Vegetable Eugenics — Genius Lost and Genius Regained.

If F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby exposed the tragic reality of Eugenics and the cruel, pyrrhic triumph of the American Dream, then it was only because previous attempts to drive a nail through its genetically superior heart with comedy had failed to prevent its moronic spread. The cheeky, irreverent view the author had taken of Eugenic marriage in Love or Eugenics at Princeton had been the beginning of a ten-year fist-fight with the science. Sadly, any blows that Scott had landed with his witty comedy musical had been fairly glancing at best. His most convincing opportunity for flooring the beast came in 1923 with his play, The Vegetable in which Scott farcically lampoons the psychometric models that were then being used by the Eugenics Record Office and employers to test for genius and ‘feeblemindedness’ among workers. In Fitzgerald’s story, the tests go hopelessly wrong and lead to the hilarious election of a below average railway clerk, Jerry Frost, as President of the United States. Based around a highly contrived sequence of unlikely events and dream sequences, it really is the stuff of nonsense, but the play does an adquate of presenting the comedy of errors that was Eugenic Science and the casual misapplication of quantitative research being done in its name at this time.

The Vegetable, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1923

The play’s title, The Vegetable, marked a complete departure from the smart-Alec gravitas of his novels, This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned. Scott had probably landed on the idea as a result of the word’s ubiquity in Eugenic discourse, both as an article of comparison and a term of derision: if you were a ‘vegetable’ you were a moron — ‘a social flower of no prospective bloom’. As far back as 1904, Eugenicist George F. Keene had written that  “just as thorns and thistles are the direct result of imperfect vegetable development, so are fools and lunatics an instance of degeneration and imperfection in human development”. [1] The human harvest was being likened to the grain harvest: to get better crops one had to weed out bad strains. The metaphor went all the way back to Francis Galton’s own shameless pilfering of Darwin’s Origin of the Species, in which the famous godfather of Natural Selection had reapplied the theories of population developed by Thomas Malthus to the progress that was being made in the animal and vegetable worlds. It was a notion that resonated profoundly with the American Breeders Association who cheerfully continued to weave theories of vegetable farming into human farming in their magazine, A Journal of Genetics and Eugenics. Scott’s friend H. L. Mencken had clearly been thinking of the same thing when he wrote that the happy American was little more than a well-cultured “vegetable”. Writing in his third volume of Prejudices in 1922, Menken noted that everywhere he looked he was being bombarded with the message that if a man wasn’t happy in America, then it wasn’t because of the inadequacies of the system but because he was insane. Mencken regarded the typical American ‘vegetable’ as someone “smugly basking beneath the stars and stripes” being spoon-fed a daily diet of enriching nutrients. To be happy, one had “to be full of a comfortable feeling of superiority to the masses of your fellow men.” Mencken viewed it as the ideological equivalent of gavaging: a tube was rammed down to the stomach and the typical American was quite literally being force-fed things they didn’t want: “the rules were set by Omnipotence and the discreet man observes them”, he wrote. [2] Scott had taken this core message and adapted it for theatre audiences:

“Any man who doesn’t want to get on in the world, to make a million dollars, and maybe even park his toothbrush in the White House, hasn’t got as much to him as a good dog has—he’s nothing more or less than a vegetable.”

The Vegetable, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1923.

After the Künstlerroman narratives of This Side of Paradise and The Beautiful and the Damned, the author was getting political. The lesson in social history that was his third novel, The Great Gatsby was well and truly underway.

Idiots who would be Great

The Vegetable only ever had one objective in mind; Scott wanted to tell America that the tests that were intended to identify the kind of genius that would advance the American Dream were actually undermining it in the most unreliable and absurd of ways. America had been cultivating its Presidents from the most unworthy of crops. It was social criticism and political satire presented as farce. Yet as radical as his play was, it wasn’t particularly good.

In the end it was just too an ambitious a cocktail. Scott’s play had the all the surrealism of Luigi Pirandello and all the comedic subtlety of The Horse That Ate the Hat. Where it needed delicacy it had crudeness, and where it had crudeness it needed subtlety. It delivered the jokes but not the punchline and at the play’s one and only performance in Atlantic City in November 1923, it is likely that many of the punters who did stay till the end would have left the theatre-hall completely none the wiser about its message: that the American Dream, despite being presented as within anyone’s grasp, was, as his editor Max Perkin pointed out, just “sentimental bunk”.  As a result, bums were depriving themselves of seats at an embarrassingly furious rate long before the play had finished. The theatre’s exit had become an escape route for a restless and bewildered diaspora who were looking to forget the whole experience over a drink and a bite to eat. Outcomes were seldom as fitting as this: the failure’s apologia had become his most disastrous flop to date. After just one performance the play was “laid up for repairs” — indefinitely.

The American as Vegetable. H.L Mencken’s On Being American (Prjeudices III, 1922)

Scott’s editor, Max Perkins had nailed it when he said that audiences would be left “confused and unsatisfied” by Scott’s play. Max did, however, concede that the idea underlying the play had been a good one: “Jerry and his wife are products of a theory of democracy which you reduce to the absurd.” The false promises of the American Dream had left the idiots of America believing that one day they could be great. The play’s main character, Jerry Frost, had at one time been content to dream of being a postman, but the runaway momentum of the American Dream had made him crave something truly beyond his grasp. Worse still, the duties of aspiration had put him on a path toward certain unhappiness. Despite not having the skill or endurance to row, Jerry’s little boat is propelled forward by the great tidal waves of ambition that continued to drive the nation. It was a delirium that was being experienced not just by Scott at a personal level, but by America on a national one. “Against his taste and capacity”, Jerry had dreamed of becoming President, observed Max, only the dream had become a nightmare. [3] It was a predicament that Scott, the classic overreacher, would almost certainly have been identifying with at the time. Achieving lasting literary greatness was a trick that was doomed to failure. The ideas were drying up. The writing was getting worse.

Looking back on his play over 100 years later, Professor Ewa Luczak writes that “rather than enriching and improving the Frosts’ lives” the clerk’s reckless ambition had “led them to the brink of disaster.” [4] Jerry doesn’t resemble Jay Gatsby in any way, shape or form, but he’s certainly as delusional. Despite this, the play is a more optimistic piece all round. It ends hopefully. In the final act of the play, Jerry has his moment of clarity, he quite literally wakes up from his dream. Gatsby, on the other hand, remains in limbo, a tiny grain of sand suspended in the hourglass of a promise that remains permanently and cruelly broken. The paradise that Gatsby seeks is one that is postponed indefinitely. The Vegetable may not have been the commercial or symbolic success that Scott may have been hoping for, but it probably summed up better anything the way that Scott was currently feeling about his future as a writer at Scribners and his success as a husband to Zelda. His friend Edmund Wilson had been among the first to appreciate this when he noted that Scott had much better grasp of his subject than he usually had. He knew what “end and point” he was working for, which wasn’t always the case with Scott. If he could just lose the stupid gags the play was a good one. [5] Wilson was right, Scott had evidently started writing about things that were very close to his heart, but in all fairness, he was only really just getting started.

The Genesis of Genius

The public’s excitement over genius testing has taken many forms over the years. In the 1970s it was IQ tests. In 2023 it probably comes down to how well you perform in Wordle or on your Big Five personality questionnaire. 100 years ago it was psychometric tests. Practically everywhere you looked people were talking about ‘American Genius’ and how it pertained to the national character — the belief that something unique to the American spirit was perfectly suited to doing ‘great things’. It was a quality that had been generously identified by Sir John MacDonell in an article for The Eugenics Review in 1916. In an appraisal of Eugenics that was some way ahead of its time, MacDonell had drawn the attention of scientists to something said by the American lawyer, William N. Gemmill: “Men are not measured by their height or the length of their belts but by the spirit which moves them to good or ill”.  The problems encountered by Eugenics was, both men agreed, down to more than breeding. Man wasn’t great because of his likeness to a racehorse or a dog, but because of the way in which he was different from them. The world’s greatest triumphs and achievement were not the result of brute force or physical superiority but by the mind and spirit of a man working through religion, education, science, art, music toward a nobler estate. To men like MacDonnell, Robert Burns couldn’t be measured by his marital infidelities or his drunkenness, but by the sheer unbridled joy that he his Tom O’ Shanter rhymes had given the world. Likewise, you would never measure the poet Milton or the musician Handel by their blindness, but by the millions of writers they had inspired to even loftier dreams. If greatness came down to sheer brute strength, MacDonell argued, then the “North American Indian” had always been superior to his “pale faced conqueror”. On this basis alone, McDonnell continued, the North American Indian (the Native American) should be at the very top of the nation’s ruling class.

Much of Gemmill’s and MacDonell’s philosophy had been drawn directly from the findings of Dr Louise Robinovitch in 1905, whose studies had found that genius could be characterized not by heredity but by the enormous capacity for work that the genius possessed and the sheer mental energy they were able to harness and then unleash upon their worlds. Louise had probably drawn much of her material from studying her own ingenious ‘skyrocket’ brother, J. G. Robin, whose spectacular fall from grace in 1911 is believed by some to have inspired the creation of Gatsby. [6]

As a result of additional research she had undertaken in Paris, Louise had found herself in total agreement with Thomas Edison when he said that all great men had a “pulsating” exuberant energy. It really didn’t matter whether you were Goethe, Dickens or Beethoven, genius was “the result of exuberant spirit feeding on excessive work and sustained thought”. The message that she had embedded rather cleverly in her work was that genius was more likely to spring from life’s poorest, most challenging quarters than those of its most privileged. It was the challenges men faced through adversity that had helped focus and develop their energies. What it really came down to was incentive. Gemmill and Robinovitch would both observe that the child of need was more likely to turn out ‘great’ than the child of prosperity. Men like Thomas Edison and James J. Hill had not conquered their worlds by reason of any “mysterious force” but by virtue of their capacity for work, and their “splendid source of energy and ability for sustained application”. These men were not only great workers, but great readers. With people like these the sky was never the limit. Enough was never enough. For the geniuses of the world, life would always be too short: “they can almost hear the days walk away as the hearts beats on,” Louise writes in her paper. Genius was not something you acquired through genes. It was the result of an “exuberant spirit feeding on excessive work and sustained thought” — or, as Scott would write of Gatsby — the “sustained imagination of a sincere and yet radiant world.” [7] People like Jay Gatsby had the energy and brilliance of the sun.

Dr Louise G. Robinovitch, The Genesis of Genius, 1905

Between them, MacDonell, Gemmill and Robinovitch had taken only minutes to destroy the whole preposterous basis of race betterment. Plato’s doctrine of “eugenic purgation” — that children with defects should be destroyed — clearly had much to answer for. Judge Gemmill had casually reminded his readers that on account of his own disabilities, Sir Isaac Newton would have been just one of the millions of geniuses to have suffered at the hands of Plato. And what made it all the more absurd to Gemmill, was that Plato himself had died insane. [8] The gospel that Gemmill was trying to spread was based around a very simple truth: those who were not so great to begin with sometimes went on to do great things. All they really needed was that creative, pioneering spirit, that ‘heightened sensitivity to the promises of life’ that Gatsby has in droves; not a “creative temperament” exactly, but “an extraordinary gift for hope” — the kind of temperament that saw men soaring over the rainbow.  Percy Byshhe Shelley, whose biography Fitzgerald was reading at the time he was finishing Gatsby in Rome (where Shelley is buried), had shared his own fears about failure with his wife, Mary. In a letter written shortly before his death, the poet had described how impossible it all seemed that “one so weak and sensitive” as himself could “run further the gauntlet through this hellish society of men”. His life, he had recognised, had been one long struggle of the “spirit against matter” — a weak man’s struggle to break free of a hellish world and prove once and for all, that Man really was ‘perfectible’. [9] The world was seeing the birth of a no pain, no gain philosophy. All the men that were being described by Gemmill and MacDonnell, whether it was Alexander Pope, Galileo, Rousseau, Edgar Allen Poe, Cervantes, Mozart, Chopin had all been afflicted with mental, physical or criminal deficiencies of one kind or another, and none of them were any less successful, or any less ‘great’ because of it.

The poet, John Dryden had recognized the truth of all this some four hundred years before: “Great wits are to madness near allied And thin partitions do their bounds divide.” There was a very fine line indeed between genius and madness. No one knew this better than Scott whose talented young wife Zelda was showing the first real signs of serious mental health issues. The author’s own chronic alcoholism, which possibly masked some aspects of his own fragile emotional state, was also getting worse. Faced with such a bleak assessment of his and Zelda’s genes, Scott probably took some comfort from the fact that there were a sizeable number of Eugenicists in the world willing to back the idea that a less perfect start in life could still give rise to greatness. Scott and Judge Gemmill are likely to have been in full agreement where great art was concerned; the poet John Milton may have inherited his Puritan mother’s pitifully poor eye-sight, but he had also inherited from her “that transcendent genius which sounded the very depths of human woe and soared to the greatest heights to which human souls may aspire.” [10] As the waves of anti-Catholic sentiment rippled across America in the wake of the Restriction of Immigration Bill and the resurgence of the Ku Klux Klan, Scott was left to defend his corner with the only positive qualities he had at his disposal: his wit and creative vision.

The clouds methought would open, and show riches

Like Shakespeare’s half-man, half-monster, Caliban, Scott had realized that although he was incapable of escaping his ‘inferior’ racial heritage at the level of genetics, he could escape the hand he’d been dealt ‘in dreaming’. Being born a “half Black Irish” Catholic without a drop of nobility in his blood had left him with a “two-cylinder inferiority complex”. Like Caliban, Scott had been given language to either curse at his lot in life or use it in the most beautiful and magical of ways, helping him rise above the physical and social limitations that had been cruelly prescribed by God. In dreams the sky would open and great riches would fall upon him. Literary greatness had always been Scott’s ticket out of the low-status cul-de-sac in which he had found himself. The whole thing ostensibly went back to Hecker and the metaphysical ‘Americanist’ bias of the author’s Catholic prep school, the Newman School for Boys back in Hackensack. It was here that the sixteen year-old Scott had first mapped out his escape route. Hecker’s imaginative cross-breeding of the philosophies of Goethe and Kant with the liberty-led logic of American Catholicism had given birth to a whole way of looking at the problem: ‘human ingenuity’ was the one thing that God had given mankind to transcend the immutable law of bad genes. Even within the tight, binding laws of destiny there was still room for manoeuvre. Contrary to the view taken by the Catholics of Rome, Saint Paul’s Americanist Minister (and Hecker’s advocate) Bishop John Ireland had taken the view that freedom had always been at the heart of the Christian message. The ideals of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity hadn’t started with the revolutions of France or America but with the socialist revolutionary principles of an unmediated God espoused by Jesus Christ and his disciples — an idea that would later be taken up by the brother of Louise Robinovitch in his 1923 stage play, Jesus: The Tragedy of Man.

The logic that Scott had been applying to his circumstances was really quite simple: being a Catholic had always been a declaration of independence on a divine scale. God’s greatness couldn’t be proven by science and neither could man’s. Reaching for the sky and trying to improve your lot, even if that meant earning ridiculously large sums of money, didn’t make you a bad Catholic, it made of you a good Catholic. If the subtext of The Great Gatsby is anything to go by, Scott had found himself asking if it was possible for the principles of Catholicism to coexist with the ideals of ‘human perfectibility’ as defined by Romantics like Shelley, philosophers like Friedrich Nietzsche and modern-day pushers of the American Dream. Eleven years later, Scott would sum it up in the most memorable of ways: “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” As his success as an author had blossomed, Scott had seen the improbable, the implausible and impossible come to life. For a moment it had seemed possible to shine as brightly as a movie star and possess the power of a man of strong political or religious convictions. What Scott had been describing was ‘cognitive dissonance’ — the sense of haemorrhaging that occurs when one attempts to hold two conflicting thoughts in your head at the same time. Nietzsche had tried overcome the haemorrhaging with a simple proposition: if anything in life was real, it was the illusion that was real. Truth was an illusion that we had forgotten was an illusion. It was okay to believe in romance. It was the only thing that made life bearable. The organ for seeing Gatsby, as it was for seeing God, was the heart. A unity of body and soul was all that was really needed.

During Scott’s youth, it was only his good friends Shane Leslie, the “most Romantic figure” he had ever known, and Father Fay, the most mystic, who had been able reconcile these two opposing worlds of ritual and fantasy. It was only they who had who had been able to make the church “a dazzling, golden thing” and dispel its “oppressive mugginess.”  In these two lofty figures Scott would find ritual and glamour, tradition and modernity, sincerity and success. Much the same question would be asked by Pope Benedict VXI in 2007. Referring back to Nietzsche, who regarded Christianity as something of a crime against life itself, as an option that was opposed to life, something that stole the joy right out of it, Pope Benedict had asked: “Is it really such a bad thing to be rich, to eat one’s fill, to laugh, to be praised?” [11] Was it so very wrong to believe in life’s “false promises” and seek the Kingdom of Earth and not Heaven? Benedict mentions Nietzsche again in 2005’s Deus Caritas Est when he challenges the philosopher’s belief that romantic love is “the poison” that the church had given Eros to drink and in doing so had prohibited and destroyed the most precious thing in life. [12] Shortly before his complete emotional and mental collapse in Turin in 1889, Nietzsche had reaffirmed his intention to visit Pope Leo XIII in Rome. The dialogues imagined by Benedict are probably the closest we’ll ever get to such an encounter and the closest the church has come to answering some of the questions posed by Fitzgerald in Gatsby.

Scott’s rediscovery of Shelley at the time he was writing the novel was something that had a clear and discernible impact on the creation of Gatsby. Shelley’s dream of ‘human perfectibility’, itself inherited from William Godwin and the Age of Enlightenment, was to be brought bang up to date and given a swanky, Modernist edge — not so much ‘Prometheus Unbound’ as Prometheus Rebooted. Scott had been desperate to wriggle free of the religious and biological burdens of his past but there were things still holding him back: his respect for his boyhood mentor Shane Leslie, his grief over the loss of Father Fay and his own on-off romance with his own lumbering Irish-American heritage. Scott was stuck between rejecting these things outright and finding something within them both that might sit comfortably with his idea of what it was to be a respectable Modern American and a good, if liberal, Catholic. In fleshing out Jay Gatsby, Scott would set about creating a ‘New Race’ of man — someone who would fulfil both the prophecy of the old American Dream — the pioneering, ruthless half-breed making a gold mine out of a dust-heap — and someone who might also act as symbol of its new dream.

The idea of a ‘New Race of Man’ had certainly captured Scott’s imagination. His interview with Harry Salpeter of the New York World in April 1927 practically spells it out: “F. Scott Fitzgerald is a hot Nietzschean”. In his report, Salpeter goes on to explain how the author’s “blue eyes, fair hair and clean-cut profile” masked his general “cosmic despair” about American condition. Scott was pretty pessimistic that day and found himself expressing his feelings about America in an explosion of thoughts and improvised sound bites, as tetchy as they were cavalier. When they met in the tea-garden of the Plaza Hotel, Scott explained his fears. America was doomed and civilisation was in decline — not because of the threat posed by its melting pot of dystopic races but because the world had “nothing more to produce”. Just five years earlier, Nick Carraway and Jordan Baker had sat in this same Plaza tea-garden chatting about Jay Gatsby’s meeting with Daisy Fay and her Eugenic marriage to Tom. The genius of men like Beethoven and Goethe were a thing of the past, heckled Scott. The rise of Mussolini was the last slap in the face of liberalism. The idea that America was the world’s greatest race “simply because it had the most money was ridiculous”, he added. Scott predicted that in the next fifteen years, Americans would see how much resistance the country was going to meet. Sometime soon there would be a moment of national testing. As they chatted over cocktails, Scott lamented how the typical American could not say that he was American in the same way that a Frenchman could say he was French or a German could say he was German. As an individual the good American was “the best in the world” but as a race he was a “mass product” without common sense, guts or dignity.

Scott no longer felt proud to be American. The author then denied he had ever claimed to be an American, citing the absurdity and sadness of its participation in the war, pausing poignantly on the case of Otto Braun. Braun had been the highly talented son of Social Democratic activist, passionate Nietzschean and German feminist, Lily Braun who had died as a result of a push made on the Western Front by the Statue of Liberty Division of the US Army (the 77th) in 1918. Scott considered the boy’s senseless premature death, a loss not just to Germany but to the whole of Western civilisation. The best of America, he contended, (the Modernists) had all now drifted to Paris. This was where you would now find the best Americans. In American it was impossible for the American to have any “real credo”. Despite all the “arrogant assumption made by great races with great dreams”, America was a nation of “great failures”. Any notion it had of unity was a delusion. Scott had found himself describing America in terms not unlike those he had used to describe Gatsby house: it was a “huge incoherent failure”. It may have all looked very attractive by the romantic glow of the moonlight, but in the daylight it all looked rather absurd. His hopes for America turned instead to “the birth of a new hero” who would be of age when the time of America’s testing comes. The hero, he predicted could be born of an American woman, but though it much more likely that he would “come out of the immigrant class”, perhaps in the guise of an “East Side newsboy”. This was something that had already been addressed both in the finished draft of the novel and the handwritten manuscript copy. In the finished novel, Nick speculates that he wouldn’t be at all surprised if Gatsby had been born in the Lower East Side of Manhattan (New York’s immigrant centre). In the earlier drafts of the novel the narrator goes that little bit further than this when he adds that Gatsby possessed some supernatural quality, or some “heightened sensitivity to life … that one might expect in some race yet unborn”. Scott had been dreaming of a man whose social and biological limitations could be raised to dazzling new heights by his own gorgeous, creative vision — his own genius. Scott’s innate spirituality and Catholic empathy was seeking a sound philosophical basis on which to pursue not only fame and fortune but fulfilment as a cutting-edge artist: he could either cling on to the comforting false certainties of his Catholic faith or run head long into the future.

Fitzgerald Unbound

At the time he was exploring these ideas, Scott was not only digging around the bones of his own unpurged family history, he was also revisiting the revolutionary idealism that had produced Percy Bysshe Shelley’s The Revolt of Islam and Prometheus Unbound . [13] In these poems, the key to ‘human perfectibility’ lay not in one’s genes but in one’s environment. The human imagination would pick at the lock of the inert physical world and set man free. The story of Gatsby is also not unlike the one told by Percy’s wife, Mary Shelley in Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus (1818), a tale that eerily predicts the evil spectre of Eugenics — the ‘foul dust’ that floated in the wake of the Age of Enlightenment.

Mary Shelley’s story, curiously enough, may have had its roots in the story of Prussian alchemist, Johan Konrad Dippel. Dippel had been born at the real-life Castle Frankenstein located in the low mountain ranges of Odenwald in southwest Germany. For centuries Dippel’s castle had been a stronghold for the Catholic faith battling against the mighty and ruthless advance of the country’s Lutheran Reformation. [14] Judged by many as a critique of human hubris and its insatiable thirst for knowledge and a powerful polemic on the nature versus nature debate, the story’s monster-without-a-name isn’t born bad, he is made bad by the appalling abuses of humanity that he encounters. The monster’s violent desire for revenge is learned and not innate. In his 2019 paper, Perfecting Monstrosity: Frankenstein and the Enlightenment, Alexander Cook draws our attention to a statement made by Mary Shelley in a review of her husband’s earlier work, Prometheus Unbound:

 “The prominent feature of Shelley’s theory of the destiny of the human species was, that evil is not inherent in the system of creation, but an accident that might be expelled. That man could be so perfectionized as to be able to expel evil from his own nature, and from the greater part of the creation, was the cardinal point of his system.” [15]

Greatness would, in theory at least, absolve you of all sin. The Godfather of Eugenics, Sir Francis Galton had also been inspired Shelley and Godwin’s dream of ‘human perfectibility’. Galton, a humourless savant with a nose only for statistics, had failed to grasp the full lyrical complexity of what Shelley had been saying. The Eugenicists believed that the only way that man could escape his ‘evil’ genes was through science. The metaphysical challenges to man meant nothing to them at all. Galton’s Quakerism had primed him with the belief that the light of God was in everyone. Some races, however, just had more God in them than others. Shelley was rather different. Shelley believed that man’s escape route was to be drawn from his boundless imagination and the tremendous, glacial sweep of his dreams as he drove them through his environment. The future of humankind wouldn’t be determined by genes but by dreams.

In March 1910, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was imaginatively reassembled for the playhouse-loving masses of New York. The electricity legend Thomas Edison had been eager to challenge the retarded notion that a person’s physical impairments prevented anyone from achieving greatness (he himself was deaf in one ear). His one-reeler ‘photo play’ — the first ever movie adaptation of Frankenstein — sought to pull back the curtain on the immorality and grotesqueness of the American Eugenic program. The film arrived in theatres just months after Edison had been left spellbound by the efforts of Dr Louise G. Rabinovitch to bring a rabbit back from the dead. The sister of Joseph G. Robin had stood before officers of the New York Edison Company and proved beyond all doubt that man did indeed have power over life and death. [16]

Edison’s 15-minute Kinetogram production had been filmed at his Edison Studios in Bedford Park, the Bronx, a neigbourhood in New York dominated by dream-hungry Italians, Jews and Irish. Despite its rather slender 16-minutes running-time, the film offered a stiff rebuke to the notions of race suicide popularised by Theodore Roosevelt and which had led to the introduction of sterilization across several US states. The movie shows Dr Frankenstein declaring his intention of creating “the most perfect human being the world had known”, before skipping to his laboratory. From the chemicals and ashes of a hot, smoking cauldron — ostensibly a crude but powerful metaphor for America’s much derided ‘melting pot’ — a monstrous, misshapen figure emerges. [17] Charles Ogle, the actor playing the Caliban-like monster, himself the son of Irish immigrants, can be seen rising from the pot in a costume that drew significantly on imagery used in stage productions of Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Edison, who had a keen philanthropic interest in Eugenics, had already set his stall out in the 1904 production, The Strenuous Life, a short four-minute commentary on the absurdity of the ‘race suicide’ notion. [18]

Frankenstein, Edison Studios, 1910 — Directed by J. Searle Dawley

Further lampoons of the movement would appear in spring 1914 with Harry A. Pollard’s Eugenics versus Love (a light-hearted look at the 1913 Eugenic marriage law in which love wins, actually), William Selig’s Eugenics at the Bar and Thomas Edison’s Wood B. Wedd and the Microbes. By 1922 it was Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau’s Nosferatu, starring the fabulously sinister Max Schreck as the Dracula-esque Count Orlok, that was shaping debate on Eugenics. This time around there was one major difference. The movie, made in Germany, was more supportive of the program, trading on the post-war hysteria brought about by the Spanish Flu and the ominous ‘red contagion’ as it moved virulently west from Communist Russia. In this movie, the action takes place in the mountainous border regions of South Eastern Europe as the creepy and overtly semitic looking count spreads his ‘evil blood’ through Germany and Central Europe. In this film, the unseen threat to humankind lurks in the shadows and in the blood. Just two years prior to being made, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, fabricated in Tsarist Russia in 1905 to prove the existence of a secret plot by Jews to rule the world, was rushed-released in Britain and America to coincide with plans to crush the ‘Jewish Menace’ that was perceived to be spreading from Russia in the wake of the revolution. In the United States it was ex-Russian secret service man, Boris Brasol doing all the leg work for getting the book published. No surprises to learn that Nosferatu’s director, F. W. Murnau was a big fan of Nietzsche and almost certainly shared some of the sentiments being expressed by Hitler’s recently formed Nazi Party. Legend also has it that Julius Streicher, a key player in the early Nazi Party had been so fascinated by the film that after attending the film’s premiere in March 1922, he returned to the theatre to binge watch the movie for the best part of the week that followed. Streicher and Brasol had in fact colluded in Munich in the Aufbau Vereinigung — part of a German-White Russian effort to overthrow the governments of Germany and Bolshevik Russia.

Scott wasn’t alone in his desire to see the birth of a new race of men combining the fantastic ideals of materialism and transcendentalism. Sir John MacDonell had invested similar hopes in Eugenics, but in doing so had challenged the definitions of race laid-down already by Immanuel Kant and Thomas Huxley. MacDonell regarded the notion of a ‘pure race’ as the Johnny Come Lately of the Eugenics movement: if race was indeed a true science, and if it truly did trade in absolutes, then how was it that nobody, not even the world’s most knowledgeable philosophers and scientists could actually agree on what race was? Was it possible that the increasingly popular sub-science of ‘race eugenics’ was based not on a pursuit of genetic excellence, like so many had claimed, but on “racial vanity and prejudice”? [19] Pointing to evidence provided by German ethnographer, Friedrich Ratzel which suggested that certain admixtures (race blending) programs did in fact produce “the very highest types of civilisation”, MacDonell ridiculed any notion that in-breeding between the races would set us on the road to extinction. Contrary to what was now being claimed in America, the crossing of distinct races would, MacDonell contended, produce a “superior type”. Despite what all the doom-mongers were saying, it was the Muggle-breeds of America who stood head and shoulders above everybody else: the nation’s hy-breeds. [20]

Eugenics Versus Love, Beauty Films, May 1914

The revolutionary, Leon Trotsky would sculpt his own prophetic vision for a new race of man, inspired partly perhaps by his encounters with American Eugenicist, Edward A. Ross in Russia in 1918. In an article he produced for the magazine, Liberty in March 1934, Trotsky claimed that from an historical point of view it was entirely right and fitting that America’s New Deal program was leading the way in curbing the very worst excesses of world capitalism. When the Revolution had been successful and the American Soviet was finally in possession of Industry, America would start applying “genuine scientific methods to the problem of eugenics”. Within a century or so, Trotsky predicted that a “new breed of men would emerge from the melting pot of its races”. Ten years earlier Trotsky had been waxing just as lyrically about the creation of the New Man — or ‘Communist Man’ — that would emerge from a new revolutionary class who had mastered all forms of struggle. The New Man would lead not only a moral and social revolt but an aesthetic revolt. Like Goethe’s Faust he would place himself at the centre of the universe. The new breed of man would be of a higher biologic social type: a Superman — “immeasurably stronger, wiser and subtler”. Even the most average among them would be the equivalents of an Aristotle, a Goethe or a Marx.

The men and women of Economics and Applied Sciences were also on the side of MacDonell. Writing in a book that he dedicated to Edison, American entrepreneur, Roger W. Babson was convinced that the potential of everyone was unlimited if channelled correctly. In Babson’s estimation, there had been too many misconceptions about genius. Men like Edison were men of truly remarkable abilities but they were not men of truly great birth. Thomas Edison, like so many of the great innovators of the world, had started with only average potential. Perhaps Edison, like the fifteen-year old Jay Gatsby, had risen at six each morning, performed his dumbbell exercises and spent the remainder of the day completing his rigorous schedule of studies, chores, baseball and  elocution. Babson quoted Elbert Hubbard who had said that “genius is a matter of energy properly focussed, concentrated and utilized”. Behind every great man was hard work. The only superhuman power they possessed was in their “capacity for unceasing, untiring, concentrated effort” — the very qualities that the young Jay Gatsby displays in the list of daily resolves from his youth. Babson went on to explain how studies undertaken just a few years before had revealed that practically all great men had risen from the “lowly walks of life”. They came from so-called common people. His final word on this subject was borrowed from American philosopher, William James: “the plain fact remains that men the world over possess amounts of resource which only very exceptional individuals push to their extremes of use”. [21] Genius, the experts agreed, was not down to some unique genetic pattern or racial feature, but down to the plucky ‘can-do’ attitude of ordinary men and women punching above their weight.

Little Montenegro

There’s a blink and you’ll miss it reference to all this in Chapter Five of the novel when Gatsby is regaling Nick with tales of his gallantry during the war. Immensely proud of his wartime service record, Gatsby reaches into his pocket and pulls out a medal bearing the inscription of the chivalric Order of Prince Danilo I. The medal had been awarded to him by ‘Little Montenegro’ for ‘Valour Extraordinary’ during the war. The reference is interesting on several fronts, not least because it was one of the smallest of the disputed territories in South Eastern Europe — the region that was now deemed most responsible for the daily flood of immigrants arriving at New York’s Ellis Island. It is Nick, however that hints at its broader significance and ‘troubled history’:

“Little Montenegro! He lifted up the words and nodded at them with his smile. The smile comprehended Montenegro’s troubled history and sympathized with the brave struggles of the Montenegrin people. It appreciated fully the chain of national circumstances which had elicited this tribute from Montenegro’s warm little heart. My incredulity was submerged in fascination now; it was like skimming hastily through a dozen magazines.”

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, p. 65

In the two or three years that Fitzgerald was putting The Great Gatsby together, America had been lamenting the sad conclusion of the little nation’s story during the war. Despite being the first and tiniest country to join Britain in fighting back against Austria-Hungary, this relatively young nation had been deserted by the allies both before and after the armistice — first when the allies had deemed it too small to defend against the Prussian advance, and later when the League of Nations had allowed it to be absorbed into the new state of Yugoslavia. The American public regarded ‘Little Montenegro’ as the country that had refused to surrender. It was given no troops, no air support and no Red Cross. By the end of the war, this small, heroic kingdom would become the only country in the world to have its annexation (by Serbia) formally recognised. President Woodrow Wilson in his message of January 8, 1917 had origianlly included the immediate restoration of Montenegro as one of his Fourteen Points of peace. Sadly, at the Peace Conference that followed in Paris 1919, President Wilson’s appeal had fallen flat, and the country was denied a seat at the table.

In March 1920, the populist New York Sun and New York Herald published an article by New Jersey’s Mutual Life insurance man, William Frederick Dix wrote asking why ‘heroic Little Montenegro’ had been so cruelly denied its right to self-determination. Like Jay Gatsby, William Dix had earned Montenegro’s distinguished Order of Prince Danilo medal during the war and remained a dedicated defender of its right to sovereignty. In the article, Dix recounted an occasion when the country’s emissary in Washington, General Anto Gvozdenović, had made an inspiring Liberty Loans address at the Altar of Liberty on Fifth Avenue. On that day, Gvozdenović had been totally and utterly convinced that help was at hand and that the generosity of New York’s financiers would save them from defeat by Germany. By the General’s side that day were Martin Vogel, Assistant Secretary to the US Treasury and the Vice President of the Equitable Life Insurance Company, George Wilson — namesake of the man who murders Gatsby in the book. After his rousing speech attracted a pleasing response from the press of New York, a buoyant General Gvozdenović headed back to Washington and waited for the phone calls and the pledges to come in. But the calls, like the ones that Gatsby waits on from Daisy in the novel, never came. [22]

By the time that Montenegro’s ‘Peasant Queen’, Milena Petrović-Njegoš died in exile in France in March 1923, the newspapers of America were again regaling its readers with tales of the country’s heroism during the war. ‘Little Montenegro’, the country that had lifted its voice for the help of the West had been ruthlessly abandoned.  Headlines like ‘The Martyrdom of Montenegro’ were being run by furious editors astonished by the failure of the west to save a country who had lost one third of its population trying to stemmy the brutal advance of the Prussian Junker, noting by contrast the pernicious deals our leaders were now doing with our enemies Soviet Russia. This “hardy race of clean living Christian mountaineers had for centuries been the bulwark of Christianity”. Its people deserved more than this. They had been “the eternal scouts of the cross against the crescent”. The press’s judgment was as tragic as it was profound: Montenegro had risked “her national soul by loyalty to ideals and in the world crisis she had given all to save others”. As the country now looked to America for its last minute rescue, America was looking away. [23]

Back in Britain, the former Montenegrin Envoy Extraordinary, Count John F.C de Salis was acting in a diplomatic capacity for Britain and the Vatican in Rome. Montenegro had a longstanding concordat with the Vatican and the church was determined to preserve the sovereignty of the nation. Like his fellow Anglo-Irish colleague Shane Leslie and Scott’s Newman mentor, Father Fay, de Salis had found himself busily engaged in fighting off the various accusations of pro-German spying within the Church that had been churned-out by propagandists and then amplified by the gutter press rumour-mill. In his memoir of Cardinal Francis Gasquet, Leslie writes with fondness and obvious delight at the various intrigues and “secret paths” that all three men had been undertaking in Rome on behalf of the American and British governments: Fay in his “disguise” as a Red Cross officer, “portly and cherubic” in his ill-fitting uniform but whose arrival had marked a major “turning point” in US-Vatican relations, and de Sallis and his excellent staff — the “ablest of Holy See ministers”. As a result of their efforts, the three men formed a close relationship. [24]

De Sallis returned to Montenegro as part of an Inter-Allied Mission with the medal-winning Mutual Life insurance man, William Frederick Dix in 1919 to observe its occupation by Serbian forces. His report was said to be so damning of the Serbian government that it was withheld from publication. [25] A month after Queen Milena’s burial in Rome, Montenegro’s former Prime Minister, Jovan Plamenac, arrived from Italy at Ellis Island and was immediately detained by authorities as an illegal immigrant. The man who had supported the King in his refusal to accept the country’s annexation by Serbia — the nation whose skin it had saved — was treated like a criminal and refused refuge. [26] The country which had done everything in its power to fulfil its national potential had been brought hurtling back to earth. For them the dream was over, just as it would soon be over for its plucky American champion, Jay Gatsby.

Where religion was concerned, it was Protestant theologians and clerics who were, on the whole, more open to notions of ‘human perfectibility’ than the Roman Catholic Church. The few exceptions to this included Americanist Catholics like Bishop John Ireland and Isaac Hecker. In Gatsby, Scott can been grappling with several modern dilemmas: the crippling absolutism of his own Catholic upbringing, the absolutism of Eugenics and the absolutist paradox of Nietzschean modernity: the belief that something could be both real and unreal, believable and unbelievable at the same time. In a world which could only be experienced through appearances, Nietzsche found it only logical to conclude that it was appearances themselves that were true. Gatsby is real not just because Nick believes in him, but because Gatsby believes in himself. The author had already put it plainly enough: Gatsby had sprung from his own Platonic image of himself — he’s the manifestation of his own fantastically idealised self-image. As a Catholic workaround the whole thing would work quite well for Scott; it wasn’t necessarily the biology that God gave you that was important, it was how the spirit that God placed in you could help you transcend that biology.

Eugenics and Other Evils

When Scott’s favourite British author, G. K. Chesterton addressed the press on the eve of his lecture tour of the States in January 1921, he had something he wanted to say about America. America wasn’t the great ‘Melting Pot’ it often presented itself as being. Equality may still have been the ideal in America, but it was no longer the reality. [27] The very things that America’s immigrants had arrived here looking for were gone already. All that remained of it now was a dream of the dream. On his return to England, Chesterton continued to assess this great melting pot of people and their supernational character. He was also determined to confront the threat this remarkable ‘unnation’ was facing from Eugenics — a ‘silent anarchy’ that was eating at society. In 1922 he published his findings. Eugenics and Other Evils, written after but published before his account of his six-month American adventure, added no small amount of weight to the punches already thrown by his co-religionist, Father Thomas J. Gerrard in his book, The Church and Eugenics. This much was clear from the book’s title. Eugenics wasn’t something to be tolerated or cosied-up to — it was evil.

In his now customary fearless and felicitous (if not downright facetious) manner, Chesterton systematically set about crippling the entire scientific and ethical basis on which Eugenics stood. In the book’s preface, Chesterton passed comment on the love-affair the West had with the science and how it had coincided with the evolutionary fancies of Nietzsche gaining traction among artists and intellectuals. Writers like George Bernard Shaw had begun to embrace the idea that to breed a man like a cart house was the true way to attain that higher civilisation, noting that cart-horses were, afterall, very highly regarded for their contribution to the arts and sciences. According to Chesterton, the reason for Britain and America’s obsession with Eugenics was as simple and it was paradoxical: the scientifically perfected state envisaged by the Prussian military, and over which a truly war had been fought, was now being sought by both the English and Americans. The Allies had once hated Germany, now they wanted to be just like them. For a very short-time during that war, the West’s romance with Nietzsche had seemed to collapse. Between 1914 and 1918, a crude equation had been chalked out on the national consciousness: Eugenics equalled Prussianism. It was for that reason alone that we abandoned the whole idea. Now, however, the two countries were proceeding on the basis that Prussia could be “a pattern for the whole world”. If the Allies didn’t start adopting the same powerful militarism as the Junker, there would be more to fear from Germany in the future. Publishing this book constituted, in Chesterton’s eyes at least, an act of counter-terrorism. The next seventeen chapters systematically set-about first exposing and then destroying the numerous false aims and theories upon which this science was based. He was also not afraid to address the subject of prejudice against the Irish and the Catholics, whose disinheritance “fictions” and “dreams of lost dignity” were now being snapped-up almost as enthusiastically by the Eugenicists as their lands. [28]

The view taken of Eugenics taken by Chesterton’s friend, Shane Leslie, was a little more ambiguous. For a time at least, Leslie, like Mary Harriman Rumsey, appears to have been partly seduced by the idea that the study of ‘Positive Eugenics’ may well offer solutions to the consequences (and the causes) of poverty, crime and alcoholism. The phenomenon had for many years provided something of a prop to the social justice and penal reform movements — things that were close to Leslie’s heart. It was in fact Leslie who had shown Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald around the impoverished slums of Whitechapel during their brief week stay in London during the spring and summer of 1921. This “wild expedition to Limehouse” hadn’t been conceived to gloat, but to inform. [29] Between 1912 and 1916 Leslie had shown the young Fitzgerald around the palatial mansions of Long Island. Limehouse had been Leslie’s attempt to show him how the other half lived. For a time at least, Eugenics had begun to flourish in the more generous soils of the social reform movement. Men like Arthur St John, a well-respected Christian Socialist and founder the Penal Reform League, had written in very positive terms of the exciting new developments being made in the social sciences. The gist of what St John had produced had been based on an address made to the Eugenics Club in Haslemere, England on April 10, 1911. His paper was published in full in the July edition of The Eugenics Review and included an update on the work being carried out by Henry. H. Goddard at the Training School for Feebleminded Girls and Boys in Vineland, New Jersey.

St John, a former Captain in the British Army in India, but of Irish stock, had arrived in America in September 1910 as one of several delegates dispatched by Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise, President of the National Prison Board to the International Prison Congress in Washington DC. [30] Once in America, St John regaled the press with stories of his time at Westward Ho! and tales of how his schoolmate, Rudyard Kipling, a “queer little undersized lad” with a fondness for ‘long words’,  had sometimes been forced to eat worms by some of the more bullish older boys. [31] Despite making some assumptions about civilisation that might seem overly high-minded, condescending and arrogant to modern readers, the sense of urgency and sincerity is palpable throughout his report. As part of the social justice program, Eugenics had found its rightful, if not entirely comfortable or desirable place. Leslie’s review of the life of the man who sent St John to Washington —Borstal founder, Sir Evelyn Ruggles-Brise — in a 1939 issue of The Eugenics Review might also be viewed in this context.

Despite the view taken by Leslie on Positive Eugenics, some of his critics, have narrowed-in, perhaps a little unfairly, on a remark that the author had made in his 1939 memoirs, American Wonderland, in which he writes that by the time of the Restriction of Immigration hearings in 1924, America had been a little late in ensuring that “its future was eugenically safe”. However, these critics miss the point that Leslie was making. Leslie was pointing out, not unreasonably, that for many years America had deliberately thrown open the gates at Ellis Island to attract cheap, non-skilled labour. In the first years of industrialization America had wanted hands, not brains to enter the country. Now America had changed its mind and wanted to exclude all those less-skilled men and women perceived to be stealing jobs from the natives. For our understanding of Gatsby, it’s an important if not uncontroversial point that Leslie is making. The fabulous wealth that America has built as a nation had been boosted enormously by the cheap, quality labour provided by its immigrants. In a system that perhaps had more in common with battery farming. Immigrants were being stacked like animals to enrich its national stock. American supremacy, certainly where the wealth of the great nation was concerned, was based on a complex admixture of cheap labour, high-level corruption and organized crime. The dream that had brought all these millions of people to America was tainted by ‘bad blood’.

What Leslie said next was even more controversial — but not in the way that some critics believe. In what may seem at first a statement that is unduly sympathetic to Eugenics, Leslie writes: “The great alien question is: will the lowest common multiples of so many continental races develop into the highest common American? … The unknown element in eugenics and race-mixture may set the theories of Stoddard and Madison Grant at a discount.” It is a statement that has long been presented as evidence for Leslie’s support of Eugenics, but quite the opposite may be true. What Leslie appears to be saying is that as a result of the unpredictable nature of variables in the genetic make-up of offspring, the positive genetic outcomes of ‘race amalgamating’ were likely to reduce the value and credibility of Madison Grant’s and Lothrop Stoddard’s theories of race betterment. The original scientific research undertaken by biologist, Gregor Mendel suggested that trait inheritance — the interplay between dominant and recessive traits — was something of a lottery. Departing from this logic for a moment, Leslie goes on to note that the failure to extend the gene pool within the French Canadian colonies had practically ensured that the French peasant of the 18th century hadn’t made any advance for centuries. Its people hadn’t progressed at all. By contrast over just three generations “the folk of the United States” had thrown up an entirely “new type” of race that had a smaller jaw and longer bones. This presented “the rare spectacle of a new race amalgamating.” Leslie may have been casually tossing in pseudo-maths and pseudo-economics into the metaphors he was using, but the point he was making was a valid one: the ‘melting pot’ ideal had always played to the country’s advantage. [32]

American Wonderland, Shane Leslie, 1936

Leslie was even more flippant about how Eugenicists were going about tackling the ‘problem’ of the African American. The way he saw it, if the blacks and the whites were allowed to mix freely and produce children, white blood would eventually extinguish the black. It wasn’t a particularly moral or Christian solution, he conceded, but at least it was ‘Eugenic’. Leslie had presented these views in the ‘Melting Pot’ chapter of his book in which he tried to imagine what the ‘perfect American’ would look like in the year 2000AD. He naturally drew the conclusion that by then, all the various races of America would have blended together successfully. “No one race can permanently hold America”, he writes. The great ‘Melting Pot of America’ would once again come gently to the boil and by the year 2000 a whole new race would inhabit the New World. It wasn’t just America’s future that was theirs for the taking either, but also its past. Leslie also had plenty to say about the various contributions made to the American Revolution by Irish-American Catholics (“it was Irish memory that severed the American colonies from England”), the joyous spirituality brought to the church and Jazz music by African Americans (which made the singing of Cathedral Choirs seem “an insult” by comparison) and the donation made by the Jews who had been “lavish with their millions” in the advancement of engineering, economics and philanthropy. Increasing support for mixed-race marriages was already providing the solution. Leslie reasoned that the “slow penetration of the white blood” by the Irish, the Blacks and the Jews was the only “eugenic solution” that was ever likely to work. [33]

Sadly, it has to be said that the language that Leslie uses however, as flippant and dry-witted as it is, occasionally supports the stereotypes of the times. This is probably why this chapter has been misunderstood so often. Scott’s old literary mentor is making a serious point in the most insensitive of ways: if white men can ‘help themselves’ to black women, but make the converse (black men seducing white women) punishable by death, the race problem would solve itself. It’s an appalling way to phrase it, but Leslie is turning the language and the logic that was common among bigots at this time, back on the bigots themselves. It’s a fine line indeed between irony and imitation. Leslie would make similar observations in his 1934 autobiography, The Passing Chapter. Like Father Gerrard, Leslie had some sympathy with the more humanitarian concerns of Eugenics — the elimination of social ills like poverty and criminal behaviour — but he was positively dismissive about the application of its breeding programs to mankind. “To eliminate one half of the albinism in the human race,” he mused, “would take the whole Christian era”. In all fairness, Eugenics could boast few genuinely scientific laws. The only one that Leslie had any real respect for were the findings of Gregor Mendel on the ratio between weak and dominant stocks. But Leslie was also quick to remind us that Mendel had only ever experimented with “immoral mice and unblushing sweet peas who generate in quickest succession.”  The application of all this to man was at best theoretical.

Eugenics, was not in Leslie’s opinion, completely understood by either its supporters or opponents. Leslie readily accepted that it wasn’t a new phenomenon either. Neither was ‘Dysgenics’. In his 1916 book, The End of a Chapter, Leslie observed that English society had, in all living memory, been an elitist closed-shop: “The Whigs of pedigree stood at the head of a great patrician stud”. Though Eugenics as a science was unknown until the turn of the century, “the social value of good breeding” had always been observed — and had always been overrated. Blood, whatever its merits, had always guaranteed high status and success, despite the fact that the “defects of aristocratic inbreeding” were obvious for anyone to see. The old Conservative Catholics were not exempt from his criticism either. It had taken John Henry Newman, the Protestant-turned-Catholic reformer who Scott’s prep school had been named after, to “freshen the veins” of Catholic Church as a whole. The way Leslie saw it, the Old World had always benefited from an injection of new blood. Like the American brides who hooked up with the British blue-bloods, the fresh input staved-off decay. The war had left us wanting. Much had been depleted. “New metals and new moulds” had never been needed more than they were now. [34]

We may never know for sure if Father Fay’s decision to visit Scott at Princeton in February 1914 had been triggered by the series of lectures on Eugenics delivered by Dr Conklin, just as we may never know for certain if there was ever any discussion between Scott and Fay that had given the young author the confidence and motivation he required to complete his Love or Eugenics musical, but it’s interesting to note the titles of Lenten sermons that Fay had been hawking around Washington at this time. An advertisement in the Richmond Times Dispatch on February 28 1914 reveals the titles: Faith and Reason (March 1), The Church in Civilization (March 22), The Church and the Freedom of Thought (March 20), the Church of the Individual (April 5).  [35] The Lenten addresses would be made at the Sacred Heart Cathedral and were open to Catholics and non-Catholics alike. With titles like those it’s hard not to believe that some reference was being made to Eugenics, the most fashionable expression of civilization, freedom and the individual at that time. As Scott sat down to couple together the first of his satirical rhymes for the Triangle Club, it was announced that the State Federation of Catholic Societies of his home state Wisconsin was launching a campaign to ban the teaching of Sex Eugenics in schools. Love was winning for once, if only in Wisconsin. [36]

Turning back the clock to 1885

On the very day that Scott sat down to write his letter to his editor, Max Perkins telling him of the “enormous power” building within him and how he was going to be approaching the Gatsby novel “from a whole new angle”, the Johnson-Reed Restriction of Immigration Act (H.R. 7995), was formally being put before Congress. The date was April 10, 1924. The Bill had been expected to reach its resolution in four calendar days but was passed on April 12, two days ahead of schedule. From this point on, a strict quota would be put in place on immigrants from Asia and Eastern and Southern Europe. It is quite extraordinary when you think about it. Jay Gatsby, the man from absolutely nowhere whose rags to riches story would come represent the birth and death of the American Dream, let out his first hungry cry for life on the very day that America’s 68th Congress agreed to kill the hopes of millions.

Just weeks before it was signed into law on May 24, the Bill’s co-sponsor, David Reed was celebrating his win in the New York Times. The “America of the Melting Pot”, Reed gloated, had finally come to an end. The flow of human traffic from Russia, Italy and the South East regions of Europe would now be reduced significantly and indefinitely. For the Tom Buchanans of America, it was a win on both a practical and ideological level. The new “ground legislation that Congress had passed,” said Reed, “would preserve the racial type at it existed here today”. The National Origins formula had finally slammed the door on large-scale immigration. The American that existed now would be the American of the future. Reed explained that until now, the country had proceeded on the basis that it was the “refuge of the oppressed of all nations” and for centuries, decent White Americans had indulged this belief. Now that dream was over. Immigrants would no longer arrive in the country believing that they somehow miraculously “fused together into a distinctive American type”. The ‘Melting Pot Pageants’ at the schools of Henry Ford that had become the amusement parks of Americanisation for a brief spell during the war would be cooled to a more comfortable, non-binding temperature. Reed was delighted to announce that America had turned back the clock to 1885— not only the year that the Statue of Liberty had sailed into Hudson Bay as a beacon of hope for the “tired, poor, huddled masses” of Europe, it was also the year in which Scott had intended to set his new novel: “Dear Max … When I send on this last bunch of stories I may start my novel? Its locale will be the middle west and New York of 1885 I think. It will have a catholic element.” [37] Beginning about 1885, Reed went on, “new types of people” had begun to arrive in America, far different to those peoples who had colonized it originally”. Large numbers of men and women started coming first from Italy and Greece and then from Poland, Turkey, the Balkans and Russia. Their arrival brought with it “a whole new problem of assimilation”. [38]

The subject of immigration would have practically impossible for Scott to ignore at this time. In the house magazine of his publisher, Charles Scribner’s Sons, the issue had been furiously debated on a good dozen occasions, starting with Edward G. Conklin’s Some Biological Aspects of Immigration in March 1921 followed by The Westward Tide of Peoples by New York’s former Commissioner of Immigration, Frederic C. Howe in September 1922, an article that drew a firm but courteous challenge from K.C. McIntosh in February the following year. Debate about the issue, taken from all sides of the political spectrum, was also on heavy rotation in Fitzgerald’s favourite reads, the Saturday Evening Post and the North American Review. These included Restriction campaigner J. J. Davis’s Jail or Passport in December 1923 and H. H. Currans, Fewer or Better or None the following April.

Despite recognising that the Restriction of Immigration order was one of the most momentous decisions ever made by American Congress, the response of the Catholic Press was for the most part brief and flippant: ‘was the bootlegging of immigrants to be added to smuggling and bootlegging of liquor as a national activity?’, asked the Rochester Catholic Journal. [39] A much tougher line had been taken by the Irish Home rulers. In April 1924, the President of the Ancient Order of the Hibernians, Michael Donohoe, demanded that all members of the United States Senate and House of Representatives should reject the bogus findings in the special report for Congress compiled by Eugenicist, Henry H. Laughlin: “The Laughlin report pretends to be an examination of 445 custodial public institutions, out of a total of 667 such institutions in the United States; and the so-called investigation has been so managed as to convey the impression of ‘scientific research.’” Laughlin’s report had tabulated its results under such headings as the Insane, the Criminal, the Feebleminded and the Defective. The intent, Donohoe argued, had been to manoeuvre the Irish and the Jews into the most discreditable of these types. It had been manifestly a part of an anti-Irish and anti-Jewish campaign. Laughlin had been taking advantage of a wave of post-war intolerance, both racial and religious, that was completely “un-American”. Official service records would show, Donohoe contended, that “the boys of Irish blood” had fewer rejections for defects than any other ethnic type. The leader of the A.O.H ended his address to Congress by asking its “fair-minded members” to reject the report outright. [40]

Francis Scott Fitzgerald, one of those “boys of Irish blood”, had found himself being lumped in with the criminal and insane in the most criminal and insane of ways. It was June 1924 and the 27 year old American Dreamer was waking up to a new reality.

Taking Stock

In the most beautiful but most complicated of ways, the whole thing brings us right back to Isaac Hecker, whose revolutionary take on Catholicism had inspired the founding of Scott’s prep-school, The Newman School for Boys. “Can a man repeat the past with genius? … One true act opens the passage for ten more. Man is left to his own destiny; religion but sanctifies it. The only Catholicon for Man is in being true to God, humanity, himself.” Had Hecker lived another thirty years he might well have phrased it differently: “How can a man be a super hip Modernist icon, a Catholic, a Eugenicist and a true, American patriot all at the same time?”  Fortunately for us, Hecker wouldn’t need to ask it, as Scott was asking it himself as he sat down to start work on Gatsby. The America that people had returned to after the war was one of paradoxes: on the one hand it rowed furiously and enthusiastically toward the future and on the other it let itself drift lazily back to the past like some lumbering, unmoored dreadnought. The story of how America was evolving at this time was like the story of Modernism itself: a tale of adventure and belief in biological, intellectual and technological progress that was matched, somewhat unevenly, by a mindless devotion to its antiquarian and imperial origins. Modernist leader, Benito Mussolini was a case in point: a passionate (if inconsistent) Futurist who recycled a symbol of Ancient Rome as the emblem of his party and who had a wistful predilection for renting ‘factual imitation’ castles in Greece. We cannot repeat the past, said Hecker, but we can help perfect it. On the death of respected judge and prison reformer, Sir John MacDonell in 1921, The Advocate of Peace wrote of him: “His modernity was shown by his vital interest in Eugenics.” And to all intents and purposes, this is how Eugenics was being viewed by the vast majority of social reformers and intellectuals during the first years of the Twentieth Century: it was the greatest expression of Modernity.

To understand the enormous magnetism the term Eugenics had and the inspiration that it provided, you had only had to look at its etymology: in Greek, this harmless derivative of the words ‘eu’ and ‘genius’, means ‘good genes’, whilst in Roman Mythology, the word ‘genius’ represented the divine spark that was believed to be inherent in every man or woman alive. Genius was the creativity in man that not only maintained life but perfected it. Genius was man’s guardian angel, his ‘higher-self’. This is why Sir Francis Galton, the Godfather of Eugenics, had , had concentrated all his early efforts in tracing the discreet relationship between ‘heredity’ and ‘genius’. Initially at least, Eugenics had been the science of first tapping and then mining the vast reservoir of human potential. Theodore Dreiser wrote his book, The Genius about it and his friend, Joseph G. Robin, and tried to adapt it into a play. Robin’s own sister, Dr Louise Robinovitch, had generated no small amount of sensation herself when she published her own study, The Genesis of Genius in the Journal of Mental Pathology in January 1906. According to Dr Robinovitch, the greater number of geniuses in the world had been born to men and women of maturity — those of forty years and above — contradicting the then fashionable Eugenic notion that women should marry fast and marry young if their children were to inherit the best of the couple’s genetics. The doctor’s more level-headed study had shown quite the opposite to be true: “the high cellular potentiality of almost all great men are given life when their parents present the highest degree of cellular potentiality” — typically when the man was between 30-35 years of age and the woman between 25-30 years of age. [41] In her remarkable 20-page essay, Louise sends a shot across the bow at social reformer and Eugenicist, Felix Adler. Adler had taken the seemingly orthodox view that the object of marriage was procreation “in order to keep the flame of human life burning”. Dr Robinovitch had responded by saying that these claims were “absolutely valueless”.

Adler had virtually kickstarted the entire ‘Love or Eugenics?’ debate in an address he had made at the at Steinway Hall in New York in 1905. Speaking before members of the Society for Ethical Culture, Adler cooly declared that happiness was not essential for a successful marriage, dismissing as “selfish egotists” practically anyone who thought that their own happiness was more important than “anything else in the universe”. These young men and women were wrong, Adler concluded. What should be striven for was not love but “better offspring.” [42] When the whole ‘race suicide’ debate was being revived in 1915, the New York World responded to Adler’s theories by repeating the basics of an address that Louise Robinovitch had made at the First International Congress of Psychiatry in Amsterdam in 1907. According to the doctor, poor, dysfunctional families were apt to produce as many great men as those in the upper set. The evidence, Dr Rabinovitch had suggested, showed that the “commercialism underlying marriage in all countries” was more likely to have greatly increased the number of “mediocre children” in the world than reduced it. Dreiser’s friendship with Louise’s brother, Joseph G. Robin may well have rubbed off on the author because his own book, The Genius, written in 1913 would dismiss Adler’s theories with no less intensity than Robin’s sister, Louise Robinovitch. Dreiser’s novel follows the fortunes of Eugena Witla, an artist who is struggling to express his sexual and artistic energy within the tight, oppressive boundaries of a conventional, monogamous marriage. Dreiser was, appropriately enough, described by the Minneapolis Journal as “literary Caliban” for the hero’s failure to curb his appetites in the novel. [43]

Dreiser would arouse even greater controversy with his deeply provocative essay, Right to Kill. The essay, published by the Socialist magazine, The New York Call in March 1918, had been written in response to the furore that been caused by ‘Bollinger Baby’ affair. In November 1915, Dr Harry J. Haiselden of Chicago had performed involuntary euthanasia on a seven year old child with severe learning difficulties. The whole thing had divided the nation, with Dr Haiselden — the ‘Black Stork’ as he became known — attracting as much commendation as condemnation. [44] Dreiser, an anti-war pacifist, seized the opportunity to expose the hypocrisy and double standards of a Christian America that could offer its unconditional support for the killing of Germans but which rejected outright the mercy killing of children born with severe health defects or those experiencing mental or physical pain. In his typically black, dry-witted style, Dreiser offers a scathing critique of the anti-choice Christian movement, framing his narrative, not unreasonably perhaps, around the issue of self-determination and the basic principles of human kindness.  He was imitating the logic of the mob and turning it back against the mob in the hope of jamming the pro-war argument: “If a state can protect itself (the individual) against criminals, so called, or predatory or diseased forces of any sort, how about the defective child or grown person?”

For Dreiser, the war had been a disgraceful commercial racket. The writer suggested that the “bugaboo” of the pro-moralists — those who believed in “the existence of exact and spiritual laws of right and wrong” — should be shown the door immediately so that people could be freed of “invariable rules” set by arbitrary masters. It was Dreiser’s view that the various dogmas of religion were opposing the urgent demands of a “pagan reality” and the “progressive way”. The religionists didn’t deal in laws, but in “theories”, in “dreams” and “delusions”. [45] Perhaps drawing on the suicide attempt made by his friend, J. G. Robin at the height of the Northern Bank scandal in 1911, Dreiser asked his readers if they had never heard of a businessman taking his life because he was ruined? Did they actually understand the sheer scale of the suffering that some people, often through no fault of their own, were experiencing in the world? The author was at a loss to understand how America could accept the complicated laws of death in the animal world or in war, but not in the interests of mercy. Dreiser viewed the typical American as someone trading in fairy tales: “Man dreams of what he would like to do and builds up paper defences”. Nature, on the otherhand, knew instinctively what was required. The author thought it was time to clear away the finely spun webs of sweet, religious notions and face the facts: man lived by killing and eating other animals. Life was Darwinian. It was “an eating game”.

The harshest lesson that Nick learns at the end of the Gatsby novel, is that self-preservation is the weak man’s strongest instinct. Tom and Daisy could have shouldered the death of Myrtle but instead they let Gatsby take the blame. No matter how thickly you may have compiled your ‘paper defences’, reality always killed you in the end.  Circumstances would come along that would pick you up and throw you into “Moloch arms of society” and you were sacrificed as they saw fit. Life was no fairy tale and Dreiser knew that. The difference between Tom Buchanan and Jay Gatsby in the end, was the difference between a man screaming Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, at the top of his lungs and someone crooning the soppy, saccharine chorus of The Rubbette’s Sugar Baby Love. Jay’s survival in this world was doomed from the very start. He was the most fragile and careful of dreamers in the most brutal and careless of worlds. Gatsby’s death was to all intents and purposes, a mercy killing. [46]

A few weeks after Dreiser’s article had been published, a group of vigilantes found themselves being charged with murder after confessing to the lynching of ‘enemy alien’, Richard Prager, in front of a mob of over 200 hundred men and women in Illinois. The men’s legal defence tried to argue that Prager was a German spy and the men had every right to kill him on suspicion under the current rules on the status of aliens and the terms defined by the Espionage Act of 1917. Prager had been working as a coal miner and was rumoured to have been unhappy about mine conditions. He was also believed to have made some mildly derisory comments about President Woodrow Wilson. Claims that Prager had plans to bomb the mine were found to have been completely without foundation. When war with Germany had been declared, Prager had attempted to enlist with the US Navy but had been rejected as a result of a defect in one eye. Extraordinarily, each of the men on trial was acquitted of his murder. There had, apparently, been an unwritten law in the American Constitution that did not permit an “unpatriotic attitude”. [47] The New York Times rightly observed that this new “unwritten law” gave practically any group of men the sovereign right to kill or execute justice as they saw fit. [48] For Theodore Dreiser, the message that Christian America was sending was a rather mixed and chilling one: a licensed doctor didn’t have the ‘right to kill’ a terminally patient, but any Tom, Jack or Walt had the inviolable ‘right to kill’ anyone they suspected of being disloyal or un-American.

If Dreiser expected America to extend the logic of ‘no right to kill’ to the war with Germany he was going to be disappointed. The general consensus among Americanist Catholics was summed up fairly adequately by the Reverend Henry C. Hengell a member of the Newman apostolate in Wisconsin. Hengell would write that the anti-war movement was wrong in its assumption that it was “never right to kill”. The killing of Germans to make America and other nations “safe for democracy” was one such occasion when the sixth of the Ten Commandments could be interpreted a little more loosely: “Thou shalt not kill” meant that one should not kill unjustly or without legal authority. When the State authorised destruction it was because God had willed it. War offered the only lasting security for peace. Propping up patriotism was the duty of every American and supporting duty was God. The Christian was faced with two distinct options: the autocracy of unbelief or the democracy of belief. [49] Prager’s death, incidentally, had come less than twelve months after the lynching union official, Frank Little, whose story was immediately seized upon by Dreiser to sound his horn on social injustice. That same spring, Felix Adler had renewed his own commitment to the Euthanasia movement by publishing, The Three Shadows, a chapter in his book, An Ethical Philosophy of Life, that echoed many of the sentiments and arguments put forward by Theodore Dreiser. [50]

The Only Escape

There’s a moment at the end of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein when the monster is speaking of the envy and indignation he had felt upon learning that Victor Frankenstein, the author of his existence and own unspeakable torments, had been daring to hope for happiness. The Doctor had done what anyone might do after creating life from non-living matter: he’d found a woman and fallen in love. Now he wanted to go old school and sire children the more conventional way. It was the ultimate story of patricide and sibling rivalry. Everybody knows of the Doctor’s engagement, including the monster.  The monster had once dared to dream of happiness too. He describes being “soothed with dreams of virtue, of fame and of enjoyment”. Some might see it as straight-lift from Caliban in The Tempest. But in this play, Shakespeare makes it abundantly clear that Caliban, a bestial slave, has little regard for romance. Caliban’s appetite for his master’s daughter, Miranda is purely physical. Shelley’s monster, on the other hand, had hoped to meet people who would ignore the monstrousness of his outward form and love him for “the excellent qualities” that he was capable of sharing: “I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal.” The dishonour he had brought to his name by murdering Victor’s wife had now ruined any chance of happiness he had once had.

Like Gatsby, the monster sees that his life could have gone one of two ways: he could have applied his genius to the betterment of mankind and take it forward or he could amass an infeasibly large and criminal fortune and plough it all into idle dreams. He could be ‘great’ like James J. Hill or he could be rich, omnipotent and in a position to actually rig the American Dream like the gangster, Meyer Wolfshiem. It all came back round to what American lawyer, William N. Gemmill had had written about Genius and Eugenics back in 1915: “Men are not measured by their height or the length of their belts but by the spirit which moves them to good or ill”.  The ‘fallen angel’ that Frankenstein’s monster had been at the beginning of the novel had become a ‘malignant devil’ by the end of it. The thoughts that had once been filled “with such sublime and transcendent visions” of beauty had been eroded gradually by desolation. He could turn his human genius to doing good things or doing bad things. Death, the monster confided, was his only consolation. No longer would he feel “the agonies that consumed him or be the prey of feelings unsatisfied” and dreams unrealised. Like Gatsby he steps fatalistically upon his raft and is borne away on the waves into darkness. [51] Death is the monster’s only escape. And it’s probably for this very reason that Gatsby too must die. The Great Gatsby is not so much a book as a suicide note — the great impostor’s final lament. And he’s intending to go out on a high.

[1] ‘The Genesis of the Defective’, George F. Keene, Proceedings of the National Conference of Charities and Correction  June 15-22, 1904,Vol. 31, p.407

[2] ‘On Being American’, Prejudices, Third Series, H.L. Mencken, Alfred A. Knoff, 1922, pp.9-64

[3] ‘Dear Scott, Dear Max’, Charles Scribner’s Son, ‘Comment on Frost’, Max Perkins, December 26, 1922, 1973, pp. 63-65

[4] Mocking Eugenics, Ewa B. Luczak, Routledge, 2022, p. 86

[5] ‘Dear Scott; Dear Scott, May 26, 1922, Letters on Literature and Politics, 1912-1972, Edmund Wilson, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977, p.84

[6] Robin (Joseph G. Rabinovitch) had appeared as a character portrait in Theodore Dreiser’s 1919 book, Twelve Men. His poor-boy backstory, his fall from grace and the description of his parties is strikingly similar to those in Gatsby. See: ‘Dreiser, Fitzgerald, and the Question of Influence’, Thomas P. Riggio, Theodore Dreiser and American Culture: New Readings, ed. Yoshinobu Hakutani, University of Delaware Press, 2000, pp. 234-47

[7] ‘The Genesis of Genius’, Dr Louise G. Robinovitch, The Journal of Mental Pathology, Vol. VII, No.5, 1905, pp.228-248

[8] ‘Genius and Eugenics’, William N. Gemmill, Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, May 1915, pp. 83-100; ‘Law and Eugenics’, Sir John MacDonnell,  The Eugenics Review, Volume 7, No.4, January 1916, pp. 229–246

[9] Ariel: The Life of Shelley, André Maurois, D. Appleton & Company, 1924, p. 165, p. 276

[10] ‘Genius and Eugenics’, William N. Gemmill, Journal of the American Institute of Criminal Law and Criminology, May 1915, pp. 83-100.

[11] Jesus of Nazareth: From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration, Pope Benedict XV, Ignatius Press 2008, p.97

[12] God is Love (Deus Caritas Est) Encyclical Letter, Benedict XVI, The Word Among Us Press, 2011, p.11

[13] Percy Shelley’s dream of ‘human perfectibility’ (a view he owned to his William Godwin’s Enquiry Concerning Political Justice ( 1798 ). Immortality was seen as rampant egoism, Prometheus Unbound

[14] Dippel had been born to a passionate Lutheran family but later converted to Pietism, a religion looked upon by some as a return to the absolutist attitudes and practices of Roman Catholicism.

[15] ‘Perfecting Monstrosity: Frankenstein and the Enlightenment Debate on Perfectibility’, Alexander Cook,  Nineteenth-Century Contexts, 41, 3, May 1919

[16] ‘Dead Brought to Life By Woman’, The Hattiesburg News, November 19, 1909, p.1;

[17] ‘Frankenstein Today’, The Fairmont West Virginian, March 31, 1910, p.1. Edison’s rival Nikola Tesla believed that Eugenics would totally eliminate the world’s ‘undesirables’ by 2100. Edison, like Scott was from a low-income Dutch family from America’s Midwest. He had started professional life as a railroad newsboy.

[18] Edison made regular donations to Eugenics research. In 1911 he his company produced a film on behalf of The Department of Child Hygiene highlighting the danger presented to children by fireworks during Independence Day celebrations. Frankenstein’s director J. Searle Dawley got his break in acting at the Grand Opera House in Manhattan, the theatre managed by Max Gerlach’s 1905 employer, John H. Springer.

[19] ‘Law and Eugenics’, Sir John MacDonnell,  The Eugenics Review, Volume 7, No.4, January 1916, p.238

[20] ‘Law and Eugenics’, Sir John MacDonnell,  The Eugenics Review, Volume 7, No.4, January 1916, pp. 229–246

[21] ‘Making Good Business’, Roger Ward Babson, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1921, pp. 27-32

[22] ‘Forgotten Montenegro Lifts Her Voice for Our Help’, William Frederick Dix, Order of Prince Danilo I, The Sun and New York Herald,  March 14, 1920, p.4; Liberty Bonds, Public Gathering, New York, 4th Campaign – First Montenegrin Minister to United States speaks for fourth Liberty Loan, War Department, 1789-9/18/1947, 191.  Nick Carraway, like George Wilson of the Equitable Life, traded in war bonds and liberty loans. His company is believed to have acquired $ 65,000,000 of United States War Bonds.

[23] The Martyrdom of Montenegro’, Appleton Post Crescent, March 23, 1923, p. 4; Ex-Queen Milena Dies, New York Times, March 17, 1923, p. 14. The Queen had a firm family relationship with the Catholic Church in Rome. She was buried in San Remo, Italy.

[24] Cardinal Gasquet, A Memoir, Shane Leslie, P.J. Kennedy (New York), 1953, pp. 218-222. These intrigues would have included the This would have included the von Gerlach espionage case.

[25] ‘Jugoslavia’, The Catholic Telegraph, October 23, 1919, p.3; ‘Serbs Arrest de Salis’, New York Times, April 4, 1920, p.3; Anglo-American Diplomacy and the Montenegrin question, 1914-1921 (Occasional paper / East European Program, European Institute), John D Treadway, p.5

[26] ‘Ex-Premier of Montenegro Held and Sent to Ellis Island’, New York Evening Post, April 21, p.1; ‘Gen Gvosdenovitch Says Nation that Saved Serbia is Starving’ (featuring Dix and the Altar of Liberty address), The New York Sun, October 18, 1918, p. 10

[27] What I Saw in America, G.K Chesterton,  Dodd, Mead and Company, September 1922, pp. 33-47; ‘Chesterton Here Talks of Liberty’, New York Herald, January 11, 1921, p. 7

[28] Eugenics and other Evils, G.K. Chesterton, Cassell & Company Ltd, 1922, pp.144-145.

[29] Shane Leslie to F. Scott Fitzgerald, February 21, 1922, The F. Scott Fitzgerald Papers, Princeton University, C0187, Box 46, Folder 17

[30] ‘Here for Congress’, Washington Herald, September 16, 1910, p.4;

[31] ‘Kipling Made to Eat Worms’, Wellsville Daily Reporter (New York), October 3, 1910, p. 8. Dr Nicolas N. Lebedeff of the Prison Hospital in Moscow also attended the conference. In 1930 a Gabriel A. Lebedeff, (1894-1964) a former Lieutenant in Wrangel’s White Army who forced to flee Russia after the revolution, was recruited as lab assistant at Cold Spring Harbor.

[32] ‘I Study the Melting Pot’, (Chapter XVII): Memories of Four Tours in the United States of America (1911-1935), Shane Leslie, M. Joseph Ltd, 1936, pp. 205-223.

[33] ‘I Study the Melting Pot’, (Chapter XVII) American Wonderland: Memories of Four Tours in the United States of America (1911-1935), Shane Leslie, M. Joseph Ltd, 1936, pp. 205-223.

[34] The End of a Chapter,  Shane Leslie, Charles Scribner’s Sons, p. 171

[35] Lenten Sermons, Richmond Times Dispatch, February 28, 1914, p.10

[36] ‘Oppose teaching of Sex Eugenics’, Racine Journal News, March 10, 1914, p. 7

[37] Letter to Maxwell Perkins, June 20, 1922, A Life in Letters, p.60.

[38] ‘America of the Melting Pot Comes to An End’, David Reed, New York Times, April 27, 1924, p. 23

[39] ‘Closing the Door’, Rochester Catholic Journal, April 25, 1924, p.11

[40] ‘A.O.H President asks Congress to Reject the Laughlin Findings’, The Catholic Telegraph, April 3 1924, p.7

[41] ‘The Genesis of Genius’, Dr Louise G. Robinovitch, The Journal of Mental Pathology, Vol. VII, No.5, 1905, pp.228-248

[42] ‘Happiness is Not Needed’, New York Tribune, December 19, 1905,  p.6. Felix Adler had, like her brother’s nemesis August Belmont, donated substantially to Charles Davenport’s Eugenics Record Office at Cold Spring Harbour.

[43] Theodore Dreiser, Richard Lingeman, G.P. Putnam‘s Sons, p.120

[44] ‘Has a Physician the Right to Take Life?’, The Washington Post, November 18, 1917, p.1

[45] ‘The Right to Kill’, Theodore Dreiser, The Call Magazine, New York, March 16, 1918, from the book Theodore Dreiser, ed. D. Pizer, Wayne State University, 1977, pp.224-229

[46] ‘The Right to Kill’, Theodore Dreiser, The Call Magazine, New York, March 16, 1918, from the book Theodore Dreiser, ed. D. Pizer, Wayne State University, 1977, pp.224-229

[47] ‘Plead Patriotism as Defence for Prager Killing’, New York Tribune, May 17, 1918, p.1; June 1, 1918,

[48] ‘The Prager Case’, New York Times, June 3, 1918, p.10

[49] “They misapply moral principles for unpatriotic ends”, Our Sunday Visitor (Catholic newspaper, Illinois), August 11, 1918, p.1

[50] An Ethical Philosophy of Life, Felix Adler, D. Appleton and Company, 1918, pp. 154-161

[51] Frankenstein, Mary Shelley (1818), Penguin Books, 1985, pp.262-265