Love, Marriage, and Divorce (1853/1889)

by Henry James, Sr. (1811-1882), Horace Greeley (1811-1872)
and Stephen Pearl Andrews (1812-1886)



[Online editor’s note: This chapter appears only in the second edition (1889). – RTL]

LMD-17.1 Henry James has, in a high degree, the rare qualities assigned to him by H. Y. R. But what shall we say of his persistent misrepresentation of the doctrine of free love? It is astounding that a man of his intelligence can write such balderdash. The fact argues either a crass and chronic stupidity on the subject, on his part, or else that he is wilfully bearing false witness against his neighbor. He asserts, not as his opinion, but ex cathedra, and as the undoubted fact, that the free love doctrinaires demand that the flesh shall be supreme; that free lovers are fleshly-minded or lecherous people, ignoring or subordinating the spiritual element of manís nature; that they are chimpanzees, brute brass, etc., etc. The free lovers have never said so. They have merely asserted the law of individual freedom, instead of, or in predominance over, social constraint, as the safer and better medium through which to conduct to the higher development of mankind. They are a set of social philosophers who have arrived at this degree of spiritual insight into causes, and of faith in the self-regulative powers of freedom, in the place of regulations imposed from without. They may be right or wrong in this assurance, but, if wrong, it is on the side of spiritual elevation. It is because the God within them denies the necessity any longer of outward constraint and discipline to lift them to the highest social and spiritual conditions. It is surprising that Mr. James should not sufficiently well understand the working of spiritual laws to know that in charging on others the predominance of low and animal desires and manifestations simply because they demand a free field to live their own true lives, he convicts them of nothing, while he implicitly confesses that he is such, and that he would habitually so manifest himself, if outward constraint were not so laid upon him; in other words, that he, individually, is still a chimpanzee and nothing else, except in so far as outward social and legal constraint, coupled with domestic discipline, compel him to the exhibition of an outward decency; with some promise, withal, that, by the continuance of these ministrations, he may at some future day be developed into the higher sort of humanity, upon the spiritual plane.
LMD-17.2 But, if there is this hope of a better result in the future, even in his case, it may be that other individuals, with a better nature from superior inherited conditions and other causes, may long since have attained to that higher state in which they are justified in claiming to be a law unto themselves, and to be exempt from disciplines which they or their ancestors may have had enough of, and which are now only hindrances for them, however necessary they may still be for less progressive individualities. Mr. James and a large class which he represents may still need a course of domestic infelicities, and, if I could accommodate them at the same time, I would even be willing that the dose should be increased in size and frequency; but that is no good reason why those who have never had or have recovered from the chimpanzee disease should be required to go through, again and again, the same purgation.
LMD-17.3 I wonder whether it ever really did occur to Mr. James and those of that ilk that possibly there may be men and women in the world who are built on a higher plane, or may have attained to a higher plane, spiritually, than any that he and they have yet attained to; instead of uniformly assuming that, if anybody differs from them and their personal standards, he must necessarily be on a lower plane of development. But Swedenborg, Mr. James’s supreme channel of spiritual wisdom, rightly no doubt says that an angel, lifted into a higher heaven than that where he resides, sees nothing.


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