Typos p. 88: sumptous [= sumptuous]; p. 96: womans' [= woman's]
Anthony M. Ludovici
The prophet of anti-feminism
In Our Prophets
Being Appreciations of Norman Angell, Bernard Shaw,
H. G. Wells, Bertrand Russell, Anthony M. Ludovici
by R. B. Kerr
R. B. Kerr
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Anthony Mario Ludovici was born in London, of Italian ancestry, in 1882. As Who's Who? informs us, he was "educated privately and abroad, but chiefly by his mother." He started as an artist, and was for some time private secretary to Rodin, the famous sculptor; but soon he abandoned art for literature. His youthful mind was profoundly influenced by Nietzsche. Dr. Oscar Levy, writing to Mr. Ludovici some years later, says:
"You, dear Mr. Ludovici, told me yourself that, after a book of Nietzsche's had once fallen into your hands, you found no rest or peace until you had gone to Germany, learnt German, and thought and meditated there in the solitude of a foreign country on Nietzsche's teaching until you understood it. I myself have often, and unobserved by you, seen you in the British Museum walking about in the depth of thought and I liked you for it."
While in Germany Mr. Ludovici got acquainted with the writings of Schopenhauer, and these two men Schopenhauer and Nietzsche have been his inspirers. Schopenhauer was a man of great intellect,
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but difficult temperament. He was a pessimist and a woman hater. It has been unkindly said that he owed these peculiarities to venereal disease, but we must not search too deeply into the springs of genius. Nietzsche also had a fine intellect, although he did go mad at the age of forty-five, and remained so during the last eleven years of his life. Both were bachelors.
Nietzsche's essential characteristic was his revolt against the Christian moral ideal. He despised the poor in spirit. The suggestion that "blessed are the meek" roused him to fury. His ideal man was not unlike the magnanimous man of Aristotle. To quote Professor Bury: "The humble man of the Christian would have been considered a vicious and contemptible person by Aristotle, who put forward the man of great spirit as the man of virtue." Nietzsche himself said: "What is good? All that increases the feeling of power, will for power, power itself in man. What is bad? All that proceeds from weakness." Nietzsche also despised democracy. To him the mass of men were miserable sheep, fit only for a slave morality.
Filled with his German studies Mr. Ludovici returned to London, and translated six volumes of Nietzsche into
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English, besides writing several books on his Master. He also lectured, a thing he does exceedingly well. He is a man of elegant appearance and neat dress, a slight and graceful figure, and a pleasing manner. He is a great lover of cats, and has much of their daintiness. He particularly impresses ladies. I am not sure that he would shine in a large hall, but in a small hall or drawing room, with a select audience, he has probably never been surpassed.
Some reader will ask me why I call Mr. Ludovici a prophet. Has he not written A Defence of Conservatism? and is he not an enemy of democracy, socialism, feminism, and everything associated with advanced thought? Can a disciple of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche be a prophet? Can one who has idealized Charles the First be trusted as a guide? Has not Mr. J. M. Robertson said: "My young friend, Mr. Anthony M. Ludovici, threatens to become the professional champion of lost causes"? All this is true, and yet Mr. Ludovici is in his way a prophet, and an important one.
By far the liveliest of Mr. Ludovici's books is Woman: a Vindication. Here he is the pupil of Schopenhauer, although his conclusions are very different. There is
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an amusing chapter on "The Virtues and Vices of Women." It begins:
"Whether we appeal to folklore, to the proverbs of the unions, or to the earliest legends of mankind, we invariably encounter the traditional wisdom of humanity judgments upon woman which are more or less unanimous in condemning her bad temper, her disloyalty, her vanity, her malice and her indolence."
He quotes the Law Book of Manu as follows: "Through their passion for men, through their mutable temper, through their natural heartlessness, they become disloyal to their husbands, however carefully they may be guarded in this world." Among the vices of woman, "constantly characteristic of her," he enumerates "(1) Duplicity and an indifference to truth; (2) Lack of Taste; (3) Vulgarity; (4) Love of petty power; (5) Vanity; and (6) Sensuality."
Mr. Ludovici gives twenty-six pages to the illustration of these vices. He does it with vigour and earnestness. For example, regarding the vulgarity of women:
"Woman has no primary interest in a great or artistic man, she does not prefer him to a successful and rich soap-boiler, and what is more, she never knows he is great until the world acknowledges him as such. . . . If in the Europe of to-day, and in all countries like Europe, it is material success alone that is
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regarded as the highest value, and if money is the principal hall-mark of power and prestige, it is due to the ascendancy of women in our midst. Women cannot take any other point of view, and where their influence tends to prevail, as it does particularly in England and America, there you will find the worship of cash the principal religion of the community. . . . To-day this vulgarity can be detected in every aspect of our lives. Everything, every consideration of refinement, is overlooked, provided that money be present. And the man who kills most female hearts is he who can throw a rich fur round his capture and whirl her off in a sumptous Rolls-Royce. . . . Wives who have passionately loved their husbands will learn to dislike and despise them intensely if owing to some unhappy turn in their fortunes they become material failures. . . . Individually this vulgarity ramifies in woman as an inability to pursue refinement, unassisted or undirected; as a readiness to sacrifice refinement or else the fruits of cultivation, to any other sordid end, and as an inaccessibility to the finer nuances of thought. That is why the notion 'Lady' is such absurd nonsense. It is the grossest and most palpable fiction. No 'lady' has ever existed or will ever exist."
All this was already said by Schopenhauer, and he drew the logical conclusion from such opinions: viz., that the sooner the human race came to an end the better. But Mr. Ludovici comes to the very opposite conclusion. He maintains that the above qualities, however detestable in themselves, are of value to the species, and
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must therefore be tolerated. In his own words: "To attempt to eradicate them from her nature would amount to an attack on the most solid guarantee we possess of human survival."
His reasoning is as follows. Duplicity is necessary to women in order that man may be ensnared into marriage, and prevailed upon to continue the species. Lack of taste is important, in order that the woman may love and preserve her offspring, however defective and deformed they may be. Vulgarity is indispensable, in order that a woman may willingly select a man, however odious, who can afford to pay for her and her children. Woman's love of petty power, says Mr. Ludovici, "arises from the species' urgent need of some adult animal which, when the offspring is born, will take an instinctive delight in looking after it." Woman's vanity is a supremely valuable quality, "for what, after all, is this vanity in woman but the outcome of her natural impulse to attract the notice of the male to speed up, that is to say, or to make certain of, the act of fertilization, which can only be consummated when a male has been captivated?" Finally, woman's sensuality is a supremely valuable quality, for without sensuality we could not advance from one generation to another."
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The last proposition is obviously true, but it is absurd to call sensuality an especially feminine quality, for it is a simple fact that sexual desire is more necessary to the male than the female. A woman can, and often does, carry on the race without experiencing it; but a man cannot possibly do so. It is equally absurd to suppose that the other qualities are distinctively feminine. Surely inability to recognize genius is not peculiar to women. The publishers who refused to look at the early works of Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells were not women. As for indifference to truth, lack of taste, vulgarity, and love of petty power, it is the height of imagination to attribute such qualities especially to women.
Mr. Ludovici is right in holding that these qualities have often been useful to their female possessors, but the same can be affirmed regarding men. Deceit is extremely valuable in warfare, and a nation too honest to practise it would be quickly exterminated. It is also helpful in trade, and has enabled many a man to survive. Lack of taste and vulgarity make it possible for a man to do many things he would otherwise find impossible. In fact the very arguments which Mr. Ludovici employs to justify odious qualities in
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women had already been used by other writers to justify the vices of men. In 1723, exactly two hundred years before Mr. Ludovici published his "Vindication" of women, Bernard Mandeville published a similar "vindication" of the male sex, under the title The Fable of the Bees: or Private Vices Public Benefits; his argument being that many qualities which are detestable in the individual are very serviceable to the State, and must therefore be tolerated.
The true answer to all such arguments is that in a chaotic and mismanaged world it is often necessary to do mean things and have blunt feelings, in order to survive: but the moral is not that we should tolerate these vices, but that we should rearrange the world so as to render them unnecessary. If society were so arranged that every woman, healthy in mind and body should have adequate opportunity for motherhood, and should be paid by the State for her services in bearing and rearing children, then all the duplicity and vulgarity which Mr. Ludovici attributes to women would cease to be necessary, and would gradually disappear. Likewise, with an adequate social system, the odious qualities of men in business and war would no longer be necessary.
Mr. Ludovici's great mistake is in think-
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ing of the sex question as a struggle between the sexes. He says: "All life is a striving after power, and power extends only so far as the point where it meets with effective resistance. The extension of woman's power in recent years, therefore, must be commensurate with our own weakness." Such a conception of the relations of men and women is utterly false and mischievous. The business of men and women is to co-operate with one another, not to struggle against each other. The sex movement arises from the realization that men and women alike have been thwarted by ignorance and mis-understanding. Its aim is to enable men and women to help each other to happiness, not to fight for power. The immense majority of women are only too pleased to leave the executive work of the world to men, and are if anything too trustful in men's capacity to manage it.
Imagining that he is confronted with a fight for power, Mr. Ludovici spends much time trying to prove that women are inferior to men. Says he: "To-day the high authorities, the only authorities, on cooking are all men. . . . To-day, every fashion, whether of men's or of women's clothing, is entirely the creation of the male mind. A group of men in England direct
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the former, and a group of men in France autocratically prescribe the latter." He quotes from Havelock Ellis: "It is difficult to recall examples of women who have patiently and slowly fought their way at once to perfection and to fame in the face of complete indifference, like, for instance, Balzac. . . . It is still more difficult to recall a woman who for any abstract and intellectual end has fought her way to success through obloquy and contempt, or without reaching success, like a Roger Bacon, or a Galileo, a Wagner or an Ibsen." Moreover, "Only once in its history has the Derby been won by a mare. At least, so I have been informed," says Mr. Ludovici.
Mr. Ludovici has not been quite accurately informed, for the Derby has been won three or four times by a filly even in the present century. It is true, however, that the Derby is usually won by a colt; moreover, there is a slight handicap in favour of fillies in the weight to be carried. But the mere fact that fillies do win the Derby, and that great numbers of horse races are won every year by mares and fillies, proves at once that the difference of sex can easily be exaggerated. As Mr. Ludovici delights in biology, I would remind him that the females of most animals are for practical purposes considered equivalent to males.
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A farmer would laugh at the suggestion that a mare was unfit for the plough, or a female sheep dog in any way inferior to a male one. To a master of the hounds I a bitch is as good as a dog, and for speed a female greyhound is practically the same as a male. If Mr. Ludovici will consider these biological facts, he will realize that it is easy to exaggerate the disabilities of sex.
When it is a question of judgment rather than of active energy, it is still more difficult to make out a case against women. Mr. Ludovici again quotes Havelock Ellis as saying: "Women are more ready than men to accept what is already accepted and what is most in accordance with appearance," but does that unfit them for voting or acting wisely? All politicians are agreed that Mr. MacDonald would have lost his seat at Seaham Harbour in 1931 if men only had been allowed to vote; it was the caution of the female voters that elected Mr. MacDonald. But possibly such caution is a merit rather than a defect. Many of the Labour leaders have since admitted that they were defeated because they had no definite programme, and did not know what they wanted. It is quite arguable that a female electorate will make fewer mistakes than a male one.
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Mr. Ludovici has a disconcerting habit of damning with faint praise all the institutions which he supports. In his Defence of Aristocracy he takes care to inform us that the British aristocracy is not a genuine aristocracy. In his Defence of Conservatism he points out the defects of the Conservative Party with great frankness. It is therefore not surprising that in defending the present marriage system against the dangers of feminism, he says some very uncomplimentary things about that institution. He informs us that "Modern marriage is now on the rocks," and after reading what he says about it I am not surprised. Says he: "The advantages of the legal monogamic marriage chiefly concern the children that may result from the match. Scarcely any other advantage exists." Indeed, he warns us: "If we are going in search of 'romantic' love, lasting long after the first years of marriage, we are more likely to find it among infertile than among fertile couples. Children, far from cementing the affection existing between their parents, are rattier inclined to supply its most potent and infallible corrosive." In the opinion of Mr. Ludovici, women care far more for their children than for their husbands. "Man means very little to Woman. . . .
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She can afford to pretend devotion, for economic and other reasons, to a creature who has long ceased from holding even that space in her heart, which is occupied by her first baby's smallest toe." The French are accustomed to divide women into two types: the femme mère, who is especially devoted to her children, and the femme maîtresse, who loves her husband most; but Mr. Ludovici gives short shrift to the latter class. "The only kind of Woman to whom Man is everything, is the prostitute," he says.
Although Mr. Ludovici considers motherhood the essential function for which women exist, he is sometimes discouraging even there. "Childbirth is not always successful even in the most healthy communities, and a woman's reproductive instinct often has to clap its hand on the mouth of her self-preservative instinct before she can consent to having a second child," confesses Mr. Ludovici.
What, then, is Mr. Ludovici's solution of the woman problem? Here it is. "If therefore society is to be protected from women's vices, and the future of mankind guaranteed against the deteriorating effect of womans' spiritual influence, the only practical remedy that does not menace the species is to emulate the great wisdom of
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the Orient, and to place woman once more under man's charge." But would that succeed: On the contrary, Mr. Ludovici has himself given us a number of quotations from "the great wisdom of the Orient," which show clearly how little the Orient is free from "women's vices." He has himself quoted the Book of Manu to the effect that "they become disloyal to their husbands, however carefully they may be guarded in this world." What then is the use of guarding them so carefully, if it accomplishes so little? Surely it is wiser for the sexes to co-operate honestly together in building a better society than either the Orient or the Occident have been able to produce.
Thus far Mr. Ludovici will have amused my readers, but some of them may be pardoned if they do not consider him a person to be taken quite seriously. I now come to a matter on which Mr. Ludovici must be taken seriously, and is a real prophet. In his books, Lysistrata and Man: an Indictment, he has put forward strong reasons for believing that the race is deteriorating, physically and mentally. Insanity and idiocy have increased more rapidly than the population, and there is little doubt that the teeth of civilized man have deteriorated. So, probably, has his
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eyesight. In large classes there is reason to suspect a decay of sexual vigour. In any case it is proved, by army examinations and many other tests, that a large part of the population is suffering from serious defects, and it is certain that if we cared as much about the breed of man as we do about the breeds of dogs and horses, we could soon make an immense improvement in the quality of the race. Mr. Ludovici has constituted himself the champion of racial improvement, and his voice is the most eloquent that has yet been raised on that subject.
Mr. Ludovici has made the important point that our whole religious tradition is unfavourable to racial improvement, because our religion has been one of "body-despising values," and only "soul values" have been regarded as important. Listen to this:
"With soul values as the only important values, why should a man feel ashamed of artificial aids like false teeth, spectacles, aperients? The Church encourages shame in regard to impurity of the soul. Does it ever mention shame about impurity of breath? Every day we can see marriages consummated by Christian communities, which on every conceivable physical ground ought to be forbidden the marriage of cripples, blind people, deaf and dumb people in fact, the physiologically bungled and botched of every description. Is there anything in the Christian
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faith or doctrine to forbid or prevent this evil? We know there is nothing."
Again: "The girl of passion and beauty is placed lower than the passionless and ugly girl, if it can be shown that the latter leads a pure negative life, while the former perseveringly seeks the environment in which her passion can find expression." Mr. Ludovici also takes the wise view that it is far more important to create an ideal of health and beauty than to advocate legislative measures. In this he is more far-sighted than most eugenists.
I am not sure that I have done full justice to Mr. Ludovici, but the fault is in great measure his own. He is a brilliant writer with an unhappy tendency to run to exaggeration and absurdity. Anyone who reads his Woman: a Vindication can see that he possesses the potentiality of becoming one of the leading writers of the age. All that he needs to give him his proper place in literature is an accession of moderation and common sense.