30 October 2018

Havelock Ellis: ability arouses hostility

Havelock Ellis
(1859 – 1939)
Every original worker in intellectual fields, every man who makes some new thing, is certain to arouse hostility where he does not meet with indifference [...]

It is practically impossible to estimate the amount of persecution to which this group of pre-eminent British persons has been subjected, for it has shown itself in innumerable forms, and varies between a mere passive refusal to have anything whatever to do with them or their work and the active infliction of physical torture and death.

Havelock Ellis, A Study of British Genius

For more on the topic of hostility to exceptional ability, see my colleague Charles McCreery's book The Abolition of Genius.

25 October 2018

The Cloister and the Hearth

The Cloister and the Hearth is a nineteenth century novel written by Charles Reade. It was once considered a classic of literature but is nowadays not widely read.

The plot is a fictionalised account of the parents of Erasmus — Gerard and Margaret — and the many obstacles that stand in the way of their relationship.

The book made an impression on me when I read it as a child. The authority figures in it are presented as largely hostile and unreliable. The comprehensive cynicism about social authority, and about its supposed benevolence, distinguishes the book from other nineteenth century novels.

It is even more in contrast with current literature.

In modern fiction, even if some part of the establishment is behaving badly, there is almost always some part of it whose behaviour accords with the ideal, in which many people would no doubt like to believe.