Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson (1862-1932)

Englischer Schriftsteller, Humanist, Historiker, Philosoph und Pazifist während des ersten Weltkrieges, der ihn, wie aus seinem Büchlein "Briefe eines Chinesischen Beamten" hervorgeht, wohl kaum überrascht hat. Später wirkte er bei der Konzeption der League of Nations mit.

Er wurde vor allem für "The International Anarchy, 1904–1914" (1926) und "The Greek View of Life" (1896), bekannt.

Die "Briefe eines chinesischen Beamten" veröffentlichte er 1901 in London unter dem Pseudonym John Chinaman, 1903 in New York anonym.

Johnathan D. Spence schreibt darüber:

Dickinson was dejected by the ugliness and cruelty and insensitivity of the world that lurked just outside Cambridge; how could the Athenian ideals be preserved in such an appalling environment? Those men who valued decency, honesty and compassion must state their values clearly lest the new Englishman—"Divorced from Nature but unreclaimed by Art; instructed, but not educated; assimilative, but incapable of thought"—inherit the earth. [...]

As Dickinson warmed to the theme the inspirations came thicker, until his critique of his own society, his affection for his young friends, and shreds from the Chinese poets he had read in translation, all merged into a remarkable hymn to Chinese humanism, written in the first person by "John Chinaman" himself:

In China. … To feel, and in order to feel to express, or at least to understand the expression of all that is lovely in Nature, of all that is poignant and sensitive in man, is to us in itself a sufficient end. A rose in a moonlit garden, the shadow of trees on the turf, almond bloom, scent of pine, the winecup and the guitar; these and the pathos of life and death, the long embrace, the hand stretched out in vain, the moment that glides for ever away, with its freight of music and light, into the shadow and hush of the haunted past, all that we have, all that eludes us, a bird on the wing, a perfume escape on the gale-to all these things we are trained to respond, and the response is what we call literature. This we have; this you cannot give us; but this you may so easily take away.

It is remarkable enough that William Jennings Bryan should have taken these letters literally, and written a stirring rebuttal (published in 1906), in which he defended Labor-saving Machinery, The Home and Christianity. But what is perhaps even more remarkable is that Dickinson—the political scientist and expert in comparative governments—could visit Peking in 1913 and come away with his fantasy confirmed as reality! As he wrote to E. M. Forster:

"China! So gay, friendly, beautiful, sane, hellenic, choice, human … Yes, China is much as I imagined it. I thought I was idealizing, but now I doubt it."

Dickinson's Arbeit am King's College (Bild) der University of Cambridge charakterisiert Spence so:

... Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson-known as Goldie to generations of students-still presided over young minds, inculcating the virtues of an esthetic humanism which are the heart of what people came to know as "Bloomsbury," virtues that were permanently captured in the essays and novels of E.M. Forster.

  Letters from a Chinese Official

The Greek View of Life

Archive Centre Catalogue, King's College, Cambridge