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Societies To Found
by [?]

I have noted in my Sancho Panza moments a number of deficiencies in the commonweal which can only be remedied–in our modern manner–by societies. Let me start with a few of the most needed.


The present currency is badly worn and was always nasty. Swear-words are a necessity. They are the safety-valves of the soul. Why not have them nice and innocent–the kind of oath a girl can use to her mother? It is unfair men should monopolise the bad language. I wonder the Women’s Rights women have not sworn about it. I have already suggested that Wellington’s “twopenny damn” be replaced by “I don’t care a double-blank domino.” This gives a compound or twopenny sensation of the unspeakable, combined with absolute innocuity, like a vegetarian chop or a temperance champagne. A milder form (the penny plain) would be “a blank cheque.” The society ought to offer prizes for the best suggestions.


It is a notorious fact that critics are the most ill-read class in the community. There are few occupations so laborious, exhaustive, and inadequately remunerated, as reviewing; and who can wonder if the wretched reviewer never finds time to read a book from one week’s end to the other. It is a cruel anomaly that men, some of whom may have souls as much as we have, should be shut out from all the pleasures of literature, and all the possibilities of self-culture that books contain. The poor critic goes to his grave, picking up a smattering of cant phrases that are in the air–“Zolaism,”–“Ibsenites,” “Decadents,” “Symbolism,” “the new humour,” “the strong-man poetry,” and what not–but to become acquainted at first hand with the meaning or meaninglessness of these phrases is denied him by the hard conditions of his life. Publishers would greatly help the proposed society by sending out books cut.


“Mankind’s available stock of admiration is not large enough for all the demands made upon it,” wrote Professor Bain, with the one flash of humour I have noticed in his big treatises. If, as Wordsworth contends,

We live by Admiration, Hope, and Love,

a certain number of objects of admiration is indispensable. But the surplusage of celebrities in this age is simply overwhelming. Celebrity is cheap to-day. You may arrive at it by a million avenues. It is almost impossible to keep your name out of the papers. Culture is so catholic that celebrities who in the old days would have been monopolised by esoteric cliques are common property. The paleographer and the coleopterist claim a share of our admiration equally with the serpentine dancer and the record-breaking cyclist, and the judicious editor prints their “interviews” at equal length. We have an impartial acquaintance with the tastes and views of cardinals and comic singers; and the future of the papacy is given almost as much space as Little Tich’s talent for water-colour, and his fondness for the ‘cello and his baby. Moreover, that coil of cable which makes the whole world kin has burdened us with the celebrities of the universe. When to these are added the celebrities of the past, of every period, country, and variety, the brain reels. Too many cooks spoil the broth, and too many celebrities numb our faculty of wonder. The vivid feeling that is possible when heroes are few fades into a faint reflection of emotion. The celebrity’s name calls up not admiration, but only a shadowy consciousness that admiration is due. We never pause to get the emotion. I am afraid the first proceeding of the society will have to be the suppression of the illustrated weeklies, which manufacture celebrities artificially to fill up their pages, and, in order to have pretty pictures, give every actress that makes a little hit a prominence which Shakespeare did not deserve. If there is no celebrity of the week it is necessary to create one, is the editorial motto. If a man is a celebrity you interview him, and if you interview him he is a celebrity.