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AFTER STRANGE GODS

other books by T.

S.

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SELECTED ESSAYS

FOR LANCELOT ANDREWES


THE USE OF POETRY

DANTE
THOUGHTS AFTER LAMBETH
POEMS, 1909-1925

ASH-WEDNESDAY
SWEENEY AGONISTES
JOURNEY OF THE MAGI
A SONG FOR SIMEON
TRIUMPHAL MARCH
ANIMULA
MARINA

AFTER STRANGE GODS


A PRIMER

OF

MODERN HERESY

THE PAGE-BARBOUR LECTURES


AT THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA
1933

BY
T.

S.

ELIOT

KOt TOt'T
KO.V
fft'

YjSr)

ItoV

Xdfiys

/iavrt/cg firjStv

CEdipus

Rex

1.

460-462.

LONDON

FABER AND FABER LIMITED


24

RUSSELL SQUARE

IN FEBRUARY MCMXXXIV
BY FABER AND FABER LIMITED
24 RUSSELL SQUARE LONDON W.C. I
SECOND IMPRESSION NOVEMBER MCMXXXIV
PRINTED IN GREAT BRITAIN BY
R. MACLEHOSE AND COMPANY LIMITED
THE UNIVERSITY PRESS GLASGOW
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

FIRST PUBLISHED

PN

To

ALFRED

and

ADA SHEFFIELD

mit vagen Grenzen


zwar, aber immer noch deutlicher ein Gebiet fur sich

Chaos

in der 'Literatur', die

Das
ist; sie,

die in

Spiegel aller

gesunden Zeiten ein relativ reiner, gef alliger


herschenden Dinge und Undinge ist, in kran-

ken, chaotischen ein selber triiber

all

der triiben Dinge

und

ist zur cloaca maxima


geworden. Jegim
im
Menschen
selber ich
Humanen,
Unordnung

Ideen, die es gibt,


liche

von dem dreifachen Gesichtspunkt, unter dem sie


betrachtet werden kann, dem Primat der Lust, dem Primat
sprach

der Sentimentalitat,

genz

an

dem

Primat der technischen

Stelle der einzig

Intelli-

wahren hierarchischen Ord-

nung, des Primates des Geistes und des Spiritualen jegliche Unordnung findet ihr relariv klares oder meist selber

noch neuerhch

verzerrtes Bild in der Literatur dieser Tage.

THEODOR HAECKER: Was ist der Mensch?

p. 65.

PREFACE
and

it

which follow were not undertaken

as

monde moderne

Ze

It

qyilit.

also provincialises,

can also corrupt.

The

three lectures

exercises in literary criticism. If the reader insists

them

as

misunderstanding

as

considering

upon

should like to guard against


such,
far as possible. The lectures are not
I

even in the most summary form, my


opinions of the work of contemporary writers: they are
concerned with certain ideas in illustration of which I have
designed to

set forth,

drawn upon
whose work

work of some of the few modern

the

know.

writers

am

not primarily concerned either


with their absolute importance or their importance relaI

tively to each other;

and other

felicitous illustration

of my

writers,

who

in

any literary
of
our
time
to
be
are
unmentioned
included,
survey
ought
or barely mentioned, because they do not provide such
exceptions to

work.

am

thesis,

it,

among

the best; and for

useless.

The

extent to

respect for them.

my purpose

which

whose names find place,

is

is

there,

have

the second-rate

were

criticised the authors

accordingly some measure of my

dare say that a detached critic could find

an equally rich vein of error in


error

or because they are rare

am

unacquainted with their


sure that those whom I have discussed are
or because

am

my own

writings. If such

probably the last person to be able to


IT

AFTER STRANGE GODS


detect

but

it;

demn what

its

presence and discovery

more than

say here, any

would not con-

its

would

absence

confirm it.

There

no doubt some

is

curiosity to

know what any

writer thinks of his contemporaries: a curiosity which has


less
I

do with

to

hope

literary criticism than

that a reader

who

takes

tation will be disappointed.


criticise

my

have not attempted to

pleased to

remind the

literary gossip.

this essay in that

expec-

am uncertain of my ability to
as artists; I

contemporaries

form of these lectures only in


I

up

with

ascended the plat-

the role of moralist.

have been

disguise, but rather

reader, that these are lectures; that

they were composed for vocal communication to a particular audience.


1

lectures shah

What

the Foundation requires

be published, not that a book

is

that the

shall subse-

quently be written on the same subject; and a lecture composed for the platform cannot be transformed into something

mind

should be glad if the reader could keep this in


when he finds that some ideas are put forward

else. I

account of their history or of their activities,


and that others are set down in an absolute way without

without a

full

qualifications.

am

aware that

my

assertion

of the obsol-

escence of Blasphemy might thus be subject to stricture:

but if I had developed the refinements and limitations which


mind of the Christian enquirer,
present themselves to the
I

should have needed

at least the space

of one whole

do was merely to
lecture; and what I was
was not one of those
explain that the charge of blasphemy
that I wished to prefer against modern literature. It may be
concerned to

said that

no blasphemy can be purely


12

verbal;

and

it

may

PREFACE
be said that there

also

is

'blasphemy', in which
possibly, myself)

a profounder

meaning of the term

some modern authors

(including,

may

possibly have been gravely guilty.

must depend
upon some good-will on the part of the reader. I do not
In such matters, as perhaps in everything,

wish to preach only to the converted, but primarily to


those who, never having applied moral principles to
even having conscientiously believed that they ought not to apply them in
this way to 'works of art'
are possibly convertible. I am
literature

quite

perhaps

explicitly

not arguing or reasoning, or engaging in controversy with


those whose views are radically opposed to such as mine.
In our time, controversy seems to

mental matters, to be
tised

where there

is

futile. It

common

me, on

really

funda-

can only usefully be pracunderstanding.

It

requires

common

assumptions; and perhaps the assumptions that


are only felt are more important than those that can be
formulated. The acrimony which accompanies much debate

is

symptom of

differences so large that there

is

We

nothing to argue about.


exp'erience such profound
differences with some of our contemporaries, that the
nearest parallel

is

the difference between the mentality of

one epoch and another. In a society like ours, wormeaten with Liberalism, the only thing possible for a person
with strong convictions
leave
I

it at

is

to state a point

of view and

that.

wish to express

my thanks to Professor Wilbur Nelson

and the Page-Barbour Lectureship Committee; to the


Acting President and the members of the Faculty of the
University of Virginia

who

helped to

13

make

my

visit

to

AFTER STRANGE GODS


Virginia a very pleasant

memory;

to

my

hosts, Professor

and Mrs. Scott Buchanan; to Professor Buchanan for conand suggestions out of which these lectures
and to the Revd. M. C. D'Arcy, S.J., and Mr. F. V.

versations
arose;

Morley

for their criticisms.

that these lectures

It is

a pleasure to

were delivered

smaller and most gracious of

at

me

to think

one of the older,

American educational

in-

one of those in which some vestiges of a traditional education seem to survive. Perhaps I am mistaken:

stitutions,

but if not,

should wish that

such institutions to

might be able to encourage


maintain their communications with
I

the past, because in so doing they will be maintaining their

communications with any future worth communicating


with.

T.

London, January 1934.

S.

E.

AFTER STRANGE GODS


I

years ago
the Individual
Some

wrote an essay

Talent.

entitled Tradition and

During the course of the subse-

have discovered, or had brought to my


quent
attention, some unsatisfactory phrasing and at least one
fifteen years

more than doubtful analogy. But I do not repudiate what


wrote in that essay any more fully than I should expect to

do

after

such a lapse of time.

not seem to
treat it

tempt

now as

such
in

naturally, does

seemed then, nor could

What

propose to atto outline the matter as I now

is

it.

first visit
I

it

a purely literary one.

seemed to

here,

so simple as

in these three lectures

conceive
It

me

The problem,

me

appropriate to take this occasion,

to Virginia, for

my

re-formulation.

You

my

have

imagine, at least some recollection of a 'tradition',

of foreign populations has almost effaced


of the North, and such as never established

as the influx

some

parts

itself in the

West: though

tradition here,

it is

hardly to be expected that a

any more than anywhere

else,

should be

found in healthy and flourishing growth. I have been much


interested, since the publication a few years ago of a book
called

/'//

agrarian
to

Take

My

Stand, in

movement

what

is

in the South,

sometimes called the

and

look forward

any further statements by the same group of

writers.

AFTER STRANGE GODS


May

say that

my

of your country

pressions

have strengthened
thors:

and no doubt

first,

no one,

New

Englander
of sympathy with those au-

speak

my feeling

as a

im-

superficial

surely, can cross the

Potomac

for the

first

time without being struck by differences so great that their


extinction could only mean the death of both cultures. I

had previously been led to wonder, in travelling from


Boston to New York, at what point Connecticut ceases to
be a

New

state

England

York suburb; but

and

transformed into a

is

to cross into Virginia

is

New

as definite

an

experience as to cross from England to Wales, almost as


definite as to cross the English Channel.

And the differences

with no difference of language or race to support


them, have had to survive the immense pressure towards

here,

monotony

exerted

by

the industrial expansion of the latter

part of the nineteenth and the first part of the twentieth


century. The Civil War was certainly the greatest disaster
in the

whole of American

disaster

from which the country

perhaps never will:


that the

history;

good

while the

we

effects

ill-effects are

it is

just as certainly a

has never recovered, and

are always too ready to assume

of wars,

if any, abide

obliterated

by

time.

permanently
Yet I think that

the chances for the re-establishment of a native culture are

perhaps better here than in

away from
and

less

opulent

My

New England. You are farther

New

York; you have been less industrialised


invaded by foreign races; and you have a more

soil.

local feelings

were

stirred

very sadly by

my first view

of New England, on arriving from Montreal, and journeying all one day through the beautiful desolate country of
16

AFTER STRANGE GODS


Vermont. Those
with primaeval

hills

had once,
the

forest;

forest

suppose, been covered

was razed

sheep pastures for the English settlers;

now

gone, and most of the descendants of the

new

to

make

the sheep are


settlers;

and

with the melancholy glory


of October maple and beech and birch scattered among
the evergreens; and after this procession of scarlet and gold
a

forest appeared blazing

and purple wilderness you descend to the sordor of the halfdead mill towns of southern New Hampshire and Massachusetts. It
fertile

is

not necessarily those lands which are the most

or most favoured in climate that seem to

happiest, but those in

between

man and

best qualities

which

a long struggle

me

the

of adaptation

environment has brought out the


of both; in which the landscape has been
his

moulded by numerous generations of one race, and


which the landscape in turn has modified the race to

in
its

own character. And those New England mountains seemed


me to give evidence of a human success so meagre and

to

transitory as to be

more

desperate than the desert.

know

very well that the aim of the 'neo-agrarians' in


the South will be qualified as quixotic, as a hopeless stand
I

which was

long before they were born. It


will be said that the whole current of economic determin-

for a cause

ism

is

against them,

lost

and economic determinism

whom we

is

to-day

down and worship with all,


kinds of music. I believe that these matters may ultimately
be determined by what people want; that when anything is
a

god

before

fall

generally accepted as desirable, economic laws can be upset


in order to achieve

it;

that

it

does not so

much

present whether any measures put forward are

17

matter at

practical, as

AFTER STRANGE GODS


whether the aim
erable.
ties

There

is

good aim, and

the alternatives intol-

are, at the present stage,

in the revival or establishment

more

serious difficul-

of a tradition and

way

of life, which require immediate consideration.


is not
solely, or even primarily, the mainten^IJTradition
ance of certain dogmatic
to take their living

tradition.

What

form

beliefs; these beliefs

in the course

mean by

have come

of the formation of a

tradition involves

habitual actions, habits and customs,

from

the

all

most

those

signifi-

cant religious rite to our conventional

way of greeting a
which
stranger,
represent the blood kinship of 'the same
in
the same place'. It involves a good deal
people living
which can be

called taboo: that this

word is used in our time

in an exclusively derogatory sense

of some

significance.

We

is

me

to

a curiosity

become conscious of

these

items, or conscious of their importance, usually only after

they have begun to


the leaves of a tree

fall

when

the

them off when they have


Energy may

be wasted

we

into desuetude, as

aware of

are

autumn wind begins

to

separately ceased to be

at that

to collect the leaves as they

point in a frantic

fall

and

the dry tree should be put to the axe.

vital.'

endeavour

gum them

branches: but the sound tree will put forth

blow

onto the

new leaves, and

We

are always in

^danger, in clinging to an old tradition, or attempting to


re-establish one, of confusing the vital and the unessential,

Our second danger is to assowith the immovable; to think of it as

the real and the sentimental.


ciate tradition

something

hostile to all change; to

previous condition which

we

aim

to return to

some

having been
capable of preservation in perpetuity, instead of aiming
18

imagine

as

AFTER STRANGE GODS


which produced

to stimulate the life


its

that condition in

time.

not of advantage to us to indulge a sentimental

, It is

atti-

*"

tude towards the past. For one thing, in even the very best
living tradition there

is

and much that deserves


is

not

very

a matter

critical

always a mixture of good and bad,

and for another, tradition

criticism;

of feeling alone.

Nor can we safely, without

examination, dig ourselves in stubbornly to a

few dogmatic

what

notions, for

time may, unless

it is

one of the few fundamental things, be

Nor

a pernicious prejudice at another.

one

a healthy belief at

is

traditions as a

way of

worth having,

to discover

should

we

cling to

asserting our superiority over less


favoured peoples. What we can do is to use our minds, remembering that a tradition without intelligence is not

but

as a political abstraction,

particular place;

what should be

power

what

rejected;

is

population

is

move

same place they

Or else you may

race, as in India:

is

You

are hardly

where the bulk of the


it is

that

it

has

no

The population
where two or more cultures
about.

are likely either to be


fiercely

become

adulterate. 1

get a caste system, based

which

we

foster the society that

relatively so well off where

self-conscious or both to

people in a

worth preserving and

obviously necessary.

incentive or pressure to

exist in the

for us not

and what conditions, within our

would

should be homogeneous

life

as a particular

likely to develop tradition except


is

the best

is

in the past

to bring about,

desired Stability

what

on

What is

still

original distinctions

a very different matter

from

classes,

of

which

pre-suppose homogeneity of race and a fundamental equality. But


social classes, as distinct

from economic classes, hardly exist to-day.

19

AFTER STRANGE GODS


more important

is

unity of religious background; and

reasons of race and religion

combine

number of free-thinking Jews

undesirable.] There

proper balance between urban and


agricultural development.

ance

is

to be deprecated.

And

to

make any

large

must be a
and

rural, industrial

a spirit

of excessive

toler-

We must also remember that

in

of every means of transport that can be devised the


community must always be the most permanent, and

spite

locaj

that the concept


variable.

It is,

of the nation

is

by no means fixed and

in-

so to speak, only one fluctuating circle of

loyalties between the centre of the family and the local


community, and the periphery of humanity entire. Its

strength and

geographical size depend upon the comprehensiveness of a way of life which can harmonise parts with
its

distinct local characters

more than

of their own.

a centralised machinery

it

When it becomes no
may affect some of its

what they believe to be their


regional movements which have

parts to their detriment, or to

detriment; and

we get the

appeared within recent years.


local patriotism,

when

it

It is

only a law of nature, that

represents a distinct tradition

culture, takes precedence over a

more

and

abstract national

patriotism. This

remark should carry more weight for

being uttered

a Yankee.

So
1<

in

far I

by

have only pronounced a few doctrines

all

To place the redemptive work of the Christian Faith in social

its

proper setting,

it is

that the consciousness

necessary to have clearly in

of "the nation"

mind

as the social unit

is

of

affairs

at the outset

a very recent

and contingent experience. It belongs to a limited historical period and


is bound
up with certain specific happenings, theories of society
and

attitudes to life as a whole.'

V. A. Demant, God,

p. 146.

2O

Man

and Society,

AFTER STRANGE GODS


which have been developed by other

writers.

do not

in-

wished simply to indicate the connotation which the term tradition has for me,
tend to trespass upon their

fields. I

with the concept of orthomore fundamental (with its

before proceeding to associate


doxy, which seems to

me

it

which

opposite, heterodoxy, for

heresy) than the pair classicism

term

shall also use the

romanticism

which

is

fre-

quently used.

As we use the term

tradition to

than 'traditional religious

include a

beliefs',

so

am

good

deal

more

here giving the

and though of
course I believe that a right tradition for us must be also a
Christian tradition, and that orthodoxy in general implies
term orthodoxy

similar inclusiveness;

I do not
propose to lead the present
of lectures to a theological conclusion. The relation
between tradition and orthodoxy in the past is evident

Christian orthodoxy,
series

enough; as is also the great difference there may be between an orthodox Christian and a member of the Tory
Party.

But Conservatism,

as it has

so far as

it

has ever existed, so far

ever been intelligent, and not merely one of the

names for hand-to-mouth party politics, has been associated


with the defence of tradition, ideally if not often in fact.

On

ago, a relation
l

was

hundred years
between the Liberalism which attacked the

the other hand, there

certainly, a

should not like to hold any one of them responsible for my


opinions, however, or for any that the reader may find irritating. I
l

have in mind Mr. Chesterton and

Dawson (The Making


and

their colleagues.

and

his friends as

his 'distributism',

Mr. Christopher

of Europe), Mr. Demant and Mr. M. B. Reckitt


I have also in mind the views of Mr. Allen Tate

evinced in

/'//

Take

Scottish nationalists.

21

My

Stand,

and those of several

AFTER STRANGE GODS


Church and

which appeared in politics.


William Palmer, the former

the Liberalism

to a contemporary,

According
group of Liberals

'were eager to eliminate from the Prayer-book the belief


in the Scriptures, the Creeds, the

of Christ. They

Atonement, the worship


of Unitarian

called for the admission

dels as fellow-believers.

They would

infi-

eviscerate the Prayer-

book, reduce the Articles to a

deistic
formulary, abolish all
or
adhesions
to
formularies, and reduce relisubscriptions

of anarchy and dissolution. These notions


were widely spread. They were advocated in numberless
publications, and greedily received by a democratic,
gion to a

state

thoughtless public.

Christianity, as

it

had existed for

l
eighteen centuries, was unrepresented in this turmoil.'
It is well to remember that this sort of Liberalism was

flourishing a century ago;


it is

flourishing

by an eminent

still.

it is

also well to

Not many months ago

liberal divine

from which

remember
I

that

read an article

have preserved

the following sentence:

'We now have at hand an apparatus which, though not yet


able to discover reality,

is

fully

competent to identify and

to

eliminate the disproportionate mass oferror which has found

lodgment

in

our creeds and codes. The factual untruth and

the fallacious inference are being steadily eliminated

from

the hereditary body of religious faith and moral practice.'


And, in order not to limit my instances to theology, I will

quote from another contemporary Liberal practitioner, a


literary critic this time:

'Aided by psycho-analysis, which gave them


1

Quoted in Northern

22

Catholicism, p. 9.

new wea-

AFTER STRANGE GODS


pons,
into

many of the poets and dramatists of our day have dug


the most perverse of human complexes, exposing

them with

the scalpel of a surgeon rather than that of a

philosopher.'

At

this

point

may do

well to anticipate a possible mis-

understanding. In applying the standard of orthodoxy to

contemporary

literature

my emphasis will be upon its colmeaning. A superficial apprehen-

lective rather than its static

sion of the term

might suggest the assumption that everything worth saying has been said, and that the possible
forms of expression have all been discovered and developed;
the assumption that novelty of form and of substance

always to be deprecated.
point of view which

What

is

objectionable,

have adopted,

is

from

was
the

not novelty or

originality in themselves, but their glorification for their

own

sake.

may

be considered

The

artist's

as

concern with originality, certainly,


largely negative: he wishes only to

avoid saying what has already been said as well as it can be.
I am not here
occupied with the standards, ideals and

But

rules

which the

but with the

or writer should

artist

way

in

which

his

set

before himself,

work should be

taken by

the reader; not with the aberrations of writers, but with

those of readers and

To

critics.

assert

that a

work

is

should be very modest praise: it should be no


more than to say that the work is not patently negligible.
'original'

Contemporary

literature

may

conveniently be divided

as

which attempts to do what has


already been done perfectly, and it is to this superfluous

follows.

There

is first

that

kind of writing that the

word

applied: w/5-applied, for the

'traditional'

word

23

itself

is

commonly
move-

implies a

AFTER STRANGE GODS


ment. Tradition cannot mean standing still. Of course,
no writer ever admits to himself that he has no originality; but the fact that a writer can be satisfied to use the
exact idiom of a predecessor

not write

satire in the line

is
very suspicious; you canof Pope or the stanza of Byron.

Thejsecond kind of contemporary writing aims at an exaggerated novelty, a novelty usually of a trifling kind,

which conceals from the


commonplaceness.

If you

uncritical reader a

fundamental

examine the works of any great

innovator in chronological order, you may expect to find


that the author has been driven on, step by step, in his in-

by an inner

novations,

form has

necessity,

and that the novelty of

upon him by his material than


well also to remember that what

rather been forced

deliberately sought. It

is

any one writer can contribute in the way of 'originality' is


very small indeed, and has often a pitifully small relation
to the mass

of his writings.

As for the small number of writers,

period,

who are worth taking seriously, I am

asserting that
it

would be

dual by

any of these is wholly 'orthodox' or even that


them according to degrees of
not

more

for one thing, to judge the indivi-

actual only in society as a whole;

are heretical in

responsibility solely
essential

fair,

what can be

most of us

one

way

that

or another.

Nor

is

and
the

with the individual. Furthermore, the

of any important heresy


it is

any other
very far from

relevant to rank
It is

orthodoxy.

wrong:

in this or

it is

partly right.

is

It

not simply that it is


is characteristic of the

interesting heretics, in the context in

which

use the

term, that they have an exceptionally acute perception, or

profound

insight,

of some part of the


24

truth; an insight

AFTER STRANGE GODS


more important often than the inferences of those who are
aware of more but less acutely aware of anything. So far as

we

are able to redress the balance, effect the compensation,

ourselves,
If

we

astray.

we may

value

And

them

find such authors of the greatest value.


as

they value themselves

in the present state

of

affairs,

we

shall

go

with the low

degree of education to be expected of public and of reviewers,

we

are

more

must remember too,


simplicity, to
tellect

make

likely to

go wrong than right

that an heresy

a direct

is

we

apt to have a seductive

and persuasive appeal to in-

and emotions, and to be altogether more plausible

than the truth.


It

will already

have been observed that

my

contrast

of

heresy and orthodoxy has some analogy to the more usual


one of romanticism and classicism; and I wish to emphasise
this
far.

analogy myself, as a safeguard against carrying it too


I would wish in
any case to make the point that roman-

ticism and classicism are not matters with


writers can afford to bother over

which

creative

much, or with which they

do, as a rule, in practice greatly concern themselves.


true that

It is

from time to time writers have labelled themselves

'romanticists' or 'classicists', just as they

have from time to

time banded themselves together under other names. These

names which groups of writers and artists give themselves


are the delight of professors and historians of literature, but
should not be taken very seriously; their chief value

temporary and

political

that, simply,

is

of helping to make

the authors known to a contemporary public; and I doubt


whether any poet has ever done himself anything but harm

by attempting

to write as a 'romantic' or as a

25

'classicist*.

AFTER STRANGE GODS


No

sensible author, in the midst

of something that he is
whether it is going to

trying to write, can stop to consider

be romantic or the opposite. At the


writes,

one

is

what one

is,

moment when one

and the damage of

and of having been born into an unsettled


be repaired

at the

moment of

The danger of using terms


this does not however give
altogether

as

from

mean

composition,

cannot

and

'classic'

us permission to avoid

much from

them

the confusion

who use these terms about their own work,

inevitable shifts

of meaning

in context.

We do not

same thing when we speak of a writer


we do when we speak of a literary period

quite the

romantic, as

romantic. Furthermore,

associated with

whether there

more or

one term or the other, and

is

any

as
as

we may have in mind, on any par-

ticular occasion, certain virtues or vices

may

society,

like 'romantic'

does not spring so

caused by those

a lifetime,

total

it is

less

justly

doubtful

sum of virtues or of vices which


class. The opportunities for
sys-

be arrogated to either

tematic misunderstanding, and for futile controversy, are

accordingly almost ideal; and discussion of the subject

is

by excitement of passion and preby reason. Finally and this is the most

generally conducted
judice, rather than

important point the differences represented by these two


terms are not such as can be confined to a purely literary
context. In using them,

you

are ultimately bringing in

all

human values, and according to your own scheme of valuation.

A thorough-going classicist
individualist, like the

lape'

is

likely to be a

thorough-

Irving Babbitt; so that one

going
should be on guard, in using such terms, against being'
thorough-going.

26

AFTER STRANGE GODS


When we press such a term to

an exactness which

it

will

not bear, confusions are bound to occur. Such, for instance,


is

made between

the association sometimes

Catholicism.

It is

possible for a

man

classicism

and

to adhere to both; but

he should not be under the delusion that the connexion

may spring from some unitywithin


but that unity, as it is in him, may not be valid
rest of the world. And you cannot treat on

necessarily objective:

himself,

for the

is

it

same footing the maintenance of religious and


said that you cannot restrict
literary principles. I have
the

the

terms

'romantic'

and

'classical',

as

professors

literature conveniently do, to the literary context;

of

but on

them from

that
hand you cannot wholly free
context either. There is surely something wrong when a
critic divides all works of art neatly into one group and the

the other

other and then plumps for the romantic or the classical as a

whole. Whichever you like in theory,

works altogether of one

it is

suspicious if you

class in practice:

probably
names
for what
made
the
terms
have
either
merely
you
you admire and for what you dislike, or you have forced
prefer

and

falsified

your

tastes.

Here again

is

the error of being

too thorough-going.

may as well admit at this point that in this discussion of


terms I have my own log to roll. Some years ago, in the
I

preface to a small

mary

volume of essays,

a sort

of sum-

declaration of faith in matters religious, political and

literary.

The

facility

with which

quoted has helped to reveal to


1

made

For instance two of


:

my own

this

me

statement has been

that as

it

stands the

favourite authors are Sir

Malory and Racine.

27

Thomas

AFTER STR,ANGE GODS


statement
jects are

injudicious. It

is

suggest that the three sub-

of equal importance to me, which

suggest that

which

may

is

all

accept

not so; and

it

three beliefs

may

on

suggest that

is

not so;

it

may

the same grounds,


I

believe that they

hang together or fall together, which would be the


most serious misunderstanding of all. That there are con-

all

nexions for

own mind

me

of course admit, but

these illuminate

my

now

see

rather than the external world;

and

the danger of suggesting to outsiders that the Faith


political principle or a literary fashion,

dramatic posture.
From another aspect also

is

and the sum of all a

have a personal interest in the


clearing up of the use of the terms with which I have been
concerned. My friend Dr. Paul Elmer More is not the first

'

an apparent incoherence between


my verse and my critical prose though he is the first whose
critic to call attention to

perplexity

on

would appear
ions in

this

account has caused

that while

my criticism,

me

any distress. It
most
correct opinmaintain the

do nothing but

violate

them

in

my

and thus appear in a double, if not double-faced role.


no shame in this matter. I am not of course interested

verse;
I feel

by those

critics

who

praise

my

criticism in order to dis-

my verse, or those who praise my verse in order to


discredit my opinions in religious or social affairs; I am only
credit

interested in answering those critics

who,

like

Dr. More,

have paid me the compliment


here matter of expressing some approval of both. I
should say that in one's prose reflexions one may be legitideserved or not does not

mately occupied with ideals, whereas in the writing of


verse one can only deal with actuality. Why, I would ask,
28

AFTER STRANGE GODS


is

most

and

religious verse so bad;

why

gious verse reach the highest levels


think, because

of

writing poetry

is

of the

first

a pious insincerity.

is

intensity

still.

little reli-

The

rare;

and

it is

capacities in the

People

capacity for

rare; the capacity for religious

existence of both

be rarer

does so

of poetry? Largely,

emotion

to be expected that the

same individual should

who write devotional verse are usually

they want to feel, rather than as they do feel.


Likewise, in an age like the present, it could only be poetry
as

writing

of the very greatest rank that could be genuinely what Dr.


More would be obliged to call 'classical'; poets of lower
that

ability

is all

ence.
is

It

by

as

half a dozen perhaps in the

could only be

world's history
classical;

but such

being unfaithful

'classical' by being
pseudoand dishonest to their experi-

should hardly be necessary to add that the

and

just as unpredictable as the romantic,

would not

that

'classical'

most of us

he appeared, so
queer and horrifying he would seem even to those who
clamour for him.
recognise a classical writer if

hold

in summing up
that a tradition is rather a way of
and
which
characterises
a group throughout
feeling
acting
generations; and that it must largely be, or that many of
I

the elements in

it

must

tenance of orthodoxy

of

all

is

be, unconscious;

a matter

which

for the exercise

our conscious intelligence. The two will therefore

considerably complement each other.


ible to

whereas the main-

calls

Not only

is it

poss-

conceive of a tradition being definitely bad; a

good

tradition might, in changing circumstances,


date. Tradition has

perpetuate

much

not the means to

that

is

trivial

29

become out of

criticise itself; it

may

or of transient significance

AFTER STRANGE GODS


and permanent. And while tradition, being a matter of good habits, is necessarily real
only in a social group, orthodoxy exists whether realised in
as

well

as

what

is

vital

anyone's thought or not. Orthodoxy

also,

of course repre-

between the living and the dead: but a


whole generation might conceivably pass without any
sents a consensus

orthodox thought; or, as by Athanasius, orthodoxy may


be upheld by one man against the world. Tradition may be
conceived

at directly. It

.6

brain:

it is

by-product of right living, not to be aimed


is of the blood, so to
speak, rather than of the

as a

the means

by which

the vitality of the past en-

of the present. In the co-operation of bolh is


the reconciliation of thought and feelingAThe concepts of

riches the life

romantic

and

classic

are both

more

limited in scope and

less

meaning. Accordingly they do not carry with


them the implication of absolute value which those who
definite in

have defended one against the other would give them: it is


only in particular contexts that they can be contrasted in

way, and there are always values more important than


any that either of these terms can adequately represent. I

this

propose in
flexions

my second lecture to illustrate these general

re-

by some application to modern English literature.

II
that

hope

I have

what

quite clear, both for the sake of

it is

said already

and for the sake of what I have

still

to

say, that the sense in which I am using the terms tradition and

orthodoxy

is

to be kept distinctly in

mind

as

not identical

with the use of the same terms in theology. The difference


is widest with the term tradition, for I have wished to use
the

word

by

habit, breeding

to cover

much

arbitrarily chosen.

my

discussion

it

accounted for

should not on the

supposed that

my meanings were

That they bear

a relation to the

have no wish to conceal:

of these matters would

But the two terms have been

against being thought to

more

if they did not,

lose all significance.

so frequently

expounded by more philosophical


guard

is

and environment.

other hand like to have

exact meanings

in our lives that

and so subtly

writers, that

in a loose

would
and in-

employ,
terms
which
have
manner,
expert
already been fully and
sharply defined.

With

the terms in their theological use

presume no acquaintance; and I appeal only to your


common-sense: or, if that word sounds too common, to
shall

your wisdom and experience of life. That an acceptance of


the validity of the two terms as I use them should lead one
dogmatic theology, I naturally believe; but I am not
here concerned with pursuing investigation in that path.
to

My

enquiries take 'the opposite direction: let us consider

AFTER

ANGE GODS

T'R

the denial or neglect of tradition in


see

what that leads

The

my mundane sense, and

to.

of the lack of any strong


twofold: extreme individualism in views, and

general effect Si literature

tradition

is

no accepted

rules or opinions as to the limitations

literary job. I

of the

have spoken elsewhere of poetry as a suband of kinds of criticism which assumed

stitute for religion,

that the function

two

of poetry was to replace


concomitant.

results are naturally

View of life'

is

as

good

When

as another's, all

prising spirits will naturally evolve their

there
is,

is

no custom

to determine

what

religion.

the

The

one man's

more

enter-

own; and where

the task of literature

every writer will determine for himself, and the more

enterprising will range as far afield as possible.

But

at this

should develop one distinction between the usual


point
sense of 'orthodoxy' and that in which it is here used. I do
I

not take orthodoxy to mean that there


laid

down

discipline

for every writer to follow.

we

of the Church,

is

Even

narrow path
in the stricter

hardly expect every theolo-

gian to succeed in being orthodox in every particular, for


it is

not a

sum of

which orthodoxy

theologians, but the

resides. In

my sense

saying anything at

all.

'poetry' in Paradise Lost

It

itself,

in

of the term, perfect

not always necessary,


instances it is possible that an

in the individual artist

orthodoxy
or even desirable. In many
indulgence of eccentricities

Church

is

is

is

the condition of the man's

impossible to separate the

from the

peculiar doctrines that

it

means very little to assert that if Milton had


held more normal doctrines he would have written a,

enshrines;

it

Mn The

Use ofPoetry.

32

AFTER STRANGE GODS


better
it:

as a

poem;

we

but

it as

we

find

and moral aberrations of the

intellectual

of a right

tradition,

the environment in

which the

true that the existence

It is

simply by

take

can certainly enjoy the poetry and yet be fully

aware of the
author.

work of literature, we

its

influence

upon

poet develops, will tend to restrict eccentricity to

manage-

not even by the lack of this restraining


influence that the absence of tradition is most deplorable.

able limits: but

What

is

it is

disastrous

is

that the writer should deliberately

give rein to his 'individuality*, that he should even cultivate his differences

from

and that

others;

his readers

cherish the author of genius, not in spite

from

the inherited

wisdom of

should

of his deviations

the race, but because

of

them.

What

happens

author intends.

modern world,

It is

not, to be sure, always just


fatally easy,

Other

writers, indeed,

insights before him; but

everything

is

what the

under the conditions of the

for a writer of genius to conceive of him-

self as a Messiah.

found

is

relative to

its

we

may have had pro-

readily believe that

period of society, and that these

have now lost their validity; a new generation is


new world, so there is always a chance, if not of delivering a wholly new gospel, of delivering one as good as new.
Or the messiahship may take the form of revealing for the
insights

first

time the gospel of some dead sage, which no one has

understood before; which owing to the backward and confused state of men's minds has lain unknown to this
very
moment; or it may even go back to the lost Atlantis and
the ineffable
fired

wisdom of primitive

with such a conviction

is

33

peoples.

A writer who is

likely to have

some devoted

AFTER STRANGE GODS


but for posterity he is liable to become, what
he will be for the majority of his contemporaries, merely
disciples;

one among many entertainers. And the pity is that the man
may have had something to say of the greatest importance:
but to announce,

known

to

as

mankind,

your
is

own

discovery,

some

truth long

to secure immediate attention at the

price of ultimate neglect.

uneducated

is

quite different

siah intends. In the first place,

for

more than

most of them quite


from what the serious mes-

readers

upon

Tjie general effect

a generation;

no modern messiah can

it is

tacitly

last

assumed that the

of the previous generation are as useless as the solwho died in the first year of a hundred years' war (and

leaders
diers

they mostly are) those who enjoy the normal span of


may be sure of surviving their popularity. Secondly, as

alas,
life

not very well qualified for discriminating between nostrums, it comes to enjoy sampling all, and taking

the public

none

seriously.

lost all

can,

is

And

finally, in a

world

that has as nearly

understanding of the meaning of education

many

people act

upon

as it

the assumption that the

well

mere

accumulation of 'experiences', including literary and in-

amorous and picaresque


the accumulation of money valuable in it-

tellectual experiences, as well as

ones,
self.

is

like

So that a

serious writer

work, and be appreciated


'point of view'.

may

as the

sweat blood over his

exponent of still one more

It is too much to
expect any literary artist at the present
time to be a model of orthodoxy. That, as I have said, is

something to demand only in a spirit of indulgent criticism


at any time: it is not to be demanded now. It is a very
34

AFTER STRANGE GODS


be a

different thing to

classical

author in a

classical age,

and

to maintain classical ideals in a romantic age. Furthermore,


I

ask the same compassion for myself that

would have

you extend to others. What we can try to do is to develop


a more critical spirit, or rather to apply to authors critical
which

standards

porary authors

are almost in desuetude.

whom I shall

mention,

Of the

cannot

contem-

recall

hav-

ing seen any criticism in which these standards have been

employed.
it

Perhaps

more

make the foregoing considerations appear

will

me from

and exonerate

real,

the charge of dealing

only in abstractions, offering only a kind


currency, if at this point I give

paper

of three contemporary short


It

was almost by accident

of unredeemable

testimony in the form

of very great merit.


happened to read all of

stories, all

that

these stories in rapid succession during the course

recent
field;

work

at

Harvard.

the second

is

One

The Shadow

is

Bliss

in the

of some

by Katherine Mans-

Rose Garden by D. H.

Lawrence, and the third The Dead by James Joyce. 1 They


are all, I believe, fairly youthful work; and all turn on the

same theme of disillusion. In Miss Mansfield's story a wife


is disillusioned about her relations with her
husband; in the
others a husband

known

is

Mr. Joyce's

brief,
is

disillusioned about his relations

it

is

is

slight;

What is interesting in

the differences of moral implication.

should say, the moral implication

volumes

with

one of her best

poignant and in the best sense,

of considerable length.

the three together


In Bliss,

is

Miss Mansfield's story

his wife.

entitled Bliss,

The Prussian

respectively.

35

is

Officer,

negligible:

and Dubliners

AFTER STRANGE GODS


the centre of interest

is

the wife's feeling,

of

first

ecstatic

moment of revelation. We are


comment nor suggestion of any moral issue

happiness, and then at the

given neither

of good and

evil,

The

limited to this sudden change of feeling, and

story

is

and within the

setting this

is

quite right.

the moral and social ramifications are outside of the terms

of reference. As the material

is

limited in this

and

way

indeed our satisfaction recognises the skill with which the


author has handled perfectly the minimum material it is

what

believe

would be

Lawrence there

is

called feminine. In the story

a great deal

more than

he

that;

is

of

con-

cerned with the feelings of both husband and wife; and


as the tempo is much slower (no story of any considerable
structure could

there

is

move

as rapidly as

time for thought

lated action.

in the twist

An

well

as

Miss Mansfield's does)

as feeling,

accident, trifling in

which Lawrence

gives to

and for calcu-

but important
leads or forces the

itself,
it,

wife to reveal to her commonplace lower middle-class

husband (no writer

is

than Lawrence) the

more

facts

conscious of class-distinctions

of her intrigue with an army

officer several years before their marriage.


is

made with something


There is

she had

met her former lover:

cruelty, too, in the circumstances in

he said involuntarily.

Of this
ture

which

saw him to-day," she said. "He is not dead,


mad." Her husband looked at her, startled. "Mad!"

"And

he's

disclosure

nearly approaching conscious

cruelty.

'

The

"A lunatic," she said.'

alarming strain of cruelty in some modern

shall

have something more to say

this point,
chiefly to notice at

is

36

later.

litera-

What I wish

what strikes me

in

all

of the

AFTER STRANGE GODS


relations

of Lawrence's men and women: the absence of

any moral or

is

not that the author, in that

elevation and superior indifference attributed to

Olympian
great

social sense. It

artists,

and which

can only imperfectly understand,

has detached himself from any moral attitude towards his


it is that the characters themselves, who are
supbe
human
recognisably
beings, betray no respect
posed to
awareness
moral
even
of,
for, pr
obligations, and seem to

characters;

be unfurnished with even the most commonplace kind of


conscience. In

Mr. Joyce's

longer and which

story,

incidentally

is
very much
much more ela-

which
a

employs

borate and interesting method, the wife

is

saddened by

memories associated with a song sung at an evening party


which has just been described in minute detail. In response
to solicitous questions

by her husband, she

reveals the fact

song had been sung by a boy she knew in Galway


when she was a girl, and that between them was an intense
that the

romantic and spiritualised love. She had had to go away;


the

boy had

risen

to her; and he

was

to

from

had

in

bed to come to say goodbye


consequence died. That is all there
a sick

but the husband

it;

realises that

what

this

boy had

given her was something finer than anything he had to


give. And as the wife falls asleep at last:
'Generous tears

that himself towards

feeling
his eyes

He had never felt like


any woman, but he knew that such a

filled Gabriel's eyes.

must be love. The


and in the

form of

tears

gathered

more

thickly in

partial darkness he imagined he

young man standing under

saw the

a dripping tree.

Other forms were near. His soul had approached that


region where dwell the vast hosts of the dead.'
37

AFTER STRANGE GODS


It is

impossible to produce the

as this

what

full

value of evidence such

without reading the stories entire; but something of


have in mind should now be apparent.
are not

We

concerned with the authors'

but with orthodoxy of


sensibility and with the sense of tradition, our degree of
approaching 'that region where dwell the vast hosts of the
beliefs,

And Lawrence is for my purposes, an almost perfect


example of the heretic. And the most ethically orthodox of
dead'.

the

more eminent

fess that I

which ignores
I

writers of

Mr. Joyce.

con-

these considerations.

trust that I shall

bigotry

my time is

do not know what to make of a generation

when I

not be taken

as

speaking in a

assert that the chief clue to the

spirit

of

understand-

ing of most contemporary Anglo-Saxon literature is to be


found in the decay of Protestantism. I am not concerned

with Protestantism

itself:

and to

discuss that

have to go back to the seventeenth century.


amongst writers the rejection of Christianity

should

mean

that

Protestant

the rule rather than the exception; and

is

Christianity

we

that individual writers can be understood

and

classified

according to the type of Protestantism which surrounded


their

had reached.

of decay which it
should include those authors who were

and the precise

infancy,
I

state

reared in an 'advanced' or agnostic atmosphere, because

even

agnosticism

in the last

two

Protestant

generations.

agnosticism
It

is

this

has

decayed

background,

be-

makes much of our writing seem provincial


and crude in the major intellectual centres of Europe
lieve, that

everywhere except northern Germany and perhaps Scandinavia; it is this which contributes the prevailing flavour of
38

AFTER STRANGE GODS


immaturity.

One might expect the unlovelier forms of this

more deeply marked upon American authors


than upon English, but there is no reason to generalise:

decline to be

nothing could be

from

his

own

much

account)

drearier (so far as

one can judge

than the vague hymn-singing

miseries of Lawpietism which seems to have consoled the


rence's mother, and which does not seem to have provided

her with any firm principles by which to scrutinise the con-

be supposed to be concerned
primarily with the decay of morals (and especially sexual
duct of her sons. But

morals)
I

will

lest I

mention the name of one for whose

have the highest respect and

admiration: that

memory

of the

late

Irving Babbitt.
It is

significant to observe that Babbitt

French culture; in

his

thought and in

was saturated with

his intercourse

he was

thoroughly cosmopolitan. He
many years he stood almost alone in maintaining against
the strong tendency of the time a right theory of education;
believed in tradition; for

of decadence

and such

effects

work he

held in abomination.

very width of
themselves

as are

manifest in Lawrence's

And

yet to

my

mind

the

his culture, his intelligent eclecticism, are

symptoms of a narrowness of tradition,

in their

extreme reaction against that narrowness. His attitude towards Christianity seems to me that of a man who had had

no emotional acquaintance with any but some debased and


uncultured form: I judge entirely on his public pronouncements and not
ing.

It

at all

on any information about

would be exaggeration

his

to say that he

upbring-

wore

his

cosmopolitanism like a man who had lost his complet


bourgeois and had to go about in fancy dress. But he seemed
39

AFTER STRANGE GODS


compensate for the lack of living tradition
by a herculean, but purely intellectual and individual
effort. His addiction to the
philosophy of Confucius is
to be trying to

evidence: the popularity of Confucius

temporaries

is

significant. Just as I

among our con-

do not

see

how

anyone

can expect really to understand Kant and Hegel without


knowing the German language and without such an understanding of the
society

German mind as can only be acquired in the

of living Germans, so afortiori I do not see

how any-

one can understand Confucius without some knowledge of


Chinese and a long frequentation of the best Chinese
have the highest respect for the Chinese mind
and for Chinese civilisation; and I am willing to believe
that Chinese civilisation at its highest has graces and excelsociety.

lences

which may make Europe seem crude. But

believe that

I,

well enough to
I

for one, could ever

come

do not

to understand

it

make Confucius a mainstay.

am led to this conclusion partly by an analogous experi-

ence.

Two

years spent in the study of Sanskrit under

Charles Lanman, and a year in the mazes of Patanjali's

metaphysics under the guidance of James


in a state
effort
after

of enlightened mystification.

Woods,
good

left

me

half of the

of understanding what the Indian philosophers were


and their subtleties make most of the great European

philosophers look like schoolboys

lay in trying to erase

from my mind all the categories and kinds of distinction


common to European philosophy from the time of the
Greeks. My previous and concomitant study of European
philosophy was hardly better than an obstacle.
to the conclusion

And I came

seeing also that the 'influence'

40

of Brah-

AFTER STRANGE GODS


min and Buddhist thought upon Europe,

as in

Schopenhad largely been through


that my only hope of really

hauer, Hartmann, and Deussen,

romantic misunderstanding

penetrating to the heart of that mystery


getting

how

to think

and

feel as

would

lie

in for-

an American or a Euro-

pean: which, for practical as well as sentimental reasons,


did not wish to do.

choice

And

would hold good

lieve that the Chinese

Anglo-Saxon than

is

should imagine that the same

for Chinese thought:

mind

is

very

much

the Indian. China

is

though

be-

nearer to the

or was until the

Western thought, and so


Dewey a country of tradition;

missionaries initiated her into

blazed a path for John

Confucius was not born into a vacuum; and a network of


rites

spirit

and customs, even

if

regarded by philosophers in a

of benignant scepticism, make a world of difference.

But Confucius has become the philosopher of the rebellious

And

Protestant.

cannot but

feel that in

some

respects

Irving Babbitt, with the noblest intentions, has merely


made matters worse instead of better.

The name of
Ezra Pound
Richards:

it

(his

Irving Babbitt instantly suggests that of

peer in cosmopolitanism) and that of

would seem

that Confucius

adviser of the highly educated

the dark gods of Mexico.

and

is

I.

A.

the spiritual

fastidious, in contrast to

Mr. Pound

presents the closest

counterpart to Irving Babbitt. Extremely quick-witted and


very learned, he is attracted to the Middle Ages, apparently,

by everything except

that

which

gives

them

their signifi-

and narrow post-Protestant prejudice


peeps out from the most unexpected places: one can hardly
read the erudite notes and
commentary to his edition of
cance. His powerful

AFTER STRANGE GODS


Guide Cavalcanti without suspecting

much more

that he finds

Guide

sympathetic than Dante, and on grounds

which have little

to

do with their respective merits

as poets:

Guide was very likely a heretic, if not a sceptic


evidenced partly by his possibly having held some

namely, that
as

pneumatic philosophy and theory of corpuscular action

which
is

am unable to understand. Mr.

an individualist, and

still

Pound,

like Babbitt,

more a libertarian.

Mr. Pound's theological twist appears both in his poetry


and his prose; but as there are other vigorous prose writers,
and

as

Mr. Pound

is

probably the most important living

poet in our language, a reference to his poetry will carry


more weight. At this point I shall venture to generalise, and
suggest that with the disappearance of the idea of Original

with the disappearance of the idea of intense moral


struggle, the human beings presented to us both in poetry
Sin,

and more patently among


the serious writers than in the underworld of letters, tend to

and

in prose fiction to-day,

become
and

less

and

less real. It is in fact in

moments of moral

depending upon

spiritual sanctions,

spiritual struggle

rather than in those 'bewildering minutes' in


all

very

being
that

much

alike, that

real. If you

by

which we

men and women come

do away with

this struggle,

are

nearest to

and maintain

tolerance, benevolence, inoffensiveness

and a re-

distribution or increase of purchasing power, combined with

a devotion,

on

the part of an

elite,

to Art, the

world will

good
anyone could require, then you must expect
human beings to become more and more vaporous. This is
be

as

as

exactly what we find of the society which Mr.


Hell, in his Draft of

XXX Cantos.

It

consists

Pound puts in
(I

may have

AFTER STRANGE GODS


overlooked one or two species) of

politicians, profiteers,

newspaper proprietors and their hired men,


provocateurs, Calvin, St. Clement of Alexandria, the

financiers,

agents

English, vice-crusaders,

who do

those

golfers,

and

Fabians, conservatives

who

'those

the stupid, pedants, preachers,

liars,

not believe in Social Credit, bishops, lady

senses'. It

have

is,

in

imperialists;

and

all

money-lust before the pleasures of the


way, an admirable Hell, 'without dig-

set

its

nity, without tragedy'. At first sight the variety of types


for these are types, and not individuals
may be a little

confusing; but
if

we

see at

think

work

humanitarian,

becomes

it

a little

more

intelligible

three principles, (i) the aesthetic, (2) the

(3)

the Protestant.

able objection to a Hell

of this

And

find one consider-

sort: that a

Hell altogether

without dignity implies a Heaven without dignity also. If


you do not distinguish between individual responsibility

and circumstances
accidents, then the
trivial
is

and

in Hell,

Heaven

accidental.

between
(if any)

Mr. Pound's

a perfectly comfortable

essential Evil

and

social

implied will be equally


Hell, for all

its

horrors,

one for the modern mind to con-

template, and disturbing to

no

one's complacency:

Hell for the other people, the people

we

it is

read about in the

1
newspapers, not for oneself and one's friends.

An

equally interesting example of the

modern mind

is

of the other important poet of our time, Mr. William


Butler Yeats. Few poets have told us more about themthat

selves

more,

are entitled to
graphies', a
1

mean, of what

know

is

relevant and of what

we

than Mr. Yeats in his 'Autobio-

document of great and permanent interest. Mr.

Consult Time and Western

Man by Wyndham

43

Lewis.

AFTER STRANGE GODS


Yeats had

greater difficulties to contend with,

still

say, than Mr. Pound.

should

He was born of Irish Protestant stock,

and was brought up in London; Ireland was for his childhood

which

rather a holiday country, to

his

sentiment attached

adhered to mid-century Rationalism, but


otherwise the household atmosphere was Pre-Raphaelite.

itself; his father

In The Trembling of the Veil he says significantly:


'I

was unlike others of my generation

in

one thing only.

am

very religious, and deprived by Huxley and Tyndall,


whom I detested, of the simple-minded religion of my child-

hood, I had made a new religion, almost an infallible church

of poetic

of a fardel of stories, and of personages,

tradition,

and of emotions, inseparable from their first expression,


passed on from generation to generation by poets and painwith some help from philosophers and theologians.'
,/Thus, in Yeats at the age of sixteen (or at least, as in retroters

spect he seems to himself to have been at sixteen) is operative

the doctrine of Arnold, that Poetry can replace Religion,


also the

tendency to fabricate an individual religion. The

rationalistic

background, the Pre-Raphaelite imagery, the

and

interest in the occult, the equally early interest in Irish na-

minor poets in London and


curious mixture. Mr. Yeats was in search of

tionalism, the association with


Paris,

make

a tradition, a

He

little

sought for

mous

political

it

too consciously perhaps

in the conception

and

social unity,

Saxon pollution. He wished


a
gious sources of poetry, as,
seeker for myths,
period,

is

of Ireland

as

of

us.

an autono-

purged from the Anglo-

also to find access to the relilittle later,

did another

D. H. Lawrence. The

somewhat

like all

artificially

44

restless

result, for a

long

induced poeticality. Just

AFTER STRANGE GODS


much of

as

Swinburne's verse has the

stimulated

folklore, occultism,

by

effect

much of Mr.

doses of gin and water, so

of repeated

Yeats's verse

is

mythology and symbol-

ism, crystal-gazing and hermetic writings.

'Who will go drive with Fergus now,


And pierce the deep wood's woven shade,
And dance upon the level shore?
Young man, lift up your russet brow,
And lift your tender eyelids, maid,
And brood on hopes and fears no more/
This

is

to

me very

beautiful but highly artificial.

deliberate evocation

of

trance, as

There

is

he virtually confesses in

on The Symbolism ofPoetry:


'The purpose of rhythm, it has always seemed to me, is

his essay

to

prolong the moment of contemplation, the moment when


we are both asleep and awake, which is the one moment

of

creation,

while

it

by hushing

us with an alluring

holds us waking by

its

variety, to

monotony,

keep us in that

state

of perhaps

from

the pressure of the will is unfolded in


symbols.'

There

is

good

real trance, in

deal

of truth

which the mind

liberated

in this theory, but not quite

enough, and its practice exposes Mr. Yeats to the just


criticism of Mr. I. A. Richards, as follows:
'After a

drawn

battle

with the drama, Mr. Yeats made a

violent repudiation, not merely

of

of current

civilisation

but

of a supernatural world. But the


world of the "eternal moods", of supernal essences and imlife itself,

in favour

mortal beings
Irish

is

not, like the Irish peasant stories

and the

landscape, part of his natural and familiar experience.

45

AFTER STRANGE GODS


Now

he turns to a world of symbolic phantasmagoria


about which he is desperately uncertain. He is uncertain
because he has adopted as a technique of inspiration the use

of

trance,

of dissociated phases of consciousness, and the

revelations given in these dissociated states are insufficiently

connected with normal experience.'


It is, I

further to add that

the

Mr. Richards's complaint a little


Mr. Yeats's 'supernatural world' was

think, only carrying

wrong

supernatural world.

spiritual significance,

of holiness or

sin,

It

was not

not a world of real

world of

Good and

Evil,

but a highly sophisticated lower mytho-

logy summoned, like a physician, to supply the fading


pulse of poetry with some transient stimulant so that the

dying patient

on

its

utter his last words. In

its

extreme

self-

approaches the mythology of D. H. Lawadmire Mr. Yeats for


more decadent side.

consciousness

rence

may
it

We

for having packed

having outgrown it;


and resigned himself to
the barest simplicity.

away

his bibelots

an apartment furnished in
few faded beauties remain: Babylive in

lon, Nineveh, Helen of Troy, and such souvenirs of youth:


but the austerity of Mr. Yeats's later verse on the whole,

should compel the admiration of the least sympathetic.


Though the tone is often of regret, sometimes of resignation:

'Things said or done long years ago,

Or things I did not do or say


But thought that I might say or do,

Weigh me down, and not a day


But something is recalled,

My conscience or my vanity appalled.'


46

AFTER STRANGE GODS


and though Mr. Yeats is still perhaps a little too much the
weather-worn Triton among the streams, he has arrived at
a
greatness against the greatest odds; if he has not arrived at

and universal philosophy he has at least discarded,


for the most part, the trifling and eccentric, the provincial
central

in time

At

and

place.

this point,

having called attention to the

difficulties

experienced by Mr. Pound and Mr. Yeats through no


fault of their own, you may be expecting that I shall produce Gerard Hopkins, with an air of triumph, as the ortho-

dox and

traditional poet.

wish indeed that

could; but

cannot altogether share the enthusiasm which many critics


feel for this poet, or
put him on a level with those whom I

have just mentioned. In the


a Jesuit priest,

case,

tions

what

have

but he

is

he was

and the author of some very beautiful devo-

is

individual salvation,
writer,

place, the fact that

only partially relevant. To be converted, in


while it is sufficient for entertaining the hope of

tional verse,

any

first

is

not going to do for a man,

his ancestry

failed to do.

not nearly so

and

his

Hopkins

much

country for
is

a poet

as a

some genera-

a fine poet, to be sure;

of our time

as

the acci-

dents of his publication and the inventions of his metric

have led us to suppose. His innovations certainly were


good, but like the mind of their author, they operate only
within a narrow range, and are easily imitated though not

many purposes; furthermore, they sometimes


me as lacking inevitability that is to say, they some-

adaptable for
strike

times

come

near to being purely verbal, in that a whole

poem will give us


rather than a real

more of the same thing, an accumulation,

development of thought or feeling.


47

AFTER STRANGE GODS


may be wrong about Hopkins's metric and vocabulary.
But I am sure that in the matter of devotional poetry a good
I

deal

more

is

at issue

than just the purity and strength of the

To

be a 'devotional poet' is a
limitation: a saint limits himself by writing poetry, and a
author's devotional passion.

poet

who

confines himself to even this subject matter

limiting himself too. Hopkins

is

not a religious poet in the


more important sense in which I have elsewhere maintained Baudelaire to be a religious poet; or in the sense in

which
in

is

find Villon to be a religious poet; or in the sense

which I consider Mr. Joyce's work

to be penetrated

with

do not wish to depreciate him, but to


affirm limitations and distinctions. He should be compared,
Christian feeling.

not with our contemporaries whose situation

from his, but with

the

is

different

minor poet nearest contemporary

to

him, and most like him: George Meredith. The comparison is altogether to Hopkins's advantage. They are both
English nature poets, they have similar technical

Hopkins

is

beyond
of human

much

the

more

few acute and

agile.

And where

tricks,

and

Meredith,

pertly expressed observations

nature, has only a rather cheap

and shallow

'philosophy of life' to offer, Hopkins has the dignity


of the Church behind him, and is consequently in
closer contact with reality. But from the struggle of our

time to concentrate, not to

dissipate; to

wisdom;
between the individual and the

little

apart,

against Liberalism:

and in

this

associa-

to re-establish a vital con-

tion with traditional

ynexion
in a word,

renew our

from

race; the struggle,

all this

Hopkins has very

us.

48

Hopkins

little

is

aid to offer

AFTER STRANGE GODS


What
authors

have'vwished to

whom

by reference

illustrate,

have mentioned in

to the

this lecture, has

been

upon men of letters, of not having been


born and brought up in the environment of a living and
the crippling effect

central tradition. In the


following lecture

cerned rather with the positive

much more

effects

shall

be con-

of heresy, and with

alarming consequences: those resulting from

exposure to the diabolic influence.

49

Ill
think that there

is

an interesting subject of investiga-

of traditions, in the history of Blasphemy, and the anomalous position of that term in the
tion, for the student

modern world.

It is

a curious survival in a society

which

most part ceased to be capable of exercising that


or of recognising it. I am persuaded that pretty

has for the


activity

when

generally,

which

phemy

that

is

countries

term

is

used

at all, it

is

used in a sense

original. For modern blasmerely a department of bad form: just as, in

only the

is

which

shadow of the

still

possess a

Crown, people

are usually

(and quite rightly) shocked by any public impertinence

concerning any member of their Royal Family, they are


still shocked
by any public impertinence towards a Deity
for

whom

they feel privately no respect at

feelings are supported

have anything to

lose

by

by

all;

and both

the conservatism of those

social changes.

days are inclined to tolerate

who

Yet people nowa-

and respect any violation

is
presented to them as inspired by 'serious' purwhereas
the only disinfectant which makes either
poses;
blasphemy or obscenity sufferable is the sense of humour:

which

the indecent that

is

funny

may

be the legitimate source of

innocent merriment, while the absence of humour reveals


it

as
I

purely disgusting.

do not wish

D2

to be understood as undertaking a defence

51

AFTER STRANGE GODS


of blasphemy in the
is

am only pointing

abstract. I

a very different thing in the

would be
tion

in an 'age

of blasphemy

out that

it

modern world from what

it

of faith'; just

as a magistrate's

concep-

will probably be very different from that

of a good Catholic, and his objections to it will be for very


different reasons. The whole question of censorship is now

of course reduced

to ludicrous inconsistency,

and

is

likely

to remain so as long as the morals of the State are not those

of the Church. But

my point is that blasphemy is not a


matter of good form but of right belief; no one can possany sense except that in which a parrot
to curse, unless he profoundly believes in that

ibly blaspheme in

may

be said

which he profanes; and when anyone who

is

not a

shocked by blasphemy he is shocked merely by


a breach of good form; and it is a nice question whether,
believer

is

being in a

state

of intellectual

error,

ting a sin in being shocked for the


tainly

my

opinion that first-rate

rarest things in literature, for

it

he

is

or

wrong

is

not commit-

reasons.
is

It is

cer-

one of the

blasphemy
requires both literary genius

and profound faith, joined in a mind in a peculiar and unusual state of spiritual sickness. I repeat that I am not defending blasphemy;

am

reproaching a world in which

blasphemy is impossible.
next point is a more delicate one to handle. One
can conceive of blasphemy as doing moral harm to feeble

My

or perverse souls; at the same time one must recognise that


the modern environment is so unfavourable to faith that it

produces fewer and fewer individuals capable of being injured by blasphemy. One would expect, therefore, that
(whatever it may have been at other times) blasphemy
52

AFTER STRANGE GOD^S


would be

employed by the Forces of Evil than at any


other time in the last two thousand years. Where blasless

phemy might once have been


tion, it

might

soul

still

is

now

alive,

be taken rather
or even that

We

we may make

is

of

as a

it

is

spiritual

corrup-

symptom

that the

recovering anima-

of Good and Evil

tion: for the perception

choice

a sign

the

first

requisite

of spiritual

life.

should do well, therefore, to look elsewhere than to

the blasphemer, in the traditional sense, for the


ful operations
I

whatever

regret, for

of the Evil

most

fruit-

Spirit to-day.

my present purposes,

that

have not a more

intimate, accurate and extensive knowledge of the English


novelists of the last hundred years, and that therefore I feel

little

insecure of

that the

my

generalisations.

eminent novelists

porary to us, have been


decessors

who

are

But

it

seems to

more nearly contem-

more concerned than

or not

me

their pre-

to

impose upon their


readers their own. personal view of life, and that this is merely
part of the whole movement of several centuries towards
consciously

the aggrandisement and exploitation of personality.

do

not suggest that 'personality' is an illicit intruder; I imagine


that the admirers ofJane Austen are all fascinated by something that may be called her personality. But personality,

with Jane Austen, with Dickens and with Thackeray, was

more

they criticised
least

proper place. The standards by which


their world, if not very
lofty ones, were at

nearly in

its

not of their

own

instance, the religion

is

making. In Dickens's novels, for


still of the
good old torpid eigh-

teenth century kind, dressed up with a profusion of


holly

and turkey, and supplemented by strong humanitarian


53

AFTER STRANGE GODS


These novelists were

zeal.

observers:

still

however super-

in contrast, for instance, to Flaubert

ficial

we

find their

orthodox enough according


to the light of their day: the first suspicion of
heresy creeps in
with a writer who, at her best, had much profounder moral
observations to be.

insight

bined

They

are

and passion than these, but who unfortunately comwith the dreary rationalism of the epoch of which

it

one of the most colossal monuments: George Eliot.


George Eliot seems to me of the same tribe as all the serious

she

is

and eccentric moralists

we have had since: we must respect

her for being a serious moralist, but deplore her individualistic

ing

What I have
assertion: that when
morals.

tradition

and orthodoxy

been leading up to is the followmorals cease to be a matter of


that

is,

of the habits of the com-

munity formulated, corrected, and elevated by the continuous thought and direction of the Church and when
each

man is to elaborate his own,

then personality becomes a

thing of alarming importance.

The work of the


esting

late

Thomas Hardy represents an

inter-

example of a powerful personality uncurbed by any


attachment or by submission to any objective
unhampered by any ideas, or even by what some-

institutional
beliefs;

times acts as a partial restraint

upon

desire to please a large public.

He

inferior writers, the

seems to

me

to have

written as nearly for the sake of 'self-expression' as a man


well can; and the self which he had to express does not strike

wholesome or edifying matter of communication. He was indifferent even to the prescripts of

me

as a particularly

good

writing: he wrote sometimes overpoweringly well,

but always very carelessly;

at times his style touches

54

sub-

'

AFTER STRANGE GODS


the stage of
limity without ever having passed through

being good. In consequence of his self-absorption, he makes


a great deal

of landscape; for landscape

which lends

itself to

is

a passive creature

an author's mood. Landscape

is

fitted

too for the purposes of an author who is interested not at


all in men's minds, but only in their emotions; and perhaps

only in

men

as vehicles for

emotions.

It is

only, indeed,

emotional paroxysms that most of Hardy's characters come alive. This extreme emotionalism seems to me

in their

symptom of decadence;

a cardinal point of faith in a

it is

something admirable
sake, whatever the emotion

romantic age, to believe that there


in violent

emotion for

its

own

is

or whatever its object. But it is by no means self-evident that

human

beings are most real

violent physical passions

men from each other,

when most

do not

violently excited;

in themselves differentiate

but rather tend to reduce them to the

state; and the passion has significance only in relation


to the character and behaviour of the man at other mo-

same

ments of his
passion

those

is

life

and in other contexts. Furthermore, strong

only interesting or significant in strong men;


themselves without resistance to ex-

who abandon

citements which tend to deprive

them of reason, become

merely instruments of feeling and lose


unless there is moral resistance and

their

humanity; and

conflict there

is

no

rneahing. But as the majority is capable neither of strong


emotion nor of strong resistance, it always inclines to

admire passion for


contrary; and, if

its

own

sake, unless instructed to the

somewhat

deficient in vitality, people

imagine passion to be the surest evidence of vitality j This in


itself
may go towards accounting for Hardy's popularity.
55

AFTER STRANGE GODS


What

again and again introduces a note of falsity into


Hardy's novels is that he will leave nothing to nature, but
will always be giving

one last turn of the screw himself, and

of his motives for so doing I have the gravest suspicion. In


The Mayor ofCasterbridge which has always seemed to me
novel

his finest

ducing an

air

as a

whole

of inevitability,

he comes the nearest to proand of making the crises seem

the consequences of the character of Henchard; the arrange-

ment by which

the hero, leaning over a bridge, finds

self staring at his effigy in the

tour de

ment

stream below

is

him-

a masterly

is however as much
by arrangeones in which the motive intrudes

This scene

force.

as less successful

itself more visibly; as for instance the

scene in Far From The

Madding Crowd in which Bathsheba unscrews Fanny


Robin's coffin which seems to me deliberately faked.

And by this I mean that the


relieving
reader.
writer,
reader.

the
I

some emotion of his own

It is

a refined

form of

expense of the

at the

torture

on

the part of the

and a refined form of self-torture on the part of the


And this brings me to the point of this lecture, for

first

time.

have not so

far

made it apparent what relation the docu-

ments considered in

of the

author seems to be deliberately

last.

this lecture

bear to the subject matter

was there concerned with

illustrating the

limiting and crippling effect of a separation

and orthodoxy upon

certain writers

whom

from
I

tradition

nevertheless

hold up for admiration for what they have attempted


against great obstacles. Here I am concerned with the intrusion of the diabolic into

of the same lamentable

modern literature in consequence

state

of affairs; and

56

it

was for

this

AFTER STRANGE GODS


took the pains at the beginning to point out
blasphemy is not a matter with which we are con-

reason that
that

cerned.

am afraid that even if you can entertain the notion

of a positive power for evil working through human


agency, you may still have a very inaccurate notion of
what Evil is, and will find it difficult to believe that it

may

men of genius of the most excellent


doubt whether what I am saying can convey

operate through

character.

anyone for whom the doctrine of Original


real and tremendous thing. I can only ask
you to read the texts, and then reconsider my remarks.
And one of the most significant of the Hardy texts is a

very
Sin

is

much

to

not a very

volume of short

stories,

indeed of masterly short

stories,

which has never received enough examination from that


point of view: I mean A Group of Noble Dames. Here, for
one thing, you get essential Hardy without the Wessex
staging; without the scenery dear to the Anglo-Saxon
heart or the period peasants pleasing to the metropolitan

imagination.

Not

all

of these

my point equally well;

stories,

the best for

of course,

my purpose,

illustrate

to

which

up your time by summarising


the plot, is Barbara of the House of Grebe. This is not realism;
it is as
Hardy catalogues it, 'romance and fantasy' with
refer you, rather than take

which Hardy can do exactly what he wants to do. I do not


object to horror: (Edipus Rex is a most horrible plot from
which the

last

drop of horror

is

extracted

by

the dramatist;

and among Hardy's contemporaries, Conrad's Heart of


Darkness an J JamesT Turn of the Screw are^ales of horror.

But there

is

horror in the real world; and in these works

of Sophocles, Conrad and James


57

we

are in a

world of

AFTER STRANGE GODS


Good and

House of Grebe

Evil. In Barbara of the

troduced into a world of pure Evil. The

tale

we

are in-

would seem

to have been written solely to provide a satisfaction for

some morbid emotion.


I

find this

strain in the

work of a man whose mor-

have already had occasion to mention, and whom


regard as a very much greater genius, if not a greater

bidity
I

same

than Hardy: D. H. Lawrence. Lawrence has three

artist,

and

aspects,

it is

very

do justice to

difficult to

expect to be able to do

so.

The

first is

all. I

do not

the ridiculous: his

lack of sense of humour, a certain snobbery, a lack not so

much of information

as

of the

critical faculties

cation should give, and an incapacity for

Of this

arily call thinking.

exposure by Mr.
most conclusive
there

is

Wyndham

Paleface

is

brilliant

by

far the

been made. Secondly,

the extraordinarily keen sensibility and capacity for

the

wrong

intuition

from which he commonly

conclusions^ Third, there

sexual morbidity. Unfortunately,

of these
fairly;

what we ordin-

of Lawrence, the

Lewis in

criticism that has

profound intuition

drew

side

which edu-

aspects in

and

possible.

this, in

I shall

mind

it is

is

a distinct

necessary to keep

all

in order to criticise the writer

such close perspective,

no doubt appear

ence to the third; but that, after

is

almost im-

to give excessive
all, is

prominwhat has been least

successfully considered.

have already touched upon the deplorable religious upbringing which gave Lawrence his lust for intellectual indeI

pendence: like most people who do not know what orthodoxy is, he hated it. With the more intimate reasons, of

and
heredity and environment, for eccentricity of thought
58

AFTER STRANGE GODS


feeling

them

am

not concerned: too

their business already.

many

And I have

already mentioned

the insensibility to ordinary social morality,


alien to

my mind

that

monstrosity j The point

am

which

completely baffled by

that

Lawrence

made

people have

is

so

it as

started life

wholly
from any restriction of tradition or institution, that he jl
had no guidance except the Inner Light, the most untrustis

free

worthy and

deceitful guide that ever offered itself to

dering humanity.

does not appear to

wan- r

was peculiarly so for Lawrence, who


have been gifted with the faculty of self-

It

even to the extent of ordinary^


wordly shrewdness. Of divine illumination, it may be said
that probably every man knows when he has it, but that
criticism, except in flashes,

any man is likely to think that he has ifwhen he has it not;


and even when he has had it, the daily man that he is may

draw the wrong conclusions from the enlightenment which


the

the

momentary man has received: no one, in short, can be


sole judge of whence his inspiration comes. A man like

Lawrence, therefore, with


prejudices

and

his

acute scnsibilitv T violent

and lack of intellectual and

passions,

social

admirably fitted to be an instrument for forces


of good or for forces of evil; or as we might expect, partly
for one and partly for the other. A trained mind like that of?
training,

is

Mr. Joyce

is

always aware what master

it is

serving; an

untrained mind, and a soul destitute of humility and

with self-righteousness,
It

would seem

good, and that

is

that for

filled

a blind servant and. a fatal leader.

Lawrence any

spiritual force

was

only in the absence of spirituality. Most people, no doubt, need to be aroused to the perception of the simple distinction between the spiritual and
evil resided

>

59

<

AFTER STRANGE GODS


the material; and Lawrence never forgot, and never mis-

But most people

took, this distinction.

and to awaken them to the

alive;

responsibility:

only when

it is

are only very

spiritual

they are so

they are capable of real Good, but that

is

little

a very great

awakened

at the

that

same time

they become first capable of Evil. Lawrence lived all his


life, I should imagine, on the spiritual level; no man was
a

less

sensualist.^

Against the

living;

death

oji:

modern^

material civilisation he spoke again and again, and even if

what he

these dead could speak,

said

is

unanswerable. As a

of the modern world, Fantasia of the Unconscious


a book to keep at hand and re-read. In contrast to Not-

criticism
is

tingham, London or industrial America, his capering redskins of Mornings in Mexico seem to represent Life. So they
do; but that is not the last word, only the first.

The man's

but spiritually sick.


The daemonic powers found an instrument of far greater
range, delicacy and power in the author of The Prussian
Officer

vision

is

spiritual,

than in the author of

and the

tale

which

used

as

Group of Noble Dames\


an example (The Shadow

Rose Garden) can be matched by several others.


have not read all of his late and his posthumous

in the
I

works, which are numerous. In some respects, he may


have progressed: his early belief in Life may have passed
over, as a really serious belief in Life must, into a belief
in

Death. 1

Lady

But

keeper, turns
XI

cannot

Chatterleys Lover.

am indebted

up

Our

see

much development

again: the social obsession

to an unpublished essay

the suggestion that this

is

in

old acquaintance, the game-

so.

60

by Mr. E.

F.

which makes

W. Tomlin

for

AFTER STRANGE GODS


or almost well-born

well-born
or

^elves to

make

use of

ladies offer

plebeians springs

from

them-

same

the

morbidity which makes other of his female characters bestow their favours upon savages. The author of that book

me

seems to

There

is, I

to

have been a very sick

man

indeed.

believe, a very great deal to be learned

Lawrence; though those

who

are

from

most capable of exercis-

may not
who are most in need of it. That we can and ought

ing the judgement necessary to extract the lesson,

be those

to reconcile ourselves to Liberalism, Progress and


Ciyjlisatic)n^Js_ a proposition

which jwe need not have

condemn; and it matters a good


what name we condemn it. I fear that Law-

waited for Lawrence


deal in
rence's

Modern

work may

to

appeal, not to those

able to discriminate, but to the sick

who

are well

and

and debile and con-

and will appeal not to what remains of health in


but
to their sickness. Nor will many even accept his
them,
fused;

would give it, but will be busy after their


own inventions. /The number of people in possession of any
doctrine as he

criteria for
discriminating

small; the

number of the

between good and

half-alive

spiritual experience, or what offers

hungry

for

evil

is

very

any form of

itself as spiritual

experi-

good or bad, is considerable./Kly own


not served them very well. Never has the

ence, high or low,

generation has

printing-press been so busy,

buncombe and

false

and never have such varieties of

doctrine

come from

it.

foolish prophets, that follow their oiim spirit,

Woe

unto the

and have seen

nothing! O Israel, thy prophets have been like foxes in the waste
places.

And

Son of man,

the

these

word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

men

liave taken their idols into their hearts,

61

AFTER STRANGE GODS


and put the stumbling-block of their iniquity
should I be inquired of at all
by them?

before their face:

wish to add a few words of retrospect and summary,


partly as a reminder of how little, in the space of three
I

hours, one can undertake to say about such a serious subject as this. In an age
tradition the

of unsettled

man of letters,

beliefs

the poet, and the novelist, are

in a situation dangerous for themselves


readers.

and enfeebled

tried to safeguard myself, in

my

and for

first lecture,

their

from

being taken to be merely a sentimental admirer of some


real or imaginary past, and from
being taken as a faker of
traditions. Tradition

supervision of
this

what

supervision

find

Most

it.?

tives,

it is

itself is not enough; it must be


and brought up to date under the
call orthodoxy; and for the lack of

by

perpetually criticised
I

now

the sentimental tenuity that

we

'defenders of tradition' are mere conserva-

unable to distinguish between the permanent and the

temporary, the essential and the accidental. But


theory

as a

I left

this

bare outline, to serve as a background for

my

illustration of the dangers of authorship to-day. Where


there is no external test of the validity of a writer's work,

we

fail

to distinguish

between the truth of his view of life

and the personality which makes


reading,

we may

it

plausible; so that in

our

be simply yielding ourselves to one seduc-

tive personality after another.

The

first

requisite usually

held up by the promoters of personality is that a man


should 'be himself'; and this 'sincerity' is considered more

important than that the self in question should, socially and


view of personspiritually, be a good or a bad one./This
62

AFTER STRANGE GODS


merely an assumption on the part of the modern
world, and is no more tenable than several other views
is

ality

which have been held

The

at various times

personality thus expressed,

fascinates us

in

the

and in several

the personality

work of philosophy

or

places.

which

art,

tends

naturally to be the unregenerate personality, partly self-

deceived and partly irresponsible, and because of

dom,

terribly limited

by prejudice and

its

free-

self-conceit, capable

of much good or great mischief according to the natural


goodness or impurity of the man: and we are all, naturally,
impure. All that

have been able to do here

is

to suggest

of criticism, not ordinarily in use,


which we may apply to whatever is offered to us as works
of philosophy or of art, which might help to render them
that there are standards

safer

and more profitable for

us.

APPENDIX
after some deliberation called this essay a primer
of modern heresy: hinting that it is offered primarily
to those who may be interested in pursuing the subject by

have

had thought of supplementing it by a graduated Exercise Book, beginning with very simple examples
themselves.

of heresy, and leading up to those which are very difficult


to solve; and leaving the student to find the answers for
himself.

My

perhaps the

chief reason for abandoning this project

is

overwhelming abundance of elementary exer-

compared with the paucity of those which can tax


the abilities of the really quick and proficient student. I
cises,

therefore content myself with four examples.

very elementary: countless specimens

No.

is

of the same kind

might be found. No. II is slightly, but not much, more


advanced. Nos. Ill and IV are among the most advanced
that

can find.

really satisfactory exercise

book would

require the co-operation of a board of editors.

well enougrrread; and

find to

my

jim not
discomfiture that most
I

of the examples that occur to me hardly rise above the


simplicity of No. I. Numerous advanced exercises are
possible to those

languages.

who

possess a familiarity

with foreign

AFTER STRANGE GODS


I

'The barbaric sense of the exceeding sinfulness of sin,


with the moral hatred it carried, is giving way to a more

more from

natural attitude. Vice offends

from

Goodness has

sinfulness/

its

rather than in virtue/

its

ugliness than

appeal in

moral beauty
The Moncure

its

J OHN A.

HOBSON:

D. Conway Lecture 1933.


ii

'At the end of


that

think

now

a teacher ...

is

the

of Latin

is

a part,

am

personality that counts always and

it is

'This question
I

my

life as

all

and only a

convinced

the time.
part,

of what

most important educational question that is


It is a
question which is engaging

before the country.

the attention of the Consultative

of Education

at the present

Committee of the Board

moment

the question of what

the right education to give pupils between the ages of

is

and i6j, whose education is not going to be continued


beyond that point. Are we giving the right education at
ii

the present time?


'I

would give

am pretty certain that we are not.

boy

first

sound education based on

English culture, English geography, English history, and


English literature, less mathematics, a different kind of

and

science,

one foreign

ough

would not attempt to teach him more than


language. I would also try to give him a thorI

physical education, and a thorough training of the

hand, eye and


portant
I

ear,

and

as his literary

would

would

seek to

education. In his

seek to build

on

make

last

im-

years at school

that foundation

66

that as

some under-

APPENDIX
modern world, why

standing of the

and what

his place

that there will be

is

in

room

it.

it is,

In that education

it

works,

do not think

or time for Latin, but at present

;ave not formulated anything like that. It

DR. CYRIL

how

NORWOOD,

is still

an

we

ideal.'

addressing the Conference of

the Incorporated Association of Preparatory Schools at the


,el

Great Central, Marylebone (The Times newspaper

of December

21, 1933.)

in
'Character, in short,

is

vidual selects and to

an impersonal ideal which the


which he sacrifices all other

of the sentiments or emotions.

claims, especially those

It

follows that character must be placed in


opposition to
personality, which is the general-common-denominator of
sentiments and emotions. That

all

indeed, the opposi-

whatever,
.

is,

wish to emphasise; and when I have said further that


poetry, in which I wish to include all lyrical impulses

tion

is

the product of the


personality, and therefore

hibited in a character,

have stated the main theme of my

HERBERT READ Form

essay.'

in

Modern

Poetry, pp. 18-

19.

IV

of communist philosophy must


by declaring openly how much of its theory is acthe critic. I must therefore
|cepted by
preface my criticism
serious criticism

'Any

start

saying that

principle

hich

accept the rejection of idealism and the

of the unity of
theory and practice in the sense in
have expounded it. And since this is the
truly

revolutionary principle, such an acceptance involves taking

67

AFTER STRANGE GODS


one's stand within the tradition of thought

which

di

from Marx. The negative implications of accepting

v,

fundamental principle go very deep. They include


rejection of all philosophy and all social theory which d>
not accept

this principle,

not because of particular

obj<

of a complete brt
with the assumptions upon which they are based and t
tions to their conclusions, but because

purpose which governs their development. They invoi


the belief that

and adapt

make

all

theory must seek verification in

itself to

the possibility of experiment.

acti

Th

sweep of speculative thought on the grc


that the validity of no belief whatever is capable of demoi
a clean

by argument. They involve a refusal at any po


make knowledge an end in itself, and equally, the rej-

stration

to

tion of the desire for certainty

ing

speculative

thought.'

which

is

the motive gove

JOHN MACMURRAY:

Philosophy of Communism, pp. 62-63.

68

7847