Correspondence of Victoria Lady Welby
Other Dimensions. A Selection from the Later Correspondence of Victoria Lady Welby. Edited by Mrs. Henry Cust. With an Introduction by Dr. L. P. Jacks. (Jonathan Cape. 12s. tkt. ) THESE new selections from the correspondence of Lady Welby
make rather difficult reading. The book is not entirely front her pen. She counted many distinguished philosophers and scientific men among her friends and the letters of the correspondents, who prompted or answered her own, give to the book, as Dr. L. P. Jacks points out in his preface,
something of the character of a dialogue. The upshot of the whole is, in his opinion, as follows : " thought rests—
so we learn—on no ' foundations,' but revolves in an end- lessly ascending spiral' to higher forms of itself, retaining its conquests and perpetually enlarging them." So speaks the philosopher.
The present writer feels after careful perusal as though he had been watching a column of smoke rising upward illumined from time to time by a gush of sparks. Much of the book will seem, we believe, to the ordinary man a mere " study in confusion," yet for all that, much of clear aim shows through the whole abstraction. The writer longs "to conquer and abolish mental waste and confusion for ever " The change is to be brought about through a new precision of language.
" Certainly, as we are, none of the things best worth saying can be said (in the full sense of saying). It seems to me that the next great advance in philosophy will be polyphonal ' ; we shall have chords of thought (represented by wont- and sentence. chords) and orchestral symphonies of conception."
It is a wonderful dream ! But when she attempts to clear her meaning by such expressions as " binocular thought " it is only the initiated who will not find themselves further
From time to time we come across bits of the plain shrewd- ness so often to be found among the mystics. In writing to Dr. F. C. S. Schiller of the human will she says " Creative and coercive will is a very rare gift. What we usually are is wilful I and to be wilful is to be weak. But for true will —that will which belongs to the life which has come through the white furnace of truth—nothing in the long run is im- possible except its own defeat. All is in the service of that will. But man's conquering will is still asleep with the
rest of him. It wakes up now and then : e.g., when there is an earthquake and the long paralysed can rise and escape. when the sick are cured at Lourdes, &c. It is lack of will which leaves us slaves to passion, to sloth, to social tyranny, to habit, to inherited fable or fallacy, even to the stupid
reactionary de.spotisrns of language itself."
Here is another passage of comprehensible suggestion :
" Intentional paradox is perhaps the most powerful mental lever wo have : it has even also an explosive force. But at present our thought is ravaged by a pestilence of unintended paradox. This is the secret of the plain man's ' repudiation of—or scans for—metaphysics."
We have only space for one more quotation, and that shall be from one of Lady Welby's correspondents. "I fully agree with you," writes Mr. G. Lowes Dickinson, " about the ` long trains of reasoning for their own sake' having little value. I think there's no such dangerous runaway as the mind."
Confronted ceaselessly with the vast subjects 'which alone engaged Lady Welby's attention there is, of course, a tendency for thought to " bolt."