25 OCTOBER 1930, Page 14

There is a sort of conflict in us all, a

conflict which has some- how to be turned into a balance and a harmony, between the gregarious habit and the solitary propensity. We used to be celebrated on the Continent for the latter : we seem to be devoting ourselves to the former. There is a saying of Goethe.

which bears, in its way, on the matter. Talent," he said, " is built in stillness : character in the stream of the world:' The world sees to it that we get into the stream : we cannot escape it, and we have to buffet our way into some sort of shape and character as we bob along with our fellows. The business to which we have ourselves to see is the building of talent, and the making and the keeping of the stillness in which it is built.

What with conferences and committees and clubs, it seems to be increasingly difficult for most of us to be still. Perhaps it is a matter of what one may call Americanization. The United States has a great vogue in the modern world ; and that rogue carries the American spirit of fraternity (Rotaries, Chatauquas. Buffaloes and Elks) into a country which used to think in terms of individual liberty and personality. Perhaps it is also a matter of the new deity worshipped under the name of Communica- tion. I read in the Tintes the other day, in the first letter (which often catches my eye before the first article) : " The essence of civilization is bound up with transportation and speedy communication." I said to myself, as I read, " Then I :MI sorry for civilization." That is a matter of opinion ; but I suppose we should all agree that the temptings of communica- tion—here a motor-'bus, and there an aeroplane : here an es- eursion and there a " trip "—are drawing us, like a sucking tide, into a great deal of propinquity.

On second thoughts, however, I gravely doubt whether we should agree. Most of my readers will probably say, " Here is Reaction—crusted, green, and mossy Reaction." Perhaps that is the name of my trouble. I do confess that I like to see a grass- grown railway-truck in a woodland, such as I have seen in the valley of the Connecticut. I confess, too, that I like to sec all old railway-carriage set in a clearing, and serving for a quiet and still habitation. I confess, in conclusion, that if 1 had to arrange a conference (which is not likely), I should stipulate for its consisting of persons who had never attended a con. ference before, and for its including librarians, Liberals, drapers, friends of adult education and Conservatives, all at

the same time, in one good mixture of unlikes. Ostrox.