Sunday, January 31, 2016
The Value of Detective Stories by GK Chesterton 1901
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Why are detective stories popular? In attempting to reach the genuine psychological reason of this it is necessary to rid ourselves of many mere phrases. It is not true, for example, that the populace prefer bad literature to good, and accept detective stories because they are bad literature. The mere absence of artistic subtlety does not make a book popular. Bradshaw’s Railway Guide contains few gleams of psychological comedy, yet it is not read aloud uproariously on winter evenings. If detective stories are read with more exuberance than railway guides it is certainly because they are more artistic. Many good books have fortunately been popular, many bad books, still more fortunately, have been unpopular. A good detective story would probably be even more popular than a bad one. The trouble in this matter is that many people do not realise that there is such a thing as a good detective story: it is to them like speaking of a good devil. To write a story about a burglary is in their eyes a sort of spiritual manner of committing it. To persons of somewhat weak sensibility this is natural enough: it must be confessed that many detective stories are as full of sensational crime as one of Shakespeare’s plays.
There is, however, between a good detective story and a bad detective story as much, or rather more, difference than there is between a good epic and a bad one. Not only is a detective story a perfectly legitimate form of art, but it has certain definite and real advantages as an agent of the public weal.
The first essential value of the detective story lies in this, that it is the earliest and only form of popular literature in which is expressed some sense of the poetry of modern life. Men lived among mighty mountains and eternal forests for ages before they realised that they were poetical; it may reasonably be inferred that some of our descendants may see the chimney-pots as rich a purple as the mountain-peaks, and find the lamp-posts as old and natural as the trees. Of this realisation of a great city itself as something wild and obvious the detective story is certainly the Iliad. No one can have failed to notice that in these stories the hero or the investigator crosses London with something of the loneliness and liberty of a prince in a tale or elfland; that in the course of that incalculable journey the casual omnibus assumes the primal colours of a fairy ship. The lights of the city begin to glow like innumerable goblin eyes, since they are the guardians of some secret, however crude, which the writer knows and the reader does not. Every twist of the road is like a finger pointing to it, every fantastic sky-line of chimney-pots seems wildly and derisively signalling the meaning of the mystery.
This realisation of the poetry of London is not a small thing. A city is, properly speaking, more poetic even than a country side, for while nature is a chaos of unconscious forces, a city is a chaos of conscious ones. The crest of the flower or the pattern of the lichen may or may not be significant symbols. But there is no stone in the street and no brick in the wall that is not actually a deliberate symbol, a message from some man as much as if it were a telegram or a post-card. The narrowest street possesses, in every crook and twist of its intention, the soul of the man who built it, perhaps long in his grave. Every brick has as human a hieroglyphic as if it were a graven brick of Babylon. Every slate on the reef is as educational a document as if it were a slate covered with addition and subtraction. Anything which tends, even under the fantastic form of the minutiae of Sherlock Holmes, to assert this romance of detail in civilisation, to emphasise this unfathomably human character in flints and tiles, is a good thing. It is good that the average man should fall into the habit of looking imaginatively at ten men in the street even if it is only on the chance that the eleventh might be a notorious thief. We may dream, perhaps, that it might be possible to have another and higher romance of London, that men’s souls have stranger adventures than their bodies, and that it would be harder and more exciting to hunt their virtues than to hunt their crimes. But since our great authors (with the admirable exception of Stevenson) decline to write of that thrilling mood and moment when the eyes of the great city like the eyes of a cat to flame in the dark, we must give fair credit to the popular literature which amid a babble of pedantry and preciosity declines to regard the present as prosaic or the common as commonplace. Popular art in all ages has been interested in contemporary manners and costume: it dressed the groups around the Crucifixion in the garb of Florentine gentle-folk or Flemish burghers. In the last century it was the custom for distinguished actors to present Macbeth in a powdered wig and ruffles. How far we are ourselves in this age from such conviction of the poetry of our own life and manners may easily be conceived by anyone who chooses to imagine a picture of Alfred the Great toasting the cakes in tourist’s knickerbockers, or a performance of Hamlet in which the Prince appeared in a frock coat with a crape band round his hat. But this instinct of the age to look back, like Lot’s wife, could not go on for ever. A rude popular literature of the romantic possibilities of the modern city was bound to arise. It has arisen in the popular detective stories, as rough and refreshing as the ballads of Robin Hood.
There is, however, another good work that is done by detective stories. While it is the constant tendency of the Old Adam to rebel against so universal and automatic a thing as civilisation, to preach departure and rebellion, the romance of police activity keeps in some sense before the mind the fact that civilisation itself is the most sensational of departures and the most romantic of rebellions. By dealing with the unsleeping sentinels who guard the outposts of society it tends to remind us that we live in an armed camp, making war a chaotic world, and that the criminals, the children of chaos, are nothing but the traitors within our gates. When the detective in a police romance stands alone, and somewhat fatuously fearless amid the knives and fists of a thieves’ kitchen, it does certainly serve to make us remember that it is the agent of social justice who is the original and poetic figure, while the burglars and footpads are merely placid old cosmic conservatives, happy in the immemorial respectability of apes and wolves. The romance of the police force is thus the whole romance of man. It is based on the fact that morality is the most dark and daring of conspiracies. It reminds us that the whole noiseless and unnoticeable police management by which we are ruled and protected is only a successful knight-errantry.
Of the evil element in detective stories and the causes of the low standard of work in that department I shall speak subsequently. For the present it is enough to point out that this form of art, like every form of art down to a comic song, has the whole truth of the universe behind it.
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Saturday, January 30, 2016
THE CADUCEUS AND ITS SYMBOLISM By ROBERT WILSON, Jr., M. D. 1922
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THE association of the Caduceus with Hermes, or Mercury, the messenger of the gods, and the patron of trade, seems to give no intimation of its right to become the accepted symbol of the medical profession. This right, indeed, has been called into question and the staff of Aesculapius with a single serpent twined around it, is regarded as the correct emblem. The symbolism of the serpent, however, is the same in both, but the winged Caduceus probably embodies an interesting combination of two primitive cults which were associated with the earliest conceptions of the healing art.
According to Garrison, the Caduceus was first used as a medical emblem in the sixteenth century when Johann Froeben, publisher of medical books, employed it as a title page device; and a little later Sir Wm. Butts, physician to Henry viii, used it on his crest. What suggested its use in these instances instead of the Staff of Aesculapius is not clear.
About the middle of the nineteenth century the medical publishing house of J. S. Churchill, of London, employed the Caduceus, and in 1856 it was used on the chevrons of hospital stewards in the United States Army. Later it was adopted by the U. S. Public Health Service, and in 1902 by the United States Army as a designation of medical officers. The Royal Army Medical Corps use the staff with the single serpent which is the form now appearing on the button of the American Medical Association.
The most ancient illustration of the Caduceus which is known is upon the libation vase dedicated by Gudea, King of Lagash, to the god Ningishzida. This figure does not show the wings which usually appear upon the Caduceus of Greek and Roman mythology. This interesting vase was unearthed upon the site of Lagash and Frothingham thinks it indicates the Assyrio-Babylonian origin of the Caduceus which ultimately found its way from Accad and Sumer into the later Greek and Roman civilizations. The date of this vase he places at 3,500 B.C. which corresponds to the beginning of the dynastic period in Egypt. Other chronologies, however, place the accession of Gudea nearly a thousand years later, or about 2,450 B.C. which is about the beginning of the ninth Egyptian dynasty. But already in pre-dynastic Egypt the symbol of the two serpents appears upon the monuments, although not in the identical form as upon the Lagash vase.
The question of the origin of civilization is still under discussion, but the weight of evidence indicates that the civilization of Egypt antedated that of the Mesapotamian states and was the source from which the latter derived much of their culture. We must therefore revert to the history of the older culture and the symbolism in which its conceptions found expression in order to reach an understanding of the real meaning of the winged Caduceus and of its association with the healing art. This leads us to a consideration of two very early forms of worship in which the struggling faith of man took form, serpent worship and sun worship.
The serpent cult originated very early in Egypt, the proto-Egyptians, according to Elliott Smith, being serpent worshippers. Its origin is obscure and need not be discussed in this connection. What interests us here is its early association with the idea of health. Wake says:
One of the leading ideas connected with the serpent was, as we have seen, its power over rain, but another equally influential was its connection with health. That the idea of health was intimately associated with the serpent is shown by the crown form of the asp, or sacred Thermuthes, having been given particularly to Isis, a goddess of life and healing.
The idea of this association persisted for many centuries and became widespread, appearing for example in Gaelic and German folk-lore as a belief that "the white serpent when boiled has the faculty of conferring medicinal wisdom." In the book of Genesis the serpent personifies the evil one and typifies subtlety and cunning; but in Exodus, Moses sets up a brazen serpent-image as a healing agent and it seems to have occupied a place in the worship of the Israelites down to the time of Hezekiah.
Whether serpent worship originated in phallicism or whether the latter developed at some later time is difficult to determine, but at any rate the serpent very early became a symbol of the phallus, the venerated emblem of life and regenerative power. The particular variety of serpent which seems to have possessed special significance was the cobra di capello; and it is clearly this serpent which is figured on so many Egyptian monuments. The sacred uraeus was doubtless the cobra and not, as Max Muller suggests, the asp.
It is a curious and interesting fact that serpent worship and sun worship are found invariably and universally associated. The worship of the sun was probably of earlier origin. Primitive man soon traced the connection between sunshine and the blessings of life and health, and so set up the source of this beneficent influence as the main object of his worship. In his effort to personify in some familiar form this mighty and powerful being who every day moved across the heavens dispensing light and warmth, health and life, the early Egyptians "sought to describe it as a hawk which flew daily across the sky. Therefore, the most popular forms of the solar deity, Ra and Horus, have the form of a hawk or of a hawk-headed man," and at the beginning of the dynastic period the worship of Horus was general throughout Egypt. Instead of being represented always by the complete figure of a hawk, Horus is often symbolized merely by two outstretched wings, or by a winged disc. This winged disc was carried from Egypt to Assyria and Babylonia where it became a common and familiar emblem. In the predynastic period before the northern and southern kingdoms became united, serpent worship flourished especially in Lower Egypt and the capital Buto with its protecting serpent-goddess was the center of the cult, but in both kingdoms "the hawk-god Horus was worshipped as the distinctive deity of both kings." When the two kingdoms became united under Menes about 3,400 B.C, the symbols of the two cults began to appear side by side, and later the king who was the sun-god's representative upon earth adopted the sacred uraeus of the north, which he wore upon his forehead. Elliott Smith is of the opinion that this union of sun and serpent worship was the beginning of an association which later spread over the world. He says:
The fact that the dominion of the sun-god Ra (or Horus) was attained in the northern capital, which was also the seat of serpent worship, led to the association of sun and serpent. From this purely fortuitous blending of the sun's disc with the uraeus, often combined, especially in later times, with the wings of the Horus-Hawk, a symbolism came into being which was destined to spread until it encircled the world from Ireland to America.
The staff of Aesculapius with its single serpent had doubtless a similar Egyptian origin. The Aesculapian cult may be traced to Egyptian sources and the knotted staff with its serpent of later times was probably derived from the sacred uas staff. An interesting relief from the tomb of Amenemhet 1, shows the hawk-headed god Horus presenting the crux ansata, the symbol of life, to the royal hawk which surmounts the Horus name of Amenemhet, behind which is a uas staff with a serpent twined around it, a symbolic representation of the author and giver of life and health conferring upon his earthly representative these divine powers.
The emblems peculiarly indicative of healing would naturally be associated with the special divinity presiding over health, and hence Hermes, who was worshipped in Boeotia as the averter of disease, and who was identified with the Egyptian Thoth, god of letters and of wisdom in general, who also was said to have invented the healing art, most appropriately carried them. There may be another significance in the association of the serpent with Hermes which we cannot overlook. Herodotus says that he was figured by the Pelasgians, who were the prehistoric inhabitants of Greece, as a phallic deity, in which case when the phallic symbolism of the serpent is recalled we readily understand an association whose real meaning became lost when the original phallic character of Hermes was forgotten. The function of Hermes as messenger later seemed to dominate his other functions, and the emblem which he bore at first because he was a god of healing, or a phallic deity, became the kerykeion, or herald's staff. The winged cap and winged sandals also are generally supposed to have been worn because he was the messenger of the gods, but it is quite probable that these as well as the wings of the Caduceus were originally the emblem of the sun-god Horus. A faint memory of the Horus origin of the wings of the Caduceus perhaps lingers in the myth which narrates that Hermes received the emblem in exchange for the lyre from Apollo, who was a sun-god; and it may be of some significance, too, that the hawk was one of the animals sacred to Apollo.
Whether the Caduceus in its present form originated as an Egyptian or as an Assyrian device, the symbolism which it represents dates back to pre-dynastic Egypt. It bears a silent witness to the union of two ancient kingdoms which marks the beginning of history, and to the fusion of two primitive cults whose emblems indicated to man the divine source of life and health, while the use of these ancient emblems to symbolize the medicine of today brings us into touch across the space of more than fifty centuries with the crude primitive beginnings of the healing art and man's earliest striving after truth. The beneficent influence of the symbolic wings of the sun-god doubtless inspired the beautiful words of the prophet Malachi in which we may now see a new meaning and a deeper significance: "Unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of Righteousness arise with healing in his wings."
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Thursday, January 28, 2016
Curious Myths of the Middle Ages By S. Baring-Gould, review in The Athenæum: A Journal of Literature, Science, the Fine Arts 1866
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IN a dozen chapters, in which there is somewhat too much both of fine and flippant writing, Mr. Gould treats, and, if we may take his word for it, disposes of, or demolishes, various traditionary stories, touching the truth or falsehood of some of which the world had come to a sensible decision before he was born. The subjects which he brings before us are the Wandering Jew, Prester John, the Divining Rod, the Seven Sleepers, William Tell, the Dog Gellert, Tailed Men, Antichrist and Pope Joan, the Man in the Moon, the Mountain of Venus, Fatality of Numbers, and the Terrestrial Paradise.
With respect to the story of the Wandering Jew, Mr. Gould asks, “Who can say for certain that it is not true?” and he asserts that “no myth is wholly without foundation.” He quotes Our Lord's words, “There be some standing here which shall not taste of death till they see the kingdom of God;” “and there is no improbability,” he adds, “in Our Lord's words being fulfilled to the letter.” A thousand years elapsed before one of these deathless Jews appeared in the world. There were various assumers of the character, with various stories of their own. One had bidden Jesus go “quicker!” on His way to Calvary, and another had refused Him water, as He paused on His road to the Cross, and to each had been said, “Tarry thou till I come!” When it is remembered that these Wandering Jews were received at great men's tables and were kept as guests as long as they had any wild story to tell (they all grew old till they were a hundred, and then began again, at the age at which Christ found them), it is simply astonishing that we do not hear more of these clever and erratic parasites. Mr. Gould has his finger on a good many of them, but he has overlooked the last on the mysterious roll. From the year 1818 (perhaps earlier) to about 1830, a handsomely-featured Jew, in semi-eastern costume, fair-haired, bare-headed, his eyes intently fixed on a little ancient book he held in both hands, might be seen gliding through the streets of London, but was never seen to issue from or to enter a house, or to pause upon his way. He was popularly known as “the Wandering Jew,” but there was something so dignified anxious in his look, that he was never known to suffer the slightest molestation. Young and old looked silently on him as he passed, and shook their heads pitifully when he gone by. He disappeared, was seen again in London some ten years later, still young, fair-haired, bare-headed, his eyes bent on his book, his feet going steadily forward as he went straight on; and men again whispered as he glided through our streets for the last time, “The Wandering Jew!” There were many who believed that he was the very man to whom had been uttered the awful words, “Tarry thou till I come!”
The tradition of this errant Jew was little more than a century old when a rumour spread over Europe that there existed a powerful Christian priest and emperor in Asia who had broken the power of those whom Mr. Gould styles “Mussulmen,” and was coming to the assistance of the Crusaders. The latter were in such need of the help, that the report was probably first started by the promoters of Crusades, whose business it was to raise men and subscriptions of money. It was a bit of Stock Exchange or Limited Liability rascality of that day. A thundering letter from Prester John himself, bristling with mendacity and denouncing lying as a baseness worthy of death, was circulated throughout Europe. At various times, various names were assigned to this pseudo-being, and various localities as his seat of empire. He is sometimes, and not without some reason perhaps, identified with a conquering Tartar Khan, who was not under Moslem influences; but Mr. Gould has perhaps hit the right nail on the head when he assigns the Prester John myth to the “wonderful successes of Nestorianism in the East,” which doubtless gave rise to a marvellous amount of lying. Something resembling the character of Prester John may, however, be seen in a sacerdotal monarch such as the King of Abyssinia.
The Divining Rods employed in charms, if not older than the Jews, were well known and in use long before the Wandering Jew began to walk, or Prester John kept his stationary state in Cloudland. The rod,as a special means for divining the hidden presence of water, metals, and criminals, was not much known in Europe before the fifteenth century. The most wonderful feats were performed by it, in presence of unbiassed and scrutinizing persons; yet the performers invariably broke down under continued supervision. Nevertheless, undeniably wonderful feats were performed by the alleged agency of the rod. These were really so full of wonder, that it would be matter for greater wonder still to find them attributed to the rod if they might be more truly ascribed to any other means, whereby the result would be equally miraculous. Some of the stories cited by Mr. Gould are nothing less than astounding: there is enough evidence to convince one of the efficacy of the rod in properly endowed hands, and quite enough also to satisfy us that the ablest of diviners by the rod were, if not absolute rogues, utterly without power under stringent tests. Mr. Gould states that in Wiltshire the rod “is still employed for the purpose of detecting water,”—the rod bending or turning in the hand of the bearer, to indicate that there is water beneath the soil. It is even said that there are persons who cannot pass over hidden water or metals without a painful sensation, which enables them to assert the presence below of what is concealed from all other persons.
The story of the Seven Sleepers of Ephesus, Christian men who fell asleep under Decius (AD 250) and awoke under Theodosius (479), is really of older birth than any of the myths we have been considering. Endymion, Epimenides, and others, slept before the Ephesian sleepers, and since them others have not lacked, including Rip van Winkle. Mr. Gould asserts that Napoleon Bonaparte is still believed by the French peasantry to be sleeping somewhere, like Charlemagne, ready when “time and the hour” arrive for his mission. This is an echo of Béranger’s song; the French peasantry can hardly believe in a returning Napoleon the First when they see on the throne an abiding Napoleon the Third; and if the first could awake and come back, how unwelcome he would be, and what pretty work he would make of it!
We agree with Mr. Gould in the probability of the story of the Seven Sleepers being founded on the possible fact of their having suffered under Decius and of their remains having been discovered under Theodosius. But having allowed thus much, he overturns the theory by expressing his own belief that the myth of the Seven Sleepers is only "a Christianized myth of Paganism." While inferring that these Ephesians never slept, he turns to the most sacred page in Swiss history to maintain that William Tell was never awake! “I can show,” he says, “that the story of William Tell is as fabulous as—what shall I say?—any other historical event.” His method of arriving at such end is to point to various similar stories in the history of many nations far and near; and some of these are of the utmost singularity. But Gessler may have heard of any one of them; and because Tell was an expert archer and had a son, he may have resorted to the same means of punishing him for disrespect to the Austrian symbol of power. However this may be, the author annihilates the personality of the Swiss patriot, on the ground of the universality of the legend with its various heroes, and he commences his attack on the next myth, “The Dog Gellert,” with the self-complacent remark, “Having demolished William Tell, I proceed to the destruction of another article of popular belief.” He does not allude to the adverse sifting of the story by learned German critics who are expert at making facts agree with their theory, and who have exasperated all Switzerland accordingly; not that the Swiss have treated their demi-god with much more real respect. The statue they have erected to him in the market-place of his native town of Altorf is certainly the most hideous idol before which “popular belief" ever performed an act of worship.
The Ancient Britons of the present time will be as little grateful as the Swiss for the demolition of one of their favourite stories. Here, Mr. Gould is really a demolisher. The story of the hound which was slain by its knightly master, who supposed it had killed his child, whereas Gellert had really preserved its life by slaying the wolf who would have destroyed it, is not Welsh. It comes from the East, and was told in Sanscrit story-books before the first Welshman breathed, which was pretty early, if “Taffy’s” own word is to be taken for it.
Mr. Gould is as successful with the old legend of men with tails pendent from the os sacrum. He does not believe in them either in Kent or Cornwall. The men of Strood may be examined with the most curious eyes, but no trace will be detected of the punishment inflicted on them for pulling the tail of a’ Becket's horse as the prelate crossed Rochester Bridge. Besides, Mr. Gould settles the whole matter by declaring that “it is impossible that a human being can have a tail; for the spinal vertebrae in men do not admit of elongation, as in many animals.” But this does not settle the matter; for men would not have been affrighted at tails growing from them, if they had been naturally prepared for such an appendage.
If Mr. Gould’s chapter on “Antichrist” and “Pope Joan” be the most amusing in his book, it is in some respects the most unsatisfactory and contradictory. The myths themselves, springing out of the opinions held by the early and medieval Church, are contradictory too. In some, the great Adversary is to come with such signs of power that it would seem folly to deny his credentials. In others, he is a mere Moslem destroyer, who will leave nothing upright in the world, except Mecca an other holy cities of the Turks. In the seventeenth century the Knights of St. John had their spies in the East, looking out for the birth of the unwelcome stranger, and they gravely announced to the world that they had at last come upon him in the person of a baby, born near Babylon, who “incontinent on his birth walked and talked perfectly well, . . admonishing the people that he is the true Messiah an the Son of God, and that in him all must believe.” Mr. Gould's opinion, if we understand him rightly, is that Antichrist will be found amongst those naughty people who hold cheap the “millinery” and "pernicious nonsense,” as those sad persons call certain costumings and performances of the exclusively good and true children of the Church as its Founder meant it.
We need not dwell on “Pope Joan,” but we may all be forgiven for a reasonable amount of curiosity to ascertain whence that circumstantial story sprang. Mr. Gould leads us about in all directions, and lands us nowhere. He names Marianus Scotus as "perhaps the earliest writer to mention Pope Joan.” Scotus died in 1086. De Gemblours, Mr. Gould says, repeated the story, and he died in 1112. A page or two later, after saying that the legend is fabulous, void of all historical foundation, he tells us that “even Martin Polonus (A.D. 1282), who is the first to give the details, does so merely on popular report.” A couple of pages later he again says, “Marianus Scotus, the first to relate the story, died in 1088.” Then he is as unfair with regard to Mosheim as he is careless in his arrangement of dates and authorities. “A melancholy example of the blindness of party feeling and prejudice is seen in Mosheim, who assumes the truth of the ridiculous story.” But when Mr. Gould quotes Mosheim, we find that the statement of the latter is qualified by an all-important “It is said” at the beginning of the narrative; and speaking of the abundant testimony, so called, offered in support of the myth, Mosheim concludes by stating that “prior to the time of Luther the alleged fact was not regarded as incredible or disgraceful to the Church.” So far from this being, as Mr. Gould considers it, “malignity,” or “a disregard for truth," it seems to be but a fair statement, in which Mosheim assumes nothing, but that the story was told, and that it was not accounted incredible.
Of the story of the Man in the Moon, founded on that of the luckless Hebrew who gathered sticks on the Sabbath, for which he was stoned to death outside the camp, Mr. Gould has much pleasant illustration. The legend is universal and everywhere modified. In Scandinavia in, Mani, the Moon, steals two children, an these, Hjiuki and Bil, are now seen in their shadows on the moon’s surface. These two children Mr. Gould detects in the verse—
Jack and Jill went up the hill,
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.
“This verse I have no hesitation in saying has a high antiquity,”—so it may have, but it illustrates the old Church and King sentiment;— implying safety in union, and teaching that if the crown-be cast down, the church will soon go “tumbling after."
We pass the “Fatality of Numbers” and the “Mountain of Venus” as samples of “make-weight,” and notice the “Terrestrial Paradise” as an amusing paper, showing how mortals have presumed to fix its locality and to perplex honest folk who read the details. Dr. Cumming, we believe, if he has not settled that the future paradise of the few chosen shall be in Scotland, has conjectured that it must resemble Caledonia in its general features and characteristics. The Bruges Catechism has, with equal precision, set down the exact distance (to a centimetre) of the gates of Hell from the school-doors of Bruges. This leads us from Mr. Gould’s very agreeable volume, the shortcomings of which require but brief notice at our hands, to the second work named above, a work which shows that the mediaeval myth-manufacturing is in as full activity now as when in bygone days it supplied the appetite which it could hardly satisfy.
Arthur Conan Doyle, Master of Victorian Literature by Richard D. Graham 1897
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Conan Doyle, who was born at Edinburgh in 1859, perpetuates the interest of a name already famous for two generations in connection with the arts of political caricature and book illustration. After an education obtained partly in England and partly abroad, he graduated M.D. in the university of his native town. Thereafter he proceeded to London, where he commenced a practice; but finding success more tardy than he expected, he ultimately abandoned medicine for literature. This, however, was not done until he had assured himself of success in his new profession. Like Mr Weyman, Conan Doyle put forth his ventures in the Romantic School, and some of his best works have also helped to revive an interest in the historical novel. It is not, however, in this field that his greatest popularity has been achieved.
After A Study in Scarlet (1888) came Micah Clarke (1889), a tale of the Monmouth rebellion, full of stirring incidents and vivid pictures of life and manners in southern England towards the end of the seventeenth century, and especially of the circumstances that led up to and followed the great collapse of Sedgemoor. The Firm of Girdlestone (1890) contains reminiscences of the author's student days in Edinburgh. The Captain of the Polestar, with other short tales, was followed by a work still more decisive of Doyle's position, The White Company (1891), a tale of the times of Edward, the Black Prince, as full as heart of man or boy could wish of deeds of hardihood and romantic chivalry, picturesquely and dramatically set forth. The character-drawing is excellent, Sir Nigel Loring, the Captain of the White Company, with his sweet and gracious courtliness but lion-like prowess; his gentle, monk-trained squire, Alleyne Edricson; Sam Aylward, the bluff, soft-hearted bowman; the red-headed giant, Hordle John; the Black Prince himself and Don Pedro—all are drawn with great vigour, and stand out with sharp-cut clearness from a page that is never wanting in life and interest. Another novel of the same class, The Refugees, followed in 1893. In this the reader is again carried to France, but now it is the time of the Grand Monarque, and we find ourselves involved in the endless Court intrigues and heart-searchings of Versailles at the critical moment when the star of Montespan is paling to its eclipse before that of Madame de Maintenon. The Refugees is full of exciting incidents, conceived in the true spirit of romance, and when these reach their climax in France, the principal characters are transferred to the wilds of Canada, not, however, without considerable loss of interest and artistic congruity. But for one reader that knows Conan Doyle by such works as these, there are probably twenty who know him as the author of The Adventures (1892), and The Memoirs (1893) of Sherlock Holmes. With these two series of detective stories Dr Doyle has achieved one of the most remarkable successes of our time, not only by the skill with which interest is sustained throughout, but also by the dramatic force with which their principal character is conceived. The writer has told us that he drew this character from the life in the person of Dr Joseph Bell of Edinburgh. None the less do we feel that in Sherlock Holmes he has added a distinct and original creation to English literature. In A Study in Scarlet and The Sign of Four, the wonderful astuteness of Sherlock Holmes is also the subject. The Doings of Raffles Haw (1892), a short but excellent piece of work, again shows the writer's clever handling of a mystery.
Dr Doyle has more than sustained his reputation by such recent work as The Stark-Munro Letters (1895) and Brigadier Gerard (1895). Many indeed will prefer the latter even to the Sherlock Holmes books for its lifelike and amusing delineation of the delightfully naive and unconscious vanity of one of the bravest of the great Napoleon's officers. Rodney Stone (1897) is a clever study of English society life and manners under the Regency, when George III. was king.
In all his work Conan Doyle shows himself to be a deft and capable craftsman. His art is pre-eminently that of the story-teller. A sure instinct enables him to escape the temptation to dulness. There may be little that is piquant or brilliant in his style. He touches no deep chords of human feeling. But there can be no doubt as to his power of handling a plot, or his success in recounting a stirring and vivid tale.
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The Evolution of the Faust Legend by George A. Mulfinger 1894
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The Faust legend is an epitome of the mighty struggle between the powers of light and darkness in the evolution of Germany's intellectual life—the struggle of that period when the German nation was emerging out of its brute state and, in its new-born might, was reaching out to grasp the mysteries of heaven and earth. The germ of the legend was planted in darkness and nurtured by its forces; but it was a new epoch in which Faust was born—the epoch of inventions and discoveries and maritime expeditions, when the human intellect reached forth with irresistible force. The achievements of the intellect were gigantic. They were so great that they amazed the vast mass of uninitiated mankind and made them easily susceptible to hoax and deception. Learning was mixed with magic. Keppler set the horoscope for Rudolph II. Hugo Deiff, the reformer of medicine, who was at the same time scholar and braggadocio, humanist and exorcist, philanthropist and drunkard, reflects the spirit of the age.
The legend has undoubtedly a basis in fact. Records of a personal acquaintance with a charlatan, swindler, boaster, and fool named "Faustus Junior," "Astrologer," and "Second Magnus" have been left by two distinguished contemporaries of Faust, Johann the Abbot of Sponheim and Conrad Mund, a friend of Reuchlin. The most important poet-Reformation testimony is that of Johann Mennel, who gives to Melanchthon the credit of quite a detailed account of the character and magical powers of a certain Johann Faust. From these records it would seem that Faust flourished as early as 1506 and lived in Wittenberg till after 1527. His contemporaries picture him as a wild, dissolute rake, with traits good enough, however, to attract the attention of Melanchthon.
But, though the historic Faust was not an extraordinary character, yet he has become the nucleus of the legend because he claimed to be the successor of Simon Magnus (Acts 8:9-23), who, according to Justin Martyr and Irenaeus, had a boon companion named Faustus. The writings of the early Fathers circulated in Germany during the Middle Ages, and in Bavaria the Simon legend was developed in Jesuit plays. The historical Faust called himself "Demigod from Heidelberg," which suggests the "Supreme God " and the "Old Faustus" of the Magnus legend. The credulity of the Middle Ages in this particular case is not to be wondered at, because the thirst for magic was fed by numerous bands of students wandering all over Germany and doing all sorts of marvelous magic. Faust, in tine, was the archetype of mediaeval necromancers, and combines in himself all their characteristics.
As to the growth of the legend, the account of a contemporary clergyman; Johann Gast, illustrates how it grew in Faust's own generation. He declares Faust's dog and horse to be devils and able to do everything. He says Faust was finally strangled by a devil. Variations of the legend are found along the upper Rhine, in Wittenberg, Erfurt, Wurzburg, and later in Leipzig. An anonymous person in Speier compiled the Wittenberg variation, and sent it to John Spies in Frankfurt-on-the-Main. It appeared in 1587 under the title "Historia von Dr. Johann Fausten, dem weitbeschreyten Zauberer und Schwartzkunstler." This version tells of Faust as taking a Doctor's degree in theology, but soon devoting himself to magic; he conjures the devil and soils his soul to him. From the theological cast of this version, it is evident that the author was a Protestant clergyman. Faust is made to repent at last, but he believes that his sins are beyond forgiveness. This version "is an attempt of Protestant theology of the Reformation to express itself upon the great intellectual movement of the Renaissance." It was Humanism, however, that first completed the development of the "Titanic traits" of Faust. Its spirit is recognized in the six so-called Leipzig-Erfurter chapters which were added to the book in 1590. Faust, while reading Homer, calls up the shades of the Homeric heroes. The Faust of the Humanists feels the need of woman's love, and this forms the germ of Goethe's Gretchen, whose prototype in the legend is a beautiful country maid or a beautiful servant girl. Under Marlowe and the English writers, the legend took a great stride forward. Faust now takes wings to himself and resolves to search into all things in heaven and earth. Marlowe's drama was performed in Germany by English comedians as early as 1626. Poets improvised new scenes and altered old ones, usually, however, following Marlowe's plot. Through the influence of the Italian stage, the clown or Harlequin was introduced into Germany under the various names of "Pickelbaering," "Hanswurst," etc. During the eighteenth century the popular Faust plays fell more and more into disrepute. Lessing was the first to revive the study of Fauet by insisting on its eminent dramatic interest. He was the first, also, to see that the "salvation of Faust" should be made the solution of the problem of the legend. But it remained for Goethe to pluck the fruit which had been ripening for years.
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Wednesday, January 27, 2016
Jenner's Discovery of Vaccination, and the Church by Andrew Dickson White 1891
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The steady evolution of scientific medicine brings us, next, to the discovery of vaccination by Jenner. Here, too, sundry vague survivals of theological ideas caused many of the clergy to side with retrograde physicians. Perhaps the most virulent of Jenner's enemies was one of his professional brethren, Dr. Moseley, who placed on the title-page of his book, Lues Bovilla, as a motto, referring to Jenner and his followers, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do"; this book of Dr. Moseley was especially indorsed by the Bishop of Dromore. In 1798 an Anti-vaccination Society was formed by physicians and clergymen, who called on the people of Boston to suppress vaccination, as "bidding defiance to Heaven itself, even to the will of God," and declared that "the law of God prohibits the practice." As late as 1803, the Rev. Dr. Ramsden thundered against vaccination in a sermon before the University of Cambridge, mingling texts of Scripture with calumnies against Jenner; but Plumptre and the Rev. Rowland Hill in England, Waterhouse in America, Thouret in France, Sacco in Italy, and a host of other good men and true, pressed forward, and at last science, humanity, and right reason gained the victory. Most striking results quickly followed. The diminution in the number of deaths from the terrible scourge was amazing. In Berlin, during the eight years following 1783, over four thousand children died of the small-pox; while during the eight years following 1814, after vaccination had been largely adopted, out of a larger number of deaths there were but five hundred and thirty-five who died of this disease. In Würtemberg, during the twenty-four years following 1772, one in thirteen of all the children died of small-pox, while during the eleven years after 1822 there died of it only one in sixteen hundred. In Copenhagen, during twelve years before the introduction of vaccination, fifty-five hundred persons died of small-pox, and during the sixteen years after its introduction only one hundred and fifty-eight persons died of it throughout all Denmark. In Vienna, where the average yearly mortality from this disease had been over eight hundred, it was steadily and rapidly reduced, until in 1803 it had fallen to less than thirty; and in London, formerly so afflicted by this scourge, out of all her inhabitants there died of it in 1890 but one. As to the world at large the result is summed up by one of the most honored English physicians of our time in the declaration that "Jenner has saved, is now saving, and will continue to save in all coming ages, more lives in one generation than were destroyed in all the wars of Napoleon."
It will have been noticed by those who have read this history thus far that the record of the Church generally was far more honorable in this struggle than in many which preceded it: the reason is not difficult to find; the decline of theology inured to the advantage of religion, and religion gave powerful aid to science.
Yet there have remained some survivals in both branches of the Western Church which may be regarded with curiosity. A small body of perversely ingenious minds in the medical profession in England have found a few ardent allies among the less intellectual clergy. The Rev. Mr. Rothery and the Rev. Mr. Allen, of the Primitive Methodists, have for sundry vague theological or metaphysical reasons especially distinguished themselves by opposition to compulsory vaccination; but it is only just to say that the great body of the clergy have at last taken the better view.
Far more painful has been the recent history of the other great branch of the Christian Church—a history developed where it might have been least expected; the recent annals of the world hardly present a more striking antithesis between Religion and Theology.
On the religious side few things in the history of the Roman Church have been so beautiful as the conduct of its clergy in Canada during the great outbreak of ship-fever among immigrants at Montreal about the middle of the present century. Day and night the Catholic clergy of that city ministered fearlessly to those victims of sanitary ignorance; fear of suffering and death could not drive these ministers from their work; they laid down their lives cheerfully while carrying comfort to the poorest and most ignorant of our kind: such was the record of their religion. But in 1885 a record was made by their theological spirit: in that year the small-pox broke out with great virulence at Montreal. The Protestant population escaped almost entirely by vaccination, but multitudes of their Catholic fellow-citizens, under some vague survival of the old orthodox ideas, refused vaccination and suffered fearfully. When at last the plague became so serious that travel and trade fell off greatly and quarantine began to be established in neighboring cities, an effort was made to enforce compulsory vaccination. The result was, that large numbers of the Catholic working population resisted and even threatened bloodshed. The clergy at first tolerated and even encouraged this conduct; the Abbé Filiatrault, priest of St. James's Church, declared in a sermon that, "if we are afflicted with small-pox, it is because we had a carnival last winter, feasting the flesh, which has offended the Lord; . . . it is to punish our pride that God has sent us small-pox." The clerical press went further: the Étendard exhorted the faithful to take up arms rather than submit to vaccination, and at least one of the secular papers was forced to pander to the same sentiment. The Board of Health struggled against this superstition, and addressed a circular to the clergy, imploring them to recommend vaccination; but, though two or three complied with this request, the great majority were either silent or openly hostile. The Oblate Fathers, whose church was situated in the very heart of the infected district, continued to denounce vaccination; the faithful were exhorted to rely on devotional exercises of various sorts; under the sanction of the hierarchy a great procession was ordered with a solemn appeal to the Virgin, and the use of the rosary was carefully specified.
Meantime, the disease, which had nearly died out among the Protestants, raged with ever-increasing virulence among the Catholics; and the truth becoming more and more clear, even to the most devout, proper measures were at last enforced and the plague was stayed, though not until there had been a fearful waste of life among these simple-hearted believers, and germs of skepticism planted in the hearts of their children which will bear fruit for generations to come.
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JANE AUSTEN'S EMMA WOODHOUSE by William Dean Howells 1901
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IN primitive fiction plot is more important than character; as the art advances character becomes the chief interest, and the action is such as springs from it. In the old tales and romances there is no such thing as character in the modern sense; their readers were satisfied with what the heroes and heroines did and suffered.
When the desire for character arose, the novelists loaded their types with attributes; but still there was no character, which is rooted in personality. The novelist of to-day who has not conceived of this is as archaic as any romancer of the Middle Ages in his ideal of art. Most of the novels printed in the last year, in fact, are as crudely devised as those which have amused people of childish imagination at any time in the last thousand years; and it will always be so with most novels, because most people are of childish imagination. The masterpieces in fiction are those which delight the mind with the traits of personality, with human nature recognizable by the reader through its truth to himself.
The wonder of Jane Austen is that at a time when even the best fiction was overloaded with incident, and its types went staggering about under the attributes heaped upon them, she imagined getting on with only so much incident as would suffice to let her characters express their natures movingly or amusingly. She seems to have reached this really unsurpassable degree of perfection without a formulated philosophy, and merely by her clear vision of the true relation of art to life; but however she came to be what she was, she was so unquestionably great, so unmistakably the norm and prophecy of most that is excellent in Anglo-Saxon fiction since her time, that I shall make no excuse for what may seem a disproportionate study of her heroines.
Emma Woodhouse, in the story named after her, is one of the most boldly imagined of Jane Austen's heroines. Perhaps she is the very most so, for it took supreme courage to portray a girl, meant to win and keep the reader's fancy, with the characteristics frankly ascribed to Emma Woodhouse. We are indeed allowed to know that she is pretty; not formally, but casually, from the words of a partial friend: "Such an eye!— the true hazel eye—and so brilliant!—regular features, open countenance, with a complexion—ah, what a bloom of full health, and such a pretty height and size; such a firm and upright figure." But, before we are allowed to see her personal beauty we are made to see in her some of the qualities which are the destined source of trouble for herself and her friends. In her wish to be useful she is patronizing and a little presumptuous; her self-sufficiency early appears, and there are hints of her willingness to shape the future of others without having past enough of her own to enable her to do it judiciously. The man who afterwards marries her says of her: "'She will never submit to anything requiring industry and patience, and a subjection of the fancy to the understanding. . . . Emma is spoiled by being the cleverest of her family. At ten years old she had the misfortune of being able to answer questions which puzzled her sister at seventeen. She was always quick and assured . . . and ever since she was twelve Emma has been mistress of the house and you all.'"
An officious and self-confident girl, even if pretty, is not usually one to take the fancy, and yet Emma takes the fancy. She manages the delightful and whimsical old invalid her father, but she is devotedly and unselfishly good to him. She takes the destiny of Harriet Smith unwarrantably into her charge, but she breaks off the girl's love-affair only in the interest of a better match. She decides that Frank Churchill, the stepson of her former governess, will be in love with her, but she never dreams that Mr. Elton, whom she means for Harriet Smith, can be so. She is not above a little manoeuvring for the advantage of those she wishes to serve, but the tacit insincerity of Churchill is intolerable to her. She is unfeelingly neglectful of Jane Fairfax and cruelly suspicious of her, but she generously does what she can to repair the wrong, and she takes her punishment for it meekly and contritely. She makes thoughtless and heartless fun of poor, babbling Miss Bates, but when Knightley calls her to account for it, she repents her unkindness with bitter tears. She will not be advised against her pragmatical schemes by Knightley, but she is humbly anxious for his good opinion. She is charming in the very degree of her feminine complexity, which is finally an endearing single-heartedness. Her character is shown in an action so slight that the novel of "Emma" may be said to be hardly more than an exemplification of Emma. In the placid circumstance of English country life where she is the principal social figure the story makes its round with a few events so unexciting as to leave the reader in doubt whether anything at all has happened. Mr. Elton, a clerical snob as odious as Mr. Collins in "Pride and Prejudice" is amusing, indignantly resents Emma's plan for supplying him with a wife in Harriet Smith, and marries a woman who has Emma's defects without their qualities. Frank Churchill keeps his engagement with Jane Fairfax a secret till all the possible mischief can come from it, and then acknowledges it just when the fact must be most mortifying and humiliating to Emma. After she has been put to shame before Knightley in every way, she finds herself beloved and honored by him and in the way to be happily married. There are, meantime, a few dances and picnics, dinners and teas; Harriet Smith is frightened by gypsies, and some hen-roosts are robbed. There is not an accident, even of the mild and beneficent type of Louisa Musgrove's in "Persuasion"; there is not an elopement, even of the bouffe nature of Lydia's in "Pride and Prejudice"; there is nothing at all so tragic as Catharine Morland's expulsion by General Tilney in "Northanger Abbey." Duels and abductions, of course, there are none; for Jane Austen had put from her all the machinery of the great and little novelists of the eighteenth century, and openly mocked at it. This has not prevented its being frequently used since, and she shows herself more modern than all her predecessors and contemporaries and most of her successors, in the rejection of the major means and the employment of the minor means to produce the enduring effects of "Emma." Among her quiet books it is almost the quietest, and so far as the novel can suggest that repose which is the ideal of art "Emma" suggests it, in an action of unsurpassed unity, consequence, and simplicity.
It is difficult to detach from the drama any scene which shall present Emma in a moment more characteristic than other moments; but that in which Knightley takes her to task for her behavior to Miss Bates can be chosen, because it illustrates the courageous naturalness with which she is studied throughout. "While waiting for the carriage, she found Mr. Knightley at her side. He looked around, as if to see that no one were near, and then said,'Emma, I must once more speak to you as I have been used to do. ... I cannot see you acting wrong without a remonstrance. How could you be so unfeeling to Miss Bates? How could you be so insolent in your wit to a woman of her character, age, and situation? Emma, I had not thought it possible!' Emma recollected, blushed, was sorry, but tried to laugh it off. 'Nay, how could I have helped saying what I did? Nobody could have helped it. It was not so very bad. I dare say she did not understand me.' 'I assure you she did. She felt your full meaning. She has talked of it since. I wish you could have heard how she talked of it—with what candor and generosity. I wish you could have heard her honoring your forbearance . . . when her society must be so irksome.' 'Oh,' cried Emma, 'I know there is not a better creature in the world; but you must allow that what is good and what is ridiculous are most unfortunately blended in her.' 'They are blended, I acknowledge,'he said, 'and were . . . she a woman of fortune, I would leave her every harmless absurdity to take its chance. . . . Were she your equal in situation—but, Emma, consider how far this is from being the case! She is poor; she is sunk from the comforts she was born to; and if she should live to old age must probably sink more. Her situation should secure your compassion. It was badly done, indeed! You, whom she had known from an infant, whom she had seen grow up from a period when her notice was an honor—to have you now, in thoughtless spirits, and the pride of the moment, laugh at her, humble her — and before her niece, too — and before many others, many of whom (certainly some) would be entirely guided by your treatment of her. This is not pleasant to you, Emma, and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will—I will tell you truths while I can . . . trusting that you will some time or other do me greater justice than you can do now.' While they talked, they were advancing towards the carriage; it was ready, and before she could speak again he had handed her in. He had misinterpreted the feelings which had kept her face averted and her tongue motionless. They were combined only of anger against herself, mortification, and deep concern. She had not been able to speak, and on entering the carriage, sunk back for a moment overcome; then reproaching herself for having taken no leave, making no acknowledgment, parting in apparent sullenness, she looked out with voice and hand eager to show a difference; but it was too late. He had turned away, and the horses were in motion. . . . Emma felt the tears running down her cheeks almost all the way home, without being at any trouble to check them, extraordinary as they were."
It is not on such grounds, in such terms, that a heroine is often talked to in a novel, and it is not so that she commonly takes a talking-to. But it is to be remembered that Knightley is not only Emma's tacit lover; he is the brother of her sister's husband, and much her own elder, and as a family friend has some right to scold her. It is to be considered also that she is herself a singular type among heroines: a type which Jane Austen perfected if she did not invent, and in that varied sisterhood she has the distinction, if not the advantage, of being an entirely natural girl, and a nice girl, in spite of her faults.
The Intellectual Bankruptcy of Communism by Henri Baudrillart 1890
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We here propose to discuss communism both in itself and from an historical point of view. Such a plan is broad enough without introducing into it the various social Utopias. We are here concerned exclusively with avowed and consistent communism, and not with what in our day goes under the vague name of socialism.
Communism is the system of doctrine which, in the name of the general interest and of absolute justice, most frequently sees the type of social perfection in a putting in common of persons and things. We purposely say persons and things. The distinction which certain communists pretend to establish between the two is in reality an empty one. The thing possessed is here the person, or at least a part and an extension of the person, who has put his labor into it and placed upon it the seal of his liberty. It is impossible to respect the producer and deprive him of his product. This first usurpation involves all the others, and ends in the complete monopoly of the human person.
Thus communism, whatever amount of logic it may have (and we shall see that it has not been lacking in this regard), is forced, inevitably, to speak to humanity in nearly the following words: "I shall first take possession of all material products in order to distribute them in accordance with the general interest; but that there should not be an over-abundance of some things, dearth of others, and consequently the impossibility of a just distribution, I shall direct production, which cannot be done unless I dispose of the producers themselves as I think best. I shall, therefore, assign to each man his task; and to satisfy myself as to how he accomplishes that task, and that he does nothing else, I shall oblige him to work in common. And then, that he may not be suspected of depriving his brethren of any portion of the social part which comes to him, he shall also consume in common." Here we have the family transferred to the public square. But why let the family itself exist? Are we not acquainted with the jealous activity and watchful foresight of the father and mother for their children? To uphold the family is to create a permanent conspiracy against communism in the bosom of communism itself; it is to condemn communism to witness soon, under the deceitful names of liberty, emulation, economy, of conjugal, paternal, maternal and filial attachment, all the competition, saving, jealousy, favoritism, preference of self or of one's own to others; in one word, the wretched retinue of individualism and familyism. This is not all. There are evil inclinations in the bosom of every individual which resist communism by tending to persuade him that communism, or a community of goods, is not for the best. Hence, a love for communism must be instilled into him, of course in his own interest, at an early day, by education, which consequently must be in common.
"Moreover we know how much religious systems, which pretend to concern themselves only with heaven, influence earthly affairs. What sources of division and struggles, beliefs and ideas are! Hence, no sects, no heresies, no individual opinion! Religion must, therefore, be a common religion for all, at least if we [communism] judge proper that there should be such a theory as religion, which is not very certain. Now, as all this cannot be accomplished, and a certain number of individuals not think they have a right to complain, the state must be charged, on the one hand, with the task of carrying out this plan, and, on the other, with putting down the malcontents, unless speedily and completely converted. Hence, the state must be the sole producer, the sole distributer, the sole consumer; it must teach, preach, pray and carry on the work of repression; it must be the great agriculturist, the great manufacturer, the great merchant, the great professor and high priest; it must be spirit and matter, dogma and force, religion and the police—everything."
This all shows how chimerical is the disposition which it sometimes pleases certain adherents of communism to make of things and persons, of property and family, of the action of the state, and of individual initiative. Properly speaking, communism knows nothing of persons. It knows only things. The forfeiture of property which it declares strikes at the last principle of liberty in its vital part. Communism drags into its sphere the moral and intellectual as well as the physical life; and man from whom it pretended to take but a single faculty and one order of products only, passes soul and body under its complete control. It is evident, then, that when communism says it wishes to destroy individualism, it means that it wishes to destroy the individual himself. To destroy liberty is, in fact, to destroy the individual in his very essence. A writer has defined man as an intelligence served by organs. From the economic point of view, it would perhaps be more correct to say: "man is a liberty served by organs;" and these organs include intelligence itself, physical power, land and capital. To liberate the organs, is to liberate the man; to reduce them to slavery, is to enslave the man himself.
Liberty is the moral basis of political economy. Now, what we find at the bottom of all communistic parties and systems is an attack on liberty. Communism is, therefore, directly opposed to political economy. Let us first say a word on the fundamental error of communism. It may, we think, be summed up in the preference which it gives to equality over liberty.
Now communism fails to insure equality for the very reason that it has a preference for equality.
Equality supposes something anterior to itself, something which may admit of equality. But in what are men equal? In intelligence? Take two men at random: they are different both in the degree and in the nature of their aptitudes. And so it is in the mental and physical, in the moral and material order. Do you wish to find the type, the basis, the rule of equality? Turn to liberty. The liberty of every man recognized and guaranteed, is true equality. We are equal in and through liberty. This truth is the absolute rule, the only source, in fact and in law, of equality between the members of the great human family. Outside of equality through liberty everything is chimerical and deceptive. To profess to put equality above liberty is therefore nonsense. To pretend to secure one by the suppression of the other is a monstrous contradiction. This contradiction is the starting point of communism.
Let us glance at the declivity which leads communism to the abyss.
Communism not knowing how to find equality where it exists, is led to place it where it is not. For the idea of equality is inherent in the mind of man, an imperative want of his heart, a necessary law of his development. Not having found equality in liberty where alone it exists, communism tries to enforce an equality of passions, ideas, wants, things; in one word, of everything which does not admit of equality. Moreover, having misunderstood the true nature of liberty, it plays the tyrant with it, when it meets it, as an obstacle in its way. It is the general tendency of false systems to suppress violently whatever stands in their way, and to replace it by arbitrary equivalents.
False ideas of equality and liberty are the starting point of communism; all the rest results from those false ideas.
Communism ignores and destroys both liberty and equality, and by this very fact sacrifices real rights to chimerical ones.
As a free being I have the right to dispose of my faculties, the right to work, with all that that right involves; such a right is nothing but the recognition of general liberty, and therefore it is evident that it oppresses no man. According to communism I have the right to labor, and all the other rights which are necessarily involved in this one right: that is to say, I may demand work, and force others to give me work. Here, then, we have a portion of humanity, not only obliged morally, but constrained physically, obliged by the authority of the law to furnish work to others. When I assist a poor man I merely pay him a debt which I owe him; to give him nothing when I can afford to give him something, is to be not only hard-hearted but wicked; it is to be a thief. I deserve then to be treated as such, that is, to be imprisoned or hanged.
Communism endows the individual with lying rights; and to satisfy these rights it burdens the state with impossible duties. A double germ of anarchy and despotism, this, which leaves no alternative to society than a desperate war of all against one, and of each against all, or the most grinding slavery.
The economic and moral consequences which are so closely connected with one another in the communistic system, flow no less logically from its erroneous premises. How can there be merit where individual liberty is sacrificed, where successful effort is counted for nothing? Communism itself feels what a stranger to it merit is, and how fatal it would be to it. For the hallowed formula: Each one according to his merit, it substitutes the following, borrowed from the pretended holiness of instinct: To each one according to his wants. So that, whether a man works little or much, produces with more or less zeal, care, or in greater or less abundance, it does not matter. Does communism destroy the abuses which it pretends to radically abolish? It is easy to prove that it only aggravates them and renders them more general. We know how furiously it attacks competition, that is to say, liberty. But in the place of the legitimate, industrious, enlightened competition of interests which is profitable to all, it puts the blind, barren and disorderly competition of appetites. It complains of robbery in human society, and decrees universal spoliation in order to suppress it. It groans over prostitution, and makes a law of the promiscuous intercourse of the sexes. It is angered at seeing a number of men who, to enjoy themselves, had only to take, as it says, the trouble of being born; and the taking of this trouble, it claims, entitles them to a share in every social advantage! It impeaches slavery and exploitation of the proletariat, and it makes of every man a slave to be exploited by the state. Let us add that the slavery which it establishes is not merely a political and economic one, but a moral slavery which must perpetuate, indefinitely, both political and economic slavery. When free will and personal dignity, care for the future, the calculations and affections which make existence worth having, flights of imagination and innocent fancies, are abolished in men; what is there to replace these broken springs, or to compensate for the loss?
Communism, by enervating all the motives which constitute the essence, the health, the energy of the moral being, at one blow exhausts all the sources of wealth.
Communism has sought the principle of liberty, by appealing to love. With instinct as its basis, it seeks in instinct the means of correcting the evil effects of instinct. This twofold pretension is evidently chimerical. Instinct can not be tempered by its own excess. As to making lore and fraternity the only springs of production, it is the most impossible of Utopias. It is madness to suppose that a man will work, manufacture, sell, etc., with the perpetual enthusiasm which religion itself does not always produce.
Never has the saying of Pascal: "The man who wishes to imitate the angels becomes a beast," been better justified than by communism, which commences by supposing angelic virtues in man, and ends by always showing him gross and brutal in practice. What an illusion it is, then, to suppose that the individual will love everybody, will devote himself to everybody, when he is prohibited from loving his own family and devoting himself to it! Sympathy, like all other faculties, has need of practice and food. Men do not begin by loving the human race, but end there. And how much enlightenment, how much philosophical or religious elevation of mind, is supposed by so complicated a sentiment! It is a fact which has not escaped the most superficial observer, that affection becomes more intense by being restricted to a narrower circle; more sublime perhaps, but less energetic, in proportion as it extends to a greater number of objects. Communism, by opposing this elementary law, drowns, so to speak, sympathy and devotion in the depths of the limitless ocean called the human race, and buries the individual in the immense and vague abstraction which it calls society.
We have seen communism, considered as a system, plunging into every error and contradiction; aggravating the evils of which it complains by letting new ones loose on humanity; rousing the appetites and finding nothing to create the immense amount of capital it would need to carry out its plans, except the unproductive principle of fraternity; and rendering this very fraternity impossible by inviting each member of the community to seize a quantity of products which must necessarily grow less and less; or to bow under the hard law of a state which can live only by the skillful distribution of wretchedness. We may well be astonished that such a doctrine should find adherents. Still communism can appeal to a long tradition continued through all the centuries, through revolutions of every kind. The explanation of this strange phenomenon is instructive in more ways than one; and we are astonished to find that communism has often been but the logical development of the principles adopted almost universally by the nations which stigmatized it. Nothing is truer of ancient nations; and as to those which followed them, especially up to 1789, was not the principle of the right to landed property changed by conquest and civil legislation to such a degree, disregarded in law to such an extent by the doctrine that all property in land was held from the state, that communism became, if not justifiable, at least perfectly explainable? As a symptom, if not as a theory, communism still has an importance not to be underrated. Like all social Utopias, it has its source in the imperfections of the social state; some of which are susceptible of amendment, others unavoidable; and is explained by a feeling of pity for human misery and by base passion.
Communism has been at work in the world, and it may be judged by its fruits. To begin with, it is an ugly thing that a doctrine held up as a charter of emancipation of the human race, should always appear in history based on and supported by slavery. How can we speak of communism without mentioning Sparta; and how can we mention Sparta without recalling what was most odious in ancient slavery? The regime of communism and labor are two things so incompatible that wherever the former has been established it has been necessary to condemn whole classes to forced labor. Thus the communism of the citizens of Lacedemonia
could be maintained only by making helots of those engaged in agriculture and the useful arts. Sparta reached the ideal of communism better than any other city, unless it be perhaps Crete. Sparta was not guilty of the error of making movable property and material products common property. It also made education and women common property. But, by one of those concessions which the reality always makes to logic, and which we meet everywhere in the history of practical communism; by one of those inconsistencies which make the existence of communism possible and its destruction inevitable, it retained something of individual property by providing that lands should be divided into equal portions. But how great the practical superiority of Spartan communism over the communism of the nineteenth century! It did not promise the members of the association wealth and enjoyment in common, but poverty and abstinence. It spurred the children onward, not by making labor attractive, but by the whip. By these means it was able to exist for a time. Their principles of morality, moreover, debarred the Spartans from the softening influence of the arts—a privation which their economic principles would have been sufficient to effect. The fine arts are impossible where there is not an excess of the wealth produced over the wealth consumed; and such an excess is impossible where communism prevails. The master work of Spartan legislation was to inspire the fanaticism of self-denial and a devotion to this state of things. Spartan morals were not the best. The Spartan, living on coarse food, trained for war, without luxury, without commerce, without a corrupting literature, was no less debauched than savage. Their rude power yielded at almost the first contact with civilized Greece, and could not withstand the wealth acquired after the war of the Peloponnesus. The people, who had rejected the institution of property, were famed for their rapacity, their avarice, and the venality of their magistrates. The people, who had sacrificed all to military prowess, fell to such a degree of weakness that they were forced to recruit their armies from among the helots, among whom they found their last great men. Occupied, like all ancient legislators, with the sole idea of doing away with revolution by destroying inequality, Lycurgus forgot that for states there is a worse danger than revolution—dissolution; and this is how Sparta ended.
The genius of Rome ignored communism. Everything vague, undetermined, is in keeping with the doctrine of communism, which in religion adores the all, in morality denies the person and sees only humanity, and in political economy absorbs individual property in the collective possession of the community. At Rome everything was well defined, the gods, virtue, the laws. Rome witnessed flourishing side by side stoicism which exalts the liberty and the dignity of the person, and property which assures that liberty and dignity. The institution of property might be abused without the right of property being denied, in Rome. That right was extended, under the rude authority of the father, not only to the slaves, but to the family. Usury appeared there without compassion. As to agrarian law, so frequently confounded with communism, we know that it was merely a claim (revenditation) by the poor plebeians who had taken part in the conquest, for lands retained exclusively by nobles and knights. The Gracchi did nothing, said absolutely nothing, incompatible with the right of property As to the revolts of slaves, what connection had they with communism? These unfortunates revolted not to have everything in common; they fought to own themselves.
We know how powerful an organization the family spirit and property received from the Mosaic law in Judea. Nevertheless, it must be remarked that if the law of the jubilee, which brought back to the same family alienated lands, was a sanctioning of the right of property, it was also an attack on that right: it sanctioned it by keeping it intact in the hands of the same families; it attacked it because it trammeled individual liberty and hindered the natural course of transactions between man and man. Each one lived "under the shadow of his vine and fig tree;" but for that very reason each one was, so to speak, made a parcel of the soil of his own patrimonial estate. Industry, commerce, the sciences, the arts, which have need of a certain surplus, and the activity which results from the frequent relations between men, remained foreign to this intelligent and energetic people. As where there is no right to property whatever there is no civilization, so an incomplete civilization is the result of every curtailment of the right of property, which can only show its full effects on condition of remaining an individual right.
Essenianism was the communism of Judea. In this country of religion communism was associated with the religious principle, as in Greece, the country of philosophy, it was associated with the philosophic idea, with Pythagoreanism, which was its partial realization. The school of Pythagoras was a community of sages living in accordance with the severest prescriptions of spiritual life, in self-denial, friendship, and the cultivation of the sciences, especially mathematics and astronomy. Their austerity and their labors suggest to us that it was a sort of pagan Port Royal, while their eagerness for rule and their political activity, which drove them out of most of the cities in which they had founded their establishments, remind us of the celebrated society of the Jesuits. In contrast with the Pythagoreans, who constituted, as it were, monasteries of philosophers, and whose political ideal was an aristocracy of enlightenment guiding and governing the obedient masses, the Essenes exhibit to us a little people, forming a kind of fraternal democracy; not that hierarchy was not respected among them, nor that ranks were not known and even sharply defined; but all were admitted among them on the single condition of a pure or repentant life; and everything was held in common by the chiefs and the subordinates. It must be said to the honor of the Essenes that they looked on slavery as an impious thing, an exception, however, which means nothing in favor of communism. The Essenes were in reality a very limited and entirely voluntary association; they were like a small tribe of monks; and Pliny said of them, "They perpetuate themselves without women, and live without money. * * * Repentance and distaste for the world are the fruitful sources which keep up their number." Communism, thus understood, was only a form of free association; the community received only those who agreed to form a part of it. Labor was carried on among them, moreover, by men reared in the habits and teachings of the upper society; and like all religious communities, it was founded not on the principle of unlimited satisfaction of human wants, but on that of rigorous abstinence. We can say as much of the Therapeutics, a Jewish sect of Egypt, whose members lived in isolation, and had little in common but their practices of religion.
Christianity put an end to the old world. Was it favorable to communism in the time of its Founder and the first apostles? This is a question which has been much discussed in our time, and which the communists, anxious to have the greatest authority of the civilized world on their side, unanimously answer in the affirmative. This claim has been refuted to our thinking, with an array of reasoning which amounts to demonstration. To begin with, if Christ had intended to extol communism, he would not have maintained the most profound silence on the subject. Then the texts of the gospels, appealed to in favor of communism, have a meaning altogether different from that attributed to them. Jesus Christ recommended almsgiving, the giving away of one's goods, which is a use and not the negation of property. In a word, he makes charity a religious duty, not an act of constraint, which abolishes all virtue and all charity. He repeats the precept of the divine law: "Thou shall not steal," which is a sanction of the right of property. He preaches the inviolability of the family so far as to condemn divorce, one of the few laws relating to civil life which he laid down. The language and conduct of the apostles are none the more on the side of communism. The spontaneous putting of all their goods in common by the first believers, was as much a means of resistance in their hands, and an instrument of propagandism, as a picture of Christian brotherhood. Liberty and the laws of morality and political economy find nothing contrary to their principles, in this free community of a religious sect pretending in no way to set itself up as a model of social organization nor to change the general conditions of the production of wealth. The example of the small Christian family, at Jerusalem, after the death of Christ, an example not followed to any extent by the other churches, has no weight as an argument.
We have to reach the second century and turn to a heresy severely condemned by Christianity, to see an instance of practical communism authorized by religion. The Carpocratians, who were confounded with the Gnostics, revived, a little earlier than two centuries after Christ, the infamy of the bacchanals that Rome had seen a little less than two centuries before his coming. The Christian communities, which were established with an ascetic object, had nothing to do with the history of communism. It is even certain that they could not have supported themselves in a communistic society; because they obtained their resources not from among themselves, but from outside. Moreover, these communities and the communists differ in every respect. Men came to join them, but were not born in them. Their object was almost always purely religious. The sexes, far from being together, lived separately; where marriage was permitted, its laws were strictly observed. The association of Herrnhuters, or Moravian brethren, is the sole exception to the above remarks. It was upheld by its evangelical spirit of humility, self-denial, hope in a future life, which rendered it less exacting in this one; in a word, by the very spirit most opposed to that of communism. While recognizing their virtues and their negative happiness, it must be recognized also that their narrow feeling of sect, their stationary condition, their want of arts, their proscription of everything lofty in science and all philosophical speculation, do not agree with the general character and the most necessary conditions of modern civilization.
When we follow the history of heresies in the Christian church, we find that communism was a stranger to most of them. Ecclesiastical authors, in order to brand them more surely, have been somewhat lavish of this reproach against them; and communistic writers have eagerly granted the truth of the reproach in order to gain for themselves a more imposing family tree. Bossuet, in his "History of the Variations," has not been sparing in this accusation against the heretics of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, especially against the Waldenses and Albigenses, whose innocence, in this respect, has been established, it appears to us, by the historian of communism, Sudre. The same is the case with the Lollards and some other sects more theological than political. It needed all the partiality of contemporary history, written from the communistic point of view, to make a Wickliffe and a John Huss apostles of social fraternity. The germs of communism were developed, nevertheless, in certain sects, such as the Brothers of the Free Spirit in the thirteenth century, and perhaps among some others. But communism broke out with the Anabaptists in a bold and most terrible form. It does not enter into our plan to relate this tragic episode in the history of communism in which it appeared with all the retinue of false theories which it advocated and evil passions which it roused. "We are all brothers," said Muncer, the chief of the Anabaptists, to the listening crowd, "and we have a common father in Adam; whence comes this difference in rank and possessions which tyranny has set up between us and the great ones of the earth? Why should we groan in poverty and be overwhelmed with misery while they are swimming in delight? Have we not a right to equality of goods, which, by their nature, are made to be divided among all men? Give up to us, rich men of the world, covetous usurpers, give up to us the goods which you keep unjustly; it is not as men alone that we have a right to an equal distribution of the advantages of fortune, but also as Christians." Spoliation, polygamy, the destruction of statues, of paintings, of books, with the exception of the Bible, followed these preachings, especially at Mulhausen and Munster.
After having shown how sensual and fierce it can make men, of itself, it remained for communism to show by the example of Paraguay how moral, mild and happy it may make them when joined to the religious principle. This last experience of which it boasts, does not appear, any more than the others, very brilliant or very enviable. The crowning work of the Jesuits in their colonies was to change a colony of men into a flock of obedient and timid children, without any ideas of their own, without vices, but at the same time without virtues. The Jesuit fathers had established a system of absolute rule; they directed the production and distribution of wealth with that despotism without which communism is not possible. The happiness which they procured their flock was not, however, protected from the storm; and it is stated that the news of their departure was received with shouts of joy. The state of primitive innocence and even happiness under a superior authority can not be, at all events, the ideal of a civilization which prefers struggle, with its inevitable failure and the progress consequent on it, to this inert and stupid state of impeccability.
We must come down to our own time and to the New Harmony of Owen to find a fresh example of practical communism. The illusions of the modern reformer, who made irresponsibility his principal dogma, need not be recalled. It may be said that, on the whole, communism has done nothing considerable since the time of Paraguay, where it was able to survive for a time, owing solely to the change and modifications made in it by the religious spirit. Since then, it has appeared in the form of aspiration or conspiracy. Buboeuf and his accomplices met the same fate as Muncer and John of Leyden, without having had the same success; and the records of the doctrine since June, 1848, and recently, have been only those of its defeats and disappointments.
To complete the review of communism it only remains to cast a glance over the Utopias which it has produced, limiting ourselves to pointing out the chief trait of each, and the conclusions to be drawn from them all.
The type of all the communistic Utopias has justly been found in the Republic of Plato. It is important, however, to distinguish carefully the communism of the Greek philosopher from the doctrines with which it is confounded. Plato has been too frequently thought of as a modern utopist who aims at reforming the world. The republic of Plato is a purely ideal application of his philosophy to society. As a philosopher he paid too little attention in his analysis of man to the moral fact of liberty. This defect appears with all its deplorable consequences in his imaginary society. As a philosopher he understood the idea of justice admirably as far as it can be understood when detached from liberty; and with a geometrical precision concealed under the freest and most brilliant forms he arrives at absolute equality, interrupted no longer by individual differences of effort and merit, but by the personal differences of intelligence and moral energy. In this way he reaches an aristocracy of philosophers and warriors. Let us not forget, either, that Plato, far from looking toward the future had his eyes constantly turned toward the east, a country of (more or less) collective property and theocracy. Except in a few views purely moral, as sublime as they were new, which contained in them the future of the human race, we may say that Plato in his Republic wrote simply the Utopia of the past. Let us observe also that, in this work itself, property and the family seem forbidden only to one class, that of the warriors. Do not European armies recall some of the traits of this organization, supported by the other classes of citizens? Have the soldiers a family? have they land to cultivate or a table apart? The republic attests with none the less force the irresistible inclination of communism, which, whether it takes its starting point in the brutal appeal to the instincts, or has its source, as here, in the principles of abstract justice shorn of the idea and the feeling of the freedom of the will, reaches the same result, and derives the negation of the family from that of property. But the smile of Socrates while exposing this impracticable system, is perhaps the refutation best suited to this brilliant play of dialectics and imagination combined, a logical and poetical deduction of an idea, and not a serious plan of social reform.
What could a regular explanation of the systems of Thomas More and Campanella add to what we have already said? It matters little that the Utopia and the City of the Sun differ in certain regards, but it is important to remark that they agree in some of the great negations brought about by that of liberty and property. More wishes the institution of the family might remain, but he wants slaves for great public works and to fill the voids left in production by the utopists. Campanella abolishes the family. Both make the state sovereign master of labor and sole distributer of products.
Communism assumed in the eighteenth, century an exclusively philosophical form; it very nearly renounced allegory and symbolism to make use of analysis and reasoning. We do not doubt that the constitution of the institution of property which communism had before its eyes was vicious, and that philosophy and political economy were to labor for its reformation; but if the excessive and unjust equalities of eighteenth century society explain communism, how can they justify a system which moved in opposition to the general aspirations for liberty and civilization? Rousseau was not a partisan of this doctrine though he gave it weapons. In his "Discourse on Inequality," as well as in his "Social Contract," he recognizes the close solidarity of property and society, and while deploring the existence of the latter he declares it indestructible. In basing property on the law he fell into an error, general in his time, and from which Montesquieu himself was not free. Mably, who carried the principles of Rousseau to absurdity, and who changed his tendencies into systems, asks humanity to return to its natural state. In his Legislation, or Principes des lois, in his Doutes sur l'ordre naturel et essentiel des Societis opposed to the Physiocrates, in his Entretiens de Phocion, he is scarcely more than the servile commentator of Rousseau and Lycurgus. Labor in common, distribution by the state, abolition of arts, intolerance in matters of religion: these ancient consequences of the doctrine are deduced by Mably with a rigor which leaves little to be desired. The obscure Morelly goes farther yet, if possible, in his tedious Basiliade and in his hateful Code de la nature, which became the code of revolutionary communism. The boldness of Brissot de Warville, who, anticipating a celebrated saying, assimilated property to theft, and the inconsistent eccentricities of Neckcr and Linguet, could only repeat or extenuate these anathemas and theories. They were continued through the French revolution which deprived them of their raison d'etre. A disciple of Rousseau, Robespierre was not a communist, though his principles put society on the incline which leads to communism. Baboeuf, on the contrary, was. Morelly became a man of action. Philosophic and dreamy communism appeared only with Cabet, author of the Voyage en Icarie, and with the more advanced editors of the Humanitaire. These latter are much more consistent. In his communism founded on fraternity, and repeating all the arguments restoring the use of all the habitual methods of communism varied but little in its nature, Cabet, nevertheless, wished to retain the family. L'Humanitaire opposed this. We have shown on which side the logic was. Let us add also, in order to be just, that Cabet deceived himself with the fond delusion that each one would retain his cottage and his garden. He allowed his Icarians, after having well served the state which oversaw them strictly all the week, to be absolutely free every Sunday. This is far too much. A single Sunday in freedom would be death to Icaria. With these exceptions we recognize under the honey of the form the inevitable spirit of communism, that is to say, the purest despotism regulating industry, science, religion, etc.
Of what use is it to know that there are several varieties of communists in France in the nineteenth century? Some of them in a minority wish to act with mildness, just as if when property is once recognized as an obstacle to all progress, it is not necessary to destroy it at once. Some deny a God, the soul, responsibility; others mean to admit them, which is perfectly useless, since they conduct to the same practical materialism. There are others who wish to retain the fine arts, as if their economic system permitted the retention. Some are in favor of having towns, while others find it better to destroy them and force all to live in the country. These differences are of little interest. In reality there is only one and the same communism: consistent communism.
And now, if communism as an aspiration is a real disease of the social state, and if communism as an economic doctrine is merely a disease of the human mind, what are the remedies? After good moral training and instruction, to which we assign the first place, we know of but two: as to society, to apply in it more and more the great principles of economic science which indeed can not destroy its evils, but may gradually diminish them; as to minds, to imbue them continually more and more with the truths of political economy. Such is the best or rather the only real antidote against the threatening progress of communism.
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