The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Years

That's French for "the ancient system," as in the ancient system of feudal privileges and the exercise of autocratic power over the peasants. The ancien regime never goes away, like vampires and dinosaur bones they are always hidden in the earth, exercising a mysterious influence. It is not paranoia to believe that the elites scheme against the common man. Inform yourself about their schemes here.

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:28 am


There are some questions that really serve to classify men’s minds. Nowadays the popularly received classifications rarely mean anything at all. Are you Republican or Democrat, are you Liberal, Labour, or Conservative? The answer tells you only of accidents of upbringing and circumstance. Are you a Socialist? "We are all Socialists nowadays.” Are you a Christian? Yes and no, or a "Yes"— and a long explanation. But these other questions are test questions. Fairly put and fairly answered they reveal the quality — or rather, let me say, the key and colour — of a mind, quite definitively. They mean exact things. They show you are this sort of man or that.

One of these test questions is birth control, because on your belief whether that is possible and desirable or whether it is not, hang, logically and necessarily, all your ideas of the competition of types, peoples, and races, and of the possibility of socialism and world peace. If you can believe it is possible then world peace is possible, and if you think it is impossible all talk of world peace is just sentimental foolishness or a humbugging preparation for propaganda in the next war. Another test issue is the question whether the Mass as performed by a properly qualified priest is or is not the central fact of Christian religious life. If your answer is "Yes,” you are a Catholic, and if "No" a Protestant. All the other points at issue among the different sorts of Christians are subordinate to that, and you will find that the decisions people make upon them are always more or less clearly consequent upon that primary decision. Your attitude towards education will be different, and towards literature and history. You will face death differently and pain differently. Upon a great multitude of the important problems of to-day you do not know where you are, you are just maundering about, until you have thought out and decided clearly on these two key matters and adjusted your other ideas to them.

A third cardinal issue, not perhaps quite so far-reaching in its implications as these others, but very far-reaching, is the question of vivisection. To get your attitude to that quite clear and settled in your mind is — after these other two — as sound and profitable an enterprise in self-examination as it is possible to imagine.

What is vivisection? It is a clumsy and misleading name for experimentation on animals for the sake of the knowledge to be gained thereby. It is clumsy and misleading because it means literally cutting up alive and trails with it to most uninstructed minds a suggestion of highly sensitive creatures, bound and helpless, being slowly anatomised to death. This is an idea naturally repulsive to gentle and kindly spirits, and it puts an imputation of extreme cruelty on vivisection which warps the discussion from the outset. But the larger bulk of experiments upon animals for scientific purposes involve no cutting about and very little pain. Many cause discomfort rather than actual pain. There may be the prick of an injection and a subsequent illness. Where there is actual cutting it is nearly always performed under anaesthetics, and in a considerable proportion of such cases there is no need for the animal to recover consciousness and it does not recover consciousness.

Still, a residue of cases remains in which real suffering is inflicted. Far more pain, terror, and distress is inflicted on the first day of pheasant shooting every year, for no purpose at all except the satisfaction of the guns, upon the wounded and mutilated birds which escape than is inflicted by all the scientific investigators in the world vivisecting for a year. The lives of "fancy" dogs, again, invalid and grotesque deformations of the canine type, must make an aggregation of prolonged discomfort beyond all comparison greater than that of the creatures inoculated by the physiologist. But such considerations do not release us from the straight question whether it is right and permissible to cut even a single animal about, or indeed to hurt any living creature at all, for the sake of knowledge.

That is what the scientific experimentalist claims to be free to do and which the anti-vivisectionists labour strenuously to prevent. There is no denial on the part of the scientific experimentalist that a certain number of experiments are painful and have to be painful, and that they are of a sort that have to be performed upon animals of an order of intelligence that leaves one in no doubt of the reality of the sufferings inflicted. The large majority of experiments involve no inconvenience to the creatures tested, but there is this residuum of admittedly painful cases. It is an amount of suffering infinitesimal in comparison with the gross aggregate of pain inflicted day by day upon sentient creatures by mankind, but it occurs.

The anti-vivisectionist wants legislation to prevent all experiment upon living things for the sake of knowledge. Failing that he wants to prevent experiment upon dogs in particular, even when the experiment involves no pain whatever to the subject. But you will find that the typical anti-vivisectionist is incapable of believing that an experiment can be painless; his imagination is too vivid for any assurance to the contrary. The idea of living substance cut while it quivers and feels is too powerful for him. When the arguments and imaginative appeals to his agitation are scrutinised it will be found that his objection is to real or imagined pain, inflicted in cold blood to no matter what beneficial end.

That is what he wants to stop. His propaganda literature is filled with assertions that no knowledge of any value has ever been gained by biological experimentation, but these preposterous denials of widely known facts are the natural and habitual exaggerations of controversial literature. The sound anti-vivisectionist would not rest his case on any such proposition, for, even if it were true, a single wonderful discovery to-morrow would upset it again. Pushed into a corner he will admit that he does not care whether the knowledge gained is worth while or no. He will not have knowledge gained in this fashion.

It would be easy to convict the anti-vivisectionist movement of many manifest inconsistencies, but my object here is rather to disentangle a fundamental idea than to exhibit confusions of thought. I want to disentangle what is at the root of the feelings of the anti-vivisectionist, and not to score controversial points. But I must call attention to the marked disregard shown by the active spirits in this agitation for any sort of experimenting with animals, however productive of pain, that does not produce scientific results. The world of pet animals is a world of aimless experimenting with life. The lives of the "pets" of careless women are for the most part remarkable histories of wrong and excessive feeding and fitful fussing and negligence, and these creatures are themselves, in many of their varieties, products of a ruthlessly dysgenic breeding industry which sacrifices vigour and vitality to minuteness, quaintness, and delicious ugliness, but the anti-vivisectionist has never shown the slightest disposition to couple this ugly trade in animal deformity with the pursuit of scientific research. Nor does he show any animus against the importation of little monkeys and suchlike small attractive beasts, dragged from their natural environment to die en route or perish miserably but "amusingly" in uncongenial and often terrifying surroundings. Indeed, a large part of the social and financial support of anti-vivisection seems to come from just the sort of people who sustain the breeders and procurers of animals for "petting.”

But very probably the toy-dog lover does not realise the biological abomination of these practices. In his disregard of possible pain and discomfort in one case and in his exaggeration of pain and discomfort in the other, we find the clue to the fundamental issue of this controversy. The pet is to him a dear little thing and its incessant struggles to breathe with its pug nose are considered to be funny; its fitful appetite is interpreted as fastidiousness; its manifest ill-health is "delicacy"; if it is constantly washed and combed it does not smell and it is a sweet creature; its abject physical dependence on its owner, its terror and hatred of the world beyond the proprietary aura is very flattering and easily interpreted as love. There is the same disinclination to see the realities in the case of the pet dog as in the case of the dog in the hands of the experimentalist, but the disinclination is set at a different angle. The former leads a life of general discomfort, but it is necessary for the pet-owning and pet-protecting type to think of it as exquisitely indulged; the latter may not suffer in the slightest degree, and may show the friendliest feelings to the man who has made it a contributor to science or may jump on the table eagerly for the injection that is followed by a pat and a tit-bit of food, but it has to be regarded as being thrillingly and outrageously tormented. These however are honest delusions, the outcome of a peculiar mental make-up, and the anti-vivisectionist is not to be charged with wilful inconsistency. His or her — it is more commonly her — intention is to prevent and forbid the infliction in cold blood and for a scientific end of anything that looks like pain on any animal that can be imagined to suffer.

The hatred is not against pain as such; it is against pain inflicted for knowledge. The medical profession is massively in support of vivisection, and its testimony is that the knowledge derived from vivisection has made possible the successful treatment of many cases of human suffering. So far as we can measure one pain against another, or the pain of this creature against the pain of that, vivisection has diminished the pain of the world very considerably. But the anti-vivisectionists will hear nothing of that. They will hear nothing of that because it is not material to their conception of the case.

The peculiar animus of the anti-vivisectionist is clearly against the deliberation and the scientific aim and not against the pain in itself. The general subjugation of animals to human ends is not questioned. Many anti-vivisectionists are, like their pets, carnivorous. They will leave the abattoir to go on when they have closed the laboratory; they will recognise the right and dirty of the owner of a big dog to beat his fortunate possession into good behaviour and keep it short of food to tame it. They would be indignant if they were refused the freedom of giving their pets anything to eat that they fancied — provided always that no scientific knowledge ensued from its subsequent reactions. It is the quiet determination of the clean-handed man with the scalpel that they cannot endure.

It is not that he is cruel, because manifestly he is not cruel — if he had a lust for cruelty the richly emotional nature of the anti-vivisectionists would probably understand him better — it is because he is not driven by his feelings or cravings to do what he does, but by a will for abstract lucidity, that he rouses the antagonism, the violent sense of difference, in his "antis.” Vivisection is only occasionally and incidentally the infliction of pain, and anti-vivisection is not really a campaign against pain at all. The real campaign is against the thrusting of a scientific probe into mysteries and hidden things which it is felt should either be approached in a state of awe, tenderness, excitement, or passion, or else avoided. It is, we begin to realise, a campaign to protect a world of fantasy against science, a cherished and necessary world of fantasy. It is a counter-attack upon a treatment of animals that gives the lie to a delightful and elaborated mythology in which these poor limited creatures are humanised and have thrust upon them responses, loyalties, and sympathetic understandings of which they are, in reality, scarcely more capable than plants. The curious, materialistic, shameless, and intelligent monkey lends itself far less easily than the dog to such mythological interpretation, and so gets far lees consideration from the anti-vivisectionists. It pulls everything to pieces, including pleasant fantasies about itself. But you can tell a dog that it thinks and feels anything you like, however noble and complex, and it watches you hopefully and wags its tail. And so it is about the dog that the controversy centres, and the passions of the dispute rage most obstinately.

To the question we have posed, whether it is justifiable to inflict pain upon animals if need be for the sake of knowledge, the supporter of vivisection says "Yes." He says "Yes" because he regards the whole animal creation as existing not merely for its present sensations, but as a contributing part of a continuing and developing reality which increases in knowledge and power. His disposition is to see things plainly and to accept the subservience of beast to man in man’s increasing effort to understand and control. He regards animals as limited and simplified cognates of our own infinitely more complex and important beings, illuminating inferiors, and he can conceive no better or more profitable use for their lives than to serve the ends of mental growth. What otherwise are their lives? A play of desires and fears, that ends in being devoured by other creatures great and small. To this mentality that of the natural anti-vivisectionist is in the completest contrast. The world that the pro-vivisectionist is by his nature impelled to strip bare, the anti-vivisectionist clothes in rich swathings of feeling and self-projection. He imagines souls in birds and beasts, long memories and intricate criticism. He can imagine dogs and cats pressed by forebodings, a prey to anxiety, vexed and thwarted. He does not clearly separate them from humanity. Often he will compare these dream-enriched animals of his with mankind to the disadvantage of the latter. He enriches reality but at the same time he distorts and conceals it by these ornamentations. He is afraid of bare reality as a child is afraid of a skeleton.

The biological experimenter experiments because he wants to know. He is neither dismayed by pain nor does he desire that pain should enter into his experiments. He avoids it when possible. I doubt if his work is largely determined by practical ends, or whether it would have much value if he undertook it directly for the sake of curing disease, benefiting humanity or anything of that sort. Sentimental aims mean loose, sentimental, ineffective work. He wants knowledge because he wants knowledge; it is his characteristic good. Practical applications follow unsought. He is a type of humanity that may or may not be increasing in the world. Most of us do not stand up to knowledge like that. We want to keep our illusions. We do not want knowledge for ourselves or others very much, we prefer to be happy in our imaginations, and the rescue of animals from the "clutches" of the vivisectionists appeals to our deep instinctive self-protection quite as much as it does to the widely diffused desire to champion the weak against the strong.

24 July, 1927.
Site Admin
Posts: 30224
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:36 am


The American people is far less sensitive to foreign opinion than it used to be, but three or four letters to this address witness that there are still Americans who want to have themselves discussed. They ask for prophecies of the American future. The demand is too big for me. But, in common with many other English people, I have been made to think rather vividly about certain aspects of the American future in the last few months, and it may be interesting to turn over the convergent reactions and conclusions.

English people will not consent to think of Americans as foreigners and aliens in the way in which they think of Turks or Italians. They have a great and intimate curiosity about things American. It is not always a friendly intimacy they feel; there is a great deal of irritation and hostility both ways. But while an Englishman will never say, "I might be an Italian,” it comes very easily to him to say, "I might be an American.” Imaginatively he tries on the stars and stripes. He is eager for American plays and receptive of American novels. He can see himself living like that. Without a monarchy, the "county" and our Army people, I do not know how like Americans we English might not be.

American common life is being set down now very ably and vividly by American writers, primarily for the benefit of American readers, but their work is gaining the constantly increasing and constantly more respectful attention of European readers. Until quite our own time, American novels have been, so to speak, European novels about America; they followed European methods and respected European standards. Their characters had a morbid predisposition to cross the Atlantic, But now there is a growing school of American writers who take their own way with their own novel and enviable wealth of material. Sherwood Anderson, Sinclair Lewis, and above all Dreiser, are outstanding examples of this new-won American literary independence, of which Edgar Allan Poe and Whitman were the prophets and Stephen Crane the most brilliant pioneer. Upton Sinclair veils the power of a very considerable writer in the flag of a vehement propagandist, but he too must not be forgotten in the reckoning of America’s literary liberation.

"Babbitt" we felt was a great exposition of commercial America seen and written with complete originality, and though many of us found "Martin Arrowsmith" a little incredible and unconvincing, "Elmer Gantry" again has produced the distinctive Sinclair Lewis effect, which is that of looking at a vividly interesting reality through a lens which refracts and exaggerates indeed, but which may even exhibit all the better by virtue of its magnification. One believes in Babbitt and understands that the American world may be infested by innumerable Babbitts, while at the same time one may doubt whether there was ever quite such a Babbitt as Babbitt. "Elmer Gantry,” which deals with the popular religious life, is even more like seeing through the curves of a bottle. It has the quality of veracity. One feels, that is to say, that what is seen in it is truly there; that it is not "made up.” But also one feels that the thing seen is different in its proportions. The story is universal. Where there is revivalism and popular missioning, whether it be Catholic or Protestant, or "New Thought" or No Thought, there is the same danger of reaction between the "magnetic" preacher type and the excitable woman convert or associate. But the scale of the development is distinctive because of the entirely unprecedented social atmosphere in which it goes on, and there lies the major interest of the European observer.

The first quality that impresses the European is the abounding vigour of the social life these books reveal; the next is its immense crudity, and hard on that its lack of variety in culture and the absence of half Shades, a sort of universal black and whiteness. Everybody seems to think the same things and to express them by the same common idioms. Henry James, in his all too rarely cited book, "The American Scene,” complains of his native land as he saw it in 1909, that nothing in the array is ‘behind’ anything else — an odd result, I admit, of the fact that so many things affirm themselves as preponderantly before.” "Babbitt" and "Elmer Gantry" tell of a world that must be on the street line or perish. With the book in hand one might say, "This is a community wholly without criticism,” which would be to ignore completely the existence of the book in hand. But it is a community in which criticism and the idea of dropping out of the front line to think about things is evidently only beginning.

An American novel of outstanding power which is being read all over Europe with great curiosity and admiration is Dreiser’s "An American Tragedy.” Dreiser is, in the extreme sense of the word, a genius. He seems to work by some rare and inexplicable impulse, enormously, without self-criticism or any fun or fatigue in the writing. Long ago I admired his "Sister Carrie,” and rebelled against his long novel, "The Genius,” surely the largest, dullest piece of ineptitude that has ever been produced by a first-class writer. His "American Tragedy,” still vaster, is — I agree with Bennett — one of the very greatest novels of this century. It is a far more than life-size rendering of a poor little representative comer of American existence, lit up by a flash of miserable tragedy. But I would disagree with Bennett’s condemnation of its style. It is raw, full of barbaric locutions, but it never fatigues; it keeps the reader reading, it gets the large, harsh, superficial truth that it has to tell with a force that no grammatical precision and no correctitude could attain. Large, harsh and superficial that truth is, and fresh from this book I am moved to express something about America that has been smouldering in my mind for some time.

Let me set down two impressions of a very intelligent French reader of these representative books. The first impression was one of the wide freedom of movement and the universal restlessness of these common people, compared with the rooted, limited lives of their European equivalents (so far as they can be counted as equivalents). The next, and the stronger, was the extreme thinness and poverty of their mental life. We were in the presence of a people with no depth of conversation at all. They had no variety nor penetration in their discussion. They had no poetry whatever. They did not seem to know the names of, or ever to have observed, any birds, flowers, minerals, or any natural things. They had no metaphors, but slang phrases horribly bent and flattened by excessive use. They betrayed nothing a European could recognise as religion and no general ideas of any sort. Their revivalism was the cheapest, shallowest orgy of mass emotion. They knew nothing of any literature. They read so badly that their news had to be shouted at them from the tops of columns. The poverty of their language was amazing. The lover wrung to ecstasy might say: "'My, but you’re cute.” The phrase for all occasions seemed to be "That gets me!" My French observer insisted that here was a people degenerating, worn down, half-way back to speechlessness and brutishness. We had a long argument, because I am still a backer of the United States, and in the end we both gave ground.

I had to grant the flattening and cheapening of the language, but it was arguable that that was a phase. Two-thirds of the surnames in Dreiser’s book were Central or Eastern European names. These people were newcomers; they had left Polish, or Czech, or Yiddish, or German behind them, and the names of flowers and legend and metaphor had been also left behind. There had been a vast mental attrition during the process of transplantation to a new soil. No real attempt had been made to assimilate them to any conceivable American culture. Was it any wonder if they dealt with each other through a cheap sort of English, tenses and moods all wrong? And moreover they were still unsettled, moving over a big area, where flowers and suchlike poetic material varied. People do not pick up the phraseology for that sort of thing m route. And just as their native languages had worn off in the rub and movement of immigration, so too their native faith and traditions had been rubbed down to something very cheap, thin and raw. But that was only a phase of clearance. Stripping is not degeneration. Clearing a site is not decay.

So I argued. The antagonist however scored points by demanding what, if there was a clearance, was being built in the clearing. Where were the great vigorous schools and colleges in which the new culture was to arise? Where were the signs of a copious cheap literature of high quality? One had glimpses of American college life, and the quality of the new civilisation brewing there was, well, questionable. America, said my friend, was a new thing in the world, a vast possibility, a hope for all mankind. The schools, the colleges, the popular literature, the intellectual leading of such a community, if it was indeed to realise these hopes and achieve its destiny, had to be far stouter, bigger, and better things than poor old muddling Europe could show. Were they even as good? The travelling Americans one met in Europe seemed, when it came to any abstract discussion, to be far less able to express and handle ideas than their European equivalents. But that brought down the talk to individual instances, in which no argument is ever possible.

I turn back to Henry James. He describes a long journey from north to south. He speaks of "the general pretension of the Pullman, the great, monotonous rumble of which seems for ever to say to you: ‘See what Fm making of all this, see what I’m making, what I’m making . . '"

To which in his character of returning native he replies: "I see what you are not making, oh, what you are ever so vividly not, and how can I help it if I am subject to that lucidity? — which appears never so welcome to you, for its measure of truth, as it ought to be!"

I still hesitate to adjudicate. I hate to cheapen, or even to seem to cheapen, the immense achievement which America embodies in material form. But I could wish for better evidence than these novels and the general report of things over there give me, of a great and unprecedented movement throughout that community towards sustained intellectual activity on a scale commensurate with American opportunity. Things, it seems to me, stand very much as follows. The common schools of a number of States in the Union (but by no means all) are perhaps as good as the elementary schools of Britain and Germany. No better. Yes, but for the peculiar needs of America they ought to be four times better. Children do not go to school so regularly as they do in Western Europe, and they ought to go more. America is rich enough to keep all her children at school until sixteen, learning to use their own language fully and skilfully, learning the elements of science and something sound and solid about the rest of the world. She does nothing of the sort. Her educational progress is shallow and pretentious. It is decades behind her material progress. The Fundamentalist controversy displayed great areas of the United States as being mentally twenty years behind Western Europe. She ought to be handing out to her people all the best literature of the world, good scientific works and modern discussion at a quarter of a dollar or less for a full book. We can do that in England, but in America books of that sort cost anything from one dollar to twenty. Common people in America and their children must read old, worn books or none. She is, in fact, building the great nation of the future on a foundation that would be thought insufficient even for an effete and tradition-cemented European community. This will not do. She has to see to that. If she does not see to that all her large promise is in vain. But the growing volume of self-criticism in America, of which the books I have cited are only samples, is a very hopeful sign that she will see to it. The sooner she sets about seeing to it good and hard, the more cheerfully will my hopes for America go about in my mind.

But the job is no slight one. If it is to be done at all, a very great effort indeed is required. The universities, book distribution, and above all the common schools, in America must have something like a renascence before the atmosphere of "An American Tragedy" can be pushed out of reality into history, and the American people take the place its material advantages offer it of leadership among the nations of the earth.

15 May, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 30224
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 8:56 am


One of the most intriguing phenomena of the present time is the increasing readiness of the supporters of established institutions to use violent and illegal methods against anything that seems to threaten these institutions. Law and Order have become excuses for lawlessness and crime. The gravest threats to freedom and progress, personal security and security of property, have come in late years far more from within established institutions than from without. In crimes against life, truth, personal honour, private freedom, and legal rights, the professional "rebel," though by no means an angel, finds himself a poor second to the responsible administrator, the judge, the official, and, above all, the conservative "strong man,” The instances multiply. They vary from the grotesque to the sheerly horrible, from the ridiculous burglaries of the British government up the scale to prolonged torment and murder. At present the western world is confronted with a case altogether typical of this paradoxical resort to evil on the part of those who are supposed to be its professional antagonists — the case of Sacco and Vanzetti, in Massachusetts. It is an affair more dismaying from some points of view even than the long tale of atrocities on which the Fascist dominion in Italy rests to-day. It calls for the closest study on the part of every one who is concerned with the present development of our civilisation.

I will state the bare indisputable facts of this amazing case. They do not admit of contradiction; they are matters of common knowledge. I quote them from a small, generally accessible book, "The Case of Sacco and Vanzetti,” by Professor Felix Frankfurter. He is far abler and far better qualified to deal with such an affair than I can hope to be. Intellectually and politically, he is a figure of the utmost respectability. He is professor of administrative law in the law department of Harvard University; he was Assistant Secretary of War at Washington during the war. He has come into the affair from no motives but the interest of a specialist, the passion of a good patriot for the honour of his country, and the indignation and pity of an honest man. He has made an exhaustive study of all the evidence and records in the trial, and he has presented the results with extreme lucidity. Before his intervention William G. Thompson, a great Massachusetts lawyer, had already taken up the cause of the two miserable defendants. And these are the essentials of this abominable business as these two have laid them bare.

Sacco was a worker in a shoe factory in Stoughton, Mass.; Vanzetti was a fish pedlar. They were arrested and charged with participation in a "hold-up,” involving the murder of a paymaster and his guard, and the theft of a box containing about sixteen thousand dollars. It was a hold-up in broad daylight, the victims were shot, the box was snatched, and the murderers made off in a car. The evidence for the presence of the two accused upon the scene of the murder, when one examines the record, is contemptible. It is manifestly, to any one who has assisted at police court proceedings, that sort of cultivated evidence one gets out of unintelligent witnesses by pestering and pressure, long after their real testimony has been exhausted. One poor woman, for example, who saw the scene from a window at a distance of thirty yards or more, who had a second and a half to observe a car passing at fifteen or eighteen miles an hour, and who refused at first to identify Sacco, was induced after a year of police education to describe how in that brief interval she had remarked the peculiar shape of his forehead, the distinctive length of his hair, and the particular size of his hands.

On the other hand, the evidence that both of the .accused were elsewhere is sound and convincing. The murder was committed at Braintree, in the outskirts of Boston, at 3 p.m., and an official of the Italian consulate in Boston witnesses that he was visited by Sacco, who was seeing about his passport to Italy, at 2.15 on that day. Vanzetti, the prosecution maintained, was, as various customers testified, with Italian duplicity, selling fish far away from the place where he was simultaneously committing murder. On the evidence for an alibi alone, the active complicity of these two men in the Braintree crime would have been laughed out of court in any unimpassioned trying of the case. The rest of the case for the prosecution is as contemptible. It is a feeble and tortured attempt to convict. No traces of booty, no association with any murder gang, no contributory facts of weight sustain the contention of the prosecution.

But this is not all. It is not merely that these men have been found guilty contrary to the weight of the evidence so far as it concerns themselves; they are held guilty, and they are to be executed on July 10th next in the teeth of the fact that a Portuguese named Madeiros subsequently confessed, and that the real murderers arc quite clearly indicated. Professor Frankfurter names them and demands their prosecution. Is this too incredible for the reader? Let him read the professor’s dispassionate statements. I do not see how any clear-headed man, after a reading of the professor’s summary, can have any other conviction than that Sacco and Vanzetti are as innocent of the Braintree murder, for which they are now (after seven years of prison hardship and mental torture) awaiting death, as Julius Caesar, or — a better name in this connection — Karl Marx.

But why then are they to die? The clue to the riddle is to be found in the cross-examination of Sacco by District Attorney Katzmann, and in an illuminating remark made by one of the jurymen in the case. This murder, it must be understood, occurred as long ago as April, 1920, near the height of the great "Red" scare in the United States. It was a hot time for any miserable worker who had involved himself with Communist or even mere Socialist propaganda and organisation. Sacco and Vanzetti, honest, industrious, worthy men in most other relations, as the assembled evidence shows, were — radicals! They were pacificists and socialists. They seem to have been connected with a certain Salsedo, whose wickedness may be judged from the fact that in the general "drive" against the Reds, he was arrested by the United States Department of Justice, put in a room on the fourteenth floor of a Park-road building, and then found dead on the sidewalk below. Evidently a desperate bad character. Perhaps he fell in an attempt to climb down from the fourteenth floor; perhaps he did not. These two men were certainly associated with him; they had taken part in pacifist and socialist activities. Sacco, drawn to fight in the Great War, had evaded and gone to Mexico, and Vanzetti, in addition, had spoken at meetings against military service, and the prosecution directed itself less to the trifling matter of the Brain-tree murder than to these facts.

Mr. Katzmann’s method with his victim was to worry him about his evasion of military service during the war and about his socialist views. To go on worrying and wearying and provoking him, with his imperfect knowledge of English, until he blundered into phrases and statements that would be acutely offensive to the carefully selected jury. Before a jury of inflamed Massachusetts patriots, Mr. Katzmann’s ideas of fair play allowed him to ask these poor devils whether they loved the United States, whether they thought the United States a free country, whether they were disappointed by the United States, whether they subscribed to newspapers likely to be distasteful to the jury, whether they were sympathetic with anarchists, and so forth, and so on, and Judge Thayer, the presiding judge, instead of kicking a prosecution of this quality back to the proper charges, aided and abetted these foul irrelevancies.

What had these disputes to do with the plain question of murder with violence before the courts? The prosecution, says the "Yale Law Journal,” was allowed to ask, "at a time of intense popular feeling against anarchists and all opposed to the established order, questions emphasising in a picturesque and telling manner the political views of a defendant on trial for a crime which admittedly had not the slightest relation to these views.”

That was the spirit and method of this trial. The quality of the jury at which this stuff was aimed may be judged by the fact on record that before the trial Ripley, the foreman, said to a friend who doubted the guilt of the accused: "Damn them, they ought to hang anyway.” These two men were in fact condemned not as murderers, but as socialists and pacificists, and it is as socialists and pacifists that they are to be killed in July. The pro-killing party in the United States hardly troubles to maintain the flimsy story of their murder guilt. The Braintree murder is indeed merely a legal fiction in this case like the John Doe and Richard Roe of various old-fashioned English legal instruments. If it can be used to kill Sacco and Vanzetti, then I do not see why it should not become a standard legal form, and why any other people in the United States whose opinions are considered to be unsound, whose presence on earth is regarded as unpropitious, or who have got themselves disliked in any way, should not presently be included in this murder case and sent alter these first victims to the electric chair.

The facts of the case are now so patent and so widely known that no American citizen from the President downward who studies the evidence has any excuse for pretending to believe that Sacco and Vanzetti had hand or part in the Braintree murder. The case has passed out of the purview of courts and persons, and become a challenge to every American citizen. The fact, plain as day and staring the world in the face, cleared of all prevarications and pretences, is that the greatest, most powerful and modern state in the world is now confronted with the question whether it will or will not permit these men to be killed upon a false accusation because of their political views. Is their blood to stain Old Glory?

I will say no more of Sacco, the factory hand, and Vanzetti, the pedlar of fish, who have been doomed to die lest America fall. I turn to a much more intricate and interesting figure, Judge Thayer. These others are just confused common back-street men, but Judge Thayer is a type. After reading Professor Frankfurter’s book through I went to and fro in it, picking out everything I could about Judge Thayer. My curiosity grows. I would like to study him intensively, get photographs of him, dive into his life story, learn about his school and college. And that, not because I think he is anything strange and out of the way, but because he is so tremendously normal. I perceive that he was in perfect accord with the District Attorney, Katzmann, and in close sympathy with the jury, when Sacco and Vanzetti were, not so much tried, as baited in his court. He had no feeling of wrong-doing at that time. "Thayerism,” if he will permit me to draw a word from him, is no rare thing in America. Nor is it rare in England. It interweaves intimately with the mental quality of the European Fascist. It is a widely diffused and dangerous force in our modern world, "Thayerism," the self-righteous unrighteousness of established people. Let us consider its more salient characteristics.

In the first place, after my first exploration of Judge Thayer, I am left with the persuasion that he is, legally speaking, a quite honest man. That is to say, I do not think that he was guided by any considerations of personal profit to take the line of conduct that is making him Stupor Mundi, the amazement of the civilised world. I think that he and his jurymen had a feeling of profound obligation to their country, and that they really supposed that they were serving great civilised ideals in doing as they did in the conviction of their victims. I am not so sure of the District Attorney. I thought his cross-examination tricky and evil; but then I am accustomed to the candours of science, and I find most lawyers in most cross-examinations tricky and evil. But District Attorney apart, the court, I am convinced, felt that it was making a large fair display and doing helpful work to maintain the good life, the spacious and generous and wholesome American life, by accepting proofs that were no proofs against these friendless men — who "deserved to be hanged anyway.” I feel sure that the Judge went home to his family — and I can quite believe he has a very nice family — with a sense of a stem duty manfully done.

After the trial I agree that his record is not so straightforward. The criticism of his verdict seems to have surprised and hurt him. He must have felt that he had settled this business for his country’s good, and that he did not deserve the trouble made about his settlement. His conduct suggests wounded vanity and bad temper rather than any Satanic qualities. People came into court and hurt his feelings by motions for a new trial, which he refused indignantly. The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, without inquiry into the evidence of the murder, but simply upon legal issues, upheld his right to block a retrial. It still upholds him. To the last application based upon the Madeiros confession of 1925, after studying the motion "for several weeks without interruption,” he produced an opinion of twenty-five thousand words. Professor Frankfurter describes it, with manifest deliberation of phrase and with all the weight of a trained critic of just this sort of material, as "a farrago of misquotations, misrepresentations, suppressions and mutilation.” I quote without endorsement this opinion.

I believe Judge Thayer’s conduct of the original case was entirely honest; and if his final opinion hardly comes up to the standards of that high word, it still remains, for most fallible men, a very human and sympathetic effort. What is the matter with Judge Thayer is not that he is a bad man, not that he is anti-moral, but that he is — to put it mildly — extremely obtuse mentally and morally. This mental and moral obtuseness seems to have extended to his court and to a considerable body of opinion in the United States which sustained him in his crushing of these two unfortunates.

It is difficult to say just how far that obtuseness does not extend in our English-speaking communities. Many people in the continent of Europe hold that it is innate, that the American and English are by nature stupid people, acting often with clumsy and unintentional cruelty, and missing the point of most issues. That stupidity carries with it a certain obduracy which in many rough practical issues has the effect of strength. But the writing and acts of Judge Thayer and his District Attorney indicate considerable acuteness and liveliness. I do not believe they are naturally dishonest or stupid. I am quite willing to credit them with intelligence, integrity, and public spirit. But it is crude intelligence, dull integrity, and sentimental public spirit. They have under-developed minds; the minds of lumpish overgrown children. They have had no fine moral and intellectual training. They have lived in an atmosphere where there is no subtle criticism of conduct and opinion, where everything is black or white, bad "to be hanged anyway," or good to be given every privilege. Everything is over-emphasised. To be bad or wrong is not to be against the law on this issue or that; it is to be outlawed and not given a dog’s chance. It is to be hounded down. They have acquired no pride in discrimination or exactitude. They are easily prejudiced violently for or against anything, and they are as incapable of behaving with scrupulous fairness to any one who they think is in the wrong as they are capable of the sloppiest adulation and indulgence for any one they think is in the right. In religion they have never learnt to distinguish cant from faith, they are the natural prey of Elmer Gantry and his kind, and in politics and social questions they cannot distinguish honest criticism of their fundamental ideas from aimless malignant wickedness . They are not mentally quickened to the point of generosity; they are blind to the pathetic idealism of these poor aliens in their midst; they have panics against dreaming workmen who can scarcely talk intelligibly; they see red and feel murderous. And they mean well!

They mean well. That is the tragedy of this situation. The Judge Thayers of our world, just as much as the Saccos and Vanzettis, want the world to be fair and fine. The motives on neither side are entirely base. But Thayerism has the upper hand, and it is all too ready for hasty conclusions even if they involve blood sacrifices. Too many Americans, I fear, believe that a little blood-letting is good for their civilisation. So did the Aztecs before them. But blood is a poor cement for the foundations of a civilisation. It is less a cement than a corrosive. There have been civilisations before the present one in America, and for all the blood they shed so abundantly upon their high places they have gone and are buried and stuff for the archaeologist.

Six weeks still remain for justice and pity. Will the mighty and fortunate United States, perhaps the greatest power in the world to-day, allow the State of Massachusetts to kill this machine hand and this fish pedlar on the charge that they have committed a crime of which all the world now knows them innocent, or will it, at the eleventh hour, induce the Governor of that State to put an end to their seven years of misery and hardship in some more gracious fashion?

Sacco and Vanzetti were not executed in July; they were reprieved for a special inquiry until August 10th. On the eve of that day they were again reprieved for a further twelve days until the United States Supreme Court could decide upon certain points of law that still remained unsettled. No legal power existed outside the State of Massachusetts to avert the infamous conclusion. They were electrocuted on August 32nd.

29 May, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 30224
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:22 am


This paper is addressed primarily to certain American correspondents, but it discusses a matter of considerable interest to all English-speaking readers— namely, the right of British and European people generally to have and to express opinions about American affairs. The converse right has never been questioned, and is exercised freely by Americans throughout the world.

In this article I maintain my right as a free-born Englishman to think freely about the affairs of the United States, and to say what I think to be true and right and proper about all or any of these affairs. I refuse to regard the people of the United States as in any way a Holy People. It is not blasphemous to deny them perfection. It may even be wholesome that their present great exaltation of spirit should be tempered by criticism. And if I have anything upon my conscience with regard to the United States in the past, it is that my disposition has been more consistently favourable and flattering to the American tone, the American quality, and the American future than the present ungraciousness of these correspondents of mine justifies.

True that when first I crossed the Atlantic some artless comments of mine offended Boston. There has always been something a little difficult between myself and Massachusetts, some incompatibility. New York I loved frankly, and Chicago amazed me. I left verbal instructions that the ashes of my heart were to be thrown into the Potomac where Virginia, Maryland and the district of Columbia meet; but Boston I found refined and genteel and sensitive beyond my capacity. Everybody admired the Winged Victory and had a replica of it somewhere. I had never encountered such a serried unanimity of culture before. I made remarks about it, and about Longfellow's house, I began wrong perhaps by going to Boston in a Fall River boat with my cabin near the syren, and spending the next day sceptically in an open automobile exploring the wildernesses into which Boston was proposing to expand. I doubt it ever will. And now again my trouble is with the super-civilisation of Massachusetts. All the haughtier letters I get in this correspondence come from that State.

My gravest offence, I gathered, lies in this, that together with two other miscreants, to wit, one Arnold Bennett and one John Galsworthy, I did wantonly issue a manifesto or appeal upon the issue of the Sacco and Vanzetti trial while it was still in suspense. For myself and my associates I object to every word in that indictment. We were approached severally by an American gentleman, bearing one of the greatest names in the history of American science, and himself of respectable academic standing, and asked to sign an appeal to Governor Fuller which he put before us, and I, at least, was given to understand that this was to be an extensively signed document not confined to English or American opinion. We were not so pontifical, therefore, as we seemed to be. In fact we were not pontifical at all. We responded to an American invitation and did not expect to be treated as principals but as chorus, in the matter.

Still, that is a minor point. I signed that appeal very readily, and, later on, when the execution occurred, I expressed an opinion about it, an indignant opinion, for which I had ample justification in the facts as they had been put before me from American sources. From the examination actually quoted to me, I was impressed by the extravagant unfairness of the questions put to the accused, and by the way in which, being charged with ordinary murder and robbery, their political opinions were dragged into court to create a prejudice against them. I was concerned about the moral quality of the court far more than about the moral quality of the accused, I wrote an article upon this, which did not get all the publicity I had hoped for in America, The question of whether these two Italians were guilty or innocent I made a secondary matter. The thing that scandalised me was that they should have been tried in such a fashion.

Now for six years before that, although I was frequently hearing about it vaguely, I had left the Sacco and Vanzetti affair alone as no concern of mine. It is only recently that I have been roused to the realisation that it is a case like the Dreyfus case, by which the soul of a people is tested and displayed. I had supposed it to be a row between the "Reds and the authorities, and I had assumed that the accused were involved in some political or semi-political crime. I am not a "Red," though a number of people I have stung by criticisms they could not answer in any other fashion, have sought comfort in calling me that. I have criticised Communism with a passionless destructiveness far more deadly than the mere brawling abuse of Moscow habitual to these people who denounce me. And it was only when I found that two men, who might or might not be murderers and robbers, were being tried as though anarchist opinions and murder were interchangeable things that my sense of intellectual decency was aroused.

It was my friend H. W. Nevinson who induced me to look into this case more closely, by a review of a book by Mr. Felix Frankfurter. His precis was so startling that I got the book itself forthwith and read it. It was manifestly a very honest and competent book, and its exposure of the prejudice imported into the case by the prosecution amazed and shocked me profoundly. I inquired further who this Mr. Felix Frankfurter might be. He was, I discovered, a member of President Wilson’s government, and he is now Professor of Administrative Law at Harvard, This seems good enough to go upon. The Communist movement had seized upon this trial and made it an occasion for demonstrations and outrages throughout the world. The favourite role of the extreme Red seems always to be that of agent provocateur for reaction. The extreme Red is the curse of creative liberalism. But the misbehaviour of excited crowds here and there has nothing to do with the essential offence of this case, which has been stated for history and all time by Frankfurter. Frankfurter is no more a Red than I am, and had as little to gain by taking up this unpopular case. He took it up because it shocked him, and he imparted his shock to me. The trial and the manner of the trial are the facts that most concerned him. There they are.

Now the curious thing is that a great number of Americans do not seem to see in the least what is the point at issue. They do not get, many of them do not seem able to get, what it is that has roused the liberal opinion of all Europe against the courts of Massachusetts. There is a profound psychological difference laid bare in this case.

The guilt or innocence of these two Italians was not the issue that had excited the opinion of the world. Possibly they were the actual murderers, and still more possibly they knew more than they would admit about the crime. Seven years after the crime the Massachusetts police (who have certainly been as much on trial as the actual murderers) produced new and very impressive evidence against Sacco and his associate. They exhibited a bullet which they depose was the bullet found in the body of the victim, and a pistol, which they testify was found upon Sacco at the time of his arrest. The particular bullet is shown conclusively, by a quite beautiful piece of scientific analysis, to have been fired from that particular pistol. This must have been very decisive with Governor Fuller’s committee of inquiry. But these facts were not before the court in the original trial, and, anyhow, they have nothing to do with the monstrous way in which the politics of the accused were dragged into the case. That, I urge upon the American reader, is what perplexes Europe. Europe is not "re-trying" Sacco and Vanzetti, or anything of the sort. It is saying what it thinks of Judge Thayer. Executing political opponents, as political opponents, after the fashion of Mussolini and Moscow we can understand, or bandits as bandits, but this business of trying and executing murderers as Reds, or Reds as murderers, seems to us a new and very frightening line for the courts of a state in the most powerful and civilised Union on earth to pursue.

So much for the Sacco and Vanzetti case, I realise the electric storminess that broods over it. Wrathful Massachusetts citizens write to me that they have "consigned" various of my unimportant writings to "the garbage can," and have otherwise treated them with contumely. I am to be barred and suppressed by a hundred million true Americans. This is melancholy news for me, but of no great importance to the world. The fact remains that these indignant letter-writers are still in the same world with Frankfurter’s book and that if they do not read it in this world, its careful perusal will almost certainly be one of the first purifying tasks set them in the next.

Well, life must go on, and the Braintree case must be left now on the receding beaches of history. After this article I shall write no more about it. And here, indeed, it is not about this case that I am writing, but about the extraordinarily bad temper certain types of Americans display at the mere shadow of its discussion — and, indeed, of any discussion of things American. One can scarcely let a sentence that is not highly flattering glance across the Atlantic without some American blowing up. No other people have so acute a sensibility. This Sacco and Vanzetti business has merely brought this testy impatience to a head. I have spent only a few months of my life in America, and I am always careful to base such comments as I make upon America, upon American authorities. Upon prohibition my silence has been monumental; it is an affair for Americans only. But many other matters are not entirely their affair. For example, it is a matter of concern to the whole world that the general level of education in America should be high. That is another matter on which I have offended, and shall continue to offend. Drawing my instances from American writers, I have pointed out on diverse occasions that the level of elementary education in America is not high enough for her immense possibilities and her limitless aspirations. It is no answer to say that it is as high as it is in most European countries. My answer is that it ought to be much higher because of the immense wealth, power, and opportunity of the United States. I regret I have not saved the whole mass of ill-written, abusive retorts this friendly and helpful reflection has provoked.

The other day, again, I lectured at the Sorbonne on the necessity of democracy entering upon a new phase. I was considering European conditions, and I do not think I even mentioned America, but apparently the word "democracy" infringed the sacredness of the American tradition, and Senator Borah went up with a loud report. I was reminded as a Briton of many humiliating things, and particularly of my financial mismanagement of the war situation, which left Senator Borah so much up on me. Yet I am doing my best to pay off Senator Borah, and I have never complained. And the insufficiency of the American common school is a danger to the peace of the world.

This disposition to answer back hotly and irrelevantly is not confined to Senator Borah and my mail. Several newspaper articles to my address have instituted painful general comparisons between English and American ways. One writer lays much stress on the alleged British habit of playing tennis, taking a bath and putting on the same underclothing again. This may be all right; I have never searched my fellow countrymen, but personally I don’t play tennis in underclothing. Anyhow it doesn’t matter very much. I admit the immense superiority of Americans in most things; to mention only a few, they win hands down on films and flivvers, steel construction and advertisement, debt collecting and floral offerings, Bunker Hill and bathrooms. American architecture is superb. Their novels are becoming more interesting than British novels, and London, I understand, is full of their plays. If no American alive can write anything to compare with the storm in Tomlinson’s "Gallion’s Reach,” yet Stephen Crane came nearest to it in his "Open Boat,” The variety of type in the American population, as compared with the British, is as fifty to one. America invented flying, Oxford trousers, again, were a plagiarism from America, I could go on for quite a long time jotting down similar glorious points for Old Glory. But I do not see what such things have to do with my articles. I was not at Bunker Hill when Senator Borah, I gather, stormed that position and licked chaps like me to hell. The question of the conduct of a public trial or the value of an educational organisation or the imperfection of an electoral method of government is not settled by vehement reminders of a critic’s nationality and its associated disadvantages — especially when he happens to be the most cosmopolitan-spirited of critics.

The friendly European critics of the United States are impressed by the facts, first, that the elementary education of the American citizen is cheap and poor and does not fit him for his proper role in the world; next, that the methods of democracy used by the states are crude and ineffective, and that they hamper the moral and intellectual development of what is still the greatest, most promising of human communities; and thirdly and finally, that the American sense of justice is clumsy and confused. It does not dispose of such criticisms to say that they come from a poor boob, or that all the world outside the States is just a wilderness of poor boobs. True, no doubt, as that is, and salutary as it is to repeat it, nevertheless it leaves the American defects untouched.

The people of the United States has become very rapidly in the last fifty years the most secure, wealthy, and powerful nation of the world. It is high time its citizens displayed a self-complacency commensurate with this achievement. It is all very well for a touchy little people on the defence to fly up at the mere hint of criticism, but not for the proud citizens of a great empire. Far be it from me to institute vexatious comparisons between Europe and America, but there does seem to be a clearer sense of the freedoms and frankness permitted in discussion on this side of the Atlantic. It has been possible in the past for Americans to discuss the rights and wrongs of British justice in Ireland, India, and Egypt without provoking vehement denials of their liberty to do so. The late President Roosevelt offered the most striking and uninvited advice to English liberal thinkers upon the subject of the Empire. When the British liner, the Titanic ^ went down, the Americans, I recall, held officers and crew for a perfectly gratuitous inquiry before releasing them for the proper legal investigation by the British Board of Trade. There was no fuss on these occasions about "alien intervention" in England, we appreciated the advantage of having our concerns viewed from a fresh angle, and unless we have touched sore consciences, I do not see why the simple response of Bennett, Galsworthy and myself to an American question should evoke these present transports.

It was precisely because we were not American that we were invited to give an opinion on the Braintree case.

Whatever may be the outcome of this present little affair, I am afraid the Americans, like the rest of the world, must be prepared for an increasing amount of criticism and intellectual and moral intervention from foreigners. The world becomes more and more one community, and the state of mind of each nation has practical reactions upon all the rest that were undreamt of half a century ago. The administration of justice in Massachusetts or Italy concerns me almost as much as the administration of justice in London or Glasgow. Particularly when the lives of aliens are involved. Belligerent teaching in the school-books of France or Germany or America, or a failure of China to unify and protect itself against military adventurers, may lead to the deaths of my sons and the destruction of nearly everything I hold dear about me. The world becomes my village, and whether Senator Borah likes it or not, part of me walks down Main Street and defies all America to expel it. Conversely, the voice of Senator Borah reverberates in Dunmow, and is heard along the Maritime Alps, America is part of my spiritual home and Old Glory one of my quarterings. I have a loyal feeling for the American eagle. It is so loyal a feeling that I cannot bear to think of that bird as anything but aquiline. I want to think of it as that aspiring eagle with the open wings one encounters first on the caps of the officials as one steams up the exhilarating approach to New York. An eagle like a victorious invitation. I do not want to have that vision replaced by the butt view of a proud but isolated ostrich, invincibly immense, which has swallowed all the gold in the world and is now keeping its head resolutely buried in the sand.

16 October, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 30224
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:30 am


Our modern world runs on fuel. It burns its way through the years. The ancient civilisations made no such use of combustion. A few sticks kept the pot boiling, and a bag of charcoal served the purposes of the smith. Torches and oil lamps were convenient but not indispensable. Man set fire to his world seriously only 200 years ago.

The tradition is, therefore, that coal and oil are commodities like marble or leather, to be bought and sold in the same fashion, chaffered over, refused or withheld. Quite insidiously they have become fundamental necessities for our social and economic order, but the old ways of dealing remain. We still treat them as incidental commodities. Perhaps the old methods have hung about too long. We may be on the road to very profound changes in our dealings with oil and coal.

In America the more prominent issue is oil. Both here in England and in America, "Oil,” Mr. Upton Sinclair’s book, in spite of his peculiar methods of advertisement, has crept insidiously and surely to a success. I find quite a number of my friends reading it. I see strangers reading it in the train. Evidently people want ideas about oil. In Britain the more urgent aspect of the fuel question is the coal-mining issue. The General Strike, following the coal lock-out of 1926, settled nothing. In the Labour debacle that ensued the miners lost most of the points they had fought for; they had to accept longer hours and a lower standard of living, and the industry readjusted itself to the conditions of a declining industry. It has continued to decline. There remain great numbers of miners unemployed, and profits are unsatisfactory. Coal trouble is becoming the chronic ailment of Great Britain.

There was a phase in the British coal drama when coal production was subsidised. I believe that for the effective, permanent re-establishment of British prosperity there must be a return to subsidised coal. It is the only way of reconciling two otherwise incompatible needs, an abundant cheap supply of the various sorts of coal needed for British shipping, transport, and industrial activities, and a decent standard of life for the body of men needed to win the coal.

No doubt, to those who hold to the old-fashioned way of regarding coal as something you can do without and still play your part in life it is shocking to think of the community paying for coal to be sold again at a loss, for that is what the subsidy amounts to, but to any one who grasps its altered status as a social necessity it will be no more shocking than the abolition of toll-gates and the provision of high-roads at the common expense.

Suppose the coal supply firmly established on a subsidised basis and the subsidy counterbalanced by a countervailing duty on the export of coal — because there is no reason whatever why the British taxpayer should pay in part for the coal consumed by the foreign industrialist — what would be the effect upon the community as a whole? Manifestly there would be a cheapening of transport, a stimulation of the metallurgical industries, a cheapening of the cost of power, and either a reduction of wages or an elevation of the standard of life of the ordinary worker, enabling him to spend the money he would save on coal on manufactured goods. I cannot imagine anything but a general stimulation of the entire economic life of the community. Cheaper transport and cost of production would invigorate the country's competitive export of manufactured goods and in its turn react upon the coal industry with an enlarged demand for coal.

Naturally a subsidised undertaking will mean a controlled industry; there is not the slightest benefit to the community if either coal-owners or coal merchants are allowed to intercept and absorb the subsidy. A subsidy means compounded royalties, restricted profits and scientific direction. And as naturally the recognition of coal-mining as a public service will change the status of the miner.

The present condition of the mining worker has been the result of slow developments, and like most social arrangements that have grown up slowly, it is a thoroughly bad complex of laws, customs, and tolerated conventions. Only usage blinds us to the absurdity of a system by which a man who has specialised in coal-winning, and who is ready and willing to go into the mine and win his stint of coal for the community, should not have every facility given him to discharge his task. It should be possible to calculate the cost to the community of a miner from his birth to his death; it should be possible to charge up to him his schooling, housing, keep, holidays, recreations, police protection, medical attendance, funeral, grave, and everything else he requires and consumes. Against this it should be possible to set as an equivalent so many tons of this or that sort of coal. If he wins less than that he is a parasite; if more he is robbed. And equally it should be possible to make his stint of coal-winning easy and convenient for him, instead of leaving it as laborious, uncertain, vexatious and humiliating as it is now.

It is the business of a civilised community to determine that equivalent between coal and consumption, and arrange for the miner to justify his existence as a consumer as easily and pleasantly as possible, slowly or quickly as he chooses. If he sees fit to work like the devil, long spells and all the year round, and get it over and be assured of all his elemental needs there- after for the rest of his life, while he meditates, goes or walks, paints pictures or writes poetry, he ought to be able to do so without making existence intolerable for a fellow-miner with a more leisurely conception of his life-work. A modern civilised community ought to be able to cater for its labourers on such flexible terms. It ought to command sufficient intelligence to estimate ahead what it will want in the way of coal, and enlist its miners on long-term agreements for a definite amount of work that will make them as safe in their jobs as civil servants.

We are so used to the scrambling quality of life, as we know it, to the desperate grabbing and holding of scraps of property, to strikes and lock-outs, to unemployment, fluctuating prices, speculative cunning, uncertainty, servitude and frustration, that few of us succeed in realising that these things are not now necessary. However unavoidable they may have been for mankind in the past, they are not now unavoidable. The chancy and disagreeably adventurous way we live is not the only possible nor the best way of living. It is a phase out of which our race may pass.

The reason why our community cannot figure out what the life task of a coal-miner should be is simply because it does not know enough about things that can be quite effectively known. It cannot figure out even its broad staple needs and supplies and be certain of them as yet, even within quite wide limits. So we have to guess and gamble our way through life, to overcharge and underpay and "keep on the safe side.” We hoard if we can. We think ourselves lucky if we can saddle the world with a debt for the loan of our hoarded accumulations. We cannot imagine freedom and independence except in the role of a well-secured creditor. Again, we have to fall back on the gold standard for monetary purposes because we have not the necessary facts for a regulated currency, although theoretically a regulated currency is a far more desirable thing than a currency resting finally for its sanctions on a brute quantity of gold. We not only live in anxieties that could be dispelled; by virtue of this same ignorance, we sicken and die of diseases which might have been prevented or cured. We are still as much the prey of chance as any other animals. All our lives are worried, shadowed, belittled, and laid waste by the preoccupations arising out of the lack of that comprehensive knowledge, without which the sane and comprehensive direction of human affairs is impossible.

Now what I am writing here of life, its present uncertainty and disorder, is to be found in the lamentations of the Preacher and in the pessimistic literature of the Egypt of five thousand years ago. The reader of Breasted’s "Development of Religion and Thought in Ancient Egypt" will find passages about human life that say exactly what my last paragraph repeats. But what is new, what we have clear in our minds to-day, is the growth of a body of knowledge charged with the promise of order and assurance to replace these ancient distresses. Then, indeed, the world was limitless and dreams of control absurd. Now, in the last three centuries, we have begun the surveying and mapping of the whole planet. After contours and topography, follow geological surveys, biological exploration, climatology, economic appraisal. As the surveyor advances the prospector disappears. We are bringing all the material basis of human life into the sphere of the calculable. We are numbering the people, always an annoying process to the ancient gods. In quite a few years we shall know within quite small limits the population of the world and its rate of increase; we shall know, within the limits of a few hundred tons, its annual requirements of wheat and rice, steel and coal, cotton and wool. We shall know how and where to get these and all other staple commodities. We shall be able to work out the whole processes of getting and distributing the material requirements of human life upon lines not of commercial adventure, but clear certitude. We shall have a grip upon disease, of which our present attempts at public and world hygiene are only the faintest first intimations. And the little scattered band of meteorologists who now observe and guess about the weather will have been reinforced and developed into a big, competent, world organisation, which may even forecast our crops and anticipate our shortages within a continually closer margin of accuracy, years ahead.

Do not the achievements of science in the past two centuries fully justify what I have written here? And if this is so, and if there is this clear prospect of a world in which we can plan out the general activities of mankind on estimates, trustworthy to within a very small fraction of the total amount, is it conceivable that any of the main disputes of our present economic world-scramble will survive? You may call me a dreamer in these matters, but it is not I who dream, it is you, who are not properly awake to what man has done and what man can hope to do.

I wish my wakefulness was more contagious than it seems to be. Britain the Sleeper mutters "Muddle through” in its sleep, and will not open its eyes to the facts that are in the same room with it. The heavy industries of the old country grow heavier and heavier. Unless those drowsy eyelids can be lifted, unless Britain can rouse itself — within a very brief term of years — to meet the irksome demand for more knowledge, more science, and more imaginative courage, it must sink into a permanently inferior position to the United States of America and to a renascent Central Europe. Leadership is for those who will lead, and the direction in which the world has to be led is manifestly towards the systematic control and stimulation of the production of basic substances in the common interest. Production primarily for profit in raw materials and basic substances, like the mere commercialisation of the transport services, works out in the crippling of the higher types of industrial life. The movement for the conservation of forests and other national resources from the recklessness of unbridled private enterprise in America, with which President Roosevelt identified himself, was merely one early recognition of what is now becoming a widely recognised truth. With the development of material civilisation and the accumulation of exact knowledge, the concern of the commonweal spreads into fields that were once left quite legitimately to adventurous exploitation. For Great Britain, in respect to fuel, the issue is now a vital one. Either she must prepare to subsidise and then nationalise her coal supply, or she must face the clear prospect of retrocession from her position of leadership in the world.

30 October, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 30224
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:40 am


I HAVE before me as I write a very momentous book, it is entitled "Conditioned Reflexes," and it is by Professor Pavloff, of Petrograd. It is not an easy book to read but it is not an impossible one, and when one has read, marked and learnt, one finds — I find — that one has at least attained the broad beginnings of a clear conception of the working of that riddle within us which is perpetually asking us riddles, the convoluted grey matter of the brain. The book is translated by Dr. Anrep of Cambridge and it is published by the Oxford University Press with the assistance of the Royal Society.

Quite apart from its subject this book is a very reassuring book for those whose hopes for the future of mankind are bound up with the steadfast growth of scientific knowledge. It gives in broad outline the substance of nearly twenty-five years of wonderfully imagined and marvellously conducted research. That research was carried on in a city that changed its name twice, from St. Petersburg to Petrograd and from Petrograd to Leningrad; it saw flood, famine, war and revolutions; there was a great shortage of medicaments and scientific apparatus, and one winter the whole city was well-nigh frozen to death through want of fuel and people went out after midnight to steal the wood blocks out of the roadway for their stoves, but the work went on. It is true there appears a gap in the number of publications cited from between the years 1917-1920, but this was due largely to the interruption of the paper supply in these years. The deficiency was more than made up by the reports of results that came out in the subsequent years when the tide of paper flowed again.

There is something vastly heroic in this persistence and something profoundly significant in the respectful cessation of political violence in the precincts of the Institute of Experimental Medicine.

It happened that when I was in Russia in 1920 I visited Professor Pavloff and saw something of his work. I remember that the corners of his study were piled high with potatoes and turnips he had grown in a patch of earth outside his laboratory, and dug up and brought in. He remarked casually that that was how he took his exercise nowadays, and that was all the notice he gave to the immense political and social stresses of the world about him. He went on to talk about the more permanent realities with which he was dealing and took me through the ingenious building in which he and his little band of assistants were conducting their researches. I saw the dogs on which he was working. They did not seem to be in the slightest degree uncomfortable; they wagged their tails, and he patted their heads. He explained as much of his methods and ideas as he thought my unspecialised mind could grasp.

He was a brownish-faced, gentle-mannered man, with brown eyes and a general cast of countenance that reminded me of portraits I had seen of the late Lord Kelvin. He showed a lively interest in the explorations he was conducting, and he did his best to make his points clear to me, without any attempt to astonish me by any sudden strangeness of statement or epigrammatic gymnastics. He was pleased, I think, to get some one from outer Europe again asking him questions. He spoke of the work of other people and particularly of Sherrington without any note of rivalry or attempt to caricature; he spoke of them as collaborators and collateral explorers in this great work of illuminating some of the obscurest niches of the world of reality. Never in a moment in his talk did he seem aware of anything beside his subject, and least of all was he aware of himself. He seemed in another world from any thoughts of personal competition. He embarked upon no praises of Sherrington. Merely he spoke with respect and interest of his work. To have raised the question of whether he thought Sherrington or himself the greater or more remarkable would have been like letting a drop of ink or mud fall into a glass of clear wine.

My sense of the man’s simple greatness returns to me as I read this skilful patient piecing together of fact and inference and question, doubt experiment and conclusion for the third of a lifetime, which supplies the matter of this book. And as I read I am reminded of a vehement outbreak I recently provoked in another great man I know, a man for whom I have an admiration and affection at least as strong as I have for Professor Pavloff, though my admiration is of an entirely different quality, George Bernard Shaw. I recall that Professor Pavloff is one of the greatest of vivisectors — "these scoundrels "Shaw called them — and that according to Shaw it is his habit to boil babies alive and see what happens. Queer that one fine man should write so of another! In that screaming, wildly foolish denunciation of vivisection to which I refer, Shaw, just to give his readers an idea of what vivisection meant, described one of the villains as chopping off the paws of a dog one after the other to observe its behaviour, and as being quite surprised to find that after his fourth operation there were no more paws. And suchlike platform stuff.

It is interesting to compare the reality of vivisection as it is given in this book. For the most part the amount of operation performed involved far less temporary suffering for the animals than lies at the door of any "dog-lover "who has the ears of a Belgian griffon docked, and the vast mass of the experiments and observations recorded required as a primary condition that the animals should be altogether calm and comfortable. The distraction of even a slight pain or any alarming or distressful circumstance would have inhibited altogether the delicate responses to stimuli, upon which this great mass of new knowledge has been erected, I know it will outrage the dearest feelings of the anti-vivisector to say this; it is his peculiar delight to gloat upon imagined "tortures," but this book is available for the judgment of the intelligent reader. One dog Pavloff describes incidentally as jumping into the stand, impatient for what any hearty anti-vivisector would no doubt describe as its "torment."

But when I set out to write this article I did not intend to touch so definitely as this upon the delicate sensibilities of the anti-vivisectionist, probably the most indefatigable and fiercest of all epistolatory creatures. That issue is a little off my present track. I had in mind the remarkable contrast of these two eminent figures, both in their way commanding my admiration and both in their way very sympathetic to me. I come somewhere between them; in my humbler measure I partake a little of both, I do not know what Pavloff thinks of Shaw, probably about as much as he does of the "proletarian science "of Moscow, but we have Shaw’s ringing "Scoundrel!" for Pavloff properly on record, I have been amusing myself for some minutes with that old game of the One Life-Belt. Probably you know and play that game. You put it as a problem rather after the fashion of the Doctor’s Dilemma; if A. is drowning on one side of a pier, and B. is equally drowning on the other, and you have one life-belt and cannot otherwise help, to which of the two would you throw it? Which would I save, for example, Pavloff or Shaw?

I do not think it would interest the reader to give my private answer. But while I was considering it I was manifestly obliged to ask myself, What is the good of Shaw?" And what is the good of Shaw? Pavloff is a star which lights the world, shining down a vista hitherto unexplored. Why should I hesitate with my life-belt for one moment?

To begin with the elements so to speak, Shaw writes English extraordinarily well. I feel a sort of benefit of clergy attaches to that alone. Pavloff translated by Anrep is rather clumsy reading and I doubt if that is altogether the fault of Anrep. I doubt if Pavloff is much of a writer. Sometimes I try to write English, and I am always keenly interested in the writing of English, and I am even interested in the writing of stuff about the writing of English, and I know enough of the business to know how beautifully it is done by Shaw. And he walks about writing in a little note-book, avoiding passers-by with remarkable skill, and presently he produces, out of his head and out of his vivid misconceptions about life, shows for the theatre of the brightest, liveliest, freshest quality, so that there is nothing quite like them in the world. "John Bull’s Other Island" and "Androcles and the Lion" and "Saint Joan" float off from reality like vast soap bubbles, reflecting it in vivid patches, curved and brightened, iridescent and delightful. And he talks incessantly, and a larger proportion of that talk if fun of the very best quality than is found in the talk of any one else on record.

Moreover, he has invented a most amusing personal appearance: he is an adept at gravely absurd conduct, and his extraordinary industry in sitting to painters, photographers and sculptors will fill the museums of the future with entire galleries of his portraits, medals, statues and busts. All the rest of us will be rare in comparison. The likeness varies with the artist, and it is possible that contrasted series of these representations will be ascribed to different contemporary reputations which have been less sedulous for physical record. It will be incredible that one single man could have sat so persistently. Some will perhaps be attributed to eminent vivisectors otherwise undocumented. So Shawmay even defeat his end of individual assertion and become the general type of our time. But certainly he is the greatest living artist in expression, in self-expression, and he does it so excellently that it seems ungracious to raise the question whether he has ever had anything but himself to express.

But with the life-belt in my hands and Pavloff, so to speak, splashing, it is a question I must raise. What has Shaw added to our arsenal of ideas, to our store of knowledge, to the illumination of the world? Has he been more than a confusing commentary, a gesticulating shadow athwart light not his own? He has been a prominent Socialist. What is there in Socialist thought, what contribution, or correction, or deflection, to which one can attach the initials of G. B. S.?

He has been a mighty reverberator for Samuel Sutler’s self-consoling detraction of Darwin. He has restored the inheritance of acquired characters by proclamation, and he has co-operated with that equally vigorous expressionist, Mr. Belloc, in proclaiming Darwinism — whatever it is — extinct. He has made a free use of the phrase the "Life Force,” but what meaning he attaches to these magic words is unknown. He expands the word Will on the lines of various nineteenth-century German thinkers. He seems to be suggesting at times that man can do anything by merely willing it, but whether that is possible on any dietary or only upon vegetarian nourishment, and whether it can be done without apparatus, is never clear. He has an aversion from sex and children which may be either Butler or temperamental, and he seems to want mankind to try laying parthenogenetic eggs, and coming out of them fully whiskered. I doubt if there will ever be this will to the egg on the part of mankind. And in his wonderful prefaces — as good as the best Dublin-brewed talk they are — he has made a vast jungle of shrewd commentary and dogmatic statements that collectively amount to somewhere in the region of nothing at all. It is interesting to read these prefaces and the rest of his abundant controversial literature, and note how inevitably he slides away from any general question to issues of motive. If he has no visible antagonist, he invents one. Just as he shirked all the issues of vivisection by describing imaginary monsters of stupidity and cruelty, so always he has dressed a punching dummy for every view he has assailed. It is not because he is a dishonest controversialist, but because he is incurably a dramatist, that he does this. The poverty of his abstract thought assures the excellence of his plays.

People call him a thinker. I doubt any consecutive thinking at all. Most intelligent men have their ideas in some sort of grouping and order, even if it is no more than the order of a patchwork quilt, but I do not find even that much coherence in Shaw. His ideas are a jackdaw’s hoard picked up anyhow and piled together anyhow. Knowing my Shaw fairly well, and knowing his surroundings, I think I could trace to some intimate personal influence nearly everything he has ever held. This he got from Samuel Butler, and that from Webb; this he expanded from a chance remark by Haden Guest, and that was loaded into him by one of Mussolini’s sedulous propagandists. The worst element in his mental make-up is a queer readiness to succumb to the poses of excessive virility. His soul goes down before successful force. He exalted the maker of enormous guns in "Man and Superman"; he has rejoiced in the worst claptrap of the Napoleonic legend; now he is striking attitudes of adoration towards the poor, vain, doomed biped who is making Rome horrible and ridiculous to all the world. When it comes to the torture of intelligent men, to vile outrages on old women, to the strangulation of all sane criticism and an orgy of claptrap more dreadful than its attendant cruelties, this vituperative anti-vivisectionist becomes an applauding spectator. So he is welcomed to Italy and feted in the sunlit streets along which other less fortunate intellectuals have been hurried through the darkness to an ignominious death. What does it matter to him that the shadow of destruction creeps closer and closer to so great a man as Ferrero? What does it matter that the soul of a whole people is dishonoured and bowed and bent? To him it does not matter, because his thought is too trifling to apprehend the threat this triumph of base violence conveys to the whole world of man. He is taken and subdued by posturings that outdo his own, and his political thinking, like his thinking about life and medicine, brings him at last to no better end than a defence of impudent quackery.

Empty he is as few of my contemporaries are empty — yes; but he echoes most sonorously in his own cathedral-like emptiness, and his outward effect is striking and entertaining, not simply to himself, but to us all. He resembles an iridescent film upon the pool of life, and Pavloff, a great stone built in and built upon, and so completely incorporated that his name may have become hardly more than a name, widely forgotten. To the future Shaw will have contributed nothing, and yet he may be harder to forget. We can know what Pavloff knows now if we will do the necessary reading of him, but a hundred years hence industrious students may still be discussing whether Shaw meant this or whether he meant that, or whether he meant anything at all. Unless, that is, still more Shavian Shaws, still emptier, still more resonant and preposterous, have swamped their attention by that time and obliterated him altogether.

Empty and sometimes intensely vexatious, and yet I think that like Belloc he is playing a very necessary role in the intellectual world. Scientific men are apt to forget their obligations to the general intelligence of mankind, Though nobody acknowledged the indebtedness, it was Belloc as much as any one who shook up the biologists at the recent meeting of the British Association to tell us less mumblingly than they have done for some time how matters stood with them about Natural Selection, Darwin and the Origin of Man. And while I find reading Shaw is like shooting rapids in sunshine, Pavloff-Anrep, though, as Baedeker puts it, "rewarding," is very heavy going, a deep dark gorge of thought. I wish men of science would express themselves better. Scientific inquiry takes its workers into remote and lonely places where they do a little lose the faculty of ordinary speech. Our interest in scientific work and sound thinking might fade out altogether if the mental irritation of these expressionists did not keep our attention alive.

And with these few remarks, which I hope may prove helpful, I will hand the life-belt to the reader and repudiate any further responsibility in the matter.

13 November, 1927.
Site Admin
Posts: 30224
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 9:53 am


My distinguished and, I gather from a convenient autobiography, incomparably clever junior, Lord Birkenhead, has recently been abusing me in speech and book. With the deep parental bay mingles the sharp undergraduate bark of Lord Furneaux, his promising son. It seems to be a family affair. Some answer is desirable. I do not see why I should pretend to a high and mighty line with these gentlemen and affect a disregard I do not feel. What they have to say is interesting and worth discussing.

Lord Birkenhead would be impossible in America; the American lawyer at his wickedest is still a pompous concealing sort of figure, but Lord Birkenhead has displayed a disregard of personal dignity that verges on the outrageous. He is the gamin of Lord Chancellors, the bright promise of a better age when, in the midst of robes and dignities, the man will be, if anything, rather more the man for "a’ that.” No public figure in America would dare to bend and unbend like our Lord Birkenhead.

This biography I speak of ("Lord Birkenhead,” by "Ephesian”), since it contains precise details of its hero's early earnings, anecdotes of incidents at which "no reporters were present," and so forth, must either have been written from his direct inspiration or by some intensely familiar spirit, and it exhibits as smart a specimen of the "Card" type as the world can ever honestly wish to see. No end of a fellow he is, and we are told with immense detail and appreciation how he called Judge Willis to his face in his own court a "garrulous old county court judge,” and snapped back at a witness who had mentioned the village idiot, "I see — a relation.” Much more of such brilliance. Among the cherished testimonials — they began early, for the wet-nurse came near to foretelling the Woolsack and school governors said, "Watch him!"— I find myself on record as declaring that he is "the greatest man in England,” If I did I was unconscious at the time or talking of somebody else. But manifestly there are lots of other people who did say it. Mr. Asquith, "in the presence of Mr. Balfour,” came near it, and it will be easy to substitute a better name for mine in a later edition of this revealing book.

Lord Birkenhead, one learns, is not only a great success as a lawyer and politician, but a very important figure in literature, and by way of proof I have before me a copy of his "Law, Life and Letters,” two handsome volumes, as dignified anyhow as paper and print can make them. They are mostly what a journalist would call articles, but I suppose for a writer of Lord Birkenhead’s standing we should substitute "essays.” One or two I judge to be after-dinner speeches rather too faithfully reported. They are done in a prose of the kind that in the last century was known as Telegraphese and carried to its highest levels by Mr, George Augustus Sala, a fine fabric of ornate but familiar phrases which produces an effect of strength and dignity and makes little demand for close attention upon the reader. Occasionally, indeed, one finds an arresting sentence. For example, in discussing the murder of a girl of sixteen, he writes: "The mother of the murdered child stated that, although living with her at the time of death, the girl had been brought up by another person whom her husband on his deathbed had asked to undertake the guardianship of her child.” That pulls up the reader for a moment and makes him think. But for the most part the stuff flows without an interruption, easily and as one might expect, like the procession of a Judge on Circuit with the street well cleared ahead.

Much of his matter concerns the greater figures of our time, "The Truth about Margot Asquith "or "Milestones of my Life,” for example. Other of the articles deal with the practice of the law in its spicier aspects, and others again with political issues. I have heard about Lord Birkenhead from his youth up as a great controversialist, and I refresh my mind with a brilliance — "brilliant” is his peculiar adjective, and I make no apology for its frequent repetition — that middle age has scarcely dimmed. To a protest that the Bolsheviks are not all robbers and assassins, for example, he retorts in big print, that has all the effect of a deafening shout, "They are.” Simply that. How warmly every one who agrees with him will agree with him on that point! In a crowded court or a public meeting I have no doubt that shout would have been decisive; only a still more energetic man with very stout lungs indeed would have had a chance against it. But the written word does not triumph and pass; it remains for further consideration. This is just one of several passages where I find the habits of the successful speaker carrying the less habituated writer beyond the recognised discretions of the writer’s art, of which he is an amateur, brilliant of course, but an amateur. It is not for me to question the truth about the lady he calls Margot Asquith, or to comment upon the rough fun of the law-courts over this or that wretched misdemeanour, but I have a certain claim to discuss a literary matter. He. embarks upon criticism and lays down the law about the novel, and I find it pretty bad law. When this glittering torrent of prose comes into my own quarter and even with a certain clamour invades, so to speak, my individual court- yard, I feel that any failure to put in an appearance might be misconstrued.

Lord Birkenhead, brilliant advocate that he is, confuses the issue a little by personal invective, but it is easy to disentangle it again. The issue is whether it is permissible and desirable, in a novel of contemporary life, to name and let one’s characters discuss, as I have done in "The World of William Clissold" and "Meanwhile,” prominent living people. The irrelevant attack consists in the assumption that this was done deliberately and meanly as a whet to promote the sales of the books. He represents me as "persuading" my publisher to call attention to those personalities, out of which I "make my living.” This is evidently a naive transference of Lord Birkenhead’s own relations with his publisher and his public to my case, and he will no doubt learn with surprise that I have practically nothing to do with the methods of the firm to whom my agents, Messrs, A. P. Watt & Son, nowadays entrust the issue of my books in Great Britain, and that in the case of the two novels in dispute my only intervention was a protest at the stress that was being put upon the matter in question. But I will not dwell upon that. The question of real names and real people in a book is of much more general interest, and since it affects the whole future of the novel, it is worth some further discussion.

The tradition of the English novel is, I admit, dead against me in this matter. The English novel as we knew it some fifty years ago was excessively pseudonymous. This extended not only to persons but places. The lovers would meet in "the little village of X." Hardy wove a fabric of fictitious lives across Wessex, and even such respectable places as Dorchester and Winchester take on an alias, and add the excitement of identification to the natural interest of the story, I have never been able to share in that excitement, I do not see why a town exactly like Dorchester, in- tended to be recognised as Dorchester and identified with Dorchester, should not be called Dorchester forthwith and have done with it, just as I do not see why Mr. Arnold Bennett, when he writes about the Five Towns, does not call Burslem, Burslem, and Newcastle, Newcastle. The older novelists so far as place names went were more downright. At all times and in all novels whatever London has remained London and Paris Paris. I recall no instance of London being masked as Georgetown, let us say, the great capital of Bingland, or Paris being thinly veiled as Seineville. Dickens varied in his practice, but his disposition was to be frank about his topography. Mr. Tulkinghorn was killed fairly and squarely in an identifiable house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, and Took’s Court is hardly so much disguised as misspelt Cook’s Court.

To-day the scene of the English and American novel becomes realistic in everything but the actual foreground. There we have the parlour of No. 7, Blank Street, or the chancel of the parish church of Dashington, but the trains run fair and square into Liverpool Street or Paddington, and the eloping pair get off the afternoon boat at Boulogne and catch the train to Paris in strict accordance with the time-table. If the heroine sticks her head out of the carriage at Grosvenor Road and says "Good-bye, dirty old London,” no Lord Birkenhead hectors the author for making a living "by an illegitimate and unjust criticism (thrust into the mouth of a character who is a mere mask for himself) of the cleanest, etc, etc. The common sense of the reading and critical public has long ago accepted the necessity of putting "real places "into fiction under their proper names and of admitting comment on and discussion of them. Why should there be any objection to the same thing being done with the cardinal figures in the contemporary social landscape?

To answer that is to realise very extensive changes that are in progress in the common texture of life to-day. In the days of Jane Austen it was possible to write a novel, giving the mental life of decent folk in England, with not a glance at political, social or economic changes. Life and its processes had such an air of established stability upon her countryside that it was possible for her to ignore the battle of Waterloo and disregard the infinitely remote social distresses of manufacturing England. Life went on inside a frame of public events so remote that no connection was apprehended between the two. If the squire babbled politics, what he said mattered no more than the odd things said by his lady when she had a fever. And even in the great novels of the Dickens-Thackeray-George Eliot period, in Flaubert, in the chief novels of pre-revolutionary Russia, the march of large events was so remote that it could be still treated as the stars or China or the structure of the atom are still treated to-day, as irrelevant altogether. Even wars could be kept "off stage" in novels in English, at any rate until 1914. When they come in, as the war in North Italy comes into some of Meredith’s novels, they come in externally, as scenery, as an uncontrollable outer event with which the action of the novel has no connection. The common flow of human life — and therefore the normal novel — was going on right up to the opening decade of the twentieth century, with slight and negligible reactions to formal government or conspicuous personalities. To-day that is no longer true.

To-day, just as the world is growing smaller, as people say, because communications grow more rapid, so also public and collective life is growing intenser and penetrating the private individual life more and more. We ordinary people are in closer touch with the direction of affairs, and it with us. The personalities concerned are not only more clearly and fully known, but they react more upon us. And the drive of change is far more perceptible. Institutions and standards that seemed to be established altogether and completely unchallengeable in the novel of fifty years ago are now challenged and changing; and the discussion of such changes, which was once unthinkable for ordinary people, is now a determining factor in their lives. People like Lord Birkenhead complain that in my novels, instead of picturing life, I discuss it. I certainly have it discussed. It is impossible to picture contemporary life without discussion. People who are not discussing now are not alive. No doubt it is hard to report people thinking in character as well as acting in character, and I admit I do it at times atrociously, but it has to be done. I plead the pioneer’s right to be clumsy. Better be clumsy than shirk the way we have to go.

I happen to have lived as a novelist through the dawning realisation of this change in the relations of private and public events, and to have felt my way before I saw it clearly towards the new methods this change has made necessary. I began, when I found that I wanted to convey the social scenery and put in some of its more characteristic peaks and prominences, by the old-established method of the more or less modified real person under a false name. I have found that method out. It is an utterly rotten method. It had been practised by the masters before me; compare, for example, the Marquis of Steyne in "Vanity Fair.” Let me give quite frankly a particular case of my own. My chief character in "The New Machiavelli was an ambitious young man who came into Parliament with the big Liberal wave in the opening decade of this century. Such a young man was bound to get into some relations with the Fabian Society and to be in touch with and meet and get points of view from Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb. They all did. The influence of that house in Grosvenor Road was immense. If that phase was to be left out the story would get so out of drawing as to be unreal. Well, I hold now that I ought to have put these two people into my novel by name, just as I put in the Speaker or Palace Yard. They were just as much a part of the scene. Then I should have treated them discreetly and properly. People in my book might have abused them, or people might have praised them; it would have been fair and square. But, under the influence of the old tradition, I put in some people in the place of the Webbs, rather like them, but not exactly them. These phantoms who were like, but yet not identified with my friends, got worked into the story. One was amused to invent things about them, and one did so because one had released oneself from direct statement. They are not the Webbs, but only Webby people. I succumbed to the temptation of making it rather a lark. But every one recognised the "originals,” so what was the good of the sham concealment? Every one said, naturally enough, that I had made a malicious caricature. (In fiction all caricature is called "malicious,” which is where Law gets the laugh of us.) Except Mr. and Mrs. Webb, who took it very cheerfully and charmingly and refused to make a quarrel of it to please their ardent friends. And there was a Balfouresque Mr. Evesham too in that novel. And these quasi-Webbs and this quasi-Balfour set all the hunters of "originals" agog to hunt identifications up and down the wretched book. Heavens! the bore that has been to me! For years I could not write a book without having half the characters identified each with a dozen different "originals.” And any figures left over at last, bless their hearts! were me.

The roman a cle is not the way to handle the political novel. But if we are not to put in prominent people under false names, we must put them in under their own names or destroy the reality of the human scenery altogether. There is nothing left for the novel nowadays but crime and adultery, if public life, economic forces and the highly individualised personalities directing them are to be taboo. That is how the novel has gone in France. I do not believe it is the way it is going in England.

In brief, the difference between the modern novel and the novel of the last century is this, that then the drive of political and mercantile events and the acts of their directing personalities scarcely showed above the horizon of the ordinary life, and now they do. My refined contemporaries who explain to interviewers that there is nothing real in their novels are not really keeping close to simple humanity; they are merely keeping on the old course while humanity turns into the new.

So it is that when my Lord Birkenhead comes home weary to his fireside after calling some eminent fellow-lawyer an old fool, or deriding the Labour Party, or insulting Russia, or otherwise bearing the heavy burthen of imperial responsibilities, he no longer finds his former pleasure in my work. He goes through "Clissold" and finds himself mentioned, indeed, but not as "Ephesian" would do. He reads "Meanwhile "and finds himself not mentioned at all. The way I deal with Mr. Baldwin makes him indignant. I cease to be the solace of his exhausted mind. He gives me up, He casts me aside and reads other novelists. He thinks so little about me nowadays that he breaks out about it in speeches at literary dinners and drags it into these physically imposing volumes. I have become so unmentionable upon his domestic hearth that even the shrill, small voice of Lord Furneaux echoes that magnificent disregard.

I hate not to be loved. I was happier in the old days when, on every occasion of encountering Lord Birkenhead, he recited the same obvious compliments. But I do not think the development of the modern novel will be retarded very much by his aversion.

11 December, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 30224
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am

Re: The Way the World Is Going: Guesses & Forecasts of The Y

Postby admin » Fri Oct 11, 2019 10:03 am


A NUMBER of people, including many whose intelligence and achievements in other directions one is bound to respect, believe and carry on a propaganda to spread their belief in a world of spirits, disembodied human beings for the most part, in fact what we used to call ghosts, which exists invisibly and intangibly side by side with our world of commonplace things, but which is capable of slight but significant physical and mental interference with this material, everyday, daylight world.

This belief, or something very like it, has been held by a certain number of people in nearly every age. One can trace it continuously through the last three centuries, It has always been stoutly denied by a considerable number of people and generally disregarded by the mass of active human beings. In earlier times, the powers of the spirits invoked by the necromancers seem to have been greater than they are to-day. They could inflict serious physical injuries and associate themselves with a cult of witches and warlocks, unpleasant in their habits and now happily unfashionable. Then they were more generally respected. They were respected rather than liked. The chief solicitude of the believer seems to have been to find expedients to keep them at a distance. But now they have mended their manners, and the chief solicitude of a number of people seems to be to develop this intercourse even at the price of very considerable fatigue and boredom.

Why is there so general a disregard now of allegations which, if true, should have the profoundest reaction upon our whole lives? Sir Oliver Lodge and Sir Conan Doyle ask this question in tones of natural astonishment. They have produced evidence of the real existence of this other world which they believe to be convincing. Sir Oliver Lodge has drawn back the veil on a sort of sublimated Hampstead, and Sir Conan Doyle has drawn back quite a number of veils. His latest book records the communications of an individual named "Pheneas,” through various media, to himself and his family, and he asks me to note the extraordinary quality and significance of the mind of Pheneas thus displayed. I am sorry to say I can find none of the qualities Sir Conan seems to expect me to observe. Pheneas seems to me a platitudinous bore and a reckless maker of vague promises. Ever since the end of 1922 he has been promising wonderful changes for the better in human life and knowledge, "the biggest thing in the earth’s history" and so forth. Well, here is Christmas, 1927.

Now I hate to seem derisive of two such men as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Sir Oliver Lodge. I know something of the trade of story-writing, and I acknowledge Sir Conan Doyle as a master. I can peep up at the scientific achievements of Sir Oliver Lodge. But in this matter of the ghosts they put the evidence before us and invite us to judge for ourselves. A priori I find their ghosts and their ghost worlds incredible. And when they produce their evidence to convince me that this queer extra- existence does go on, I am bound to confess I find it unconvincing.

Now the fact that I find the ghost world revealed by these gentlemen far less attractive than an everlasting peace does not prove that such a world does not exist. It may be my fate to follow our old friend E. W. Hornung into that world of vague featureless satisfaction and hang about spots of "light "in order to transmit to earth through unattractive strangers the startling news that "This is wonderful,” and that I am "sorry and realise things" (never explicitly stated) now. I may be brought to confess that "I like this place. There is peace here, and beautiful vibrations. God bless you" (five times!), and suchlike maunderings. But I want very sound evidence indeed that this dismal substitute for the pungent liveliness of our present existence, its tender and flaming moments and its sweet earthliness, awaits me, before I resign myself to it, and so we come down to the material proofs.

I have done my best to sample the very large mass of records available. No doubt I start with a bias against the evidence, and that the reader must allow for, but I have been prepared to go on into the details of any group of investigations that produced a prima facie case. But I find that I am not given phenomena that I can scrutinise, recall and examine in any way that pleases me. I am asked to make immense concessions before the evidence can be put before me. A person called the Medium, it is explained, has to be considered. He or she is the material vehicle of the phenomena. Most Mediums have been caught cheating. This, I am to grant, may be due to a peculiar temperamental weakness frequently associated with psychic gifts. Or to nasty, vulgar, had ghosts.

I am to believe my eyes and ears. When a conjurer seems to me to take a large new-laid egg out of the top of his head, I am allowed to say that he has successfully deceived me without pretending to know how the trick was done, but when an entranced Medium produces the pet name of an old schoolfellow long deceased out of his head, I am asked to believe at once in all the explanations he gives of spirit controls, high and low spirits and so forth, unless I can trace every step by which he came to utter a name he had no right to know.

Moreover, I must go into favourable rooms for the phenomena and sit for a long time in a light so bad that it is the next thing to complete darkness. I must be still and not hostile. I must sit there until my fagged attention wanders. Many people must sleep at seances. But they never mention it. And dream. Possibly as they expect to dream. I must not complain if after some hours of such horrible boredom nothing ensues. I must be "fair "to the spirits and try again.

In some slightly incoherent way these moral and intellectual revelations of the ghosts which reveal nothing, which at best touch trivially upon quite minor matters in the intimate life, are inextricably mixed up with queer material phenomena. These are "materialisations."

Most Mediums are committed to these material phenomena, and by them their reputations stand or fall. There is this "ectoplasm,” which is our earthly foretaste of the wonderful loveliness of over there. Queer stuff, sometimes queer-smelling stuff, is exuded by the Mediums in the obscurity, often rather disagreeably. Its texture and appearance varies very greatly. This exudation defies all our daylight experiences of physical and chemical phenomena. It leaps in its character across gulfs that it has taken normal life vast ages to traverse. It becomes organised, in a few minutes, we are assured, as skin, muscle, nerve. It takes on the character of limbs, of heads, of entire quasi-human beings who move about.

Artists, like John Tissot, attending such seances have put on record their impression of these exuded beings in all their dignity and beauty. In Paris an International Metapsychic Institute has been endowed for these experimentations, and the late Dr. Geley, a man of high scientific standing, produced a considerable book giving cases in which beautiful beings from another world have been exuded by Mediums, snapshotted in all their beauty and returned again through the pores and passages of the Mediums into that marvellous other world.

I have looked at Geley’s illustrations with interest. I note that the hands of the Medium when they appear in these pictures do not seem to be held as he says they were held. The head and face of a young woman are visible projecting from the body of the Medium, and it is certainly a very pretty face, rather of the Mona Lisa type, but when Dr. Geley assures me that it is a substantial face, I find myself sceptical. The eyes, the eyelids, the mouth and pose and expression, of this being coming into our world from the mysterious outside, remain absolutely the same throughout the seance in a series of photographs. But living eyes move. Living lips breathe. Living eyelids quiver. These do not. Living souls display interest. The more one looks at these pictures the less like a living face that face is seen to be and the more like a face painted or photographed on some distensible bladder. Dr. Geley considers many possibilities of fraud, but he never considers the part distensible pellicles may play in these manifestations. I find it more intelligible to suppose that this was the particular device adopted in this case than to suppose the hundred incredible things that are involved if one accepts this appearance as a "materialised" ghost.

Years ago in "Love and Mr. Lewisham I ventured to hint that the possibilities of distensible skins were far too much neglected in the criticism of spiritualistic seances. Dr. Geley^s ideas recall that idea very vividly.

Another point about the material evidence for these phenomena upon which Sir Oliver Lodge, Sir Conan Doyle and their associates rest their belief in a whole second universe of immortal spirits interwoven with our own, is its unprogressive and unconfirmatory character. As Dr. Fournier d’Albe has recently pointed out in "Nature,” these phenomena keep on repeating themselves with variations in the same vague and inconclusive way without ever coming to a gripping demonstration. In spite of the promises of "Pheneas," they never get on. There are changes in fashion, but no progress. With the tightening up of observation and the introduction of photography and moulds, for example, the noble and exalted figures put on record by John Tissot give place to these pellicular faces, to grotesque and horrible half-shapen things, and even to mere suggestively shaped lumps.

With the introduction of proper and complete photographic records of the mutterings of entranced Mediums there will probably be a very considerable diminution in the characteristic flavour that now makes the recognition of the revenants so facile. The phenomena still abound, but they deteriorate in quality even if they increase in abundance. We are told of floods of spiritual light, and, behold, "Pheneas speaks!" Wonderful prophecies are spoken of. Where are they?

For me the most fatal line of thought for all this stuff lies in the steadily changing ideas of modern people about individuality. Beneath all these necromancies is an assumption of the complete and incur- able integrity of the eternal human person from the rest of the universe. The normal man, who is unaccustomed to analysis, assumes, it may be too readily, that his self is something detached and vis a vis with all other things. It may end, but it cannot amalgamate.

But that may be no more than an innate delusion by which for our lifetimes we carry on a fight for certain qualities and characteristics against our environment. We are self-centred for the ends of life, and we are most of us so richly endowed with self-love and self-appreciation that we find it extremely difficult to imagine or tolerate an existence turning on some other centre to which we may be merely incidental and contributory. Yet we lay aside self in deep sleep, and in our moments of greatest exaltation, and for most of us who are over thirty, the self of childhood has already faded out for us.

We may be but parts of a larger whole, as the quivering cells in our living bodies are parts of us. Perhaps the blood corpuscles in our arteries have a dim sense of being living individuals in a crowded thoroughfare. Perhaps we ourselves share a mightier immortality. Perhaps the dear lives we have loved close to our own are finished and done, not like something ended and cast away, but like beautiful deeds done for ever and fruitful for ever.

I do not know how new these ideas are to the reader, but he will find them set out very strikingly from the biological side in such a book as Huxley and Haldane’s recent volume on "Animal Biology.” Along that line he will come to conceptions of individuality and personality that will make the idea of Pheneas, who lived at Ur before the time of Abraham and was an Arab, "a magnificent man, honoured by all who knew him,” who is "a great power" in the spirit world, and who now attends Sir Conan Doyle’s lectures, directs his lecturing tours, advises in the choice of a new house, tells him when to take a day off in bed, knows "Johanna of Arc,” considers "the state of the churches a scandal,” and likes the room dark, as infantile and inadmissible as the nursery belief in Santa Claus or Old Bogey on the Stairs. "Pheneas appears to be a new way of spelling Phineas,” and the learned tell us that Phineas is probably of Egyptian origin and means negro. Racial snobbery perhaps accounts for Pheneas claiming to be an Arab. This Pheneas, I venture to think, is an impostor, wrought of self-deception, as pathetic as a rag doll which some lonely child has made for its own comfort.

The men of Ur have lived and passed like the light upon the specks in yesterday’s sunbeam that glowed upon my retina. Ur the ancient is dust to-day, and mounds of rubbish and disused and worn-out things, and all its individual lives are a fading memory. If ever a gentleman with the un-Ur-like name of Pheneas enlivened its streets, he melted back into the universal stream of being when his enlivening was done. But Ur was a place of events and a seed of consequences that live and continue so long as man endures. And we too live and pass, reflecting for our moment, and in the measure of our capacity, the light and wonder of the Eternal.

And is not that enough?

25 December, 1927.  
Site Admin
Posts: 30224
Joined: Thu Aug 01, 2013 5:21 am


Return to Ancien Regime

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 2 guests