Page:The Dial vol. 15 (July 1 - December 16, 1893).djvu/29

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

layman to dispute the dicta of professional archaeologists, but when these doctors disagree he may divert himself with the "rival plausibilities of archaeological argument."
Finally, Mr. Lang's account of the "Nibelungen Lied," of the "Chanson de Roland," and of the "Kalevala," conveys much useful information in compact convenient form. He explodes the false analogies that have been alleged between the composition of these poems and the supposed redaction of the "Iliad" by the commission of Pisistratus. And while he does full justice to the grandeur and pathos of certain episodes of the story of Brunhild, he never allows the reader to forget that “ 'tis a pretty poem, but you must not call it Homer.”

Paul Shorey.

The Social Spirit in America.[1]

The growing interest in social problems throughout our country, both among scholars and the masses, is a hopeful and wholesome tendency to be welcomed and, fostered. There is here something more than a passing fashion or a mere literary pastime. Every intelligent and earnest mind recognizes that serious tasks of industrial reorganization are upon us. And this widespread consciousness of their existence, and the fertility in the invention of schemes for the bringing in of the millennium, are signs of promise that give us hope.
Pauperism and crime are not new diseases, but the systematic effort to prevent and extirpate these evils is a modern enterprise. The unjust distribution of wordly goods and the great miseries of the toiling masses, these have existed since the beginning of history ; but the encouraging fact is that they are now felt and fought as never before. The magazines overflow with discussions of the innumerable phases of the social problem ; special organs spring into existence to lead attacks upon specific strongholds of the common enemy ; the daily press sends reports of new theories and philanthropic efforts abroad on the wings of the morning ; special organizations spread as by magic to relieve some peculiar distress or repress some particular wrong ; these questions have come to the front in our Universities, and the pulpit begins to occupy itself with the topics and phases of social science. And all this is well. It will make religion more humane, more practical, and more catholic ; it will give us a literature of ethical power as well as of attractive beauty. Above all, it will regenerate human society by the intelligent application of remedial and educative agencies for the purification and enrichment of its corporate life.
Two notable contributions to the discussion of these problems have recently been made by Mr. N. P. Oilman and the Rev. Washington Gladden, the former in "Socialism and the American Spirit," and the latter in "Tools and the Man." The two books, though different in scope and method, have this much in common : they are both earnest in spirit, temperate in the discussion of the problems treated, and preeminently wholesome in their general teachings. Neither Mr. Oilman nor Mr. Oladden is doctrinaire or fanatic, but both men are practical Americans, anxious to learn from the teachings of all experience, and yet deeply conscious (Mr. Oilman more especially) that our social problems must be wrought out by independent thought working through methods designed to fit our peculiar conditions. Both men feel the tremendous sweep of the socialistic sentiment, and yet neither has parted company with that common-sense which keeps close to reality and brings all theoretical schemes to the test of experience. These pages reveal a deep sympathy for the larger aims of socialism, but neither author commits himself to any special socialistic programme, both being evolutionists rather than revolutionists. And here we have ample recognition of the moral aspects of industrial problems, with a clear realization that spiritual forces have a part to play in the ongoing and upbuilding of human society.
Both these books seem to me to be preeminently sane and opportune, spurs to the apathetic and indifferent, and needed correctives of that merely sentimental treatment of social problems which has been so much in vogue recently in and about Boston. Mr. Oilman's is by far the more scientific, original, and important treatise, with a stronger grip on the problem of socialism and a clearer vision of what is possible and expedient. Scholars will find in it a positive contribution to the topics discussed, and its words will do much to win men from flying socialistic kites to the slow but sure tasks of social amelioration. Mr. Gladden has made a little book that will stir many a complacent business man to new thoughts respecting the rights of laborers and the proper uses

  1. Socialism and American Spirit. By N. P. Gilman. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co. Tools and the Man. By Washington Gladden. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin & Co.