There is a magnetism and a fire running through the papers in this not very large book, that set is quite in a class by itself, so far as it is to be put in a class at all. Mr. Meiklejohn is deeply concerned with the problem of educating persons to realize the value of freedom of activity, and, that done, of showing them what they should do to obtain that freedom, and what the college can do to help the general plan. He sets up an ideal, which, unlike many that have been puppeted before the public in recent years, does not disintegrate under the steady gaze of any really curious observer.
Although the nine essays may be put roughly into four classes, there is a diversity to their subject matter, and a skill in their composition, that betrays a mind containing quiet thoughtful recesses, and at the same time, keen accurate feelers that run out and through things. Five of the articles are concerned rather fundamentally with specific problems of collegiate education; which should not be taken to mean that they are uninteresting, for they are not, but distinctly stimulating, and of real value to the outside world. The reader will find discussions of the curriculum, of "The theory of the Liberal College," of college athletics, and of the responsibility of the faculty and president; that is, a discussion of possible objects of that responsibility.
In "Is Our World Christian?" (the baccalaureate to the class of 1923) one finds a most stimulating discussion of a question that one time would have started armies on the campaign. In some parts of this the author is at his best; common as the doing of advise to graduating classes has become, here is a fresh note, a voice that extols the straight and narrow path with gracious sincerity and compelling logic. And similarly, the address on Elisha Benjamin Andrews, one time president of Brown University, gives opportunity for the exercise of Mr. Meiklejohn's talent for description of character and achievement; it is a character sketch of real merit. In "The Machine City", an address made at a Pawtucket anniversary, one finds again the ability to treat a hackneyed subject from a fresh and charming point of view, that reverses the usual adage concerning anticipation and realization.
The most outstanding article in the book, however, is the centennial address. In this Mr. Meiklejohn looks forward to the next century; and while that is a hobby for many who have thoughts on human life at all, it seems to us that here again the author has scored high. Keen analysis of present day situations, intelligent awareness of the lessons of history, and vigor of presentation, carry the reader to the heights and beyond. And, best of all, there is no attempt to say that in 1950 automobiles will have thirty-two cylinders, or that speech will become unnecessary in 1990; no, the article deals, not with the ephemeral, but with the essential.
It is curious to note how much Mr. Meiklejohn is able to convey by his wording. His inaugural address is a rhetorical model, a perfect illustration of the use of topic sentence and so forth; and to a certain extent an illustration of how stupid the sue of mechanical rules alone can be. The baccalaureate sermon, on the other hand, is replete with dignity and yet grace; while the prophecy of the next hundred years is filled with almost poetic fire. Almost all through the book, except in the inaugural address, there is a lilt to the words that is akin to the Homeric. And throughout there is a vividness of picture and choice of words.
But enough; to attempt to say in a few words what is contained in a book of more than ordinary breadth of vision, is hopeless. Suffice it to say that here is a horizon-stretcher; a book by one who believes in the goodness of life while at the same time he sees the bad. He challenges those who have not faith, and inspires those who have. And the book cannot fail to stimulate anyone.