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Is Life Worth Living? by Mallock, W. H. (William Hurrell), 1849-1923

Is Life Worth Living? by Mallock, W. H. (William Hurrell), 1849-1923

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IS LIFE WORTH LIVING?
BY
WILLIAM HURRELL MALLOCK
AUTHOR OF 'THE NEW REPUBLIC' ETC.
'Man walketh in a vain shadow, and disquieteth himself in vain.'

'How dieth the wise man? As the fool.... That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth the beasts, even one
thing befalleth them; as the one dieth so dieth the other, yea they have all one breath; so that man hath no
preeminence above a beast; for all is vanity.'

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σωματος του
θανατου τουτου;'

NEW YORK
G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS
182 Fifth Avenue
1879

I INSCRIBE THIS BOOK
TO
JOHN RUSKIN
TO JOHN RUSKIN.

My dear Mr. Ruskin,—You have given me very great pleasure by allowing me to inscribe this book to
you, and for two reasons; for I have two kinds of acknowledgment that I wish to make to you—first,
that of an intellectual debtor to a public teacher; secondly, that of a private friend to the kindest of private
friends. The tribute I have to offer you is, it is true, a small one; and it is possibly more blessed for me to give
than it is for you to receive it. In so far, at least, as I represent any influence of yours, you may very possibly
not think me a satisfactory representative. But there is one fact—and I will lay all the stress I can on

IS LIFE WORTH LIVING?
1
it—which makes me less diffident than I might be, in offering this book either to you or to the world
generally.

The import of the book is independent of the book itself, and of the author of it; nor do the arguments it
contains stand or fall with my success in stating them; and these last at least I may associate with your name.
They are not mine. I have not discovered or invented them. They are so obvious that any one who chooses
may see them; and I have been only moved to meddle with them, because, from being so obvious, it seems
that no one will so much as deign to look at them, or at any rate to put them together with any care or
completeness. They might be before everybody's eyes; but instead they are under everybody's feet. My
occupation has been merely to kneel in the mud, and to pick up the truths that are being trampled into it, by a
headstrong and uneducated generation.

With what success I have done this, it is not for me to judge. But though I cannot be confident of the value of
what I have done, I am confident enough of the value of what I have tried to do. From a literary point of view
many faults may be found with me. There may be faults yet deeper, to which possibly I shall have to plead
guilty. I may—I cannot tell—have unduly emphasized some points, and not put enough
emphasis on others. I may be convicted—nothing is more likely—of many verbal
inconsistencies. But let the arguments I have done my best to embody be taken as a whole, and they have a
vitality that does not depend upon me; nor can they be proved false, because my ignorance or weakness may
here or there have associated them with, or illustrated them by, a falsehood. I am not myself conscious of any
such falsehoods in my book; but if such are pointed out to me, I shall do my best to correct them. If what I
have done prove not worth correction, others coming after me will be preferred before me, and are sure before
long to address themselves successfully to the same task in which I perhaps have failed. What indeed can we
each of us look for but a large measure of failure, especially when we are moving not with the tide but against
it—when the things we wrestle with are principalities and powers, and spiritual stupidity in high
places—and when we are ourselves partly weakened by the very influences against which we are
struggling?

But this is not all. There is in the way another difficulty. Writing as the well-wishers of truth and goodness,
we find, as the world now stands, that our chief foes are they of our own household. The insolence, the
ignorance, and the stupidity of the age has embodied itself, and found its mouthpiece, in men who are
personally the negations of all that they represent theoretically. We have men who in private are full of the
most gracious modesty, representing in their philosophies the most ludicrous arrogance; we have men who
practise every virtue themselves, proclaiming the principles of every vice to others; we have men who have
mastered many kinds of knowledge, acting on the world only as embodiments of the completest and most
pernicious ignorance. I have had occasion to deal continually with certain of these by name. With the
exception of one—who has died prematurely, whilst this book was in the press—those I have
named oftenest are still living. Many of them probably are known to you personally, though none of them are
so known to me; and you will appreciate the sort of difficulty I have felt, better than I can express it. I can
only hope that as the falsehood of their arguments cannot blind any of us to their personal merits, so no
intellectual demerits in my case will be prejudicial to the truth of my arguments.

To me the strange thing is that such arguments should have to be used all; and perhaps a thing stranger still that it should fall to me to use them—to me, an outsider in philosophy, in literature, and in theology. But the justification of my speaking is that there is any opening for me to speak; and others must be blamed, not I, if

the lyre so long divine
Degenerates into hands like mine.
At any rate, however all this may be, what I here inscribe to you, my friend and teacher, I am confident is not
unworthy of you. It is not what I have done; it is what I have tried to do. As such I beg you to accept it, and to

The Project Gutenberg eBook of Is Life Worth Living?, by William Hurrell Mallock.
TO JOHN RUSKIN.
2

believe me still, though now so seldom near you,
Your admiring and affectionate friend,
W. H. MALLOCK.

P.S.—Much of the substance of the following book you have seen already, in two Essays of mine that
were published in the 'Contemporary Review,' and in five Essays that were published in the 'Nineteenth
Century.' It had at one time been my intention, by the kindness of the respective Editors, to have reprinted
these Essays in their original form. But there was so much to add, to omit, to rearrange, and to join together,
that I have found it necessary to rewrite nearly the whole; and thus you will find the present volume virtually
new.

Torquay,May, 1879.
CONTENTS
CHAPTER I.
THE NEW IMPORT OF THE QUESTION.
The question may seem vague and useless; but if we consider its real meaning we shall see that it is not so 1
In the present day it has acquired a new importance
2
Its exact meaning. It does not question the fact of human happiness
3
But the nature of happiness, and the permanence of its basis
4
For what we call the higher happiness is essentially a complex thing
5
We cannot be sure that all its elements are permanent
7
Without certain of its elements it has been declared by the wisest men to be valueless
8
And it is precisely the elements in question that modern thought is eliminating

11 It is contended that they have often been eliminated before; and that yet the worth of life has not suffered 13 But this contention is entirely false. They were never before eliminated as modern thought is eliminating

them now
17
The present age can find no genuine parallels in the past
19
Its position is made peculiar by three facts
19
Firstly, by the existence of Christianity
19
Secondly, the insignificance to which science has reduced the earth
23
Thirdly, the intense self-consciousness that has been developed in the modern world
25
It is often said that a parallel to our present case is to be found in Buddhism
27
But this is absolutely false. Buddhist positivism is the exact reverse of Western positivism
29
In short, the life-problem of our day is distinctly a new and an as yet unanswered one
31
CHAPTER II.
MORALITY AND THE PRIZE OF LIFE.
The worth the positive school claim for life, is essentially a moral worth
33
As its most celebrated exponents explicitly tell us
34
The Project Gutenberg eBook of Is Life Worth Living?, by William Hurrell Mallock.
CONTENTS
3

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