On The Rack

Hound and Horn

Featured in this quarter's Hound and Horn is an essay on the philosophy of William James by one Henry Bamford Parkes. Mr. Parkes makes no new contribution to the criticism of James, but his essay is a competent restatement of the master's position in modern thought. It will be remembered that Professor Whitehead called James, like Descartes, the founder of a new philosophical epoch--with this statement Mr. Parkes takes issue, on the ground that his philosophy "contains too obviously the seeds of its own dissolution." Statements of this kind are very difficult to analyze or to assess; it would perhaps be more correct to say that James' philosophy was a philosophy noble only with James, and that it was debauched in its transmission to men of Watson's particular stamp. Much nonsense has been traced to him, including the rugged kind of individualism and the apotheosis of the practical man. But the characteristic residuum of his thought is not so close to either of these as to the admirable maxim of Agassiz: "No one sees farther into a generalization than his own knowledge of details extends." With the qualifications imposed by James' own "sensitive breastbone" and the bow given to pragmatism by its chief apostle's acceptance of God as a provable entity, his philosophy is much farther from dissolution than Mr. Parkes' minor thesis would imply.

Matthew B. Brady, the distinguished photographer of the Civil War period, is the subject of a curious psychograph by the prolific Charles Flato. More arresting than the psychograph itself is a series of admirable, prints from Brady's portfolio; one of them, a study of General Burnside standing by his camp tent, gives a convincing argument for Daguerre's metallic art as an instrument of high irony. Brady is far less self conscious as an artist than the usual photographic contributors to this magazine, and the clearness of his tones, achieved without the sacrifice of beauty, is surprising for one who worked in so early a stage of camera development.

The winners of the Hound and Horn Undergraduate Competition are both from Stanford. One is already familiar to the periodical world, J. V. Cunningham, recipient of the prize for verse. Albert Guerard, Jr., whose "Winter in Davos" merits the fiction award, has never before been published. "Winter in Davos" has the effect of making one wish that Gertrude Stein would not be read by undergraduates with a lust for composition; more and more does it become evident that hers is, although an eminently imitable technique, the kind that does not go well with the tyro, for the tyro always succeeds in producing an unconvincing imitation, not of Miss Stein, but of Ernest Hemingway. It would be very depressing indeed if "Winter in Davos" were really the best story Hound and Horn cajoled from its competitors, for its mode is transparent and its sentiment intolerably jejune. Mr. Cunningham is something else again; he has obviously found a technique of his own, and has a good deal to say with it.

Max Nomad contributes a study of that very ascetic revolutionary, Sergei Nechayev, who went the gamut from Bakunin to Blanqui, and only twice spoke at a students' meeting. Nomad does not enter what must seem to a casual observer the most fertile of all fields of inquiry, the posterity of Nechayev in Germany. For surely it is from Sergei Nechayev that the pragmatic anarchists of the German left directly derive--the "all Europe must lie in ashes" school that is so fascinating as long as it is numericaly small. His account, however, of Nechayev's trial is a very competent piece of writing and a fine historical document.