Margaret Sanger, "Book Review of Hugh de Selincourt's ONE LITTLE BOY," Mar 1924.

Source: " Birth Control Review, Mar. 1924, pp. 87-88 Margaret Sanger Microfilm, Smith College Collections S70:1045."


A Review by Margaret Sanger Introducing Hugh de Selincourt

Appropriately Hugh de SÚlincourt dedicates this book to Havelock Ellis. In his ability to face facts of life that are as a rule sedulously avoided even by the most desperate of realists, by the very calmness and serenity of his courage to spiritualize phases of life that are dismissed by the all-too-prurient as "ugly" or "unpleasant," and to reveal the organic relationship of these facts to the very root and heart of life, Hugh de SÚlincourt must be acclaimed as the legitimate disciple of the most inspiring humanist of our times.

I do not mean to suggest that "One Little Boy" is any mere "case-history" of sexual aberration. On the contrary: Hugh de SÚlincourt has achieved something which might baffle even more expert craftsmen of fiction. He wastes no time on non-essentials. He brings the young mother of his story face-to-face with the sexual awakening of her young son, a lad of eleven. He makes this attractive young Englishwoman, who has been left a widow with two children, awaken to the realization of her own inability to cope with these primal mysteries. Mrs. Hullertson found that a child's pursuit of truth is relentless. "To him there is no danger in knowledge: you travel light at the age of eleven, speeded by natural modesty and unweighted by false shame."

"Mrs. Hullerston felt that Graham was somehow a challenge to the foundations on which the fabric of her life was built. Her wish to be his friend was too genuine to allow her to be satisfied in fobbing him off or damping him down with the commonplaces that slipped from her tongue. It was no good dismissing his questions as naughtiness: they were patently genuine: yet she was unable to answer them. . ." How Mrs. Hullertson appeals to the schoolmaster for help; the absolute failure of that worthy to meet a universal human problem, though one hundred and fifty growing boys had been entrusted to his guardianship; how Graham must perforce turn to other sources for answers and guidance; and the final solution, all make a significant and vivid tale. "One Little Boy" is a book for every parent, a book especially for every mother. Nothing published in recent years possesses to such a degree the power to awaken parents to the problems they must face in directing the deep-rooted impulses of their children into normal healthy channels.

"One Little Boy" is interwoven with irony and satire. But there is no stridency, no anger, in the pen of Hugh de Selincourt. Like his master Havelock Ellis, there is only gentleness, tenderness, understanding. This curious blend of qualities makes possible an even greater daring in frankness of expression than the ordinary, since the author unites unusual power of expression with a fine delicacy of perception. He is never offensive nor shocking. When we finish reading "One Little Boy" we realize as never before that the sins of the father which are visited upon the children are too often psychic sins--the sins of pruriency, hypocrisy, suppression and inhibition, diseases which may be more devastating to the younger generation than actual physical aliments. Unless we are honest, straightforward and frank ourselves, we cannot expect our children to be healthy.

Because Hugh de SÚlincourt has himself become a master of the difficult art of life, because he possesses calm courage and luminous vision, this theme becomes beautiful instead of bitter. One shudders to think what it might have become in the hands of a man who understood life less, even though he might be a greater craftsman in fiction than Mr. de SÚlincourt.

This book is infused with the life-giving beauty of a great spirit. Not without significance is the fact that he lives in a sixteenth-century house in Sussex once occupied by Shelley. Hugh de SÚlincourt possesses something of the flame-like purity of Shelley. And in another sense he is a descendant of William Blake, proclaiming with the poet:

"Thou art a man. God is no more.
Thy own Humanity lean to adore."

There is, moreover, something Greek in his outlook on life. But this classical aspect is never akin to the orchidaceous aestheticism of Pater. For devout as he is in his worship of beauty, Hugh de SÚlincourt has reached the profounder conviction that there can be no true beauty in humanity without health. Perhaps it is this realization that has led him to desert the hectic bustle of London life, to flee far from the literary market place, to cultivate his garden in the "green and pleasant" land of Sussex, or to play cricket on the village green of Pulborough. Unlike Mr. Shaw, he has not beaten the drum before his own show booth. And so, even in England, where some ten or twelve of his books have already been published, Hugh de SÚlincourt remains comparatively unknown. But, as in the case of W. H. Hudson, his reputation is bound to attract more and more attention among those who are interested in the ever present and profoundly simple truths of human life.

I can think of no more praiseworthy inauguration of a young and ambitious publishing house in this country than the introduction to American readers of the best novel yet written by so fine a spirit as Hugh de SÚlincourt. For he is so much more than merely a novelist engaged in telling an entertaining story. He should become one of the guiding spirits of our young century. No one more penetratingly or more eloquently has expressed for us the eternal beautiful unity of body and spirit; no one has more reverently, and yet without the faintest trace of sentimentality, depicted the sacred relationship that exists between mother and child. For this reason, for exhibiting the courage and daring to present this book "One Little Boy" to American readers, I must express my unqualified gratitude to Messrs. Albert and Charles Boni.


Subject Terms:

Copyright, Margaret Sanger Project


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