A Dominie in Doubt
by A. S. Neill
A DOMINIE IN DOUBT
A. S. NEILL, M.A.
BY THE SAME AUTHOR
A DOMINIE'S LOG
A DOMINIE DISMISSED
THE BOOMING OF BUNKIE
HERBERT JENKINS LIMITED
3 YORK STREET ST. JAMES'S
To Homer Lane, whose first lecture convinced me that I knew nothing
about education. I owe much to him, but I hasten to warn educationists
that they must not hold him responsible for the views given in these
pages. I never understood him fully enough to expound his wonderful
A. S. N.
AUGUST 12, 1920.
A DOMINIE IN DOUBT
Just give me your candid opinion of A Dominie's Log; I'd
like to hear it.
Macdonald looked up from digging into the bowl of his pipe with a
dilapidated penknife. He is now head-master of Tarbonny Public School,
a school I know well, for I taught in it for two years as an ex-pupil
Six days ago he wrote asking me to come and spend a holiday with
him, so I hastily packed my bag and made for Euston.
This evening had been a sort of complimentary dinner in my honour,
the guests being neighbouring dominies and their wives, none of whom I
knew. We had talked of the war, of rising prices, and a thousand other
things. Suddenly someone mentioned education, and of course my
unfortunate Log had come under discussion.
I had been anxious to continue my discussion with a Mrs. Brown on
the subject of the relative laying values of Minorcas and Buff
Orpingtons, but I had been dragged to the miserable business in spite
Now they were all gone, and Macdonald had returned to the charge.
It's hardly a fair question, said Mrs. Macdonald, to ask an
author what he thinks of his own book. No man can judge his own work,
any more than a mother can judge her own child.
That's true! I said. A man can't judge his own behaviour, and
writing a book is an element of behaviour. Besides, there is a better
reason why a writer cannot judge his own work, I added.
Because he never reads it? queried Macdonald with a grin.
I shook my head.
An author has no further interest in his book after it is
Macdonald looked across at me. It was clear that he doubted my
Surely you don't mean to say that you have no interest in A
None whatever! I said.
You mean it? persisted Macdonald.
My dear Mac, I said, an author dare not read his own book.
Dare not! Why?
Because it's out of date five minutes after it's written.
For fully a minute we smoked in silence. Macdonald appeared to be
digesting my remark.
You see, I continued presently, when I read a book on education,
I want to learn, and I certainly don't expect to learn anything from
the man I was five years ago.
I think I understand, said Macdonald. You have come to realise
that what you wrote five years ago was wrong. That it?
True for you, Mac. You've just hit it.
You needn't have waited five years to find that out, he said, with
a good-natured grin. I could have told you the day the book was
publishedI bought one of the first copies.
Still, he continued, I don't see why a book should be out-of-date
in five years. That is if it deals with the truth. Truth is eternal.
What is truth? I asked wearily. We all thought we knew the truth
about gravitation. Then Einstein came along with his relativity theory,
and told us we were wrong.
Did he? inquired Macdonald, with a faint smile.
I am quoting from the newspapers, I added hastily. I haven't the
remotest idea what relativity means. Perhaps it's Epstein I meanno,
he's a sculptor.
You're hedging! said Macdonald.
Can you blame me? I asked. You're trying to get me to say what
truth is. I am not a professor of philosophy, I'm a dominie. All I can
say is that the Log was the truth . . . for me . . . five years
ago; but it isn't the truth for me now.
Then, what exactly is your honest opinion of the Log as a
work on education?
As a work on education, I said deliberately, the Log isn't
worth a damn.
Not a bad criticism, either, said Macdonald dryly.
I say that, I continued, because when I wrote it I knew nothing
about the most important factor in educationthe psychology of
But, said Mrs. Macdonald in surprisehitherto she had been an
interested listenerI thought that the bits about the bairns were the
best part of the book.
Possibly, I answered, but I was looking at children from a
grown-up point of view. I thought of them as they affected me, instead
of as they affected themselves. I'll give you an instance. I think I
said something about wanting to chuck woodwork and cookery out of the
school curriculum. I was wrong, hopelessly wrong.
I'm glad to hear you admit it, said Macdonald. I have always
thought that every boy ought to be taught to mend a hen-house and every
girl to cook a dinner.
Then I was right after all, I said quickly.
Macdonald stared at me, whilst his wife looked up interrogatively
from her embroidery.
If your aim is to make boys joiners and girls cooks, I explained,
then I still hold that cookery and woodwork ought to be chucked out of
But, man, what are schools for? I saw a combative light in
Creation, self-expression . . . . the only thing that matters in
education. I don't care what a child is doing in the way of creation,
whether he is making tables, or porridge, or sketches, oror
Snowballs! prompted Macdonald.
Or snowballs, I said. There is more true education in making a
snowball than in listening to an hour's lecture on grammar.
Mrs. Macdonald dropped her embroidery into her lap, with a little
gasp at the heresy of my remark.
You're talking pure balderdash! said Macdonald, leaning forward to
knock the ashes from his pipe on the bars of the grate.
Very well, I said cheerfully. Let's discuss it. You make a class
sit in front of you for an hour, and you threaten to whack the first
child that doesn't pay attention to your lesson on nouns and pronouns.
Discipline, said Macdonald.
I don't care what you call it. I say it's stupidity.
But, hang it all, man, you can't teach if you haven't got the
And you can't teach when you have got it, I said. A child learns
only when it is interested.
But surely, discipline makes them interested, said Mrs. Macdonald.
I shook my head. It only makes them attentive.
Same thing, said Macdonald.
No, Mac, I replied. It is not the same thing. Attention means the
applying of the conscious mind to a thing; interest means the
application of both the conscious and the unconscious mind. When you
force a child to attend to a lesson for fear of the tawse, you merely
engage the least important part of his mindthe conscious. While he
stares at the blackboard his unconscious is concerned with other
What sort of things? asked Macdonald.
Very probably his unconscious is working out an elaborate plan to
murder you, I said, and I don't blame it either, I added.
And the snowballs? queried Mrs. Macdonald.
When a boy makes a snowball, he is interested; his whole soul is in
the job, that is, his unconscious and his conscious are working
together. For the moment he is an artist, a creator.
So that's the new education . . . making snowballs? said
It isn't really, I said; but what I want to do is to point out
that making snowballs is nearer to true education than the
spoon-feeding we call education to-day.
* * * * *
Duncan does not like me. He is a young dominie of twenty-three or
thereabouts, a friend of Macdonald, and he has just been demobilised.
He was a major, and he does not seem to have recovered from the
experience. He has got what the vulgar call swelled head. Last night he
was dilating upon the delinquencies of the old retired teacher who ran
the school while Duncan was on active service. It seems that the old
man had allowed the school to run to seed.
Would you believe it, I overheard Duncan say to Macdonald, when I
came back I found that the boys and girls were playing in the same
playground. Why, man, some of them were playing on the road! And the
Poor children! I see it all; I see Duncan line them up like a squad
of recruits, and march them into school with never a smile on their
faces or a word on their lips. Macdonald tells me that he makes them
lift their slates by numbers.
And the amusing thing is that Duncan thinks himself one of the more
advanced teachers. He reads the educational journals, and eagerly
devours the articles about new methods in teaching arithmetic and
geography. His school is only a mile and a half away, and I hope that
he will come over to see Mac a few times while I am here.
I have seen the old type of dominie, and I have seen the new type. I
prefer the former. He had many faults, but he usually managed to do
something for the human side of the children. The new type is a danger
to children. The old dominie leathered the children so that they might
make a good show before the inspector; the new dominie leathers them
because he thinks that children ought to be disciplined so that they
may be able to fight the battle of life. He does not see that by using
authority he is doing the very opposite of what he intends; he is
making the child dependent on him, and for ever afterwards the child
will lack initiative, lack self-confidence, lack originality.
What the new dominie does do is to turn out excellent wage-slaves.
The discipline of the school gives each child an inner sense of
inferiority . . . . what the psycho-analysts call an inferiority
complex. And the working-classes are suffering from a gigantic
inferiority complex . . . . otherwise they would not be content to
remain wage-slaves. The fear that Duncan inspires in a boy will remain
in that boy all his life. When he enters the workshop he will
unconsciously identify the foreman with Duncan, and fear him and hate
him. I believe that many a strike is really a vague insurrection
against the teacher. For it is well known that the unconscious mind is
* * * * *
To-night I dropped in to see my old friend Dauvit Todd the cobbler.
Many an evening have I spent in his dirty shop. Dauvit works on after
teatime, and the village worthies gather round his fire and smoke and
spit and grunt. I have sat there for an hour many a night, and not a
single word was said. Peter Smith the blacksmith would give a great
sigh and say: Imphm! There would be silence for ten minutes, and then
Jake Tosh the roadman would stare at the fire, shake his head, and say:
Aye, man! Then a ploughman would smack his lips and say: Man, aye!
A southerner looking in might have jumped to the conclusion that the
assembly was collectively and individually bored, but boredom never
enters Dauvit's shop. We Scots think better in crowds.
To-night the old gang was there. The hypothetical southerner again
would have marvelled at the reception I received. I walked into the
shop after an absence of five years.
Weel, Dauvit, I said, and sat down in the basket chair. Dauvit and
I have never shaken hands in our lives. He looked up.
Back again! he said, without any evident surprise; then he added:
And what like a nicht is 't ootside?
Gradually other men dropped in, and the same sort of greeting took
place. The weather continued to be discussed for a time. Then the
blacksmith said: Auld Tarn Davidson's swine dee'd last nicht.
Dauvit looked up from the boot he was repairing.
What did it dee o'? and there followed an argument about the
symptoms of swine fever.
An English reader of The House with the Green Shutters would
have concluded that these villagers were deliberately trying to put me
in my place. By ignoring me might they not be showing their contempt
for dominies who have just come from London? Not they. They were glad
to see me again, and their method of showing their gladness was to take
up our friendship at the point where it left off five years ago.
The only time a Scot distrusts other Scots is when they fuss over
him. The story goes in Tarbonny that when young Jim Lunan came home
unexpectedly after a ten years' farming in Canada, his mother was
washing the kitchen floor.
Mother! he cried, I've come hame!
She looked over her shoulder.
Wipe yer feet afore ye come in, ye clorty laddie, she said.
But there is a garrulous type of Scot . . . or rather the type of
Scot that tries to make the other fellow garrulous. In our county we
call them the speerin' bodie. To speer means to ask questions. The
speerin' bodie is common enough in Fife, and I suppose it was a Fifer
who entered a railway compartment one morning and sat down to study the
only other occupantan Englishman.
It's a fine day, said the Scot, and there was a question in his
The Englishman sighed and laid aside his newspaper.
Aye, mester, continued the inquisitive Fifer, and ye'll be
The Englishman held up a forbidding hand.
You needn't go on, he said; I'll tell you everything about
myself. I was born in Leeds, the son of poor parents. I left school at
the age of twelve, and I became a draper. I gradually worked my way up,
and now I am traveller for a Manchester firm. I married six years ago.
Three kids. Wife has rheumatism. Willie had measles last month. I have
a seven room cottage; rent £27. I vote Tory; go to the Baptist church,
and keep hens. Anything else you want to know?
The Scot had a very dissatisfied look.
What did yer grandfaither dee o'? he demanded gruffly.
When the argument about swine fever had died down, Dauvit turned to
Aye, and how is Lunnon lookin'?
Same as ever, I answered.
Ye'll have to tak' Dauvit doon on a trip, laughed the smith.
Dauvit drove in a tacket.
Man, smith, I was in Lunnon afore you was born, he said.
Go on, Dauvit, I said encouragingly, tell us the story. I had
heard it before, but I longed to hear it again. Dauvit brightened up.
There's no muckle to tell, he said, as he tossed the boot into a
corner and wiped his face with his apron. It'll be ten years come
Martimas. Me and Will Tamson gaed up by boat frae Dundee. Oh! we had a
graund time. But there's no muckle to tell.
What about Dave Brownlee? I asked.
Dauvit chuckled softly.
But ye've a' heard the story, he said, but we protested that we
Aweel, he began, some of you will no doubt mind o' Dave Broonlee
him that stoppit at Millend. Dave served his time as a draper, and syne
he got a good job in a Lunnon shop. Weel, me and Will Tamson was
walkin' along the Strand when Will he says to me, says he: 'Cud we no
pay a veesit to Dave Broonlee?' Then I minded that Dave's father had
said something aboot payin' him a call, but I didna ken his address.
All I kent was that he was in a big shop in Oxford Street.
Weel, Will and me we goes up to a bobby and speers the way to
Oxford Street. When we got there Will he goes up to another bobby and
says: 'Please cud ye tell me whatna shop Dave Broonlee works intil?' At
that I started to laugh, and syne the bobby he started to laugh. He
laughed a lang time and syne when I telt him that it was a draper's
shop he directed us to a great big muckle shop wi' a thousand windows.
'Try there first,' says the bobby.
Weel, in we goes, and a mannie in a tail coat he comes forart
rubbin' his hands.
'And what can I do for you, sir?' he says to Will.
'Oh,' says Will, 'we want to see Dave Broonlee,' but the man didna
ken what Will was sayin'. It took Will and me twenty meenutes to get
him to onderstand.
'Oh,' says he, 'I understand now. You want to see Mr. Brownlee?'
'Ye're fell quick in the uptak,' says Will, but of coorse the man
didna ken what he was sayin'.
He went to the backshop to speer aboot Dave, and when he cam back
he says, says he: 'I'm sorry, but Mr. Brownlee has gone out to lunch.
Will you leave a message?'
Will turned to the door.
'Never mind,' says he, 'we'll see him doon the toon.'
* * * * *
In reading my Log I am appalled by the amount of lecturing I
did in school. Since writing it I have visited most of the best schools
in England, and I found that I was not the only teacher who lectured.
But we are all wrong. I fancy that the real reason why I lectured so
much was to indulge my showing-off propensities. To stand before a
class or an audience; to be the cynosure of all eyes; to have a crowd
hanging on your words . . . . all showing off! Very, very human, but .
. . . bad for the audience.
When a teacher lectures he is unconsciously giving expression to his
desire to gain a feeling of superiority. That, I fancy, is the deepest
wish of every one of us . . . . to impress others, to be superior. You
see it in the smallest child. Give him an audience, and he will show
off for hours. The boy at the top of the class gains his feeling of
superiority by beating the others at arithmetic, while the dunce at the
bottom of the class gains his in more original ways . . . punching the
top boy at playtime, scoring goals at football, spitting farther than
anyone else in school. I have seen a boy smash a window merely to draw
attention to himself, and thus to gain a momentary feeling of
And we grown-ups are boys at heart. The boy is the father to the
man. Take, for instance, a childish traitexhibitionism. Most children
at an early age love to run about naked, to show off their bodies.
Later the conventions of society make the child repress this wish to
exhibit himself. But we know that a repressed wish does not die; it
merely buries itself in the unconscious. Many years later the
exhibition impulse comes out in sublimated form as a desire to show off
before the public . . . hence our politicians, actors, actresses,
street-corner revivalists, anderdominies.
Now I hasten to add that there is nothing to be ashamed of in being
a politician or a dominie. But if I lecture a class I am making the
affair my show, and I am not the most important actor in the play; I am
the scene-shifter; the real actors who should be declaiming their lines
are sitting on hard benches staring at me and wondering what I am
raving about. Each little person is thirsting to show his or her
superiority, and he never gets the chance. Occasionally I may ask a
sleepy-looking urchin what are the exports to Canada, and he may gain a
slight feeling of superiority if he can tell the right answer. Yet I
fancy that his unconscious self despises me and my question. Why in all
the earth should I ask a question when I know the answer? The whole
thing is an absurdity. The only questions asked in a school should be
asked by the pupils.
The truth is that our schools do not give education; they give
instruction. And it is so very easy to instruct, and so very easy to go
on talking, and so very easy to whack Tommy when he does not listen.
Our prosy lectures are wasted time. The children would be better
employed playing marbles.
Of course if a child asks for information that is a different story.
He is obviously interested . . . that is if he isn't trying to tempt
you into a long explanation so that you will forget to hear his Latin
verbs. Children soon understand our little vanities, and they soon
learn to exploit them.
* * * * *
I had a scene in school to-day, remarked Mac while we were at tea
What happened? I asked.
Tom Murray was wrong in all his sums, and he wouldn't hold out his
hand, and by Mac's grim smile I knew that the bold Tom had been
What would you have done in a case like that? asked Mac.
I would never have a case like that, Mac. If he had all his sums
wrong I should sit down and ask myself what was wrong with my
I didn't mean that, he said; what I meant was: what would you do
if Tom defied you?
That wouldn't happen either, Mac. Tom couldn't defy me because you
can only defy an authority, and I'm not an authority.
Mac shook his head.
You won't convince me, old chap. A boy like Tom has to be dealt
with with a firm hand.
I studied his face for a time.
You know, Mac, I said, you puzzle me. You're one of the kindest
decentest chaps in the world, and yet you go leathering poor Tom
Murray. Why do you do it?
You must keep discipline, he said.
I shook my head.
Mac, if you knew yourself you wouldn't ever whack a child.
This seemed to tickle him.
Good Lord! he laughed, I could write a book about myself! I'm one
of the most introspective chaps ever born.
And you understand yourself?
I have no illusions about myself at all, old chap. I know my
Well, would you mind telling me why you are a bit of a nut? I
asked. It isn't usual for a country dominie to wear a wing collar, a
bow tie, and shot-silk socks.
That's easy, he said quickly. I think that teachers haven't the
social standing they ought to have, and I dress well to uphold the
dignity of the profession. Don't you believe me? he demanded as I
Quite! I believe you're quite honest in your belief, but it's wrong
you know. There must be a much more personal reason than that.
Rot! he said. Anyway, what is the reason?
I don't know, Mac; it would take months of research to discover it.
I can't explain your psychology, but I'll tell you something about my
own. These swagger corduroys I'm wearing . . . when I bought them
someone asked me why I chose corduroy, and I at once answered:
'Economy! They'll last ten years!' But that wasn't the real reason, I
bought them because I wanted to have folk stare at me. I've got an
inferiority complex, that is an inner feeling of inferiority. To
compensate for it I go and order a suit that will make people look at
me; in short, that I may be the centre of all eyes, and thus gain a
feeling of outward superiority.
This sent Mac off into a roar of laughter.
You're daft, man! he roared.
After a minute or two he said; But what has all this to do with Tom
A lot, I said seriously. You think you whack Tom because you must
have discipline, but you whack him for a different reason. In your deep
unconscious mind you are an infant. You want to show your
self-assertion just as a kid does. You leather Tom because you've never
outgrown your seven-year-old stage. On market-day, when Tom walks
behind a drove and whacks the stots over the hips with a stick, he is
doing exactly what you did this afternoon. You are both infants.
I have had to give up lecturing Mac, for he always takes me as a
huge joke. He is a good fellow, but he has the wonderful gift of being
blind to anything that might make him reconsider his values. Many
people protect themselves in the same wayby laughing. I have more
than once seen an alcoholic laugh heartily at his wrecked home and lost
What an amount of excellent material Mac and his kind are spoiling.
Tom Murray is a fine lad, full of energy and initiative, but he has to
sit passive at a desk doing work that does not interest him. His
creative faculties have no outlet at all during the day, and naturally
when free from authority at nights he expresses his creative interest
anti-socially. He nearly wrecked the five-twenty the other night; he
tied a huge iron bolt to the rails. Mac called it devilment, but it was
merely curiosity. He had had innumerable pins and farthings flattened
on the line, and he wanted to see what the engine really could do.
There is devilment in some of Tom's activities, for example in his
deliberate destruction of Dauvit's apple tree. Mac and the law would
give him the birch for that, but fortunately Mac and the law don't know
who did it. Tom's destructiveness is only the direct result of Mac's
authority. Suppression always has the same result; it turns a young god
into a young devil. Had I Tom in a free school all his activities would
be social and good.
And yet nearly every teacher believes in Mac's way. They suppress
all the time, and what is worst of all they firmly believe they are
doing the best thing.
Look at Glasgow! cried Mac the other night when I was talking
about the crime of authority. Look at Glasgow! What happened there
during the war? Juvenile crime increased. And why? Because the fathers
were in the army and the boys had no control over them; they broke
loose. That proves that your theories are potty.
I believe that juvenile crime did increase during the war, and I
believe that Mac's explanation of the phenomenon is correct. The
absence of the father gave the boy liberty to be a hooligan. But no boy
wants to be a hooligan unless he has a strong rebellion against
authority. No boy is destructive if he is free to be constructive. I
think that the difference between Mac and myself is this: he believes
in original sin, while I believe in original virtue.
I wonder why it is so difficult to convert the authority people to
the new way of thinking. There must be a deep reason why they want to
cling to their authority. Authority gives much power, and love of power
may be at the root of the desire to retain authority. Yet I fancy that
it is deeper than that. In Mac, for instance, I think that his
quickness in becoming angry at Tom's insubordination is due to the
insubordination within himself. Like most of us Mac has a father
complex, and he fears and hates any authority exercised over himself.
So in squashing Tom's rebellion he is unconsciously squashing the
rebellion in his own soul. Tom's rebellion could not affect me because
I have got rid of my father complex, and his rebellion would touch
nothing in me.
Authority will be long in dying, for too many people cling to it as
a prop. Most people like to have their minds made up for them; it is so
easy to obey orders, and so difficult to live your own life carrying
your own burden and finding your own path. To live your own life . . .
that is the ideal. To discover yourself bravely, to realise yourself
fully, to follow truth even if the crowd stone you. That is living . .
. but it is dangerous living, for that way lies crucifixion. No one in
authority has ever been crucified; every martyr dies because he
challenges authority. . . Christ, Thomas More, Jim Connolly.
* * * * *
Duncan and McTaggart the minister were in to-night, and we got on to
the subject of wit and humour. Having a psycho-analysis complex I
mentioned the theory that we laugh so as to give release to our
repressions. The others shook their heads, and I decided to test my
theory on them. I told them the story of the golfer who was driving off
about a foot in front of the teeing marks. The club secretary happened
to come along.
Here, my man! cried the indignant secretary, you're
What for? demanded the player.
You're driving off in front of the teeing mark.
The player looked at him pityingly.
Away, you bletherin' idiot! he said tensely, I'm playing my
Now, I said to the others, I'm going to tell you one by one what
your golf is like. You, McTaggart, are a scratch man or a plus man. Is
Plus one, he said in surprise. How did you guess?
I didn't guess, I said with great superiority. I found out by
pure science. You didn't laugh at my joke; you merely smiled. That
shows that bad golf doesn't touch any complex inside you. The man who
takes three strokes to make one foot of ground means nothing to you
because, as I say, there's nothing in yourself it touches.
Wonderful! cried the minister.
It's quite simple, I crowed, and now for Mac! You, Mac, are a
rotten player; you take sixteen to a hole.
Only ten, protested Mac hastily. How the devil did you know? I've
never played with you.
Deduction, my boy. You roared at my joke, because it touched your
bad golf complex. In fact you were really laughing at yourself and your
own awful golf.
What about me? put in Duncan.
Now there was something in Duncan's eye that should have warned me
of danger, but I was so proud of my success that I plunged confidently.
Oh, you don't play golf, I said airily.
Wrong! he cried, I do! And I'm worse than Mac too!
I was astounded.
Impossible! I cried. You never laughed at my story at all; that
is it touched nothing whatsoever inside you.
Duncan shook his head.
You're completely wrong this time.
Well, why didn't you laugh? I asked.
I dunno. Possibly it is because I first heard that joke in my
* * * * *
Mac's infant mistress was off duty to-day owing to an attack of
influenza, and he gladly accepted my offer to take her place.
Half-an-hour after my entry into the room Mac came in to see how I
was getting on. Most of the infants were swarming over me, and Mac
frowned. At his frown they all crept back silently to their seats.
You seem to have the fatal gift of demoralising children, he
It hadn't struck me before, but it is a fact; I do demoralise
children. Not long ago I entered a Montessori school, and I spoke not
one word. In five minutes the insets and long stairs were lying
neglected in the middle of the floor, and the kiddies were scrambling
over me. I felt very guilty for I feared that if Montessori herself
were to walk in she would be indignant. I cannot explain why I affect
kiddies in this way. It may be that intuitively they know that I do not
inspire fear or respect; it may be that they unconsciously recognise
the baby in me. Anyway, as Mac says, it is a fatal gift.
I think Miss Martin the infant mistress is a good teacher. Her
infants do not fear her, and I am sure they love her. The only person
they fear is Mac, poor dear old Mac, the most lovable soul in the
world. He tries hard to show his love for the infants but somehow they
know that behind his smile is the grim head-master who leathers Tom
Murray. I sent wee Mary Smith into Mac's room to fetch some chalk
to-day, and she wept and feared to enter. Occasionally, I believe, Mac
will enter the room, seize a wee mite who is speaking instead of
working, and give him or her a scud with the tawse. I wonder how a good
soul like Mac can do it.
I have an unlovely story of a board school. An infant mistress lay
dying, and in her delirium she cried in terror lest her head-master
should come in again and strap her dear, wee infants. It is a true
story, and it is the most damning indictment of board school education
anyone could wish for. She was a good woman who loved children, and if
fear of her head-master brought terror to her on her deathbed, what
terrors are such men inspiring in poor wee infants? The men who beat
children are exactly in the position of the men who stoned Jesus
Christ; they know not what they do, nor do they know why they do it.
* * * * *
There was a stranger in Dauvit's shop when I entered to-day, a
seedy-looking whiskered man with a threadbare coat and extremely dirty
linen. Shabby genteel would be the Scots description of him.
Dauvit asked me a casual question about London, and the stranger
became interested at once.
Ah, he said, you're from London, are ye? Man, yon's a great
place, a wonderful place!
I nodded assent.
Man, he continued, yon's the place for sichts! Could anything
beat the procession at the Lord Mayor's show, eh?
I meekly admitted that I had never seen the Lord Mayor's show, and
he raised his eyebrows in surprise.
But I'll tell ye what's just as good, mister, and that's the King
and Queen opening Parliament. Man, yon's a sicht, isn't it?
IerI haven't had the opportunity of seeing it, I said.
He looked more surprised than ever.
But, man, I'll tell ye what's just as good, and that's a big London
fire. Man, to see the way the firemen go up the ladders like monkeys.
Yon's a sicht for sair een!
I never had the luck to see a fire in London, I said hesitatingly.
When were you last in town?
He did not seem to hear my question; he was evidently thinking of
other London thrills.
Man, he said ruminatingly, often while I sit in the Tarbonny Kirk
I just sit and think aboot Westminster Abbey. Man, yon's a kirk! I
suppose you'll be there ilka Sunday?
I found it difficult to tell him that I had never been in the Abbey,
but I managed to get the words out, and then I avoided his reproachful
eye. He knocked out his pipe, and I took the action to be a symbolic
one meaning: You are an empty sort of person. He studied me critically
for a time, then he brightened.
Aye, he said cheerfully, London's a graund place, but, for sichts
give me New York.
I felt more humble than ever, for I had never travelled. He seemed
to guess that by the look of me, for he never asked my opinion of New
Man, he said warmly, yon's a place! Yon skyscrapers! Phew! and
he whistled his wonder and admiration. And the streets! Man, ye canna
walk on the sidewalk at the busy times. A wonderfu' place, New York,
but, as for me, give me the West, California and Frisco.
You have travelled much, sir, I said reverently. The sir seemed
to come naturally; my inferiority complex was touched on the raw.
Again he ignored me.
To see yon cowboys! Man, yon's what I call riding! And the
He sighed; it was obvious that he was living over again his life in
the western wilds. A wistful look crept into his eyes, and I began to
construct his sad story. He loved a maid, but the bruiser of the camp
loved her also . . . hence the broken-down clothes, the dirty collar.
But anon he cheered up again.
Yes, he said, I love the West, but for colour and climate give me
I was so confused now that I had to blow out my pipe vigorously. I
glanced at Dauvit, but he was sharpening his knife on the emery hone,
and did not appear to be interested. I felt a vague anger against
Dauvit; why wasn't he helping me in my trial?
Japan, continued the irrepressible stranger, is one of the finest
countries in the world, but, for climate give me Siberia.
I hastily thought to myself that if I were Lenin I . . . but I did
not follow out my daydream, for the stranger brought me back to earth
by inquiring what was my honest and unbiassed opinion of the Peruvians.
I very cleverly pretended that I had swallowed some nicotine, and,
after a polite pause for my answer, he went off to the subject of pearl
fishing at Thursday Island. Then he looked at Dauvit's clock.
Jerusalem! he gasped, the pub shuts at twa o'clock! and he
rushed out of the shop. I heaved a great sigh of relief, and then I
heaved a greater sigh of relief.
I seized Dauvit by the arm.
Dauvit, I gasped, whowho is your cosmopolitan friend?
My what kind o' a friend?
Your world-travelled friend, Dauvit. Tell me who he is.
Dauvit laughed softly.
That, he said, was Joe Mill. He bides wi' his old mother in that
cottage at the foot o' the brae. To the best o' my knowledge he hasna
been further than Perth in his life.
But! I cried in amazement, he has been everywhere!
He hasna, said Dauvit shortly, but he works the cinema lantern at
the Farfar picter hoose.
* * * * *
I had a long talk to-night with Macdonald about self-government in
schools, and I told him of my plans for running a self-governing school
in Highgate. At the end of the discussion I had the biggest surprise of
my life. Mac smoked for a long time in silence, then he turned to me
Look here, old chap, I'll have a shot at introducing
self-government to-morrow, he said with enthusiasm.
I grasped his hand.
Excellent! Mac, you're a wonder! You're a brave man!
I don't feel brave, he said nervously. It's going to be a very
It is, I said grimly, and the most difficult part is for you to
keep out of it.
What do you mean?
I mean that you have been an authority for so long that you'll find
yourself issuing orders unthinkingly. More than that the kiddies are so
much dependent on you that they will wait to see how you vote.
What's the best way to begin it? he asked.
Simply walk in to-morrow and say: 'Look here, you are going to
govern yourselves. I have no power; I won't order anyone to do
anything; I won't punish anyone. Now, do what you like'.
Mac looked frightened.
But, good Lord, man, they'llthey'll wreck the school!
Funk! I laughed.
His eyes were full of excitement.
It'll be an awful job to keep my hands off them, he said half to
Funk! I said again.
It's all very well, but . . . well, I'm rather strict you know.
So much the better! All the better a row!
You Bolshevist! he laughed. He was like a boy divided between two
desiresto steal the apples and to escape the policeman. I half feared
that his courage would desert him.
Here, he said, why not come over to school?
The temptation was great and I wavered.
No, I said at last, I can't do it. My presence would distract the
children, and . . . they won't smash all the windows in front of a
stranger. You want my support, you dodger!
But I would give ten pounds to be in Mac's schoolroom to-morrow
* * * * *
I went out this morning and sat on the school wall and smoked my
pipe. I strained my ears for the first murmur of the approaching storm.
Not a sound came from the schoolroom.
Mac has funked it after all, I groaned, and went in to help Mrs.
Macdonald to pare the potatoes.
When Mac came over at dinner-time his face wore a thoughtful look.
You coward! I cried.
Coward! he laughed. Why, man, the scheme is in full swing!
Then I asked him to tell me all about it.
Your knowledge of children is all bunkum, he began. You said
there would be a row when I announced that I gave up authority.
And wasn't there?
Not a vestige of one. The kids stared at me with open mouth, and .
Oh, they simply got out their books and began their reading lesson.
As quiet as mice too.
And do you mean to tell me that it made no difference? I asked.
None whatever. I tell you they just went on with the timetable as
But didn't they talk to each other more?
There wasn't a whisper.
I considered for a minute.
What exactly did you say to them when you announced that they were
to have self-government?
I just said what you told me last night.
Did you add anything?
He avoided my eye.
Of course I said that I trusted them to carry on the school as
usual, he admitted reluctantly.
Thereby showing them that you didn't trust them at all, I
explained. Mac, you must have been a thundering strict disciplinarian.
The kiddies are dead afraid of you. I fear that you'll never manage to
have self-government. This fear of you must be broken, and you've got
to break it.
But how? he asked helplessly.
By coming down off your pedestal. You must become one of the gang.
One dramatic exhibition will do it.
What do you mean?
Smash a window; chuck books about the room . . . anything to break
this idea that you are an exalted being whose eye is like God's always
ready to see evil.
Mac looked annoyed and injured.
What good will my fooling do? he asked.
But, I protested seriously, it's essential. You simply must break
your authority if you are to have a free school. There can be no real
self-expression if you are always standing by to stamp out slacking and
But, he protested, didn't I tell 'em I was giving up my
Yes, but they don't believe you. You've got the eye of an
He was by this time getting rather indignant.
I can't go the length you do, he said sourly. I'm not an
In that case I'd advise you to chuck the experiment, Mac, I said
with an indifferent shrug of my shoulders. The shrug nettled Mac; he is
one of the bull-dog breed, and I saw his lips set.
I've begun it, and I won't chuck it, he said firmly. And I hope
to prove that your methods are all wrong. Let it come gradually; that's
what I say.
When he came over at four o'clock his face glowed with excitement.
He slapped me on the back with his heavy hand.
Man, he cried, it's going fine! We had our first trial this
Go on, I said.
Oh, it was a first class start. Jim Inglis threw his pencil at
I hope he didn't miss, I said flippantly.
Mac ignored my levity.
And then I didn't know what to do. My first impulse was to haul him
out and strap him, but of course I didn't. I just said to the class:
'You saw what Jim Inglis did? You have to decide what is to be done
And they answered: 'Please, sir, give him the tawse'? I said.
That's exactly what they did say, but I told them that they were
governing themselves, and suggested that they elect a chairman and
decide by vote.
Bad tactics, I commented. You should have left them to settle
their own procedure. What happened then?
They appointed Mary Wilson as chairman, and then John Smith got up
and proposed that the prisoner get six scuds with the tawse from me.
The motion was carried unanimously.
You refused of course? I said.
Man, I couldn't refuse. I was alarmed, because six scuds are far
too many for a little offence like chucking a pencil. I made them as
light as possible.
What would you have done? he asked.
Taken the prisoner's side, I said promptly, I should have chucked
every pencil in the room at the judge and jury. Then I should have
pointed out that I refused to do the dirty work of the community.
But where does the self-government come in there? he protested.
Chucking things at the jury is anarchy, pure anarchy.
I know, I said simply. But then anarchy is necessary in your
school. You don't mean to say that the children thought that throwing a
pencil was a great crime? What happened was that they projected
themselves on to you; unconsciously they said: 'The Mester thinks this
a crime and he would punish it severely.' They were trying to please
you. I say that anarchy is necessary if these children are to get free
from their dependence on you and their fear of you. So long as you
refuse to alter your old values you can't expect the kids to alter
their old values. Unless you become as a little child you cannot enter
the kingdom oferself-government.
I know that Mac's experiment will fail, and for this reason; he
wants his children to run the school themselves, but to run it
according to his ideas of government.
* * * * *
I think of an incident that happened when I was teaching in a school
in London. I had a drawing lesson, and the children made so much noise
that the teacher in the adjoining room came in and protested that she
couldn't make her voice heard. The noise in my room seemed to increase
. . . and the lady came in again. The noise increased.
Next day I went to my class.
You made such a noise yesterday that the teacher next door had to
stop teaching. She rightly complained. Now I want to ask you what you
are going to do about it.
You should keep us in order, said Findlay, a boy of eleven.
I refuse, I said; it isn't my job.
This raised a lively discussion; the majority seemed to agree with
Anyway, I said doggedly, I refuse to be your policeman, and I
There was much talking, and then Joy got up.
I think we ought to settle it by a meeting, and I propose Diana as
The idea was hailed with delight, and Diana was elected chairman and
she took my desk seat and I went and sat down in her place.
Joy jumped up again.
I propose that Mr. Neill be put out of the room.
The motion was carried.
Righto! I said, as I moved to the door, I'll go up to the
staff-room and have a smoke. Send for me if you want me.
I smoked a cigarette in the staff-room, and as I threw the stump
into the grate Nancy came in.
You can come down now.
I went down.
Well, I said cheerily, have you decided anything?
Yes, said the chairman, we have decided that
Joy was on her feet at once.
I propose that we don't tell Mr. Neill what we have decided. We can
ask him at the end of the week if he notices any difference in our
Others objected, and the matter was put to the vote. The voting was
a draw, and Diana gave the casting vote in favour of my being told.
Then she said that the meeting had agreed that if anyone made a row in
class, he or she was to be sent to Coventry for a whole day.
What will happen if I speak to the one that has been sent to
Coventry? asked Wolodia.
We'll send you to Coventry too, said Diana, and the meeting
No one was ever sent to Coventry, but I had no further complaints
against the class. One interesting feature in the affair was this:
Violet, a lively girl full of fun, one day got up and, as a joke,
proposed that Mr. Neill be sent to Coventry. The others, usually
willing to laugh with Violet, protested.
That's just silly, Violet, they said. If you propose silly things
like that we'll send you to Coventry.
Then someone got up and proposed that Violet be sent to Coventry for
being silly, and Diana at once took the chair. I got up and moved the
negative, pointing out that I made no charge against her, and she was
acquitted by a majority of one. I mention this to show that children of
eleven and twelve can take their responsibilities seriously.
When I told the story to Macdonald he said: But why didn't you join
in their noise?
For two reasons, Mac, I said. Firstly these children were not
under the suppression of government schools; secondly it wasn't my
The servant girl at the Manse has had an illegitimate child, and Meg
Caddam, the out-worker at East Mains is cutting her dead. Thus the
gossip of Mrs. Macdonald. Meg Caddam is the unmarried mother of three.
I have noticed again and again that the most severe critic of the
unmarried mother is the unmarried mother, and I have many a time
wondered at the fact. Now I know the explanation; it is the familiar
Projection of a Reproach. Meg feels guilty because of her three
children, but her guilt is repressed, driven down into the unconscious.
She dare not allow her conscious mind to face the truth, for then
the truth would lower her self-respect; it would be unpleasant, out of
harmony with her ego-ideal. But it is easy for her to project this
inner reproach on to someone else, hence her blaming of the Manse
lassie. Meg Caddam is really condemning herself, but she does not know
I used to despise the Meg Caddams as hypocrites, but, poor souls,
they are not hypocrites. Their condemnation of their fallen sisters is
genuine. It is wonderful how we all manage to divide our minds into
compartments. Sandy Marshall of Brigs Farm is a most religious man, yet
the other day he was fined for watering his milk. It is unjust to say
that his religion is hypocritical. What happens is that his religion is
shut up in one compartment of his mind, and his dishonesty is shut up
in another compartment . . . and there is no direct communication
between the compartments.
The mind is like one of the older railway carriages; education's
task is to convert the old carriage into a new corridor carriage with
communication between the compartments. Meg Caddam's own transgression
against current morality is locked up in one compartment; her
condemnation of the Manse girl is in another compartment. There is an
unconscious communication, but there is no conscious communication. I
don't know what Meg would say if a cruel friend pointed out to her that
she also was a fallen woman.
I think that the gossip of this village mostly consists of projected
reproaches. Liz Ramsay, an old maid and the super-gossip of Tarbonny,
came into the schoolhouse this morning.
Do ye ken this, she said to Mrs. Macdonald, it's my opeenion that
Mrs. Broon died o' neglect. I went to the door the day afore she died
to speer hoo she was, and her daughter cam to the door, and do ye ken
this? That lassie was smiling . . . smilin' . . . and her auld
mother upstairs at death's door. Eh, Mrs. Macdonald, she's a heartless
woman that Mary Broon. She killed her mother by neglect, that's what
After she had gone I said to Mrs. Macdonald: Who nursed Liz's
mother when she died last June?
Nobody, said Mrs. Macdonald grimly. Liz had too much gossip to
retail in the village, and I'm told that Liz was seldom in the house.
I think I am guessing fairly rightly when I say that Liz feels
guilty of neglecting her own mother, and like Meg Caddam she projects
the reproach on to someone else.
* * * * * *
Last Friday night I gave a lecture to the literary Society in Tarby,
our nearest town. I chose the subject of forgetting, and I told the
audience of Freud and his great work in connection with the
unconscious. To-day's Tarby Herald in reporting the lecture
prints phonetically the spelling Froid, but the Tarby Observer
goes one better when it says: Mr. Neill is an exponent of the new
science of Cycloanalysis.
Which reminds me of a painful episode that took place when I was
eighteen. I was much enamoured of a young university student, and I
always strove to gain her favour by being interested in the things she
liked. One day she informed me that she intended to take the Psychology
class at St. Andrews the following session. I had never heard the word
before, and I made a bold guess that it had something to do with
cycles. In consequence we talked at cross purposes for a while.
I'd love a subject like that, I said warmly.
Most of it will be experimental psychology, she said.
My enthusiasm increased. I thought of the many experiments I had
tried with my old cushion-tyred cycle.
Excellent! I cried. A sort of training in inventing. Cranks, eh?
At that time my one ambition in life was to invent a folding crank that
would give double power on hills.
The lady looked at me sharply.
Why cranks? she demanded. I don't see it. Psychology has nothing
to do with crystal-gazing you know.
I was gravelled.
But what's the idea? I asked. Improvement of design?
This made her think hard.
H'm, yes, I think I know what you mean, she said slowly. But
remember that before you can improve the psyche you must know the
I hastened to agree.
Certainly, but all the same there is much room for improvement. You
don't want to come off at every hill, do you?
This seemed to make her more thoughtful still.
No, she said, but don't you think that the mind makes the hill?
This staggered me.
Eh? I gasped. Mean to say that I broke my chain on Logie Brae
I'm afraid it is too difficult for me, she said apologetically. I
get lost in metaphors.
Then I asked her something about ball bearings, and she threw me a
grateful smile . . . for changing the subjectas she thought.
The most amusing joke is the joke about the innocent or ignorant.
Everyone is tickled at the Hamlet joke I referred to in my Log.
The school inspector was dining with the local squire.
Funny thing happened in the village school to-day, he said. I was
a little bit ratty, and I fired a question at a sleepy-looking boy at
the bottom of the class.
Here, boy, who wrote Hamlet?
The little chap got very flustered.
Pplease, sir, it wasna me!
The squire laughed boisterously.
And I suppose the little devil had done if after all! he cried.
We laugh at that story because we have all made mistakes owing to
ignorance, and blushed for them a hundred times later. When we laugh at
the squire, we are really laughing at ourselves; we are getting rid of
our pent-up self-shame. That's why a good laugh is a medicine; it
allows us to get rid of psychic poison, just as a good sweat rids us of
somatic poison. Charlie Chaplin has possibly cured more people than all
the psycho-analysts in the world.
* * * * *
Public speaking is a most difficult thing. It is difficult enough
when you know your subject, and it is almost impossible if you don't.
At a dinner someone asks you to get up and propose the health of the
ladies. I tried proposing that toast once; luckily most of the diners
were under the table by that time. What can one say about the ladies?
When you have a definite subject to talk about, and when you know
everything about it, even then public speaking is difficult. You stand
up before a sea of faces. You see no one; you dare not catch anyone's
eye. The best plan is to fix your eye on the blurred face of the man at
the back of the hall. You feel that the audience is vaguely hostile.
At one time I used to go straight into my subject . . . Ladies and
gentlemen, the subject of evolution has occupied the minds of Then
the audience began to rustle, and the women turned to look at the hats
Nowadays I am more wary. I stand up and gaze over the sea of faces
for a full minute. There is absolute silence. I put my hands into my
trouser pockets and gaze at the ceiling, as if I were considering
whether I should go on or give it up and go home. Even the boys at the
back of the hall begin to look towards the platform.
Then I look down and find that my tie is hanging out of my
waistcoat, and I adjust it. A girl of ten giggles.
What can you expect for fivepence half-penny? I ask, and the
Why doesn't someone invent a long tie that won't come out at the
ends? I ask wearily, and there is a laugh. I go on from ties to
collars, and there is another laugh. After that I can speak on
education for two hours, and everyone in the hall will listen with
The first thing in public speaking is to get on good terms with your
audience, and I claim that the best way to do this is to show them the
human side of yourself. Some of your hearers are agin you; they have
come out to criticise you. You disarm them at once by treating yourself
as a joke. Of course you must suit your tactics to your audience. The
tie remark will put me on good terms with a rural audience, but it
would fail in a lecture to teachers in the Albert Hall.
An important thing to remember is that crowd humour is quite
different from individual humour. A crowd will roar with delight if the
lecturer accidentally knocks over the drinking glass on the table, but
no individual ever laughs when a similar accident happens in a private
room. Read the reports of speeches in the House of Commons. You will
read that Lloyd George, in a speech, says: And now let us turn to
Ireland (loud laughter). But in cold print it isn't a very good joke.
Quite a good way of commencing a lecture is to tell a short story .
. . about the chairman if possible. But you must be careful. Keep off
the topic of the chairman's marital affairs; he may have lodged a
divorce petition the week before.
On second thoughts I think it better not to mention the chairman at
all. Last winter the local mayor was presiding at a lecture I gave in
an English town. After I had delivered the lecture, he got up.
I came to this meeting feeling dead tired, he said, but after Mr.
Neill's lecture I feel as fresh as a daisy.
I rose in alarm.
Ladies and gentlemen, I said hastily, the mayor has been sitting
behind me. Do tell me: has he been asleep?
In the ante-room afterwards he assured me solemnly that he hadn't
On Friday night I began thus: Mr. Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, I
am going to talk about Forgetting. Then I put my hand in my inside
coat pocket; then I tried another pocket, and got very excited while I
rummaged every pocket I had.
I must apologise, I said, but I have forgotten my notes.
The audience laughed, and we became the best of friends.
* * * * *
Forgetting is very often intentional. We forget what we do not want
to remember. Brown writes to me saying that he is taking the wife and
kids to the seaside, and would I please pay him the fiver I owe him? I
at once sit down and write: My dear Brown, I enclose a cheque for five
quid. Many thanks for the loan. Hope you all have a good time at the
Three days later Brown replies.
Thanks for your letter, old man, but you forgot to enclose the
Why did I forget the cheque? Because I did not want to pay up.
Consciously I did want to pay, for I wrote out the cheque all right,
but my unconscious did not want to pay, and it was my unconscious that
made me slip the cheque under the blotter.
Last summer I was invited to spend the week-end with some people at
Stanmore. I did not want to go; a previous week-end with them had been
most boring. However, I reluctantly consented to go out on the Saturday
morning. When Saturday morning came I was not very much surprised to
find that I had forgotten to put out my boots to be cleaned the night
It looks as if I weren't keen on this trip, I said to myself.
I went down to Baker Street and got into the train. We stopped at
many stations, and after an hour's journey I began to wonder what was
wrong. I asked another man in the compartment when we were due at
Stanmore, and he looked surprised.
Why, he said, you're on the wrong line; you ought to have changed
I got out at the next station and found that I had an hour to wait
for the return train to Harrow. As I sat on the platform I took from my
pocket my host's letter.
Remember, it ran, to change at Harrow, and the words were
I arrived four hours late . . . and spent a pleasant week-end.
One night I was dining out in London, and I told my host the new
theory of forgetting.
That's all bunkum, he said. Why, there is a flower growing at the
front door there, and I can never remember the name of it. I am fond of
flowers and never have any difficulty in remembering their names as a
What flower is it? I asked.
He tried to recall it, and had to give it up.
It's the joke of the family, said his wife. He can never remember
the name Begonia.
Begonia! cried my host, that's the name! But surely you don't
mean to tell me that I want to forget it? Why should I?
It may be associated with something unpleasant in your life, I
Nonsense! he laughed. The name conveys nothing to me.
We began to talk about other things. Ten minutes later my host
I've got it!
What? I asked.
That Begonia business. When I began business as a chartered
accountant over twenty years ago, the first books I had to audit were
the books of a company calling itself The Begonia Furnishing Company. I
glanced through the books and soon concluded that they were swindlers.
I worried over that case for a week; you see it was my first case, and
I felt a little superstitious about it. However, at the end of a week I
sent the books back saying that I couldn't see my way to undertake the
auditing. I've never given them a thought since.
I explained the mechanisms to him. The whole idea of this Begonia
Company was so painful to him that he repressed it, that is, drove it
down into the unconscious. Twenty years later he was unconsciously
afraid to recall the name of the flower, because the name might have
brought back the painful memories of the questionable books.
On Friday night during question time one man got up.
Why is it, then, he asked, that I cannot forget the painful time
when my wife died?
I explained that a big thing like that cannot be forgotten, but
pointed out that in a case like that the tendency is to forget little
things in connection with the big pain. I told him of a case I had
myself known. A lady of my acquaintance lived for a few years in
Glasgow; then she moved to Edinburgh, where she lived for almost thirty
years. Now she lives in London. When she talks of her old home in
Edinburgh she always says: When we were in Glasgow. Invariably she
makes this mistake. The reason is almost certainly this: just before
she left Edinburgh she lost the one she loved most in life. She says:
When we were in Glasgow because the word Edinburgh would at once
bring back the painful memories connected with her loved one's death.
When I was teaching in Hampstead one of my pupils, a boy of sixteen,
came to me one day.
That's all rot, what you say about wanting to forget things, he
said. I went and left my walking-stick in a bus yesterday.
Were you tired of it? I asked.
Tired of it? he said indignantly. Why, it was a beauty, a
silver-topped cane, got it from mother on my birthday. That proves your
theory is all wrong.
Tell me about yesterday, I said.
Well, I was going to a match at lord's, and it looked rather dull,
so mother told me I'd better take a gamp. I said it wasn't going to
rain, and took my cane, but I had just got on the top of a bus when
down came the rain in bucketfuls and I tell you I was wet to the skin.
So you did mean to leave your cane behind? I asked, with a smile.
But I tell you I didn't!
You did, all the same. You kicked yourself because you hadn't taken
your mother's advice and brought a gamp. You deliberately left your
cane behind you because it had proved useless.
I must add that I failed to convince him.
Connected with forgetting are what Freud calls symptomatic acts. I
leave my stick or gloves behind when I am calling at a house: I
conclude that I want to go back there. I go to dinner at the Thomsons',
and at their front door I absent-mindedly take out my latch-key. This
may mean that I feel at home there; on the other hand, it may mean that
I wish I were at home. It is dangerous to dogmatise about the
I was sitting one night with Wilson, an old college friend of mine.
We talked of old times, and I remarked that he had been very lucky in
his lodgings during his college course.
Yes, he said, I was in the same digs all the five years. She was
a ripping landlady was Mrs.Mrs.Good Lord! I've forgotten her name!
He tried to recall the name, but had to give it up. Two hours later,
as he rose to go, he exclaimed: I remember the name now! Mrs. Watson!
What are your associations to the name Watson? I asked.
Associations? What do you mean?
What's the first thing that comes into your head in connection with
the name? I asked.
He made an effort to concentrate his mind, then suddenly he laughed
Good Lord! he cried, that's my wife's name!
I felt that I could not very well ask him anything further, but I
suspected that Wilson and his wife were not getting on well together.
* * * * *
Macdonald's self-government scheme has fizzled out. Yesterday his
scholars besought him to return to the old way of authority.
They were fed up with looking after themselves, explained Mac to
me. They were always trying each other for misdemeanours, and they got
sick of it.
I tried to explain to Mac why his attempt had failed.
Self-government always fails unless it is complete self-government. Mac
was the director and guide; it was he who decided the time-table; it
was he who rang the bell and decided the length of the intervals. The
children had nothing to do but to keep themselves in order, hence they
came to spy on each other. All their energies were directed to penal
measures. Their meeting degenerated into a police court. That was
inevitable; Mac, by laying down all the laws, prevented their using
their creative energy on things and ideas. Naturally they put all the
energy they had into the only thing open to themthe trial of
offenders. In short, they were employing energy in destruction when
they ought to have been employing it in construction. Mac seems
indifferent now. The thing is unworkable, he says.
* * * * *
Duncan came over to-night. I decided to let him do most of the
talking, and he did it well. He has been doing a lot of Regional
Geography, and I learned much from his conversation. As the evening
wore on he became very affable, and he treated me with the greatest
kindness. When Mac was seeing him out Duncan remarked to him: That
chap Neill isn't such a bad fellow after all. Now that I have shown
Duncan that I am his inferior in Geography he will listen to me with
After supper I went over to see Dauvit. His shop was crowded.
Conversation was going slowly, and Dauvit seemed to welcome my
Man, Dominie, he said, I am very glad to see ye, cos the smith
here has been tellin' his usual lees aboot the ten pund troot that he
nearly landed in the Kernet.
I doot ye dreamt it, smith, said the foreman from Hillend. I ken
for mysell that the biggest troot I ever catched were in my dreams.
Dreams is just a curran blethers, said the smith in scorn.
Dauvit looked at him thoughtfully.
That's a very ignorant remark, smith, he said gravely. There's
naebody kens what a dream is. Some o' thae spiritualist lads say that
when ye are asleep yer spirit goes to the next plane, and that maks yer
The smith laughed loudly.
Oh, Dauvit! Why, man, I dreamed last nicht that I was sittin' we a
great muckle pint o' beer in my hand. Do ye mean to tell me that there
is beer in heaven?
There was a laugh at Dauvit's expense, but the laugh turned against
the smith when Dauvit remarked dryly: I didna mention heaven; I said
the next plane, and onybody that kens you, smith, kens that the plane
you're gaein' to is the doon plane.
Naturally, a muckle pint o' beer will be the exact thing ye need
doon there, he added.
It's my opeenion, said old John Peters, that dreams is just like
a motor car withoot the driver. Or like a schule withoot the mester;
the bairns just run aboot whaur they like, nae control as ye micht say.
Weel, that's jest what happens in dreams; the mester is sleepin' and
the bairns do all sorts o' mad things.
Aye, man, John, said Dauvit, who seemed to be struck with the
idea, there's maybe something in that. Just as bairns when they get
free do a' the things they're no meant to do, we do the same things in
oor dreams. Goad, but I've done some awfu' things in my dreams!
Here Jake Tosh the roadman began to cough, and Jake's cough always
means that he is about to say something.
You're just a lot o' haverin' craturs, he said with conviction.
If ye had ony sense ye wud ken that the dream is just cheese and tripe
Dauvit's eyes twinkled.
And does the cheese wander frae yer stammick up to yer heid, Jake?
I wudna go so far as that, said Jake seriously, but what I say is
that a' the different parts o' the body work thegether. If the stammick
has to work a' nicht to digest the cheese, the heid has to keep workin'
at the same rate, and that's why ye dream.
Aye, man, Jake, said Dauvit, it's a bonny theory, but wud ye jest
tell me exactly what work yer toes and fingers and hair are doin' a'
nicht to keep upsides wi' yer stammick?
Jake dismissed the question with an airy wave of his hand.
Onybody kens that, he said; they grow. Yer hair and yer nails
grow at nichts, and that's why ye need a shave in the mornin'!
What if you don't dream at all, Jake? I asked.
Ye're needin' some grub, said Jake shortly.
On thinking it over I feel that Jake's theory throws some light on
Jung's theory of the libido.
This morning I had a letter from a friend in London asking when I am
going to set up my Crank School in London. I began to think about the
word Crank. What is a Crank? Usually the name is applied to people who
wear long hair, eat vegetarian diet, wear sandals . . . or something in
that line. A Crank therefore is someone who differs from the crowd, and
I am led to conclude that the Crank not only differs from the crowd but
is usually ahead of the crowd.
According to Sir Martin Conway the crowd has no head; it can only
feel. Hence it comes that the main feature of a crowd is its emotion.
When we study the street crowd, the mob, this fact is evident; but can
we say the same of other crowds . . . the Public School crowd, the
Church, the Miners, the Doctors? I think so. The anger that Alec
Waugh's book, The Loom of Youth, aroused in the public schools
was not a thought-out anger; it came from the public school emotion. So
with vivisection; the doctors' rage at the anti-vivisectionists is not
an intellectual rage; it is simply a professional emotion. Just before
I left London I happened one night to be in a company of men who were
arguing about Re-incarnation. I had no special views on the subject,
but I soon found myself supporting the crowd that was sceptical about
Re-incarnation. The reason was that the leader of the
anti-reincarnation crowd happened to be a man called Neill. It is
highly probable that if two rag-and-bone men got into a scrap in a
public house they would support each other simply out of a professional
That the crowd has no head is evident when we read the popular
papers or see the popular films. The most successful papers are those
that touch the passions of the mob. I proved this one week last spring.
Judges were beginning to introduce the cat for criminals, as a means
to stem the crime wave. I sat down and wrote an article on the subject,
pointing out that this was a going back to the days of barbarism when
lunatics were whipped behind the cart's tail. I made a strong plea for
the psychological treatment of the criminal, basing my plea on the fact
that crime is the result of unconscious workings of the mind, and
stating that instead of sending a poor man to penal servitude we ought
to analyse his mind and cure him of his anti-social tendencies.
I thought it a jolly good article, and when a prominent Sunday paper
returned the manuscript to me I was surprised. My surprise left me on
the following Sunday when the same paper blared forth an article by
Horatio Bottomley. His title was: Wantedthe Cat!
My article was more thoughtful, more humane, more scientific. Why,
then, was it suppressed? The answer is simple: it did not fit in with
the passions of the crowd. It becomes clear why our best public
meneditors, cabinet ministers, publicists are not great thinkers.
They must keep in touch with the crowd; they must express the emotions
of the crowd.
The attitude of the crowd to the anti-crowd person, the Crank, is
never one of contemptuous indifference. It is always distinctly
hostile. If I travel by tube from Hampstead to Piccadilly without a hat
the other travellers stare at me with mild hostility. Why? Conway, in
The Crowd in Peace and War, an excellent book, says that this
hostility comes from fear. A crowd is always afraid of another crowd,
because the only force that can destroy a crowd is a rival crowd. Every
individual who differs from the herd is suspect because he is perhaps
the nucleus of a rival crowd. That is why the world always crucifies
The Crank School, then, is a school where anti-crowd people send
their children. It is the school par excellence of the
Intelligentsia. The tendency of every Crank School is to exaggerate the
difference between the crank and the crowd; hence its adoption of an
ideal and its concomitant crazes. I cannot for the life of me see why
ideals are associated with vegetarianism, long hair, Grecian dress, and
sandals, just as I cannot see why art should attach itself to huge
bow-ties, long hair, and foot-long cigarette holders.
The Crank School holds up an ideal. It plasters its walls with busts
of Walt Whitman and Blake; it hangs bad reproductions of Botticelli
round the walls; it sings songs to Freedom; it rhapsodises about
Beethoven and Bach. The children of the Crank Schools are, I rejoice to
say, not cranks. They leave the boredom of Bach and seek the jazz
record on the gramophone; they ignore the pictures of Whitman and Blake
and study The Picture Show or Funny Bits. Many of them
think more highly of Charlie Chaplin than of William Shakespeare.
I say again that I rejoice in this; it serves the Crank School
people jolly well right. I cannot see by what right educators force
what they consider good taste down the children's throats. That is a
return to the old way of authority, of treating the child's mind as a
blank slate. If the Crank Schools are to improve, they must drop their
high moral purpose tone and come down to earth. They must realise that
Charlie Chaplin and John Bull have their place in education just
as Shakespeare and Beethoven have their place. We do not want to turn
out cranks who will form a new superior crowd; we want to turn out men
and women who will readily join the conventional crowd and help it to
reach better ideals.
This question of good taste is a sore one with me. I think it fatal
to impose good taste on any child; the child must form his own taste. I
know that it is possible to cultivate good taste and to become a very
superior cultivated person, but I know that the human, erring, vulgar,
music-hall, Charlie Chaplin part of such a person's make-up is not
annihilated; it is merely repressed into the unconscious.
I have a theory that each of us has a definite amount of human
nature, some of it high, some of it low, or, to phrase it differently,
some of it animal, some of it spiritual. We can repress one part, and
then we become either a saint or a sinner; the better way is to be both
saint and sinner, to look life straight in the face, condemning no one,
judging no one.
* * * * *
Macdonald was re-reading A Dominie Dismissed to-night, and he
looked up and said: Look here, you've got an awful lot of swear-words
in this book!
That, I said, has a cause, Mac. They aren't really swear-words;
the world has grown out of being shocked at a 'damn,' but I am willing
to admit that there are more damns and hells than is usual. They are
symptomatic; they date back to my early days when swearing was a crime
punishable with the strap. They are simply symbols of my freedom. Most
bad language is from a like cause. When you foozle on the first tee
there is no earthy reason why you should say 'Hell' rather than
'Onions'! But if onions had been taboo when you were a child you would
find yourself using the word as a swear. The curse word is the link
that joins your foozle with the nursery; whenever you curse you
regress, that is, you go back to the infantile.
But, said Mac, you don't mean to say that if swearing were
permitted to children that they wouldn't curse when they were grown
I don't think they would, I said. Nor would there be any
unprintable stories if we had a frank sex education. It's a sad fact,
Mac, but nine-tenths of humour is due to early suppression and
Seems to me, said Mac with a laugh, that if everybody were
psycho-analysed, the world would be a pretty dull place.
* * * * *
A few days ago I found a pot of light paint in Mac's workshop, and,
impelled by heaven only knows what unconscious process, I painted my
bicycle blue. This morning, the paint being dry, I rode forth into an
unsympathetic world. Women came to their doors to stare at my machine,
and as they stared they broke into laughter. When I reached the village
of Cordyke the school was coming out, and I was greeted with a howl of
derision. I thought it a good instance of crowd psychology; I was
different from the crowd, and I evoked laughter and derision.
After cycling a few miles, I came to an old man breaking stones at
the bottom of a hill. On my approaching he threw down his hammer and
turned to stare at my cycle. I dismounted.
Almichty me! he said with surprise. That's a michty colour!
It's unusual, I said, as I lit a cigarette.
He fumbled for his clay pipe.
I've seen black anes, and I wance saw a silver-plated ane, but I
never heard tell o' a blue bike afore, he said. Did you pent it?
I acknowledged that it was my very own handiwork.
But, he said in puzzled tones, what was yer idea? and he stared
at it again. A michty colour that!
I threw my bike down on the grass and sat down on the cairn.
Between you and me, I said mysteriously, I had to paint it blue.
He raised his eyebrows.
Government orders, I said carelessly, and began to throw stones at
a tree trunk at the other side of the road.
Government orders? He looked very much surprised.
Yes, I said airily. You see, it's like this. The Coalition
Government isn't very firmly placed these days, and, well, I'm an agent
for it. Of course, you know that it is really a Tory government, and my
bike, as it were, invites the electorate to vote True Blue.
Yea, man! I thocht that you was maybe ane o' thae temperance lads
Ah! I said solemnly, that reminds me; Pussyfoot tried to induce
me to make my tour a sort of joint thing. He suggested that I might
carry on my Tory work, and at the same time take part in the blue
ribbon campaign. Of course I refused.
Of coorse, he nodded.
Officially I am doing Coalition work, I continued
conversationally, but I have motives of my own.
You don't say!
Oh, yes. I am a great admirer of Lord Fisher and the Blue Water
school, sometimes spoken of as the Blue Funk school. Again, I find that
the Great War has left many people in the blues, and by means of
homeopathy I cure 'em; I mean to say that they come to their doors and
laugh at my blue bike. My blue dispels their blues.
The old man did not seem to follow this.
Of course, I went on, the Bluebells of Scotland have something to
do with my selection of the colour.
A verra nice sang, he commented.
An excellent song! Then there is the well-known phrase 'Once in a
Blue Moon,' and innumerable songs about the pale moonlight. Also I once
knew a man who had the blue devils.
I tried to think of other phases of blueness, but my stock was
Of course, I added, I am not forgetting the other blues, the
Oxford blues, Reckitt's Blue, Blue Coupons, andandI'm afraid I
can't think of any other blues just at the moment.
The old man drew the back of his hand over his mouth.
There's the 'Blue Bonnets' up at the tap o' the brae, he suggested
Good idea! I cried, come on! and together we climbed the brae.
* * * * *
A friend of mine in London has written me asking if I will write an
article on Co-education for an educational journal, in which she is
interested. I replied: I can't see where the problem comes in; to a
Scot co-education is not a thing that has to be supported by argument;
he accepts it as he accepts the law of gravitation.
I wonder why English people are so afraid of co-education. To this
day schools like Bedales, King Alfred's, Harpenden, and Arundale are
reckoned as crank schools. The great middle-class of England believes
in segregation. Even Dr. Ernest Jones, the most prominent Freudian
psycho-analyst in England, appears to be afraid of it.
I can only conjecture that Jones agrees with the middle and upper
classes in associating sex with sin. I have never tried to think out my
reasons for believing in co-education; possibly the true reason is that
having grown up in a co-education atmosphere, co-education has become a
part of me just as my Scots accent has. In other words, I may have a
co-education complex. If that is so, my arguments will be mere
rationalisations, but I give them for what they are worth.
We are all born with a strong sex instinct, and this instinct must
find expression in some way. We know that the sex energy can be
sublimated, that is, raised to a higher power. For instance, the
creative sex urge may be directed to the making of a bookcase, or the
making of a century at cricket. But I know of no evidence to prove that
all the instinct can be sublimated. An adolescent may spend his days at
craftwork and games, but he will have erotic dreams at nights. All the
drawing and painting in the world will not prevent his having emotion
when he looks at the face of a pretty girl.
In our segregation schools boys and girls see nothing of each other.
The unsublimated sex instinct finds expression in homosexuality, that
is the emotion that should go to the opposite sex is fixed on a person
of the same sex. I admit that we are all more or less homosexual;
otherwise there could be no friendship between man and man, or woman
and woman. In our boarding schools the sex instinct often takes the
road of auto-eroticism.
In a co-education school the sex impulse is directed to one of the
opposite sex. This attachment is nearly always a romantic ideal
attachment. I have never known a case that went the length of kissing;
among little children at a rural school, yes; at the age of seven I
kissed my first sweetheart; but among adolescents I find that neither
the boy nor the girl has the courage to kiss. Theirs is a sublimated
courtship; they never use the word Love; they talk about liking
That at many co-education schools this romantic attachment is more
or less an underground affair is due to the moral attitude of teachers.
They pride themselves on the beautiful sexless attachments of their
pupils; they give moral lectures on the subject of kissing, and
naturally every pupil in school at once becomes painfully
self-conscious on the subject. The truth is that many co-educationists
do not in their hearts believe in the system; they still see sin in
To be a thorough success the co-education school must include sex
education in its curriculum. The children of the most advanced parents
seldom get it at home, and they come to school with the old attitude to
sex. Sex education does not mean telling children where babies come
from; it should dwell mostly on the psychological side of the question.
The child ought to learn the truth about its sex instinct. Most
important of all, the child who has indulged in auto-eroticism ought to
be helped to get rid of his or her sense of guilt. This sense of guilt
is the primary evil of self-abuse; abolish it, and the child is on the
way to a self-cure.
How many children can go to their teacher and make confession of sex
troubles? Very few. It is the teachers' fault; they set themselves up
as moralists, and a moralist is a positive danger to any child.
Not long ago I was addressing a meeting of teachers in south London.
At question time a woman challenged me.
You have condemned moralists, she said; do you mean to say that
you would never teach a child the difference between right and wrong?
Never, I answered, for I do not know what is right and what is
Then I think you ought not to be a teacher, she said.
I know what is right for me, and wrong for me, I went on to
explain, but I do not know what is right and wrong for you. Nor do I
presume to know what is right or wrong for a child.
I was pleasingly surprised to find that the meeting roared approval
of my reply.
* * * * *
Macdonald had to attend a funeral to-day, and he asked me if I would
take his classes for an hour. I gladly agreed.
Give them a lesson on psychology, he said; it will maybe improve
I went over to the school at two o'clock, and Mac introduced me,
although I had already made friends with most of the children in the
playground and the fields. Mac then went away and I sat down at his
We'll have a talk, I said, just a little friendly talk between
you and me. I want to hear your opinions on some things.
They looked at me with interest.
Why, I said, why do you sit quiet in school?
Andrew Smith put up his hand.
Please, sir, 'cause if we don't the mester gies us the strap.
A very sound reason, too, I commented. And now I want to ask you
why you sometimes want to throw papers or slate-pencils about the
Please, sir, we never do that, said little Jeannie Simpson.
The mester wud punish us, said another girl.
But, I cried, surely one of you has thrown things about the
Tom Murray, the bad boy of the school (according to Mac), put up his
Please, sir, I did it once, but the mester licked me.
Why did you do it, Tom?
Tom thought hard.
I didna like the lesson, he said simply.
I then went on further.
Now I want you all to think this out: was Tom being selfish when he
threw paper, or was he unselfish?
Everyone, Tom included, judged that the paper-throwing was a selfish
I don't agree, I said. Tom was trying to do a service to the
others; you were all bored by a lesson, and Tom stepped in and took
your attention. Unfortunately he also attracted the attention of Mr.
Macdonald, but that has nothing to do with Tom's reason for doing it.
Tom was the most unselfish of the lot of you; he showed more good than
any of you.
The mester didna think that! said Tom, with a grin.
Peter Wallace carefully rolled a paper pellet and threw it at Tom.
Now, I said with a smile, let's think this out; why did Peter
throw that pellet just now?
Because the class is bored, said a little girl, and there was a
good laugh at my expense.
Righto! I laughed, shall we do something else? but the class
shouted No! and I proceeded.
Peter, do tell us why you threw that pellet.
For fun, said Peter, blushing and smiling.
He did it so's the class wud look at him, said Tom Murray, and
Peter hid his diminished head.
A wise answer, Tom, I said; but we are all like that; we all like
to be looked at. Who is the best at arithmetic?
Willie Broon, said the class, and Willie Broon cocked his head
And who is the best fighter?
Tom Murray, answered the boys, and one little chap added: Tom cud
fecht Willie Broon wi' one hand.
Tom tried to look modest.
I went round the class and with one exception every child had at
least one branch of life in which he or she found a sense of
superiority. The exception was Geordie Wylie, a small lad of thirteen
with a white face and a starved appearance. The class were unanimous in
declaring that Geordie had no talent.
He canna even spit far enough, said one boy.
Geordie's embarrassment made me change the subject quickly, but I
made up my mind to have a talk with him later.
Some of the reasons for individual pride were strange. Jake Tosh's
feeling of superiority lay in the circumstance that his father had laid
out a gamekeeper while poaching. Jock Wilson had once found a shilling;
another boy had seen fower swine stickit a' in wan day; another could
smoke a pipe of Bogie Roll without sickening (but I had to promise not
to tell the Mester). The girls seemed to find their superiority mostly
in lessons, although a few were proud of their needle-work.
I then went on to ask them what their highest ambition in life was.
The boys showed less imagination than the girls. Six of them wanted to
be ploughmen like their fathers. To a townsman this might appear to be
a very modest ambition, but to a boy it means power and position; to
drive a pair of horses tandem fashion as they do on the East Coast,
with the tracer prancing on the braes; that is what being a ploughman
means to a village lad. One boy wanted to be an engineer, another a
clerk ('cos he doesna need to tak' aff his jaicket to work!), another
Not a single teacher! I said.
We're no clever enough, said Tom Murray.
I turned to the girls.
Now, let's see what ambition you have, I said hopefully. The
result was good; three teachers, two nurses, one typist, one lady
doctor, one . . . lady. This was Maggie Clark. She just wanted to be
like one of thae ladies in the picters with a motor car.
And husband? I asked.
No, I dinna want a man, but I wud like a lot of bairns, she said,
and there was a snigger from the boys who had got their sex education
from the ploughmen at the Brig of evenings.
Another girl remarked that Maggie's ambition was a selfish one.
But are you not all selfish? I asked.
The class indignantly denied it.
Right, I said, what do you say to a composition exercise?
They obediently got out their composition books, but I told them
that my exercise was an easy one. I tore up a few pages into slips and
Now, I said, suppose I give you five pounds to do what you like
with. Write down what you would do with it, fold the paper, and hand it
in to me.
They eagerly agreed, and at the end of five minutes I had a hatful
of slips. I then drew a line down the centre of the blackboard. On one
side I wrote the word Selfish; on the other Unselfish. The class
groaned and laughed.
Now, I said cheerfully, this will prove whether the class is
unselfish or not, and I unfolded the first slip.
But you'll say we are selfish! said a boy.
I have nothing to do with it, I said; you are to decide by vote.
First person . . . 'I would buy a bicycle': selfish or unselfish?
Selfish! roared the class, and I put a mark in the first column.
Next paper . . . 'Scooter, knife, and the rest on ice-cream.'
Selfish! and I put down another mark.
Next: . . . 'Buy a pair of boots' . . . selfish or unselfish?
The class had to stop and think here.
Selfish! said a few.
Unselfish, said others, 'cos he wud be helpin' his mother.
Then we'll vote on it, I said, and by a majority of two the act
was declared to be unselfish.
We then had a run of knives, tops, candy, cycles, and no vote was
necessary. Then came a puzzler.
I would send every penny to the starving babies of Germany.
Unselfish! cried the class in one voice. I was just about to put
the mark in the unselfish column when a boy said: That's selfish, cos
she'd feel proud of being soso unselfish.
How do you know it is a she? I asked.
'Cause I ken it's Jean Wilson, he answered promptly; she has took
a reid face.
There followed a breezy debate on Jean's act.
It is selfish, said Mary, because when you do a kind action you
feel pleased with yourself, and it was selfish because if it hadna
pleased her she wud never ha' done it.
I asked for a vote and to my astonishment the act was declared
selfish by a majority of three. I suspect that conventional Hun Hatred
had something to do with the voting.
The voting over I totted up the marks.
You have judged yourselves, I said, and according to your own
showing you as a class are 87 per cent. selfish and 13 per cent.
This essay in composition was not original; I got the idea from
Homer Lane, who claimed that it was the best introduction to school
psychology. It is the best way to make children think of their own
behaviour, he said, and my experiment has shown this.
When Mac came back I said to him; You've got a fine lot of bairns,
Had you any difficulty? he asked.
What do you mean?
Oh, I half thought they would try to pull your leg, especially a
boy like Tom Murray. He is a most difficult chap, you know.
Tom's a saint, I said; every child is a saint if you treat him as
an equal. No, I had no difficulty, but I want you to send over Geordie
Wylie to me this afternoon. There is something wrong with that boy; he
has no ambition and he has one of the worst inferiority complexes I
have ever struck. I want to have a quiet talk with him.
Mac promised, and at three o'clock Geordie came over to the
schoolhouse. I took him into the parlour, and he sat nervously on the
edge of a chair.
Tell me about yourself, Geordie, I said, but he did not answer.
Do you keep rabbits?
Twa Himalayas and a half Patty.
It was like drawing blood from a milestone.
What do you do when you go home at nights?
It was a long difficult task to get anything out of him. The only
fact of value I got was that he was a great reader of Wild West
stories. I asked him to come to me again, and he said he would.
To-night I asked Mac about him.
He's a dreamer, said Mac, and he's lazy. I am always strapping
him for inattention. He's not a manly boy, never plays games, always
stands in a corner of the playground.
Does he ever fight? I asked.
He's a great coward, but there's one queer thing about him; when
any boy challenges him to fight he goes white about the gills but he
always fights . . . and gets licked.
Mac, I said, will you do me a favour? Don't whack him again; it
is the worst treatment you can give him. He is a poor wee chap, and he
is badly in need of real help.
All right, said the kindly Mac, I'll try not to touch him, but he
irritates me many a time.
* * * * *
I had Geordie for an hour this morning. He was taciturn at first,
but later he talked freely. He is very much afraid of his father, and
he weeps when his father scolds him. This makes the father angrier and
he calls Geordie a lassie, a greetin' lassie. This jeer wounds the boy
deeply. He is afraid in the dark. He told me that he was puzzled about
one thing; when he goes for his milk at night he is never afraid on the
outward journey, but when he leaves the dairy to come home he is always
in terror. I asked him what he was afraid of and he told me that he
always imagined that there was a man in a cheese-cutter cap waiting to
What is a cheese-cutter? I asked.
It is a bonnet with a big snout, something like a railway porter's.
My father's a porter and he has ane.
Evidently the man he is afraid of is his father. This may account
for his lack of fear when he is walking from his home to the dairy.
Then he is leaving his father; when he starts to return he is going
back to his father and is afraid.
I asked him about his fights with other boys. He always feared a
fight but he went through with it so that the other boys should not
call him a coward. Naturally he always lost the battle; he fought with
a divided mind; while his less imaginative opponent thought only of
hitting and winning, Geordie was picturing the end of the fight.
I asked him if he had a sweetheart, and he blushed deeply. He told
me that he often took fancies for girls, but they would not have him.
Frank Murray always cut him out; Frank was a big hefty lad and the
girls like the beefy manly boy.
He does much day-dreaming, phantasying it is called in analysis. His
dreams always take the form of conquests; in his day-dream he is the
best fighter in the school, the best scholar, the most loved of the
girls. His night dreams are often terrifying, and he has more than once
dreamt that his father and Macdonald were dead. He finds compensation
for his weaknesses in his day-dreams and his reading. He likes tales of
heroes who always kill the villians and carry off the heroines.
It is difficult to know what to do in a case like this. The best way
would be to change the boy's environment, but that is out of the
question. Even then the early fears would go with him; he would
transfer his father-complex to another man.
I tried to explain to Mac the condition of Geordie. The boy is all
bottled up; his energy should be going into play and work, but instead
it is regressing, going back to early ways of adaptation to
But what can I do with him? asked Mac.
Give him your love, I said. He fears you now, and your attitude
to him makes him worse. You must never punish him again, Mac.
That's all very well, said Mac ruefully, but what am I to do?
Suppose Tom Murray and he talk during a lesson, am I to whack Tom and
allow Geordie to get off?
Chuck punishment altogether, I said. You don't need it; it is
always the resort of a weak teacher.
I couldn't do without it, he said.
All right then, I said wearily, but I want you to realise that
your punishments are making Geordie a cripple for life.
* * * * *
I went down and had a talk with Geordie's father. He was not very
pleasant about it; indeed he was almost unpleasant.
There's nothing wrong wi' the laddie, he said aggressively. He's
a wee bit lassie-like and he has no pluck.
Here Geordie entered the kitchen, and his father turned on him
Started to yer lessons yet? he demanded.
Geordie muttered something about having had to feed his rabbits.
I'll rabbit ye! Get yer books oot this minute! and Geordie crept
to a corner and rummaged among some old clothes for his school-bag.
I tried to be as amiable as I could, and avoided controversy. I soon
saw that father and mother were not pulling well together, and I
suspected that the father's harshness to Geordie was often a weapon to
wound the fond mother. I saw that nothing I could say would do any
good, and I took my departure.
Later I went to see Dauvit, and found him alone. I asked him to tell
me about the Wylies.
Tarn Wylie is wan o' the stupidest men in a ten mile radius, said
Dauvit. But he's no stupid whaur money is concerned; they tell me that
he drinks aboot half his week's wages, and his puir wife has to suffer.
That laddie o' theirs, he was born afore the marriage, and they tell me
that Tarn wud never ha' married her if he hadna been fell drunk the
nicht he put in the banns.
This case of poor Geordie shows what a complexity there is in human
affairs. His father has a mental conflict, and he drinks so that he may
get away from reality. The father's drinking and the son's reading of
romances are fundamentally the same thing; each is trying to get away
from a reality he dare not face. No treatment of Geordie could be
satisfactory unless at the same time the parents were being treated.
Carrotty Broon, one of my old scholars, came to Dauvit's shop
to-night, and he talked about his pigeons . . . his doos he calls them.
He keeps a pigeon loft of homers, and he spends a considerable amount
in training them.
Some fowk think, he said, that a homer will flee hame if ye throw
it up five hunder miles awa.
I've read of flights of seven hundred miles, I said.
Carrotty Broon chuckled.
I mind o' a homer I had, he went on. He was a beauty, a reid
chequer. His father had flown frae London to Glasgow, and his mither
was a flier too. Weel, I took him doon to Monibreck on my bike, and let
him off. I never saw him again; five mile, and he cudna find his way
He must ha' been shot, said Dauvit, for thae homers find their
way hame by instinct.
Na, na, Dauvit, said Broon, they flee by sicht. When ye train a
homer ye tak it a mile the first day, syne three miles, syne maybe
seven, ten, twenty, fifty, and so on. Send the purest bred homer fower
mile without trainin' and ye'll never see him again.
Carrotty Broon told us many interesting things about doos and their
ways. We listened to him because he was an authority and we knew little
about the subject.
The only thing I ken aboot doos, said Dauvit with a laugh, is
that when I was a laddie auld Peter Smith and John Wylie keepit homers
and they were aye trying compeetitions in fleein'. John was gaein' to
London for his summer holiday, and so him and Peter made a bargain that
they wud flee twa homers from London. Weel, John he got to London, and
he thocht to himsell that seein' they had a bet o' twa pund on the
race, he wud mak sure o' winnin', and so what does he do but tak a pair
o' shears and cut the wing o' Peter's doo.
When John cam hame after a fortnight's trip he met auld Peter at
'Weel, Peter,' says he, 'wha won the race?'
'You,' said Peter; 'your doo cam hame the next day, but mine only
got hame this mornin'. And it has corns on its feet like tatties.'
* * * * *
To-day was Macdonald's Inspection Day, and at dinner time he brought
over Mr. J. F. Mackenzie, H.M.I.S., a middle-aged man and Mr. L. P.
Smart, assistant I.S., a cheery youth fresh from Oxford. When
inspectors dine with the village dominie they never mention the word
education. These two talked a lot, and all their conversation was about
mountain-climbing in Switzerland. They swopped long prosy yarns about
dull incidents, and I was very much bored. So was Mac, but he pretended
to be interested, but then he was to see them again, and I wasn't . . .
at least I prayed that I might not. After a time I began to feel that I
was being left out of the conversation, and I waited until Mackenzie
paused for a breath.
Switzerland is very beautiful, I remarked, but you should see the
Mackenzie looked at me coldly.
I haven't been to South America, he said.
Same here, said I cheerfully, but I remember seeing pictures of
them in the geography book at school.
Mackenzie looked at me more coldly than before. I don't think he
liked me, and when the younger man chuckled Mackenzie glared at him.
Smart had a sense of humour.
I'm afraid we have been boring you, he said to me with a smile.
I'd rather listen to you two talking education, I confessed.
Mackenzie waved the suggestion away.
I leave education behind when I walk out of the school, he said in
grand manner. Most excellent rhubarb, Mrs. Macdonald. Home grown? And
then we had ten minutes of garden products versus shop greens. I admit
that this inspector had a genius for small talk. We dismissed greens
and I led the conversation to hens and ducks. Mackenzie did not know
much about them, and he confirmed my opinion of his genius for small
talk by saying: Buff Orpingtons! They are named after Orpington in
Kent. I remember staying a night there before I went to Switzerland . .
. and the dirty dog took the conversation back to his mountain
I made a gesture to the younger man and got him out into the garden.
Why does he waste precious time talking about cabbages and dreary
Swiss inns? I asked.
Smart laughed shortly.
You know how rich folk talk at table when the servants are
Well, that's the Chief's attitude to teachers; he never says
anything of any importance whatever.
He is of the old school. He has been inspecting schools for forty
years. In the olden days an inspector was a sort of Almighty; teachers
quaked before him because with a stroke of his pen he could reduce
their money grant. To this day the old man treats teachers as a king
treats his subjectswith kindness but with distance.
Has he any views on education? I asked.
Smart shook his head.
None, but he has heaps of views on instruction and discipline. By
the way, he thinks that Macdonald's discipline is very good.
I think it rotten, he said ruefully, but what can I do? A junior
inspector is a nobody; if he has any views of his own he has to pocket
them. I would chuck out all this discipline rot and go in for the
Montessori stunt. Take my tip and never accept an inspectorship.
I won't, I said hastily.
I liked Smart, and I wish we had more of his stamp in the
When we returned to the dining-room Mackenzie looked at me with
I didn't know that you were the Dominie's Log man till Mr.
Macdonald told me two minutes ago, he said. I am delighted to meet
you. I enjoyed your book very much indeed. Very amusing.
He was quite affable now. Writing a book gives a man a certain
standing. I fancy it is the dignity of print that does it, and we all
have the print superstition. I find myself accepting statements in
books, whereas if someone said the same things to me over a
dinner-table I should refute them with scorn. If it is in John Bull
it is so! Mr. Bottomley is a sound psychologist.
When they were departing I said to Smart: Yes, he's very amiable
and all that, but I am jolly glad I had Frank Michie and not him as my
chief inspector when I wrote my Log.
My dear chap, Mackenzie would have let you run your school in your
But, I cried, he doesn't believe in freedom!
He doesn't, but don't you see that he simply couldn't have jumped
on you? He would have thought you either a lunatic or a genius, and he
would have feared to condemn you in case you might turn out to be the
latter. I know an art critic in London, and, believe me, the poor devil
lives in terror lest he should damn the work of a new Augustus John.
The Futurists aren't flourishing on their merits; they are flourishing
because the critics are in a holy funk to condemn them in case they
might be artists after all.
I want to meet Smart again. I like his style.
* * * * *
I am indeed a Dominie in Doubt. What is education striving after? I
cannot say, for education is life and what the aim of life is no one
knows. Psycho-analysis can clear up a life; it can release bottled up
energy, but it cannot say how the released energy is to be used. The
analyst cannot advise, because no man can tell another how to live his
life. Freud clears up the past, but he cannot clear up the future.
Is there such a thing as Re-incarnation? I wonder. Am I living the
life that my past lives on earth fitted me for? If so analysis is
wrong. If I am suffering from a severe neurosis it is because I earned
this punishment in my past lives, and Freud has no right to cure me. He
is interfering with the plans of the Almighty. If, as I have heard a
Theosophist declare, the children in the slums are miserable because
they failed to learn their lesson in previous lives, then the people
who try to abolish slums are all wrong. I think my Theosophist would
argue that the charitable person is growing in grace, thereby rising
above his previous lives. And thus one soul helps another to rise to
perfection. It may be, and I hope it is so, for then life would have a
meaning. Pain and war would then be less terrible, for they would be
but incidents in the eternal unfolding of perfection.
Yet I find myself doubting. If I am William Shakespeare born again I
do not know it, and I am left in doubt as to whether I may not have
been Charles Peace instead. Possibly I was both.
Then there is psychical research. I have been to a medium and have
heard things that all the psycho-analysis in the world cannot account
for. I want to believe that the dead can speak to us, but where are the
dead? I have read Sir Oliver Lodge's Raymond, and the
description of the next world given there. Frankly I don't fancy it,
and I have no desire to go there.
How then can I attempt to educate children when the ultimate
solution of life is denied me? I can only stand by and give them
freedom to unfold. I do not know whither they are going, but that is
all the more a reason why I ought not to try to guide their footsteps.
This is the final argument for the abolition of authority. We may beat
and break a horse because we selfishly require a horse's service, and
according to the accepted view a horse has no immortal soul. We dare
not beat and break a child, for a child is going to an end that we
I like the Theosophist schools, although I do not like all
Theosophists. Some of them seem to be living the higher life
consciously, and repressing their lower natures. Most of them do not
smoke or drink or eat meat or swear or go to music-halls. That may be
living on a higher plane, but it is not living fully. Still, in many
ways they are broad-minded. In their schools they do not force
Theosophy down the children's throats; they allow a great amount of
freedom, but their schools are not free schools. There is a definite
attempt to mould character chiefly by insisting on good taste. I am
quite sure that no head-master of a Theosophical School would take his
children to see a Charlie Chaplin film. Charlie is not obviously living
the higher life; he stands for the vulgar side of life; he picks up
girls and gets drunk (in the play) and is sea-sick and very vulgar
I find myself insisting on the inclusion of Charlie in any scheme of
education because no one ought to be taught to be shocked at
sea-sickness and soda-water squirting. Charlie to me is the antidote to
the higher-plane crowd; he and his kind are as essential as Shelley. I
admit that reading Shelley is a higher kind of pleasure than watching
Champion Charlie, but no human being can safely live on the higher
plane, and no child wants to. Education must deal with all life;
a higher plane diet will produce hot-house plants, beautiful perhaps,
but delicate and artificial.
* * * * *
Old Willie Murray the cobbler had been bed-ridden for over a year,
and when I dropped into Dauvit's shop this morning Mary Rickart was
telling Dauvit that his old master was dead.
Aye, Dauvit, she was saying when I entered, I'm no the kind that
speaks ill o' the deid, but I will say this, that Wull Murray had his
faults. Aye, and though he's a corp the day, I canna pertend that he
was ony freend o' mine.
When Mary had gone Dauvit turned to me with a queer smile.
Dominie, you tell me that you have studied the science o' the mind,
psywhat is't you call it?
Psychology, I said.
That's the word. Weel then, dominie, just tell me why Mary Rickart
had sic a pick at auld Willie Murray.
I smoked for a time thoughtfully.
It's difficult, Dauvit. I haven't got enough evidence. However I
think I can make a good guess.
Mary and Willie sat in the same class at school?
Good! said Dauvit, they did.
And Mary was Willie's first sweetheart?
Mary loved Willie and he loved her. They were sweethearts for a
long time, but another damsel came and stole Willie's heart away. Mary
wept bitter tears, but in time she repressed her love . . . and it
changed into hate.
A very nice story, he said, but, ye ken, it's just a story. You
cudna guess the real reason why Mary hated him so much.
Then what was the real reason, Dauvit?
Mary hated Willie Murray because he aince telt her that she was a
silly woman to think that she cud wear a number fower shoe on a number
We laughed together, and then I said:
Dauvit, why did you never marry? You like women I fancy.
My remark made him thoughtful.
Man, he said, I've often speered the same question o' mysel. As a
young man I was gye fond o' the lassies, but . . . I dinna ken! and he
broke off suddenly and took up a boot. Thae soles are just paper
noo-a-days, he growled.
I refused to let him run away from the subject.
Had you a sweetheart? I asked.
He laughed boisterously to hide his confusion.
Dozens o' them! he cried.
Then why didn't you marry one of them?
He shook his head.
Dominie, that's the question. He stared at the grate for a while.
There was Maggie Adams, a bonny lassie she was. Man, I mind when I
took her to Kirriemair Market . . . He sighed. Aye, man, dominie, I
liked Maggie mair than ony o' the others.
Did she love someone else? I asked softly.
Dauvit took some time to reply.
No, man, Maggie wanted me.
Then the fault lay on your side? You didn't love her!
Dauvit brought his hand down on the board.
Goad, man, but I did!
I could not understand.
Man, on the road hame frae Kirrie Market I was to speer if she wud
marry me . . . but I didna.
We smoked silently for a long minute.
Ye see, he went on slowly, Maggie was a bonny lassie and I liked
to kiss and cuddle her, but kissin' and cuddlin' are a very sma' part
o' marriage, dominie. There was something in Maggie that I was aye
lookin' for, but cud never find. Aye, I tried to find it in other
lassies, but I never fund it.
What was it you wanted to find, Dauvit?
Ye micht call it a soul, he said. Oh, aye, he went on, Maggie
was a bonny lassie wi' a heart o' gold, but she hadna a soul. Wud ye
like to ken what stoppit me speerin' her that nicht as we cam through
Zoar? Man, I said to mysel: When we come to the toll bar I'll tak
Maggie in my arms and say: 'Maggie, I want ye, lassie!'
He had to light his pipe here.
Weelaweel, we got to the toll bar and I said: 'Maggie, we'll sit
doon on the bank for a while.' So we sat doon, and I was just tryin' to
screw up my courage when she pointed to the settin' sun. 'I'd like a
dress like that, only bonnier,' she said. Man, dominie, I looked at
that sunset wi' its gold and purple . . . and syne I kent that Maggie
was nae wife for me. I kent that she had nae soul.
After a time I remarked: And so, Dauvit, you are a bachelor because
you were a poet!
He busied himself with the paper sole.
Maggie married Bob Wilson the farmer o' East Mains. Aye, and the
marriage turned oot a happy one, for Bob never rose abune neeps and
tatties in his life. Dauvit sighed. But I sometimes used to look at
the twa o' them when their bairns were roond their knees, and syne I
used to gie a big Dawm! and ging back to my wee hoose and mak my
It doesna pay to hae a soul, dominie, he added with a short laugh.
Perhaps you could have given her a soul, Dauvit, I said.
He shook his head with decision.
Na, dominie, a soul is something ye're born wi'; if it isna there
it canna be put there. You say that I'm a poet, and you may be richt;
there may be a wee bit o' the artist in me, and ye never heard o' an
artist that was happily married. Wumman and art are opposites, and a
man canna marry both.
That is true, Dauvit. But art is the feminine side of a man's
nature; it is the woman in him . . . and the woman is superfluous to
him, for she becomes the rival of the woman in himself.
This thought impressed Dauvit.
Noo I understand Rabbie Burns, he cried. Rabbie cudna love a
wumman because he loved the wumman in himsel. She was the wife that
bore his bairnshis poems. He paused, and a pained look came to his
face. There may be a poet in me, dominie, he said ruefully, but she
has borne me nae bairns. I am ane o' the mute inglorious Miltons . . .
and I wud ha' been better if I had married Maggie and talked aboot
neeps and tatties a' my life.
You couldn't have done it, Dauvit, I said as I rose to go.
From the door I looked back at the old man as he stared at the
* * * * *
One of the analysts says that the flirt is suffering from a mother
complex. He has never got over his infantile love for his mother, and
he is always trying to find the mother again in women. Hence he is like
a bee, sipping at one flower and then flying on to another.
I suspect that many a bachelor is a bachelor because his early love
is fixed on the mother. Few mothers realise the danger of coddling
their children. I have heard grown men dying in pain call on their
mothers. It is a hard task for parents, but they must always try to
break their children's fixation upon them.
Women having father-complexes are common. The other day I met a girl
who had no interest in young men; all her interest was in men with
beards. No matter what the conversation was about she managed to
mention her father. . . Father says! She will probably marry a man
twice her age. It is well-known that boys of seventeen often fall in
love with women of thirty, while adolescent girls usually fall in love
with men of thirty. They are not really in love; they are looking for a
substitute for the mother or father.
The psychology of the man of forty who falls in love with the girl
of sixteen is more difficult to grasp. I think that in most cases the
man's love interest is fixed away back in childhood; often the girl of
sixteen is a substitute for a beloved sister. Perhaps on the other
hand, a man of forty's paternal instinct has been starved so long that
he wants to find at once a wife and a child.
Few of us realise how much of our love interest is fixed in the
past. Think of the men who want to be mothered by their wives . . .
they generally address their wives as Mother. I know happily married
men who are psychically children; mother won't allow them to carry
coals or wash dishes or brush clothes; she treats them as they
unconsciously desire to be treatedas babes.
It may be that Dauvit has a strong mother complex. He often talks of
his mother, and more than once I have heard him say that she was the
best woman he had ever known. It may be that he was unconsciously
looking for the mother in Maggie and the other girls, and failed to
find her. Maggie's remark about the sunset and the dress was not enough
to stifle his love declaration. The soul he longed to find in Maggie
may have been the soul of the mother he knew as an infant . . . the
soul of his ideal woman.
The more I see of men the less importance I pay to their conscious
reasons for attitudes. I hate Brown; he never washes; I dislike Mrs.
Smith; she uses bad language. Murphy is a rotter; he has no manners.
Statements like these are rationalisations; the real reason for the
dislike lies deeper in every case.
The law courts have re-introduced flogging for criminals. To the
best of my knowledge no member of the law profession has protested. If
there is a reform movement within the law I never heard of it.
The curse of law is that it works according to precedent, and it is
therefore conservative. Our judges hand out sentences in blissful
ignorance of later psychology. Last week a boy of eleven was birched
for holding up another boy of nine on the highway and demanding
tuppence or his life. The attitude of the bench is that fear of another
flogging will prevent that boy from turning highwayman again. I admit
that fear will cure him of that special vice, but what the bench does
not know is that the boy's anti-social energy will take another form.
Every act of man is prompted by a wish, and very often this wish is
unconscious. And all the birching in the world will not destroy a wish;
the most it can do is to change its form.
Without an analysis of the boy no one can tell what unconscious wish
impelled him to turn highwayman, but speaking generally a boy expresses
his self-assertion in terms of anti-social behaviour only when his
education has been bad. I believe that all juvenile delinquency is due
to bad education. Our schools enforce passivity on the child; his
creative energy is bottled up. No boy who has tools and a bench to work
with will express himself by smashing windows. Delinquency is merely
displaced social conduct; the motive of the little boy who turned
highwayman was essentially the motive of the boy who builds a boat.
Ah! but we have Industrial Schools for bad boys!
I spent an evening with an Industrial School boy of thirteen not
long ago. It was an unlovely tale he told me of his life in school. I
got the impression of a building half-prison, half-barracks. No one was
allowed to go out unless to football matches when the school team was
playing. Punishment was stern and frequent.
One old guy, 'e sends you to the boss for punishment and says you
gave 'im an insubordinate look, and you ain't allowed to deny wot 'e
Look here, Jim, I said, suppose I took you to a free school
to-morrow, a school where you could do what you liked, what's the first
thing you would do?
A wild look came into his eyes.
I'd lay out the blarsted staff, he said tensely.
But, I laughed, what would be the point of laying me out if I
gave you freedom? What have you got against me?
Oh, he said, I thought you meant if I got freedom in the
That school is condemned; if a school produces one boy who hates and
fears its teachers, it is a bad school.
I think of the other way, the Homer Lane way.
Homer Lane was superintendent of the little Commonwealth in Dorset.
He attended the juvenile courts and begged the magistrates to hand over
to him the worst cases they had. He took the children down to Dorset
and gave them freedom. He refused to lay down any laws, and naturally
the beginning of the Commonwealth was chaos. Lane joined in the
anti-social behaviour; he became one of the gang. When the citizens
thought that their best way of expressing themselves was to smash
windows, Lane helped them to smash them. His marvellous psychological
insight will best be illustrated by the story of Jabez.
Jabez was a thoroughly bad character; he had been thief and
highwayman, a bully who could fight with science. He came to the
Commonwealth and was astonished. He found boys and girls working hard
all day, and making their own laws at their citizen meetings at night.
Jabez could not understand it, and not understanding he felt hostile.
The citizens lived in cottages, and one night Lane went over to the
cottage in which Jabez lived. They were having tea, and Lane sat down
What are you always grousing about, Jabez? he asked. Don't you
like the Commonwealth?
No, said Jabez viciously.
What's wrong with it?
It's too respectable for me, said Jabez, and his eyes wandered to
the table. Them fancy cups and saucers! Wot's the good o' things like
that to me? I'd like to smash the whole lot o' them.
Lane rose from the table, walked to the fireplace, took up the poker
and handed it to Jabez.
Smash them, he said.
Jabez had all eyes turned towards him. He seized the poker and
smashed his cup and saucer.
Excellent! cried Lane, Jabez is making the Commonwealth a better
place, and he pushed forward another cup and saucer. These were at
once smashed, and Lane proceeded to shove forward the other dishes. But
by this time Jabez was beginning to feel queer. Breaking dishes was
good fun when you were breaking laws, but here there was no law to
break, and Jabez felt that he was doing a foolish thing. He wanted to
stop, but he could not see how he was to stop with dignity. Fortunately
one of the other inmates of the cottage came to his aid.
It's all very well for you, Mr. Lane, she said, but this isn't
your cottage, and you are making Jabez break our dishes.
Jabez hailed the idea with delight; he now had an excellent excuse
Right you are! cried Lane cheerfully, Jabez will break something
else, and he took out his gold watch and placed it on the table.
Smash that, Jabez.
No, said Jabez, I won't smash your watch.
Now Jabez had a saying that if a man were dared to do a thing and he
didn't do it he was a coward.
I dare you to smash the watch.
Jabez seized the poker again.
What! You dare me!
Yes, I dare you.
He looked at the watch for a few seconds; then he threw down the
poker and rushed from the room.
Poor Jabez was killed in France. I saw the letters that he wrote to
Lane from the front, and they were the letters of a decent, good boy.
The early history of Jabez was one of constant suppression.
Authority was always stepping in and saying: Don't do that! As a
result Jabez at the age of seventeen was psychically an infant. The
infantile desire to break things was suppressed, but it lived on in the
unconscious, and years later Jabez found himself behaving like a child
of three. The cure was to encourage him to act in his infantile way; by
smashing a few cups Jabez got rid of his long pent up infantile wish to
destroy. Discipline would have kept the childish wish underground;
freedom led to the expression of the wish.
Homer Lane is the apostle of Release. He holds that Authority is
fatal for the child; suppression is bad; the only way is to allow the
child freedom to express itself in the way it wants to. And because I
count among my friends boys and girls who once went to the Little
Commonwealth as criminals, I believe that Lane is right. I also believe
that the schools will come to see that he was right . . . somewhere
about the year 2500.
* * * * *
Conversation to-night in Dauvit's shop turned on Spiritualism.
Dauvit is a firm believer, and he often goes to Dundee and Aberdeen to
It's just a lot o' blethers, said Jake Tosh contemptuously. When
ye're deid ye're deid, and that's a' aboot it. Na, na, Dauvit, them
that sees ghosts is either drunk or daft.
That's just yer ignorance, Jake, said Dauvit. Do ye ken whaur
Wha is he? asked Jake puzzled.
It's no a he; it's a place. I asked ye that question just to prove
that a man that doesna ken his ain world canna speak wi' ony authority
o' the next world. Yer mind's ower narrow, Jake; ye've no vision.
Na, na, Dauvit, laughed Jake, it winna do. Spooks and things is
just a curran nonsense, and no sane man wud believe in them. What do
you say, dominie?
I am willing to believe that the dead do communicate, I said.
Jake was thoroughly amused.
It's a queer thing, he said musingly, that the more eddication a
man has the more he believes in rubbish. Here's Dauvit here, a man that
reads Shakespeare and Burns and Carlyle, and the dominie there that
went through a college, and the both o' you believe things that I
stoppit believin' when I was sax year auld. Then there's Sir Oliver
Lodge, and Conan Doyle. Oh, aye, the Bible was quite richt when it
said: Much learning hath made them mad.
What do you think happens to the dead, Jake? I asked.
As the tree falleth so it lies, quoted Jake. There's only the twa
places after death; if ye're good ye go to Heaven; if ye're bad ye go
to Hell. And that's why I say that thae messages from the deid are
rubbish, cos if a man's in Heaven he's no going to leave a place like
that to come doon to speak to a daft auld cobbler like Dauvit in a wee
room doon in Dundee. And if a man's in Hell the Devil will tak good
care that he doesna get oot.
I wondered to find that Dauvit had no answer to this. I guessed that
Dauvit's silence was due to his early training. He was brought up in
the old stern Scots way, and although he has now rejected the old
beliefs intellectually, his unconscious still clings to them
emotionally. I fancy that if I were very very ill I might go back to my
childish fear of Hell-fire, for, in illness old emotions return, and
intellect flees. Dauvit would no doubt react in the same way.
* * * * *
Many people seem to have a decided fear of psycho-analysis. A mother
writes me from London saying that she would like to send her girl to my
new school, only she is afraid that I shall attempt to analyse the
The fear of psycho-analysis comes from the general belief that Freud
traces every neurosis to early sex experiences. Whether Freud is right
or not does not concern the teacher; he deals with normal children, and
to try to analyse a normal child appears to me to be unnecessary. The
teacher's job is to see that the children are free from fear and free
to create; if he does his task well he is preventing neurosis.
A neurosis is the outcome of repression; the neurotic is a person
whose libido or life force is bottled up; he can be cured only by
letting his pent up emotions free. The aim of education is to allow
emotional release, so that there will be no bottling up, and no future
neurosis; and this release comes through interest. The boy who hates
algebra and has to work examples is getting no release whatever, for
his mind is divided; his attention goes to his quadratic equations, but
his interest is elsewhere.
Hence I do not think analysis is necessary when children are being
freely educated. In an exceptional case a little analysis will do good.
If I see a child unhappy, moody, anti-social, a thief, a bully, I
consider it my job to make an attempt to find out what is at the back
of his mind. With a young boy it is not advisable to tell him the whole
truth about himself; the teacher discovers the truth by watching the
child at play, by studying his wishes as expressed in his writing, by
noting his attitude to his playmates. When he has made his diagnosis
the teacher can then make the necessary changes in the boy's
I recall the case of Tommy, aged ten. His class was constructing a
Play Town after the fashion set by Caldwell Cook in his delightful book
The Play Way. Tommy worked with enthusiasm, too much enthusiasm,
for he pinched the girls' sand for his railway track. The girls
objected, and a regular wordy battle took place. Tommy felt that he was
beaten, and he ceased work.
I was not very much surprised when the girls came and told me that
Tommy was shying bricks at the railway line he had been so keen on
constructing. Tommy was brought up before the assembled class, and they
voted unanimously that he be forbidden to approach within ten yards of
Play Town. Tommy grinned maliciously. That night the town appeared to
have been the victim of an earthquake.
I went to Tommy.
Why don't you like the Play Town? I asked.
Because the girls are too bossy, he said. It was my town; I began
it, and I don't see why they should be in it at all.
And you want a Play Town all to yourself? I asked.
Right ho, I said easily. Why not start to build one?
His eyes lit up, and away he ran to lay his foundations. He worked
eagerly all day, but at night he seemed dissatisfied.
I haven't got any railway or houses; Christo won't lend me a bit of
his railway, and Gerda has all the houses.
I left him to work out his problem. In the morning he solved it;
Christo wouldn't lend him any rails, but if Tommy liked he, Christo,
would run his line up to Tommy's town from the class town. Tommy
readily agreed. In a week's time Tommy's town was a suburb of the
bigger town, and Tommy was appointed President of the whole state. He
spent many an hour building his bridges and digging his tunnels. At
first he would allow no one to enter his suburb, but in a few days he
ceased to claim it as his own, and he worked as a member of the gang.
I think that most anti-social children are like Tommy: when their
self-assertion is threatened they react with hostility. The cure for
them is to direct their self-assertion to things instead of people. No
boy will try to break up a ball game if he has a rabbit hutch to
The danger is that the teacher will often step in when the boy ought
to be left to his companions. The gang is the best disciplinarian.
One day a class and I were writing five-minute essays. I would call
out a word or a phrase, and we would all start to write. The children
loved the method; it allowed so much play for originality. For example,
when I gave the word broken one girl wrote of her broken doll,
another of a broken tramp, another of a broken heart; a boy wrote a
witty essay on being stoney broke, another wrote of a broken window.
On this day Wolodia, a boy of eleven, did not want to write essays.
I called out a word, and we started to write. Wolodia began to talk
Stop it, man, I said impatiently, you're spoiling our essay.
He grinned and went on talking.
Oh, shut up! cried Joy.
Shan't! he snapped, and he went on talking.
Diana rose with a determined air.
We'll chuck him out, she said grimly, and the class seized him and
heaved him out. Then they barricaded the door with desks. Wolodia made
a big row by hammering on the door, and as a result we could not
proceed with our writing.
Let him in, I suggested.
The class protested.
He'll sit like a lamb for the rest of the period, I said.
They took away the desk and Wolodia came in. He went to his seat . .
. and not a sound came from him during the rest of the period. This
incident impressed me greatly; my complaint, Joy's complaint did not
affect him, but when the gang was against him he was defeated. It was a
beautiful instance of the force of public opinion.
Cases of stealing should be treated by analysis. Moral lectures are
useless; the cause lies in the unconscious, and the moral lecture does
not touch the unconscious. Nor does punishment affect the root cause of
the delinquency. The teacher must dig down into the child's unconscious
in order to find the cause.
An illuminating book for all teachers and parents to read is Healy's
Mental Disorders and Misconduct. He shows that stealing is very
often a symptomatic act. The mechanism of many cases is something like
this: a child has been punished for sexual activities; later he breaks
into a store and steals an article. Sex activities and thieving have
this in common, that they are both forbidden, but the boy has found
that much more ado is made about sex activities than about stealing. So
when he is actuated by a sexual urge he dare not indulge it; but his
sexual wish finds a substitute; it goes out to the associated forbidden
thing . . . the article on the store counter.
We see the same sort of mechanism in the neurotic patient; she fears
her own sex impulses, and because she dare not admit her sex wishes
into consciousness she projects her fear on to dogs or mice or rats.
All phobiasfear of closed places, fear of open places, fear of
heightsare displaced fears; the sufferer is really afraid of his own
I do not say that all juvenile stealing is due to repressed sex.
Stealing may mean to a boy a method of self-assertion; it may mean that
thus he rebels against authority of father and teacher; it may be the
result of any one of a dozen causes. But whatever the cause stealing is
always associated with unhappiness, and the teacher must try to cure
In my Dominie's Log I confessed that I liked to cheat the
railway company, and I excused it on the ground that a ten-mile
journey without a ticket is the only romantic experience left in a drab
world. That was a delightful bit of rationalisation. The real reason
for my delinquency lay in my unconscious. As a child I impotently
rebelled against the authority of parents and teachers. Later in life I
unconsciously identified the railway company with the authorities of my
infancy. Authority said: Don't do that or you will be smacked; the
railway company put up a notice saying: Don't travel without a ticket
or you'll be fined forty shillings.
My rebellion was really a rebellion against authority. This may seem
to be a far-fetched explanation, but the fact remains that now that I
have discovered the reason I have no more desire to cheat the railway
* * * * *
Old Jeems Broon was buried to-day, and Dauvit went to the funeral.
He came back chuckling.
What's the joke, Dauvit? I asked.
The burial service, laughed Dauvit. You ken what sort o' a man
Jeems was; an auld sinner if there ever was a sinner in Tarbonny, a bad
auld scoondrel. Weel, Jeems hadna been at the kirk for twenty years,
and of coorse the minister didna ken ony thing aboot him. So when he
gave the funeral prayer he referred to auld Jeems as 'this holy man
whose life stands as an example to those still tarrying in the flesh.'
Goad, but I burst oot laughin'! I did that!
Had I been the minister, said I, I should certainly have made a
few inquiries about Jeems.
But there's a better story than that aboot the minister, went on
Dauvit with a laugh. Mag Currie's little lassie had the diphtheria,
and at the end o' the week the minister was asked to come oot to tak' a
burial service in Mag's bed room. Man, he was eloquent! He spoke
earnestly aboot this flower plucked before it had reached its full
bloom, this innocent life so sadly cut off; he was most touchin' when
he turned to Mag and her man and said: 'Mourn not for those hands that
never did wrong, the lisping tongue that never spoke evil, the wide
pure eyes that looked their love for you.'
I suppose the parents broke down at that, I said.
Not they! chuckled Dauvit, for the corpse wasna their lassie ava;
it was auld Drucken Findlay the lodger.
I always like to hear Dauvit talk about ministers, and I encouraged
him to go on.
It's a very queer thing, dominie, that a body ay wants to laugh at
the wrong time. In the kirk and at a funeralthat's when I want to
I mind when the minister was awa' for his holidays, and there was
an auld minister frae the Heelands cam' to tak' his place. This auld
man had a habit o' readin' a verse and syne stoppin' to explain it to
Weel aweel, wan Sunday he was readin' a chapter frae the Auld
Testament, and he cam' to the words: 'And the Angel of the Lord
appeared unto Hosea.' So he looks at the congregation ower his specs
and he says: 'The Angel of the Lord appeared unto Hosea.' Now,
prethren, we must ask ourselves this important question: Was Hosea
afraid? No, Hosea was not afraid. You would have been afraid,
prethren; I would have been afraid. You and I would have begun to quake
and tremble, but Hosea was not afraid; he was a prave man, a pold man.
When we are in trouble let us remember that Hosea was not afraid.'
So the auld man he turns ower the page and reads the next verse:
'And Hosea was sore afraid.'
What did he say then? I asked.
He was a cunnin' auld deevil, said Dauvit, for he gave a bit
cough and says: 'Prethren, that is a wrong translation from the
I don't think you like ministers, Dauvit, I said.
He paused in his efforts to place a new needle in his
No, man, I do not, he said slowly. Nowadays the kirk is just a
job like anything else; men go in for it for the loaves and fishes
mostly, and their prayers never get past the roof. And as for the
congregation, the kirk is just a respectable sort o' society. I tell
ye, dominie, that releegion is deid. At least, Christianity is deid.
That was bound to come; flowers, folk, hooses, trees, horses, aye, and
nations, have a birth, a youth, middle age, auld age, and then death.
It's the law o' nature, and a religion is no exception.
True, O philosopher! I said, but there is always new life, and
new life comes from the old. The flower dies and its seed lives; man
dies and his seed inherit the earth. Christianity dies andand what?
That may be, he said thoughtfully. It may be that the new
religion will grow from the seed o' the deid Christianity; that I canna
say. What I do say is that ministers are oot-o'-date; they are doin'
useless labour . . . when they're no fishin' and curlin'.
Duncan came over to-night, and he asked my advice about books.
What books would you advise a teacher to buy? he asked.
There are scores of good books, I replied, but no teacher can
afford to buy them.
I know, he said crossly; I've had a row with the Income Tax
people. I asked for a rebate of ten pounds for necessary school books,
and they wouldn't allow it, although I'm told that if a London merchant
buys a London Directory he gets a rebate for the amount.
I agree that it is unjust, I said, but the new Income Tax
proposals allow twenty pounds a year for teachers' books.
Just tell us what you would advise a teacher to spend his twenty
quid on, said Macdonald.
It depends on his tastes, I said. If his subject is History he
will buy history books; if his subject is behaviour, he'll buy
Give us an idea of your own library, said Duncan.
I sat down and wrote out a list from memory.
It ran as follows:
BOOKS ON EDUCATION:
The Play Way, by Caldwell Cook.
The Path to Freedom in the School, by Norman MacMunn.
What Is and What Might Be, by Edmond Holmes.
Montessori's three volumes.
An Adventure in Education, by J. H. Simpson.
BOOKS ON PSYCHO-ANALYSIS AND PSYCHOLOGY:
Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, Psychopathology
of Everyday Life, Three Contributions to the Sexual Theory.
Jung's Psychology of the Unconscious, Studies
in Word Association, Analytical Psychology.
Frink's Morbid Fears and Compulsions.
Maurice Nicoll's Dream Psychology.
Morton Prince's The Unconscious.
Pfister's The Psycho-analytic Method.
Ernest Jones' Psycho-analysis.
Ferenczi's Contributions to Psycho-analysis.
Wilfred Lay's The Child's Unconscious Mind.
Moll's The Sexual Life of the Child.
Adler's The Neurotic Constitution.
Bernard Hart's The Psychology of Insanity.
The Crowd in Peace and War, Martin Conway.
Instincts of the Herd in Peace and War, Trotter.
The Crowd, Gustave le Bon.
Psychology and Everyday Life, Swift.
Textbook of Psychology, James.
The Boy and His Gang, Puffer.
Mental Conflicts and Misconduct, Healy.
The Individual Delinquent, Healy.
Rational Sex Ethics, Robie.
Social Psychology, McDougall.
The Play of Man, Groos.
That's too much for me, said Duncan. I couldn't afford a quarter
of these books. What books would you recommend if you had to choose
half a dozen for a hard-up dominie?
I thought for a little, and then I replied: Bernard Hart's The
Psychology of Insanity, two bob; Frink's Morbid Fears and
Compulsions, a first-rate book on analysis, a guinea; The Crowd
in Peace and War, by Sir Martin Conway, eight and six; Healy's
Mental Conflicts and Misconduct, ten and six; and Wilfred Lay's
The Child's Unconscious Mind, ten and six.
But, cried Duncan, I don't want to set up an asylum! What's the
good of books on insanity and morbid fears to a teacher?
I explained that the titles of Hart's and Frink's books were
misleading, although the difference between the mind of the lunatic and
the mind of the average man is merely one of degree. Bernard Hart shows
that the lunatic has the same faults as we have, only more so. Frink's
book is badly named; it is an excellent work on mind mechanisms. Any
teacher who reads these six books with understanding will never again
use a strap on a pupil. If I were Education Minister, I should present
every school in Britain with a copy of each of the six.
Macdonald asked if I had any books on hypnotism and suggestion.
No, I said, but I have read them through a library. I don't
believe in either because they do not touch root causes. We are all
suffering from bottled up infantile emotion, and analysis goes to the
root of the matter; it makes what is unconscious conscious, and enables
the patient to re-educate himself, to use the old repressed emotion up
in his daily life. Analysis means release. Suggestion does not touch
the root repressed emotion, and I fancy that after suggestion the
symptom merely changes. A man has a phobia of cats. By suggestion I can
dispel his fear of cats, but the fear is transferred to something else,
and he then has an exaggerated fear of catching tuberculosis. Unless
the ancient cause becomes conscious it is not released.
We see suggestion working in our schools daily. By suggestion
parents and teachers force the child to inhibit his gross sexual
wishes, and in a short time the child accepts the ideals of his
masters. At first he inhibits a desire because father thinks it
naughty; later he inhibits it because he himself thinks it naughty. But
the gross sexual wish lives on in the unconscious . . . hence the
neurosis, hence the respectable old men who are imprisoned for showing
gross pictures to children, hence the frequent indecent assaults on
children. All these unfortunate people are suffering from the results
of early suggestionthe suggestion that sex is sin. That primitive sex
impulses can be sublimated I admit, but the teacher's job is not to
preach that sex activities are evil; his job is to help the child to
use up his primitive sex energy in creative work.
* * * * *
What is education's chief aim? The reply generally given is that
education's aim is to help a child to live its life fully. Yet it seems
to me that that reply does not go far enough; I think that the aim
should be to help a child to live its cosmic life fully, to live for
others. Every human is egocentric, selfish. No human ever rises above
selfishness, only there are degrees of selfishness. I buy a motor-cycle
because I am selfish; and you found a hospital for orphans because you
are selfish. It is my pleasure to have a Sunbeam; it is yours to help
the poor. Your selfishness has become altruism; that is, in pleasing
yourself you have managed to please others. The aim in education is not
to abolish selfishness; it is to educe the selfishness that is
altruistic. Hence it may be said that education's chief aim is to teach
one how to love. No, that won't do; no one can teach another how to
love; the teacher's job is to evoke love. This he can do only by
loving. If I hate my pupils I evoke hate from them; if I love them I
evoke love from them in return.
Is it possible to love your neighbour as yourself? It is when you
know yourself. You hate in others what you hate in yourself, and you
love in others what is lovable in yourself. So that in loving your
neighbour you are loving yourself.
If, then, the teacher's first aim is to evoke the love of his
pupils, he must know himself, and knowing must love himself. Every day
pupils are suffering because of the teacher's hatred of himself.
Dominie Brown rises in the morning surly and unhappy. He complains
about the bacon and eggs at breakfast . . . no, the red herring;
dominies cannot afford bacon and eggs . . . and Mrs. Brown makes
unpleasant remarks. Brown crosses the road to school with thunder on
his face, and the children shiver in terror all morning.
If Brown could sit down calmly to think out his bad mood, he would
realise that he was punishing the children because he was worsted in
his word battle with his wife. And he would be quite wrong. The
truth would be that he was punishing the children because he was at war
with himself. His early morning ugly mood betrayed a mental conflict.
Hating himself, he hated his wife; his hate evoked her hate . . . and
thus the circle was completed.
We might trace all the futilities, all the stupidities of mankind,
all the wars and crimes and injustices to man's ignorance of self. To
know all is to forgive all. Christ condemned no one because he was at
peace with himself. Yet, I suddenly remember that He whipped the
money-changers out of the Temple. This incident is comforting, for it
shows that the most lovable man who ever lived betrayed one human
frailty on one occasion at least. But now I am preaching again.
* * * * *
I went to see Charlie Chaplin in Shoulder Arms last night. Charlie
is an artist of high quality; for once I think as the crowd thinks. But
I leave the crowd when it comes to appreciating the moving human
dramas in five parts.
The cinema must be reckoned with in any educational scheme. One may
learn more about crowd psychology from attendance at cinemas than from
reading books on crowd psychology. The cinema is popular because it
encourages day-dreaming or phantasy. There are two kinds of thinking,
reality thinking and phantasy or day-dreaming. Phantasying is the
easier of the two; I can sit for hours building castles in Spain, and I
never grow tired; but if I have to sit down and think out the Theory of
Quadratics I soon become weary. In reality thinking the intellect is
active, but in day-dreaming emotion is in control. Day-dreaming gets
nowhere; the asylums are full of day-dreamers who spend their hours
constructing beautiful phantasies. In childhood phantasy is supreme.
Bobby turns the nursery into a jungle; the sofa is a tiger, the chairs
are lions, the rocking-horse is an elephant. It is all real to him. And
in later years Bobby often returns to his childish phantasying. We all
do. What young lover has not phantasied a burning mansion where his
lady love is imprisoned? Have we not all clambered up the water pipes
and rescued her from the flames?
The world of the theatre is a phantasy world. With the rising of the
curtain we forget our outside life; we live the part of the hero or the
heroine. To this day I always leave a theatre with a vague depression
of spirits; everyday humdrum life chills me when I come out to the
street. Reality is always difficult to face. The great popularity of
the cinema is due to this human desire for make-believe. Cinema-going
is a regression to the infantile; we return to the childish phase where
the wish was all powerful. In the cinema the villain is always worsted;
the wronged heroine always falls into the hero's arms at the end. Life
for most of us means trials and sorrows and conflicts, and we long to
return to the nursery phase where life was what we wished it to be. The
cinema and the public-house are the most convenient doors by which we
The moving drama is the other side of the industrial picture. Life
for the masses means dirt and disease, ugly factories, sordid homes,
mean streets. The moving drama takes the masses away from grim reality;
they see beautifully gowned women in drawing-rooms; they see the King
reviewing his regiments; they see wild and free cowboys chasing Red
Indians. For two hours they live . . . and then they go out again into
their world of mere existence. And it is all wrong, tragically wrong.
The cinema craze means that life is too ugly to face; it means that the
masses are fleeing from reality and to flee from reality is fatal.
Day-dreams are laudable only when they come true. If the masses
day-dreamed of an economic Utopia and forthwith set about building a
New Jerusalem, their phantasies would become realities; but the moving
human drama never leads to building; it is raw whisky swallowed to
bring oblivion. The moving human drama will live and flourish so long
as mankind tolerates the slavery of industrialism. It is a powerful
weapon for capitalism; like the church and the public-house, it keeps
the wage-slaves quiet.
* * * * *
To-night the conversation in Dauvit's shop turned to the subject of
They tell me, said Jake Tosh, that you can buy a knighthood, or a
peerage for that matter.
Yea, man! said Willie Simpson, the joiner and undertaker from
So there's no muckle chance o' you getting ane, Willie, said
The joiner smoked thoughtfully for a while.
Na, Dauvit, he said, there's little chance o' an undertaker
gettin' a title. You would think na that the man that coffined the
likes o' Lloyd George wud get a knighthood.
Honours are sold, as Jake says; they are never given for public
I am afraid the joke was lost on most of the assembly. Jake failed
to see it. It is said that Jake has been known to laugh at a joke only
once, and that was when the earth gave way beneath the minister's feet
when he was conducting a service at a grave-side, and he fell into the
Undertakin', continued the joiner, is a verra queer trade.
I dinna ken how ye can do it, he said; man, it wud gie me the
Man, ye soon get accustomed to it, said the joiner. Of course, it
has its limitations; ye canna verra weel advertise in the front page o'
The Daily Mail, but, man, it's what ye micht call a safe trade.
How safe? I asked.
Oh, ye never need to worry aboot yer custom; it's aye there. Noo in
other lines the laws o' supply and demand are tricky. I mind a gey
puckle years syne there was a craze for walkin'-sticks wi' ebony
handles. Weel, I went doon to Dundee and bocht ten pund worth o' ebony,
and afore the wood was delivered the fashion had changed, and the men
were all buyin' cheese-cutter bonnets, so here was I left wi' ten pund
worth o' ebony on my hands . . . and if I hadna sold it to Davie Lamb
the cabinet-maker for thirteen pund I micht ha' lost the money. Noo, in
my trade there's no sudden change o' fashion as ye micht say; the
demand is what ye micht call constant, and that's what makes me say it
is a safe trade.
Dauvit winked to me surreptitiously.
Noo, joiner, he said, will ye tell me wan thing? I want to ken
the inner workin's o' an undertakker's mind. When somebody is verra
ill, what's your attitude? I mean to say, do ye sort o' look on the
illness wi' hope or what? When ye see a fine set-up man on the road, do
ye look at him wi' a professional eye and say to yersell: 'Sax feet by
twa; a bonny corp!'?
I'm no so bad as that, Dauvit, he laughed, though I dinna mind
sayin' that I've sometimes been a wee bit disappointed when somebody
got better. On the other hand, when big Tamson was badly, I keepit
prayin' that he wud get better.
An unbusinesslike thing to do, I laughed.
Aweel, said the joiner, big Tamson weighed aboot saxteen stone,
and at the time I hadna the wood.
I dinna like to hear aboot things like that, said Jake Tosh
nervously; things like that give me the creeps, and besides it's no a
proper way to speak.
Dauvit turned to me.
Man, dominie, it's a queer thing, but the more religious a man is
the less he likes to hear aboot death. Jake here is an elder o' the
auld kirk; he's on the straight and narrow path; he's going straight to
heaven when he dees . . . and I never saw onybody so feared o' death as
Jake is. How wud ye explain that?
I think, I replied, that it is due to the fact that Jake has been
brought up in the fear of the Lord.
Exactly, nodded Dauvit. It's my belief that most religious fowk
are religious not becos they want specially to play harps in the next
world, but becos they dinna want to be roasted.
Dauvit's philosophy comes pretty near that of Edmond Holmes. In
What Is and What Might Be Holmes argues that our education system
is founded on the Old Testament. Man is a sinner, prone to evil; a
stern angry God chastises him when he transgresses. Education treats
children as sinners; it punishes the wrongdoer. I believe Holmes is
right, only he does not trace back education far enough. The God of the
Old Testament was a man-made God (Jung says that man makes his God in
his own image; his God is his ego-ideal).
The genesis of education is not the God of the Old Testament; it is
the unconscious wish of the primitive men who invented that God. The
religion of the Old Testament is a father complex religion; God is the
hated and feared father, the authority who punishes, the provider of
food and clothing, the maker of laws. Authority always makes the
governed inferior and dependent; the man with a father complex cannot
stand alone; he must always flee to his father or father substitute
when he meets a difficulty. Thus does the Christian act; he seeks the
Father; he places his burden on the Lord; he avoids responsibility. The
Hebraic religion and our modern education both demand that the
individual shall avoid responsibility; the good Christian and the good
schoolboy must obey the Law. I think that if the world is to be free
the church and the school must aim at breaking the power of the Father.
* * * * *
Look here, Mac, I said last night, I am going to pay you for my
Mac protested vigorously.
You'll do nothing of the kind, he said firmly.
I went to the kitchen and made the offer to his wife, and she also
This morning I cycled to Dundee and bought a knife-cleaner and a
vacuum cleaner. They arrived to-night, and Mrs. Mac gave a gasp of
delight. Mac tried to frown, but he could not manage it. Both protested
against what they called my idiotic kindness, but their protests were
It is a strange thing that money itself is considered a sordid
thing. Why should Mac refuse five pounds with anger, and accept a ten
pound gift with pleasure? If anyone wants to study the psychological
meaning of money I recommend Chapter XL. in Dr. Ernest Jones'
Psycho-analysis. In the unconscious, at any rate, money is
assuredly filthy lucre.
* * * * *
A teacher should know very little about the subject he professes to
teach. In my London school I succeeded a line of excellent teachers of
drawing. I had not been long in the school when Di, aged 15, looked
over my shoulder one day and said: Rotten! You can't draw for nuts!
A week later Malcolm looked at a water colour of mine.
You've got a horrible sense of colour, he said brightly.
Then I began to wonder why everyone in school was much more keen on
drawing and painting than they had ever been in the days of the skilled
teachers. The conclusion I came to was that my bad drawing encouraged
the children. I remembered the beautiful copy-book headlines of my
boyhood, and I recalled the hopelessness of ever reaching the standard
set by the lithographers. No child should have perfection put before
him. The teacher should never try to teach; he should work alongside
the children; he should be a co-worker, not a model.
Most teachers set themselves on a pedestal. They think that they
lose dignity if they are not able to answer every question that a child
puts to them. One result is that the child develops a dangerous
inferiority complex. I knew one boy who was a duffer at mathematics.
His weakness was due to the inferiority he felt when he saw the learned
mathematical master juggle with figures as easily as a conjurer juggles
with billiard balls. The little chap lost all hope, and when he worked
problems he worked solely to escape punishment.
The difficulty is that if a teacher works at a subject year after
year he is bound to become an expert. The only remedy I can think of is
to make each teacher take up a new subject at the beginning of every
school year. By the time that he had been master of Mathematics,
History, Drawing, English, French, German, Latin, Geography, Chemistry,
Physics, Psychology, Physiology, Eurhythmics, Music, Woodwork, it would
be time to retire . . . with a pension or a psychosis. The late Sir
William Osier said that a man was too old at forty; my experience leads
me to conclude that many a teacher is too old at twenty.
I sometimes think that every man has a certain definite psychic age
fixed for him by the Almighty before he is born. I know a man of
seventy who is psychically five years old, and he will never grow
older. I know a boy of ten who is psychically sixty years old, and he
will never grow younger.
Psycho-analysis is doing a lot of good, but I fear that it may do a
lot of harm, for, one fine day Professor Freud or Dr. Jung will get
hold of Peter Pan, take him by the back of the neck, and say: My lad,
you've got a fixation somewhere; you are the
super-regression-to-the-infantile specimen; you've got to be analysed.
And then Peter will grow up and read The Daily News and own an
allotment and a season ticket.
When we know all about psychology, the world will be rather dull.
The Freudians have said that the play of Hamlet is the result of
Shakespeare's Oedipus Complex. If Shakespeare had not had an
unconscious hatred of his father, Hamlet would never have been
written. In other words, if Bacon had discovered the psychology of the
unconscious, Shakespeare might have been analysed and forthwith might
have gone in for keeping bees instead of writing plays.
It is the neurotic who leads the world; he is a rebel and he is an
idealist. Yet when you analyse him you find what a poor devil he is.
His noble crusade against vivisection is due to the abnormal strain of
cruelty he is repressing in himself; his passion for Socialism comes
from his infant fear of and rebellion against his father. The ardent
suffragette who smashes windows in a just cause is merely doing so
because the vote is a symbol of freedom from an arrogant husband.
What I want to know is this: In the year 5000, when everyone is free
from repressions and suppressions, will there be any rebels to spur
humanity on? But then if humanity is free from unconscious urges there
will be no need for rebels, for there will be no crime or prison or
wars or politicians. Every man will be a superman.
I firmly believe that Freud's discovery will have a greater
influence on the evolution of humanity than any discovery of the last
ten centuries. Freud has begun the road that leads to superman, and,
although Jung and Adler and others have begun to lead sideroads off the
main track, the sideroads are all leading forward. Theirs is a great
message of hope.
And yet, nineteen hundred years ago Jesus Christ gave the world a
New Psychology . . . and none of us have tried to apply it to our
Mac came across a vulgar word in a composition he was correcting
to-night, and it seemed to alarm him. He could not understand why I
laughed, and I explained to him that I liked vulgarity.
I remember when a high-minded mother came into my class-room in
Hampstead. The highest class was writing essays. On her asking what the
subject was, I replied that each pupil had a different subject. She
walked round and looked over their shoulders. I saw the lady's eyebrows
go up as she read titles such as these:I Grow Forty Feet high in One
Night; I Edit the Greenland Morning Frost (the news this boy
gave was delightful); I Interview Noah for the Daily Mail
(photos on back page). She nodded approvingly when she read the titles
of the more serious essays. Then I saw her adjust her spectacles in
great haste; she was looking over Muriel's shoulder.
Mr. Neill, she gasped, do you think this a suitable subject for a
I glanced at the title; it was; Autobiography of My Nose.
Erwhat's wrong with it? I said falteringly.
It lends itself too readily to vulgarity, she said.
I picked up the book, and together we read the opening words.
When first I began to run . . . .
The high-minded lady left the room hurriedly.
I loved that class. Often I wish that I had kept their essays. One
day we had a five minute essay on the subject: Waiting for My Cue.
Lawrence wrote of standing on the steps in a cold sweat of fear. He had
only five words to sayThe carriage waits, my lord, but he had never
acted before. His cue was: Ho! Who comes here?
At last, he wrote, I heard the fateful words: 'Ho! Who comes
here?' I could not move; I stood trembling on the stairs.
'Get on, you idiot!' whispered the stage manager savagely, but
still I could not move.
'Ho! Who comes here?' repeated the fool on the stage. Still I could
not move a step.
'Ho! Who comes here?'
Suddenly I became aware of a disturbance in the auditorium. The
noise increased, and then I heard the agonising words: 'Fire! Fire!'
Panic followed, and cries of terror rang out.
But I . . . I jumped on the stage and cried: 'Hurrah!
Hoo-blinking-rah!' It was the happiest moment of my life.
Sydney took a different line. Her cue was the sound of a stage kiss.
Boldly she walked on, and the stage lovers glared at her, for she
arrived before the kiss was finished or rather properly begun. The
audience chuckled. At the next performance she determined to be less
punctual. She heard the smack of the kiss, but she did not move. As she
waited she heard the audience roaring with laughter, and then she
realised that the poor lovers had been standing kissing each other for
a full five minutes.
I must write to these dear old children to ask if they kept their
* * * * *
Duncan was in to-night, and he told a school story that was new to
In a certain council school it was the custom for teachers to write
down on the blackboard any instructions they might have for the janitor
before they left at night. One night he came in and read the words:
Find the L.C.M.
Good gracious! he growled, has that dam thing gone and got lost
That version was new to me. My own version ran thus:
Little Willie is doing his home lessons, and he asks his father to
help him with a sum. The father takes the slate in his hand and reads
the words: Find the G.C.M.
Good heavens! he cries, haven't they found that blamed thing yet?
They were hunting for it when I was at school.
I think both versions are very good.
* * * * *
I have a strong Montessori complex. I find myself being critical of
her system, and I have often wondered why. I used to think that my
dislike of Montessori was a projection: I disliked a lady who raved
about Montessori, and I fancied that I had transferred my dislike of
the lady to poor Montessori. But now I refuse to accept that
explanation; it is not good enough for me; there must be something
deeper. I shall try to discover that something deeper.
When I first read Montessori's books I said to myself: She is
devoid of humour. This to me suggests a limitation in art, and I feel
that Montessori is always a scientist but never an artist. Her system
is highly intellectual, but sadly lacking in emotionalism. This is seen
in her attitude to phantasy. She would probably argue that phantasy is
bad for a child, but it is a fact that much of a child's life is lived
in phantasy. Phantasy is a means of gratifying an unfulfilled wish. The
kitchen-maid in her day-dream marries a prince, and, as Maurice Nicoll
says in his Dream Psychology, to destroy her phantasy without
putting something in its place is dangerous.
To a child, as to Cinderella, phantasy is a means of overcoming
reality. Father bullies Willie and the boy retires into a day-dream
world where he becomes an all-powerful person . . . hence the fairy
tales of giants (fathers) killed by little Jacks. In later life Willie
takes to drink or identifies himself with the hero of a cinema drama.
The extreme form of phantasy is insanity, where the patient
completely goes over to the unreal world and becomes the Queen of the
World. And it might be objected that phantasying is the first stage of
insanity. Yes, but it is the last stage of poetry. Coleridge's Kubla
Khan, one of the most glorious poems in the language, is pure
phantasy. I rather fear that one day a grown-up Montessori child will
prove conclusively that the feet of Maud did not, when they touched the
meadows, leave the daisies rosy.
No, the Montessori world is too scientific for me; it is too
orderly, too didactic. The name didactic apparatus frightens me.
I quote a sentence from The New Children, by Mrs. Radice.
'Per carita! Get up at once!' she (Montessori) has exclaimed before
now to a conscientious teacher found dishevelled on the ground with a
class of little Bolshevists sitting on top of her.
In heaven's name, I ask, why get up? Life is more than meat, and
education is more than matching colours and fitting cylinders into
Montessori was thinking of the conscious mind of the child when she
evolved her system, and the apparatus does not satisfy the whole of the
child's unconscious mind. Noise is suppressed in a Montessori school,
but every child should be allowed to make a noise, for noise means
power to him, and he will use it only as long as it means power to him.
I have watched Norman MacMunn's war orphans at Tiptree Hall at work.
MacMunn, the author of A Path to Freedom in the School, did not
say Hush!; his boys filled the room with noisy talk as they worked,
and never have I seen children do more work with so much joy.
The Montessori teacher, when she finds that Jimmy is interfering
with the work of Alice, segregates the bad Jimmy, and treats him as a
sick person. But the right thing to do is to solve Jimmy's problem as
well as Alice's. What is behind Jimmy's aggressiveness? Jimmy does not
know, nor does the Montessori teacher, because she has been trained in
the psychology of the conscious only.
Another reason why I am not wholly on the side of Montessori is, I
fancy, that her religious attitude repels me. She is a church woman;
she has a definite idea of right and wrong. Thus, although she allows
children freedom to choose their own occupations, she allows them no
freedom to challenge adult morality. But for a child to accept a
ready-made code of morals is dangerous; education in morality is a
thousand times more important than intellectual education with a
* * * * *
To-night Duncan came in, and as usual we talked education. I took up
the subject of punishment, and condemned it on the ground that it
treats effect instead of cause. After a little persuasion Duncan seemed
inclined to agree with me.
I see what you mean, he said, but what I say is that if you
abolish punishment you must also abolish reward.
Why not? I said. The case against rewards is just as simple. A
child should do a lesson for the joy of doing it. Milton certainly did
not write Paradise Lost for the five pounds he got for it.
Yes, I see that, said Duncan thoughtfully, but what about
competition? The prize at the end introduces a breezy struggle for
I shook my head.
No competition! I won't have it. It makes the chap at the top of
the class a prig, and gives the poor chap at the bottom an inferiority
complex. No, we want to encourage not competition but co-operation.
Competition leads naturally to another world war, as competition
between British and American capital is doing now.
Then Duncan floored me.
And would you discourage football because it introduces the idea of
competition? he asked.
Of course not, I replied
Then why discourage it in arithmetic? he asked.
It was an arresting question, and I had to grope for an answer that
would convince not only Duncan but myself. That every healthy boy likes
to try his strength against his fellows is a fact that we cannot
ignore. Mr. Arthur Balfour's desire to beat his golfing partner and
Jock Broon's desire to spit farther than Jake Tosh are fundamentally
the same desire, the desire for self-assertion. And I see that the man
who comes in last in the quarter-mile race is in the same position of
inferiority as the boy who is always at the bottom of the class. Yet I
condemn competition in school-work while I appreciate competition in
I think I should leave it to the children. Obviously they like to
compete in games and races, but they have no natural desire to compete
in lessons. It appears that some things naturally lend themselves to
competitionracing, boxing, billiards, jumping, football and so on.
Other things do not encourage competition. Bernard Shaw and G. K.
Chesterton do not compete in the output of books; Freud and Jung do not
struggle to publish the record number of analysis cases; George Robey
and Little Tich do not appear together on the stage of the Palladium
and try to prove which is the funnier. Rivalry there always is, but it
remains only rivalry until The Daily Mail offers a prize for the
biggest cabbage or sweet-pea, and then competition seizes suburbia.
I should therefore leave the children to discover for themselves
what interests lend themselves to competition, and what interests do
not. I know beforehand that of their own accord they will not introduce
it into school subjects. This is in accord with my views on the
authority question. I insist that the teacher will impose nothing; that
his task is to watch the children find their own solution.
* * * * *
I must write down a wise saying that came from Dauvit. A rambling
and ill-informed discussion of Bolshevism arose in his shop to-night.
Dauvit took no part in it, but when we rose to go he said: Tak' my
word for it, Bolshevism is wrong.
How do you make that out, Dauvit? I asked.
Because it's a success, he said shortly.
* * * * *
To-night the Rev. Mr. Smith, the U.F. minister, came in. He is one
of the unco' guid, and to him all pleasures are sinful. It happened
that I was telling Macdonald the Freudian theory of dreams when he
entered, and when Mac told him what the conversation had been about, he
begged me to continue. It was evident that he had never heard of dream
interpretation, and he was surprised.
And every dream has a meaning? he asked.
Yes, I said.
I had a dream last night, he began, but I held up a warning hand.
You shouldn't tell your dreams in public, I said hastily; they
may give things away that you don't want others to know.
I don't mind that, he said, I'll take the risk. Last night I
dreamt that I was in a public-house among a lot of men who were telling
most obscene stories. According to Freud every dream is the fulfilment
of a wish. Do you mean to tell me that I wish to be in such a company?
I explained that the dream as told is not the dream in reality, the
meaning lies behind the symbolism, and it can be got at by the method
of free association. I also explained that I did not believe the Freud
theory, that the dream is always a wish, and suggested that Jung was a
According to Jung, I said, the dream is often compensatory. In
your own case you are consciously living the higher life, but there is
another side of life that you are ignoring, and that is the vulgar pub
side. Your dream is a hint that the vulgar side of life cannot be
ignored. You may ignore it consciously, but your unconscious will seek
the other side in your dreams.
This seemed to make him think.
But the saints and martyrs! he cried. Think of the thousands who
crucified the flesh so that they might win the everlasting crown! Do
you tell me that they were all wrong?
I lit my pipe.
I think they were, I said, for they merely repressed their animal
life. They thought that they had conquered it, but they only buried it.
The real saint is the man who faces his flesh boldly and loves it too,
just as much as he loves his God.
Then the minister fled.
The interpretation of dreams is one of the most fascinating studies
in the world. The method as evolved by Freud is simple, although the
interpretation is anything but simple. Obviously the average dream has
no meaning. You dream that a horse speaks to you, and then it turns
into your brother. It is all nonsense, yet behind the nonsense is a
serious meaning. Not long ago I was analysing a girl of sixteen. About
a week after the analysis began she brought a dream which began thus:
I am invisible, and I have a tail that I can take off or put on.
Following the method of free association I said to her: What comes
into your mind about being invisible?
Oh, I've often wanted to be invisible, for then I could do what I
liked; then I would be free.
Being invisible therefore meant being free.
Then I asked her associations to the tail part.
Tail . . . monkeys at the Zoo; they are poor things always kept
behind bars. Just like me. I forgot to say that my tail wasn't on in
Tail therefore meant something associated with confinement and
restriction. It is significant that her tail was unattached. I took it
to mean a wish-fulfilment dream; in it she got free from her neurosis.
The following night she dreamt that she was being driven in a motor
car by a swanky chauffeur. They came to the bottom of a hill, and the
car stopped, and she got out and walked. Her first association was:
The chauffeur had a big green coat on, one just like the coat you
So I was the chauffeur? I asked.
She brightened at once.
I see it! she cried. The car is the analysis; you are driving me
away from my old life!
Excellent! I said, but don't forget that the car stopped at the
bottom of the hill. What does the word hill give you?
Something difficult to climb. I hated climbing it and thought it a
shame that the motor didn't take me up.
I've got to climb to get better, haven't I?
That's right, I said. I told you the other night that no analyst
should give advice, and I refused when you asked me for it. In your
unconscious you realise that the chauffeur is not going to take you up
the hill; in other words you've got to do most of the work.
Freud holds that there is a censor standing between the conscious
and the unconscious. Primitive wishes seek to come from the
unconscious, but the censor holds up his hand. No, he says, that's
too disgusting; the conscious mind couldn't stand that; it would be
shocked. You must disguise yourself in harmless form! And so the
infantile sex wish is changed into a harmless dog or cycle. But if this
is the case why should my little girl dream of me as a chauffeur? There
was nothing disgusting about me, nothing that her conscious mind could
I prefer Jung's theory. He says that we dream in symbols because
symbolism is the oldest language in the world, and, as the unconscious
is primitive it uses this language. We all dream of shocking things,
and if the endopsychic censor were really on duty he would never allow
these disgusting dreams to get through.
If I dream that my father is dead the Freudians declare that I
either wish or, in the past, have wished unconsciously for my father's
death. But surely so alarming a wish would be changed into a harmless
form if there were a censor. One night I dreamt that an acquaintance,
Murray, was dead. The first association to Murray was: He's a lazy
sort of chap. I think that all he stood for was laziness, and he was
merely my own laziness symbolised. The dream was a hint to me to be up
and doing, for I had been neglecting a task that I should have
There is what might be called the cheese-and-tripe supper theory of
the dream held by many people.
There's nothing in dreams, they say, nothing but the disorders
following late supper.
A cheese-and-tripe supper will cause queer dreams, but the advocates
of this theory cannot explain why a tripe supper should make me dream
ofsaya tiger. Why not a lion or a mouse?
It is an accepted fact now in psychology that the dream is the
working of the unconscious. Some theosophists claim that during sleep
your spirit leaves your body and seeks the astral plane, but I have
never seen anything resembling evidence of this. It may be a fact for
Concerning the prophetic aspect of dreams I know nothing. I have
heard that the night before the Tay Bridge disaster a woman dreamt that
it was to take place, and she persuaded her husband not to travel by
that ill-fated train, but I cannot vouch for the story. I believe,
however, that the dream is prophetic in that the unconscious during the
night is working out the problems of the next day. The popular saying
about sleeping over a problem shows that there is a real belief in this
aspect. I know a lady who was undergoing analysis. She was suffering
from a father complex, that is, her infantile fixation on the father
had remained with her, and unconsciously she was approving or
disapproving of every man she met according as he did or did not in
some way resemble her father.
For a few weeks after the analysis began she was always dreaming
that she was back in her childhood home, and in her dreams she was
always trying to get away from home and her father was always
restraining her from going. Often the figure in the dream was not the
father, but the associations always showed that the figure was standing
for the father. One night the figure was the King, and her first
association was: The King's name is George. . . . That's father's name
This seems to be a case where the unconscious is striving to find a
The way the unconscious does things is wonderful. I remember one
night listening to a lecture by Homer Lane. He brought forward a new
theory about education, and it was so deep that I did not quite grasp
its meaning. At the time Alan, Homer Lane's youngest child, was one of
the pupils in the school in which I taught. That night I dreamt that I
was standing before a class. Alan was sitting in the front seat, and
behind him was a boy whom in the dream I called Homer Lane's youngest
child. The new theory had become in the language of symbolism Alan's
younger brother . . . in short, Lane's latest. Here again I cannot see
why any censor should change a theory into a child.
* * * * * In my Log I make a very, very poor statement
about sex instruction. I say that children should be encouraged to
believe in the stork theory of birth until the age of nine. That was a
wrong belief, but then at that time I had not read Freud or Bloch or
Moll. I see now that the child should be told the truth about sex
whenever he asks for information. But I fear, that many modern mothers
think that they have sexually educated their child when they tell him
where babies come from. The physiological side of sex is the less
important; you can take a child through all the usual
stagespollination of plants, fertilisation of eggs, right up to human
birth, but the child will find no help in these informations when he
faces his sex instinct at adolescence. Sex instruction should be
psychological; it should deal with the sex instinct as one form of life
force or libido. The child should be led to face it openly. It should
be entirely dissociated from sin, and moral lectures should not be
Who is to give the instruction? That is the difficulty. Most parents
and teachers cannot do it because their own sex instinct is all wrong.
Make a remark about sex in the company of adults, and it will be
reacted to in two ways; some will grin and laugh; others will be
shocked. I hasten to add that the shocked ones are worse than the
laughers. The laugh is a release of sex repressions; the shocked
appearance is a compensation for an unconscious over-interest in sex.
Anyway neither type is capable of talking about sex to children, and
since humanity is roughly divided into prudes and sinners (not saints
and sinners), there is little hope of a frank sex education for
Many people say: Oh, leave it to the doctors, but personally I
haven't enough faith in doctors. Their attitude to sex is usually no
better than the attitude of the layman. I know doctors who could give
excellent instruction to children on the physiology of sex, but the
only doctors of my acquaintance who could teach the psychological side
are psycho-analysts or psycho-therapists of some sort.
Teachers can tackle the sex problem negatively. Sex activity is a
form of life force or interest, and if a child is not finding life
interesting enough there is a danger that he will regress to what is
called auto-eroticism. When we remember that the sexual instinct is the
creative instinct, and that creation in dancing or music or poetry or
art of any kind is sublimated sex, that is sex raised to a higher
power, we can readily see that one of the most important parts of a
teacher's job is to provide ways and means for creation. I realise that
this is not enough, but, as I say, I cannot see the way to a good sex
education, until every teacher and parent has discovered his or her own
sex complexes. Co-education helps, for then the commingling of the
sexes affords a harmless and unconscious outlet for sex interest. But
co-education is no panacea, for the sex problems of the individual
child in a co-educational school are almost as immediate as those of
the child from the segregated school.
This morning I was setting off for Dundee when Willie Marshall
entered the compartment. He was dressed in his Sunday best, and I
wondered why he was going to Dundee on a Wednesday.
Hullo, Willie! I cried, what's on to-day?
He looked troubled and angry.
I've been summoned to serve on the jury that's tryin' that dawmed
rat that stailt ten pund frae the minister, he said viciously, and I
had little need to lose a day, for I hae far mair work than I can dae.
Mossbank's twa cairts cam in yestreen, and he's swearin' like onything
that he maun hae them by the nicht. Willie is a joiner, and most of
his work is building and repairing carts.
So you think that Nosie Broon is guilty? I said with a smile.
Of coorse he is, he cried with emphasis.
But, I said seriously, you'll maybe alter your mind when you hear
Dawn nae fear! I'll show him that he's no to drag me awa frae ma
work for nothing!
He opened his Dundee Courier, and I sat and thought of the
trial by jury method. I would not condemn it on the strength of
Willie's dangerous misunderstanding of what it means, but I do condemn
it on other grounds. Weighing evidence is a difficult enough business
even for the specialist, for it is almost impossible to eliminate
emotion in forming a judgment. With a jury of citizens, some of them
possibly illiterate, too much depends on the advocates, or on outside
During the war there was a glaring instance of this. A soldier shot
the man who had been trying to steal his wife's love . . . and the
verdict of the jury was Not Guilty. The emotional factor in this case
was that the dead man was a German. I am not arguing that the prisoner
should have been hanged or imprisoned, for I think both procedures are
bad; I merely point out that in the eyes of legalism the soldier was
guilty, yet the jury threw legalism overboard.
Another instance of the emotional factor over-ruling legalism is
seen in the trial of the man who shot Jaures. He was acquitted. . . .
Not Guilty . . . the man who slew one of the best men in Europe. On the
other hand the youth who attempted to assassinate Clemenceau was
sentenced to death, pardoned, and sent to penal servitude. In France
therefore it is a crime to kill a politician of the right, but a virtue
to kill one of the Socialist left.
Abstract justice is a figment. No jury and no judge can be
impartial. The other day a man was charged with striking a Socialist
orator with an ice-pick. The judge lectured the orator on his
Bolshevism, and then gave the accused imprisonment for a short term in
the second division. Suppose that the Bolshevist had used an ice-pick
on a Cabinet Minister!
I do not think that our judges and magistrates ever consciously show
partiality. They are an upright class of men, men above suspicion. It
is their unconscious that shows partiality just as mine does. The army
colonels who tried Conscientious Objectors were upright men, but it was
wrong to imagine that they could possibly see the C.O.'s point of view.
So it was with the regular R.A.M.C. doctors. To some of them the
neurotic patient was a swinger of the lead, a malingerer. They had
never heard of the new psychiatry, and the neurotic was a strange
creature to them. Their ignorance supplemented their prejudice, and
they could not possibly have treated these men with justice.
The truth is that we all make up our minds according as our buried
complexes impel us. If I saw a Frenchman fighting a Scot I should take
the Scot's side, because I have a Scot complex. Occasionally our
complexes work in the opposite way. I fancy that the few people who
sided with the Germans in the war were suffering from an agin the
government complex, which, if you trace it deep enough is usually
found to be an infantile rebellion against the father. In this case the
State represented the father, and Germany was the outside helper who
should conquer the father (or mother) country. Had Germany won, the
unpatriotic man would immediately have turned his hate against Prussia,
for then Prussia would have been the father substitute.
Our loves and hates and fears are within ourselves. I know a man who
has a nagging wife; she has a constant wish for new things. He bought
her a hat, and for two days she was happy; then she nagged, and he
bought her a dress. Three days later she demanded a necklace, and he
gave her a necklace. He may continue giving her everything she asks
for, but if he buys her a Rolls Royce and a house in Park Lane she will
be a dissatisfied woman, for the fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our
stars but in ourselves. I advised him to spend his money on having her
* * * * *
To-night Tammas Lownie the joiner came into Dauvit's shop. He is an
infrequent attender at Dauvit's parliament, and Dauvit seemed slightly
surprised at his entry.
Weel, Tammas, he said, it's no often that we see you here. What's
brocht ye here the nicht?
Tammas spat in the grate.
Oh, it was a fine nicht, and I thought I'd just tak a daunder
yont, he said easily.
Dauvit looked at him searchingly.
Na, na, Tammas, it winna dae! It wasna the fine nicht that brocht
ye yont. Ye've got some news I'm thinkin'.
Tammas laughed loudly.
Dauvit, ye're oncanny! he cried. Ye seem to read what's at the
back o' a man's held. But I have nae news to gie ye.
I wudna wonder if ye didna come yont to tell me aboot the
eldership, he said slowly.
The expression on Tammas's face showed that he had come to
tell us that the minister had asked him to become an elder.
'Od, Dauvit, noo that ye come to mention it I wud like to hear yer
advice aboot the matter. I dinna see how I can tak an eldership,
How no? asked Dauvit in surprise.
Then he added: But maybe ye ken whether ye've got a sinfu' heart or
It's no that, said Tammas hastily, I'm nae worse than some other
elders I ken, and he glanced at Jake Tosh. No, it's no the sin I'm
thinkin' o'; it's my trade.
But, I put in, why shouldn't a joiner be an elder?
Tammas bit off a chunk of Bogie Roll.
That may as may be, dominie, but I'm mair than a joiner; I'm an
Weel, said Dauvit, what aboot that?
Tammas shook his head sadly.
An undertakker canna be an elder, Dauvit. Suppose the minister was
awa preachin' or at the Assembly, and ane o' his congregation was
deein', me as an elder micht hae to ging to the bedside and offer up a
There's nothing in that, said Jake proudly; I've offered up a bit
prayer afore noo when the minister was awa.
Aye, Jake, said Tammas, but ye see you're a roadman. But an
undertakker is a different matter. Goad, lads, I canna gie a man a bit
prayer at sax o'clock and syne measure him for his coffin at acht. That
wud look like mixin' religion wi' business.
The assembly thought over this aspect.
All the same, said the smith, Dr. Hall is an elder, and naebody
ever thinks o' accusin' him o' mixin' religion wi' his business.
We all considered this statement.
Tammas, said Dauvit, if ye want to be an elder tak it, and never
mind the undertakkin'. But if ever ye have to gie a prayer just get
Jake here to tak on the job.
He began to laugh here.
I mind o' Jeemie Ritchie when he got his eldership. The minister
gaed awa to the Assembly in Edinbro, and as it happened auld Jess Tosh
was deein', so Jeemie was asked to come up and gie her a prayer. Jeemie
was in my shop when the lassie Tosh cam for him, and I never saw a man
in sic a state.
'Dauvit,' he cries, 'I canna dae it! I never offered up a prayer in
'Hoots, Jeemie,' says I, 'it's easy; just bring in a few bitties
frae the Bible.'
Auld Jeemie he scarted his heid.
'Man, Dauvit,' says he, 'I cudna say twa words o' the Bible.'
Weel-a-weel, I had to shove him oot o' the shop, and I tell ye,
boys, he was shakin' like a shakky-trummly.
Weel, in aboot half-an-hour Jeemie cam back, and he was smilin'
'Hoo did ye get on?' I speered.
'Graund!' he cried, '. . . she was deid afore I got there!'
* * * * *
When I published my Log a correspondent wrote accusing me of
being disloyal to my colleagues in the teaching profession.
Where is your professional etiquette? he wrote.
I had lots of letters from teachers, some flattering, some not. One
man wrote me from Croydon:
Dear Sir,Are you a fool or merely a silly ass?
Both, I replied, else I should not have paid 2d. for your
In haste the poor man hastened to forward two penny stamps, and to
apologise for not having stamped the letter he sent me.
I really thought that I had stamped it, he wrote.
Then I wrote him a nice letter telling him that the mistake was
mine, for his first letter had had a stamp on it after all. He never
replied to that, and I suppose that now he goes about telling his
friends that I am a fool, a silly ass, and a typical Scot.
Authors hear queer things about themselves. The other day a friend
of mine asked for my Log in a West End library. As the librarian
handed over the book she shook her head sadly.
Isn't it sad about the man who wrote that book? she said.
My friend was startled.
Sad! What do you mean?
Oh, haven't you heard? asked the librarian in surprise; he's a
confirmed drunkard now.
Impossible! cried my friend, with whisky at ten and six a
But I meant to write about colleagues. One day a class was holding a
self-government meeting, and they sent for me. I was annoyed because I
was having my after-dinner smoke in the staff-room. However I went up.
Hullo! I said as I entered, what do you want?
Eglantine the chairman said: A member of this class has insulted
Impossible! I cried.
Then Mary got up.
I did, she blurted out nervously; I said you were just a silly
That's all right! I said cheerfully, I am, and I made for the
door. Then the class got excited.
Aren't you going to do anything? asked Ian in surprise.
Good Lord, no! I cried. Why should I?
You're on the staff, said Ian.
Look here, I said impatiently, I hereby authorise the crowd of
you to call me any name you like.
The class became indignant.
You can't criticise the staff, said one.
Why not? I asked, and they looked at each other in alarm. This was
carrying self-government too far.
Suddenly Mary jumped up.
Then if we can criticise the staff here goes! I accuse Miss Brown
It was a bombshell. Everyone jumped up, and some cried: Shame!
Withdraw! The chairman appealed to me.
I have nothing to do with it, I protested.
Then bitter words flew. They told me that I, as a member of the
staff, should squash Mary. Voices became louder, but then the bell rang
and the class had to go to its own class-room to work.
My colleagues when they heard the story agreed with the children;
they held that I acted wrongly in listening to an accusation against a
colleague. My argument was that I was a guest at a meeting; I had no
vote, nor would I have interfered had I been a member of the meeting. I
was quite sure that if the bell had not broken up the meeting somebody
would have made the discovery that Miss Brown was the proper person to
make the accusation to. When they thought that Mary insulted me they
sent for me, and I fully expected they would send for Miss Brown. Again
I argued that if Miss Brown had favourites the class had a right to
criticise her. If she had no favourites let her arraign the class
before a meeting of the whole school and accuse them of libel.
Looking back I still think my attitude was right, for unless the
staff can lay aside all dignity and become members of the gang
education is not free. Yet I see now that I was secretly exulting in
the discomfiture of a colleague . . . a common human failing which none
of us care to recognise in ourselves. It is a sad fact but a true one
that however much Dr. A. protests when a patient tells him that Dr. B.
is a clumsy fool, unconsciously at least Dr. A. is gratified at the
criticism of his rival. Psycho-analysts, that is people who are
supposed to know the contents of their unconscious, are just as guilty
in this respect as other doctors, and if anyone doubts this let him ask
a Freudian what he thinks of the Jungian in the next street.
My earliest memory of professional jealousy goes back to the age of
seven. I lived next door to a dentist, a real qualified L.D.S. Across
the street lived a quack dental surgeon. When trade was dull these two
used to come to their respective doors and converse with each other in
the good old simple way of putting the fingers to the nose. They never
spoke to each other. Life in a northern town was simple in these days.
* * * * *
Helen Macdonald is four years old, and her mother and I have some
breezy discussions about her upbringing. Mrs. Mac has a great
admiration for her own mother, and she is bent on bringing up her
daughter in the way that she was brought up.
Mother made me obey and I'll make Helen obey, she said to-day with
It's dangerous, I said.
No it isn't; it worked well enough in my case anyway.
Don't blow your own trumpet, madam!
I don't think I am a bad product of the good old way, she said
with a self-satisfied air.
Madam, shall I tell you the truth about yourself?
She bubbled and drew her chair closer to mine.
Do! she cried, and then added: But I won't believe the nasty
To begin with, I said pompously, you are an awful example of a
She bowed mockingly and Mac guffawed. He is a wee bit afraid of his
wife and he marvels at my courage in ragging her.
You, I continued, were made to obey as a child, and as a result
you became dependent on your mother. In short you are your own mother.
Don't be silly, she said with a frown; I want your serious
And you are getting it, I replied. Because you had to obey you
never lived your own life, and naturally you never had a mind of your
own. To this day you act as your mother acted. She made her daughter
obey; you follow her example; she made scones in such and such a way;
you make scones in exactly the same way.
That's right! laughed Mac.
Mrs. Mac looked thoughtful.
Anyway, she said quickly, they are excellent scones.
Most excellent scones, I hastened to add, but my point is that if
we all follow our parents there will be no progress.
Progress will never bring better scones, said Mac and he patted
his wife's cheek.
Mac, I said gallantly, your wife has brought scones to their
perfect and utmost evolution. She has made the super-scone. Only, Helen
isn't a scone you know.
At this point Helen was found trying to pull the marble clock down
from the mantlepiece. Her mother rescued the clock as it was falling,
and she scolded the fair Helen.
You are all theory, she cried to me. What would you do in a case
Same as you did, I answered hastily, and then added: Only I would
try to give her so many interesting things to play with that she'd
forget to want the clock.
Then Mrs. Mac indignantly dragged out Helen's toys from a cupboard.
Dozens of them! she cried, and she is tired of every one.
Then I discoursed on toys. The toys of the world are nearly all bad.
Helen has a beautiful sleeping doll that cost five pounds; rather I
should say that Helen had a beautiful sleeping doll that cost
five pounds. On the one occasion that Helen was allowed to play with it
she made a careful attempt to open the head with a pair of scissors to
see what made the eyes close and open. Then her mother put the doll in
a box, packed the box in a trunk, and explained to Helen that the doll
was to lie in that trunk until Helen had a little baby girl of her own.
I explained to Mrs. Mac that the toy a child needs is one that will
take to pieces. Every toy should be a mine of discovery. The only good
toys that I know of are Meccano and Primus, but there is much need for
constructive toys for younger children.
Mac, I said, if you were even a passably good husband you would
be making Montessori apparatus for your offspring.
We have many arguments like this. Mrs. Mac's problem is that of a
million mothers; she has to fit the child into an adult environment.
Yesterday she was painting in oils. The baker whistled outside and she
ran out to get the bread. On her return she found that Helen was busily
painting the pink wall-paper a prussian blue.
Wealthy mothers solve the problem by employing nurses, but the
solution is a poor one. Few nurses know enough about children, and many
do positive harm by frightening the child. Nor can the hired nurse give
the infinite amount of love that a child demands. If she could it is
probable that she would be sacked, for no mother likes to see her child
lavish his love on another. On more than one occasion I have discovered
that the parents of children who loved me were hostile to me. That is
natural. If a father is continually hearing his daughter say: Mr.
Neill says this; Mr. Neill says that, I have every sympathy with him
when he growls: Damn this Neill blighter! On the other hand I have no
sympathy with him if he expects me to ask his little Ada how her dear
charming papa is.
* * * * *
A book of ten volumes might well be written on the subject of
parents and teachers. If a teacher were the author no publisher would
look at it, for the language would be unprintable.
To the teacher the parent is an enemy. When Mrs. Brown comes to
school she and the dominie chat pleasantly about the weather, while the
children look on and marvel. Little Willie is amazed to see his mother
smile as she talks, for it was only last night that he heard her say:
That Mr. Smith is by no means a gentleman. Did you see his nails?
Poor little Willie does not know that his mother and the dominie are
using fair smiles to cover a real hostility. Mrs. Brown will talk
agreeably all through her visit, but as she is shaking hands on the
doorstep she will say, Oh, by the way, Mr. Smith, Willie came home
last night saying that he wasn't allowed to play hockey yesterday. I
want him to play every Wednesday.
But, says Mr. Smith deferentially, Ierwell, Wednesday is the
day when the Seniors play, andersince Willie is a Junior
Oh, thank you so much, she gushes, I knew that you would arrange
that he will play on Wednesdays, and she sails away.
Or perhaps Mrs. Brown will put it on to her husband.
The way things are done at that school are disgraceful, Tom. You
must go and see Smith and insist that the boy has his hockey.
Well, the poor father comes up to school, and he and the dominie
discuss the weather and Lloyd George. All the time Brown is trying to
muster up enough courage to tackle the hockey question.
Er, he begins after clearing his throat, my wife was saying
something abouterwhat a splendid view you have from here!
First rate, nods the dominie. Your wife was saying?
Ersomething about hockey. He coughs. Splendid game! IerI
must go . . . ergood-bye.
No mere man can badger a dominie.
From the parent's point of view a teacher is a rival when he isn't a
sort of under-gardener. The parent would never think of arguing with
the doctor when he says that Willie has measles; the doctor is a
specialist in disease, and the parent is not. But it is different with
the dominie. He is a specialist in education, but then so is the
parent. That is possibly one of the reasons that the teaching
profession is such a low-class one, for a teacher is merely a
specialist in a world of specialists. Everybody knows how a child ought
to be brought up. In justice to parents I must confess that there are
only two teachers in Britain to whom I should trust the education of
any child of mine. Most teachers are instructionists only, and the
parent has some ground for suspicion.
Duncan was talking about awkward moments to-night, and he told of
the shock he got when he joined the army and found that the sergeant of
his squad was an old pupil of his.
I think I can beat that, Duncan, I said, and told him the story of
an army lecture. I had a commission in the R.G.A. for a short time, and
one morning I had to give a lecture to the men of the battery on lines
of fire. They were mostly miners, and I tried to make the lecture as
simple as possible. I began with the definition of an angle and went on
to circular measurement. I noticed that one man stared at the
blackboard in bewilderment, a very stupid looking fellow he was. When
the lecture was over I approached him.
I don't think you understood what I was trying to tell you, I
I did have some difficulty in following it, sir, he said.
H'm! What were you in civil life?
Mathematical master in a secondary school, sir.
I could not rise to the occasion. I fled to the mess and ordered a
brandy and soda.
Speaking about rising to the occasion brings to my mind another army
incident in which I did not shine. I was a recruit in the infantry, and
a gym sergeant was putting us through physical jerks. He told us the
familiar tale that although we had broken our mothers' hearts we
wouldn't break his; in short he put the wind up us. I got very nervous.
Right turn! he roared, and I thought he said Right about turn.
He told the squad to stand easy, and then he eyed me curiously.
You! Big fellow! Take that smile off your face!
I don't know why he said that for I couldn't have smiled at that
moment for anything less than my ticket. He studied me carefully for a
bit, then enlightenment seemed to dawn on him.
I got it! he exclaimed triumphantly.
I know wot's wrong with you! You've got a stupid face; you can't
think; you never thought in yer life.
I looked on the ground.
Did yer ever think in yer life?
No, sergeant, I said humbly.
I blinkin' well thought so! he said and moved away.
Then the worm turned. Who was he that he should bully a scholar and
a gentleman? I would lower him to the dust.
He turned quickly.
Wot d'ye want? and he tried to freeze me with his look.
It isn't my fault I can't think, sergeant; I was unfortunate enough
to spend five years at a university.
His mouth gaped, and his eyes stared, but only for a moment. Then he
rose to the occasion.
I blinkin' well thought so! he cried. Squad! . . . . Tshun!
* * * * *
It is Sunday night, and I have just been to town. At the Cross I
stood and listened to a revivalist bellowing from a soap-box. His
message was Salvation but I was more interested in the man than his
message. Consciously he is out to save sinners, but I suspect that
unconsciously he is out to draw attention to himself. I do not blame
him. I do the same thing when I publish a book; Lloyd George and George
Robey and the revivalist and I are all striving each in his little
corner to draw attention to ourselves.
The exhibition impulse is in every child. A child loves to run about
naked, but then society in the form of the mother steps in and says:
You must not do that! But we know that every wish lives on in the
depths of the mind, and the childish wish to exhibit the body appears
in later years as a desire to preach or sing or act or lecture.
This is the psychology of the testimonials for liver pills which
appear in every local paper. It is the psychology of much crime. Many a
slum youth glories in having been birched, simply because his gang
looks on him as a hero.
I hasten to state that exhibitionism alone does not make a Cabinet
Minister or a comedian. There are other motives from infancy, an
important one being the desire for power. I recall that as a boy I
delighted in following a drove of cattle and smiting the poor creatures
hard with a cudgel. Freud would say that in this way I was releasing
sex energy, but I think that the infantile sense of power was at the
root of my cruelty; here was I, a wee boy, controlling a big heavy
stot. It is love of power that makes little boys want to be
To the teacher this love of power is the most vital thing in a
child's make-up. Discipline thwarts the boy at every turn, and our
adult authority is fatally injuring the boy's character. Our task is to
provide the child with opportunity to wield his power. We suppress it
and the lad shows his power in destructive instead of constructive
activities. I find that I keep returning to this subject of
suppression, but it is the most important evil in education. It does
not matter how perfect a teacher makes his instruction in arithmetic;
if he has not come to see that suppression of a child is a tragedy, his
instruction is of no value. From an examination point of view, yes;
from a spiritual point of view, no.
* * * * *
Parents and teachers fail because they cannot see the world as the
child sees it. The child of three is a frank egoist. He cares for no
one but himself, and the world is his. Anger him and he would have you
drawn and quartered if he had the power. His instincts prompt him to
master his environment, and to begin with, when he is a few weeks old,
his environment and his own person are indistinguishable.
Homer Lane gives a delightful description of the child's first
efforts and how they are frustrated by ignorant adults.
At a very early age the child becomes aware through various
processes that his own hand which he has seen moving across his line of
vision is a part of himself, and that he can move it himself. He has
discovered power. He then enters upon his career. The same motive that
will govern his behaviour for the rest of his life comes into
operation, and he wants to use this new-found power for some purpose
that will increase his enjoyment of life. Up to this time he has had
only one pleasure, and that was to do with the commissariat. Having
discovered power over his fist he therefore wants to put it in his
mouth . . . a difficult task requiring much practice and patient
As he goes on working he learns that his power increases with
effort, and now his motive is modified. At first it was purely
materialistic; he wanted to have his fist in his mouth. Now he wants to
put it there. His interest is in doing the thing rather than in having
This is the spiritual element in his present desire, and now comes
the first mistake in education. The mother, analysing the behaviour of
the child, has noticed his complaint at the difficulty of the task as
fatigue sets in, and, misunderstanding the motive of the child she
helps him to put his fist in his mouth. But that is just what the child
did not want, and he protests violently against this interference with
his purpose in life.
The mother again makes a false analysis of the situation, and
concludes that his protest is the result of his disappointment that
there is no nourishment in the fist. She then gives him food or
paregoric, whatever may be her method of dealing with the spiritual
unrest of her child, and thus drugs his creative faculties.
I have said that the infant is an egoist. If his egoism is allowed
full scope he will enter upon the next stage of life, the
self-assertive stage, with a huge capacity for being altruistic. This
stage comes on about the age of six or seven. But if the child has had
parents who believe in moulding character he will have had many severe
lectures about his selfishness. These lectures will not have cured his
selfishness; they will have driven it underground for the moment. The
selfishness of adults is one result of the moral lecture in childhood,
for no wish or emotion will remain buried for ever.
The age of self-assertion is the rowdy age, and naturally it is now
that father uses his authority. The child is still ego-centric, but in
a different way. At the age of three he was the king of the world; at
the age of seven he is the king of the other boys who play with him. He
is now reckoning with society, and he uses society as a background
against which he may play the hero. Thus be bleeds Jack's nose for no
reason in the world other than that he thus asserts himself. If he
plays horses with the boy next door he insists upon being the driver.
It is at this period that he should be free from authority. If
authority in the shape of father or teacher or policeman steps in to
suppress his self-assertion the boy becomes an enemy of all authority
and very often anti-social. The rebel in the Socialist camp is a good
specimen of the man whose self-assertive period was injured by
authority, and I suspect that the truculent drunk is letting off the
steam that he should have let off at the age of eight.
The third stage in the evolution of a child is the adolescent stage.
For the first time the boy becomes a unit in society. Hitherto he has
played for his own hand; his games have been games in which personal
prowess was the desired aim. Now he feels that he is one of a team.
Even before puberty the team-forming impulse is seen; Putter, for
instance, in The Boy and his Gang, gives ten to sixteen as the
These divisions are purely arbitrary, and children differ much in
evolution. The teacher, however, should have a general knowledge of
these three phases. I have often seen a school prescribe cricket or
hockey for boys who are still in the self-assertive stage. The result
was that, having no team impulse, each boy had no further interest in
the game when the umpire shouted: Out!
I used to umpire for boys and girls of eight to eleven, and it was a
tiresome business. Quite often when a boy had been bowled with the
first ball, he would throw down the bat in disgust and refuse to give
the other side an innings. There was nothing wrong with the children;
what was wrong was that a team phase game was being forced on a
self-assertive phase group.
* * * * *
Duncan and two other dominies were in to-night and we got on to golf
yarns. I remarked that there were very few good ones, and they all
trotted out their favourites. I liked Duncan's best.
An oldish man was ploughing his way to the tenth hole at St.
Andrews, and, when he ultimately holed out in nineteen, he turned to
Caddie, he cried in disgust, this is the worst game I ever
The caddie stared at him open-mouthed.
So ye have played afore, have ye? he gasped in amazement.
Why are there no cricket or football stories, I wonder? Possibly
because they are team games; a team is a crowd, and I never heard of a
joke against a crowd. A crowd is an impersonal thing, and no one can
joke about an impersonal thing. I never heard of a joke about the moon
or a turnip. Yet are there not jokes against a nation, and a nation is
a crowd? Take the joke about the Scot who was brought up at Bow Street
for being drunk and disorderly. The magistrate, before passing
sentence, asked the accused if he had anything to say for himself.
Weel, ma lord, it was like this. I travelled frae Glesga to London
yesterday, and I got into bad company in the train.
Aye, ma lord. When I got into the train at Glesga Central I had twa
bottles o' whuskey in my bag, and . . . a' the other men in my
compartment was teetotal.
That looks like a joke against a long-suffering race, but is it so
in reality? Make the traveller an 'Oodersfield' man on his way to see
the Cup-tie Final at Chelsea, and it is not changed in essence. Only it
has become a convention that the Scot is a hard drinker. It is the
personal touch that makes the joke, and it is the individual that we
I presume that the typical joke about Scots' meanness appeals to
Englishmen because Englishmen are mean themselves. No joke appeals to a
man unless it releases some repressed wish of his own. No one expects a
devout Roman Catholic to see the point of a joke about extreme unction.
The professional comedian to be a success must know what the crowd
repressions are. Dickens is a great humorist because he knew by
intuition what the crowd would laugh at. And that brings me to the
subject of human types.
Broadly speaking there are two types of man. One is called an
extrovert (Latin, to turn outwards); he identifies himself with the
crowd, and he lives the life of the crowd. Lloyd George and Horatio
Bottomley are typical extroverts; they seem to know instinctively what
the crowd is thinking, and unconsciously they speak and act as the
crowd wants them to speak and act. Dickens was another, and that is why
he has so universal an appeal.
The other type, the introvert type, turns inward. They do not
identify themselves with the crowd. What the public wants does not
concern them; they give the crowd what they think it ought to want.
This class includes the thinkers, the men who are in advance of their
time. An introvert is never popular with the crowd because the crowd
never understands him. He can never get away from himself, and he sums
up events according to the personal effect they have on himself. Yet to
the unconscious of the introvert crowd opinion is of the greatest
In the realm of humour the extrovert is a success; what amuses him
amuses the crowds. But the introvert laughs alone, and in some cases he
decides that the crowd has no sense of humour, and he becomes a cynic.
It is necessary that the teacher should be able to recognise the
different types. The extrovert is popular; he it is who leads the gang.
Doubts and fears do not trouble him; life is pleasant and he laughs his
way through it. But the introvert is the boy who stands apart in a
corner of the playground; he is timid and fears the rough and tumble of
team games. He feels inferior and he turns in upon himself to find
superiority. Thus he will day-dream of situations in which he is a hero
like David Copperfield when he stood at Dora's garden gate and saw
himself rescuing her from the burning house.
I think that the job of the teacher is to help each type to a
position midway between introversion and extroversion. The boy who
lives in the crowd might well be tempted to take more interest in his
own individuality, and the introvert might well be encouraged to
project his emotions outward.
* * * * *
To-night Mac told me a story about old Simpson the dominie over at
Pikerton. Last summer an English bishop was touring Scotland, and one
morning he drove up to Simpson's school in a big car, flung open the
door and walked in.
Good morning, children, he cried.
The bairns sat gazing at him in awe. He turned to Simpson.
My good sir, he protested, when I enter a village school in
England, the children all rise and say: 'Good morning, sir'!
Possibly, said Simpson dryly, but in Scotland children are not
accustomed to see strangers walk into a school. Scots visitors always
knock at the door and await the headmaster's invitation to enter.
* * * * *
Mac and I were talking about education to-night.
I never heard you mention the teaching side of education, he
remarked. Giving a child freedom isn't enough, you know. What about
History and Geography and so on?
I think they are jolly well taught in many schools, Mac, I said.
It is the psychological side of education that is a thousand years
behind the times.
Yes, said Mac doubtfully, but suppose you have a school of your
own, I presume you'd teach the English yourself?
How would you do it?
I thought for a while.
I'd reverse the usual process, Mac, I said. Usually the teacher
begins with Chaucer and works forward to Dickens; I would begin with
Comic Cuts and Dead-wood Dick and work back to Chaucer.
Oh, do be serious for once, he said impatiently.
I am quite serious, Mac, I said. The only thing that matters in
school work is interest, and I know from experience that the child is
interested in Comic Cuts but not in the Canterbury Tales.
My job is to encourage the boy's interest in Comic Cuts.
I ignored Macdonald's reference to idiocy, and went on.
You see, Mac, what you do is this: you see a boy reading
Dead-wood Dick, and you take his paper away from him and possibly
whack the little chap for wasting his time. But you don't kill his
interest in penny dreadfuls, and the result is that in later years he
reads the Sunday paper that supplies the most lurid details of murders
and outrages. My way is to encourage the lad to devour tales of blood
and thunder so that in a short time blood and thunder have no more
interest for him. The reason why most of the literature published
to-day is tripe is that the public likes tripe, and it likes tripe
because its infantile interest in tripe was suppressed in favour of
Chaucer and Shakespeare.
But, cried Mac, isn't Shakespeare better for him than tripe?
Yes and no. If every poet were a Shakespeare the world would be a
dull place; you need the tripe to form a contrast. The best way to
enjoy the quintessence of roses, Mac, is to take a walk through the
What books would you advise your pupils to read? asked Mac.
In their proper sequence . . . Comic Cuts, Deadwood Dick, John
Bull, Answers, Pearson's Weekly, Boy's Own Paper, Scout, Treasure
Island, King Solomon's Mines, White Fang, The Call of the Wild, The
Invisible Man, practically anything of Jack London, Rider Haggard,
Conan Doyle, Kipling.
And serious literature?
All literature is serious, Mac.
I mean Dr. Johnson, Swift, Bunyan, Milton, Dryden, and that lot,
Mac, I want you to answer this question: have you read Boswell's
Life of Johnson?
Extracts, he admitted awkwardly.
Bunyan's Life and Death of Mr. Badman?
Swift's Tale of a Tub?
Would you like to read them? I asked.
I don't think they would interest me, he admitted.
Then in heaven's name, why expect children to have any interest in
them? If these classics weren't shoved down children's throats the
adult population of this country would be sitting of an evening reading
and enjoying Milton instead of John Bull.
Mac would not have this.
Children must read the classics so that they may get a good style,
Style be blowed! I cried. The only way to get a style is by
writing. Mac, I should cut out all the lectures about Chaucer and
Spenser and Shakespeare, and let the children write during the English
period . . . if I had periods, which I wouldn't. I don't want style
from kiddies; I want to see them create in their own way. If they are
free to create they will form their own style.
In a conversation one always has a tendency to overstate a case, and
as the argument went on I found myself saying wild things. Writing
calmly now I still hold to my attitude concerning style. I love a book
written in fine style, but I refuse to impose style on children. In
every child there is a gigantic protest. Thus the son of praying
parents often turns out to be a scoffer. I had a good instance of the
danger of superimposition of style.
I had a class of boys and girls of fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen
years of age. For one period a week we all wrote five minute essays,
and then we read them out. Sometimes we would make criticisms; for
instance one girl used the word beastly in a serious essay, and we
all protested against it. Then one day the head-master decided that
they should write essays for him. He set a serious subjectThe
Function of Authority, I think it wasand then he went over their
books with a blue pencil and corrected their spelling and style.
Three days later my English period came round. I entered the room
and found the class sitting round the fire.
Hullo! I said, aren't you going to write?
No, growled the class.
Fed up with writing. We want to talk about economics or
A fortnight later they made an attempt to write short essays, but it
was a miserable failure; all the joy in creation had been killed by
that blue pencil.
I can give an example of the other way, the only way. One boy of
fifteen hated writing essays, and when I began the five minute essay
game he sat and read a book. After a time I gave out the subject
Mystery, and I saw him look up quickly with flashing eyes.
Phew! What a ripping subject! he cried, I must have a shot at
His shot was promising, and he continued to make shots, until some
of his essays were praised by the class. Then one day he came to me.
I don't know anything about stops and things, he said, and I want
you to tell me about them.
This is my ideal of education; no child ever learns a thing until he
wants to learn it. That lad picked up all he wanted to know about stops
in half-an-hour. He was interested in stops because he wanted to write
better essays. I need hardly say that he had listened to hundreds of
lessons on stops during his school career.
* * * * *
To-morrow I return to London, and to-night I went over to say
good-bye to Dauvit.
Aye, dominie, and so ye're gaein' back to London! he said.
I don't want to leave this lazy life, Dauvit, I said, but I must
go back and start my school.
It'll cost ye some bawbees to gang to London, put in Jake Tosh.
Penny three ha'pennies a mile noo-a-days I onderstand.
A shullin' a mile for corps, remarked the undertaker.
So ye'll better no dee in London, dominie, he laughed.
And that reminds me of Peter Wilson, him that passed into the Civil
Service and gaed to London. He came hame onexpectedly wan mornin' and
his father he says: 'What in a' the earth brocht ye hame in the month
o' February, Peter? Surely ye dinna hae a holiday the noo?'
'No,' says Peter, 'but I had a cauld and I thocht I was maybe
takkin' pewmonia, and, weel father, corpses is a bob a mile on the
Dauvit, I said, I don't care where I am buried.
Is that so? asked Jake in surprise. What's become o' yer
patriotism, dominie? I canna onderstand a man no wanting to be buried
in his ain country. For my pairt I wudna like to be buried ony place
but the wee kirkyaird up the brae there.
What does it matter, Jake, whaur ye're buried?
Goad, said Jake, it matters a lot. The grund up in the kirkyaird
is the best grund in Scotland. It's a' sand, and they tell me that yer
corp will keep for years in that grund.
Dauvit laughed, but the others seemed to take Jake's preservation
Jake, said Dauvit, does it no strike ye that to be buried in yer
native place is a disgrace?
Hoo that, na? said Jake.
Because the man that bides in the place he was born in is of nae
importance. A' the best men leave their native village, aye, and their
native country. Aye, lads, the best men and the worst women leave their
I sincerely trust that you are not insinuating that they leave
together, Dauvit, I put in hastily.
No, they dinna do that, dominie; but whether they meet in London I
dinna ken, and he smiled wickedly.
Jake spat in the grate.
I dinna see what the attraction o' London is, he said with a touch
It is rather difficult to describe, I said. For one thing you
feel that you are in the centre of things. You are in the midst of all
the best plays and concerts and processions . . . and you never think
of going to see them. Then all the important people are there, the King
and Lloyd George and Bernard Shaw . . . but you never see them
anywhere. Then there are the places of historic interest, the Tower,
Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's . . . and you don't know where they are
until your cousins come up for a week's trip, and then you ask a
policeman where the Tower is. And the strange thing is that you get to
There will be a fell puckle funerals I daresay, said the
To tell the truth, I answered, I have never seen a funeral in
London. In the suburbs, yes, but never in the centre of the West End.
I've often seen them at the crematorium in Golders Green.
The undertaker frowned.
That crematin' business shud be abolished by act o' Parliament, he
said gruffly. It's just a waste o' guid wood and coal. They tell me it
taks twa ton o' coal ilka time.
I was surprised to find that the broad-minded Dauvit agreed with the
undertaker in condemning cremation. I suspect that early training has
something to do with it, and there may be an unconscious connecting of
cremation with hell-fire. Dauvit's argument that cremation would
destroy the evidence in poisoning cases was a pure rationalisation.
I wondered why the topic of funerals kept coming up, and I
laughingly put the matter to Dauvit.
Maybe it's because we're sad because ye're gaein' awa, he said
half-seriously. We'll miss yer crack at nichts.
At last I got up to go.
Aweel, Dauvit, I'll be going, I said.
Aweel, so long, said Dauvit without looking up. The others said
Guidnicht or So Long, and I went out. I was sorry to leave these
good friends, and they were sorry to lose me; yet we parted, it may be,
for years, just as if we were to see each other to-morrow. We are a
When I arrived in London to-night I received a blow. A letter
awaited me saying that the landlord of the school I was taking over had
decided to sell the property. Thus all my dreams of a free school
vanished in smoke. There isn't a house to rent in London; thousands are
for sale, but I have no money to buy. If I had money I should hesitate
to buy, for if a school is a success it expands, and the ideal thing to
do is to take it out to the country where there is fresh air and space
To-night I feel pessimistic; it is difficult to be an optimist when
a long-planned scheme suddenly falls to pieces.
I think of my capitalist friend Lindsay. He could buy me a school
to-morrow, and never miss the money, but I don't think I should accept
it. He would always have a big say in the running of it, and his ideals
are not mine. I know other people with money, but I fancy that they
have no faith in me. That is one of the disadvantages of writing light
books like A Dominie's Log. The adult reads it and says: Funny
chap this! But people have little faith in funny chaps. You can be a
funny chap if you are a magistrate or a cabinet minister, but a teacher
must be a staid dignified person. He must be a man who by his serious
demeanour will impress the children and lead them out of the morass of
original sin in which they were born. Montessori is catching on in the
educational world not entirely because of her excellent system; part of
her success is due to the fact that she never makes a joke; she is
always the dignified moral model teacher.
Poor Montessori! Here I am transferring my irritation at the
landlord who sold my school to her. I beg her pardon. Nor am I really
annoyed with the landlord; the person I am annoyed with is myself. I
bungled that school business.
Now I feel better. When I am irritated I always think of the
traveller from St. Andrews. He arrived at Leuchars Junction and had
five minutes to wait for the Edinburgh train. He entered the bar and
had a drink. He had a second drink, and then awoke to the fact that he
had missed the train. The next train was due in two hours. The barmaid
shut the bar between trains and the traveller went out on the platform.
It was a cold rainy November night. He went to the waiting room, but
there was no fire there.
Anyway, he said, I'll have a smoke, and he filled his pipe. Then
he found that he had but one match left. He struck it, and it went out.
He went out to the platform and found an old porter screwing down the
lamps. The porter knelt down to tie his lace and the traveller
Could you oblige me with a match?
The old porter eyed him dispassionately.
I dinna smoke. I dinna believe in smokin'. I dinna hae a match.
The traveller walked wearily forward to an automatic machine and
inserted his last penny . . . and drew out a bar of butterscotch. He
tossed it over the line, and then he threw his pipe after it. He walked
along the platform, and then he came back. The old porter was again
tying his lace. The traveller suddenly rushed at him and kicked him as
hard as he could.
What did ye do that for? demanded the poor old man when he picked
The traveller turned away in disgust.
Och, to hell wi' you; ye're ay tying your lace! he said.
Lots of people cannot see the joke in this yarn, and I challenge
anyone to explain the point.
* * * * *
Good fortune came to rescue me from sorrowing over my lost school.
It sent me to Holland thuswise: about five hundred Famine Area children
were coming from Vienna to England, and I was invited to become one of
the escort. Then it struck me that I might go over earlier and have a
look at the Dutch schools. I hastened to get a few passport
photographs; I looked at them . . . and then I thought I shouldn't risk
going. However, on second thoughts, I decided to risk it, and went to
the passport office. There a gentleman with a big cigar looked at the
photograph; then he looked at me.
The face of a criminal, his eyes seemed to say as he studied the
Isn't it like me? I asked in alarm.
Quite a good likeness, he said brusquely, and passed me on to the
At last I landed in Flushing, and a kind guard found me a carriage.
There I began to learn the Dutch language. Niet rooken. Scots reek
means smoke: hurrah! do not smoke!
Verbodden te spuwen. It is forbidden to no, that wouldn't be
nice! Got it! Do not spit!
At this juncture a pretty Scheveningen lassie entered and greeted
me. Alas! I knew but five words of Dutch, and when I thought the matter
over I concluded that they were not very appropriate for carrying on a
mild flirtation. Still, it's wonderful how much you can do with facial
expression. Just before the train started a man entered. He knew
English, and with more kindness than knowledge of humanity he offered
to act as interpreter. The ass! as if a fellow can tell a girl through
an interpreter that her hair is just the shade he admires. This fisher
lassie was the only pretty girl I saw in Holland in ten days.
Rotterdam. My first and abiding impression was that never before had
I seen so many badly-dressed people. If I had money and a profiteering
complex I should set up a Bond Street shop in the centre of Rotterdam.
No, that's wrong; that wasn't my first impression at all: my first
impression was of a window filled with cigars at six cents eachone
and a fifth pence. From that moment I loved Holland and the Dutch. What
did it matter if their clothes were badly cut? What did anything
matter? I dived into that shop and bought twenty . . . and ten yards
farther on discovered a shop with fatter and longer cigars at five
cents each. Three days later in the Hague I walked round the cigar
shops for two hours, dying for a smoke, but not daring to buy a cigar
at five cents lest in the next street I should find a shop offering
them at four cents.
It was in Rotterdam that I discovered how bad my manners were. I was
sitting in a cafe when a gentleman entered. He swept off his hat and
bowed graciously . . . and I hastily put a protecting hand on the
pocket containing my pocket-book. But every man who entered greeted me
in the same way, and I realised that I was in a polite country. By the
end of the week I was beating the Dutch at their own game, for I swept
off my hat to every policeman, shopkeeper, tramwayman I spoke to.
On a Monday morning I walked forth to inspect the Dutch schools. I
saw a troop of little girls following a mistress, and I joined the
procession. They turned into a playground, and I followed. I approached
Do you speak English?
Engelish! Ja! she said with a smile.
I am an Englishno, Scots teacher, I explained, and I should
like to see the school.
I will ask the head-mistress, she said, and entered the school,
while I stood and admired the bonny white dresses of the girls.
She returned shaking her head.
The head-mistress says that it is not allowed to visit a school in
Holland without a permit from the Mansion House.
A rotten country! I growled, and went away.
In the street I ran into a group of boys led by a master who was
smoking a fat cigar.
Speak English? I asked, lifting my hat gracefully.
Nichtenrichtilbricht, he said; at least that's how it sounded.
Thank you, I said, lifted my hat again, and fell in behind the
boys. I was determined to see this thing through.
I tackled him again when we reached the playground.
I the head would see, I began, the ober-johnny, the chef.
Ja! he exclaimed with an enlightened grin, and nodded. In ten
seconds the chief stood before me. He could speak a broken English, and
said he would be glad to show me round. It was a third class school,
and I gathered that in Holland there are three grades of State school;
the first class is attended by the rich, the second by the middle
class, and the third by the poor.
The school was very like a Board School in England. The children sat
in the familiar desks and were spoon-fed by the familiar teacher. There
was nothing new about it. I noticed that hand writing seemed to be the
most important thing, and each class teacher proudly showed me exercise
books filled with beautiful copper-plate writing. Most obliging class
teachers they were. Would I like to hear some singing? It was wonderful
singing in three parts; what surprised me was that the boys seemed to
be just as keen on singing as the girls. I have always found it
otherwise in Scotland and England.
In this school I got the gratifying news that corporal punishment is
not allowed in Dutch schools, and later I learned that this applies to
all reformatories also.
I think the Dutch are fond of children. Children seem to be
everywhere. I went to the police-station to register as an alien, and
as the inspector was examining my passport this wee girl of three
toddled in and climbed on his knees. He laid down his pen and fondled
the child. Then his wife came in; she had been out shopping, and wanted
him to admire the big potatoes she had bought. I was delighted to see
the human element mingle with the official. A country that allows wives
and children to mix up with its red-tape is on the right road to health
if not wealth.
I went to the Hague next day, and English friends met me at the
station and piloted me to their home. Next morning I visited an
establishment called the Observatiehuis, and found that the
superintendent had spent six years in England and had an English wife.
The observation house, he explained, is a home for bad boys. When
convicted they are sent there and are observed. If a boy is
well-behaved he is sent to live with a family and learn a trade; if he
is incorrigible he is sent to a reformatory.
I looked in vain for the new psychological way of treating
delinquents. There was discipline here, but it was kindly discipline,
for Mr. Engels is a kindly man; the boys sang as they swept the stairs.
That was good, yet, it was Mr. Engels that brought freedom into the
school; his successor may be a bully.
From Mr. Engels I got a letter of introduction to a real reformatory
in Amersfoort, and off I set. Amersfoort is inland and I expected to
find much language difficulty there, for I thought it unlikely that
English would be spoken so far inland.
Amersfoort is a beautiful old town, and I at once set out to find
the Coppleport mentioned in my guide-book. I suppose I looked a lost
soul. A youth of eighteen jumped off his cycle and lifted his cap. Then
he pointed to a badge he wore in his coat.
Boy scout! he said.
Excellent! I cried, you speak English?
He held out his hand.
Good bye! he said; pleased you to meet!
How do you do? I said.
God damn! he said sweetly.
After that conversation seemed to die down. I managed to convey to
him that I was looking for the Coppleport, and he led me to it.
Gradually his English improved, and he told me of his brother in
England. A nice lad. I told him that I had once had a long conversation
with the great B.P., but he looked blank.
Baden Powell, your chief, I explained.
He shook his head; he had never heard of B.P. I think now that what
was wrong was that he did not understand the name as I pronounced it;
possibly he knows B.P. under the sound of Bahah Povell or something
On the following morning I went to the reformatory. It was a
beautiful building fitted with every appliance necessary . . . and one
not necessarya solitary confinement room. A young teacher, Mr.
Conijn, a very decent chap, who could speak excellent English, showed
me round. Every door we came to had to be opened with a key and locked
behind us. Here there was more of military discipline than in the
Observatiehuis, but none of the boys looked sulky or unhappy. The
relations of the boys and the teachers were fine; as Conijn passed a
lad he would pull his hair or pass a funny remark, and the boy would
grin and reply.
Any self-government? I asked.
We tried it but it was no good. It may work with English boys but
not with Dutch, said Mr. Conijn.
Did you have locked doors? I asked.
Then self-government hadn't the ghost of a chance to succeed, I
We entered a class where an old man of about eighty was teaching a
Why do these lads keep their eyes on the ground? I asked. Is
their spirit crushed out of them?
They are admiring your boots! he cried.
I wore a pair of ski-ing boots on my trip, and all Holland stared
open-mouthed at them. If I had been wanted for a murder I don't think
anyone in Holland could have identified me, for their eyes never got
above my boots.
One of the masters, Mr. van Something-or-other, very trustingly lent
me his bike, and on the following day I cycled to Laren to see the
Humanitarian School there. Nearly every road has a cycle path on one
side and a riding path on the other, but in spite of the excellent
roads I did not enjoy cycling in Holland; a free wheel was of little
value on the flat surface. One delightful feature about cycling in
Holland is that there are no mid-day closing times for pubs, but on the
other hand you cannot raise much of a thirst in a flat country.
Well, I reached Laren after many narrow escapes, for I was
continually forgetting that you keep to the right in Holland. A postman
came along, and I jumped off.
Humanitaire School? I asked as I doffed my hat.
By his expression I judged that he did not know the institution
under that name.
School, I said, and he nodded and pointed to the village State
Nay! School Humanitaire! I persisted.
At this juncture another man came forward, and the two of them jawed
away gutturally for some time. I began to grow weary.
Hell! I murmured to myself half aloud.
The postman brightened, and enlightenment came to him.
Engelissman! he exclaimed.
Liar! I cried, I'm a Scot, and I left the two of them discussing
After much trouble and many bitter words I found the school. A
gentleman who looked extremely like Bernard Shaw before Shaw's hair
turned grey, was digging in a garden with a lot of boys and girls. He
was Mr. Elbrink, the head-master. He could speak English and he showed
The school is rather like what is known as the crank school in
England. In a manner it is the super-crank school, for everyone on the
staff is teetotal, vegetarian, and a non-smoker. Here it was that I
heard of Lightheart for the first time, and I blushed for my ignorance
of the gentleman. It appears that he was a great educational reformer,
a sort of Froebel I fancied, for handwork seemed to be the main
consideration in the school. But I regret to say that the school did
not impress me much. Too many children were doing the same sort of
work; they sat in desks and held themselves more or less rigid. Here
was benevolent authority again, not true freedom. All schools in
Holland are State schools, and the Humanitarian School is one of them.
It is almost impossible for a State school to be very much advanced; I
think it is impossible, for the State is the national crowd, and a
large crowd has little use for the crank.
I returned to Amersfoort, where by this time I had become the guest
of the International School of Philosophy. This is a building standing
in about twenty acres of ground amid the pine forests two miles south
of the town. I was the sole guest, for the summer classes had not
started. This school is the beginning of a great movement. Here
students from every country will meet and discuss life and education.
Mr. Reiman, the president, talked long and earnestly to me about the
scheme, but I found myself challenging his insistence on spiritual
The aim of the school is to develop the spiritual side of man, an
excellent aim . . . so long as man does not imagine that by living on
the higher plane he is annihilating his earthly self. Everyone there
was very, very kind to me, but I did not feel quite in my element, for
I am not an obviously spiritual person. I find that I can discuss the
higher life best when I have a glass of Pilsener at my elbow and a
penny cigar in my mouth. It is clear that I have a complex about the
higher life, and it may be a sour-grapes complex. All the same I should
like to attend a summer course at Amersfoort and listen to the wise men
dilate on the Bhagavadgita, Psycho-analysis and Religion, Plato,
Sufism, and other subjects on the programme; anyway I would have no
prepossessions and prejudices in listening to Dr. G. R. S. Meads'
course of lectures on The Mystical Philosophy and Gnosis of the
From Amersfoort I went to Amsterdam.
Umsterdum, dree klasse, returig, I said to the ticket office girl.
Third class return? she asked with a smile and gave me the ticket.
I was indignant.
It is the most humiliating thing in the world to ask a question in
Dutch and to be answered in English. In Rotterdam I had stopped a
seafaring looking man and tried to ask him in Dutch what was the way to
the Hotel de France. He listened patiently while I struggled with the
language; then he spat on my boot.
Hotel de France? he replied in broad Cockney, damned if I know.
On the way to Amsterdam I got into a carriage full of farmers and
one of them made a remark to me. I shook my head.
Engelissman? he said.
Then those men began to talk about Engelissmen, and they talked and
laughed all the way to Amsterdam. Every now and then one of them would
jerk his thumb in my direction. It was a trying journey.
Arrived in Amsterdam I made for the Rijks Museum. At the door a
seedy-looking man touched me on the arm.
No thank you.
Two hundred rooms, sir! Official guide.
No thank you.
He kept pace with me, and in a weak moment I inquired his charge. It
was three guilden (five shillings), and I saw at once that the dirty
dog had won, for he took on an air of possession.
Righto, I said resignedly, and he led me into the building.
He began his tiresome patter.
Thees picture was painted in 1547; beautiful ees eet not? Wonderful
Take me to the Rembrandts, I said.
I cannot describe this incident. I hated the beast because I had
been so weak as to accept his services. The beauty of Rembrandt and
Franz Hals was lost on me; all I could see was the dirty face of that
guide. Rembrandt's Night Watch made me forget the creature for a
moment, but when he began to describe it I fled in horror. We finished
up in the modern section, and as I looked at van Gogh and Cézanne and
Whistler's Effie Deans his squeaky voice kept up a running
commentary. I rushed from the building after a ten minutes' tour, paid
the worm his three guilden . . . and then went back and enjoyed the
gallery. But I nearly committed murder in the Rijks Museum that day. If
ever I am hanged it will be for murdering an official guide. This
particular specimen spoiled my visit to Amsterdam. I could not get away
from the thought of my weakness, and I fled the city.
In the train going back to Amersfoort a genial Dutchman made a
remark to me. I resolved that I should pretend to be a
Ja! I said, and the answer seemed to satisfy him. He went on to
say other things, and when his facial expression seemed to demand an
affirmative I said Ja!
After a time he frowned as he said a sentence.
Nay! said I.
That did it. He became white with anger, and swore at me all the way
to Amersfoort. He had a fine command of language, too, and I was
extremely sorry that I could not understand it.
On the Saturday I set off on my return journey to Rotterdam, doing a
tour in American fashion of Leiden on the way. It was like going home,
for I liked Rotterdam. I think it was the gay paint on the barges that
attracted me so much.
On the Sunday morning the Austrian kiddies arrived, and my
The Austrian kiddies arrived at the Maas station on Sunday morning,
and the Dutch folk gave them a kindly welcome. The Rotterdam committee
was in charge, and I stood back because it was not my job. The kiddies
came tumbling out of the train with great relief, for they had
travelled for two nights. All had heavy rucksacks, many of them the
packs of their dead fathers and brothers.
My eye lit on little Hansi. She stood on the platform crying, and I
went forward to comfort her. Alas! I knew less German than I did Dutch,
and I knew not what she said; but one of the Austrian escort told me
that she had been homesick all the way. There is, however, a universal
language that all children understand, and I took wee Hansi in my arms
and cuddled her. The flow of tears stopped and she took from a small
basket slung to her neck a tiny naked doll. I included Puppe in the
cuddle, and Hansi smiled. A dear wee mite she was, very very thin, with
great big eyes that were sunken. Her tears did not affect me, but when
she smiled I found myself weeping, and I had to blow my nose hard.
The four hundred and fifty-eight children were bundled across the
road to a ship, which took them in two parts across the Maas to the
large building used by the Cunard Line for emigrants. Many of them
thought they were on the way to England, and ten minutes later I found
a wee chap gazing round in wonder on the land of England.
This aint England, anywye, he said at last in evident disgust;
look at them clogs! This is Holland.
The boy was a Londoner resident in Vienna. There were about a dozen
English children in the party. Later I found one standing in front of a
group of Austrian boys.
Any one o' you, he was shouting, I'll box the whole gang o' you!
This Cockney, his little brother, and their sister were the thorn in
the flesh of the escort.
Absolute terrors, declared everyone, but I liked them.
Many of the children were middle class, children of doctors,
lawyers, architects, and so on; nice kiddies they were. The bigger
girls could speak English, and I used them as interpreters.
On the Monday morning the English escort took charge. The first task
was medical inspection, and the two English doctors and four or five
Dutch doctors prepared for action. Our job was to marshal the kiddies,
help them to take their shirts off, and then bundle them into the
inspection room. It sounds easy, but it was a weary business. You
looked down the list for No. 258, and you found a name.
Mitzi Dvoracek! you called, and wondered whether a boy or a girl
would appear. There was no answer . . . and an hour later you found a
little girl who had lost her identity card, and you concluded that she
was Dvoracek, but she wasn't; her name was Leopoldine Czsthmkyghw, or
something resembling that.
I was greatly troubled by their questions. Following a method I had
used with indifferent effect while conversing with garrulous Dutchmen
in railway carriages, I answered Ja and Nay alternately. Many of
the children stared at me in wonder and I marvelled . . . until I
discovered that most of them had been asking me the way to the
lavatory. After that I just pointed to a door in the wall when a boy
asked me a question, and when one lad didn't seem to understand, I took
him by the back of the neck and shoved him through the door. Then I
found that he had been asking the time.
I gave up replying to questions after that.
The children had all been examined, and one lad stood alone; he had
no card and no one could place him. Then he confessed that he was a
stowaway who had been too old to join the batch, and had boarded the
train quietly at Vienna. Mrs. Ensor, the secretary of the Famine Area
Committee, proved herself a sport by declaring that she would take him
to England. The good Dutch folk also rose to the occasion, and went out
and bought him a pair of short trousers.
In the afternoon I sat down beside a few boys. And then I did a
fatal thing. A boy dropped his pencil and I picked it up, threw it over
the house . . . and then produced it from another lad's pocket. That
did it. In two seconds I had a hundred children round me roaring at me.
An Austrian lady explained that they were calling me a magician and
asking for more. I blushingly told her to explain to them that it was
my only trick. Sighs of disgust followed, and I was on the point of
losing my popularity when I hastily got the lady to explain to them
that I had a better talent . . . I could make anyone laugh merely by
looking at him. Fifty of them at once challenged me to begin, and I had
a great time. One lad beat me, but then he had toothache, a blistered
heel, and was homesick.
After a time I asked them to sing to me, and they sang sweet folk
songs of their home. They were delightful singers, and the boys sang as
eagerly and as well as the girls. In England boys usually hate singing.
I marvelled at their all knowing the same songs, and one of the girls
explained to me that in Austria every school has the same songs; more
than that, every school has the same class-books, and if two children
living a hundred miles apart meet on the street they can say to each
other: I'm at page 67 of my Geography. What page are you at?
They demanded a song from me, and I sang Now is the Month of
Maying, and, by special request, Tipperary. Then I asked
them to sing their National Anthem, and the lady began it, but the
children did not follow her. At my look of surprise the lady said:
They cannot sing it because now they feel that they have no Austria
left to sing about.
A man's voice sounded from inside the building, and they rushed
indoors, for it was the voice of their beloved Ministry of Health
doctor, who had brought them from Vienna, and they all loved him. They
forgot me at once and left me . . . all but one. Little Hansi put her
wee hand in mine and snuggled closer . . . and that's why I love her so
On Tuesday morning they all took up their packs, and we set off for
England via the Maas boat and station. We packed into carriages and set
off. There was no water on the train, but we laughed and said: We'll
be in Flushing in two hours! We are a special! We were. We left the
Maas station at one o'clock, and we travelled until three. Then we drew
up . . . and found we were back at the Maas station. Where we had been
I don't know, but it was the biggest mystery of my life. Well, we
crawled along past picturesque villages where women with white caps and
red arms smiled on us and gave us water to drink. And at eight o'clock
we reached Flushing all very weary and extremely dirty. The kiddies had
a good meal set out on white tablecloths, and the doctor and I had the
best Pilsener of our lives. We handed over the kiddies to the ship
stewards and the fresh escort from England, and retired to rest.
I awoke at six and found that all the children were on deck, and the
bad English boy almost in the water, for his heels were off the ground
and his head far down towards the water. He was looking for fish, he
said. None of the children had seen the sea before, but I think they
were too tired to be excited about it. They did become excited when
they saw the cliffs of Dover.
Much to my annoyance a gentleman had been teaching them God Save
the King on the way over. I was annoyed because I knew it was a
piece of jingoism meant for the journalists at Folkestone. When we drew
up at the pier, sure enough the gentleman struck up the tune, and the
kiddies sang it. But the girls who could speak English sang God Save
YOUR Gracious King. I thought it a beautiful touch; the finest
piece of good taste I have ever come across.
I didn't like the well-dressed ladies who came bossing around at
Folkestone. Frankly I was jealous. As I was leading the children off
the steamer, one of them touched me on the arm and asked me to make way
for the children. And I smiled to see that the women in rich dresses
managed somehow to get in front of the camera.
We took the children to Sandwich by rail and then to a camp by motor
lorry. It was a tiresome job loading and unloading the lorry, but after
six trips I found that every child was in camp. I went off to have a
wash and some tea, and then, glowing with self-satisfaction at all I
had done, I lit a cigar and walked outside. A gentleman passed me.
Are you a worker? he demanded.
IerI suppose I amin a way, I said modestly.
Well, don't you think you might find something to do? he asked.
There's plenty to do, you know.
Then for the first time in my life I understood the old Mons Ribbon
men who used to annihilate the recruit with the terse phrase: Afore
you came up!
The pressmen passed by, a dozen of them with the stowaway in their
midst. Presently they posed him and a dozen cameras snapped while a
cinema burred. And next day the papers told a romantic story; the
stowaway had crept into the train at Vienna, and, foodless, had hid
until he arrived in Rotterdam. Then darkly he had crept on board the
ship and had been discovered at Folkestone. Also when next day I saw in
the pictorial papers a photograph of a boy violinist playing to his
chums, I was not very much surprised to find the title of the photo
was: The Stowaway Entertains His Companions. As a matter of
fact, the fiddler wasn't the stowaway at all, but this incident makes
me think hard about history. If a Fleet Street reporter changes one boy
into another, why, we may be all wrong in our history. Henry VIII. may
only have had one wife, and the reporter who interviewed him may have
had so much sack to drink that his vision along with the journalistic
touch may have manufactured the other five. The tale of King Harold
being shot through the eye at the Battle of Hastings may have arisen
from a reporter's using the figurative expression that William the
Conqueror put his eye out. Nor, after reading the account of the
landing of the Austrian children, can I believe the tale of the
minstrel Taillifer who sprang into the water to lead the Normans in
landing. And as for the time-honoured phrases, Take away that bauble!
and England expects every man to do his duty, I don't believe they
were ever utterednot now.
I am not singling out journalists as special misreporters. Not one
of us can report an incident truly. There is a good example of this
truth in Swift's Psychology and Everyday Life, just published.
Swift prepared a stunt as a test for his adult class. In the midst of a
serious lecture two men and two women students created a disturbance
outside in the lobby, then they burst into the room. One held a banana
pistol-wise at another's head. Swift dropped a toy bomb, and one of the
students staggered back crying: I'm shot!
One student dropped a parcel containing a brick, and all yelled and
made much noise. The class was seriously alarmed until they were
assured that the whole affair was a put-up job. Each student was asked
to write an account of what had happened, and the result of their
attempts is so astounding that the reader becomes uncertain whether any
witness in a law-court ever tells the truth. Few, if any, students
could identify one of the wranglers; every account said that the banana
was a real pistol; only one or two saw the brick drop. The strangest
thing was that many were quite sure of the identity of the actors . . .
and one or two of the accounts named students who had long since left
the college. I write from memory, but the facts were as arresting as
the ones I have given.
This makes one uneasy about the methods the police adopt to identify
a prisoner. If I saw a man shoot another in Piccadilly, it is a
thousand to one chance that I should not be able to identify him later.
Yet many a man has been hanged on identification.
But I meant to finish my account of the Austrian kiddies. The time
came when I had to leave them and return to London. I set out to find
my Hansi to say good-bye to her. I saw her in the distance . . . and
then I ran away, for I hate saying good-bye.
I liked those kiddies, dear wee souls, just as sweet as any English
kiddies, but then children have no nationality; they are lovable for
they all belong to the Never Never Land. Barrie proved himself a genius
when he created Peter Pan, for Peter symbolises man's highest wishto
become a little child and never grow up. Genius, he says, is the
power of being a boy again at will. It is true in his case. Yet this
kind of genius is retrospective; it is a regression. The genius who
will help man to look forward instead of backward must not return to
boyhood; he must go forward to superman. To put it psychologically,
Barrie's genius comes from the unconscious, but what the world needs is
a man whose genius will come from the superconscious, the divine.
I have just been reading Jack London's Michael, Brother of Jerry, and I am full of righteous rage. What a picture! It is the story of
how performing animals are trained, and before I had read half the book
I made a vow that never again will I sit through a performance of
The tale of Ben Bolt the tiger, if known by the masses, would kill
every animal turn on the stage. Ben Bolt, fresh from the jungle, is
broken by the trainers. The method is unspeakable; he is lashed with
iron bars and stabbed with forks until in agony he falls senseless in
the arena. This treatment goes on for weeks . . . and in the end many
good, kindly people see Ben Bolt, a miserable, broken animal, sit up in
a chair like a human. And they laugh. My God!
Then there is Barney the good-natured mule that was once a family
pet. Later he becomes the celebrated bucking mule, and a prize is
offered to anyone who will keep on his back for one minute. Audiences
go into fits of laughter at his antics. But the audiences do not know
that Barney was trained with a spiked saddle, and that for months life
was one long agony of pain.
Is my anger due to the cruelty I am repressing in myself? I don't
care whether it is sadism or the spark of the divine in me. All I care
about is that this inferno of pain must cease.
Never has any book affected me as this one has done. By word of
mouth and by my pen I shall try my hardest to send dear old Jack
London's message round the world. Public opinion is the only thing that
can stop the misery of these broken creatures, and I suggest that the
anti-vivisectionists turn their energies to this infinitely worse evil.
The vivisectionists, at any rate, are working for humanity, but the
brutes who break performing animals are merely amusing crowds of good
people who know nothing about what goes on behind the scenes.
* * * * *
I see in the newspaper that Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks held
up the traffic in Piccadilly. They appeared on a balcony at the Ritz,
and the crowd went frantic. The super-hero and the super-heroine of the
cinema drew the crowd's emotion to them, and Tagore the Indian poet
arrived in town at the same time unnoticed. It would seem that the
crowd responds to the presence of the unimportant person only. London
went mad over Hawker and Jack Johnson, and Georges Carpentier; and if
Charlie Chaplin were to come over, I fancy London would take a general
No one will contend that these people are of supreme importance in
the scheme of life. Charlie is a funny little man; Douglas Fairbanks is
a fine lump of a fellow; Mary Pickford is a sweet little woman. But
Tagore will live longer; Thomas Hardy, Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell,
Sigmund Freud are of greater moment to humanity, yet each could walk
out of Paddington Station and be unrecognised by the crowd.
The morning paper shows well that the crowd is interested only in
unessentials. Punish the profiteers! was the press cry a few months
ago. Well, they punished the profiteers . . . and prices continued to
rise. A few years ago the cry was: Flog the white slave traffickers!
They flogged them, and yet I still see thousands of white slaves in the
West End of London. And while Europe is sinking into anarchy and
bankruptcy to-day, the only remedies the crowd representativesthe
presscan think of are remedies of the Hang-the-Kaiser type. I believe
that the crowd still thinks that juvenile crime is mainly caused by
cinema five-part dramas.
The crowd is rather like the individual unconscious; it is
primitive, and like the unconscious it can only wish. The crowd that
welcomed Mary and Douglas was closely akin to the personal unconscious.
Douglas stands to each individual in the crowd as the eternal hero, the
man who always wins. Each man in the crowd sees in Douglas his own
ideal self, so that when the office boy cheers Douglas he is cheering
himself. Mary has been well named the world's sweet-heart; she is the
ideal heroine, beautiful, wronged, protected by six foot of
masculinity. Both come from the world of make-believe, the world of
phantasy. Their arrival in England simply made a dream come true.
Now I am certain that if any individual in the great Piccadilly
crowd had met Douglas and Mary on the boat, he or she would have looked
at them with interest, but there would have been no cheering and
throwing of roses. What the crowd does is to raise an emotion to a
superlative degree. In a full hall you will laugh at a joke that would
not bring a smile to your face in a room. You become absorbed in your
crowd, and you are fully open to your crowd's suggestion. I generally
laugh at Charlie Chaplin, but one night a cinema manager, a friend of
mine, gave me a private view of Charlie's latest production. I sat
alone in the large cinema palace . . . and I couldn't even smile. Had a
crowd been there to share my laugh, I should have roared.
The Douglas-Mary episode makes me pessimistic about the future of
democracy. For democracy is crowd rule, and the crowd is a baby when it
isn't a savage. Yet we have no real democracy in this country. We have
a slave state, the exploiters and the exploited, the haves and the
have nots. Douglas and Mary came over, and the poor beauty-starved
populace forgot for the moment its poverty, and showered all its
pent-up emotion on the people from picture-book land.
In Elizabethan times the world was a place of wonder; every mariner
was coming home with wondrous tales of Spanish gold and men with necks
like bulls. All you had to do to find a reality that was more wonderful
than fancy was to sail away across the sea. But to-day the world holds
no mystery; there are no pirates to overcome, no prisoned maidens to
rescue. Reality means toil and taxes and trouble. But there is a land
where men are dew-lapped like bulls . . . the land of phantasy. There
is a society where the villain always gets his deserts . . . the land
of film pictures. And when your hero and heroine walk out of the
picture and become real flesh and blood, what are you to do? After all,
you cannot pour all your emotion into your looms and office-desks and
counters. Sweet-faced Mary does not know it, but she is one of the best
allies that our capitalist system could have; for if the crowd were not
showering its emotion on her it might well be using it up in the
smashing of all the ugly things in our civilisation.
* * * * *
I have been thinking of the crowd in another aspect. Last year in a
merry mood I sat down to write a novel. I meant it to be a comedy, but,
having no control over the characters, I found that they insisted in
making the story a farce. The result was The Booming of Bunkie.
I thought it a very funny book, and I laughed at some of my own jokes
and murmured, Good! I impatiently awaited the book's appearance, and
when the day of publication came I sat down hopefully to await the
press notices. The first one to come in was lukewarm.
Why do papers send a funny book to an old fossil of a reviewer with
no sense of humour? I said, testily and waited for the next post.
Well, it came; it brought three adverse notices and a letter.
Dear Dominie, I admired your Log, but why, oh why, did you
perpetrate such a monstrosity as The Booming of Bunkie?
Then a friend wrote me a letter.
Dear old chap,You are suffering from the effects of the war. If
the war has induced you to write Bunkie, I am all for hanging
For weeks I clung to the belief that the crowd had no sense of
humour . . . then I re-read my novel. I still hold that it is funny in
parts, but I see what is wrong. It is a specialised type of humour, or
rather wit, the type that undergraduates might appreciate. In fact I
was recently gratified to hear that the students of a Scots university
were rhapsodising about it. The real fault of the book is that it is
clever, and to be clever is to be at once suspect.
I naturally like to think that the circulation of a book is
generally in inverse proportion to its intrinsic merit. J. D.
Beresford's novels are, to me, much better than those of the late
Charles Garvice, yet I make a guess that Garvice's circulation was many
times greater than Beresford's. Still I cannot argue that the reverse
is truethat because a book does not go into its second edition it is
necessarily good. I find that the problem of circulations is a
difficult one. I cannot, for instance, understand why The Young
Visitors sold in thousands; I failed to raise a smile at it. Again,
there is my friend although publisher, Herbert Jenkins. I didn't think
Bindle funny, yet it has been translated into umpteen European
languages. Jenkins himself does not think it funny, and that, possibly,
is why he is my friend.
The most surprising success to me was Ian Hay's The First Hundred
Thousand. I read Pat MacGill's Red Horizon about the same
time, and thought Hay was stilted and superior with a public-school
man's patronising Punch-like attitude to the working-class recruits. I
thought that he didn't know what he was writing about, that he had not
reached the souls of the men. MacGill, on the other hand, gave me the
impression of a warm, passionate, intense knowledge of men; he wrote as
one who lived with ordinary men and knew them through and through. Yet
I fancy that The Red Horizon, popular as it was, did not have
the sales of The First Hundred Thousand.
I was lunching with Professor John Adams one day in London. We got
on to the subject of circulations, and he said that he had just been
asking the biggest bookseller in London what novel sold best.
Have a guess, said the Professor to me.
David Copperfield, I said promptly.
Not bad! he said, you've got the author right, but the book is
A Tale of Two Cities.
He then asked me to guess what two authors sold best among the
troops at the front during the war.
Charles Garvice and Nat Gould, I said, and the Professor thought
me a wonderful fellow, for I had guessed aright.
There is a whiskered Ford story which tells that Mr. Ford took a new
car from his factory and invited a visitor to have a spin. They started
off, and went seven miles out. Then the car stopped. Ford jumped out
and lifted the bonnet.
Good Lord! he cried, the engine hasn't been put in! The car must
have run seven miles on its reputation!
I think that books run many miles on reputation alone. Like a
snowball the farther a circulation rolls the more it gathers to itself.
But what is it that makes a book popular? The best press notices in the
world will not send the circulation of a book up to a hundred thousand
level. What sells a book is talk. Scores of people said to me: Oh,
have you read The Young Visitors? I hasten to add, as a
Scot, that I personally did not help to increase the circulation; I
borrowed the book from an enthusiast. Talk sells a book, but we have to
discover why people talk about The Young Visitors and not
abouterThe Booming of Bunkie. The book that is to sell well
must be able to touch a chord in the crowd heart, and The Young
Visitors sold because it touched the infantile chord in the crowd
heart; it brought back the happiest days of life, the schooldays:
again, its naïve Malapropisms appealed to the crowd, because we are all
glad to laugh at the social and grammatical errors we have made and
conveniently forgotten about.
Bunkie did not reach the hundred thousand level because it
was too clever; it was a purely intellectual essay in wit rather than
humour. And the crowd distrusts wit, and that is why the witty plays of
Oscar Wilde are seldom produced, while Charley's Aunt goes on
I am tempted to go on to a comparison of wit with humour, but I
shall only remark that wit is an intellectual thing, whereas humour is
emotional. Humour is elemental, but wit is cultural. Without a language
you could have humour, but without language there could be no wit.
* * * * *
I have just come across a small book entitled Hints on School
Discipline, by Ernest F. Row, B.Sc.
Boys will only respect a master whom they fear, he says. I have
been preaching this doctrine for years . . . that respect always has
fear behind it . . . and it pleases me to find that an exponent of the
old methods should support my argument.
When I began to read the book I was amazed.
Good Lord! I cried, this chap should have published his book in
the year 1820. He advocates a system that modern psychology has shown
to be fatal to the child. It is army discipline applied to schools.
I found it hard to finish the book, but I read every word of it and
then I said to myself: The majority is on the side of Row. Eton,
Harrow, many elementary teachers would agree with him. He is evidently
an honest sort of fellow, and he must be reckoned with. I must try to
see his point of view.
And I think I see it. He accepts current education with its set
subjects, time-tables, order, morality, and he is trying to adapt the
young teacher to what is established. Hence to maintain all these
things, we must have stern discipline and swift punishment. But I
wonder if Row has thought of the other side of the question; I wonder
if he has asked himself whether order and time-tables and obedience and
respect are really necessary. I should like to meet him and have a
chat; I think I should like him, and further, I think that I could
convert him to the other way . . . if he is under forty.
Ah! Horrid thought! Is it possible that Row is pulling our legs? No,
he writes as an honest man. Perhaps he knows all about the modern
movement; perhaps he has studied Montessori, Freud, Jung, Homer Lane,
Edmond Holmes, and found that they are all pathetically wrong. Mayhap
he has proved that the child is a sinner.
The young teacher should never address a boy by his Christian name
or nickname, he says.
Oh, surely he is pulling our legs!
* * * * *
At intervals during the past few years I have been puzzled when
people congratulated me on my village school in Lancashire. I had quite
a number of misunderstandings on the subject. Then one day I discovered
that there was a village schoolmaster in Lancashire called E. F.
O'Neill. I wrote him telling him that I was coming to see his school,
and one July morning I alighted at one of the ugliest villages in the
world, and I walked past slag-heaps and all the horrors of
industrialism to a red building on the outskirts. Three or four boys
were digging in the school garden. I walked into the school, and two
seconds after entering I said to myself: E. F. O'Neill, you are a
There were no desks, and I could see no teacher. Half-a-dozen
children stood round a table weighing things and cutting things.
What's this? I asked.
The shop, said a girl, and after a little time I grasped the idea.
You have paste-board coins, and you come to the shop and buy a pound of
butter (plasticene), two pounds of sugar (sand), and a bottle of
Yorkshire Relish (a brown mixture unrecognisable to me). You pay your
sovereign and the shop-keeper gives you the change, remarks on the
likelihood of the weather's keeping up and turns to the next customer.
I walked on and found a boy writing.
Hullo, sonny, what are you on?
My novel, he said, and showed me the beginning of chapter XII.
A young man came forward, a slim youth with twinkling eyes.
E. F. O'Neill?
A. S. Neill?
We shook hands, and then he began to talk. I wanted to tell him that
his school was a pure delight, but I couldn't get a word in edgeways.
If anything, he was over-explanatory, but I pardoned him, for I
realised that the poor man's life must be spent in explaining himself
to unbelievers. I disliked his tacit classing of me with the infidel,
and I indignantly took the side of the infidel and asked him questions.
Then he gave me of his best.
He is a great man. I don't think he has any theoretical knowledge,
and I believe that anyone could trip him up over Freud or Jung,
Montessori or Froebel, Dewey or Homer Lane; but the man seems to know
it all by instinct or intuition. To him creation is everything. I was
half afraid that he might have the typical crank's belief in imposing
his taste on the pupils, and I mentioned my doubt.
No, he said, we have a gramophone with fox-trots, ragtimes,
Beethoven and Melba, and the children nearly always choose the best
Love of beauty is a real thing in this school. The playground is
full of bonny corners with flowers and bushes. The school writing books
are bound in artistic wallpaper by the children, and hand-made frames
enclose reproductions of good pictures on the walls.
I saw no corporate teaching, and I should have asked O'Neill if he
had any. If he hasn't I think he is wrong, for the other waythe
learn-by-doing individual waystarves the group spirit. The
class-teaching system has many faults, and O'Neill seems to have
abolished spoon-feeding, but the class has one meritit is a crowd.
Each child measures himself against the others, not necessarily in
competition. Perhaps it is the psychological effect of having an
audience that I am trying to praise. Yes, that is it: the
individual-work way is like a rehearsal of a play to empty seats; the
class-way is like a performance before a crowded house. It is a
projection of one's ego outward.
This method, said O'Neill, may be out-of-date in a month.
I think highly of him for these words alone. He has no fixed beliefs
about methods of study; he himself learns by doing, and to-morrow will
be cheerfully willing to scrap the method he is using to-day. If the
ideal teacher is the man who is always learning, then O'Neill comes
pretty near that ideal. I wish that every teacher in Britain could see
The big problem for the heretical teacher is the problem of order,
or rather of disorder. When a child is free from authority, he usually
leaves his path untidy; he leaves his chisels on the bench or the
ground; he strews the floor with papers; he throws his books all over
the room. Now O'Neill's school was not untidy, and I marvelled.
Oh, the kiddies look after that, he explained. They have
voluntary workers among themselves who do all that, and if a child does
not do his job, the others naturally complain: 'Why did you take it on
if you aren't going to do it properly?'
But somehow I am not convinced; I want to know more about this
business. To find so highly developed a social sense in small children
runs dead against all my experience. I must write to O'Neill for
* * * * *
On re-reading the pages of this book I feel like throwing it on the
fire. I find myself disagreeing with the statements I made a few weeks
ago. When I began to write it I was a more or less complete Freudian,
and in an airy fashion I explained away my actions. Why should pale
blue be my favourite colour? I asked myself this when I painted my
cycle blue, and I found a ready answer in a reminiscence . . . my first
sweetheart wore a blue tam-o'-shanter. This is called the nothing but
psychology. Do I dream of a train? Quite simple! It is merely nothing
but a sexual symbol!
Life is too complex for a nothing but psychology. Last night a
girl told me a sexual dream she had had, but when she gave her
associations we found that the deep meaning of the dream had nothing to
do with sex. Freud says that about every dream is the mark of the
beast, but then I think he believes in original sin.
I have been thinking a lot recently about the psychology of
flogging. It is generally stated that the flogger is a sexual pervert,
a Sadist, and undoubtedly there are pathological cases where men find
sexual gratification in inflicting or in watching the infliction of
pain. In the pathological case the gratification is conscious, but I
believe that many respectable parents and teachers find an unconscious
gratification. It is absurd to say to a man like Macdonald: Your
punishing is 'nothing but' Sadism. Yet I think that a little test
might decide the matter. If the accused flogger is shocked or indignant
at the idea I should be inclined to think that the accusation was a
If I say to Simpson: Excuse my mentioning it, old man, but I don't
think you love your wife, he will laugh heartily, for he has been
married for a month only, and is still very much in love. His laugh
shows that his love is real; my rude remark touches no chord in his
unconscious. But suppose I make a similar remark to Smith, who has been
very much married for ten years! He will hit me in the eye, thereby
betraying the fact that my remark touched what his unconscious knows to
be true. His blow is physically directed to me, but psychically he is
hitting to defend his conscious from his unconscious.
Hence if a flogger is angry when I accuse him of being a Sadist, I
guess that he is a Sadist.
I tried the experiment on Macdonald. He shook his head sadly.
Poor chap, he said feelingly, you're daft!
Right! I said, you aren't a Sadist, anyway, Mac. You must flog
because it is your method of self-assertion. As I've told you many
times, you strap kids because wielding a strap is your childish way of
showing your power.
Then Mac became angry, and when I hinted that my remarks must have
hit the bull's-eye . . . he laughed again. He is a baffling study in
You don't know much about it, old chap, he said genially.
Hardly anything at all, I said with true modesty, only I know one
thing about you, and that is that the fault always lies in yourself.
When you flog Tom Murray, you are really chastising the Tom Murray in
yourself . . . that is, the part that your wife knows so wellthe part
of you that leaves the new graip out in the rain all night, that rebels
against the authority of the School Board and the inspectorate. Tom is
being crucified for your transgressions.
Barrie, wizard as he is, failed to understand the full significance
of Shakespeare's line: The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars,
but in ourselves.
* * * * *
The opposite of the Sadist is the Masochistthe person who finds
sexual gratification in being beaten or bullied. When 'Arriet proudly
boasts about the black eye that 'Arry gave her on Saturday night, she
is being masochistic, and the woman who likes to be bullied by the
strong, silent man is likewise a masochist. I do not say nothing but
a masochist, because she is also a Sadist, for Sadism and Masochism are
complementary in the same person.
It is an understood fact that many people find joy in suffering, and
I can recollect feeling something akin to joy when the dentist, before
the days of the local anaesthetic, used to lay hold on my molars.
Hence I look back to the day when I whacked Peter Smith for cruelty
to a calf, and I acknowledge that I was wrong. I recall explaining to
him that I wanted him to realise what suffering meant, but I was
completely mistaken. If Peter were a Sadist in his cruelty, my cruelty
to him was giving unconscious gratification to the Masochistic part of
him. If his cruelty to the calf was due to his self-assertion again I
did the wrong thing, for the fear evoked by my strap merely inhibited
his desire to assert himself in cudgelling calves. I think now that
there was nothing to be done; his cruelty showed that his whole
education had been wrong. Had he been allowed to create all the way up
from one week old he would have applied his interest to making
rabbit-hutches instead of to beating calves.
I remember a questioner at one of my lectures. I had been trying to
elaborate the release theory, and had said that a boy should be
encouraged to make a noise so that he will release all his interest in
noise as power.
If a boy liked torturing cats, would you encourage him on the
theory that suppression by an adult would cause the child to retain his
interest in torturing cats?
Certainly not, I said, and the lady crowed. I do dislike
questioners at any time, but when they crow . . . .! However, I tried
to hide the murder in my heart by smiling.
What would you do? she asked sweetly.
I don't know, madam, I said, but I can make a rapid guess . . . I
very probably would use the toe of my boot on him, thereby showing that
my own interest in cruelty was still alive. But five minutes later I
should try to discover what was at the back of the boy's mind.
Not long ago I studied a small boy whose chief pleasure was in
pulling bees' wings off. I never mentioned bees to him, but I got him
to talk about himself. He was suffering from a deep hatred of his
teacher, and he had a bad inferiority complex. He feared to play games
like football and hockey because of his sense of inferiority. All that
was wrong with him was that he was regressing. Life was too difficult
for him, and he took refuge in his infantile past; his pulling off
wings was the destructiveness of the infant. But the important thing to
remember is that destructiveness is simply constructiveness gone wrong.
The child is born good, and all his instincts are to do good. Bad
behaviour is the result of thwarted desire to do good. This is shown in
the case of Tommy on page 115.
* * * * *
At one time I was absolutely certain that the Great War was caused
by economic factors; British and German capital were competing, and the
losing party took up the sword. I am not so certain now. It may be that
the cataclysm was a natural ebullition of human nature, and as a cause
the economic rivalry may have been just as insignificant as the murder
of the Archduke.
During the last few decades education has been almost wholly
intellectual and material; intellectual education gave us the don, and
material education gave us the cotton-spinner. The emotional and the
spiritual in mankind had no outlet. In the unconscious of man there is
a God and a Devil, and intellectual activities afford no means of
expression to either. And when any godlike or devilish libido can find
no outlet it regresses to infantile primitive forms; thus, while the
brain of man was concerned with mathematics and logic, the heart of man
was seeking primitive thingscruelty, hate, and blood.
It may be then that the war was the direct result of the world's bad
system of education. No boy will destroy property if he is free to
create property, and no nation will take to killing if it is free to be
creative. Intellectual education allows no freedom for the creative
impulse; it not only starves the creative impulse but it drives it into
rebellion. An outlet is always a door to purification. The old men who
sat at home hated the Hun because their libido was being bottled up,
but the young men who were using up their libido in fighting talked
cheerfully of Old Fritz. The chained dog soon becomes savage, and the
chained libido reverts to savagery also.
I have often said that the outrages of the German troops in Belgium
became understandable to me when I studied a Scots school where
suppressive discipline turned good boys into demons. The brutality of
the German army was a natural result of the brutality of their
discipline. So is it in the individual soul, and in the national soul.
Intellectualism and materialism were the Prussian drill-sergeants who
enslaved the emotional life of the citizen and of the nation. War was a
means of releasing this pent-up emotion.
The ultimate cure for war is the releasing of the beast in the heart
of mankind . . . not the releasing after chaining him up, but the
releasing of the beast from the beginning. Personally I do not believe
that he is a wild beast until we make him one by chaining him; he is
primitive and animal and amoral, but I believe that by kind treatment
we can make him our ally in living a goodly life. The Devil is merely a
The problem for man and for mankind is to reconcile the God and the
Devil in himself. The saint represses the devil; the sinner represses
the god. The atheist cries: There is no God! because he has repressed
the God in himself. Then, again, many people project their personal
devil; the men who shouted Hang the Kaiser! were subjectively crying
Hang the Devil in me!
Who and what is this devil we carry in our hearts? We cannot tame
him unless we can know him. The Freudians would say that he is the
primitive unconscious, the tree-dweller in us. But that explanation is
not enough for me. The tiger has no devil in him, and why should our
remote savage ancestors leave us a devil as legacy? Yet the tiger is a
devil whenever man formulates a law against killing; the man-eater
becomes bad because he is a danger to man, and because the tiger is bad
it is assumed that man is good. The ox that is slaughtered for our
dinners might well look upon man as its special objective devil.
I have often argued that it is Authority that makes the beast in
children a wild beast. That is true, but it does not go down to first
causes. Why do adults exercise authority? To keep down the devil in
themselves, the beast that their parents and teachers made wild
by authority. Truly a vicious circle! But the devil is the cause of
authority in the beginning.
Since there is no devil in the tiger and the ox, the animalism of
man cannot be his devil. But man made his animalism a devil when he
began to have ideals. Then it was that he began to talk of crucifying
the flesh; then it was that the spirit was willing but the flesh was
weak. The devil in man is the negative of man's ego-ideal. The ethical
self says that honesty is good, and dishonesty comes to be of the
devil; it says that love is good, and hate then becomes devilish. No
ego-ideal, no devil. The ox has no ego-ideal; therefore it has no
devil. Man invented the devil to account for his failures.
This brings me to the question: why should man want to have an
ego-ideal? Why should he praise self-sacrifice, love, charity, honesty,
unselfishness, while he contemns hats, murder, cruelty, stealing,
selfishness? It might be argued that he praises those attributes that
make for the good of the herd, but I cannot take this argument as
final. Rather am I inclined to look for the answer in what we vaguely
call the divine. I think that there is a power . . . call it God or
intuition or the superconscious or what-not . . . that draws man toward
higher things. This spark of the divine raises man above the beast of
the field, but yesterday he was the beast of the field, and like the
nouveau riche, he scorns his humble origins.
I am forced to conclude that wars will not cease until man realises
that his ego-ideal must be capable of being the working partner of his
primitive animalism. When that time comes man will know that he is
neither god nor devil, but . . . mere man.
* * * * *
I am spending my days wandering round London suburbs looking for a
school. Of an evening I sit and think about how I shall furnish it.
There will be no desks; instead there will be tables for writing and
drawing on, chairs of all descriptionsarm-chairs, deck-chairs,
straight backed chairs, stools. The children will make the tables and
stools, and we may make a combined effort to make and upholster an
Then we must have at least one typewriter, not for office use, but
for the children's use. The children will use it to type their novels
and poems, and I think they would be tempted to type out poems from
Keats and Coleridge, binding their own anthologies in leather or
There will be no school readers and no school poetry books. I hope
that with the aid of the typewriter each child will make his own
selection of prose and poetry.
The wall decorations will be left to the children, and if they bring
bad, sentimental prints from the Christmas numbers I shall say nothing
when they hang them up. But as an active member of the community, I
shall bring reproductions of the work of Rembrandt, Velasquez, Angelo,
Augustus John, Cezanne, Nevinson; I shall buy Colour every
So with music. I shall sing Eliza Jane with them if they want
to sing Eliza Jane, but I shall bring to their notice To
Music (Schumann), Blake's Jerusalem, and the bonny old
English songs like Golden Slumbers, Now is the Month of Maying,
Polly Oliver. Then a gramophone is a necessity, and all kinds of
records will be necessaryBeethoven, Stravinsky, Rimski-Korsikoff,
Harry Lauder, Fox Trots, Sousa. O'Neill told me that his Lancashire
kiddies have tired of ragtime, and are now playing classical music
only. Personally, I haven't reached that standard of taste yet; I still
have Fox Trot moods. I also want a player-pianoan Angelus, if
Now for the library. I shall leave the choice of periodicals to the
community, and I expect to find them select a list of this kind:
Scout, Boy's Own Paper, Girl's Own Paper, Popular Mechanics, My
Magazine, Punch, Chips, Comic Cuts, Tit-Bits, Answers, Strand, Sketch,
Sphere. It will be interesting to watch the career of Chips;
I will not be surprised if the community tires of Chips in a
Our book library will be stocked from the children's homes, I fancy.
Each child will bring his or her favourite novel, and gladly hand it
round. I shall certainly hand on my own fiction library:Conan Doyle,
Wells, Jack London, Rider Haggard, Cutcliffe Hyne, Guy Boothby, Barrie,
O. Henry, Leacock, Jacobs, Leonard Merrick, Seton Merriman, Stanley
Weyman, and a host of others.
No, this won't do! How can I furnish before my self-governing school
decides what furniture it will have? The children may demand desks and
time-tables, but I do not think it likely. Anyhow, I am counting my
chickens before they are hatched.
I finish this book in the place where I began it, in Forfarshire,
but not in Tarbonny Village. Hustling Herbert Jenkins sent me the
galley proofs this morning with an urgent demand that I should return
them at once. I do dislike publishers. At first I took them at their
own valuation: I believed what they said.
Machines waiting, Jenkins would wire. Send MS. at once.
And I, simple I, would sit up late correcting proofs. I know better
now. I know that Jenkins always divides time by 20. His at once means
that twenty days hence he will say to his Secretary: That new book of
Neill's . . . has it gone to the printer yet? And his Secretary will
'phone down to the office secretary and say: You've got to send
Neill's new book to the printer. Then this lady will order the
office-boy to take the MS. to the printer . . . and I bet the little
devil reads Deadwood Dick on the Boomerang Prairie as he crawls
to the printer's office with my masterpiece under his arm.
Hence, understanding Jenkins, I tossed the proofs into a corner this
morning, and went out to continue the game of ring quoits that Nellie
and I had to give up as darkness fell last night. Nellie is a Dundee
lassie of thirteen and she is spending her holidays with her auntie
Nellie won, and we sat down on the bank and I began to ask her about
I dinna like the school, and I wish I was left, she said.
Tell me why you dislike it, Nellie.
If ye speak ye get the strap.
What! I cried, are you never allowed to speak?
Only at playtime, she replied. And ye never get less than six
And it was only the other day that a lady wrote me saying that when
I preach against Prussianism in schools I am merely resuscitating a
dead bogey for the purpose of knocking it down.
I get quite a lot of information of schools from children. I
remember when I was in Lyme Regis last Easter I went out sketching one
day. As I passed a village school a troupe of happy children came out.
Joy lit up their faces.
The ideal school! I cried, and stopped to speak to them.
Tell me, children, tell me why you have laughter in your eyes, I
said, tell me of your happy school.
The oldest boy grinned.
Master's gone off for the day to a funeral, he said.
I walked on deep in thought.
Nellie dislikes school. What a tragedy. She is a dear sweet child
with kind eyes and a bonny smile. She spoke frankly to me at first but
when I told her that I was a teacher she looked at me with fear and (I
smiled at this) dropped her Dundee dialect and answered me in School
English. I had to throw plantain heads at her for a full five minutes
before the look of fear left her eyes and her dialect returned.
I dinna believe ye are a teacher, she said to-night.
Ye're no like ane, she said hesitatingly. Ye're owerower daft.
But why shouldn't a teacher be daft? I asked.
They shud be respectable, she said, or the children winna respect
I looked alarmed.
What! I cried, don't you respect me?
She laughed gaily.
No! she cried, then she added seriously: But I'd like to be at
She returns to Dundee to-morrow, to a class of fifty, where silence
reigns. Poor Nellie! What worries me is that when Nellie's teacher
reads this book she will most probably agree with Nellie's remark that
I'm daft. But she won't mean what Nellie meant.
A telegraph girl approached.
Machines are waiting.Jenkins.
Nellie looked anxious.
That's twa telegrams ye've got the day, she said. Is onybody
I looked at the words on the telegraph form.
No, Nellie, unfortunately no! I said slowly, and I went in to read
my galley proofs.