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HUMANITIES 129 Professor Wisenthal's book, a timely reissue of what Shaw called a 'major critical essay: will surely put an end to both errors. Shaw's words of explicit caution at the end of his 1891 preface to The Quintessence of Ibsenism did not avert them, perhaps because, while calling his piece an 'exposition: he did not sufficiently emphasize that he was not so much an 'expositor' as a debater and propagandist, setting up a thesis, selecting the evidence that suited his case while ignoring what did not, and presenting it with the brilliance, energy, and wit of an orator intent on shaking up his audience. Wisenthal's inclusion of much of the typescript ofShaw's original lecture provides a useful basis indeed for reconsidering the Quintessence. The volume includes a valuable introductory essay that provides biogtaphical and other background material. I disagree with some of Wisenthal's views and do not share his appetite for the gratuitous pursuit of analogues. And I regret the absence of any account of an article that Shaw worked on in November 1889 entitled 'Dickens to Ibsen: the manuscript of which is, I believe, in the British Museum. I regret also that Wisenthal has virtually ignored, as other writers tend to do, the role that must have been played in Shaw's early Ibsenite years by Philip Wicksteed. Shaw and Wicksteed were members of a small group that met fortnightly in 1885-90 to discuss economic theory. Wicksteed's proper field was literature, and in February 1888 Shaw heard him lecture on Dante and was exhilarated. Wicksteed could read and translate Danish, and later in 1888 gave a series of lectures on Ibsen that included detailed accounts of Brand and Love's Comedy as well as comment on other plays up to Hedda Gabler. Whether Shaw attended those lectures is not known, nor whether Wicksteed was involved in Shaw's beginning to study Danish in September 1888. But I find it inconceivable that Wicksteed would not have had a very significant part in exciting Shaw's interest in Ibsen, or that that interest was so emphatically attributable to William Archer as Wisenthal claims. Notwithstanding such reservations, I find Wisenthal's book a valuable addition to Shavian scholarship. (J. PERCY SMITH) Phyllis Grosskurth. Havelock Ellis: A Biography McClelland and Stewart. xvi, 492, illus. $22.50 Havelock Ellis's life project was the seven-volume Studies in the Psychology ofSex (1897-1928). The aim of the Studies was to treat all the phenomena of sexual behaviour in a rational, enlightened way. By so doing, the limits of acceptable practices could be enlarged, prejudice overcome, and a wider tolerance achieved for sexual deviance. Ellis compiled masses of data, undertook extensive interviews, and researched all the available literature in the field to carry out his task. He expended truly Herculean efforts 130 LEITERS IN CANADA 1980 over several decades in devotion of his 'life's work.' His writings had an enormous effect on the prevailing social morality; they helped to change the climate of his age. Yet who reads the Studies today? The very revolution which they ushered in has rendered them superfluous. We no longer need their plea for tolerance; if anything, we would welcome some guidelines for discriminating between moral and immoral behaviour. Further, as Phyllis Grosskurth indicates, the project was flawed from the start. First, though Ellis struggled with Victorian morality, he was a stern partisan of Victorian science. The enormous, exhaustive collection of data which fills up the Studies no longer convinces. We have become suspicious of the methodological basis on which the data were compiled, and we long for an interpretation which would illuminate all these facts from within. The kind of objectivity which Ellis demonstrates in the Studies wears thin as we come to experience the superficial level of understanding to which all this mass of material leads. As his biographer states: 'while Ellis described, enumerated and recorded the manifestations of the erotic impulse, he lacked the ultimate courage to look into his own soul, to make the kind of discoveries or "decisions" that are only possible to a man who combines deep insight with extraordinary fearlessness.' In fact, what makes...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 129-131
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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