make the choosing of his program of studies an educative process. Their student counselors ask the students why they are choosing the courses they do, what some of the consequences may be, what their expectations are with reference to their aims, and what alternatives might be chosen. Then, in adult fashion, the student makes his choice and gears himself to enjoy or suffer its consequences.
ROYCE S. PITKIN, President
Goddard College
Plainfield, Vt.

SIR:
Because we are forgetting faster than we should the enlightened wisdom of William James, I venture to remind Howard Mumford Jones that it was James rather than Woodrow Wilson who first said that the best claim a college education can make on our respect is “that it should help you to know a good man when you see him.” This was the theme of James’s address on “The Social Value of the College-bred,” delivered by him on November 7, 1907, and printed in his volume, Memories and Studies.
BENJAMIN H. KIZER
Spokane, Wash.

SIR:
Howard Mumford Jones’s argument in favor of the free elective system rings true.
When one is pursuing subjects which he desires to study and is enjoying for the first time the adventure of being on his own, college life is one of the purest joys he will ever experience. I deem it little short of a crime to deny this experience to young people who are prepared to enter college.
I found as a student, and later as a professor, that students were competent to evaluate their teachers and the worth of the courses which they gave. Competent professors got plenty of students, and good ones, without its being necessary for their courses to be required for graduation.
CLARENCE L. BENNER, President
Continental American Life Insurance Co.
Wilmington, Del.

SIR:
The “exercise in dissent” by Howard Mumford Jones failed to consider the “middle of the road” approach.
A forced general education or a refusal to allow genius to develop in its field does not allow ultimate development of the individual student; but a free elective system bears equally sour fruit. Perhaps it is an innate fault of our American educational system in not giving an adequate liberal education in high school; but whatever the cause, if a free elective system were prevalent today, America would be turning out a mass of specialized recluses unable to converse intelligently with their fellow men on topics of general interest.
As a former student in the college of the University of Chicago, I must agree with Vincent Sheean that one is taught nothing in particular there, and taught it very well. But the education thus gained prepares one to think and to learn more thoroughly and easily, and thus to acquire specific education more readily.
WALTER D. GREENE
2nd Platoon, Sixth Armored Division
Fort Leonard Wood, Mo.