Open main menu

Page:Earth-Hunger and Other Essays.djvu/53

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

and deprive you of courage and hope. Nevertheless I cannot doubt that the popular feeling in our time and country needs toning down from a noisy and heedless optimism. Professor Giddings,[1] a few years ago, made a very interesting analysis and classification of books published in this country, from which he thought that he proved, statistically, that the temper of our people now is between ideo-emotional and dogmatic-emotional. By ideo-emotional he means inquiring or curious, and convivial; by dogmatic-emotional he means domineering and austere. We must notice, as limiting this test, that the book-market can bear testimony only to the taste of the "reading public," which is but a very small part of the population, and does not include the masses. Professor Giddings found that 50 per cent of the books published aimed to please and appealed to emotion or sentiment; 40 per cent aimed to convert, and appealed to belief, ethical emotion, or self-interest; 8 per cent aimed to instruct, were critical, and appealed to reason. The other 2 per cent contained all the works of high technical or scientific value, lost really in an unclassifiable residuum. This means that our literature is almost entirely addressed to the appetite for romance and adventure, probable or improbable, to sentimentalism, to theoretical interest in crime, marital infelicity, and personal misfortune, and to the pleasure of light emotional excitement, while a large part of it turns on ethical emotion and ignorant zeal in social matters. This accords with the impression one gets from the newspapers as to what the people like. The predominance of the emotional element in popular literature means that people are trained by it away from reality. They lose the power to recognize truth. Their power to make independent

  1. Psychological Review, VIII, 337.