21 January 2016

Review: The New Republic by W. H. Mallock

Hardcover, 237 pages
Published 1950 (originally 1877)
Borrowed from the library
Read December 2012
The New Republic, or Culture, Faith, and Philosophy in an English Country House
by W. H. Mallock

This book is about a group of intellectuals staying in a country house, talking about... stuff. You know, like it says in the title: "culture, faith, and philosophy." The intellectuals are all thinly veiled versions of actual Victorian intellectuals, and I read it because some of them are based on men of science: according to J. Max Patrick's introduction, Tyndall, Huxley, Ruskin, and a generic materialist are all present. W. H. Mallock himself was again pessimism, and against Positivism, which he saw as superstition. (Positivism, you may or may not recall, being in part an ostensibly scientific approach to history.)

Thus it's a book not likely to interest the average reader of the 2010s, but if you know your Victorian intellectuals (and I do), there's some fun stuff: Stockton (the Tyndall stand-in) telling people you need to know atomic theory to really appreciate the Alps, Storks (the Huxley stand-in) eyeing everyone like they're a butterfly he's going to pin, Herbert (the Ruskin stand-in) declaring that all scientists should bury themselves. It's a fun enough glimpse at a moment in time, and how science-- especially science's claim to moral authority-- was understood by at least one writer.

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