The Whirlpool is a very serious book. It is an indictment ofthe way we live now written by a man who is profoundly perturbed as to the outcome of it all. Mr Gissing has a conscience of the next generation, to whom he thinks we are not playing fair. He would like to be an autocrat, and compel us to live reasonably; only he is far too honest to prescribe any remedy as infallible; and he is even divided in his mind as to where he,would like the remedy to lie. The malady is restlessness, in money-getting, in pleasure-seeking. Change and notoriety, and meaningless show are constant needs; homes are growing obsolete, men unmanly, women learning to despise old duties without learning anything compensatory in their stead. Now he looks with hope to the surging up of the brutal fighting instincts, which will send the men, at least, ten ages back in refmement from this hot-bed day ofours. But at bottom he has no faith in salvation by fist and jingoism. Then he would fain lead a crusade to the country, to the country towns, to the places where pleasure still dwells, where settlement and calm can still make a home. 'If I followed my instincts', says Rolfe, in this book, often, I think, a spokesman ofMr Gissing, 'I should make the boy unfit for anything but the quietest, obscurest life. I should make him hate a street, and love the fields. I should teach him to despise every form of ambition; to shrink from every kind of pleasure, but the simplest and purest; to think oflife as a long day's ramble, and death as the quiet sleep that comes at the end ofit.' And then he adds: 'IfI carried it out, the chances are that I should do him an intolerable wrong.' For he knows that the battle-fields of this generation are not in quiet homes
with calm and leisure and reasonable content; and that he who chooses these may be not after all the virtuous philosopher, but only the shirker. True, he sends Rolfe back to his beloved sleepy old midland town; but then Rolfe was not a person of abounding energy.