Fallacy of the “Crusade.”
For indeed it is not possible to name any book out of which a perverted mind will not draw food for its disease. The whole fallacy lies in supposing literature the cause of the disease. Evil men are not evil because they read bad books: they read bad books because they are evil: and being evil, or diseased, they are quickly able to extract evil or disease even from very good books. There is talk of disseminating the works of our best authors, at a cheap rate, in the hope that they will drive the Penny Dreadful out of the market. But has good literature at the cheapest driven the middle classes from their false gods? And let it be remembered, to the credit of these poor boys, that they do buy their books. The middle classes take their poison on hire or exchange.
But perhaps the full enormity of the cant about Penny Dreadfuls can best be perceived by travelling to and fro for a week between London and Paris and observing the books read by those who travel with first-class tickets. I think a fond belief in Ivanhoe-within-the-reach-of-all would not long survive that experiment.
Oct. 7, 1892. A Masterpiece.
“Peer Gynt takes its place, as we hold, on the summits of literature precisely because it means so much more than the poet consciously intended. Is not this one of the characteristics of the masterpiece, that everyone can read in it his own secret? In the material world (though Nature is very innocent of symbolic intention) each of us finds for himself the symbols that have relevance and value for him; and so it is with