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The spirit of the old New England writers is in this book, modernized and individualized. The narrative has a pleasant flavor of Washington Irving, without being in the least imitative or old-fashioned.
DEATH AND ITS MYSTERY: AT THE MOMENT OF DEATH. By Camille Flammarion. New York: The Century Company.
M. Flammarion is bent upon treating the subject of super-normal phenomena systematically and on thus demonstrating survival of bodily death beyond cavil. In a previous volume he has written of manifestations before death. The present book is to be followed by one relating to communications of departed spirits.
The author's method, though a little unusual, seems logically justifiable. Once establish the fact of telepathy between living persons, and between those living and those at the point of death, and the way is open for belief in communications from the dead to the living-always provided, of course, that we can in these latter cases exclude the possibility of influence from living persons. Now since, in view of the mass of accumulated evidence, it would seem mere prejudice to declare telepathy impossible, why may we not, upon the publication of M. Flammarion's next work, swallow the whole spiritualistic dose?
In the first place, while Flammarion's collection of cases is as large and quite as interesting as any that may be found in the works of any other writer, there is in them, as in all such compilations, a terrible monotony, a deadening unsatisfactoriness. This kind of unsure and unperfect revelation is not to one's taste; it does little more than harrow one's feelings.
In the second place, we have to consider the possible results of such investigations. It is altogether too easy to assume that they can have but one result. Surely one can sympathize fully with those patient investigators who, like M. Flammarion, have submitted to obloquy in the exploration of what they deem a pathway to truth and whose efforts are continually hampered by prejudice and by a somewhat cowardly disposition to conceal facts. But supposing all these researches should end simply in relegating all spiritualistic phenomena to the domain of morbid psychology, in establishing a new branch of psychology, perhaps, or even a new branch of physics, but without discovering anything in the least satisfying to our higher nature? There are signs that this result is by no means impossible. Those who enter upon these investigations from the standpoint of the physical sciences come out with scientific or pseudo-scientific results, while those who go into them in a religious frame of mind come out with the faith wherewith they went in. Meanwhile moth and rust do not cease to corrupt nor thieves to break through and steal. Except in exceptional cases, where there is constant "communication" through mediums, the bereaved do not seem happier than before, and in these latter cases the effect upon character seems questionable. Spirit messages amount to nothing. If the whole mass of alleged phenomena should be reduced to
coldly scientific facts, a period of pronounced unfaith would almost certainly ensue. This does not deny the chance that the spiritualists may ultimately arrive, but in the meantime what of those who have pinned their faith to occultism?
The truth seems to be that the study of the occult is a science in its crude and early stages. Its professors should be unmolested, but those who are in haste to popularize what they believe themselves to have learned are not doing so great a service to humanity as they imagine. The reader attracted by this kind of reading may generally be assured that if he has examined a comprehensive work like Henry Holt's Cosmic Relations he will find little to satisfy his further curiosity in other works upon the supernormal.
MEMOIRS OF A CLUBMAN. By G. B. Burgin. New York: E. P. Dutton and Company.
The title of Mr. Burgin's book hardly does it justice, since for some reason or other it suggests a rather superficial view of the world. But active as the author has been in club life, his autobiography is really the story of an author's career. The two best qualities of the narrative are its humor and its ill-concealed spirit of helpfulness. Mr. Burgin, according to his own account, "drifted into writing", a profession which he (like many another man) has found to be both a source of interest and a questionable blessing. To read a little between the lines, Mr. Burgin, though he has been highly successful, has not the consolation of feeling that he is great. But many a young man will, in the course of human events, "drift into writing", and still more, both old and young have leanings that way. Of these few or none can aspire to greatness.
Born in Croydon, England, in 1856, Mr. Burgin early fell victim to the sentiment that leads young fellows to write. A dwarf, Jerry Oletenshaw, who was his boon companion in his 'teens, confirmed him in his literary bent. "Jerry consorted a great deal with the Gypsies on the Common, and, in some mysterious way born of suffering, had acquired an insight into the future. 'You will travel,' he said. 'You will travel into strange lands and meet with many things. Store them in your heart and write books.' At that time," Burgin adds, "it seemed to me the summit of human felicity to be able to write books. Sometimes the gods answer our prayers in order to punish us for having made them."
When eighteen, the author won a copy of Goldsmith's Deserted Village “in an alleged literary competition." His father, perceiving that the literary life had laid fast hold upon him, sent him out to Canada, in order that he might at least have something to write about before he attempted to write. This Canadian episode is an idyl, curiously real, remarkably affecting in its contrast with the atmosphere of the great world which pervades all other parts of the book. Mr. Burgin says just enough about his honest friends at Four Corners and his lost love, Sheila Campbell, to leave an unforgettable impression.
Every author, unless he be great enough to be a sort of monomaniac, must be many-sided. The literary emotions, the capacity for solitude and sentiment which is an almost inevitable concomitant of his talent, must be checked by stimulating human associations. A man must "look into his own heart and write", but he must also knock about a bit. Mr. Burgin did both. Returning from Canada, he became secretary to Valentine Baker Pasha, sojourned in Constantinople, and journeyed through Asia Minor. On a later visit to his old Canadian haunts, he spent some time in a Trappist monastery, obtaining there the impressions which he afterwards worked up into his novel Shutters of Silence.
The end of his Near Eastern experience found him without prospects or immediate means of livelihood, and he became that most miserable of beings, a London clerk. From this dead-alive existence he was rescued by Robert Barr. Burgin had written a story of Canadian life which he submitted in a competition instituted by The Detroit Free Press. He did not win the competition, but his story was found good enough to buy, and Barr sought him out. Meanwhile, through an old Canadian friend, the minister at Four Corners, he had made the acquaintance of Wyville Home, the song-writer, who introduced him to that lovable friend of struggling genius, F. W. Robinson, the editor of Home Chimes, and to the literary circle of the Old Vagabonds. Mr. Burgin now had an average favorable start in the world of letters and journalism. He had the good fortune to become secretary to Jerome K. Jerome and eventually subeditor of The Idler, the editorial group of which was one of those rare fellowships of literary knights errant worthy to be commemorated in histories of literature. In time he deserted The Idler to become a reader for Pearson's Magazine, but as his literary reputation grew he gladly abandoned the drudgery of reading (mostly unavailable) manuscripts and turned to wholly independent work.
Fully a third of Mr. Burgin's book is devoted to comments upon the literary life, the experiences of the shop, the methods of well-known authors, and the trials of the young aspirant. His hints, and especially his attitude toward life and toward his profession, should be absorbed by every young person with literary leanings and especially by that majority of young writers who essay to enter literature through the journalistic door. In his advice there is nothing patronizing; it is simply the cheerful, moderately disillusionizing comment of a man who knows. He who reads this book understandingly will learn how to take himself seriously enough to do good work without becoming self-centered, and how to keep his necessary literary vanity in its place without becoming a futile self-censor.
A mellow humor, with a sharp tang of common sense, makes the book a sort of guide to worldly wisdom properly so-called, while the author's rare ability to make fun of himself while he criticizes others makes all his observations more telling. But most of all, the narrative is remarkable for its anecdotes about noteworthy people, great and small, and for the personal touch that alone makes anecdotes acceptable.
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
ARISTOTLE ON MAN AND THE STATE
In the July issue of your magazine in an article on Men and Nations, Aristotle is quoted as follows from Jowett's translation:
It is evident that the State is a creation of nature and that man is by nature a political animal. The State is by nature clearly prior to the family and the individual, since the whole is of necessity prior to the part.
Professor Brown interprets these sentences as "Aristotle's assertion that man is the product and not the creator of organized society". I venture to think that this is a quite mistaken interpretation of the idea, and that Aristotle would not have recognized his thought in the transformation to which Professor Brown subjects it.
We moderns never easily realize the extent to which Greek thought is permeated by the assumption of final causes. Criticism today seeks origins in efficient causes; the classical Greek (as also the theologian of the Middle Ages and the Reformation) sought origins in the end which nature (or God) was assumed to have had in view. Aristotle's full thought was something like this:
The city-state is the perfected ideal of civilization foreordained by the decrees of nature; there in each one of us [thus the Greek Jowett translates as "individual"] and the family as well find the raison d'etre of their existence; just as the whole implies the existence of parts which find the explanation of their being and nature in the purpose subserved by the whole.
It is curious that the illustration of Aristotle, "since the whole is of neccessity prior to the part," should not have put one on guard. For, to take How could the whole Is not the teleological
роTEроv as implying priority in time is meaningless. be prior to the parts save in the purposes of nature? implication overwhelmingly obvious?
Lack of space forbids a reference to the full argument of the Politics, which is indisputably destructive of the thesis that Aristotle ever thought or said that man was the product and not the creator of society. One could more properly demonstrate that such a conception would have been to that great critic wholly incomprehensible; for it is informed with the assumption of efficient causes and therefore strictly alien to Greek thought.
CHARLES H. BURR.
THE "ARTISAN POET" OF WALES
You may remember my article in your journal, An Artisan Poet, in February last. I have just heard from Mr. Menai Williams to the effect that a new edition of his book of poetry, Through the Upward Shaft, is being published by Messrs. Hodder and Stoughton, London, England; also, that another volume by the same author will probably be published in the autumn.
I write this to you because I have received so many inquiries, both directly and through you, as to the publishers and sellers of Through the Upward Shaft. I think it would benefit lovers of literature generally if you could insert a note or even this letter to this effect in your valuable and influential REVIEW.
DEWI J. WILLIAMS.
Bulawayo, South Africa.
IN DEFENSE OF THE GARBAGE CAN
I do not wish the title to be taken in too literal a sense, since it is written in the form of a rebuttal to the argument put forth in THE NORTH AMERICAN REVIEW by Elizabeth Robins Pennell. While her article started as a contemnation upon the lowly yet altogether too highly visible garbage can she later metamorphized this into the symbol of a national artistic inertia and slovenliness. I am not one of those individuals she refers to "who wears his patriotism upon his sleeve", nor do I consider it a crime to criticize one's own country; providing the criticism is just in its relation to the country as a whole. But her criticism and the examples she sets forth only apply in a sense to a remote part of a heterogeneous mass.
She takes New York as a model for her picture to represent the national shortcomings and with a broad, full brush, sweeps on the pigments in heavy masses obscuring the higher lights and subtiles. She regrets that Americans are so slovenly and that Art is lacking in the mad effort to obtain monetary independence and power, and then goes on to say that "American (art) students are almost as countless as the sands on the shore, and scholarships almost many enough to go the rounds". Surely this would seem an incongruity. While thousands may aspire to painting, sculpture, literature and music, it is only a very small minority who will ever be recognized. For the fruits of genius are not given to every man, and it is only the works of genius which withstand the erosion of the ages.
The "stately old towns of France or Spain or Italy" are doubtless more quaint and picturesque than towns in America-but it is mostly due to their backgrounds and traditions that they appeal to our romantic spirit. In point of cleanliness and sanitation they do not compare with New World methods.
The final and transcendent contradiction is her statement that we should