The Harvard Mentality as Moral Emblem

by John Holbo on February 20, 2010

Following up on Henry’s post …

I have just been reading Robert Louis Stevenson’s Moral Emblems (history of comics is everywhere, you know), and I think he pegs this ‘Harvard Mentality’ with a simple but elegant woodcut and associated poem.

Mark, printed on the opposing page,
The unfortunate effects of rage.
A man (who might be you or me)
Hurls another into the sea.
Poor soul, his unreflecting act
His future joys will much contract,
And he will spoil his evening toddy
By dwelling on that mangled body.

Or, as Michael Bérubé puts it: “I’ll show YOU what’s liberal about the liberal arts!”



kid bitzer 02.20.10 at 2:47 pm

so if you’re reading that, then you’re probably already all over the goops, right?


mistersquid 02.20.10 at 4:29 pm

I’ll show YOU what’s liberal about the liberal arts!

Bishop is a scientist.


John Holbo 02.20.10 at 5:07 pm

Yes, yes, I know. Probably I should have left that last line off.


Michael Bérubé 02.20.10 at 5:35 pm

And you should have left me out of it, too. Because I deplore woodcut violence of all kinds.


mds 02.20.10 at 9:54 pm

“Eight inches, woodcut.”

And rather than anticipating the Sokal affair by over a century, I suspect Stevenson was referring to the infamous incident between Dr. Johnson and Bishop Berkeley. “I refute it thus! Sayonara!”


herr doktor bimler 02.22.10 at 1:17 am

The “Ruthless Rhymes for Heartless Homes” had the same recurring theme that “The horrible crimes I committed are weighing on my conscience and reducing my enjoyment of dinner, so I am the true victim and deserve your sympathy”. So they followed RLStevenson’s lead? I did not know that.

Sam has spirits naught could check,
And to-day, at breakfast, he
Broke his baby sister’s neck,
So he shan’t have jam for tea!

Comments on this entry are closed.