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A SHELF OF RECENT BOOKS
By William Rose Benét
HOSE who dutifully confection the short story to the sacred pattern of the hour may well become of the company which shakes its tambourines in hell", says Galsworthy in his foreword to this stout volume of his collected tales. He says it modestly, withal, not arrogating to himself the achievement of a better purpose but merely mentioning that such achievement has been his ideal.
As for Galsworthy's method in these stories, his point of view is that, I think, of Ferrand, the narrator of "A Simple Tale":
"There are two kinds of men in this world, monsieur one who will not rest content till he has become master of all the toys that make a fat existence in never looking to see of what they are made; and the other, for whom life is tobacco and a crust of bread, and liberty to take all to pieces, so that his spirit may feel good within him. Frankly, I am of that kind."
Galsworthy examines character with a deep sympathy. He searches life's pathos, spreads before you its diverse tragedy. There is always beneficence in his touch, even when he illustrates the most heartbreaking ironies. Beauty and romance and the glamor of innocence pervade "A Man of Devon" and "The "The Apple Tree". They are idyllic for all the darkness of their endings. "Caravan" is a gallery of character studies, of folk rich and poor, strong and weak. The presentation of them is a relief after the crowded concocted incident of the magazine stories of the day. Here are
people studied at first hand, complex and simple, sturdy and broken. One after the other they move through the mystery of their heroism and their defeat. Of their heroisms and defeats the author is the brooding but helpless spectator. Sometimes he lapses into sentimentality. It is always his danger. But his ideal is a profound charity. There are several sympathetic studies of Germans in wartime England. The war psychology of the extreme Hun baiter is terribly presented in "The Dog It Was that Died", written in 1919. Of all the horrors of war this curse of hate, turning reasonable men into relentless and truly and truly vicious "witch burners", seems the most terrifying. It is the hideous concomitant of war that eventually makes every cause unrighteous. Galsworthy has been deeply shocked by it, by the insanity of an idée fixe in a formerly healthy mind. And he is familiar with the Black Godmother, Fear, its fore
"The Pack", an early story of 1905, is "teamed" with "The Dog It Was that Died". Although I do not always find justification in Galsworthy's method of pairing the stories in this volume throughout, an old one with a new one of somewhat similar theme, in this case it enables one to compare the seed with the tree. "The Pack" is the story of a college "ragging", but it ends with the significant remark, "What second-hand devil is it that gets into us when we run in packs?"
One of the most impressive stories in the book, as it is one of the longest, is "A Stoic", written in 1916. Old Heythorp is unforgetable, though hardly a
stoic in the true meaning of the word. One cannot be both a stoic and a voluptuary. He is a man, on the other hand, who has always given rein to his passions and fancies. He makes good end, but through power of personality rather than through stoicism. A man that the world might regard as reprehensible, but what a hearteningly courageous figure, a man with a hot heart in his breast and the stomach for a fight as well as for viands!
Other unforgetable characters in these tales are "A Knight" and "Late
299". The latter story, in my opinion, comes as near to being a masterpiece as anything I have ever read of Galsworthy's. And "The Juryman" and "The First and the Last" are unusually powerful stories.
The irony of life is in all these tales apparent, the trickery of fate, the defeat of nobility, faithfulness and courage, the cowardice of average humanity. Yet despite the striking evidences of Galsworthy's disillusionment, the quality that most pervades his work is human sympathy and understanding. That we note, first and last. It is the quality that gives his writing psychological significance, that makes it truly dramatic when he is treating crucial instances. His craftsmanship, his style, is not superlative, but his insight into the human mind and heart is that of a great observer.
Caravan. The Assembled Tales of John Galsworthy. Charles Scribner's Sons.
SIR WILLIAM OSLER
By Joseph Collins
IR WILLIAM OSLER often said that if anyone were to write a biography of him he hoped it would be Harvey Cushing, his devoted and un
derstanding friend, and brilliant colleague. Rarely has a biographer had the portrayal of such an inspiring subject.
On reading the 1,500 pages of the book, one realizes that such a life, filled to the brim with endeavor and human interest, with all its accumulated mass of letters and material from which to draw, might have caused dismay to the earnest biographer. It has taken Dr. Cushing five years to accomplish his labor of love. "He who runs may read", and one may imagine that at least some of the time was taken in deciding not so much what could be garnered from the life to perpetuate, as what could be left out so that the book should not assume undue proportions.
Every page of this work tells something of the man, his work, his courage in adversity, his friendships, his love for his family; and through it all there is astonishingly little of Harvey Cushing. The book is a true biography, because while it relates important events in the history of medicine, these are introduced so as to throw into strong relief the character of the man. This biography must surely be one of the few ever written in which the reader throughout two large volumes will find it difficult to place a finger upon a fault or point to an act of which he can distinctly disapprove.
Sir William Osler received plaudits and testimony of devotion from three countries on his seventieth birthday. After giving his energy and knowledge in service during the war, he bravely relinquished a life that was throughout an ardent example of "faith, hope, and charity", of which trinity he has exemplified the fact that he thought "the greatest of these is charity".
Rarely have character and personality been more faithfully and accu
rately described than were Osler's by the Chirurgical Faculty of Maryland, soon after his death:
Physician, teacher, guide, lover of his fellow man. Noble exemplar of charity and tolerance and temperance and work and love; untiring stimulator and benefactor of this society; whose sparkling wit and genial subtle humour smoothed the rough way of life for so many weary spirits; whose presence banished discord and suspicion. The gap which his absence leaves among us will forever be warmed by the glow of that all-embracing love which radiated from his presence like a halo of light, and brought to all about him, something of the peace which now is his.
William Osler came of a distinguished Canadian family, the youngest of six boys and two girls, all of whom have left their mark on the world, "in that state of life to which it pleased God to call them". The father was in the British navy, but was persuaded by his godfather to go into the Anglican church. Leaving the navy, he went to Cambridge, took orders, then heard "the call" and, accompanied by his young Cornish wife, went to Canada as a missionary no sinecure in those early days.
Sir William was born at Bond Head, Ontario, on July 12, 1849. His parents were anxious that one of their six sons should follow in the father's footsteps and join the church; but one by one the sons adopted some other profession. Finally the parents' desire was centred on the last, the Benjamin. Willie Osler, as he was then called, did his best and studied for the ministry. On the eve of taking holy orders, he found it impossible. So he was lost to the church and won by medicine. Considering all the profession gained through his advocacy, we cannot find it in our hearts to regret this step.
He went first to a grammar school at Weston, then to Trinity College School, Port Hope, Ontario, where he received
the Chancellor's Prize and a silver trophy for his prowess in running. From there, to Trinity University, Toronto, studying medicine at this college and at McGill University, Montreal. He was graduated at the age of twenty-three. After continuing his study of medicine in London, Leipzig, and Vienna, he returned to Canada in 1874 to take the Chair of the Institute of Medicine at McGill.
In 1884 he was appointed Gulstonian lecturer for the year by the Royal College of Physicians in London, and in that year he became professor of clinical medicine in the University of Pennsylvania. There he remained five years. Then followed his third professorship, in Johns Hopkins University, which he held until 1905, when he left amid universal expressions of admiration and regret to become regius professor of medicine in Oxford University.
William Osler had an abnormal capacity for work. He named it, in one of his addresses, the master word in medicine. Like those men who have system, he used every moment of his waking hours, yet seemed to have leisure to carry on a daily flow of letters, to play with children, to entertain numberless guests who flocked from all parts of the world to the "Open Arms" (as he called his home at Norham Gardens), and to visit the sick and sorrowful, from whom he sometimes had to come away "whistling that he might not weep".
He found time to be a constant attendant of meetings, to take a leading part in his profession, to "read, mark, learn and inwardly digest his books", to found libraries, visit hospitals, entertain undergraduates, give lectures, be the moving spirit in his home, and always to prove a source of inspiration or consolation to others. "Hurry is the Devil" was a constant remark, so he
lived by the clock and was rarely late
The time is out of joint: O cursed spite,
His textbook, "The Principles and Practice of Medicine", published in 1892, saw eleven editions by 1912. Of the first edition 23,000 copies were sold. It was published in France, Germany, China, and in Spain.
Osler was a great physician, a greater educator, and a greater friend. He was fortunate in life to have known what he wanted, and to have got it. And he was fortunate, when life ended,
that he found a biographer who keeps
his spirit alive and who has painted a portrait of him that will convey to posterity an adequate and appropriate idea of the kind of man he was.
Eventually there is bound to be another biography of him. I venture to say that it will dwell at far greater length on the first half of his life. Those who knew Osler intimately will be astonished to find scant reference to the interesting Francis family with whom he lived for so many years in Montreal; to Nancy Astor to whom he was legal guardian and who has often shown her capacity to do and say interesting, indeed even startling things; and finally to the playful side of his nature. To make a man into a saint, though he deserves it, does not always do him justice. William Osler had extraordinarily great qualities, his feet were less of clay than those of most men, but he was passionate in his likes and dislikes, he was often indiscreet,
sometimes tactless to an unbelievable degree; he could not and would not suffer fools at all, and he exacted unqualified devotion and freedom to go his own way. He loved practical jokes but he was not at all happy when they were played on him. Yet one of the great charms of Osler was that he was so human, and had so much love and understanding of humanity. It is as a man that his friends remember him, and it is thus that he should always be remembered.
The Life of William Osler. By Harvey Cushing. Two volumes. Oxford University Press.
By Winifred Katzin
the world in search of itself, Count
FTER accompanying his soul round
Keyserling arrives back home at last, the happier, it is to be inferred, for a hoard of enriching experiences. He has had an illuminating, though perhaps not precisely a successful, time of it.
Much in the manner of the oriental psychics who can erase at will all consciousness from their own minds' surface in order to receive impressions from their consultants' unimpaired, this quasi-German philosopher has achieved a wholly un-European power of similar receptivity, which invests the chronicle of his adventures with immense authority and interest. The supernormal keenness and range of his vision have enabled him to discern, through her many veils, the features of the secret East. Hindu, Brahmin, Buddhist and Moslem have yielded up to his all-penetrating inspection their quintessential identities, which he has
understood as no Westerner has ever done before.
Unlike most other philosophers whose preoccupations are mainly metaphysical and scientific, Count Keyserling discloses a poet's sensitiveness to the beauties of places and people and other outward manifestations of the hidden beauty which is their source. His diary abounds in splendid descriptions of the jungle and its creatures, subordinate, it is true, to the philosophical meditations which crowd in upon them, but deeply felt and expressed.
Students of the ancient, and hitherto imperfectly interpreted religions of the East, will find here what they must long have sought in vain Western soul thoroughly attuned to the spirit and soul of the Orient, and capable of maintaining a perfect unity with both for as long as the purposes of realization and interpretation require. It is as though the very voice of the East were speaking through the medium of a European tongue. There is a passage toward the end of the book in which Count Keyserling sums up his final judgment in the matter of religion:
And now I recognize that the practical superiority of Christianity is the expression of an absolute metaphysical advantage: it embodies, as no other religion does, the spirit of freedom. Man, conditioned by nature, can show himself free only in two ways: by saying yes inwardly to all events, and by taking the initiative in directing them. . . . If the Indians, the profoundest of all thinkers, fail in practical life, this is due to the fact that they do not know how to impress their free being upon appearance. Instead of taking up their cross, they think of its insubstantiality, which releases them just as little as the denial of an undesirable relationship removes the relation. . . . We know nothing like as much as they do; but the teaching of Christ induces us to live unconsciously accordingly to their knowledge. Thus we are more destined to action than they are. We are the hands of God. These hands, as hands, are blind, and their blindness has caused much mischief. But if one day they are guided by the spirit of recognition, it is they who will, in so far as it
is possible at all, succeed in founding the kingdom of heaven upon earth.
With chameleon-like rapidity, and with far greater than chameleon-like success, Count Keyserling changes himself to fit in with his ever shifting background. Once quit of the East, he instantly recovers a Western equilibrium and establishes anew within his soul and mind the Western attitude he relinquished upon setting foot on Indian soil. He arrives in America and proceeds to analyze the nature of this amazing country and the amazing people who have made it. Perhaps it is because his field of observation is now less remote that we begin to detect a certain parti pris in his judgments, as when, in an early chapter of his Diary, he uttered rather foolish commonplaces about the Englishman. Or it may be that he really does see the Orient more truthfully and more profoundly, on account of some spiritual affinity with it of which he is himself but faintly aware. At any rate, the interest of his book takes a sharp decline after the sixtieth chapter.
He is home for some days before he asks himself the question which to answer is to resolve the greatest problem of his life: Has his long journey brought him closer to a knowledge of himself, or is he as far away from that as ever? He believes he is nearer, but not yet near enough. And it is Bach who answers the question for him, as his soul, a little weary of its protracted explorations, finds solace in a fugue. "If only I could think as this man composed", he sighs; "if my recognition could mirror such depth as his music does, then I would have reached my goal."
Browning, did Count Keyserling but remember, could have told him long ago that one act of creation can be interpreted only in terms of another,