The Creed of Kinship

The Creed of Kinship

The Creed of Kinship. By Henry S. Salt. Constable

To the seventy years which he has lived among savages—to recall the title of his amusing autobiography—Mr. Salt can now add another decade during which he has published an excellent translation of Virgil and abated not a jot or tittle of his opinions. Disagree with Mr. Salt as his readers may—and presumably most of them are expected to disagree, the world not  being by several millennia old enough to have universalized his humane temperament—they never need object to what he has to tell them, for he writes with gentleness, wit and scholarship. In this latest volume he recapitulates much that he said before, and gives us the sum of the whole matter as he sees it: it is not enough to be a humanitarian here and there, to be merciful to one race of beings (one hardly likes after what he says to call them animals) and to forget others: the humanitarian creed, if it is to have the force of a reforming religion, must be a complete and comprehensive whole. Thus would Mr. Salt, who has no illusions for the present, guide us towards thoughts of a better world. At present we are not civilized, for the reasons he gives; we idolize the soldier and by idolizing him bring on war; we go in for blood sports; we eat flesh; we (or the more comfortable among us, not excepting Mr. Salt by his own candid confession) live on the labour of others.

It is easy to call Mr. Salt a visionary, but unlike many visionaries he seems to have an inexhaustible patience, and this, to the comfort of the present day majority, removes him from the ranks of the red-hot and the red-handed. By degrees, such is his faith, we shall be reformed, and he tells us how—through the reign of the idea of kinship between man and man and between man and his less intellectual relatives. There is something very near to the essential Christian idea here; but the kingdom of kinship on earth is as yet as far off as the kingdom of heaven. The practical difficulty of bringing about either is much the same; and Mr. Salt can only show faith and hope where politicians and others who have the practical duty, for instance, or averting war are compelled to come down to a consideration of instant ways and means in a wicked and perverse world. In other words, on the subject of war, or rather peace, Mr. Salt, right as he is a philosopher, is of little actual help to anybody at the moment. But nobody will be the worse for reading Mr. Salt’s chapters—not even in temper, for his good humour is such that, even the foxhunter can forgive him. Occasionally however, he provokes a protest. For instance, there is a clergyman, a friend of his, he says, who invites his parishioners to bring their animals with them to church. “Why not?” adds Mr. Salt. But an equally reasonable question would be “Why?”

Times Literary Supplement, March 21, 1935, p. 179

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