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THE DREAD OF BOREDOM.
In the days when it was satisfactory to receive as a birthday present the latest work by Kingston or R. M. Ballantyne, most schoolboys were familiar with the proper method of breaking in wild horses. The intrepid hunter, having successfully "creased” a handsome and high-spirited mustang (for the locus classicus, vide “The Dog Crusoe”), proceeded to train it to his purpose by riding it until it could not move one leg in front of the other. At first, naturally, it bolted straight away over the prairie for three or four miles, and nothing he could do had the slightest effect on it. After that, it began to tire a little, and then the horseman had bis turn, and insisted on its galloping on until it stopped, dead beaten, docile and obedient. It learnt its lesson not in the first but in the last five minutes.
Possibly the kindlier critics of modern manners whose indignation makes verses or sermons to-day might read the chapter in "The Dog Crusoe" with advantage. The London season will shortly be at its height, and already, as in years gone by, there is a good deal to be heard from the pulpit and elsewhere on the delinquencies of "society.” Father Vaughan, for instance, has been explaining to an interviewer the meaning of an "attack" on certain sections and certain phases of London society which he recently made from the pulpit He is not, of course, covering new ground in denouncing the life in which men and women "spend their days and nights rushing after pleasure," but it would be difficult to find anything very new to say on that well-worn subject. "For a woman to be dull is the one great sin in society, and practically everything which has any element of seriousness or sacredness is regarded as dull. It is
not that the upper classes dislike religion, but that they think they have no time for it, and they are indifferent as to its claims. As things are managed they have no time even for their social duties.” It is most of it perfectly true, and yet is the truth of it realized by those to whom the truth matters most? If they have no time for religion, they have no time for Swifts and Juvenals, or rather for the kindlier criticism which has taken the place of the fierce satire of a more savage day. Perhaps the real opportunity for the preacher comes a little later, when perpetual pleasure has become tiring. Possibly then, at last, he may get the audience he wants to listen to him. He can be justified in holding that he must give out his message in season and out of season; but it will be not at the beginning of the strain of perpetual pleasure-seeking, but when the strain bas reached an almost unbearable point, that there will come the demand for relief. He can then press home the lesson that pleasure-seeking can be a horribly tiring pursuit.
Meanwhile the pleasure-seekers, and even some of their critics with them, are too near the pleasures they look for, too deeply plunged in the circling eddies of the stream, to see what it is that lies beyond the bounds of their pursuit, or where the stream is bearing them. Like the eye of the historian of Napoleon's great marches, the point of vision ought to be "withdrawn to an immense height." From the solitude of immense height the marching of armies becomes a different matter from the personal abilities of generals, or the physical powers of private soldiers. Thin dotted zigzags of ants crawl infinitely slowly over mountains and val. leys which at an enormous height are
level plain. Perhaps a portion of the line halts, or turns aside, or moves no longer,-a great general has blundered and lost a thousand men. Perhaps a private soldier drops for want of water, -that is a thing hardly seen; it does not stop the march of the army. To the watcher at an immense height all that is visible is the dragging progress of hairlike lines of troops; yet what he sees may be a nation led into captivity. If that is the vision of a huge war, what is the vision of the round of a London season? A man may go out into his garden and believe that be discerns some purpose in the steady creeping of an army of ants over the gravel walk, but what is he to make of the gyrations of a dancing column of midges? Ceaseless flying from one unimportant occupation to another, endless goings to and fro over tiny distances, perpetual making and remaking of plans for doing petty things if possible in some new way, meetings for one moment broken off the moment after; now and then one of the ephemerals rising a little higher into the sun than the rest; changing colors of gauzes in changing lights,—what more than that is the distant watcher to discern in the swarm? He could hardly be expected to guess that each member of the shifting cloud of ephemerals was in reality enjoying a perpetual access of fresh and uninterrupted pleasure; that there was a meaning and a purpose in each of the thousand little crossings and changings and visits and departures and risings and turnings of wings; that what he saw was in reality the visualization of a grand escape from boredom.
But the dread of being bored is, for all that, a very real thing. If it is justifiable to talk of an artificial state of society-for whatever stage of development the communities of men have reached, they must be supposed to be undergoing some form of natural evolu
tion—then the most artificial element in the state of an artificial society must be the imagined terrors of dulness. After all, what is it exactly that the flightiest of all the ephemerals know of dulness? To them dulness is a horror which must be .perpetually fled from. In some way or other they connect dulness with lack of change, and, fearful lest it should come upon them unawares, they make perpetual change the ideal state of existence. Whatever they set out to do, whatever plans they prepare, whatever occupation they contemplate, they are obsessed by one single notion, that they must spend the shortest amount of time possible in the doing of it, or the result will be boredom, and boredom is the grand evil. Boredom is for ever waiting for them round the corner. Like children running past the cupboard on the landing, in which lurk bogeys specially designed to catch small boys and girls going upstairs to bed, so they hurry up and down all the stairs of life in continual fear lest the bogey of dulness should leap out at them. If the children knew it, there is no bogey in the cupboard, and if their elders could realize it, what they are running away from is not boredom, They would find that out, if they would only stay still long enough to wait for the bogey to jump. They would discover that the bogey is, curiously enough, the one specialist nerve-doctor whom they are for ever trying to discover; and if they could bring themselves to listen to his advice, and to glance at the pages of his medical dictionary, they would realize that the faster they run from dulness the closer dulness clings to them as they run. They do, indeed, know what dulness is, but they do not know that they know it.
Boredom, in truth, comes from within and not from without.
For a man to be perpetually expressing a dread of being bored is merely another
method of explaining to the world a profound contempt for his own mental capacities. In protesting that he cannot abide the idea of staying in this or that place for more than two or three days together, or is unable to dine with the So-and-sos without physical collapse, or, in short, cannot be content to be merely alive and in possession of his faculties, he only proclaims that he considers his faculties very poor possessions. The man whose mental fac
ulties are really worth consideration is able to extract entertainment from what to lesser brains appears the dullest business in the world. The weakerminded man who laments to his friend that “You're such a lucky man; you never get bored,” pays his friend a compliment, but does not appear to realize what a poor figure he cuts bimself. He has never had the courage to stand up to the bogey and blow out the light in the turnip-lantern.
BOOKS AND AUTHORS.
E. P. Dutton & Co. will soon publish of evidence as to the order in which "A Toy Tragedy," by Mrs. Henry de la the several books reached the early Pasture. This is a story of children Christians. He is positive as to 24 of and for children, and for fathers and the 27 books, and assigns tentative posimothers. The grown-ups are not less tions to the others. This newest New successfully depicted than the quartette Testament appears in Everyman's Liof children; but it is in the quar- brary and it is the first chronological tette the interest centres, and there arrangement of the sacred writings, we have humor, innocence, poise and according to the latest conclusions of earnestness.
historical and textual criticism, to be
placed within the reach of the ordinary E. P. Dutton & Co. announce for im- reader. As such, it possesses a peculmediate publication a' new volume by iar interest. Madison Cawein. The book, which contains the first prose work of the E. P. Dutton & Co. will publish impoet, is called “Nature Notes and Im- mediately “Sidelights on the Home Rule pressions," and consists of moods, fan- Movement,” by Sir Robert Anderson; cies, descriptions,
will, "Shores of the Adriatic; the Italian sometimes in verse but oftener in Side, in Architectural and Archælogiprose,-transcripts from Nature,-jotted cal Pilgrimage,” by F. Hamilton Jackdown by the author in his note books son, with plans, illustrations, and photowhile wandering among the woods and graphs; "The House of Cobwebs," by fields.
George Gissing; “George Crabbe and
His Times," by René Huchon; "Sidney The ordinary layman is likely to be Herbert: Lord Herbert of Lea: A Meperplexed when he turns over the pages moir," by Lord Stanmore, 2 vols.; of a New Testament which opens with "From a Cornish Window," by Q.; Paul's letters to the Thessalonians and “Personal Forces in Modern Literaprints the Revelation of St. John be- ture," by Arthur Rickett; "The Quest tween the gospel of Luke and the of the Simple Life," by W. J. Dawson. Acts of the Apostles. Yet that is the arrangement which Principal Lindsay Stories of Milan under the Sforzas has arrived at as a result of his study not written for readers whose
tastes revolt at realistic descriptions of brutality and lust, and it is not to such that Bernard Capes's “Bembo” makes its appeal. But those who can forget the horrors of the plot and yield themselves to the fascinations of Mr. Capes's style, opulent as the age it pictures, will delight in the glittering pages. Bembo himself is an ideal creation-"a child propagandist interpreting, and embodying in himself, the spirit of love”-and in the acceptance and rejection of his message by the capricious Galeazzo and his cringing court lies the tragedy of the tale. A crowd of minor characters, each drawn with unusual detail-fine ladies, fools and parasites, fawning ecclesiastics, scheming nobles, and peasants maddened to revolt-add to the value of the book as a historical picture. E. P. Dutton & Co.
The notable success of “The Divine Fire" gives special interest to the republication of the slender novel which Miss Sinclair regards as the best of her earlier ventures. "Superseded" appears in this country for the first time, and to American readers the problems which it discusses have never seemed more pressing than now. The scene is laid in a girls' college, and the central figure is a teacher of mathematics, painstaking and conscientious, but fading out of middle age without the talent, force or savoir faire by which she might have held her own in the crowd of younger competitors. In vivid contrast is the new Classical Mistress "a brilliant and efficient mind in a still more brilliant and efficient body.” The part played by the daring young doctor whose reactionary views as to woman's place in the social order may
Winston Churchill's new novel, “Coniston,” deserves all the popularity which his publishers expect for it. A large book of over five hundred closelyprinted pages, containing many chapters whose incidents stand out like complete stories by themselves-a succession of pictures of New England life a generation back-it yet remarkable for the concentrated power with which the plot holds the reader's sympathy to the end. Its central figure, Jethro Bass, is a political boss of the oldtime, rural type, and the skill with which his individuality is disclosed and his ambition differentiated from the ambitions of his rivals, shows Mr. Churchill at his very best.
The two heroines, the older and the younger Cynthia, are fine types, and as a love story alone the book might win notable success. But it is as a study of corporate aggrandizement in its effect upon legislation that the book will make its special mark, and the descriptions of the Woodchuck Session and the fight against the Truro Consolidation Bill will linger longest in most readers' memories. Gaining in piquancy from its avowed admixture of fact, as well as from the widespread interest in Mr. Churchill's own political ambitions, the book would still, if it were pure fiction and its writer a novelist alone, win high place. The Macmillan Co.
No. 3241 August 18, 1906.
NINETEENTH CENTURY AND AFTER 403
ter XXVII. M. de Beaujeu Opines He is Dead. By H. C.
MONTHLY REVIEW 412
MACMILLAN'S MAGAZINE 419 The Admiral and the Colonel. By Mary Stuart Boyd
TEMPLE BAR 424 At the Turn of the Year. By Fiona Macleod
FORTNIGHTLY REVIEW 428 Instinct in Birds, Animals and Insects. By C. Bingham Newland
MONTHLY REVIEW 431 Shakespeare, Ibsen and Mr. Bernard Shaw. By G. Lowes Dickinson
INDEPENDENT REVIEW 437 The End of the “ Affaire"
OUTLOOK 441 The Dissolution of the Duma
SATURDAY REVIEW 445
CHAMBERS'S JOURNAL 386 BOOKS AND AUTHORS
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