"Indeed, a minimum of life, an unchaining from all coarser desires, an independence in the middle of all kinds of outer nuisance; a bit of Cynicism, perhaps a bit of ‘tub’."
Friedrich Nietzsche



1 Oct 2022

Review of 'The Vagabond in Literature' by Arthur Rickett (1906), Part 5

 This review is a work in progress and will be completed over the forthcoming weeks


THE LONE AND LOFTY PERCH OF WORLD-HATING INTROSPECTION 

The title of this section is borrowed from Timothy Bewes, Cynicism and Postmodernity (1997), in which Bewes describes the cynic’s alienation as “an ascent into the lone and lofty perch of world-hating introspection” This alienation and cutting oneself off from the fundamental values of the society in which one lives, is an attitude also summed up by Louis Navia when he tells us that, “those who find the world something worthy of praise, or who congratulate themselves for having been born into the world, are either intellectually blind or morally perverse.”  Bewes describes contemporary cynicism as ‘a strategic mode of thinking’ which, in Sloterdijk's words, ‘is the universally widespread way in which enlightened people see to it that they are not taken for suckers’. Rickett’s own take on this aspect of vagabondage is described as follows in his Introduction:


a passion for the Earth is not sufficient of itself to admit within the charmed circle of the Vagabond; for there is no marked restlessness about Mr. Meredith’s genius, and he lacks what it seems to me is the third note of the genuine literary Vagabond—the note of aloofness, of personal detachment.  This it is which separates the Vagabond from the generality of his fellows.  No very prolonged scrutiny of the disposition of Thoreau, Jefferies, and Borrow is needed to reveal a pronounced shyness and reserve.  Examine this trait more closely, and it will exhibit a certain emotional coldness towards the majority of men and women.  No one can overlook the chill austerity that marks Thoreau’s attitude in social converse.  Borrow, again, was inaccessible to a degree, save to one or two intimates; even when discovered among congenial company, with the gipsies or with companions of the road like Isopel Berners, exhibiting, to me, a genial bleakness that is occasionally exasperating.”


And later in the book, Rickett displays an admiration for those who reject conventional society:


The Vagabond who withdraws himself to any extent from the life of his day, who declines to conform to many of its arbitrary conventions, escapes much of the fret and tear, the heart-aching and the disillusionment that others share in.  He retains a freshness, a simplicity, a joyfulness, not vouchsafed to those who stay at home and never wander beyond the prescribed limits.  He exhibits an individuality which is more genuinely the legitimate expression of his temperament.  It is not warped, crossed, suppressed, as many are.” 


Rickett also provides several examples of the vagabond’s alienation from society. The first being Maxim Gorky whom he describes as “the Vagabond naked and unashamed” and Gorky’s novels as “fervent defences of the Vagabond”:


I was born outside society, and for that reason I cannot take in a strong dose of its culture, without soon feeling forced to get outside it again, to wipe away the infinite complications, the sickly refinements, of that kind of existence.  I like either to go about in the meanest streets of towns, because, though everything there is dirty, it is all simple and sincere; or else to wander about in the high roads and across the fields, because that is always interesting; it refreshes one morally, and needs no more than a pair of good legs to carry one.” Gorky 


In Rickett’s chapter on Walt Whitman, we are presented with another insight into the vagabond writer’s alienation from the pretensions of civilisation. Rickett describes Whitman as a modern day Diogenes, striding, “stark naked among our academies of learning.  A strange, uncouth, surprising figure, it is impossible to ignore him however much he may shock our susceptibilities.” As with the Cynics also, Whitman’s diatribe against society’s evils is not preaching or evangelical, he is not proposing an alternative society, “this is done in no doctrinaire spirit”, but rather as a way of being true to himself and what he regards as the “powerful uneducated person”:


In Thomas de Quincey, Rickett finds a man of a conservative turn of mind with an ingrained respect for the conventions of life, yet temperamentally a restless Vagabond with a total disregard for the amenities of civilisation, asking only to live out his own dream-life:  


Dealing with him as a writer, you found a shrewd, if wayward critic, with no little of “John Bull” in his composition.  Deal with him as a man, you found a bright, kindly, nervous little man in a chronic state of shabbiness, eluding the attention of friends so far as possible, and wandering about town and country as if he had nothing in common with the rest of mankind. His Vagabondage is shown best in his purely imaginative work, and in the autobiographical sketches.” 


As previously noted, the vagabond’s alienation from ‘the rest of mankind’ is an irresistible force brought on by a realisation that the ‘civilised’ world is governed by a morality and sentimentality the vagabond sees as a folly and will not succumb to. That even a vagabond such as de Quincey, grounded as he was in conventional society, could not resist this feeling of alienation is a powerful testimony to the power of its force. Nietzsche, while sharing this same view of the world, uses alienation in a different sense. In his case it is the greater mass of humanity, his ‘human herd’, who alienate themselves by sacrificing their own individual personality and integrity to the anonymous, coercive whole. A process, aided by ‘education’, where individual will is ultimately given over to the collective will of the wider group. In this sense, the vagabond resists alienating him or her self from their own integrity in the face of powerful forces to conform to the common will of the society in which they live. The price is to be banished to the margins of mainstream society, the prize is to be free from shackles that bind one to it. Rickett himself acknowledges the negative side of this herding instinct when he suggests that most of us would benefit from spending time alone with ‘nature’ rather than herded together with with the rest of our species: 


We herd together so much—some unhappily by necessity, some by choice, that it would be a refreshing thing, and a wholesome thing, for most of us to be alone, more often face to face with the primal forces of Nature.” 


The vagabond spirit then is one that defies society’s pressure to conform because the vagabond cannot help but see that ‘civilisation’ is bankrupt of any moral purpose—for them at least. A moral vacuum reinforced by humans’ desperate need, and constant attempts, to make the world a better place, yet always failing and often in the most spectacular way. And one of the ways that humans have devised to trick themselves into believing their own rhetoric about their cleverness and superiority in the animal kingdom, is to replace the vacuum of ideas with idealist rhetoric. The use of ‘soundbites’ has reached epidemic proportions in the age of mass, electronic communication and this in turn has only amplified the hollowness of the human civilising project. In his collection of essays, Virginibus Puerisque, Robert Louis Stevenson was acutely aware of this aspect of human behaviour when he noted, almost a century and a half ago, how the mass of society communicate through soundbites rather than serious argument: 


There are too many of these catchwords in the world for people to rap out upon you like an oath by way of an argument.  They have a currency as intellectual counters, and many respectable persons pay their way with nothing else


But then the ancient Cynics were already making similar observations over 2000 years ago. Diogenes’ very raison d'être was to deface the false currency of human being’s rhetoric, “I was exiled for literally ‘altering the currency’; my philosophy teaches men to ‘alter the currency’ in another sense. Let us strike out of circulation false standards and values of all kinds.” I have previously used the example of Diogenes’ reported meeting with Alexander (the Great) to identify the role of the parrhesiast, those who feel compelled to speak the truth—their truth—even at risk of harm to themselves:


The parrhesiast speaks the truth because it is the truth, and, as in the case of Alexander, not always the truth that people wish to hear. It is the courage to say something which endangers the speaker that distinguishes the parrhesiast from those like the rhetorician who use discourse to seduce.” 


It is important to finish this section by noting that the vagabond’s alienation from wider society, the lone and lofty stance described by Bewes, comes at a cost. It is not a comfortable or easy position to take as Thoreau noted when he acknowledged that, “the Vagabond loses as well as gains by his deliberate withdrawal from the world.”  Indeed, Bewes’ cynical vagabond feels envy for the ‘metaphysically innocent’, those who appear unconcerned at the worlds imperfections and even appear to prosper on account of their freedom from such intellectual preoccupations. The vagabond may even feel handicapped and tortured by his or her alienation from the rest of the human herd. And so in this sense the vagabond’s alienation is not a position of superiority, certainly they do not scorn their fellow humans, but rather feel dismay that humans should and could have made a better job of their place on earth, but haven’t.  


As the modern-day vagabond philosopher, Raymond Federman, observed, “true cynics are often the kindest people, for they see the hollowness of life, and from the realization of that hollowness is generated a kind of cosmic pity”. In the vagabond, this kindness does not so much manifest itself on an individual level but, as Federman acknowledges, extends it to human kind as a whole. As Rickett notes: “A man may exhibit kindliness and tenderness towards his fellow-creatures without showing any deep personal attachment.” Rickett


     In his autobiographical, third-person narrative Jarnegan (1926), tramp writer Jim Tully reinforces that the vagabond does not claim to know better than those he alienates himself from, and certainly, like the Cynics, does not seek to persuade them to his own view of the world. His cynicism is more of a positive response to the noise of those who do offer truth and meaning, identifying himself as a “cynical realist” in the process:


A man of no isms, he was tolerant of everything that did not touch his life. He knew nothing of nations or their rulers. He had never voted. Neither had he any theories about life. A cynical realist, he fought against the sentimentality that was his Irish inheritance. At times, in his cups, he ended by being that most ironical of humans—a sentimental cynic.


There is no contradiction here in being a sentimental cynic. This is to misunderstand the true nature of cynicism which, in spite of its acerbic and forthright nature, is often misinterpreted as contemptuous and sneering, even nihilistic. To the contrary, it can often be positive, idealistic, even sentimental. As noted above, the true soul of the vagabond or cynic is simply to mourn the fact that human beings have made a mess of the world they inhabit and act so foully towards one and other. 


Neither is there a contradiction when Tully says he hasn’t “any theories about life.” He is not referring here to his personal philosophy, but to the grand narratives that feed the march of progress yet always fall short of delivering human happiness. Our cynical vagabond knows that the human project is fundamentally flawed and so any theories are confined to maintaining one’s integrity against what he or she views as a hostile world. Both the vagabond and cynic’s mission, if they have one at all, is to maximise their own life here on earth rather than seek to change or control the world around them—which in any case they know to be capricious, chaotic, and beyond human control. In order to achieve contentment, as well as minimising our dependence on material possessions, we are urged to rely on our own natural instincts rather than listening to the daily babble of egotistical buffoons.


It is important to emphasise again that, as with the ancient Cynics, the vagabond and tramp writers discussed in this text did not seek to persuade others to their point of view. These are not evangelical movements and the individuals concerned, while sharing many views and attitudes about the world, do not identify with each other as a tribe. As Rickett notes:


The Vagabond has his philosophy of life no less than the moralist, though as a rule he is content to let it lie implicit in his writings, and is not anxious to turn it into a gospel.  But he did not always realize the difference between moral characteristics and temperamental peculiarities, and many of his admirers have done him ill service by trying to make of his very Vagabondage (admirable enough in its way) a rule of faith for all and sundry.” 


A Digression on Cosmopolitanism


To an identifiable tribe they may not belong, but when necessity presents itself the vagabond will be open to and readily borrow from any other other ethnic, religious or cultural group that suits their needs. They are first and foremost ‘individuals’ who do not recognise political borders or man made regulations and customs. As Nietzsche observed, “It is so provincial to bind oneself to views which are no longer binding a couple of hundred miles away.” There is an understanding among most vagabonds that the world was not created for the benefit of humans alone and hence man made constructs are rejected in favour of an alliance to the entire natural world. I first described this theme in my book on Cynicism when I note that the Cynics’ ideal republic was one without boundaries or social distinctions. It was not restricted to a geographical place, nor to a racial or ethnic group, nor to historical or cultural traditions. For Diogenes, allegiance to a city or nation was a manifestation of sheer stupidity. Hence the description of Cynics in the Foreword above as, “citizens of the world, or cosmos: the first cosmopolitans”. The epithet cosmopolite is equally applicable to the modern vagabond and for the same reason. End of digression on Cosmopolitanism. 


Rickett further warns us that we must beware of sentimentalising the vagabond and presenting him as an ideal figure. “It is well”, he says, “for the Vagabond to be in the minority”, and acknowledges that, for the most part, they have managed to remain under the radar in terms of their personal philosophies when he says, “Thoreau is one of the few Vagabonds whom his admirers have tried to canonize.” And, as though to reinforce the vagabond as an individual rather than a representative of a wider movement and credit them with virtues they never had, he notes the following:


Not content with the striking qualities which the Vagabond naturally exhibits, some of his admirers cannot rest without dragging in other qualities to which he has no claim.  Why try to prove that Thoreau was really a most sociable character, that Whitman was the profoundest philosopher of his day, that Jefferies was—deep down—a conventionally religious man?  Why, oh why, may we not leave them in their pleasant wildness without trying to make out that they were the best company in the world for five-o’clock teas and chapel meetings?” 


But, as already acknowledged, an underlying philosophy clearly does exist within the wild and unconventional lives of the vagabond, even if a simple and existential one:


Approve it or reject it, however, as we may, ’tis a philosophy that can claim many and diverse adherents, for it is no dusty formula of academic thought, but a message of the sunshine and the winds. Talk of suffering and death to the Vagabond, and he will reply as did Petulengro, ‘Life is sweet, brother.’ Not that he ignores other matters, but it is sufficient for him that “life is sweet.”  And after all he speaks as to what he has known.” Rickett 


6 Sept 2022

Review of 'The Vagabond in Literature' by Arthur Rickett (1906), Part 4

                        This review is a work in progress and will be completed over the forthcoming weeks 



Return to Part 1  Introduction

Return to Part 2  Wanderlust

Return to Part 3 — Affinity with Nature


THE ABJECT


In Rickett’s Chapter on William Hazlitt he touches on an aspect of vagabondage that is worthy of further discussion concerning the vagabonds’ relationship to the Abject as it links to their affinity with nature and the animal world. Using the analogy that fine plants are produced from soil treated with dung, he makes the argument that genius should not be dismissed because it comes from the hands and mind of the vagabond: 


The soil of the rose garden may be manured with refuse that Nature uses in bringing forth the lovely bloom of the rose.  …  And so from unhealthy stock, from temperaments affected by disease, have sprung the roses of genius—transformed by the mysterious alchemy of the imagination into pure and lovely things.  There are, of course, poisonous flowers, just as there is a type of genius—not the highest type—that is morbid.  But this does not affect my contention that genius is not necessarily morbid because it may have sprung from a morbid soil.


As I noted in my work of Cynicism, “The abject lifestyle described above—this living on the edge of society and courting  indecency, defilement and death—is as much about embracing a positive identity, as it is about simply cocking a snoot at convention.” It is helpful here to consider Julia Kristeva’s work, “Powers of Horror: an essay on abjection” where she maintains that we are defined by the things that disgust us; the waste of our own bodies is expelled in order that we may live. Our world exists on one side of the border between our living being and the ultimate waste of our own corpse.


Samuel Beckett’s unnamed creature in his novella The End, provides an graphic example of the vagabonds’ existence in this abject borderland, maintaining the minimum necessary to sustain life. His hero ultimately gives up the comfort of a pigsty to a pig only to find warmth and shelter in a dung heap. In Diogenes’ case—as much a philosophical declaration as a personal lifestyle choice—in his indifference to the waste of his own body, he marks himself out from the pretensions of human beings’ sham sophistication. He reinforces his own position on the margins of society, a society which in turn rejects his Cynic lifestyle as base and inhuman in order to reinforce its own ‘higher’ level of functioning. When Diogenes pisses, farts, defecates and masturbates in public, he is simply holding up a mirror to the the artificial conventions of society around him. The German philosopher Peter Sloterdijk comments as follows:


Diogenes is the only Western philosopher who we know consciously and publicly performed his animal business, and there are reasons to interpret this as a component of a pantomimic theory. It hints at a consciousness of nature that assigns positive values to the animal side of human beings and does not allow any dissociation of what is low or embarrassing. Those who do not want to admit that they produce refuse . . . risk suffocating one day in their own shit.


A theme also acknowledged by French philosopher, Jacques Lacan:


The characteristic of a human being is that—and this is very much in contrast with other animals—he doesn’t know what to do with his shit. . . . Occupying an uncertain and troubling space between a nature that is never surpassed and a culture that is never closed off, shit defines civilisation.” 


As I argue in my book on Cynicism; it follows that by embracing abject things (Diogenes pissing, passing wind, and defecating in public; Hipparchia, the Cynic wife of Crates licking clean the purulent sores of the sick), certain Cynics would have attained a spiritual and moral freedom unavailable to those of us who define our humanness by our need to exclude the abject from our thoughts or actions. It also removed any possibility of an Icarian collapse, as the Cynics’ asceticism left them with nowhere to fall. Of course Diogenes well understood that humans had higher mental functions than lower animals, but this made their metaphysical pretensions all the more irrational. The Cynics were not abject but beyond abjection and, as Navia noted, the link between their public behaviour and personal philosophy can be interpreted as a high form of rhetoric. As other philosophies use formal lectures, treatise, and theoretical models to get their philosophy across, so the Cynic—who simply regards such dialogue as hot air—passes wind by way of a critique. 


In the next post I wish to turn to an aspect of the vagabond character—though closely linked both to their abjection and affinity with nature—linked to their alienation from the human world.


Part 5 will discuss the Lone and Lofty Perch of World Hating Introspection


25 Aug 2022

Review of 'The Vagabond in Literature' by Arthur Rickett (1906), Part 3

                       This review is a work in progress and will be completed over the forthcoming weeks

 


Return to Part 1  Introduction

Return to Part 2  Wanderlust


AFFINITY WITH NATURE


Another note now discovers itself—a passion for the Earth.  All these men had a passion for the Earth, an intense joy in the open air.  This feeling differs from the Nature-worship of poets like Wordsworth and Shelly.  It is less romantic, more realistic.  The attitude is not so much that of the devotee as that of the lover.  There is nothing mystical or abstract about it.  It is direct, personal, intimate.  I call it purposely a passion for the Earth rather than a passion for Nature, in order to distinguish it from the pronounced transcendentalism of the romantic poets.”  


[…]


Moralists are plentiful, scholars abound, but men in close, vital sympathy with the Earth, a sympathy that comprehends because it loves, and loves because it comprehends, are rare.  Let us make the most of them.” Arthur Rickett


Their affinity with the ‘natural’ world is one of the most recorded aspects of the vagabond (ancient and modern). Rickett distinguishes between the poetic appreciation of the beauties of nature—even though such were also present in many vagabond writers—and “an intellectual enthusiasm for the wonders of the natural world”. This, he says, is most acutely demonstrated by the “deep and tender sympathy” for creation more characteristic of the Eastern than the Western mind, and one of the most powerful testimonies to this comes from Rickett’s chapter on Henry D. Thoreau. “He [Thoreau] observed as a naturalist, admired like a poet, loved with the fervour of a Buddhist; every faculty of his nature did homage to the Earth.” Rickett further emphasises Thoreau’s links to Buddhism as follows:


He was in sympathy with Eastern modes of regarding life; and the pantheistic tendency of his religious thought, especially his care and reverence for all forms of life, suggest the devout Buddhist. […] The tenderness of the Buddhist towards the lower creation is not due to sentimentalism, nor is it necessarily a sign of sensitiveness of feeling.” 


Rickett describes an extended trip Thoreau made with his brother John in 1839 to illustrate Thoreau’s, “practical powers to dissipate the absurd notion that he was a mere sentimentalist”, it was Thoreau’s touch of wildness, claims  Rickett, that made him a vagabond:


I am concerned to defend him from the criticism that he was a loveless, brooding kind of creature, more interested in birds and fishes than in his fellow-men.  For he was neither loveless nor brooding, and the characteristics that have proved most puzzling arose from the mingled strain in his nature of the Eastern quietist and the shrewd Western.” 


It should be acknowledged then, the degree to which both the ancient Cynics and more contemporary vagabond writers where influenced by Buddhism. Cynic links to Buddhism are evident from their philosophic stance that the key to happiness—or more accurately, the reduction suffering—can be achieved by mastering our desires: if one desires nothing, one lacks nothing. Trade links certainly existed between the Mediterranean and India during the hundred or so years before Cynicism formally emerged and Diogenes was reportedly born in 404 B.C, 79 years after the Buddha died in 483 B.C.


Digression on Animals as a Model for Humans to Live a ‘Natural’ Life


Rickett asks the following questions which I shall attempt to answer through the thoughts of the writers in his book, their vagabond predecessors, and also modern philosophers.  


Why should the elemental forces of Nature appeal so strongly to us?  Why does the dweller in the open air feel that an unseen bond of sympathy binds him to the lowest forms of sentient life?  Why is a St. Francis tender towards animals?  Why does a Thoreau take a joy in the company of the birds, the squirrels, and feel a sense of companionship in the very flowers?  Nay, more: what is it that gives a Jefferies this sense of communion?” 


To answer these questions then, it would be helpful to look at some of the wider philosophical arguments on the subject. The Cynics, Stoics and Epicureans all held to the belief that true human good lay in the healthy desires experienced by animals (and also that of children before being corrupted by teaching and discourse). The Cynics in particular turned to the habits of animals as a source of rhetoric for the most natural way to live. Diogenes' lifestyle, it is said, was inspired by watching a mouse running about: not looking for a place to lie down in, not afraid of the dark, not seeking any of the things which we consider to be dainties. His choice of a large earthenware wine vat as a mobile home is said to have been inspired by his observation of a snail, a simple lifestyle deliberately adopted to contrast to Western society’s obsession with luxury. 


The Colombian/American philosopher Luis Navia, proposes that Diogenes’ praise of animal nature and his self-characterisation as a dog can be interpreted as an ironic strategy, a kind of inverted and rhetorical allegory to expose, “the absurdity of human conduct when it resembles the behaviour of non-rational beings.” Navia’s interpretation of the Cynics’ use of animals in their teaching is not that animal life is preferable, nor that we should adopt animal life as a model for our own. Rather, we should follow, not deny, our own nature in the same way that animals follow theirs. Instead of following our nature, the Cynic Antisthenes claimed that most humans follow conventions. And it is only by divesting ourselves of the artificiality and superficiality with which we deny our true nature, that a happy and virtuous life can be attained: “We must deface the currency that has made us what we were not meant to be.”


Thoreau clearly shared the Cynics use of animal behaviour as a more helpful way of approaching human behaviour than the pretensions of humans: “Thoreau … was drawn towards them [animals] because he felt an affinity with them—an affinity more compelling in its attraction than the affinity of the average human person.” Thoreau was drawn towards animals, Rickett accepts, not because he detected any semblance to humankind in them but because they knew how to live in accordance with nature.


This theme is revisited in Rickett’s chapter on Richard Jefferies where that writer declares, “There is nothing human in any living Animal.  All Nature, the Universe as far as we see, is anti- or ultra-human outside, and has no concern with man.” But here Rickett challenges Jefferies: “why, if the Earth has no concern with man, should it soothe with its benison, and fire his being with such ecstatic rapture?  … [Jefferies] sense of happiness, his delight in the Earth, may no doubt afford him consolation, but it is an irrational comfort, an agreeable delusion.” Here Rickett ignores the distinction between the general therapeutic effects that nature has on human beings in general, and arguments used by the vagabond writers in his book that most humans have forgotten how to live a natural life in accordance with nature. End of animal digression.


To continue the general theme of the vagabond’s affinity with nature, I want to revisit some of the vagabond writers from by own book. In their case, this obsession with nature—while it remained a powerful force—was even less idealistic than that of the celebrity writers referred to by Rickett, whom in turn he describes as less sentimental about nature than the romantic poets. Morley Roberts, while addicted to nature, does not hold back from describing not only its boring aspects but its desolation. In his book, A Tramp’s Note-Book, he criticises those who sentimentalise nature and targets in particular the vainglory of adventurers who exalt the virtues of 'conquering' nature; elevating themselves vertically from the rest of the human herd, rather than exiling themselves horizontally (and anonymously), as does the tramp: 


very little above the snow-line is truly beautiful. It is often desolate, sometimes intolerably grand and savage, but lovely it is very rarely. It is perhaps against human nature to be there at all.”


Bart Kennedy is another tramp writer who shares negative observations concerning the so called beauty of nature: “to tell the truth, at that time the scenery impressed me but little. It was great and wild and finely coloured. But I had had enough mountain scenery to last me a lifetime.” Working hard in the middle of it for two months had probably knocked the poetry of it. “Neither will fine scenery impress a man when he's hungry, alone, tired, and wondering if he'll get out of it alive.” And Kennedy nearly did not come out of it alive. He gives an account of how, alone in the Rockies, he took stock of his life and decided to end it, unslinging his revolver and, “determined to take a rest for good and all.”  Having witnessed how men shot through the brain jump violently, then sink down with a look of peace on their face, he mapped out the scenario in his mind then placed the muzzle of his revolver under his right ear, “so as to get the base of the brain.”


But just as I put my finger on the trigger I began to think in a way I had never thought before. My whole life, and everything I had done in it, suddenly came up before my mind. Everything was so clear and vivid. I seemed to see things from many sides at once. This is the way that men think when they are drowning, I thought. And I brought down the muzzle of the revolver. But I intended to kill myself nevertheless. However, I'd try and analyse my feelings first. And I sat down on a log and wondered.”


Instead of pulling the trigger, Kennedy stood up and “cursed the earth and everything in it”, thinking to himself that one day, “the time would come when men of my breed—men from the gutter—would get even with it.” Once more he put the muzzle of the revolver against his head but in that moment something came over him, a feeling he was unable to name. “It wasn't fear; it wasn't remorse. I just wanted to live just wanted to live for no particular reason.”


Perhaps these honest accounts of the hostility of the natural world highlight another distinction between Rickett’s celebrity vagabond writers and the tramp writers in my own book; that for the former there was a greater element of choice supported perhaps by financial security. But I do not wish to leave the reader with the impression that the tramp writer’s relationship with nature always ended in disappointment, for the most part it was as indispensable as the air they breathed. That the natural world fuelled the tramp’s very existence is evident from the following passage from Dolly Kennedy Yancey (1869-1952) in her book The Tramp Woman (1909) where she expresses the sheer joy at being in the open air:


I would revel in life under a tent the whole summer through. I am a lover of nature, and even were I financially able to procure them, I would eschew some of the habiliments and gewgaws that are so desirable in polite society. … When I go back West I am going to throw myself down in a field, roll like a dog, and breath pure air. I crave freedom—freedom to grow, to think, to feel, to get out of life all that my God intended.”  


It would be hard to find a better example of the positive effects of nature on the tramp than that of Stephen Graham’s unforgettable poetic prose from A Tramp's Sketches:


I have learned to do without the town, without the great machine that provides man with a living. I have sucked in a thousand rains, and absorbed a thousand suns, lain on many thousand banks of the earth. I have walked at the foot of mountains along long green valleys, I have climbed great ranges and peeped over them, I have lived in barren and in fertile places, and my road-companion has been Nature herself.” 


He who sleeps under the stars is bathed in the elemental forces which in houses only creep to us through keyholes. I may say from experience that he who has slept out of doors every day for a month, nay even for a week, is at the end of that time a new man. He has entered into new relationship with the world in which he lives, and has allowed the gentle creative hands of Nature to re-shape his soul.”


Graham refers to tramps as “rebels against modern life” and “the first searchers for new life”, and notes that we could all benefit from a little more simplicity and “living in communion with Nature.” A theme repeated in The Gentle Art of Tramping:


You will discern that going tramping is at first an act of rebellion; only afterwards do you get free from rebelliousness as Nature sweetens your mind. Town makes men contentious; the country smoothes out their souls.” 


A Brief Note on Bohemianism -v- Vagabondage


Yet for all Graham's warnings about city life and endorsement of living close to nature, as with the Cynic, and for that matter the American hobo also, he is continually drawn back to urban surroundings. He is both fascinated and repelled by cities. Yes, he admits to getting bored with nature at times, but then he seems to get bored by any condition that could not sustain his desire for the extraordinary: 


It is true the wanderer often feels bored, even in beautiful places. I am bored some days every year, no matter where I spend them, and I shall always be. I get tired of this world and want another. That is a common feeling, if not often analysed.”


A clear difference between vagabondage and bohemianism there certainly is but I do not agree with some of Rickett’s descriptions of the bohemian as a lesser “superficial character” and a “a town-made imitation” of the vagabond (even if some undoubtedly were), and that the bohemian:


lacks the rough virility, the sturdy grit, which is the most attractive quality of the best Vagabond. … At heart the Bohemian is not really unconventional; he is not nomadic by instinct as is the Vagabond.” 


Rickett later continues on this theme as follows:


Far more pronounced in its neurotic character is Modern Bohemianism—as I prefer to call the ‘town Vagabond.’  The decadent movement in literature has produced many interesting artistic figures, but they lack the grit and the sanity of outlook which undoubtedly marks the Vagabond.” 


As I noted with regard to the ancient Cynics, in spite of their relationship to the natural world and their view of the unnaturalness of city life, it was in cities that they were most frequently encountered and in the most abject of circumstances. One only has to read Jean-Paul Clébert’s Paris Vagabond to appreciate the hardships and grit with which some city vagabonds suffered to maintain their own lifestyle. As noted above, many of the tramp writers in my own book were as drawn to city streets as they were to the wilderness, indeed, too much time in either seems to created a compulsion for a change of scenery as Rickett himself later acknowledges in his book:


Although a passion for the Earth is a prevalent note in the character of the literary Vagabond, yet while harking to the call of the country, he is by no means deaf to the call of the town.  With the exception of Thoreau, who seemed to have been insensible to any magic save that of the road and woodland, our literary Vagabonds have all felt and confessed to the spell of the city.” 


The title of Thomas Manning Page’s book, Bohemian Life; or The Autobiography of a Tramp (1884), sums up this dual lifestyle of many tramps. After an early life on the road tramping in the wilderness and hanging out in tramp jungles, Page spent several years as a struggling artist in Paris before returning to New York where he founded a “Bohemian Club” in the 1870s. The activities of this motley society, their buffoonery, feasting, and drunken poetry readings, has parallels with the Dadaists who were not to appear for a further 40 years. 


In their descriptions of city life, many of the tramp writers discussed in these posts also had something of the flâneur about them. Stephen Graham’s New York Nights (1927) and London Nights (1929) are wonderful examples of this genre of travel writing, one that puts modern ‘psychogeography’ in the shade; yet his tramps on foot in the Russian wilderness alone total some 5,000 miles. 


I will finish this section with the final paragraph of Rickett’s book—also his final word on Walt Whitman—as the passage summarises not only the vagabond writer’s passion for the natural world but its equally powerful effect on the reader:


In a feverish, restless age it is well to feel the presence of that large, passive, tolerant figure.  There is healing in the cool, firm touch of his hand; healing in the careless, easy self-confidence of his utterance.  He has spoken to us of ‘the amplitude of the earth, and the coarseness and sexuality of the earth, and the great charity of the earth.’  And he has done this with the rough outspokenness of the elements, with the splendid audacity of Nature herself.  Brawn, sun-tan, air-sweetness are things well worth the having, for they mean good health.  That is why we welcome the big, genial sanity of Walt Whitman, for he has about him the rankness and sweetness of the Earth.” 


Part 4 will discuss the vagabond's relationship to The Abject

9 Aug 2022

Review of 'The Vagabond in Literature' by Arthur Rickett (1906), Part 2

 This review is a work in progress and will be completed over the forthcoming weeks


Return to Part 1


WANDERLUST


Restlessness, then, is one of the notes of the Vagabond temperament.

Sometimes the Vagabond is a physical, sometimes only an intellectual wanderer; but in any case there is about him something of the primal wildness of the woods and hills.” Arthur Rickett    


Rickett acknowledges that a characteristic of the Vagabond is restlessness. Yet at the start his book he regards this condition for the most part as pathological, neither, does he say, should it be confused with the kind of superabundant nervous energy that he ascribes to Dickens in his earlier years. “The stress of life upon the nervous system in this era of commercialism [the Industrial Revolution] has produced a spirit of feverish unrest which, permeating society generally, has visited a few souls with special intensity.”  This spirit Rickett paraphrases in a quote from Ruskin who declared that our two objects in life were: “whatever we have, to get more; and wherever we are, to go somewhere else.” To which Rickett adds that, “Nervous instability is very marked in the case of Hazlitt and De Quincey; and there was a strain of morbidity in Borrow, Jefferies, and Stevenson.”


And yet, there are many examples later in Rickett’s book that describes wanderlust as a positive character trait. In the chapter on Thomas de Quincey, Rickett describes the compulsion to wander as follows, “A characteristic of the literary Vagabond is the eager versatility of his intellectual interests.  He will follow any path that promises to be interesting, not so much with the scholar’s patient investigation as with the pedestrian’s delight in ‘fresh woods and pastures new.’ ” And from Henry D. Thoreau’s ‘Essay on Walking’ we have that writer's regret that the average walker is not nearly adventurous enough, noting the phenomena of the tourist hiker as long ago as 1862.


We are but faint-hearted crusaders; even the walkers nowadays undertake no persevering world’s end enterprises.  Our expeditions are but tours, and come round again at evening to the old hearthside from which we set out.  Half of the walk is but retracing our steps.  We should go forth on the shortest walks, perchance, in the spirit of stirring adventure, never to return, prepared to send back our embalmed hearts only as relics to our desolate kingdom.  If you have paid your debts and made your will and settled all your affairs, and are a free man, then you are ready for a walk.” 


By the time we get to Rickett’s chapter on Thoreau, he is fully embracing the positive nature of wanderlust and acknowledges that this is why the literary vagabond is such excellent company, having wandered from the beaten track he is able to bring back accounts that those of us who never stray far from home could not imagine.  “There is a wild luxuriance about his character that is interesting and fascinating …  The riotous growth of eccentricities and idiosyncrasies are picturesque enough, though you must expect to find thorns and briars.” In Robert Louis Stevenson’s essay ‘Walking Tours’ that writer describes the pleasures of walking as follows: 


It must not be imagined that a walking tour, as some would have us fancy, is merely a better or worse way of seeing the country.  There are many ways of seeing landscape quite as good; and none more vivid, in spite of canting dilettantes, than from a railway train.  But landscape on a walking tour is quite accessory.  He who is indeed of the brotherhood does not voyage in quest of the picturesque, but of certain jolly humours—of the hope and spirit with which the march begins at morning, and the peace and spiritual repletion of the evening’s rest.  He cannot tell whether he puts his knapsack on or takes it off with more delight.  The excitement of the departure puts him in key for that of the arrival.  Whatever he does will be further rewarded in the sequel; and so pleasure leads on to pleasure in an endless chain.” 


William Hazlitt’s 1822 essay, ’On Going a Journey’, gets closer to the true vagabond wanderlust spirit when he acknowledges: ‘One of the pleasantest things is going on a journey; but I like to go by myself. . . .  The soul of a journey is liberty, perfect liberty, to think, feel, do just as one pleases.’ ” 


Although Hazlitt acknowledges the true tramping spirit, I must return to the distinction I made earlier between the writer-who-tramps and the tramp-who-writes, because although the writers in Rickett’s book get close to the true spirit of wanderlust, it seems there is always an element of choice in their wanderings that is not the case with many of the latter category of vagabond writer. These appear to more closely fit Rickett’s earlier account of wanderlust as a pathological compulsion that cannot be resisted, almost an addiction that while produced by an overwhelming desire for pleasure, nevertheless is often accompanied by the ‘thorns and briars’ aforementioned.


The following passages from contemporary vagabond writer Jim Christy’s unpublished work, Wandering Heart, captures this compulsion and is all the more poignant as they were written from the confines of a hospital wheelchair where Christy, recovering from a stroke, was incapable of responding to those powerful forces calling him to hit the road:


What I felt sitting in my wheelchair down at the end of that hospital hallway was the lust to wander, pure and simple. I’ve always wanted to carry my passport with me wherever I go whether to the supermarket or the next town on an errand. I fancy ducking out on my errand, giving up my serious pursuits to head for the airport and buy a ticket anywhere. With my horizons narrowed, I fancy walking out the door and just going with no preconceived notion, no plan, turn left or right it doesn’t matter.

     There is sometimes while traveling a powerful feeling of happiness without thinking of happiness, of expanded consciousness and being a part of everything around you. … My most intense memory of this state of being, perhaps it was what Colin Wilson called the St. Neot’s Margin—a feeling of expanded consciousness that came over him while passing through that English town on a bus. For me it was the old bus station in Barcelona some time in the early Seventies while I stood in the big hall waiting to leave for Morocco. I had never been happier or more at ease.

     The feeling can come over you in the most unlikely of places; it is not necessary to be in Tibet or Barcelona. One time, I was sitting on the wooden steps of a general store in Effingham, Illinois, just come down from Chicago, waiting for the bus to St. Louis and bam, all of a sudden I felt as if I was hovering over the steps, floating above the rooftops, surveying the scene of shops and houses and cars; the small town bicycle world of kids.” 

It is a credit to Christy that he continued to explore the world and marvel at its wonders long after most Westerners, smug in the knowledge that the world had been mined of its secrets, sat back to glory at their cleverness in university campuses or simply be passive spectators on their now ubiquitous TV and other devices. Below, Jack London reinforces in his book The Road, the random and serendipitous nature of tramping described by Christy above:


Perhaps the greatest charm of tramp-life is the absence of monotony. In Hobo Land the face of life is protean—an ever changing phantasmagoria, where the impossible happens and the unexpected jumps out of the bushes at every turn of the road. The hobo never knows what is going to happen the next moment; hence, he lives only in the present moment. He has learned the futility of telic endeavor, and knows the delight of drifting along with the whimsicalities of Chance.”


These earlier tramp writers have left us with many perspectives of this same phenomenon. From Josiah Flynt’s book Tramping with Tramps, we are given the viewpoint of the child-tramp or road kid. A class of tramp of which he, together with Livingstone, Everson, Davies, Kennedy, London, Horn, Tully, Phelan, and indeed Christy, were all representatives: 


they [road kids] are possessed of the "railroad fever" ... the expression in its broader sense of Wanderlust. They want to get out into the world, and at stated periods the desire is so strong and the road so handy that they simply cannot resist the temptation to explore it. A few weeks usually suffice to cool their ardor, and then they run home quite as summarily as they left, but they stay only until the next runaway mood seizes them.” 


Tramp writers frequently present wanderlust as this urge to hit the road coming in waves and for no particular reason. In the following passage from W. H. Davies’s book The Autobiography of a Super-Tramp, this compulsion is also linked to the health benefits of tramping:


What a glorious time of the year is this! With the warm sun travelling through serene skies, the air clear and fresh above you, which instils new blood in the body, making one defiantly tramp the earth, kicking the snows aside in the scorn of action. The cheeks glow with health, the lips smile, and there is no careworn face seen, save they come out of the house of sickness of death. And that lean spectre, called Hunger, has never been known to appear in these parts.” 


In the following passage from her book The Tramp Woman (1909), Dolly Kennedy Yancey describes the other side of wanderlust, precisely what it is that she seeks to escape from when she takes to the road:


Does it pay only to live to accumulate property and junk, which to a traveller would prove expensive ‘excess baggage?’ Does it pay to harden one’s heart against the cultivation of healthy, human instincts, and to live a narrow, selfish life in a conservative community where one is always subjected to unkind criticism? Why unkind? Oh, Conservatism, what sins are committed in thy name!


Yancey’s joy in tramping and affinity with nature will be cited later but accords with that of Kathleen Phelan (1917—2014). Phelan was perhaps the most prolific of the tramp writers, in terms of responding to wanderlust at least, spending 77 of her 97 years on the road. Phelan's second solo trip (following the death of her husband, tramp writer Jim Phelan), took 3 years in which she walked and hitchhiked, with her few possessions in a basket on wheels, through France, Spain, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, and ending in Nepal, adding other countries on the return trip. Below, from an article Phelan wrote for Woman’s Own, in 1972, “I am a Vagabond”, she describes her own attitude to being on the road:


Fine weather or foul I am out on the road. I own nothing but what I stand up in and can carry with me; I rarely have more than a couple of copper coins to rub together and yet you’d have to go far to find a happier woman.

     There is nothing to compare with the excitement of walking each day and never knowing who you are going to meet and where you are going to find yourself by nightfall.


In the passage below from Trader Horn’s Harold the Webbed, he makes the case that, given the world created for us, not to submit to wanderlust is an absurdity:


Doesn't the dawn come everyday calling you to move on? No camp should last forever. And that's where civilization makes the mistake of its life, trying to cage the natural man. Trying to make a stationary object behind bars. Did the great Onlooker give us the world plus the ocean to entice the thoughts of the roamer if he meant us to stay in one spot. ... All the luxuries of the haut ton are neither more or less than neck-irons to a slave. And what's worse they make heaven itself into the image of a cage. Why, the son of Mary Himself couldn't stand too much of the synagogue. ... Consider the lilies, he said. But the religioners've put no lilies in heaven.”


Yet no one has captured the pure existential spirit of wanderlust better than Leon Ray Livingston when he describes in The Curse of Tramp Life, his complete disregard for his own mortality in the thrill of hurtling at top speed through the night, hanging underneath a train, death only inches from his face as the tracks hurtle past beneath him: 


I at last felt that I had given up everything but life itself, to please that bane of my existence. ... There, hanging on with only those weak, human hands, out of reach of any possible succour, speeding through the night, I felt at peace with all the world.”


This passage reveals a fundamental element of tramp psychology: that it is the momentum of tramping itself and not the destination that pulls the tramp ever onward. Although the tramp is occasionally forced to stop and rest from sheer exhaustion, sometimes due to illness or disability, sometimes for the respite of a bite to eat, the destination of the journey is always deferred as described below by Robert Louis Stephenson in Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes:


“For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move; to feel the needs and hitches of our life more nearly; to come down off this feather-bed of civilisation, and find the globe granite underfoot and strewn with cutting flints.


I acknowledged this fundamental aspect of wanderlust in the final sentence of my book, Jim Christy: A Vagabond Life: “This is tramping as a sheer life force. Without the constant onward movement the tramp is unable to breath and loses the reason for their existence.” So here I leave the final word on wanderlust to Jim Christy himself:


What is this wanderlust? There’s no way to define it, one just knows when one has it, or is afflicted by it. It is more than just wanting to go somewhere. Some might call it a form of neurosis, and maybe they’re right. It may come upon you when you least expect it to. You don’t need to have heard, as did Hank Williams, that lonesome whistle blow. You may be watching a police drama on television or buying your oat bran in the supermarket and all of a sudden you feel the need to change the view out the window …



Part 3 will discuss the vagabond's AFFINITY WITH NATURE



4 Aug 2022

Review of 'The Vagabond in Literature' by Arthur Rickett (1906), Part 1

This review is a work in progress and will be completed over the forthcoming weeks


FOREWORD


After my own book on tramp writers had been published in 2020, I came across two invaluable texts on the subject of Tramp Literature, The Tramp in British Literature, 1850-1950 (2022), by Luke Lewin Davies, and the book discussed here. How I managed to overlook Rickett’s 1906 volume I do not know but my son, Max, always on the lookout for books that might interest me, presented me with a hard copy which I proceeded to devour, anxious to discover if, 116 years ago, Rickett shared any of my own conclusions about this much neglected aspect of literature.


On scanning the book, my first discovery was that Rickett’s area of interest was not that of the vagabond as a fictional character but, as with my own study, the vagabond temperament of the writer them self. The main distinction between our two texts was less the separation of 116 years in which they were published—although that provided its own fascination for me—so much as that, unlike my own obsession, the vagabond writers who were the subject of Rickett’s interest were, and for the most part still are, household names in the world of literature.


This is an important if not slightly artificial distinction, best described by the writer Emily Burbank when she commented about Josiah Flynt, one of the characters in my own text that, “it must be remembered that Flynt was the tramp writing, not the literary man tramping.” I used this definition in selecting the fifteen chapters of my own book because, with the possible exceptions of Jack London and Trader Horn, I was interested in rescuing what I regarded as forgotten writers from obscurity and, as with Burbank’s definition, wanted to consider tramps who were drawn to writing—even if some of them undoubtedly wanted to achieve literary success—rather than celebrated writers who tramped to inspire their writing. In reality there is very little real distinction because both categories are driven by the same urges, even if some are ‘full-time’ tramps by compulsion or lifestyle choice and others indulge in tramping on a more ‘part-time’ basis.


For the purpose of this examination of Rickett’s text I will use the term ‘vagabond writer’ generically to use for all the writers discussed, the term ‘tramp writer’ I use specifically to refer to those I have identified above who were tramps first and foremost. I will present my findings along the main themes covered by the writing and the philosophy of tramp literature that emerges. In each section, after discussing the writers in Rickett’s book, I will expand the discussion by referring to some of my previous work on the same subjects:


Wanderlust

Affinity with Nature

Bohemianism -v- Vagabondage

The Abject

Lone and Lofty Perch of World Hating Introspection

Cosmopolitanism

Peter Pan Syndrome

Fact -v- Fiction 

The Vagabond Temperament


At the risk of boring my reader, I will again summarise the philosophy of ancient Greek Cynicism as it is highly relevant to the phenomenon under discussion. Cynicism represents the first organised vagabond philosophy and closely mirrors the personal philosophy of the vagabond writers discussed in these posts—many of whom themselves refer directly to cynicism in both its ancient and modern meanings. As the claim is made here that Cynicism is essential to a proper understanding of the themes of vagabond literature that follow, I have included the following summary from my book, Cynicism from Diogenes to Dilbert, and ask the reader to hold it in the back of their mind when considering the discussions that follow. The only aspect of Cynicism I suggest is not shared by the modern vagabond writer, was the Cynic's role as ‘performance artist’, the deliberate strategy of shocking their ‘audience’ into a reevaluation of what the Cynic believes to be human beings' false values. But then neither did all Cynics engaged in such public ‘performances’ and many vagabond writers did seek to challenge their readers through their writing if not publically. For the most part, their’s was a personal philosophy for surviving in what they regarded as a hostile world. Anyway, here is brief portrait of the Cynic:


He or she would have worn similar attire, probably a simple cloak; any meagre possessions being carried in a small bag or wallet. We also know, that in spite of their close association with nature and their view that city life was unnatural, they would curiously almost always be seen in urban surroundings. The Cynic had no loyalty to family or state and rejected what they considered to be false values, adopting any customs which complemented their lifestyle. They considered themselves citizens of the world, or cosmos: the first cosmopolitans. The Cynic’s ability to move around freely was further assisted by their resistance to being owned by possessions. They had no interest in trying to convert others to their way of life, but welcomed anyone, regardless of social background or race to join their ranks. Whatever teaching a Cynic undertook was likely to be performed in public, sometimes in an irreverent or shocking manner, and if a Cynic did something, it was because they wanted to do it, not because they were compelled to do it. Diogenes in particular, reminded us that in spite of our pretensions as civilized beings, a denial of our animality was a repudiation of our true nature. An understanding of which, required focussing exclusively on the physical world in which we live, and abandoning supernatural and metaphysical beliefs (particularly religious faiths) which could only lead to disillusionment. The Cynic would not, therefore, defer happiness but live each day as though tomorrow might never arrive. Life, in any case did not follow a progression toward enlightenment but a cyclical series of mundane repetitions punctuated by occasional highs and lows. The Cynic did not believe in fortune or pre-destiny, rather striving to be masters of their own destiny. Askesis and ponos were the means by which the Cynic could achieve self-sufficiency and the indifference necessary to cope with all eventualities. If Cynicism was a philosophy at all, it was a practical one, aimed at training for a harsh life which was the Cynics expectation. And finally, their mission—certainly Diogenes’—was to deface the currency of human beings’ false values and customs and thus discredit the fabrication that was civilized society.” 



INTRODUCTION: the vagabond element in modern literature


There are some men born with a vagrant strain in the blood, an unsatiable inquisitiveness about the world beyond their doors.  Natural revolutionaries they, with an ingrained distaste for the routine of ordinary life and the conventions of civilization.” Arthur Rickett 


Early in his book, Rickett raises the question as to whether tramps are born or made. In my own book I also questioned whether adopting the lifestyle of a tramp is a conscious choice. From the evidence, I allowed for the possibility that the tramp is simply born a tramp through some endogenous but unexplainable sense of “not belonging”, or belonging to the world in a different way to his or her fellows; some kind of autistic gene that does not identify with the superficial preoccupations the tramp regards as satisfying the 'neuro-typical' world. Such a condition is also linked to the tramp’s natural affinity to nature and to non-human animals with whom we share the natural world. This is discussed further below under the heading ‘Affinity with Nature’.


At the end of the American Civil War, thousands of former soldiers, well used to an outdoor life and tramping, found themselves homeless and ill prepared for the domestic responsibilities of civilian life. With the first transcontinental railroad opening in 1869, followed by the first of a series of catastrophic international financial crashes and associated “depressions” (1873, 1893 and 1930), it is not surprising that, through choice or necessity, large numbers were thrown into a transient life, forced to roam the continent surviving on whatever resources came to hand. A few of these chose to maintain a tramping lifestyle from a sense of moral purpose and a rejection of wider society's misguided morality which they found difficult to reconcile with. Such individuals created their own sense of a 'republic', one not restricted to a geographical place, an ethnic group, religious or cultural traditions; a republic without boundaries or social distinctions. Like the ancient Greek Cynics, they regarded themselves as “citizens of the world”, free to roam wherever they felt the fancy, and adopting any customs and habits that suited their needs.


Tramp writer Bart Kennedy noted that we should listen to, rather than ridicule, those who maintain the tramping tradition; for it is they who truly understand how to live the “finer and calmer life.” Yet in more recent times there was a renaissance of vagabondage that, as Jack Kerouac observed in 1960, was already being outlawed and driven out of existence. And so, in some respects, the phenomena of vagabondage described in these pages no longer exists today. After thousands of years of tramping as an accepted—if not maligned—tradition, it has all but virtually been driven out of existence. What with the ubiquitous CCTV and electronic databases that analyse even our shopping habits, to remain under the radar today, without money, a registered address or ID, requires no little skill and has succeeded in eradicating the vagabond tradition in a way that even various vagrancy acts failed to achieve. Homelessness and refugeeism may be on the increase of late, but these are not vagabondage unless from a deliberate lifestyle choice which would be an absurd suggestion.


The writers discussed in Rickett’s book all share similar personality traits to those other, less famous, tramp writers discussed elsewhere on this blog. So what are the core elements that make up the character of the tramp or vagabond writer:


Part 2 will discuss Wanderlust