Harberton

After C.W. Daniel had been convicted under DORA for publishing Despised and Rejected, the novel about homosexuals and pacifists, he received this letter:

20.X.18

Dear Mr Daniel,
As I say, I can only hope that the enormous fine inflicted on you, for no offence at all, may serve as an advert, at all events, to that book. In self-defence, you are now bound to push the book for all its worth – as soon as you can – to get back as much as possible.
The fact of the book possessing salacious tendencies is to this extent an advantage; for curiosity draws countless readers to read it, apart from the actual Bulgarians.
Personally, I see no harm in ‘rogering’ whatever you want to. It’s quite natural, and dogs are not in the least particular. Nor are the Turks. The outcry on that subject is vulgar and middle-class.

I am yours,

Harberton


The writer of this letter (part of the C.W. Daniel archive in Amsterdam) is Viscount Harberton, a peer with robust views on many subjects. He had expressed many of them in a book published by Daniel in 1917, How to Lengthen Our Ears (available as an online flip-book here.)
This is a very bracing work, arguing mostly “that the whole education craze is a wicked mistake”. (Education turns people into donkeys, hence the ear-lengthening).

But, suppose you wanted your child to become stupider than was intended by nature, how would you proceed ? The best way, I fancy, would be to make the child learn to read as early as five years of age, and go to school at least 5 hours a day. This is now compulsory. Next, you might, by means of cheap publications and free libraries, do all that you could to make him spend every minute of his spare time in reading, till the feat had become a habit.

Harberton argues that practical knowledge is more important than book-learning:

Civilisation owes much more to appliances than to books, and it seems monstrous that, to devote yourself to appliances, before the age of 14, instead of to books, is an offence at law. Our great thinker, Herbert Spencer, described the Education Acts as ‘ measures for the increase of stupidity,’ and, though he need not necessarily be right, it seems going rather far to make such an opinion as his, if acted upon, a police court offence, rendering the whole family pretty certain of incarceration in an industrial school. The book
brigade have always been cruel bigots.

And so forth.

The whole tone of the book is cheerfully philistine. The frontispiece shows portraits of Swinburne, Wordsworth, Goldmith and Gibbon, and in the centre William Whiteley, founder of the great London department store.

Harberton explains:

Firstly, take the frontispiece. There you have four of our leading men of letters. Gibbon, Goldsmith, Wordsworth and Swinburne. […]The late William Whiteley, the great universal provider, is in the centre.
He seems to me a superior type of man, more alert, quite as intelligent, and with twice the vitality and character. A nation could more easily dispense with Gibbon, Goldsmith, Wordsworth and Swinburne than such productions as Whiteley ; yet the object of the Education Act is to turn us to literature rather than to commerce or mechanical invention. To look at old Whiteley inspires confidence in our nation and makes one feel glad.

I shall try to find out more about Viscount Harberton, who seems a rather original thinker.
As for Daniel, his reply to this letter is rather pained. He explains that Harberton has rather missed the point – the prosecution means that the book cannot be republished. He then explains that while committed to the ideal of freedom, he would not want to promote immorality. Daniel is rather a wonderful man, and showed immense courage in defence of his Tolstoyan principles – but I can’t help feeling that Harberton knew a bit more about real life.

One Comment

  1. Roger
    Posted December 6, 2009 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Willaim Whiteley’s bastard son did not share Viscount Harberton’s admiration for his character. He shot him dead.


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