Margaret Sanger, "Havelock Ellis--On His 80th Birthday," Feb 1939.

Source: " Journal of Contraception, Feb. 1939, pp. 28-30Library of Congress Microfilm 129:565."

This article included descriptions of Ellis by Adolf Meyer, Robert Latou Dickinson, Ira Wile, Will Durant, and John Haynes Holmes. Only Sanger's portion, taken from her Margaret Sanger: An Autobiography, and the joint statement she signed have been included here. For a typed draft, see Library of Congress Microfilm 129:565.


Margaret Sanger

“. . .I climbed up the stairs, and, with the shyness of an adolescent, full of fears and uncertainties, lifted the huge brass knocker. The figure of Ellis himself appeared in the door. He seemed a giant in stature, a lovely, simple man in loose-fitting clothes, with powerful head and wonderful smile. He was fifty-five then, but that head will never change--the shock of white hair, the venerable beard, shaggy though well-kept, the wide, expressive mouth and deep-set eyes, sad even in spite of the humorous twinkle always latent. . .

“We sat down and quiet fell. I tried a few aimless remarks but I stuttered with embarrassment. Ellis was still. Small talk was not possible with him; you had to utter only the deepest truths within you. No other human being could be so silent and remain so poised and calm in silence. . .

“Soon appeared a large tray, laden with tea, cakes, and bread and butter, and we sat down before the humming flame and talked and talked; and as we talked we wove into our lives an intangible web of mutual interests. I began to realize then that the men who are truly great are the easiest to meet and understand. . . Ellis pasted no labels on himself, had no poses. made no effort to impress. He was simply, quite un-selfconsciously, what he was. . .

“Ellis has been called the greatest living English gentleman. But England alone cannot claim him; he belongs to all mankind. I define him as one who radiates truth, energy, and beauty. I see him in a realm above and beyond the shouting and the tumult. Captains and kings come and go. Lilliputian warriors strut their hour, and boundary lines between nations are made and unmade. Although he takes no active share in this external trafficking, he does not dwell apart in an ivory tower of his own construction.

“This Olympian seems to be aloof from the pain of the world, yet he has penetrated profoundly into the persistent problems of race. Nothing human is alien to his sympathy. His knowledge is broad and deep; his wisdom even deeper. He makes no strident, blatant effort to cry aloud his message, but gradually and in ever-increasing numbers, men and women pause to listen to his serene voice. . .

“To Havelock Ellis we owe our concept of that Kingdom of God within us, that inner world which hides all our inherent potentialities for joy as well as suffering. Thanks to him we realize that happiness must be the fruit of an attitude towards life, that it is in no way dependent upon the rewards or the fits of fortune. Like St. Francis of Assisi, he teaches the beauty of nature, of his brother the sun and his sister the moon, of birds and fish and animals, and all the pageantry of the passing seasons.

“I have never felt about any other person as I do about Havelock Ellis. To know him has been a bounteous privilege; to claim him friend my greatest honor.”

From a Joint Statement

Havelock Ellis was born eighty years ago today, on February 2, 1959, in Surrey, England, the son of a British seaman, and the last of a long line of English clergymen, mariners and merchants. Though Ellis is known for the wide range of his culture and interests, for his distinction as critic and writer, for his rare personal charm, and for his brad humanity, he will perhaps be best and longest remembered for the work to which, at an early age, he had dedicated his life and energy - that of bringing the human sex psychology within the scope of science. His seven monumental volumes of Studies in the Psychology of Sex have probably served more than any other single work to bring sex out of the atmosphere of ignorance and prudery into the clear light of science, and will always remain an incomparable critical digest of the scientific knowledge of the subject up to contemporary times.

The scientific study of sex is nowadays accepted almost without question, but the destruction of old taboos and prejudices was not accomplished without hardship and sacrifice. The appearance of Ellis’ first volume of the Studies in 1897 was followed by a prosecution for the distribution of what the judge described as a “filthy publication” ... "I am a student," wrote Ellis in his memorable Note on the Bedborough Trial, “and my path has long been marked out. I may be forced to pursue it under unfavorable conditions, but I do not intend that any consideration shall induce me to swerve from it.” His life achievement is the best testimony to the success of this early resolve.

We hope that Havelock Ellis will for many years continue to exercise his great and good influence. His life and work remain an inspiration not only to us but to future generations as well.


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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