Portal Site for Russellian in Japan
* 2008.??.?? 掲載
At all times there have been some things about which it was correct to boast, other things about which men boasted when they were drunk or excited, and yet other things about which they kept silent. But the fashion of these things has changed very notably during my lifetime. The Victorian was proud of his deep feeling and his manly self-control. He wished it to be guessed that his heart was broken without his having to say so in explicit terms, without any hint from him as to the tragic incident by which life had been blighted. There should be as little external action as possible ; the drama should be, as far as may be, confined within his own soul. Byron had set the fashion but somewhat crudely. As time went on refinements were introduced but without essential alteration.
Young men and women of the present day are very different - those, at least, who are really up to date. They wish you to think that there is no end to the daring things they have done, but that they have never felt an emotion of any sort while doing them. In actual fact they have often felt far more emotion than was felt by their Byronic grandfathers, but they are ashamed of it. They despise what used to be called sensibility, and the more they have, the less they pretend to have. In old days a poet tried to persuade you how deeply he had loved, while concealing the names of the objects of his passion ; the modern poet does not mind the names being known, but would hate it to be supposed that his heart had been involved.
All reserve is based upon fear, and the change in the kind of reserve that is practised is due to the fact that men's fears are different from what they used to be. In old days there was a very rigid code of respectability and manners which a man infringed at his peril, but he was all the more highly thought of if he suffered pain while obeying the code. The modern young man is more afraid of the ridicule of contemporaries if he should for a moment fall into the type of humbug which has made their elders odious to them. Of course avoidance of humbug, when it is once erected into a rigid principle, becomes itself a source of a new kind of humbug. But this kind has not become disgusting to the young, since they have not seen it practised by those who had power over them. Their children, I suppose, will yearn for a little emotionalism in their parents, and will react again towards sensibility. One thing constant throughout the ages is the belief that old people are tiresome and absurd - a most wholesome belief, since it is the cause of progress. The only periods for which there is no hope are the periods in which the young respect the old.
This change in the nature of reserve is one of the chief reasons that have made it difficult for the old to understand the young, and for the young to respect the old. The old appear to the young indecently blatant about their fine feelings, and the young seem to the old indecently blatant about their un-fine doings. In actual fact the old are not such humbugs as they seem to the young, nor are the young as hard-boiled as they seem to the old. The old have their moments of sincerity, and the young have their moments of pretence. But when the young pretend, they pretend to the very opposite of what the old would pretend to, and when the old are sincere, their sincerity is of a sort to which the young are blinded by their code. Misunderstandings between old and young depend not only upon the fact that the old have power, but also upon the changes in the world ; as these changes grow more rapid, the misunderstandings are likely to grow greater until all real converse between persons of different generations becomes impossible. This is to be regretted, but can hardly be avoided until the world has become more stable.