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Full text of "After strange gods : a primer of modern heresy"




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AFTER STRANGE GODS 



other books by T. S. Eliot 
* 

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 ItoV 

KO.V Xdfiys 
fft' YjSr) /iavrt/cg firjStv 

CEdipus Rex : 1. 460-462. 




LONDON 

FABER AND FABER LIMITED 

24 RUSSELL SQUARE 



FIRST PUBLISHED IN FEBRUARY MCMXXXIV 

BY FABER AND FABER LIMITED 

24 RUSSELL SQUARE LONDON W.C. I 

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To 
ALFRED and ADA SHEFFIELD 



Das Chaos in der 'Literatur', die mit vagen Grenzen 
zwar, aber immer noch deutlicher ein Gebiet fur sich 
ist; sie, die in gesunden Zeiten ein relativ reiner, gef alliger 
Spiegel aller herschenden Dinge und Undinge ist, in kran- 
ken, chaotischen ein selber triiber all der triiben Dinge und 
Ideen, die es gibt, ist zur cloaca maxima geworden. Jeg- 
liche Unordnung im Humanen, im Menschen selber ich 
sprach von dem dreifachen Gesichtspunkt, unter dem sie 
betrachtet werden kann, dem Primat der Lust, dem Primat 
der Sentimentalitat, dem Primat der technischen Intelli- 
genz an Stelle der einzig wahren hierarchischen Ord- ) 
nung, des Primates des Geistes und des Spiritualen jeg- 
liche 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 

Ze monde moderne qyilit. It also provincialises, and it 
can also corrupt. 

The three lectures which follow were not undertaken as 
exercises in literary criticism. If the reader insists upon 
considering them as such, I should like to guard against 
misunderstanding as far as possible. The lectures are not 
designed to set forth, 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 
drawn upon the work of some of the few modern writers 
whose work I know. I am not primarily concerned either 
with their absolute importance or their importance rela- 
tively to each other; and other writers, who in any literary 
survey of our time ought to be included, are unmentioned 
or barely mentioned, because they do not provide such 
felicitous illustration of my thesis, or because they are rare 
exceptions to it, or because I am unacquainted with their 
work. I am sure that those whom I have discussed are 
among the best; and for my purpose the second-rate were 
useless. The extent to which I have criticised the authors 
whose names find place, is accordingly some measure of my 
respect for them. I dare say that a detached critic could find 
an equally rich vein of error in my own writings. If such 
error is there, I am probably the last person to be able to 

IT 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
detect it; but its presence and discovery would not con- 
demn what I say here, any more than its absence would 
confirm it. 

There is no doubt some curiosity to know what any 
writer thinks of his contemporaries: a curiosity which has 
less to do with literary criticism than with literary gossip. 
I hope that a reader who takes up this essay in that expec- 
tation will be disappointed. I am uncertain of my ability to 
criticise my contemporaries as artists; I ascended the plat- 
form of these lectures only in the role of moralist. 

I have not attempted to disguise, but rather have been 
pleased to remind the reader, that these are lectures; that 
they were composed for vocal communication to a par- 
ticular audience. What the Foundation requires is that the 
lectures shah 1 be published, not that a book shall subse- 
quently be written on the same subject; and a lecture com- 
posed for the platform cannot be transformed into some- 
thing else. I should be glad if the reader could keep this in 
mind when he finds that some ideas are put forward 
without a full account of their history or of their activities, 
and that others are set down in an absolute way without 
qualifications. I 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 
present themselves to the mind of the Christian enquirer, 
I should have needed at least the space of one whole 
lecture; and what I was concerned to do was merely to 
explain that the charge of blasphemy was not one of those 
that I wished to prefer against modern literature. It may be 
said that no blasphemy can be purely verbal; and it may 

12 



PREFACE 

also be said that there is a profounder meaning of the term 
'blasphemy', in which some modern authors (including, 
possibly, myself) may possibly have been gravely guilty. 

In such matters, as perhaps in everything, I must depend 
upon some good-will on the part of the reader. I do not 
wish to preach only to the converted, but primarily to 
those who, never having applied moral principles to 
literature quite explicitly perhaps even having con- 
scientiously believed that they ought not to apply them in 
this way to 'works of art' are possibly convertible. I am 
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 me, on really funda- 
mental matters, to be futile. It can only usefully be prac- 
tised where there is common understanding. 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 de- 
bate is a symptom of differences so large that there is 
nothing to argue about. We 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, worm- 
eaten with Liberalism, the only thing possible for a person 
with strong convictions is to state a point of view and 
leave it at that. 

I 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 make my visit to 

13 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
Virginia a very pleasant memory; to my hosts, Professor 
and Mrs. Scott Buchanan; to Professor Buchanan for con- 
versations and suggestions out of which these lectures 
arose; and to the Revd. M. C. D'Arcy, S.J., and Mr. F. V. 
Morley for their criticisms. It is a pleasure to me to think 
that these lectures were delivered at one of the older, 
smaller and most gracious of American educational in- 
stitutions, one of those in which some vestiges of a tra- 
ditional education seem to survive. Perhaps I am mistaken: 
but if not, I should wish that I might be able to encourage 
such institutions to maintain their communications with 
the past, because in so doing they will be maintaining their 
communications with any future worth communicating 
with. 

T. S. E. 



f London, January 1934. 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
I 

Some years ago I wrote an essay entitled Tradition and 
the Individual Talent. During the course of the subse- 
quent fifteen years I have discovered, or had brought to my 
attention, some unsatisfactory phrasing and at least one 
more than doubtful analogy. But I do not repudiate what 
I wrote in that essay any more fully than I should expect to 
do after such a lapse of time. The problem, naturally, does 
not seem to me so simple as it seemed then, nor could I 
treat it now as a purely literary one. What I propose to at- 
tempt in these three lectures is to outline the matter as I now 
conceive it. 

It seemed to me appropriate to take this occasion, my 
first visit to Virginia, for my re-formulation. You have 
here, I imagine, at least some recollection of a 'tradition', 
such as the influx of foreign populations has almost effaced 
in some parts of the North, and such as never established 
itself in the West: though it is hardly to be expected that a 
tradition here, 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 /'// Take My Stand, in what is sometimes called the 
agrarian movement in the South, and I look forward 
to any further statements by the same group of writers. 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
May I say that my first, and no doubt superficial im- 
pressions of your country I speak as a New Englander 
have strengthened my feeling of sympathy with those au- 
thors: no one, 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 England state and is transformed into a New 
York suburb; but to cross into Virginia is as definite an 
experience as to cross from England to Wales, almost as 
definite as to cross the English Channel. And the differences 
here, with no difference of language or race to support 
them, have had to survive the immense pressure towards 
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 history; it is just as certainly a 
disaster from which the country has never recovered, and 
perhaps never will: we are always too ready to assume 
that the good effects of wars, if any, abide permanently 
while the ill-effects are obliterated by time. Yet I think that 
the chances for the re-establishment of a native culture are 
perhaps better here than in New England. You are farther 
away from New York; you have been less industrialised 
and less invaded by foreign races; and you have a more 
opulent soil. 

My local feelings were stirred very sadly by my first view 
of New England, on arriving from Montreal, and journey- 
ing all one day through the beautiful desolate country of 

16 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
Vermont. Those hills had once, I suppose, been covered 
with primaeval forest; the forest was razed to make 
sheep pastures for the English settlers; now the sheep are 
gone, and most of the descendants of the settlers; and 
a new forest appeared blazing with the melancholy glory 
of October maple and beech and birch scattered among 
the evergreens; and after this procession of scarlet and gold 
and purple wilderness you descend to the sordor of the half- 
dead mill towns of southern New Hampshire and Massa- 
chusetts. It is not necessarily those lands which are the most 
fertile or most favoured in climate that seem to me the 
happiest, but those in which a long struggle of adaptation 
between man and his environment has brought out the 
best qualities of both; in which the landscape has been 
moulded by numerous generations of one race, and in 
which the landscape in turn has modified the race to its 
own character. And those New England mountains seemed 
to me to give evidence of a human success so meagre and 
transitory as to be more desperate than the desert. 

I know very well that the aim of the 'neo-agrarians' in 
the South will be qualified as quixotic, as a hopeless stand 
for a cause which was lost long before they were born. It 
will be said that the whole current of economic determin- 
ism is against them, and economic determinism is to-day 
a god before whom we fall 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 
generally accepted as desirable, economic laws can be upset 
in order to achieve it; that it does not so much matter at 
present whether any measures put forward are practical, as 
B 17 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
whether the aim is a good aim, and the alternatives intol- 
erable. There are, at the present stage, more serious difficul- 
ties in the revival or establishment of a tradition and a way 
of life, which require immediate consideration. 
^IJTradition is not solely, or even primarily, the mainten- 
ance of certain dogmatic beliefs; these beliefs have come 
to take their living form in the course of the formation of a 
^ tradition. What I mean by tradition involves all those 
habitual actions, habits and customs, from the most signifi- 
cant religious rite to our conventional way of greeting a 
stranger, which represent the blood kinship of 'the same 
people living in the same place'. It involves a good deal 
which can be called taboo: that this word is used in our time 
in an exclusively derogatory sense is to me a curiosity 
of some significance. We become conscious of these 
items, or conscious of their importance, usually only after 
they have begun to fall into desuetude, as we are aware of 
the leaves of a tree when the autumn wind begins to blow 
them off when they have separately ceased to be vital.' 
Energy may be wasted at that point in a frantic endeavour 
to collect the leaves as they fall and gum them onto the 
branches: but the sound tree will put forth new leaves, and 
the dry tree should be put to the axe. We are always in 
^danger, in clinging to an old tradition, or attempting to 
re-establish one, of confusing the vital and the unessential, 
the real and the sentimental. Our second danger is to asso- 
ciate tradition with the immovable; to think of it as 
something hostile to all change; to aim to return to some 
previous condition which we imagine as having been 
capable of preservation in perpetuity, instead of aiming - 

18 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
to stimulate the life which produced that condition in 
its time. 
, It is not of advantage to us to indulge a sentimental atti- 

*" tude towards the past. For one thing, in even the very best 
living tradition there is always a mixture of good and bad, 
and much that deserves criticism; and for another, tradition 
is not a matter of feeling alone. Nor can we safely, without 
very critical examination, dig ourselves in stubbornly to a 
few dogmatic notions, for what is a healthy belief at one 
time may, unless it is one of the few fundamental things, be 
a pernicious prejudice at another. Nor should we cling to 
traditions as a way of asserting our superiority over less 

. favoured peoples. What we can do is to use our minds, re- 
membering that a tradition without intelligence is not 
worth having, to discover what is the best life for us not 
as a political abstraction, but as a particular people in a 
particular place; what in the past is worth preserving and 
what should be rejected; and what conditions, within our 
power to bring about, would foster the society that we 
desired Stability is obviously necessary. You are hardly 
likely to develop tradition except where the bulk of the 
population is relatively so well off where it is that it has no 
incentive or pressure to move about. The population 
should be homogeneous ; where two or more cultures 
exist in the same place they are likely either to be fiercely 
self-conscious or both to become adulterate. 1 What is still 

1 Or else you may get a caste system, based on original distinctions of 
race, as in India: which is a very different matter from classes, which V 
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 to make any large 
number of free-thinking Jews undesirable.] There must be a 
proper balance between urban and rural, industrial and 
agricultural development. And a spirit of excessive toler- 
ance is to be deprecated. We must also remember that in 
spite of every means of transport that can be devised the 
locaj community must always be the most permanent, and 
that the concept of the nation is by no means fixed and in- 
variable. 1 It is, 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 its geographical size depend upon the compre- 
hensiveness of a way of life which can harmonise parts with 
distinct local characters of their own. When it becomes no 
more than a centralised machinery it may affect some of its 
parts to their detriment, or to what they believe to be their 
detriment; and we get the regional movements which have 
appeared within recent years. It is only a law of nature, that 
local patriotism, when it represents a distinct tradition and 
culture, takes precedence over a more abstract national 
patriotism. This remark should carry more weight for 
being uttered by a Yankee. 

So far I have only pronounced a few doctrines all of 

1< To place the redemptive work of the Christian Faith in social affairs 
in its proper setting, it is necessary to have clearly in mind at the outset 
that the consciousness of "the nation" as the social unit is 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, Man and Society, 
p. 146. 

2O 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
which have been developed by other writers. 1 1 do not in- 
tend to trespass upon their fields. I wished simply to indi- 
cate the connotation which the term tradition has for me, 
before proceeding to associate it with the concept of ortho- 
doxy, which seems to me more fundamental (with its 
opposite, heterodoxy, for which I shall also use the term 
heresy) than the pair classicism romanticism which is fre- 
quently used. 

As we use the term tradition to include a good deal more 
than 'traditional religious beliefs', so I am here giving the 
term orthodoxy a similar inclusiveness; and though of 
course I believe that a right tradition for us must be also a 
Christian tradition, and that orthodoxy in general implies 
Christian orthodoxy, I do not propose to lead the present 
series of lectures to a theological conclusion. The relation 
between tradition and orthodoxy in the past is evident 
enough; as is also the great difference there may be be- 
tween an orthodox Christian and a member of the Tory 
Party. But Conservatism, so far as it has ever existed, so far 
as it has 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 the other hand, there was certainly, a hundred years 
ago, a relation between the Liberalism which attacked the 

l l should not like to hold any one of them responsible for my 
opinions, however, or for any that the reader may find irritating. I 
have in mind Mr. Chesterton and his 'distributism', Mr. Christopher 
Dawson (The Making of Europe), Mr. Demant and Mr. M. B. Reckitt 
and their colleagues. I have also in mind the views of Mr. Allen Tate 
and his friends as evinced in /'// Take My Stand, and those of several 
Scottish nationalists. 

21 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
Church and the Liberalism which appeared in politics. 
According to a contemporary, William Palmer, the former 
group of Liberals 

'were eager to eliminate from the Prayer-book the belief 
in the Scriptures, the Creeds, the Atonement, the worship 
of Christ. They called for the admission of Unitarian infi- 
dels as fellow-believers. They would eviscerate the Prayer- 
book, reduce the Articles to a deistic formulary, abolish all 
subscriptions or adhesions to formularies, and reduce reli- 
gion to a state of anarchy and dissolution. These notions 
were widely spread. They were advocated in numberless 
publications, and greedily received by a democratic, 
thoughtless public. . . . Christianity, as it had existed for 
eighteen centuries, was unrepresented in this turmoil.' l 
It is well to remember that this sort of Liberalism was 
flourishing a century ago; it is also well to remember that 
it is flourishing still. Not many months ago I read an article 
by an eminent liberal divine from which I 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 of error 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 new wea- 

1 Quoted in Northern Catholicism, p. 9. 
22 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
pons, many of the poets and dramatists of our day have dug 
into the most perverse of human complexes, exposing 
them with the scalpel of a surgeon rather than that of a 
philosopher.' 

At this point I may do well to anticipate a possible mis- 
understanding. In applying the standard of orthodoxy to 
contemporary literature my emphasis will be upon its col- 
lective rather than its static meaning. A superficial apprehen- 
sion of the term might suggest the assumption that every- 
thing 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 was 
always to be deprecated. What is objectionable, from the 
point of view which I have adopted, is not novelty or 
originality in themselves, but their glorification for their 
own sake. The artist's concern with originality, certainly, 
may be considered as largely negative: he wishes only to 
avoid saying what has already been said as well as it can be. 
But I am not here occupied with the standards, ideals and 
rules which the artist or writer should set before himself, 
but with the way in which his work should be taken by 
the reader; not with the aberrations of writers, but with 
those of readers and critics. To assert that a work is 
'original' should be very modest praise: it should be no 
more than to say that the work is not patently negligible. 
Contemporary literature may conveniently be divided as 
follows. There is first that which attempts to do what has 
already been done perfectly, and it is to this superfluous 
kind of writing that the word 'traditional' is commonly 
applied: w/5-applied, for the word itself implies a move- 

23 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
ment. Tradition cannot mean standing still. Of course, 
no writer ever admits to himself that he has no origin- 
ality; but the fact that a writer can be satisfied to use the 
exact idiom of a predecessor is very suspicious; you can- 
not write satire in the line of Pope or the stanza of Byron. 
Thejsecond kind of contemporary writing aims at an ex- 
aggerated novelty, a novelty usually of a trifling kind, 
which conceals from the uncritical reader a fundamental 
commonplaceness. If you 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- 
novations, by an inner necessity, and that the novelty of 
form has rather been forced upon him by his material than 
deliberately sought. It is well also to remember that what 
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, in this or any other 
period, who are worth taking seriously, I am very far from 
asserting that any of these is wholly 'orthodox' or even that 
it would be relevant to rank them according to degrees of 
orthodoxy. It is not fair, for one thing, to judge the indivi- 
dual by what can be actual only in society as a whole; and 
most of us are heretical in one way or another. Nor is the 
responsibility solely with the individual. Furthermore, the 
essential of any important heresy is not simply that it is 
wrong: it is that it is partly right. It is characteristic of the 
more interesting heretics, in the context in which I use the 
term, that they have an exceptionally acute perception, or 
profound insight, of some part of the truth; an insight 

24 



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, we may find such authors of the greatest value. 
If we value them as they value themselves we shall go 
astray. And in the present state of affairs, with the low 
degree of education to be expected of public and of re- 
viewers, we are more likely to go wrong than right ; we 
must remember too, that an heresy is apt to have a seductive 
simplicity, to make a direct and persuasive appeal to in- 
tellect 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 analogy myself, as a safeguard against carrying it too 
far. I would wish in any case to make the point that roman- 
ticism and classicism are not matters with which creative 
writers can afford to bother over much, or with which they 
do, as a rule, in practice greatly concern themselves. It is 
true that 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 is 
temporary and political that, simply, 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 'classicist*. 

25 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
No sensible author, in the midst of something that he is 
trying to write, can stop to consider whether it is going to 
be romantic or the opposite. At the moment when one 
writes, one is what one is, and the damage of a lifetime, 
and of having been born into an unsettled society, cannot 
be repaired at the moment of composition, i 

The danger of using terms like 'romantic' and 'classic' 
this does not however give us permission to avoid them 
altogether does not spring so much from the confusion 
caused by those who use these terms about their own work, 
as from inevitable shifts of meaning in context. We do not 
mean quite the same thing when we speak of a writer as 
romantic, as we do when we speak of a literary period as 
romantic. Furthermore, we may have in mind, on any par- 
ticular occasion, certain virtues or vices more or less justly 
associated with one term or the other, and it is doubtful 
whether there is any total sum of virtues or of vices which 
may be arrogated to either class. The opportunities for sys- 
tematic misunderstanding, and for futile controversy, are 
accordingly almost ideal; and discussion of the subject is 
generally conducted by excitement of passion and pre- 
judice, rather than by reason. Finally and this is the most 
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 valua- 
tion. A thorough-going classicist is likely to be a thorough- 
going individualist, like the lape' Irving Babbitt; so that one 
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 the association sometimes made between classicism and 
Catholicism. It is possible for a man to adhere to both; but 
he should not be under the delusion that the connexion is 
necessarily objective: it may spring from some unitywithin 
himself, but that unity, as it is in him, may not be valid 
for the rest of the world. And you cannot treat on 
the same footing the maintenance of religious and 
literary principles. I have said that you cannot restrict 
the terms 'romantic' and 'classical', as professors of 
literature conveniently do, to the literary context; but on 
the other hand you cannot wholly free them from that 
context either. There is surely something wrong when a 
critic divides all works of art neatly into one group and the 
other and then plumps for the romantic or the classical as a 
whole. Whichever you like in theory, it is suspicious if you 
prefer works altogether of one class in practice: probably 
you have either made the terms merely names for what 
you admire and for what you dislike, or you have forced 
and falsified your tastes. 1 Here again is the error of being 
too thorough-going. 

I 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 
preface to a small volume of essays, I made a sort of sum- 
mary declaration of faith in matters religious, political and 
literary. The facility with which this statement has been 
quoted has helped to reveal to me that as it stands the 

1 For instance : two of my own favourite authors are Sir Thomas 
Malory and Racine. 

27 



AFTER STR,ANGE GODS 
statement is injudicious. It may suggest that the three sub- 
jects are of equal importance to me, which is not so; it may 
suggest that I accept all three beliefs on the same grounds, 
which is not so; and it may suggest that I believe that they 
all hang together or fall together, which would be the 
most serious misunderstanding of all. That there are con- 
nexions for me I of course admit, but these illuminate my 
own mind rather than the external world; and I now see 
the danger of suggesting to outsiders that the Faith is a 
political principle or a literary fashion, and the sum of all a 
dramatic posture. 

From another aspect also I have a personal interest in the 
clearing up of the use of the terms with which I have been 
I concerned. My friend Dr. Paul Elmer More is not the first 
' critic to call attention to an apparent incoherence between 
my verse and my critical prose though he is the first whose 
perplexity on this account has caused me any distress. It 
would appear that while I maintain the most correct opin- 
ions in my criticism, I do nothing but violate them in my 
verse; and thus appear in a double, if not double-faced role. 
I feel no shame in this matter. I am not of course interested 
by those critics who praise my criticism in order to dis- 
credit my verse, or those who praise my verse in order to 
discredit my opinions in religious or social affairs; I am only 
interested in answering those critics who, like Dr. More, 
have paid me the compliment deserved or not does not 
here matter of expressing some approval of both. I 
should say that in one's prose reflexions one may be legiti- 
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 religious verse so bad; and why does so little reli- 
gious verse reach the highest levels of poetry? Largely, I 
think, because of a pious insincerity. The capacity for 
writing poetry is rare; the capacity for religious emotion 
of the first intensity is rare; and it is to be expected that the 
existence of both capacities in the same individual should 
be rarer still. People who write devotional verse are usually 
writing as they want to feel, rather than as they do feel. 
Likewise, in an age like the present, it could only be poetry 
of the very greatest rank that could be genuinely what Dr. 
More would be obliged to call 'classical'; poets of lower 
ability that is all but such as half a dozen perhaps in the 
world's history could only be 'classical' by being pseudo- 
classical; by being unfaithful and dishonest to their experi- 
ence. It should hardly be necessary to add that the 'classical' 
is just as unpredictable as the romantic, and that most of us 
would not recognise a classical writer if he appeared, so 
queer and horrifying he would seem even to those who 
clamour for him. 

I hold in summing up that a tradition is rather a way of 
feeling and acting which characterises a group throughout 
generations; and that it must largely be, or that many of 
the elements in it must be, unconscious; whereas the main- 
tenance of orthodoxy is a matter which calls for the exercise 
of all our conscious intelligence. The two will therefore 
considerably complement each other. Not only is it poss- 
ible to conceive of a tradition being definitely bad; a good 
tradition might, in changing circumstances, become out of 
date. Tradition has not the means to criticise itself; it may 
perpetuate much that is trivial or of transient significance 

29 



.6 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
as well as what is vital and permanent. And while tra- 
dition, being a matter of good habits, is necessarily real 
only in a social group, orthodoxy exists whether realised in 
anyone's thought or not. Orthodoxy also, of course repre- 
sents a consensus between the living and the dead: but a 
whole generation might conceivably pass without any 
orthodox thought; or, as by Athanasius, orthodoxy may 
\ be upheld by one man against the world. Tradition may be 
conceived as a by-product of right living, not to be aimed 
at directly. It is of the blood, so to speak, rather than of the 
brain: it is the means by which the vitality of the past en- 
riches the life of the present. In the co-operation of bolh is 
the reconciliation of thought and feelingAThe concepts of 
romantic and classic are both more limited in scope and less 
definite in meaning. Accordingly they do not carry with 
them the implication of absolute value which those who 
have defended one against the other would give them: it is 
only in particular contexts that they can be contrasted in 
this way, and there are always values more important than 
any that either of these terms can adequately represent. I 
propose in my second lecture to illustrate these general re- 
flexions by some application to modern English literature. 



II 

I hope that it is quite clear, both for the sake of what I 
have 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 to cover much in our lives that is accounted for 
by habit, breeding and environment. I should not on the 
other hand like to have it supposed that my meanings were 
arbitrarily chosen. That they bear a relation to the more 
exact meanings I have no wish to conceal: if they did not, 
my discussion of these matters would lose all significance. 
But the two terms have been so frequently and so subtly 
expounded by more philosophical writers, that I would 
guard against being thought to employ, in a loose and in- 
expert manner, terms which have already been fully and 
sharply defined. With the terms in their theological use I 
shall presume no acquaintance; and I appeal only to your 
common-sense: or, if that word sounds too common, to 
your wisdom and experience of life. That an acceptance of 
the validity of the two terms as I use them should lead one 
to dogmatic theology, I naturally believe; but I am not 
here concerned with pursuing investigation in that path. 
My enquiries take 'the opposite direction: let us consider 



AFTER S T'R ANGE GODS 
the denial or neglect of tradition in my mundane sense, and 
see what that leads to. 

The general effect Si literature of the lack of any strong 
tradition is twofold: extreme individualism in views, and 
no accepted rules or opinions as to the limitations of the 
literary job. I have spoken elsewhere 1 of poetry as a sub- 
stitute for religion, and of kinds of criticism which assumed 
that the function of poetry was to replace religion. The 
two results are naturally concomitant. When one man's 
View of life' is as good as another's, all the more enter- 
prising spirits will naturally evolve their own; and where 
there is no custom to determine what the task of literature 
is, every writer will determine for himself, and the more 
enterprising will range as far afield as possible. But at this 
point I should develop one distinction between the usual 
sense of 'orthodoxy' and that in which it is here used. I do 
not take orthodoxy to mean that there is a narrow path 
laid down for every writer to follow. Even in the stricter 
discipline of the Church, we hardly expect every theolo- 
gian to succeed in being orthodox in every particular, for 
it is not a sum of theologians, but the Church itself, in 
which orthodoxy resides. In my sense of the term, perfect 
orthodoxy in the individual artist is not always necessary, 
or even desirable. In many instances it is possible that an 
indulgence of eccentricities is the condition of the man's 
saying anything at all. It is impossible to separate the 
'poetry' in Paradise Lost from the peculiar doctrines that it 
enshrines; it means very little to assert that if Milton had 
held more normal doctrines he would have written a, 
Mn The Use of Poetry. 
32 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 

better poem; as a work of literature, we take it as we find 
it: but we can certainly enjoy the poetry and yet be fully 
aware of the intellectual and moral aberrations of the 
author. It is true that the existence of a right tradition, 
simply by its influence upon the environment in which the 
poet develops, will tend to restrict eccentricity to manage- 
able limits: but it is not even by the lack of this restraining 
influence that the absence of tradition is most deplorable. 
What is disastrous is that the writer should deliberately 
give rein to his 'individuality*, that he should even culti- 
vate his differences from others; and that his readers should 
cherish the author of genius, not in spite of his deviations 
from the inherited wisdom of the race, but because of 
them. 

What happens is not, to be sure, always just what the 
author intends. It is fatally easy, under the conditions of the 
modern world, for a writer of genius to conceive of him- 
self as a Messiah. Other writers, indeed, may have had pro- 
found insights before him; but we readily believe that 
everything is relative to its period of society, and that these 
insights have now lost their validity; a new generation is 
a new world, so there is always a chance, if not of deliver- 
ing a wholly new gospel, of delivering one as good as new. 
Or the messiahship may take the form of revealing for the 
first time the gospel of some dead sage, which no one has 
understood before; which owing to the backward and con- 
fused 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 wisdom of primitive peoples. A writer who is 
fired with such a conviction is likely to have some devoted 
c 33 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
disciples; but for posterity he is liable to become, what 
he will be for the majority of his contemporaries, merely 
one among many entertainers. And the pity is that the man 
may have had something to say of the greatest importance: 
but to announce, as your own discovery, some truth long 
known to mankind, is to secure immediate attention at the 
price of ultimate neglect. 

Tjie general effect upon readers most of them quite 
uneducated is quite different from what the serious mes- 
siah intends. In the first place, no modern messiah can last 
for more than a generation; it is tacitly assumed that the 
leaders of the previous generation are as useless as the sol- 
diers who died in the first year of a hundred years' war (and 
alas, they mostly are) ; those who enjoy the normal span of 
life may be sure of surviving their popularity. Secondly, as 
the public is not very well qualified for discriminating be- 
tween nostrums, it comes to enjoy sampling all, and taking 
none seriously. And finally, in a world that has as nearly 
lost all understanding of the meaning of education as it well 
can, many people act upon the assumption that the mere 
accumulation of 'experiences', including literary and in- 
tellectual experiences, as well as amorous and picaresque 
ones, is like the accumulation of money valuable in it- 
self. So that a serious writer may sweat blood over his 
work, and be appreciated as the exponent of still one more 
'point of view'. 

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 
different thing to be a classical author in a classical age, and 
to maintain classical ideals in a romantic age. Furthermore, 
I ask the same compassion for myself that I 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 
standards which are almost in desuetude. Of the contem- 
porary authors whom I shall mention, I cannot recall hav- 
ing seen any criticism in which these standards have been 
employed. 

Perhaps it will make the foregoing considerations appear 
more real, and exonerate me from the charge of dealing 
only in abstractions, offering only a kind of unredeemable 
paper currency, if at this point I give testimony in the form 
of three contemporary short stories, all of very great merit. 
It was almost by accident that I happened to read all of 
these stories in rapid succession during the course of some 
recent work at Harvard. One is Bliss by Katherine Mans- 
field; the second is The Shadow in the 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 is disillusioned about his relations with 
his wife. Miss Mansfield's story it is one of her best 
known is brief, poignant and in the best sense, slight; 
Mr. Joyce's is of considerable length. What is interesting in 
the three together is the differences of moral implication. 
In Bliss, I should say, the moral implication is negligible: 



volumes entitled Bliss, The Prussian Officer, and Dubliners 
respectively. 

35 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
the centre of interest is the wife's feeling, first of ecstatic 
happiness, and then at the moment of revelation. We are 
given neither comment nor suggestion of any moral issue 
of good and evil, and within the setting this is quite right. 
The story is limited to this sudden change of feeling, and 
the moral and social ramifications are outside of the terms 
of reference. As the material is limited in this way and 
indeed our satisfaction recognises the skill with which the 
author has handled perfectly the minimum material it is 
what I believe would be called feminine. In the story of 
Lawrence there is a great deal more than that; he is con- 
cerned with the feelings of both husband and wife; and 
as the tempo is much slower (no story of any considerable 
structure could move as rapidly as Miss Mansfield's does) 
there is time for thought as well as feeling, and for calcu- 
lated action. An accident, trifling in itself, but important 
in the twist which Lawrence gives to it, leads or forces the 
wife to reveal to her commonplace lower middle-class 
husband (no writer is more conscious of class-distinctions 
than Lawrence) the facts of her intrigue with an army 
officer several years before their marriage. The disclosure 
is made with something nearly approaching conscious 
cruelty. There is cruelty, too, in the circumstances in which 
she had met her former lover: 

' "And I saw him to-day," she said. "He is not dead, 
he's mad." Her husband looked at her, startled. "Mad!" 
he said involuntarily. "A lunatic," she said.' 

Of this alarming strain of cruelty in some modern litera- 
ture I shall have something more to say later. What I wish 
chiefly to notice at this point, is what strikes me in all of the 

36 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
relations of Lawrence's men and women: the absence of 
any moral or social sense. It is not that the author, in that 
Olympian elevation and superior indifference attributed to 
great artists, and which I can only imperfectly understand, 
has detached himself from any moral attitude towards his 
characters; it is that the characters themselves, who are sup- 
posed to be recognisably human beings, betray no respect 
for, pr even awareness of, moral obligations, and seem to 
be unfurnished with even the most commonplace kind of 
conscience. In Mr. Joyce's story, which is very much 
longer and which incidentally employs a much more ela- 
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 
that the song had been sung by a boy she knew in Galway 
when she was a girl, and that between them was an intense 
romantic and spiritualised love. She had had to go away; 
the boy had risen from a sick bed to come to say goodbye 
to her; and he had in consequence died. That is all there 
was to it; but the husband 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 filled Gabriel's eyes. He had never felt like 
that himself towards any woman, but he knew that such a 
feeling must be love. The tears gathered more thickly in 
his eyes and in the partial darkness he imagined he saw the 
form of a young man standing under 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 full value of evidence such 
as this without reading the stories entire; but something of 
what I have in mind should now be apparent. We are not 
concerned with the authors' beliefs, but with orthodoxy of 
sensibility and with the sense of tradition, our degree of 
approaching 'that region where dwell the vast hosts of the 
dead'. And Lawrence is for my purposes, an almost perfect 
example of the heretic. And the most ethically orthodox of 
the more eminent writers of my time is Mr. Joyce. I con- 
fess that I do not know what to make of a generation 
which ignores these considerations. 

I trust that I shall not be taken as speaking in a spirit of 
bigotry when I assert that the chief clue to the 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 we should 
have to go back to the seventeenth century. I mean that 
amongst writers the rejection of Christianity Protestant 
Christianity is the rule rather than the exception; and 
that individual writers can be understood and classified 
according to the type of Protestantism which surrounded 
their infancy, and the precise state of decay which it 
had reached. I should include those authors who were 
reared in an 'advanced' or agnostic atmosphere, because 
even agnosticism Protestant agnosticism has decayed 
in the last two generations. It is this background, I be- 
lieve, that makes much of our writing seem provincial 
and crude in the major intellectual centres of Europe 
everywhere except northern Germany and perhaps Scan- 
dinavia; it is this which contributes the prevailing flavour of 

38 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
immaturity. One might expect the unlovelier forms of this 
decline to be more deeply marked upon American authors 
than upon English, but there is no reason to generalise: 
nothing could be much drearier (so far as one can judge 
from his own account) than the vague hymn-singing 
pietism which seems to have consoled the miseries of Law- 
rence's mother, and which does not seem to have provided 
her with any firm principles by which to scrutinise the con- 
duct of her sons. But lest I be supposed to be concerned 
primarily with the decay of morals (and especially sexual 
morals) I will mention the name of one for whose memory 
I have the highest respect and admiration: that of the late 
Irving Babbitt. 

It is significant to observe that Babbitt was saturated with 
French culture; in his thought and in his intercourse he was 
thoroughly cosmopolitan. He believed in tradition; for 
many years he stood almost alone in maintaining against 
the strong tendency of the time a right theory of education; 
and such effects of decadence as are manifest in Lawrence's 
work he held in abomination. And yet to my mind the 
very width of his culture, his intelligent eclecticism, are 
themselves symptoms of a narrowness of tradition, in their 
extreme reaction against that narrowness. His attitude to- 
wards 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 pronounce- 
ments and not at all on any information about his upbring- 
ing. It would be exaggeration to say that he 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 
to be trying to compensate for the lack of living tradition 
by a herculean, but purely intellectual and individual 
effort. His addiction to the philosophy of Confucius is 
evidence: the popularity of Confucius among our con- 
temporaries is significant. Just as I do not see how anyone 
can expect really to understand Kant and Hegel without 
knowing the German language and without such an under- 
standing of the German mind as can only be acquired in the 
society of living Germans, so a fortiori I do not see how any- 
one can understand Confucius without some knowledge of 
Chinese and a long frequentation of the best Chinese 
society. I 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 excel- 
lences which may make Europe seem crude. But I do not 
believe that I, for one, could ever come to understand it 
well enough to make Confucius a mainstay. 

I 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 Woods, left me 
in a state of enlightened mystification. A good half of the 
effort of understanding what the Indian philosophers were 
after 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. And I came 
to the conclusion seeing also that the 'influence' of Brah- 

40 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
min and Buddhist thought upon Europe, as in Schopen- 
hauer, Hartmann, and Deussen, had largely been through 
romantic misunderstanding that my only hope of really 
penetrating to the heart of that mystery would lie in for- 
getting how to think and feel as an American or a Euro- 
pean: which, for practical as well as sentimental reasons, I 
did not wish to do. And I should imagine that the same 
choice would hold good for Chinese thought: though I be- 
lieve that the Chinese mind is very much nearer to the 
Anglo-Saxon than is the Indian. China is or was until the 
missionaries initiated her into Western thought, and so 
blazed a path for John Dewey a country of tradition; 
Confucius was not born into a vacuum; and a network of 
rites and customs, even if regarded by philosophers in a 
spirit of benignant scepticism, make a world of difference. 
But Confucius has become the philosopher of the rebellious 
Protestant. And I cannot but feel that in some respects 
Irving Babbitt, with the noblest intentions, has merely 
made matters worse instead of better. 

The name of Irving Babbitt instantly suggests that of 
Ezra Pound (his peer in cosmopolitanism) and that of I. A. 
Richards: it would seem that Confucius is the spiritual 
adviser of the highly educated and fastidious, in contrast to 
the dark gods of Mexico. 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- 
cance. His powerful 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 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
Guide Cavalcanti without suspecting that he finds Guide 
much more sympathetic than Dante, and on grounds 
which have little to do with their respective merits as poets: 
namely, that Guide was very likely a heretic, if not a sceptic 
as evidenced partly by his possibly having held some 
pneumatic philosophy and theory of corpuscular action 
which I am unable to understand. Mr. Pound, like Babbitt, 
is an individualist, and still 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 
Sin, with the disappearance of the idea of intense moral 
struggle, the human beings presented to us both in poetry 
and in prose fiction to-day, and more patently among 
the serious writers than in the underworld of letters, tend to 
become less and less real. It is in fact in moments of moral 
and spiritual struggle depending upon spiritual sanctions, 
rather than in those 'bewildering minutes' in which we are 
all very much alike, that men and women come nearest to 
being real. If you do away with this struggle, and maintain 
that by 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 
be as good as anyone could require, then you must expect 
human beings to become more and more vaporous. This is 
exactly what we find of the society which Mr. Pound puts in 
Hell, in his Draft of XXX Cantos. It consists (I may have 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
overlooked one or two species) of politicians, profiteers, 
financiers, newspaper proprietors and their hired men, 
agents provocateurs, Calvin, St. Clement of Alexandria, the 
English, vice-crusaders, liars, the stupid, pedants, preachers, 
those who do not believe in Social Credit, bishops, lady 
golfers, Fabians, conservatives and imperialists; and all 
'those who have set money-lust before the pleasures of the 
senses'. It is, in its way, an admirable Hell, 'without dig- 
nity, without tragedy'. At first sight the variety of types 
for these are types, and not individuals may be a little 
confusing; but I think it becomes a little more intelligible 
if we see at work three principles, (i) the aesthetic, (2) the 
humanitarian, (3) the Protestant. And I find one consider- 
able objection to a Hell of this sort: that a Hell altogether 
without dignity implies a Heaven without dignity also. If 
you do not distinguish between individual responsibility 
and circumstances in Hell, between essential Evil and social 
accidents, then the Heaven (if any) implied will be equally 
trivial and accidental. Mr. Pound's Hell, for all its horrors, 
is a perfectly comfortable one for the modern mind to con- 
template, and disturbing to no one's complacency: it is a 
Hell for the other people, the people we read about in the 
newspapers, not for oneself and one's friends. 1 

An equally interesting example of the modern mind is 
that of the other important poet of our time, Mr. William 
Butler Yeats. Few poets have told us more about them- 
selves more, I mean, of what is relevant and of what we 
are entitled to know than Mr. Yeats in his 'Autobio- 
graphies', a document of great and permanent interest. Mr. 
1 Consult Time and Western Man by Wyndham Lewis. 
43 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
Yeats had still greater difficulties to contend with, I should 
say, than Mr. Pound. He was born of Irish Protestant stock, 
and was brought up in London; Ireland was for his childhood 
rather a holiday country, to which his sentiment attached 
itself; his father adhered to mid-century Rationalism, but 
otherwise the household atmosphere was Pre-Raphaelite. 
In The Trembling of the Veil he says significantly: 

'I was unlike others of my generation in one thing only. I 
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 tradition, of a fardel of stories, and of personages, 
and of emotions, inseparable from their first expression, 
passed on from generation to generation by poets and pain- 
ters with some help from philosophers and theologians.' 
,/Thus, in Yeats at the age of sixteen (or at least, as in retro- 
spect he seems to himself to have been at sixteen) is operative 
the doctrine of Arnold, that Poetry can replace Religion, 
and also the tendency to fabricate an individual religion. The 
rationalistic background, the Pre-Raphaelite imagery, the 
interest in the occult, the equally early interest in Irish na- 
tionalism, the association with minor poets in London and 
Paris, make a curious mixture. Mr. Yeats was in search of 
a tradition, a little too consciously perhaps like all of us. 
He sought for it in the conception of Ireland as an autono- 
mous political and social unity, purged from the Anglo- 
Saxon pollution. He wished also to find access to the reli- 
gious sources of poetry, as, a little later, did another restless 
seeker for myths, D. H. Lawrence. The result, for a long 
period, is a somewhat artificially induced poeticality. Just 

44 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
as much of Swinburne's verse has the effect of repeated 
doses of gin and water, so much of Mr. Yeats's verse is 
stimulated by folklore, occultism, 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. There is a 
deliberate evocation of trance, as he virtually confesses in 
his essay on The Symbolism of Poetry: 

'The purpose of rhythm, it has always seemed to me, is to 
prolong the moment of contemplation, the moment when 
we are both asleep and awake, which is the one moment 
of creation, by hushing us with an alluring monotony, 
while it holds us waking by its variety, to keep us in that 
state of perhaps real trance, in which the mind liberated 
from the pressure of the will is unfolded in symbols.' 
There is a good deal of truth 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 current civilisation but 
of life itself, in favour of a supernatural world. But the 
world of the "eternal moods", of supernal essences and im- 
mortal beings is not, like the Irish peasant stories and the 
Irish 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 think, only carrying Mr. Richards's complaint a little 
further to add that Mr. Yeats's 'supernatural world' was 
the wrong supernatural world. It was not a world of 
spiritual significance, not a world of real Good and Evil, 
of holiness or sin, 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 may utter his last words. In its extreme self- 
consciousness it approaches the mythology of D. H. Law- 
rence on its more decadent side. We admire Mr. Yeats for 
having outgrown it; for having packed away his bibelots 
and resigned himself to live in an apartment furnished in 
the barest simplicity. A few faded beauties remain: Baby- 
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 resigna- 
tion: 

'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 
greatness against the greatest odds; if he has not arrived at a 
central and universal philosophy he has at least discarded, 
for the most part, the trifling and eccentric, the provincial 
in time and place. 

At 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 pro- 
duce Gerard Hopkins, with an air of triumph, as the ortho- 
dox and traditional poet. I wish indeed that I could; but I 
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 first place, the fact that he was 
a Jesuit priest, and the author of some very beautiful devo- 
tional verse, is only partially relevant. To be converted, in 
any case, while it is sufficient for entertaining the hope of 
individual salvation, is not going to do for a man, as a 
writer, what his ancestry and his country for some genera- 
tions have failed to do. Hopkins is a fine poet, to be sure; 
but he is not nearly so much a poet 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 
adaptable for many purposes; furthermore, they sometimes 
strike me as lacking inevitability that is to say, they some- 
times come near to being purely verbal, in that a whole 
poem will give us more of the same thing, an accumulation, 
rather than a real development of thought or feeling. 

47 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
I may be wrong about Hopkins's metric and vocabulary. 
But I am sure that in the matter of devotional poetry a good 
deal more is at issue than just the purity and strength of the 
author's devotional passion. To be a 'devotional poet' is a 
limitation: a saint limits himself by writing poetry, and a 
poet who confines himself to even this subject matter is 
limiting himself too. Hopkins is not a religious poet in the 
more important sense in which I have elsewhere main- 
tained Baudelaire to be a religious poet; or in the sense in 
which I find Villon to be a religious poet; or in the sense 
in which I consider Mr. Joyce's work to be penetrated with 
/ Christian feeling. I do not wish to depreciate him, but to 
affirm limitations and distinctions. He should be compared, 
not with our contemporaries whose situation is different 
from his, but with the minor poet nearest contemporary to 
him, and most like him: George Meredith. The compari- 
son is altogether to Hopkins's advantage. They are both 
English nature poets, they have similar technical tricks, and 
Hopkins is much the more agile. And where Meredith, 
beyond a few acute and pertly expressed observations 
of human 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 renew our associa- 
tion with traditional wisdom; to re-establish a vital con- 
ynexion between the individual and the race; the struggle, 
in a word, against Liberalism: from all this Hopkins is a 
little apart, and in this Hopkins has very little aid to offer 
us. 

48 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
What I have'vwished to illustrate, by reference to the 
authors whom I have mentioned in this lecture, has been 
the crippling effect upon men of letters, of not having been 
born and brought up in the environment of a living and 
central tradition. In the following lecture I shall be con- 
cerned rather with the positive effects of heresy, and with 
much more alarming consequences: those resulting from 
exposure to the diabolic influence. 



49 



Ill 

I think that there is an interesting subject of investiga- 
tion, for the student of traditions, in the history of Blas- 
phemy, and the anomalous position of that term in the 
modern world. It is a curious survival in a society which 
has for the most part ceased to be capable of exercising that 
activity or of recognising it. I am persuaded that pretty 
generally, when that term is used at all, it is used in a sense 
which is only the shadow of the original. For modern blas- 
phemy is merely a department of bad form: just as, in 
countries which 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 all; and both 
feelings are supported by the conservatism of those who 
have anything to lose by social changes. Yet people nowa- 
days are inclined to tolerate and respect any violation 
which is presented to them as inspired by 'serious' pur- 
poses; whereas the only disinfectant which makes either 
blasphemy or obscenity sufferable is the sense of humour: 
the indecent that is funny may be the legitimate source of 
innocent merriment, while the absence of humour reveals 
it as purely disgusting. 

I do not wish to be understood as undertaking a defence 
D2 51 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
of blasphemy in the abstract. I am only pointing out that it 
is a very different thing in the modern world from what it 
would be in an 'age of faith'; just as a magistrate's concep- 
tion of blasphemy 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 
O matter of good form but of right belief; no one can poss- 
ibly blaspheme in any sense except that in which a parrot 
may be said to curse, unless he profoundly believes in that 
which he profanes; and when anyone who is not a 
believer is shocked by blasphemy he is shocked merely by 
a breach of good form; and it is a nice question whether, 
being in a state of intellectual error, he is or is not commit- 
ting a sin in being shocked for the wrong reasons. It is cer- 
tainly my opinion that first-rate blasphemy is one of the 
rarest things in literature, for it requires both literary genius 
and profound faith, joined in a mind in a peculiar and un- 
usual state of spiritual sickness. I repeat that I am not de- 
fending blasphemy; I am reproaching a world in which 
blasphemy is impossible. 

My next point is a more delicate one to handle. One 
can conceive of blasphemy as doing moral harm to feeble 
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 in- 
jured by blasphemy. One would expect, therefore, that 
(whatever it may have been at other times) blasphemy 

52 



AFTER STRANGE GOD^S 
would be less employed by the Forces of Evil than at any 
other time in the last two thousand years. Where blas- 
phemy might once have been a sign of spiritual corrup- 
tion, it might now be taken rather as a symptom that the 
soul is still alive, or even that it is recovering anima- 
tion: for the perception of Good and Evil whatever 
choice we may make is the first requisite of spiritual life. 
We should do well, therefore, to look elsewhere than to 
the blasphemer, in the traditional sense, for the most fruit- 
ful operations of the Evil Spirit to-day. 

I regret, for my present purposes, that I have not a more 
intimate, accurate and extensive knowledge of the English 
novelists of the last hundred years, and that therefore I feel 
a little insecure of my generalisations. But it seems to me 
that the eminent novelists who are more nearly contem- 
porary to us, have been more concerned than their pre- 
decessors consciously or not 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 
the aggrandisement and exploitation of personality. I do 
not suggest that 'personality' is an illicit intruder; I imagine 
that the admirers of Jane Austen are all fascinated by some- 
thing that may be called her personality. But personality, 
with Jane Austen, with Dickens and with Thackeray, was 
more nearly in its proper place. The standards by which 
they criticised their world, if not very lofty ones, were at 
least not of their own making. In Dickens's novels, for 
instance, the religion is 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 
zeal. These novelists were still observers: however super- 
ficial in contrast, for instance, to Flaubert we find their ' 
observations to be. They are 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 
insight and passion than these, but who unfortunately com- 
bined it with the dreary rationalism of the epoch of which 
she is one of the most colossal monuments: George Eliot. 
George Eliot seems to me of the same tribe as all the serious 
and eccentric moralists we have had since: we must respect 
her for being a serious moralist, but deplore her individual- 
istic morals. What I have been leading up to is the follow- 
ing assertion: that when morals cease to be a matter of 
tradition and orthodoxy that is, of the habits of the com- 
munity formulated, corrected, and elevated by the con- 
/ tinuous 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 late Thomas Hardy represents an inter- 
esting example of a powerful personality uncurbed by any 
institutional attachment or by submission to any objective 
beliefs; unhampered by any ideas, or even by what some- 
times acts as a partial restraint upon inferior writers, the 
desire to please a large public. He 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 
me as a particularly wholesome or edifying matter of com- 
munication. He was indifferent even to the prescripts of 
good writing: he wrote sometimes overpoweringly well, 
but always very carelessly; at times his style touches sub- 

54 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
limity without ever having passed through the stage of 
being good. In consequence of his self-absorption, he makes 
a great deal of landscape; for landscape is a passive creature 
which lends itself to 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, 
in their emotional paroxysms that most of Hardy's char- 
acters come alive. This extreme emotionalism seems to me 
a symptom of decadence; it is a cardinal point of faith in a 
romantic age, to believe that there is something admirable 
in violent emotion for its own sake, whatever the emotion 
or whatever its object. But it is by no means self-evident that 
human beings are most real when most violently excited; 
violent physical passions do not in themselves differentiate 
men from each other, but rather tend to reduce them to the 
same state; and the passion has significance only in relation 
to the character and behaviour of the man at other mo- 
ments of his life and in other contexts. Furthermore, strong 
passion is only interesting or significant in strong men; 
those who abandon themselves without resistance to ex- 
citements which tend to deprive them of reason, become 
merely instruments of feeling and lose their humanity; and 
unless there is moral resistance 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 its own sake, unless instructed to the 
contrary; and, if 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 
his finest novel as a whole he comes the nearest to pro- 
ducing an air of inevitability, and of making the crises seem 
the consequences of the character of Henchard; the arrange- 
ment by which the hero, leaning over a bridge, finds him- 
self staring at his effigy in the stream below is a masterly 
tour de force. This scene is however as much by arrange- 
ment as less successful ones in which the motive intrudes 
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 author seems to be deliberately 
relieving some emotion of his own at the expense of the 
reader. It is a refined form of torture on the part of the 
writer, and a refined form of self-torture on the part of the 
reader. And this brings me to the point of this lecture, for 
the first time. 

I have not so far made it apparent what relation the docu- 
ments considered in this lecture bear to the subject matter 
of the last. I was there concerned with illustrating the 
limiting and crippling effect of a separation from tradition 
and orthodoxy upon certain writers whom I nevertheless 
hold up for admiration for what they have attempted 
against great obstacles. Here I am concerned with the in- 
trusion of the diabolic into modern literature in consequence 
of the same lamentable state of affairs; and it was for this 

56 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 

reason that I took the pains at the beginning to point out 
that blasphemy is not a matter with which we are con- 
cerned. I 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 operate through men of genius of the most excellent 
character. I doubt whether what I am saying can convey : 
very much to anyone for whom the doctrine of Original 
Sin is not a very 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 
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 stories, of course, illustrate 
my point equally well; the best for my purpose, to which I 
refer you, rather than take 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 
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 we are in a world of 

57 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
Good and Evil. In Barbara of the House of Grebe we are in- 
troduced into a world of pure Evil. The tale would seem 
to have been written solely to provide a satisfaction for 
some morbid emotion. 

I find this same strain in the work of a man whose mor- 
bidity I have already had occasion to mention, and whom 
I regard as a very much greater genius, if not a greater 
artist, than Hardy: D. H. Lawrence. Lawrence has three 
aspects, and it is very difficult to do justice to all. I do not 
expect to be able to do so. The first is the ridiculous: his 
lack of sense of humour, a certain snobbery, a lack not so 
much of information as of the critical faculties which edu- 
cation should give, and an incapacity for what we ordin- 
arily call thinking. Of this side of Lawrence, the brilliant 
exposure by Mr. Wyndham Lewis in Paleface is by far the 
most conclusive criticism that has been made. Secondly, 
there is the extraordinarily keen sensibility and capacity for 
profound intuition intuition from which he commonly 
drew the wrong conclusions^ Third, there is a distinct 
sexual morbidity. Unfortunately, it is necessary to keep all 
of these aspects in mind in order to criticise the writer 
fairly; and this, in such close perspective, is almost im- 
possible. I shall no doubt appear to give excessive promin- 
ence to the third; but that, after all, is what has been least 
successfully considered. 

I have already touched upon the deplorable religious up- 
bringing which gave Lawrence his lust for intellectual inde- 
pendence: like most people who do not know what ortho- 
doxy is, he hated it. With the more intimate reasons, of 
heredity and environment, for eccentricity of thought and 

58 





AFTER STRANGE GODS 
feeling I am not concerned: too many people have made 
them their business already. And I have already mentioned 
the insensibility to ordinary social morality, which is so 
alien to my mind that I am completely baffled by it as a 
monstrosity j The point is that Lawrence started life wholly 
free from any restriction of tradition or institution, that he jl 
had no guidance except the Inner Light, the most untrust- I 
worthy and deceitful guide that ever offered itself to wan- r 
dering humanity. It was peculiarly so for Lawrence, who 
does not appear to have been gifted with the faculty of self- 
criticism, except in flashes, 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 
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 momentary man has received: no one, in short, can be 
the sole judge of whence his inspiration comes. A man like 
Lawrence, therefore, with his acute scnsibilitv T violent 
prejudices and passions, and lack of intellectual and social \ ! 
training, is 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? 
Mr. Joyce is always aware what master it is serving; an 
untrained mind, and a soul destitute of humility and filled 
with self-righteousness, is a blind servant and. a fatal leader. 
It would seem that for Lawrence any spiritual force was < d 
good, and that evil resided only in the absence of spiritual- 
ity. Most people, no doubt, need to be aroused to the per- 
ception of the simple distinction between the spiritual and 

> 59 
* 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
the material; and Lawrence never forgot, and never mis- 
took, this distinction. But most people are only very little 
alive; and to awaken them to the spiritual is a very great 
responsibility: it is only when they are so awakened that 
they are capable of real Good, but that at the same time 
they become first capable of Evil. Lawrence lived all his 
life, I should imagine, on the spiritual level; no man was 
less a sensualist.^ Against the living; death oji: modern^ 
material civilisation he spoke again and again, and even if 
these dead could speak, what he said is unanswerable. As a 
criticism of the modern world, Fantasia of the Unconscious 
is a book to keep at hand and re-read. In contrast to Not- 
tingham, London or industrial America, his capering red- 
skins of Mornings in Mexico seem to represent Life. So they 
do; but that is not the last word, only the first. 

The man's vision is spiritual, but spiritually sick. 
The daemonic powers found an instrument of far greater 
range, delicacy and power in the author of The Prussian 
Officer than in the author of A Group of Noble Dames\ 
and the tale which I used as an example (The Shadow 
in the Rose Garden) can be matched by several others. 
I have not read all of his late and his posthumous 
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 But I cannot see much development in 
Lady Chatterleys Lover. Our old acquaintance, the game- 
keeper, turns up again: the social obsession which makes 

X I am indebted to an unpublished essay by Mr. E. F. W. Tomlin for 
the suggestion that this is so. 

60 






AFTER STRANGE GODS 
well-born or almost well-born ladies offer them- 
^elves to or make use of plebeians springs from the same 
morbidity which makes other of his female characters be- 
stow their favours upon savages. The author of that book 
seems to me to have been a very sick man indeed. 

There is, I believe, a very great deal to be learned from 
Lawrence; though those who are most capable of exercis- 
ing the judgement necessary to extract the lesson, may not 
be those who are most in need of it. That we can and ought 
to reconcile ourselves to Liberalism, Progress and Modern 
Ciyjlisatic)n^Js_ a proposition which jwe need not have 
waited for Lawrence to condemn; and it matters a good 
deal in what name we condemn it. I fear that Law- 
rence's work may appeal, not to those who are well and 
able to discriminate, but to the sick and debile and con- 
fused; and will appeal not to what remains of health in 
them, but to their sickness. Nor will many even accept his 
doctrine as he would give it, but will be busy after their 
own inventions. /The number of people in possession of any 
criteria for discriminating between good and evil is very 
small; the number of the half-alive hungry for any form of 
spiritual experience, or what offers itself as spiritual experi- 
ence, high or low, good or bad, is considerable./Kly own 
generation has not served them very well. Never has the 
printing-press been so busy, and never have such varieties of 
buncombe and false doctrine come from it. Woe unto the 
foolish prophets, that follow their oiim spirit, and have seen 
nothing! O Israel, thy prophets have been like foxes in the waste 
places. . . . And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 
Son of man, these men liave taken their idols into their hearts, 

61 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
and put the stumbling-block of their iniquity before their face: 
should I be inquired of at all by them? 

I wish to add a few words of retrospect and summary, 
partly as a reminder of how little, in the space of three 
hours, one can undertake to say about such a serious sub- 
ject as this. In an age of unsettled beliefs and enfeebled 
tradition the man of letters, the poet, and the novelist, are 
in a situation dangerous for themselves and for their 
readers. I tried to safeguard myself, in my first lecture, 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 by itself is not enough; it must be 
perpetually criticised and brought up to date under the 
supervision of what I call orthodoxy; and for the lack of 
this supervision it is now the sentimental tenuity that we 
find it.? Most 'defenders of tradition' are mere conserva- 
tives, unable to distinguish between the permanent and the 
temporary, the essential and the accidental. But I left this 
theory as a 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 it plausible; so that in our 
reading, we may 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 
spiritually, be a good or a bad one./This view of person- 

62 



AFTER STRANGE GODS 
ality is merely an assumption on the part of the modern 
world, and is no more tenable than several other views 
which have been held at various times and in several places. 
The personality thus expressed, the personality which 
fascinates us in the work of philosophy or art, tends 
naturally to be the unregenerate personality, partly self- 
deceived and partly irresponsible, and because of its free- 
dom, terribly limited by prejudice and 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 I have been able to do here is to suggest 
that there are standards 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 
safer and more profitable for us. 



APPENDIX 

I have 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 
themselves. I had thought of supplementing it by a gradu- 
ated Exercise Book, beginning with very simple examples 
of heresy, and leading up to those which are very difficult 
to solve; and leaving the student to find the answers for 
himself. My chief reason for abandoning this project is 
perhaps the overwhelming abundance of elementary exer- 
cises, compared with the paucity of those which can tax 
the abilities of the really quick and proficient student. I 
therefore content myself with four examples. No. I is 
very elementary: countless specimens 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 I can find. A really satisfactory exercise book would 
require the co-operation of a board of editors. I jim not 
well enougrrread; and I find to my discomfiture that most 
of the examples that occur to me hardly rise above the 
simplicity of No. I. Numerous advanced exercises are 
possible to those who possess a familiarity with foreign 
languages. 



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 
natural attitude. Vice offends more from its ugliness than 
from its sinfulness/ Goodness has its appeal in moral beauty 
rather than in virtue/ J OHN A. HOBSON: The Moncure 
D. Conway Lecture 1933. 

ii 

'At the end of my life as a teacher ... I am convinced 
that it is personality that counts always and all the time. . . . 

'This question of Latin is a part, and only a part, of what 
I think is the most important educational question that is 
now before the country. It is a question which is engaging 
the attention of the Consultative Committee of the Board 
of Education at the present moment the question of what 
is the right education to give pupils between the ages of 
ii and i6j, whose education is not going to be continued 
beyond that point. Are we giving the right education at 
the present time? I am pretty certain that we are not. 

'I would give a boy first a sound education based on 
English culture, English geography, English history, and 
English literature, less mathematics, a different kind of 
science, and I would not attempt to teach him more than 
one foreign language. I would also try to give him a thor- 
ough physical education, and a thorough training of the 
hand, eye and ear, and I would seek to make that as im- 
portant as his literary education. In his last years at school 
I would seek to build on that foundation some under- 

66 



APPENDIX 

standing of the modern world, why it is, how it works, 

and what his place is in it. In that education I do not think 

that there will be room or time for Latin, but at present we 

;ave not formulated anything like that. It is still an ideal.' 

DR. CYRIL NORWOOD, 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 an impersonal ideal which the 
vidual selects and to which he sacrifices all other 
claims, especially those of the sentiments or emotions. It 
follows that character must be placed in opposition to 
personality, which is the general-common-denominator of 
sentiments and emotions. That is, indeed, the opposi- 
tion I wish to emphasise; and when I have said further that 
all poetry, in which I wish to include all lyrical impulses 
whatever, is the product of the personality, and therefore 
. hibited in a character, I have stated the main theme of my 
essay.' HERBERT READ : Form in Modern Poetry, pp. 18- 
19. 

IV 

'Any serious criticism of communist philosophy must 
start by declaring openly how much of its theory is ac- 
|cepted by the critic. I must therefore preface my criticism 

v saying that I accept the rejection of idealism and the 
principle of the unity of theory and practice in the sense in 

hich I 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< 
tions to their conclusions, but because of a complete brt 
with the assumptions upon which they are based and t 
purpose which governs their development. They invoi 
the belief that all theory must seek verification in acti 
and adapt itself to the possibility of experiment. Th 
make a clean sweep of speculative thought on the grc 
j that the validity of no belief whatever is capable of demoi 
stration by argument. They involve a refusal at any po 
to make knowledge an end in itself, and equally, the rej- 
tion of the desire for certainty which is the motive gove 
ing speculative thought.' JOHN MACMURRAY: 
Philosophy of Communism, pp. 62-63. 



68 



7847