There Is No Truce: A Life of Thomas Mott Osborne, by Rudolph W. Chamberlain. New York: The Macmillan Company. 420 pages. $3.50.
Osborne seemed to have been born under fortunate stars. To the inheritance of family, culture and wealth he added personal attractions and accomplishments and power over men. And yet the stars turned malign. “Few men,” says his biographer, “have ever been so unerring in their choice of the losing side.” Mr. Chamberlain brings out the secret of his constant defeat. He was Don Quixote with a streak of the playboy. The zest with which he assumed disguise made it difficult for his contemporaries to take him seriously. When he began his crusade for prison reform byincarcerating himself in Auburn Prison, it seemed only the old exhibitionism; but if ever a man went down into hell to free the souls in pain there, it was Osborne. He was framed on the charge of homosexuality by the devils who would not have their rule disputed; and to that charge the playboy behavior gave some color. Though he was properly acquitted he saw his work in ruins. Mr. Chamberlain has written a clear account of a baffling personality. It may be hoped that his book will serve to extend the revival of interest that he sees in the cause to which Tom Osborne gave more than his life.
R. M. L.
The Role of Money: What It Should Be, Contrasted with What It Has Become, by Frederick Soddy. New York: Harcourt, Brace and Company. 224 pages. $2.
Once more Frederick Soddy returns to his favorite subject: the decisive part played by money in our very sick world. Where he is describing the mechanics of money and exchange, the “mysteries” of credit and debt and the vast economic confusions to which the abuse of these things gives rise, Professor Soddy is a very useful guide. And his concept of “virtual” (that is to say, definite physical) wealth does help to clarify many of the confusions imposed upon us by the equivocal operations of finance-capital. As usual, however, difficulties at once begin to bristle when the unquestionably vital problem of subordinating money to the needs of a genuinely socialized production is regarded purely as one of monetary reform. Professor Soddy, for all his earnestness and great technical ability, cannot or will not realize that money is an instrument for the maintenance of a highly specialized and anti-social control over the means of production. Change the nature of that control, or ownership, and monetary reform has at least a practical chance of success.
Magnificent Hadrian, by Sulamith Ish-Kishor. Introduction by Theodore Dreiser. New York: Minton, Balch and Company. 214 pages. $3.
The story of Hadrian, the Roman Emperor from 117-38 A.D. and of the boy Antinous who died so mysteriously, has troubled historians, for the story has a unique quality among the scandals of the Roman Empire. The survival of Antinous as a miracle-working deity plagued the Christian fathers into invective, while the face and figure of the boy seem to have given classic sculpture its last impulse. This author intends to rescue the man and boy from both mystery and invective and to restore Hadrian to the role of a good emperor. She stretches the incidents of the love tragedy on the rack of psychoanalysis, but she manages to wring out some truth by the process. There are neglected elements, of course, such as the oriental invasions of the Roman temperament; there are, too, conjectures and assumptions. But the upshot of this attempt to tell, in a tragic vein, of these remote individuals, is moderately worth while.
The Other World, by Madelon Lulofs. Translated by G. J. Renier and Irene Clephane. New York: The Viking Press. $2.50.
Pieter Vos, an eternally frustrated underdog, emigrates from Holland to the Dutch East Indies to try and make a man of himself. Among the natives of Deli, the rubber country, his ego gradually asserts itself, though the whites (blandahs) there continue to treat him as an inferior. His one friend and colleague, philosophic old Blom, leaves him all too soon. Pieter finds a modicum of happiness with his native housekeeper, until an unscrupulous speculator offers him promotion to a plantation on a lonely island, palming off on the poor dupe one outworn Dutch sweetheart and some worthless rubber shares. The depression finds Pieter and his wife in Holland on leave. After a terrible scene, in which she ruthlessly exposes the situation, Pieter runs away to die on his island, attended by his loyal housekeeper and their half-caste son. A moving story, competently translated, of a misfit at odds with the world against a tropical background authenticated by the author’s fifteen years in the Indies.
This article originally ran in the July 17, 1935, issue of the magazine.