Some William Blake, and a 1932 review of ‘Brave New World’

From Songs of Innocence…

by William Blake

‘TWAS on a Holy Thursday, their innocent faces clean,
The children walking two and two, in red and blue and green,
Grey-headed beadles walked before, with wands as white as snow,
Till into the high dome of Paul’s they like Thames’ waters flow.

Oh, what a multitude they seemed, these flowers of London town!
Seated in companies they sit with radiance all their own.
The hum of multitudes was there, but multitudes of lambs,
Thousands of little boys and girls raising their innocent hands.

Now like a mighty wind they raise to heaven the voice of song,
Or like harmonious thunderings the seats of heaven among.
Beneath them sit the aged men, wise guardians of the poor;
Then cherish pity, lest you drive an angel from your door.

From Songs of Experience…

by William Blake

I WANDER through each chartered street,
Near where the chartered Thames does flow,
And mark in every face I meet
Marks of weakness, marks of woe.

In every cry of every man,
In every infant’s cry of fear,
In every voice, in every ban,
The mind-forged manacles I hear.

How the chimney-sweeper’s cry
Every blackening church appals;
And the hapless soldier’s sigh
Runs in blood down palace walls.

But most through midnight streets I hear
How the youthful harlot’s curse
Blasts the new-born infant’s tear,
And blights with plagues the marriage hearse.



Bob Dylan sprang to mind a few times.. and ‘Mind-Forged manacles’ is the title of a book by Roy Porter.. a book about psychiatry I have been meaning to read. I won’t bother you with my other thoughts, or feelings.

Anyway.. Aldous Huxley. 

I will begin by copying old reviews of Brave New World.. 

This is from a volume of a collection of books that I think are going to become very useful to me in the future… whatever is copied out below is from Volume 79 of ‘Contemporary Literary Criticism: Excerpts from Criticism of the Works of Today’s Novelists, Poets, Playwrights, Short Story Writers, Scriptwriters, and Other Creative Writers’  (1973) James P. Draper (Editor)

P. 284-285
CRITICISM Margaret Chesny Dawson (review date 7 February 1932)[In the review below, Dawson declares Brave New World a “lugubrious and heavy-handed piece of propaganda.”]

‘Mr. Huxley has the jitters. Looking back over his career one can see that he has always had them, in varying degrees, that the flesh and the intellect have exasperated him in almost equal proportions, that love and lust and art and science and religion and philosophy have been so much pepper to his nostrils. Time was when these and other phases of the human experiment appeared to him ridiculous and he exposed them, brutally to be sure, but with charming malice and suave literary grace. As the years went and novels came, the dry wine of his wit began to sour and his satire to toughen into something closely resembling didacticism. To the astonishment of those who counted as much on his thoroughgoing erudition as his brilliance for stimulation, the second phase of his development failed to produce any outstandingly powerful or original results. The fine edge of his bitterness was worn down to querulous argument, And now, with what can only be called a straight case of the jitters, he abandons his genius for mere ingenuity and rushes headlong into the great pamphleteering movement. 

Brave New World is intended to be the Utopia to end Utopias, the burlesque of grandiose modern schemes for futurity. It is described by the publishers as “witty and wickedly satirical,” but unless the substitution of Ford for God (“Ford’s in his Flivver, all’s well with the world”) and the introduction of such scintillating nursery rhymes as “Strepocock-Gee to Banbury T, to see a fine bathroom and W. C.” can be relied on to stop the show, it must stand on its merits as a lugubrious and heavy-handed piece of propaganda. 

The world which is here revealed to shock us has taken for its motto “Community, Identity, Stability.” In it babies are hatched out of bottles (decanted, rather) and the word “mother” has become a nasty joke. Due to a process known as Bokanovskification, whereby one normal egg can be made to yield as many as ninety-six embryos, this world is largely peopled by huge groups of twins or should one call them centruplets? This is true, however, only in the lower classes, which result from purposeful stunting of the embryo by doses of alcohol and regulated oxygen shortage. These people, classified as Gammas and Epsilons and Semi-morons, and made to wear, respectively, green, khaki and black uniforms, are predestined to perform all unpleasant work. As their brains have been conditioned and their subconscious desires shaped by suggestions whispered while they slept, they are perfectly happy in the environment to which the World Directors have seen fit to call them. The Alphas and Betas, on the other hand, who were allowed as eggs to develop without benefit of Bokanovsky and whose hypnopaedia (sleep teaching) has inspired them with a sense of superiority, are perfectly suited to the fields of higher intellectual endeavor. Thus everybody is happy, since everybody has been conditioned to like the life which he will be forced, for society’s sake, to lead. When any little maladjustments occur, there is always soma, the equivalent of the clumsy old time drugs, but without any of the unpleasant after effects. 

The description of the fertilizing room, the decanting room, the predestinating room, etc., have a horrible fascination. Every detail is conceived and depicted with the utmost ingenuity, and if Mr. Huxley had confined himself to such vivid grotesqueries, he might have given us a first rate case of the horrors. It is when he runs into plot development that the illusion fails. By way of supplying adverse comment on the system, he brings on the scene a “savage”, i.e. the child of a “civilized” woman who had been abandoned with her viviparous shame in a New Mexican Indian Reservation. This boy, John, had grown up in a very confused state, his mother extolling the wonders of civilization on the one hand, while his Indian playmates and an old copy of Shakespeare taught him an utterly different set of values on the other. He learned to prize heroism, to honor self-discipline, to believe in chastity. In the new world to which an enterprising Alpha Plus transported him, these virtues were useless, in fact, incomprehensible. But John could not relinquish his belief in them nor resist trying to convert the placid herds to his own credo of divine discontent. Trouble ensued, and at last John the Savage was arrested and brought face to face with his Fordship Mustapha Mond, Resident World Controller for Western Europe. There follows a dialogue that contains the meat of the matter, during which John pleads for the “right to be unhappy” and protests against “getting rid of everything unpleasant instead of learning to put up with it.” Both arguments the Controller meets with commendable placidity, while showing John out the door. The unhappy savage retires to seclusion and eventually to suicide. And then at the very end, after all the sound and fury, Mr. Huxley relents for a moment and gives us a few plangent phrases in which lie the only echo of his former work, the only whisper of better things to come. ‘

(Margaret Cheny Dawson. “Huxley Turns Propagandist.” in New York Herald Tribune Books, February 7, 1932, p. 5.)

Next time, some more words of Blake..

And a review of Brave New World by Henry Hazlitt (17 February 1932)

[Hazlitt is an American journalist and editor who has written extensively on government and economics. In the review, he favorably assesses the satiric elements of Brave New World and identifies their twentieth-century social and political contexts.]


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