The Immoral Bard
Dear Sir,—It is surely lamentable that anyone who has so much that is timely and of value of say on crooked thinking and muddled language should himself be guilty of inaccuracies, overstatement and bad taste. The magnificent essay "On Liberty" examining the nature and limits of the power which can be legitimately exercised by society over the individual, is worthy of close attention. But the somewhat loose reference to the authority of Mill or Shakespeare or A. D. Lindsay is suspect. The political illiterates who, "in the porches of my ear did pour the leperous distilment," to quote the bard, share with him the gift of picturesque and metaphorical language. Mr. Oliver condemns emotive extravagance yet sneers at the corpulent figures of the city fathers. The precepts of representative government, the American way of life and British fair play are equated with mental blindness, and this is an example of straight political thinking! Hamlet in saner mood is made to say, "What a piece of work is man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving how express and admirable! ... And yet to Mr. Oliver what is this quintessence of dust? Man delights him not; no, nor small town lawyers nor accountants neither. Mr. Oliver might reply in the words of Macbeth:
"Who can be wise, amaz'd, temperate and furious,
Loyal and neutral, in a moment? No man."
And indeed I am in sympathy with much of his comment though not altogether with the manner of its express.