…But John Galsworthy’s concern with the suffering of others was occasioned more by the pain knowledge of it gave him than by the pain experience of it gave them: It was the sensitive liberal’s position in succinct form.But once awakened in Galsworthy, this concern became altogether too powerful. It made, as it always does, for sentimentality as a cushion to protect from the harsher truths of the world whose insularity propagated a bacteria known as pity.
And pity, a form of self-indulgence , is an artistic enemy. Even at the turn of the century not all the poor were totally miserable all the time. Henry Mayhews social studies showed a rich variety of life, culture and entertainment of a subculture which mitigated the sufferings of destitution. But, one would never suppose otherwise on the strength of Galsworthy’s writings. Joseph Conrad even suggested that Galsworthy got a sadistic pleasure from depicting the daily travails of the weak and unfortunate.
Galsworthy himself knew all this perfectly well. He warned others against it. “Pity is tripe” , he made one of his characters kep repeating to himself. But it was no good; in art as in life he remained a helpless victim of the soft touch. He was also, though, a genuinely generous man, ready and eager to lay out his money in a good cause even if it had no vestige of sentimental appeal. He is said to have made a point on living on only half his admittedly ample income and of giving away the rest. But, perhaps that was a sentimental gesture as well; or a kind of expiation for the source of the tainted money that he collected from the slums for his father.
Galsworthy’s first wife was the wife of his cousin Arthur. She hooked Arthur after a husband trawling tour of Europe which relieved her of the sordid rounds of luxury bargain hunting. A story was cooked up of mild Arthur as a drunk and brute and when Ada and John met at the annual cricket match between Eton and Harrow he probably saw her with new eyes. Pity, this time, was indeed akin to love. Intense sexual passion, Galsworthy led us to suppose, flared up between them and six months later, after much painful restraint, they became lovers. But more importantly, she pushed him to write.
Even when the blissful period of husband Arthur’s absence at the Boer War was coming to a close with his return and she positively left him, neither they nor John did anything about getting a divorce. It seems impossible to avoid the miserable conclusion that these two men, one forty the other thirty-four, were unwilling to hazard their allowances and possibly their inheritances should their fathers turn ugly. Right or wrong, Galsworthy was willing to play the game according to the family rules. If he had not been, he would never have become a writer since he wrote and published for ten years before making a dime from his work.
Galsworthy tried to escape from his clubman’s image by impersonating, in his picaresque satirical novel, The Island Pharisees, a young Belgian beatnik he had met, an embittered wanderer never at a loss for a gibe at he establishment. It was no good; he kept the offbeat character but made the central figure a young man like himself. The latter was a mouthpiece, certainly, for an all out attack on the ugliness of the big cities, the horror of the slums from which his own family drew much of its money, the willful blindness, the sexual hypocrisy, he found everywhere; but he was also irredeemably locked in the comfortable world of gentleman’s clubs, grand town mansions, and spacious, tranquil country houses blandly belongio that upper-middle-class society that was so cruelly confining, then shunning, his Ada.
The myth that Jeremy Bentham ‘proposed birth control measures as a means of reducing pauperism and the poor rates’ in 1797, the year before the publication of Thomas Malthus’ famous Essay on the Principle of Population (1798), has proved strangely enduring. It is now more than 40 years since J.R. Poynter explained that the ‘evidence’ for this early advocacy rests upon a misreading of Bentham’s essay ‘Situation and Relief of the Poor’, published in Arthur Young’s Annals of Agriculture. Yet the claim has been made many times more since Poynter’s rebuttal, and has been repeated within the past three years in the pages of both The Lancet and The Journal of Legal History. To understand the endurance of the myth it is helpful to explain how it came to be believed in the first place. This is a story that relates to the American eugenics movement of the 1920s and 1930s, and features cameos by one of the main inspirations of the Chicago School of Economics, Jacob Viner (1892- 1970), and his principal animus, John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946).Read More:http://www.ucl.ac.uk/Bentham-Project/journals/journal_of_bentham_studies/journal_of_bentham_studies_13/Stack2011.pdf
For Mill, ignorance of the principle of population among the poor served the interests of the ruling class by provoking cut-throat competition among labourers, bidding down wages and extending working hours. Consequently, the poor were too exhausted to learn, and so trapped in a cycle of ignorance and exhaustion: “Education is not compatible with extreme poverty. It is impossible effectually to teach an indigent population”, while the poor were disqualified from “any but a low grade of intelligent labour.” Typically, Mill’s insistence was that what the poor required was honest, unpatronizing information, which facilitated their independence: “Whatever advice, exhortation, or guidance is held out to the labouring classes, must henceforth be tendered to them as equals, and accepted by them with their eyes open.” Read More:http://etudes-benthamiennes.revues.org/185