“Philistine and Genius,” by Dr. Boris Sidis. Boston: Richard G. Badger.
This essay on education appears certain to become a classic. With extraordinary acumen Prof. Sidis discovers the primary cause of all our evils to be the violation of the biological law which provides for variation. Variation is the means of evolution. Our whole educational system is directed to stamping out every departure from type. What we really do is to place the most stupid, the most bound, the most cowardly, upon a pedestal. Procrustes is our ideal educator. We cramp genius, we punish originality, we stifle inquiry, we place our children in Rooms of Little Ease where they can neither stand, sit nor lie with comfort. Our sex taboo, our religious taboo, our social taboo are omnipotent. We deliberately crush out all originality by these three engines of torture.
Prof. Sidis does not mention it, but one of the reasons why such genius as we have is so enormously removed from the common level is that the genius, in order to develop at all, must be originally endowed with almost superhuman moral strength. The gap between him whose spirit has not been broken and him in whom “education” has been a success grows constantly wider with the perfection of our methods for suppressing him. It is quite true, as Prof. Sidis says, that every child has latent genius. The doctrine of the New Aeon is “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law,” which is explained by stating that, “Every man and every woman is a star.” The trouble arises from the forcing of these stars into collisions by the distortion of their orbits.
The business of the educator is to discover the true will of the child, the purpose for which he was born upon this planet, and to assist him to develop that will to the highest possible point; to remove the restrictions from that will so far as possible. Our present method is the precise contrary of this. No sooner does a child manifest tendency towards and capacity for any given investigation than the teacher takes alarm. It is the old fable of the “Ugly Duckling.”
We hope that Prof. Sidis will not rest upon his oars. — A. C.
“The Shadow Line,” by Joseph Conrad. (Doubleday, Page & Co.)
The plot of this novel is identical with that of Lord Dunsany’s “Poor Old Bill.” The difference is that between the realist and the fantastic. It is very instructive to read them side by side. Joseph Conrad is the greatest master of atmosphere now living, so far at least as the East is concerned. In fact, I do not know even an immortal shade who can compare with him.
Rudyard Kipling gives the violence, the coarseness and the horror, which are very effective from the literary point of view, but which do not exist in the East, so far as I know.
Stevenson, on the other hand, has everything toned down. He throws a Scotch mist over the proceedings. Conrad describes the East, both subjective and objective, in precisely the same terms as I should do if I had his power of expression. There is no need to tell the story of the book; any story or no story would have done just as well. He takes me back ten years to my long lonely walk across China, to the explosive casuality of Hai-Phong, to the Fata Morgana which I saw off Hoi-How, to the Akashic obsession of silence and darkness and stillness which closed in upon us in those very waters which he describes in “The Shadow Line.” Even the captain’s woman is a living portrait of one whom I knew in those ensorcelled days, a tuberculous hag of paint and rottenness and vice, who yet possessed the power to awaken the very fountain of calf-love from its frozen sleep. It is very interesting to compare Conrad with Stevenson. Stevenson is never happy unless he has the decks awash with blood and slime. Mr. Conrad is one of those rarest and most supreme of artists who does not need incident in order to be interesting. He does not fear to use it, but he does not depend upon it. It is rather significant that England should have had to go to Hungary for her supreme prose artist. — A. C.
“What Every Man and Woman Should Know About the Bible,” by Sidney C. Tapp.
In 1904 I was in a particularly malarious district in Burma. Death drove his cruisers at a gallop, four abreast: Plague, Cholera, Typhoid, Dysentery.
I remember going down to the bank of the Irrawaddy in the hope of some breath of fresh air — and I came upon the carcass of a mule, most actively putrescent. I made a mental note to avoid the repetition of any such experience, but history repeats itself; I wrote to Mr. Tapp for a copy of his book.
Surely our civilization is pestilential enough without the putrescence of such degenerate paranoiacs. Mr. Tapp wallows in psychopathy, and gloats; to him the most innocent pleasures seem foul, and a cemetery excites no idea in his mind but the digging-up of corpses for the delectation of necrophiles.
I leave for the Irrawaddy basin by the first steamer. Meanwhile — oh, any basin, please, Steward! — A. C.
Take a tip — don’t take a Tapp!
A. QUILLER, JR.