On Being Human by Paul Elmer More PDF

“Mr. More is known as a humanist conservative.In these essays, however, his approach is not that of a man with a thesis, but rather of a sympathetic lover of all the arts of literature.He is fascinated by Joyce’s verbal agility; he admires without reserve Proust’s delicate skill in the evocation of the past.He does not let either the failure of communication in certain passages of ‘Ulysses,’ or the fine spun monotony of so many pages of ‘A la Recherche du Temps Perdu’ confuse or prejudice his judgment as to the consummate powers of their authors.He is willing to delve for meanings, and finds them; is willing to estimate as well as define the intellectual pleasure of moderns who have found in Proust and Joyce a stimulus which no earlier work can give them.But his conclusion is not doubtful.Both ‘Ulysses’ and ‘A la Recherche du Temps Perdu’ he puts in one category - excessive naturalism, at the end of the cul-de-sac, at the bottom of the pit.Both men are great moralists - Joyce especially.Both men have given up surety in any philosophy of living which rests on a foundation more solid than the stream of consciousness or recollection.”
- Henry Seidel Caney, “Paul Elmer More and Moral Nihilism,” The Saturday Review, December 26, 1936

“On Being Human is published as the third of Dr. More’s series of New Shelburne Essays.With one exception, all the essays in the new volume appeared in [The American Review] or in its predecessor [The Bookman].The essay from The Bookman, with which the book begins, is entitled ‘A Revival of Humanism’ and was Dr. More’s review of the symposium Humanism and America which Norman Foerster edited in 1930.It was by far the most discriminating book received.The second essay is a companion-piece to the first, being Dr. More’s fine tribute to his lifelong friend and companion-in-arms, the late Irving Babbitt.Readers of this review will doubtless remember it from its appearance in these pages, as they will most of the other essays: the study of Marcel Proust, which appeared in the first issue; the study of James Joyce and the closely related discussion of Marcel Raymond’s De Baudelaire au Surrealisme, called ‘The Modernism of French Poetry’; the studies of Baron von Hugel and, at the end, of Milton apropos of ‘Lycidas’.Two the essays are more general in scope, dealing with social questions in their religious implications: ‘Church and Politics’, which appeared in these pages, and ‘Religion and Social Discontent’, the earliest-written piece in the book, having formed an address delivered at Lake Forest College in 1921.On Being Human is a worthy addition to the rich shelf of volumes we have had the good fortune to receive from our finest critic.”
- The American Review, “Three Important Books, October 1936, p. 601-602
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