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In philosophy there seems to be a decided reaction toward Hegel. Space forbids my entering into anything like a satisfactory explanation of what this signifies for the intellectual and social future of Italy. I must be content to say that it marks a turning away from the spirit of cynicism and disillusionment which characterized the fin de siècle group of philosophers and a turning toward a more idealistic and spiritual interpretation of history and social progress. The post-Hegelianism that is coming to hold the field in Italy does not mean that current Italian thought is turning toward Hegel's extreme theories of the state, but only that Italian thought is turning in the general direction I have suggested.
The intellectual revival is hardly as plain in the arts as in other fields. The gratifying signs in the field of the arts are not evident so much in ultranew tendencies as in the end of some fairly modern tendencies. Many of the "new art" ideas are dead in Italy. There is the suggestion of a reaction toward classicism, not in the sense of servile imitation of the old masters, but rather in the sense of the classicists' search for art's profounder significance. Professor Herron quotes Signor Nobili as saying that the really significant promise of Italian art for the future lies in what he calls the period of "Mutism" through which it is now passing. This "Mutism," or dumbness, which the Italian artists are now exhibiting, is illustrated by the fact that, unlike the artists of other nations, they have consistently refused to try to paint the war. They have turned their backs upon the cheap melodrama of color by which many artists have tried to interpret the war
on their canvases. Realizing that the full meaning of the war is yet unpaintable because its full significance has not been grasped by the world, the Italian artists, with certain exceptions, seem to have made a "sober renunciation of present effort." The artists of Italy are now saying that art is called to a period of "spiritual self-discovery and synthesis." It is gratifying to discover artists who have gone past piddling with the modernities of manner and are setting out upon a search for the deeper meanings of art.
In science similar renaissance hints are noticeable. There is an interesting story to be written of the significant activity of contemporary Italian research. In this story mathematics, biology, and physics hold an important place. But it is not so much the specific results of recent Italian research that is significant as it is the spirit that Italian scholars are bringing to the problems of research. For, as Professor Herron suggests, "The Italian mind peculiarly combines insistence upon analysis with purposeful capacity for synthesis; and the union of these two qualities always converts intellectual research into a quest for spiritual reality, for human roots and meanings."
Space again forbids my discussing the grounds of hope evident in Italian thought on the problems of industry, and in the innumerable organizations, voluntary and unofficial, in which, all over Italy, men and women are looking toward a newer and better way of life. I submit, then, this fragmentary digest-review of Professor Herron's book as merely a hint that my suggestion of a probable renaissance of the Western world has some basis in the facts of contemporary life.
THE RUMFORD PRESS CONCORD
A Review of Century Publications
THE CENTURION is published each month first as a 16-page insert in The Century
“BIRTHRIGHT”: A NEW "UNCLE TOM'S CABIN"?
A Review by Robert Pickett
A year ago H. G. Wells, discussing American literature, said that the next really important contribution to American literature should be a serious artistic use of the American negro in fiction. Here is the novel to which he looked forward: "Birthright" (The Century Co., $1.90), by T. S. Stribling.
'ERE is a novel that America has looked forward to, that literary critics, American and British, have speculated upon, which it was inevitable should be written, but which never has been written until now. Never before has serious artistic use been made of the modern, educated negro.
Maurice Francis Egan, to whom early sheets of this novel were sent, writes of it as "this very passionate book," explaining, "I use the word 'passionate' in the sense of intense feeling." It is, in that sense, a passionate book, and it keeps its reader almost passionately concerned as to the fate of its central characters. It must do that by reason of the intense feeling which animates it, for its manner is quiet, restrained.
There lies, in large part, its claim to be a seriously artistic work-a claim, however, reinforced by other factors: There is the author's subtle appreciation of negro character; the orderly, wellconsidered pattern; the scrupulously fictional form; the sincere and realistic method. The book is strictly a novel, not a polemic or tract, and, to quote Maurice Francis Egan again: "Its simplicity, its directness, its courageous following of observation wherever sincere observation leads, make it what it is."
The story is that of a southern negro who has obtained an education in northern schools, grad
uating from Harvard, and who returns to his home town to live among his own people.
Mr. Stribling does not present the negroes as angels; he shows the citizens of the niggertown quarter of the semi-rural southern community to which Peter Siner returns as irresponsible, as shifty, shiftless, boundlessly generous, bombastic, ridiculous, crude, ignorant and insanitary as they
His pictures of niggertown are unforgettable: the single dusty or muddy street, the stuffy dilapidated cabins, the unhygienic well, the strangely different social and moral code, the peculiar relations to the white men's town-which send any of the niggers trudging obediently to any white man (unless the nigger can make up a good enough excuse) on the most casually transferred message, but which do not bring even the white doctor to a dying black woman until a white man has intervened.
Peter has ideals. Peter wants to do something for his race with the education he has acquired. He will start a school, at which he will inculcate more than book-learning. He explains his idea to the Sons and Daughters of Benevolence, and a fund is raised.
The heartless chicane by which Peter is tricked by a white man out of the property he attempts to buy for a school seems at first too cruel; but evi
dently it is intended to make clear two things: first, the way in which the white man's law can be made to operate against the interests of such ambitious negroes as aspire sufficiently to come in contact with it; and, second, the inveterate levity with which the niggers' doings are viewed. The white town was not deliberately cruel; it was merely amused. An ambitious negro is funny. Just look at the mess he makes of it!
For Peter has failed to examine with businesslike suspicion the deed, in which has been inserted a "nigger-stopper" clause which stipulates that the property transferred
shall never be held or used
in any way by "negro, black man, African, mulatto, quadroon, octoroon, or any person whatsoever of colored blood or lineage."
After the catastrophe, Peter drifts for a time, being employed by a garrulous old gentleman who believes himself to be preparing a notable autobiography, and who wants Peter's help in this and in cataloging his library. It is during this employment that the vision comes to Peter of interpreting and reconciling each race to the other.
For one thing, he believes that the negroes steal because their wages are absolutely insufficient; their wages are so low in part because they steal.
alone in her refinement, magically appealing in her beauty. There are several occasions on which Tump Pack, who totes a gun, puts Peter in danger of his life.
Once, Tump is only deterred by the interruption of such news of Cissy as turns a tragi-comic procession, which is to end in Peter's death in the sight of all niggertown, into an alliance-to get Cissy out of jail. But it is the rough Tump who does it, and pays with his life for the jail-delivery. And it is Peter who marries her
Cissy, disgraced, dragged down by all the difficulties encountered by a beautiful octoroon classed as a nigger and at the mercy not only of this circumstance but of the promptings of her own. wild blood. Not the wife that Peter had meant to marry! Yet he loves her. And she loves Peter. Her education has not yet been complete enough to teach her that she must be eternally disgraced and eternally unhappy because she is both sinned against and sinner. So she brings Peter radiant hope and joy as they plow northward down the river on their wedding trip.
T. S. STRIBLING
There is possibly no more significant scene in the whole book than that which pictures Peter trying to show an honest and kindly white man how degrading to the whole community is a wage-system that forces the negro to steal. "Aunt Becky sent you here to tell me if I'd raise her pay she 'd stop stealing, did she, Peter?" the puzzled white man asks.
It is, however, Peter's attempts at relations with his own race that are the most utter failure. Grotesque, but tragically dangerous, complications ensue because Cissy Dildine, the one person in niggertown with whom Peter has anything in common, is known as "Tump Pack's girl"-Tump Pack being a hero decorated for distinguished bravery in the World War, but a negro of very low intelligence. Peter finds Cissy pathetically
All in all, here is a notable accomplishment. A tremendously interesting novel and an event of genuine significance in American literature: indeed, this "very passionate book," as Mr. Egan styles it, may fairly be called a new "Uncle Tom's Cabin"-the "Uncle Tom's Cabin" of the educated negro that is appearing more and more frequently to challenge the civilization of today. For in the more realistic, more soberly analytical and less romantic spirit of our own time, it does a service comparable to that of Mrs. Stowe's book in inviting an equally intense, if less idealized, sympathy for those who suffer under conditions which constitute a new slavery-one not, perhaps, less real or less burdensome to the superior negro than was the "peculiar institution" to the mass of blacks.
"Birthright," which has just been issued, has already met with a reception from the critics perhaps more enthusiastic than that given to any other novel published so far this year.
THE STORY OF DRUGS
By H. C. Fuller
A fascinating book on a subject rarely opened at all to laymen is "The Story of Drugs" (The Century Co., $3.00), by H. C. Fuller, of the Industrial Research Laboratories, Washington, D. C. What drugs are and where they come from; "Farming for Medicines"; patent medicines; vaccines and serums; vitamines (engagingly entitled "The Spirit World of Medicine"); the question of "dope"; cosmetics; the medical rôle of alcohol-all these are discussed. Below is an illuminating bit from the chapter on alcohol.
N the medicine industry, which is really only a
agent that stands out above all others making for its development, and that is alcohol. . . . If deprived of alcohol the makers of medicines and high-grade chemicals would be unable to conduct their business; the industry would languish and eventually perish.
This may appear to be an absurd statement, but a few minutes' thought will confirm its correctness. It may be asked how the supply of alcohol concerns the millions and millions of pills and tablets, effervescent salts, powders, and other things of like sort that are sold all over the country, and that contain no alcohol or any other liquid in their make-up. There is hardly a pill or tablet formula that does not contain some valuable ingredient, either in the form of a drug extract which has been obtained from a crude drug by means of alcohol as a dissolving agent, or an
alkaloid or other pure substance made by a process that has necessitated the use of alcohol. If alcohol had not assisted in shaping the ingredients, the pills and tablets could not have been created. Then, there are the many liquid preparations. . . that require alcohol to hold their remedial principles in solution and keep the preparations from spoiling. Nothing else thus far discovered has been able to supplant alcohol as a basic material for the medicine industry. . .
In the national prohibition law alcohol is classed as a liquor. Its manufacture, sale, and use is surrounded by a mass of regulation that causes much hardship and dissatisfaction to the legiti. The unfortunate circumstance
is that alcohol as a medium for the manufacture of drugs and medicine has to be treated as a liquor. . . . It ought to be made the subject of special provisions and methods of administration; its legitimate use facilitated and not hampered.
PART OF THE WASHINGTON BIOLOGISTS' FIELD CLUB IN THE FIELD: MR. FULLER ROASTING OYSTERS
ELIZABETH JORDAN'S "THE BLUE CIRCLE"
Reviewed by J. E. D.
A man who is not worried by imminent peril of death, by inexplicable happenings all about him, is not stirred nor afraid of any bewilderment-so long as his compensation is not called a salary, is the hero of a very original mystery story, "The Blue Circle" (The Century Co., $1.90), which has distinctly pleasing threads of a love plot, as well; and much of the humor for which Miss Jordan is famous.
MAN for sale, begging to be bought. Not an old-time slave-market, and not a modern unemployment incident on Boston Common or Bryant Square. The man is kempt, well set up, good looking. There is nothing of the derelict about him, and nothing abnormal except a detached, remote look in
"I've got to be owned and supported by another," he says. "I've got to be a bondman. I've got to be as irresponsible and dependent as a slave, doing as I'm told and absolutely assured of a living." A curious statement for a fineappearing, young, whole, healthy man!
Shock is the answer. He has nearly recovered. The man is physically well, and mentally wellexcept along one definite channel: He has, consciously, a fear of the responsibility for his own life and self-support that amounts to a nightmare.
This condition of the hero of Elizabeth Jordan's latest book is, in a way,
a portrait of many ex
of both breeding and intelligence; and he observes him across a letter of introduction and recommendation from an old friend and a distinguished physician. He has a special need of someone he can
"I'll do anything I'm told," the young man says.
"Anything?" Campbell asks with sudden meaning. "Anything . . . I will put my honor into your hands as absolutely as my life."
Renshaw demonstrates his ability to judge character, for his honor is not strained in his relations with the old man and his strange household, though his nerves are often very near to the breaking point.
But he is forced to think of others; he is taken out of himself and forgets his unreasonable fear in the combating of dangers, mysteries and bewilderments which might reasonably have driven many men wild. For, almost from the moment he takes up his residence in David Campbell's house, there are circumstances not merely puzzling to Renshaw in the story but which leave the reader equally at fault. And he recovers complete health of mind and perfect poise by this strange scheme of abdicating all responsibility for himself, at the same time taking the heaviest possible responsibility for others.
soldiers with war-psychoses whom she has known, a leading and persistent one being this fear of self-responsibility.
Not afraid of work, or even of ordinary responsibility, but just, as Renshaw, the protagonist of the story, says: "A fear of life and of the future. If I merely had a job," he explains, "I should live in a panic. Whereas, if I were actually bought for a year, I'd be off my own hands, don't you see?"
David Campbell does n't see-altogether. But he observes a remarkably personable young man, with a finely shaped head, with every indication
Besides the intense interest of the plot, there are a number of very interesting characters-the charmingly imperious small girl, distinguished David Campbell, the mysterious aristocratic exile, the too-ingenious butler; there is an appealing heroine of a pretty love story; and there is frequent play of delightful humor.