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Mr. Havelock Ellis's "Affirmations" - PDF - / Send As Email
Affirmations, by Havelock Ellis
by A.M.
In The Bookman (U.K.), February 1898, p. 159 - Previous Article / Next Article

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response to the original personality of Drummond. The great
principles and main facts of the Christian religion seern not
only more attractive, but more real and more reasonable while
he speaks of them ; and one recognises and owns the persuasiveness
which characterised his speaking. Whether these
addresses find the reception of his earlier books or not, they
are likely to make a profounder and more enduring impression.
Not argumentative, not elaborately illustrative, they are in the
main simple and lucid statement of truth so presented as to
find its own way to the mind and conscience. The memorial
sketches are as brilliantly written as the reputation of their
authors would lead us to expect, but we doubt whether " Ian
Maclaren " was justified in saying that " in later years he
[Drummond] lost all interest in ' Natural Law.' " In any case
we must thank the editors for a volume of enduring value. 1
These essays on Nietzsche, Zola, Huysmans, and others are
not primarily literary criticisms. They are rather Ughts thrown
from a bright mind on a few writers, thinkers, and men of
action or influence, with special reference to the interests and
controversies of our own day. It is with life, not books, Mr.
ElUs is concerned. He frankly owns that he has used his
subjects as stalking-horses to " creep up more closely to the
game that his soul loves best." It is on their " questionable
aspects ••' he dwells, he says with pride, regarding anything
else as mere waste of time. All that can be said for his
subjects' attitudes towards life he says vigorously. His is the
business of the special pleader, not the judge. With Nietzsche
this is at the moment a defensible plan. Among us he has
been laughed at and denounced without being read, and Mr.
Ellis, by isolating the strong, the original, the suggestive things
in his writings, must win for the German thinker the respect of
further examination. But with Zola the method is entirely
out of date. Zola has received on every hand serious consideration.
His intellectual powers, his courage, his force have
been done justice to by all save the finnicking and the timid.
The time has come for judgment, not special advocacy, and
such sayings as that "in the long run hterature owes an
immense debt to the writers who courageously add to the stock
of strong and simple words " are beside the mark., Mr.
Ellis, of course, suggests criticism, but his general attitude is
that of apology and defence, and Zola is too strong to-day
to need either.
The essays do not pretend to be literary criticisms, but had
Mr. Ellis's literary sense been stronger, they must have been
so to some extent, and the general judgments would then have
been sounder. In the very interesting chapter on Nietzsche
stress is laid on his revolt from certain Teutonic tendencies of
thought and style. The ignorant and eager reader instantly
thinks of an unlyrical Heine with a definite and consecutive
gospel. But when he hurries to Nietzsche's " Zarathustra,"
for example, his disappointed soul revolts that it has to pick
out the gems of original and clear-cut thought from mounds of
Germanic bunkum. Nor is Nietzsche's debt to other thinkers,
especially to Emerson, half enough insisted on. M. H:uysmans
hardly deserves a place in the particular bpok, clever
man though he is. He is no leader of thought, hardly a
powerful type of a modern attitude towards hfe. The moods
of the age, material or superstitious, are reflected in him, not
more vividly than in others ; but he labours to make the most
of his impressions, and by dint of a toilsome, conscientious,
ultra-artificial manner, he has convinced some persons for the
moment that, he is a very serious writer. To the mere literary
critic, on the other hand, he is of considerable interest. Of
that entertaining rascal, Casanova, the " supreme type of the
human animal in the completest development of his rankness
and cunning," Mr. Ellis writes blithely and readably. But the
triumph of the book is the essay on " St. Francis and Others,"
albeit here the writer will call down the frowns and the groans
of the orthodox---not by any aggressiveness or extravagance,
however. It is frank, truthful, clear-sighted, and charming in
style. Between the sad ideal of the general Christian, despising
the world and hoping all things from another, and the
sensual ideal of the hedonist, it holds a happy balance, and
sees a vision of a joyous asceticism, in which poverty and
simplicity are not curses, but guides to the company of Nature,
* "Affjrroations," By Havelock Eliis. 6s. (Walter'Scott, Lira.)
paths back to the core of things. Mr. Ellis is here talking
out of his heart and within his powers ; and his words bear the
stamp of a sincere and happy mood. None of the laboured
biographies of Francis have given us a clearer picture of the
Saint that his co-religionists have so little imitated, who
" brought asceticism from the cell into the fields, and'^became
the monk of Nature. One may doubt whether, as Renan
thought,, the Song to the Sun is the supreme modern expression
of the religious spirit, but without doubt it gathers up
vaguely and broadly the things that most surely belong to our
eternal peace in this world. That it is the simplest and
naturalest things to which eternal joy belongs is the divine
secret which makes Francis a prince among saints." A. M.
The eleventh volume of this admirable compilation, invaluable
to all bookmen, is larger and in every way more complete tlian
any that have preceded it. It contains full particulars of all
the important book auctions in London and the provinces
during the j'ear, special notice being given to the sale of the
first portion of the Ashburnham Library, at which 1,683 lots
reahsed over £^0,1^0. These extraordinarily high prices
account for the fact that the average price of books during 1897
has never been equalled during the eleven years that " Book
Prices Current" has been in existence. Mr. Slaler states that
at present book-buyers are suffering from " no-great mania."
The rage for early editions of modern authors is altogether a
tiling of the past, though first editions of R. L. Stevenson and
Rudyard KipHng are rapidly rising in value. , ,
To deal adequately with the details of this wonderful book
one would have to capture all the reviewing. space in THE
BOOKMAN. In a brief notice we can but call attention to the
features which differentiate it from the mass of If erature of its
kind. First, it is not mainly a contribution to theory, though
the second volume contains bold inference and confident
prophecy. In our opinion the most valuable parts are those
which deal with the structure and the function of trades
unions, sections which have involved six years' hard labour to
two highly - trained observers, and the examination of the
constitution, the archives, and the history of practically every
trades union organisation in England. The method adopted
by Mr. and Mrs. Webb is scientific in the trues^t sense. The
unions are regarded as living, growing organisms, about whose
future one may have hopes and views only if one has studied
their long and by no means even development. . Opinion concerning
them needs constant revision. They are not what; they
were ten years ago. Indeed, they are not a clearly defined,
uniform thing at all at this moment. The writer^ find in them
the typically modern form of democracy ; bub\ the different
unions are at different stages, and criticism and eulogy are apt,
for want of a comprehensive survey like the one-before us, to
spend themselves on accidental, local, and passingj circumstances.
It must be said that the book is a great awakening
to the immense complexity of a subject about which every
newspaper writer and reader talks glibly. On the other hand,
it has been put together by two remarkably clear-headed
persons, with a fine sense of the proportion and the relations
of things.
The temper of the book as well as its methods, is scientific.
The examination of facts is candid ; there is np' bullying the
reader into taking for granted that trades unions are either
beneficial or Ukely to be permanent. But ,a ; m^ss of testable
evidence is presented to show what they have I done'and where
they are tending. And, of course, it is clea'rly admitted that
they do " not furnish any complete scheme of ,,distribution of
the community's mcome." Although, by their! representative
system, they have reached an advanced form rof democracy,
and thus give a training for EngHsh political life such as but
few members of the professional classes undergo, they are, for
their own purposes, still at an ineffective stage. ,,Success in the
future, it is held, means a "hierarchy of federations," and for
this, which implies an able Cabinet, responsible. for the wellbeing
of all the trades, they are not ready. . Their interests
* " Book Prices Current." By J. H. Slaler. Vol. XI. December
1896 to November 1897. (Elliot Stock.)
t "Industrial Democracy." By Sidney and Beatrice Webb
3 vols. 25s. net. (Longmans.)

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