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November 15, 1941 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1941-11-15

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Page Ten


. s sdr a V .4 i./' %0 i i T A., .... ..


Autobiography, by Eric Gill. 300 pp. New
York: The Devin Adair Company.
Eric Gill's Autobiography is disturbing
reading. It is disturbing because in three
hundred pages we see a man growing
in his faith, realizing his mission, and
actually living his philosophy of life,
a thing which very few of us do. It is
also disturbing because there is too much
sincerity, too much honesty in those
pages. It is not the record of doings or
happenings, but the record of mental
experiences; and it is more concernel
with meanings than events.
It is the intellectual story of an artist
-a stone carver, an artisan-who little
by little attempts to develop a philoso-
phy of life and live accordingly. I.,is
also the story of a man of our world who
places his faith in God, and, in the
name of God-not in the name of moral,
or principle-but in the name of God,
tries to express himself in stone and on
To express himself with the greatest
ease, and the greatest efficiency, Eric
Gill first has to find a pattern for living.
Out of his own experience, out of his
own intellect, he must coordinate all the
elements he feels in life, organize them,
and give them a purpose. He has to
,integrate life within himself and with
the world in which he lives. This is a
slow process. First, Eric Gill finds the
"integral city" Chichester, "the human
city, the city of God, the place where
life and work and things are in one and
all harmonk." Then he finds the "inte-
gral life" in the semi-scholastic com-
munity of Lincoln's Inn, where "all
things worked together for good. Break-
fast time was good as the beautiful room
we had it.in. Work and argument and
the green trees of the square all went
together" because "neighborliness need
not mean only loving-kindness and read-
iness to lend a hand or a hammer; it
might also mean 'unanimity,' an agree-
ment in the mind as to the good and the
true and the beautiful and a common
practice founded thereon." But this is
not yet sufficient, man also has to, be
integrated, and this Eric Gill finds in
a friend, George Carter, who has "moral
and intellectual integrity," a man who
is "unashamed --physically, morally
mentally unashamed," whose opinions
"are not the product of prejudice or
school teaching or wayward ratiocina-
tion, but of simple rightmindness, an
infallible rectitudeof will and imagina-
tion and intelligence."
With such ideas on man and life, Eric
Gill starts to work as an architect and
as a letter designer. Since early youth
he has developed a sure and precise hand
in handling the chisel. He has discipline
in his mind and in his fingers. His wife
whom he married when twenty-two
years old, gives him at home a life where
all his ideals of integrity are fulfilled.
His work gives him the right balance he
loves so much. And he goes on carving,
not as an artist, but as an artisan, a
man who has mastered a technique.
But as he is planning houses and carv-
ing stones, suddenly, his mind is filled
with doubts. He has found work, life,
and man. Yet he still feels incomplete.
There is nothing coordinating his find-
ings. And from now on he becomes more
metaphysical. He searches for a Reli-
gion capable of embodying his ideals. In-
deed, he even attempts to organize a
religion for himself. Soon he discovers
that "his" religion is very near Roman
Catholicism. And, on February 22nd,
1913, at the age of 31, Eric Gill joins
the Church.
The turning point has occurred in his
life. From now on he belongs only in

part to this world. He retires to Wales
with his family and some friends, and
together they join the tertiary orders of
the Dominicans an order allowing mar-
ried men to live a special life conse-
crated to the Glory of God. There, at
Capel-y-Ffin, with his friends, he lives
in a former monastery. He-works and
enjoys life, a very simple life where
everybody has to work for the good of
the community and the Greatness of
God. Some jobs in stone carving call
him to the continent and he even goes
to Jerusalem where he sculpts ten panels

to be forced on people than sought by
Since Eric Gill is integrally mystical
in religious matters, and integrally hon-
est in his ethics, when he deals with sex
matters he is integrally pagan. Somse
pages of this book are an admirable de-
fense of sex, but a defense in a pagan
vein, where sex is considered as power,
as a thing to be admired, but not secret
and sacred as a good Victorian tradition
made unquiet youths believe. This atti-
tude is paradoxical for us, yet in the
mind of Eric Gill it fits perfectly into
his philosophical system.
There are many more things about
this book I wish to praise. There are
beautiful descriptions of the functions
of the architect, the man who patterns
and gives form to houses. There are
paragraphs on printing and book mak-
ing, and there are also a few admirable
lines on music. He gives us a magnifi-
cent description of plain chant which
ought to be remembered: ". . . . at the
first impact I was so moved by the chant
as to be almost frightened. This was
not ancient architecture such as the
world has ceased to build. This was not
the sculptures of Chartres or Easter
Island such as the world has ceased to
make. This was not the pictures of
Giotto or Ajanta such as the world has
ceased to paint. This was something
alive, living, coming from the hearts and
minds and bodies of living men.'
Although too often there are pages
where the tone is naive, especially when
Eric Gill deals with social and political
life., this book is a great confession,
a book to place beside St. Augustine's
Perhaps, when we follow his life and
see his achievements, we ask ourselves
whether Eric Gill belonged to our time,
or whether he is the ghost of the past,
or the shape of the future. Perhaps,
behind this storehouse of ideas, this
impact of ideals, there is the sound of
a world to come, when Man, Life, and
God will have integrated themselves
in a body.
-Guy Serge Metraux

"Between the Acts". Virginia Woolf.
New York. Harcourt, Brace and Co.
1941. 219 pp.
Strange, nervous, and delicate, Vir-
ginia Woolf has drowned herself and
joined the earth and tangled flowers
of which she often spoke,
And behind her, walking toward their
graves, the critics cry her greatness.
They say Virginia Woolf opened new
windows on the landscape of the mind,
found the stream of consciousness, was
a pioneer in exploring the subtleties un-
derlying experience.
And they speak of her "haunting
overtones" and her bewitching "capture
of the unsayable," intimating that her
work was an epic in insinuation, a classic
of superb hinting.
The book she left behind her is
called "Between The Acts", and fur-
nishes an excellent index to her total
creation. It is the final example of
that "rare gift which was to lead the
world to new eloquence."
Taken altogether, this last book of
Virginia Woolf's is a gathering of wisps
and strands, a pursuit of buiterflies and
bats. She impales the world upon a hat-
pin, and digs graves with a teaspoon.
Fragmentary and disjointed, the chap-
ters are sewn together from scraps of
bitterness and tags and tassels of frus-
Is this book true? Yes, it is true; for
the world is, among other things, mad
and incongruous and impotent and ab-
surd. Does this book illustrate the mind?
Yes; for, among other things, the mind
gropes, and despairs, sings with spas-
modic sadness, hunts illogically for
dazzling colors to decorate vacancy.
Is this book beautiful? Yes; for,
among the buttons and thimbles and
bits of old string, there se jewels and
crystals of thought.
(Continuead on Pagee Eleven)

for the New Museum. But from 1913 on
his whole spiritual life is purely religious
and entirely dedicated to the Glory of
God. In his mind he has found peace,
and he lives an "integral life."
This is, in a few words, the develop-
ment of Eric Gill's spirit. But this is not
all we find in his Autobiography. He has
written about almost everything. His
main concerns have been ethics, religion,
politics, and sex. And in all experience
he has applied his great principle of
integrating all his feelings into a
Artistically he belongs to the medieval
school, where a matter of beauty be-
comes a matter of goodness and truth.
He considers the artist as "prophet and
seer," and art "as man's act of collabo-
ration with God in creating." The artist
must "suppress and efface himself-and
not for reasons of morality or humility,
not because 'showing off' is morally bad,
but for the sake of getting the best .."
From the standpoint of ethics Eric
Gill adopts a very broad, yet very hard
point bf view. Being very definite about
his ideas as usual, he fosters the 'idea
that the best life is obtained only if one
is true to one's principles, and rejects all
sorts of compromises. He takes the op-
portunity to point out the relativity of
our standards of morality: "You may
blaspheme God, dishonor your par-
ents, kill your enemies and covet all
things; you will very likely be thought
wicked, but you will not commonly be
called immoral. Your morals will be
judged solely by your behavior with
When Eric Gill deals with religion his
Autobiography is less interesting. He has
the stuff of a convert, but he has not
the material of an apologist. His reason-
ings are not always orthodox since he
does not admit entirely the idea of the
Pope's infallibility, and dismisses too
elegantly the reality of miracles.
And as far as politics are concerned
this book is thoroughly iconoclastic.
There are few pamphlets which con-
demn so bitterly all political activity.
With indignation he writes that "power
is always corrupting" and that "to be
a leader is the last thing anyone should
wish; to go into Parliament ought rather

Tramp Steamer
I've seen you lean through black-charred hope to home
Across the Wasted foam of other seas,
And listing languidly from keel to keel
I've seen the mark upon you of disease.
,l I
Blood-spews of rust caked hard against your flanks,
Reflecting dully back upon the tide,
Had more to tell of death in steaming seas
Than any reeling sailor could confide.
And labored breath, in streaks of sooty smoke
That drew a smudge across the spotless day,
Spoke clearly of the limp, the crumbled pride,
And all the other things there were to say.
"Whose was the reeking germ that crept aboard,
Contaminating your enormous lung?
What bitter froth etched out your aching side?
Where are the craven traitors-are they hung?"
Your greasy breath puffed only, "It is done."
You shut your eyes and settled on the tide,
And with a rasping rattle and a sigh
You bubbled once unconsciously and died.
-Sam Moon

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