Know Your Own Times
Religkm and the Modern State. By Christopher Dawson. (Sheed and Ward, 6s. net.)
Reviewed by F. R. HOARE.
" When the Revolution came it took no one more by surprise than it did the man who had written the " Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire" . . . And what, when it came, did it teach Mr. Gibbon? . . . The importance of shutting off the steam and sitting on the safety valve."
It is the late Augustine Birrell chatting whimsically (but giving chapter and verse) about the great Gibbon. We are left in no doubt that if history is " politics teaching by example," it has some remarkably backward pupils even among those who write it.
Now Mr. Christopher Dawson would be the last to claim that his historical work to date takes rank with the " Decline and Fall," but in his new book he passes brilliantly perhaps the most difficult test to which an historian can submit, which is to diagnose and place in their historical perspective the essential movements of his own day. For, in doing this, he forgoes the advantage of specialised knowledge and takes his stand with the rest of us so far as sources of information are consented.
It is, of course, true that the judgments passed on him will be correspondingly more subjective, and, to be frank, the present reviewer's great delight in this book is due in part to the gratification of finding so much of his own reading of contemporary movements endorsed by one so much more learned in the past. But, after all, even the most detached reviewer can do no other than coanrnend as a true picture the one that tells what he believes to be the truth.
Indeed, this is one of the occasions when one curses with particular vehemence the all too frequent practice of reviewers in the Catholic press of praising automatically any book written by a Catholic. It makes it almost impossible to persuade the readers of reviews that some particular book by a Catholic is really worth reading—and this book is. It has defects of arrangement, and falls below its own standard in certain applications of its diagnosis, but its description and analysis of the present political situation in Europe (with instructive allusions to the regime of' President Roosevelt) tells in outline the plain truth which every politically conscious person should know.
It tells it, moreover, with a very unacademic vigour made pungent with epigrams (e.g., the machine-gun is a " symill of the age of plenty which has made a thousand bullets fly where one flew before," and " It may be harder to resist a Totalitarian State which relies on free milk and birth-control clinics than one which relies on castor oil and concentration camps "; and, once more, " Civilisation is a road by which man travels, not a house for him to dwell in."). It may be at times unnecessarily wordy, and there are certainly a good many repetitions, in part due to the fact that the book as a whole has too much the character of a series of loosely connected essays, but sometimes occurring within a single chapter.. But many readers will get more out Of a book thus written than out of a more formally composed thesis, and none need lose through it anything of importance.
The now familiar central fact of the situation is restated well :— " The political problems of the modern world are in the last resort religious. The rise of the new state may be regarded as the culmination of • the process of secularisation in Western history and the unification of our culture on a purely materialistic basis. But on the other hand it may equally be regarded as the result of a spiritual reaction against the materialism of bourgeois society : as an attempt to find some substitute for the lost religious foundations of society and to replace Ille utilitarian individualism of the liberal-capitalist state by a new spiritual community."
. The variety of ways in which this reIntegration has been made so far is described, and the possibility of an attempt to make it in England on a humanitarian basis is made convincingly real. (It stimulates thought to find " the destruction of poverty " classed as one of the questions "_which the statesraen of the past would no more have dared to meddle with than The course of the seasons...)
But there is a parallel movement of revolt among those who " demand a civilisation and an economic system that shall
be really Christian." And here Mr. Dawson insists equally upon the necessity for Christianity to express itself socially and on its independence of any particular form of society. Indeed, in the difficult task of holding the balance between these two most vital truths, he falls into something very like a verbal contradiction When he writes on one page that " A Christian state is not marked by any particular political institutions " and on another that " Catholic principles demand s . . . a corporative state."
It is possible that these detached quotations misrepresent Mr. Dawson on this particular point, but it is round about this question of the kind of political programme to be advanced or approved by Catholics that his grasp seems least sure. It seems, moreover, that this is traceable In part to a tendency, in the diagnosis Itself, to identify Fascism (otherwise admirably described) too closely with corperative principles. But if it is so (and, the point is discussed elsewhere in this issue) then it is the only feature of the diagnosis to which serious exception need be taken.
And there are so• many that evoke Merely, however, to illustrate their range, mention may be made (on the theoretical side) of the way in which the teaching of Georges Sorel is placed in relation to Marxism on the one hand and Fascism on the other, and (in the sphere of " practkal politics ') of the discussion of the situation of the British Labour party between their present use of the party system and their theoretical acceptance of a programme quite inconsistent with it.
But no sooner are these instanced than others occur that are better still. Get the book and find them.
Irish Literary Portraits. By John Eglinton. (Macmillan, 5s.) Reviewed by EGERTON CI.ARKE Here is a book of much importance. It is not large, it is not profound, nor very scholarly, but it is illuminating and it does stimulate laughter and righteous anger. When a book is like that—and fortunately, in one sense, such books arc few and far between—it becomes necessary to own it, somehow or another.
Mr. Eglinton, in a series of vivid—and often dramatic—portraits, has given us an unforgettable insight into that phenomenon which has come to be known as the Irish Literary Movement. From a strange pool of beauty, difficult with intricate intertwining weeds of theosophy, pantheism and a remote faery paganism, there arose that irideseeal dragonfly winged by Yeats and bodied, segment to segment, by A. Es, Edward Dowden, George Moore, G.B.S., and Lady Gregory. (It was later that James Joyce—a strange dynamic water-flywinged after this wild larger creature from the same pool and hovered over the Irish landscape which was really as alien to him as to the others.)
Mr. Eglinton's portraits of these virle figures shows us, at once, how much the Ireland of the Catholic culture has suffered not only from exterior persecutions but also from her own temper and temperament. For a long time her literary tradition has been in so fragile a condition, as a result of political unrest, that it is not surprising the Anglo-Irish influence should, at any rate temporarily, become the more active and obvious in the world of letteis. But let it be said immediately that influence was not, and has not been, essentially Protestant. To Yeats and his company Protestantism was meaningless. Catholicism they never understood and their understanding was not helped by the prejudices of their early training. Almost in despair, it seems, they turned their eyes to more esoteric religious forms and to that hy. ;d mysticism which might be described as by an Indian summer out of a Celtic twilight. This is certainly the case where Yeats and A.E. are concerned. Moore and Shaw were in some respects a little too Britannic and Fabian.
Mr. Eglinton does not say, but reveals to us, from his intimate personal acquaintance with these literary—I had almost said legendary--giants, how significant was the influence of this Irish renaissance on Enghsh art as a whole. The establishment of the Abbey theatre at Dublin, perhaps the most spectacular of the movement's activities, inaugurated an era of intelligent repertory work which is still very much alive in England. The poetry of Yeats and A.E. has largely affected and improved the technique of our more traditional poets; the prose of Moore and that of Joyce—each in its different fashion—revitalised what was becoming stereotyped in our own novelists.
The pity of it is that all this loveliness could never come to full fruition or flower because it grew untended, outside the garden of its proper home.
A Catholic reviewer will necessarily be accused of sentimental and trite prejudice for such a statement, but that cannot be helped.
The Penguin Series of Novels. (John Lane. 6(l. each)
The Penguin series deserves to be the success of this year's publishing: reprints of novels of proven worth and popularity, pocket-size, clearly printed, thick paper wrapper plus jacket, and all for sixpence. It is difficult to imagine anything more likely to catch the eye of one setting out on a train journey or about to enjoy a spot of holiday lounging. The publishers are John Lane and the first ten titles: Madame Claire, by Susan Ertz, Poet's Pub, by Eric Linklater, Farewell to • Arms, by Ernest Hemingway, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, by Agatha Christie, Arid, by Andre Maurois, The Unpleasantness at the Bel
John the Baptist. A Modern interpretation by Margaret Goldsmith, with wood en
gravings by John Farleigh. (Barker, 7s. 6d.)
Reviewed by Father HUGH POPE, O.P.
Lives of Christ—serious ones—have been all the fashion during the last decade. It has now become the fashion to produce imaginative, romantic lives of Biblical heroes; we have had Moses, David, Jesus as seen by the Wandering Jew, St. Augustine as travestied by the facile pen of Miss Rebecca West. Now it is the turn of St. John the Baptist, on whom Miss Goldsmith has exercised her all too vivid and unrestrained imagination.
A few passages from her book will indicate its spirit and its value—or its lack. " His childhood was repressed and unnatural. He grew up without experiencing any personal emotions. . . He was made to think of Jehovah and little else. . . The thought of a cruel and merciless Father, whose unseen eye could watch everything His earthly children were doing, or not doing, must have meant a constant terror for a child as sensitive and lonely as John" (pp. 54-55). And on the miracle at Cana: " Looking at the phrase from a purely human point of view Mary must have been deeply hurt when He said to her: Woman, what have I to do with thee?' His obvious resentment must have meant an unspeakable grief to Mary." The whole story is despiritualised, de-supernaturalised, purely material; yet for some undefined reason Miss Goldsmith is meticulously careful to use capital letters in all pronouns referring to Christ. One wonders why,
Dr. Hecker. on Religion
Religion. By Dr. Julius Hecker. (John Lane, 3s. 6d. net) Reviewed by T. D. SHEILS, D.Ph.
The speculative philosopher who has often been confronted with the brazen feattacs of religion s din ability, constancy, and universality will relish Dr. Hecker s book as an explanation at once concise and satisfying. He may have wondered, as many another has, how, in spite of the secularisation of modern thought and culture, the homocentric tendencies of modern life, the " warfare" between science and religion, the mechanisation of the individual, and the religious challenge of Communism, religion still contrives to hold up its head and quietly to announce the certainly of a future that is secure. The author shows him that the apologetic strain, so characteristic of religious utterances, is, in the truest sense, an apologia. And perhaps that is the chief value of the treatise.
Religion, says Dr. Hecker, is not an in cidental embroidery to social life, but something that is elemental in human nature, and therefore, something for which he guarantees a contemporaneous survival. This is not a gratuitous assertion. The origin of religion is placed under the microscope and critically examined, subjectively by mystic and psychologist, objectively by anthropologist and sociologist, synthetically by philosopher and theologian, each comes ale the assurance thai religion transcends all social processes.
It is unfortunate that Dr. Julius Hecker should have marred the historic veracity of his work by calling into question the semper idem motto of Catholicism. He shows that his understanding of dogma is modernistic rather than Catholic. For if dogma is, as he seems to understand it, an intellectual interpretation of religious phenornena and experiences rather than a divine truth rooted in the deposits of Revelation, then his argument that "even Roman Catholicism has not remained the same and is continually though slowly adapting itself to scientific discoveries aria implacable social changes " might be substantiated. Yet. on the nthp,
English -Earth. By Marjorie Hessell 1 iiiman. (Harrap, 10s. 6d.)
Reviewed by -G. C. HESELT1NE.
In this book of just over 300 pages, Mrs. Tiltman has packed a lively and thrilling survey of England's " oldest, largest, and most important industry.Agriculture is man's primary labour: Ws must eat to live. This is an elemental y truism that has been forgotten during the industrial revolution. But we are hems., sternly reminded of it now that the industrial revolution has gone full circle, " the serpent that eateth up his own tail."
We have discovered that we cannot live by trade. The lucrative business of selling door-knobs to dagoes has come to an end. Other countries, even the " backward countries, have now learned to do all that we did for them in Birmingham and Bradford. They rarely need to buy our manufactures, and when they do they cannot pay for them. So we cannot buy back from them the food products of their large agricultural populations. Evco our imperial colonies, from which we could at one time get food cheaply, pretty much on our own terms, have now been given independence, and we must trade with them as with the other countries.
Hence, our factories stand idle. The men who worked them and their growing families are idle too, but they must be red. England's rich and lazy acres are at hard to feed them. So with a vivid flash of inspiration we are looking to English earth to solve our double problem—feed us and keep us out of mischief.
When we look at English agricultute, those of us at least who have been enamoured of the industrial revolution, we find that it is not what we thought it was. It is neither the pastoral pa.adise of buttercups and milkmaids that the industrialist promised to give himself a hall day in when he could spare the time from making money, nor is it the muddle headed medikeval mucky business run by village idiots and horsey-headed squires that the average smart towney despised.
Side by side with the dying industrial revolution there has been a growing agri cultural revolution. The brains of the town :iave met the beauty of the countryside. It may smack of a manage de convenance, and the result is too young to praise or condemn. If it fulfils the hope of the lovely lady who is said to have tempted Mr. Bernard Shaw with the prospect of progeny with her beauty and nis brains, all will be well. But the wise man sees the dreadful possible combination of her brains and his beauty.
Mrs. Tiltman shows you English agriculture as it is to-day. Whether you are a pastoral idealist or a practical sociologist, you cannot be blind to what she has to show. Whatever aspect of agriculture she discusses, social, economic, scientific, corn-growing, flower-farmir4, poultry, cider, sheep, tithes, mechanisation, she is right up to date.
The technical details of every brand' are disclosed in simple language. There is not a page that is not interesting in the fullest sense. There are, as one must expect in such a wide survey, a few debatable generalisations, and, occasionally. statistics (as on wheat-growing) that one is provoked to challenge. But, in fairness, the authoress herself rightly places but little value on them, knowing their deceptive tricks. The book is a little, but not over, sentimental, and views some what too optimistically the accomplishments and promises of " science," as, for example, in the poultry industry (a sec tion, by the-way, admirably done). But these are trivial criticisms of a really fine achievement. It is safe to say that there is no better survey of agriculture for the layman, and no townsman with any claim to education can afford to be unaware of the story Mrs. Tiltman tells so well. The book is well produced and generously illustrated.
For Parents and Teachers
Some Aspects of Child Hygiene. By Mary G. Cardwell, M.D. (Pitman. 3s. net.) To Mothers and Fathers. (A.M.C.W.C., 117, Piccadilly, W.I. 6d.) Dr. Cardwell is lecturer in hygiene in the Mount Pleasant Training College, Liverpool, and she has provided an authoritative handbook based on the hygiene syllabus of the Board of Education. It is primarily intended for the use of training colleges and practising teachers, but will be invaluable to parents as well. The great importance of recognising the premonitory signs of disease in children is stressed, special reference is made to child psychology, and there is a very sensible and sound chapter on the instruction of childern hi sexual matters. (" Of all the mistakes in sex education there is probably none greater than that of prevarication.") Many most of the matters with which Dr. Cardwell deals are really the concern of parents, and this she recognises; but she also recognises that in fact many parents can not, will not, or are not allowed to do their duty, whether because of ignorance, indigence, indifference or interferences A first-class piece of work.
The booklet published by the Association of Maternity and Child Welfare Centres is now in its 15th edition anti 900th thousand. It gives simple and reliable directions on how a mother can keep herself and her children well and strong, and does not overlook the duties of the fa,her in this regard.
B. P. L.