Mind the Gap
2013 July 8
F. C. S. Schiller was an Oxford don -- the new Lewis Carroll, or so he liked to believe. In the first year of the Twentieth Century, he and a few jocular collaborators (William James declined to participate) presented the world with Mind!, a parody of the philosophical journal Mind.
The journal is still being published. The parody? Not quite so immortal. Even at the time, and even in the rarified world of philosophy, Mind! did not exactly generate the expected gales of hilarity. Philip Jourdain, whose Philosophy of Mr. B*rtr*nd R*ss*ll [London: Allen & Unwin, 1918] was not much funnier, nevertheless felt confident enough to write in that work:
"Many years ago there appeared, principally owing to the initiative of Dr. F. C. S. Schiller of Oxford, a comic number of Mind. The idea was extraordinarily good, not so the execution. A German friend of Dr. Schiller ... by a syllogistic process ... [deduced that] 'This is a book of would-be jokes' ... Presumably he started from the title of the magazine (Mind!), for a mark of exclamation seems nearly always in German to be a sign of an intended joke (including of course the mark after the politeness expressed in the first sentence of a private letter or a public address)."
That was at the end of the Great War, to be sure, and even Mr. B*rtr*nd R*ss*ll might not have been above an anti-Teutonic remark. But "book of would-be jokes" is a very good description of Mind!. Here are some samples; Mind!'s words are in bold.
From MIND! A Unique Review of ANCIENT & MODERN PHILOSOPHY edited by A TROGLODYTE, with the Co-Operation of THE ABSOLUTE and others. [Special Christmas Number, 1901].
MSS. and other Communications, except those of an unappreciative character, should be addressed to The Editors, Corpus Christi College, Oxford. All abuse, etc., should be addressed to ITS IMMANENCE, THE ABSOLUTE, c/o The Universe, Anywhere Else.
By Special Request of the American Psychologists' Association there has been prepared
A KEY TO MIND!
With a FULL EXPLANATION of all the Jokes and Difficulties.
It may be obtained from the Publishers
BY TEACHERS OF PHILOSOPHY ONLY.
Price 10s. net. [Now ready.
BY THE SAME PUBLISHERS.
A SPECIALLY EXPURGATED Edition of MIND! for the use of Schools (of Philosophy). Price 2s. 6d. net. [In preparation.
PORTRAIT OF ITS IMMANENCE THE ABSOLUTE.
Instructions for use. Turn the eye of faith, fondly but firmly, on the centre of the page, wink the other, and gaze fixedly until you see It ... On pink paper -- it is, of course, the pink of Perfection -- ... this authentic portrait ... looks surprisingly simple, and very like the Bellman's map in the Hunting of the Snark.
"Now all things were mixed; then MIND! came and set all things in order." --- ANAXAGORAS.
The appearance of a "Nova" in the intellectual sky is apt to attract attention and demand explanation. We therefore hasten to assure the public that no harm is intended ... Dr. Joe King, Ph.D., F.K.S., F.G.S., F.C.S., etc., bears gratifying testimony :
"The jocoscopic analysis of the light of the 'Nova Mentis, 1901,' shows a pretty continuous bright spectrum chiefly composed of the 'enhanced' lines due to the presence of large quantities of the more frivolous gases. This is an indication of extremely genial warmth, which is confirmed by the fact that even the most refractory solids appear to have been volatilised, and to shine by their own light. The most delicate instruments however failed to show any dark lines (even in the poetry) due to malice. The cause therefore of the phenomenon remains obscure. It would be premature to decide whether it arose from the spontaneous combustion of a hitherto unobserved philosophic luminary, or was due to a collision of academic wits. Nevertheless I feel it my duty to state that I consider it a very grave phenomenon, as indicating serious and incalculable convulsions in the unintelligible world and perhaps heralding the end of an epoch in philosophic history."
Nothing could be more reassuring than this report.
[There are prose articles in scholarly style, and translations of newly discovered works]:
From SOME NEW APHORISMS OF HERAKLEITOS translated by Professor Hydati:
[And there is poetry -- lots of poetry]:
From REALISM AND IDEALISM by Véra Welldon
Stuff with Nonsense took a stroll
To talk about the weather,
And they found that on the whole
They got on well together.
But presently "My friend," says Stuff,
"I'm what all Mind is made of " ;
"Indeed," says Nonsense, in a huff,
"That's just what I'm afraid of !
"Make up your Mind then, if you please,
And let's have no more bluster,
For every man of Sense agrees
That Stuff's but filibuster."
"Oh, no," says Stuff, "a man of Sense
Calls you not me mere clatter,
For while you stand for nothing dense,
At least I stand for Matter."
"No Matter!" Nonsense cries irate.
"For Mind is all we know of;
It's full of me at any rate
Enough to make a show of ... "
From THE M.A.P. HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY
Said Tom, the great Saint of A-----,
"Theology's Sum is what we know.
My creed is scholastic,
God's very elastic,
Don't dare to expect that of me, no!"
A mighty logician called V---
Soars frequently out of our ken.
His logic symbolic
Don't try as a frolic;
With luck you may "Chance" it, but then!
[These are about the funniest of 101 total!]
From BOOKS RECEIVED
From ANSWERS TO CORRESPONDENTS
[Well, there you have it, or about the best of it (unless you really like bilingual classical Greek puns involving "hen" and "pan"). We come to the classified ads, and then to the display ads]:
Just Received from Germany:
A FINE CONSIGNMENT OF ASSORTED WELTANSCHAUUNGEN!
A First in Lit. Hum. writes: "Your latest ... was showy and wears well ... Please send me another for the Civil Service Exam. A cheap one with plenty of facts and few ideas will do."
[And, then, suddenly, at the very end, something ... curious. Not every joke stays a joke forever.]
A REVOLUTION IN UNIVERSITY INSTRUCTION.
THE NEW METHOD OF UNIVERSITY EXTENSION.
No more Note-taking!
No more Hurry!
No more worry!
Learning made comfortable.
All knowledge delivered in your Study Armchair.
You press the button and listen.
SUPERB PHONOGRAMS of all the best Lectures! From
Lecture Jokes supplied: Extra, according to quality.
To complete the Enjoyment we are prepared to supply
COLOURED CINEMATOGRAPHS of the most famous PROFESSORS in ACTION
at moderate prices.