The Decline of the West

GOODBYE TO WESTERN CULTURE: Some Footnotes on East and West. By Norman Douglas. New York. Harper and Brothers. 1930. Price: $3.00.

A few days ago a friend put into my hands a book and said: "Have a look at this. Very rich, in places. Pure sensationalism, of course; he wants to get himself talked about. I think you'll enjoy it. If not, just throw it out of the window."

That is how I came to read "Goodbye to Western Culture." Pure sensationalism" was not quite correct; that I soon saw. Still, the now venerable Norman Douglas, in this thoroughgoing balance of Western against Eastern ills, cannot be judged entirely free of a "will to sell," and in large numbers. To a reader who knows "South Wind" and "In the Beginning" the descent of this author to mere invective is distasteful, even though his thrusts are true and well-turned.

"Goodbye to Western Culture" is delightful reading, however one may carp at the author's motive in writing it. Its pages bristle with indignation at Miss Mayo's "Mother India." And if we smile at the idea of Mr. Douglas rushing forward, eyes aflame, to defend the East, we cannot help laughing aloud at many of his clever pokes in the less salubrious corners of that "frowsy and fidgetty little hole called Europe." For though his main thesis may be a defense of India, his dislike of all that is smug in Europe does not have to be read between the lines.

Europe is "a baby in its cor--rather a repulsive and fretful brat." Its whims, according to Mr. Douglas, have doomed whatever pretenisons it may ever have had. England in particular is lost: her morals and manners, government and social institutions are all presented in the cold and keenly satiric light of the author's wit, a wit which will compare not unfavorably with the most malicious in history.


The whole book is brilliantly written despite the episodic character of the "footnotes." We may not have faith in the author's reasons for the supremacy of the East over occidental civilization, but we must admit that the book is easy, and altogether amusing, to read. For, after all, we need not take it seriously to enjoy it.