The Little Review
Literature Drama Music Art
MARGARET C. ANDERSON
|On Behalf of Literature||DeWitt C. Wing|
|The Challenge of Emma Goldman||Margaret C. Anderson|
|Chloroform||Mary Aldis and Arthur Davison Ficke|
|“True to Life”||Edith Wyatt|
|Art and Life||George Burman Foster|
|“Change” at the Fine Arts Theatre|
|The Vision of Wells|
|Another View of “The Dark Flower”|
|Dr. Foster’s Articles on Nietzsche|
|Lawton Parker||Eunice Tietjens|
|New York Letter||George Soule|
|Union vs. Union Privileges||Henry Blackman Sell|
|Mr. Chesterton’s Prejudices|
|Dr. Flexner on Prostitution|
|The Critics’ Critic||M. H. P.|
|Letters to The Little Review|
|The Best Sellers|
On Behalf of Literature
DeWitt C. Wing
It is well-nigh incredible that Edwin Björkman, of his own free will, should have written the “open letter to President Wilson on behalf of American literature” which appeared in the April Century. Whenever a man of promise and power shows the white feather those who admire him suffer a keen, personal pain. And yet Mr. Björkman is by no means the last man whom I should expect to make a plea for an official recognition, through honors, prizes, and subsidies, of an American literature. A conventional literary man could have done it, but a great man never.
Mr. Björkman, after remarking the President’s ability to appreciate the importance of what he purposes to lay before him, asks, “Will this nation, as a nation, never do anything for the encouragement or reward of its poets and men of letters?” He thinks it ought to do something because “the soul of a nation is in its literature,” and because “we shall never raise our poetry to the level of our other achievements until we, as a nation, try to find some method of providing money for the poet’s purse and laurels for his brow.”
No specific proposal is made to the President. Mr. Björkman outlines the general question, instances England, France, Sweden, and Norway as bestowing honors and rewards upon their writers, and says that he has “learned by bitter experience what it means to strive for sincere artistic expression in a field where brass is commonly valued above gold,” and “should like to see the road made a little less hard, and the goal a little more attractive, lest too many of those that come after lose their courage and let themselves be tempted by the incessant clangor of metal in the marketplace.” Wherefore “on behalf of men and women who are striving against tremendous odds to give this nation a poetry equaling in worth and glory that of any other nation in the world” he appeals to the Chief Executive to take the lead.
A literature worthy of national fostering does not require it.
When President Wilson read Mr. Björkman’s letter—we may assume that he has somehow found time to do so—my little wager is that he smiled sadly, and perhaps recalled a sentence that he wrote nearly twenty years ago, when the spirit of youth gave a sort of instinctive inerrancy to his judgments. In an essay on An Author’s Company he said:
Literatures are renewed, as they are originated, by uncontrived impulses of nature, as if the sap moved unbidden in the mind.
In the same essay occurs this wide-worldly phrase:
There is a greater thing than the spirit of the age, and that is the spirit of the ages.
A man capable of the deep, wide thought which these excerpts contain is not the man seriously to consider Mr. Björkman’s appeal. Literature is not a response to a monetary or other invitation; it is as inevitable as the sunrise, and opportunity neither originates nor develops it. The conditions that govern the rise of sap and its transformations into beauty cannot be set up by legislation nor made easier by Nobel prizes. An artist of original power, born pregnant with a poem, a picture, or a symphony, will inevitably give it birth. His necessity is not to receive but to give. He is independent of the caprice of chance. He has no thought of a chance “for sincere artistic expression.” He is not interested in the control of circumstance; he is the instrument of something that controls him. Opportunity never knocks at his door; his door cannot be opened from without; it is pushed open by an indwelling, outgrowing guest. The process is as uncontrived as the unfolding of an acorn into an oak.
I fear that Mr. Björkman’s definition of art, if he have one, needs expansion. The so-called art which he wishes to have encouraged as something geographically local is an imitation which probably would suffice in a petty world of orthodox socialism, where writing was a kind of sociological business. Since unmistakable art is born, not manufactured or induced, it were folly to try to nurture it. Unborn art is nurtured by an inner sap; it cannot be fed on sedative pap. It always has been and always will be born of suffering, in unexpected, unprepared places, like all its wild and wonderful kin. Eugenics cannot be applied to its unfathomable heredity.
The soul of a nation is not in its literature but in its contemporary life. Literatures haven’t souls, even if, haply, they have considerable vitality or permanence. Literatures are intricate autobiographies, vague symbols of personal feeling, lifted by a modicum of consciousness into mystic articulation. The great literatures that are on the way will be more and more psychological. What people call love in the world of realism will play a sublimer part in the world of consciousness. Prose and poetry in which our conscious life is more intimately portrayed will challenge and in a million years increase consciousness, so that through emphasis and use this later acquisition of the race will transmute information into perfect organic knowledge. A larger consciousness will break up the chaos of unnumbered antagonisms in human relationships. The literature of description and the blind play of instinct has served its purpose and had its day. The literature of the future must deal with a vaster world than that in which animals prey upon one another. Such a literature will not bear the name of a man, a state, a nation, or an age.
We are opposed to the whole idea of nationalism; we even object to worldliness in literature; we want something still bigger: a literature with a sense of the planets in it. In this new day it is too late to fuss about nations, geographical literatures, and races. We are called toward the universe and mankind. In this land of blended nationalities our hope is to evolve a literature vitalized by the blood of multitudinous races and linked in pedigree with the infinite ages of the past. Walt Whitman’s poetry was cosmic; the new poetry will extend to the planets. The summit of Parnassus now rests in the gloom of the valley, and the poet of the future will look down from the higher eminence to which science has called him. Man today soars in flying machines in the old realm of his young imagination. Poets must outreach mere science.
What little patriots call a nation is a huge dogma that must be overcome. In poetry there must be an increasingly larger sense of the universe instead of nations as man’s habitation. National literatures are exclusive of and alien to one another; they should be interrelated and fundamentally combinable. There can be no local literature if the thought of the world is embodied in it, and any other quality of literature must lack integrity. Wild dreamers insist upon a literature that shall be superior to political boundaries. The idea of nationalism involves the setting up of barriers and the fossilizing of life. It is a small idea that belongs to the dark ages. If we are ever to expand in feeling, thought, and achievement we must rise above nations into the starry spaces. We shall at least be citizens of the world, and, if citizens of the world, then truth-seekers beyond the reach of land and sea.
The little question put to President Wilson by Mr. Björkman cannot escape a negative answer, unless through petty exclusions and barbaric insularities we continue trying to organize, cement, and perpetuate a nation—that smug dream of our forefathers who reeked with selfishness and reveled in a freedom that at the core was slavery. Statehood must give way to a universal brotherhood. And if this were achieved it would still be idle twaddle to talk about “providing money for the poet’s purse and laurels for his brow”; for a poet—I am not thinking of facile versifiers, who are capable of intoxicating emotional persons with philological colors and sensuous music—is rewarded not by money but by understanding, and he fashions his own laurel, even as the sea pink crowns itself with its ample glory. The kind of poet whose measure is taken by Mr. Björkman’s pale solicitude is already generously provided for by an unpoetic public, and there awaits his moist brow a laurel of uncritical, national homage.
Whitman, chanter of the earth’s major note, and Blake, exquisite singer of its subtlest minors, are clearly recognizable mutations. Apart from the work of four or five men English verse falls into infinite grades of imitative excellence and mediocrity. The best of it is highly finished manufactured or in part reproduced art, obedient to a commercial age, in which little men with renowned names gossip about nations, and worship the god of utility.
Poetry of the highest quality—great enough to burst a language—is the outflow of the unconfinable passion of exceedingly rare individualities that can be neither encouraged nor discouraged by any external condition. They are vagrant leaps of life, wild with the creative power of projecting variety. They come off the common stock as new forms having many characteristics common to their ancestors but expressing their unlikeness in mental or physiological development. Real poets are genuine “sports” or mutations; near-poets are made by cultivation. As a nation grows old and the impact of its culture upon all classes of people increases, the greater its production of so-called classical art; but this has nothing to do with what I mean by poetry.
What is popularly termed poetry may represent sincere work; it may answer to all the technical requirements of versification; it may possess a sheen of word-music; it may contain deep, subtle thought, and yet, despite all these customary earmarks, it is not real poetry. To be sure, thousands of critics will acclaim it as authentic, and lecturers will quote it as beautiful wisdom, but it is soon lost to eye and memory. And in a large sense this must be true of the greatest poetry.
One reason why we haven’t more and better contemporary poetry and prose is that we are under the tyranny of so-called masters. It is foolishly assumed that masterpieces are finalities in their fields. By talking, writing, and teaching this absurdity we set up popular prejudices against vital work of our own time, so that even literary artists, with an alleged sharp eye for genius, cannot identify an outstanding genius when it appears before them. Only that poetry or prose which is a reminder of or is almost as good as a celebrity’s work is accepted as art. We thus evolve “forms of appraisal” or standards with which we try to hammer rebels and geniuses into line. The artist who, confident, fearless, ample, and resolute, can go through this acid test without compromise (fighting, even dying, for his vision) is the hope of men. He does not ask for anything; he is a god; the gods merely command—not always posthumously—and all the world is theirs.
It is quite possible to encourage the profession of writing verse and prose by making the road easier and the goal more attractive for the weaklings who whine for nationalized alms, to enable them to pursue a craft; but literature in the big sense is created by all sorts of men and women who cannot withhold it, let the world approve, condemn, or ignore. Hence literature is incapable of encouragement.
In his Gleams, which are the most intimately personal things that he has published, Mr. Björkman reiterates the conviction that artists ought to have a better chance than they now enjoy to express themselves. For instance, he says:
He who is to minister to men’s souls should have time and chance to acquire one for himself.
The children will build up the New Kingdom as soon as they are given a chance.
These extracts from his Gleams taken in connection with our concluding quotation from his Century article indicate if they do not prove that Mr. Björkman regards artists as meticulous persons who must be coaxed, humored, coddled, and rewarded in order to incite them to creative activity. Obviously he means craftsmen when he uses the word artists. An artist is impelled to do his work, which is his pain, joy, and passion. If life is made easy for him the chances are that he will lose his independence and power, and descend to a popular success. Stevenson could not endure prosperity; once a man, accustomed to a hard, uphill road—he did his noblest work then—a sentimental public made it so easy for him that he eventually grew fairly Tennysonian in his output of pretty trifles.
A literature worthy of the name might address itself, in Whitman’s words, to authors who would be themselves in life and art:
I do not offer the old smooth prizes, but offer rough new prizes;
You shall not heap up what is call’d riches,
You shall scatter with lavish hand all that you earn or achieve,
You but arrive at the city to which you were destin’d—you hardly settle yourself to satisfaction, before you are call’d by an irresistible call to depart.
Margaret C. Anderson
Emma Goldman has been lecturing in Chicago, and various kinds of people have been going to hear her. I have heard her twice—once before the audience of well-dressed women who flock to her drama lectures and don’t know quite what to think of her, and once at the International Labor Hall before a crowd of anarchists and syndicalists and socialists, most of whom were collarless but who knew very emphatically what they thought of her and of her ideas. I came away with a series of impressions, every one of which resolved somehow into a single conviction: that here was a great woman.
The drama audience might have been dolls, for all they appeared to understand what was going on. One of them went up to Miss Goldman afterward and tried, almost petulantly, to explain why she believed in property and wealth. She was utterly serious. No one could have convinced her that there was any humor in the situation; that she might as well try to work up a fervor of war enthusiasm in Carnegie as to expect Emma Goldman to sympathize in the sanctity of property. The second audience, after listening to a talk on anti-Christianity, got to its feet and asked intelligent questions. Men with the faces of fanatics and martyrs waved their arms in their excitement pro and con; some one tried to prove that Nietzsche had an unscientific mind; a suave lawyer stated that Miss Goldman was profoundly intellectual, but that her talk was destructive—to which she replied that it would require another lawyer to unravel his inconsistency; and then some one established forcibly that the only real problem in the universe was that of three meals a day.
Most people who read and think have become enlightened about anarchism. They know that anarchists are usually timid, thoughtful, unviolent people; that dynamite is a part of their intellectual, not their physical, equipment; and that the goal for which they are striving—namely, individual human freedom—is one for which we might all strive with credit. But for the benefit of those who regard Emma Goldman as a public menace, and for those who simply don’t know what to make of her—like that fashionable feminine audience—it may be interesting to look at her in a new way.
To begin with, why not take her quite simply? She’s a simple person. She’s natural. In any civilization it requires genius to be really simple and natural. It’s one of the most subtle, baffling, and agonizing struggles we go through—this trying to attain the quality that ought to be easiest of all attainment because we were given it to start with. What a commentary on civilization!—that one can regain his original simplicity only through colossal effort. Nietzsche calls it the three metamorphoses of the spirit: “how the spirit becometh a camel, the camel a lion, and the lion at last a child.”
And Emma Goldman has struggled through these stages. She has taken her “heavy load-bearing spirit” into the wilderness, like the camel; become lord of that wilderness, captured freedom for new creating, like the lion; and then created new values, said her Yea to life, like the child. Somehow Zarathustra kept running through my mind as I listened to her that afternoon.
Emma Goldman preaches and practises the philosophy of freedom; she pushes through the network of a complicated society as if it were a cobweb instead of a steel structure; she brushes the cobwebs from her eyes and hair and calls back to the less daring ones that the air is more pure up there and “sunrise sometimes visible.” Someone has put it this way: “Repudiating as she does practically every tenet of what the modern state holds good, she stands for some of the noblest traits in human nature.” And no one who listens to her thoughtfully, whatever his opinion of her creed, will deny that she has nobility. Such qualities as courage—dauntless to the point of heartbreak; as sincerity, reverence, high-mindedness, self-reliance, helpfulness, generosity, strength, a capacity for love and work and life—all these are noble qualities, and Emma Goldman has them in the nth power. She has no pale traits like tact, gentleness, humility, meekness, compromise. She has “a hard, kind heart” instead of “a soft, cruel one.” And she’s such a splendid fighter!
What is she fighting for? For the same things, concretely, that Nietzsche and Max Stirner fought for abstractly. She has nothing to say that they have not already said, perhaps; but the fact that she says it instead of putting it into books, that she hurls it from the platform straight into the minds and hearts of the eager, bewildered, or unfriendly people who listen to her, gives her personality and her message a unique value. She says it with the same unflinching violence to an audience of capitalists as to her friends the workers. And the substance of her gospel—I speak merely from the impressions of those two lectures and the very little reading I’ve done of her published work—is something of this sort:
Radical changes in society, releasement from present injustices and miseries, can come about not through reform but through change; not through a patching up of the old order, but through a tearing down and a rebuilding. This process involves the repudiation of such “spooks” as Christianity, conventional morality, immortality, and all other “myths” that stand as obstacles to progress, freedom, health, truth, and beauty. One thus achieves that position beyond good and evil for which Nietzsche pleaded. But it is more fair to use Miss Goldman’s own words. In writing of the failure of Christianity, for instance, she says:
I believe that Christianity is most admirably adapted to the training of slaves, to the perpetuation of a slave society; in short, to the very conditions confronting us today. Indeed, never could society have degenerated to its present appalling stage if not for the assistance of Christianity…. No doubt I will be told that, though religion is a poison and institutionalized Christianity the greatest enemy of progress and freedom, there is some good in Christianity itself. What about the teachings of Christ and early Christianity, I may be asked; do they not stand for the spirit of humanity, for right, and justice?
It is precisely this oft-repeated contention that induced me to choose this subject, to enable me to demonstrate that the abuses of Christianity, like the abuses of government, are conditioned in the thing itself, and are not to be charged to the representatives of the creed. Christ and his teachings are the embodiment of inertia, of the denial of life; hence responsible for the things done in their name.
I am not interested in the theological Christ. Brilliant minds like Bauer, Strauss, Renan, Thomas Paine, and others refuted that myth long ago. I am even ready to admit that the theological Christ is not half so dangerous as the ethical and social Christ. In proportion as science takes the place of blind faith, theology loses its hold. But the ethical and poetical Christ-myth has so thoroughly saturated our lives, that even some of the most advanced minds find it difficult to emancipate themselves from its yoke. They have rid themselves of the letter, but have retained the spirit; yet it is the spirit which is back of all the crimes and horrors committed by orthodox Christianity. The Fathers of the Church can well afford to preach the gospel of Christ. It contains nothing dangerous to the régime of authority and wealth; it stands for self-denial and self-abnegation, for penance and regret, and is absolutely inert in the face of every indignity, every outrage imposed upon mankind…. Many otherwise earnest haters of slavery and injustice confuse, in a most distressing manner, the teachings of Christ with the great struggles for social and economic emancipation. The two are irrevocably and forever opposed to each other. The one necessitates courage, daring, defiance, and strength. The other preaches the gospel of non-resistance, of slavish acquiescence in the will of others; it is the complete disregard of character and self-reliance, and, therefore, destructive of liberty and well-being….
The public career of Christ begins with the edict, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.”
Why repent, why regret, in the face of something that was supposed to bring deliverance? Had not the people suffered and endured enough; had they not earned their right to deliverance by their suffering? Take the Sermon on the Mount, for instance; what is it but a eulogy on submission to fate, to the inevitability of things?
“Blessed are the poor in spirit….”
Heaven must be an awfully dull place if the poor in spirit live there. How can anything creative, anything vital, useful, and beautiful, come from the poor in spirit? The idea conveyed in the Sermon on the Mount is the greatest indictment against the teachings of Christ, because it sees in the poverty of mind and body a virtue, and because it seeks to maintain this virtue by reward and punishment. Every intelligent being realizes that our worst curse is the poverty of the spirit; that it is productive of all evil and misery, of all the injustice and crimes in the world.
“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
What a preposterous notion! What incentive to slavery, inactivity, and parasitism. Besides, it is not true that the meek can inherit anything.
“Blessed are ye when men shall revile you … for great is your reward in heaven.”
The reward in heaven is the perpetual bait, a bait that has caught man in an iron net, a strait-jacket which does not let him expand or grow. All pioneers of truth have been, and still are, reviled. But did they ask humanity to pay the price? Did they seek to bribe mankind to accept their ideas?… Redemption through the Cross is worse than damnation, because of the terrible burden it imposes upon humanity, because of the effect it has on the human soul, fettering and paralyzing it with the weight of the burden exacted through the death of Christ….
The teachings of Christ and of his followers have failed because they lacked the vitality to lift the burdens from the shoulders of the race; they have failed because the very essence of that doctrine is contrary to the spirit of life, opposed to the manifestation of nature, to the strength and beauty of passion.
And so on. In her dissolution of other “myths”—such as that of morality, for instance,—she has even more direct things to say. I quote from a lecture on Victims of Morality:
It is Morality which condemns woman to the position of a celibate, a prostitute, or a reckless, incessant breeder of children.
First as to the celibate, the famished and withered human plant. When still a young, beautiful flower, she falls in love with a respectable young man. But Morality decrees that unless he can marry the girl, she must never know the raptures of love, the ecstasy of passion. The respectable young man is willing to marry, but the Property Morality, the Family and Social Moralities decree that he must first make his pile, must save up enough to establish a home and be able to provide for a family. The young people must wait, often many long, weary years…. And the young flower, with every fiber aglow with the love of life? She develops headaches, insomnia, hysteria; grows embittered, quarrelsome, and soon becomes a faded, withered, joyless being, a nuisance to herself and every one else…. Hedged in her narrow confines with family and social tradition, guarded by a thousand eyes, afraid of her own shadow—the yearning of her inmost being for the man or the child, she must turn to cats, dogs, canary birds, or the Bible class.
Now as to the prostitute. In spite of laws, ordinances, persecution, and prisons; in spite of segregation, registration, vice crusades, and other similar devices, the prostitute is the real specter of our age…. What has made her? Whence does she come? Morality, the morality which is merciless in its attitude to women. Once she dares to be herself, to be true to her nature, to life, there is no return; the woman is thrust out from the pale and protection of society. The prostitute becomes the victim of Morality, even as the withered old maid is its victim. But the prostitute is victimized by still other forces, foremost among them the Property Morality, which compels woman to sell herself as a sex commodity or in the sacred fold of matrimony. The latter is no doubt safer, more respected, more recognized, but of the two forms of prostitution the girl of the street is the least hypocritical, the least debased, since her trade lacks the pious mask of hypocrisy, and yet she is hounded, fleeced, outraged, and shunned by the very powers that have made her: the financier, the priest, the moralist, the judge, the jailer, and the detective, not to forget her sheltered, respectably virtuous sister, who is the most relentless and brutal in her persecution of the prostitute.
Morality and its victim, the mother—what a terrible picture! Is there, indeed, anything more terrible, more criminal, than our glorified sacred function of motherhood? The woman, physically and mentally unfit to be a mother, yet condemned to breed; the woman, economically taxed to the very last spark of energy, yet forced to breed; the woman, tied to a man she loathes, yet made to breed; the woman, worn and used-up from the process of procreation, yet coerced to breed, more, ever more. What a hideous thing, this much-lauded motherhood!
With the economic war raging all around her, with strife, misery, crime, disease, and insanity staring her in the face, with numberless little children ground into gold dust, how can the self and race-conscious woman become a mother? Morality cannot answer this question. It can only dictate, coerce, or condemn—and how many women are strong enough to face this condemnation, to defy the moral dicta? Few indeed. Hence they fill the factories, the reformatories, the homes for feeble-minded, the prisons…. Oh, Motherhood, what crimes are committed in thy name! What hosts are laid at your feet. Morality, destroyer of life!
Fortunately, the Dawn is emerging from the chaos and darkness…. Through her re-born consciousness as a unit, a personality, a race builder, woman will become a mother only if she desires the child, and if she can give to the child, even before its birth, all that her nature and intellect can yield … above all, understanding, reverence, and love, which is the only fertile soil for new life, a new being.
I have talked lately with a man who thinks Emma Goldman ought to have been hanged long ago. She’s directly or indirectly “responsible” for so many crimes. “Do you know what she’s trying to do?” I asked him.
“She’s trying to break up our government,” he responded heatedly.
“Have you ever read any of her ideas?”
“Have you ever heard her lecture?”
“No! I should say not.”
In a play, that line would get a laugh. (It did in Man and Superman.) But in life it fares better. It gets serious consideration; it even has a certain prestige as a rather righteous thing to say.
Another man threw himself into the argument. “I know very little about Emma Goldman,” he said, “but it has always struck me that she’s simply trying to inflame people—particularly to do things that she’d never think of doing herself.” That charge can be answered best by a study of her life, which will show that she has spent her time doing things that almost no one else would dare to do.
In his Women as World Builders Floyd Dell said this: “Emma Goldman has become simply an advocate of freedom of every sort. She does not advocate violence any more than Ralph Waldo Emerson advocated violence. It is, in fact, as an essayist and speaker of the kind, if not the quality, of Emerson, Thoreau, and George Francis Train, that she is to be considered.” I think, rather, that she is to be considered fundamentally as something more definite than that:—as a practical Nietzschean.
I am incapable of listening, unaroused, to the person who believes something intensely, and who does intensely what she believes. What more simple—or more difficult? Most of us don’t know what we believe, or, if we do, we have the most extraordinary time trying to live it. Emma Goldman is so bravely consistent—which to many people is a confession of limitations. But if one is going to criticise her there are more subtle grounds to do it on. One of her frequent assertions is that she has no use for religion. That is like saying that one has no use for poetry: religion isn’t merely a matter of Christianity or Catholicism or Buddhism or any other classifiable quantity. Also, if it is true that the person to be distrusted is the one who has found an answer to the riddle, then Emma Goldman is to be discounted. Her convictions are presented with a sense of definite finality. But there’s something splendidly uncautious, something irresistibly stirring, about such an attitude. And whatever one believes, of one thing I’m certain: whoever means to face the world and its problems intelligently must know something about Emma Goldman. Whether her philosophy will change the face of the earth isn’t the supreme issue. As the enemy of all smug contentment, of all blind acquiescence in things as they are, and as the prophet who dares to preach that our failures are not in wrong applications of values but in the values themselves, Emma Goldman is the most challenging spirit in America.
No sooner is a thing brought to sight than it is swept by and another takes its place, and this, too, will be swept away…. Observe always that everything is the result of a change, … get used to thinking that there is nothing Nature loves so well as to change existing forms and to make new ones like them.—Marcus Aurelius.
Mary Aldis and Arthur Davison Ficke
A sickening odour, treacherously sweet,
Steals through my sense heavily.
Above me leans an ominous shape,
Fearful, white-robed, hooded and masked in white.
The pits of his eyes
Peer like the port-holes of an armoured ship,
Merciless, keen, inhuman, dark.
The hands alone are of my kindred;
Their slender strength, that soon shall press the knife
Silver and red, now lingers slowly above me,
The last links with my human world …
… The living daylight
Clouds and thickens.
Flashes of sudden clearness stream before me,—and then
A menacing wave of darkness
Swallows the glow with floods of vast and indeterminate grey.
But in the flashes
I see the white form towering,
Like some apostate monk whose will unholy
Has renounced God; and now
In this most awful secret laboratory
Would wring from matter
Its stark and appalling answer.
At the gates of a bitter hell he stands, to wrest with eager fierceness
More of that dark forbidden knowledge
Wherefrom his soul draws fervor to deny.
The clouds have grown thicker; they sway around me
Dizzying, terrible, gigantic, pressing in upon me
Like a thousand monsters of the deep with formless arms.
I cannot push them back, I cannot!
From far, far off, a voice I knew long ago
Sounds faintly thin and clear.
Suddenly in a desperate rebellion I strive to answer,—
I strive to call aloud.—
But darkness chokes and overcomes me:
None may hear my soundless cry.
A depth abysmal opens
And receives, enfolds, engulfs me,—
Wherein to sink at last seems blissful
Even though to deeper pain….
O respite and peace of deliverance!
Lies over me like a benediction.
As in the earth’s first pale creation-morn
Among winds and waters holy
I am borne as I longed to be borne.
I am adrift in the depths of an ocean grey
Like seaweed, desiring solely
To drift with the winds and waters; I sway
Into their vast slow movements; all the shores
Of being are laved by my tides.
I am drawn out toward spaces wonderful and holy
Where peace abides,
And into golden aeons far away.
But over me
Where I swing slowly
Bodiless in the bodiless sea,
Oh very far away,
Hangs a ghostly star
Toward whose pure beam I must flow resistlessly.
Well do I know its ray!
It is the light beyond the worlds of space,
By groping sorrowing man yet never known—
The goal where all men’s blind and yearning desire
Has vainly longed to go
And has not gone:—
Where Eternity has its blue-walled dwelling-place,
And the crystal ether opens endlessly
To all the recessed corners of the world,
Like liquid fire
Pouring a flood through the dimness revealingly;
Where my soul shall behold, and in lightness of wonder rise higher
Out of the shadow that long ago
Around me with mortality was furled.
I rise where have winds
Of the night never flown;
Shaken with rapture
Is the vault of desire.
The weakness that binds
Like a shadow is gone.
The bonds of my capture
Are sundered with fire!
This is the hour
When the wonders open!
The lightning-winged spaces
Through which I fly
Accept me, a power
Whose prisons are broken—
. . . . . .
… But the wonder wavers—
The light goes out.
I am in the void no more; changes are imminent.
Time with a million beating wings
Deafens the air in migratory flight
Like the roar of seas—and is gone …
And a silence
In darkness and perfect silence
I wander groping in my agony,
Far from the light lost in the upper ether—
Unknown, unknowable, so nearly mine.
And the ages pass by me,
Thousands each instant, yet I feel them all
To the last second of their dragging time.
Thus have I striven always
Since the world began.
And when it dies I still must struggle …
. . . . . .
The voice I knew so long ago, like a muffled echo under the sea
Is coming nearer.
And words whose tones are warm with some forgotten consolation,
Some unintelligible hope,
Drag me upward in horrible mercy;
And the cold once-familiar daylight glares into my eyes.
He stands there,
The white apostate monk,
Speaking low lying words to soothe me.
And I lift my voice out of its vales of agony
And laugh in his face,
Mocking him with astonishment of wonder.
For he has denied;
And I have come so near, so near to knowing …
Then as his hand touches me gently, I am drawn up from the lonely abysses,
And suffer him to lead me back into the green valleys of the living.
“True to Life”
Arecent sincere and beautiful greeting from Mr. John Galsworthy to The Little Review suggests that the creative artist and the creative critic in America may wisely heed a saying of de Maupassant about a writer “sitting down before an object until he has seen it in the way that he alone can see it, seen it with the part of him which makes him This man and not That.”
Mr. Galsworthy adds: “And I did seem to notice in America that there was a good deal of space and not much time; and that without too much danger of becoming ‘Yogis,’ people might perhaps sit down a little longer in front of things than they seemed to do.”
What native observer of American writing will not welcome the justice of this comment? Surely the contemporary American poems, novels, tales, and critiques which express an individual and attentively-considered impression of any subject from our own life here are few: and these not, it would appear, greatly in vogue. Why? Everyone will have his own answer.
In replying to the first part of the question—why closely-considered individual impressions of our life are few—I think it should be said that the habit of respect for close attention of any kind is not among the American virtues. The visitor of our political conventions, the reader of our “literary criticism” must have noted a prevailing, shuffling, and perfunctory mood of casual disregard for the matter in hand. Many American people are indeed reared to suppose that if they appear to bestow an interested attention on the matter before them, some misunderstanding will ensue as to their own social importance. Nearly everyone must have noted with a sinking of the heart this attitude towards the public among library attendants, hotel-clerks, and plumbers. This abstraction is not, however, confined to the pursuers of any occupation, but to some degree affects us all. In the consciousness of our nation there appears to exist a mysterious though deep-seated awe for the prestige of the casual and the off-hand.
Especially we think it an unworthiness in an author that he should, as the phrase is, “take himself seriously.” We consider the attitude we have described as characterizing library attendants and hotel-clerks as the only correct one for writers—the attitude of a person doing something as it were unconsciously, a matter he pooh-poohs and scarcely cares to expend his energy and time upon in the grand course of his personal existence. You may hear plenty of American authors talk of “not taking themselves seriously” who, if they spoke with accuracy, should say that they regarded themselves as too important and precious to exhaust themselves by doing their work with conscience.
This dull self-importance insidiously saps in our country the respect for thoroughness and application characteristic of Germany; insidiously blunts in American penetrative powers the English faculty of being “keen” on a subject, recently presented to us with such grace in the young hero’s eager pursuits in Compton Mackenzie’s Sinister Street; and disparages lightly but often completely the growth of the fresh and varied spirit of production described in the passage of de Maupassant to which Mr. Galsworthy refers. This passage expresses the clear fire of attention our American habits lack, with a sympathy it is a pleasure to quote here in its entirety. De Maupassant says in the preface of Pierre et Jean:
For seven years I wrote verses, I wrote stories, I wrote novels. I even wrote a detestable play. Of these nothing survives. The master (Flaubert) read them all, and on the following Sunday at luncheon he would give me his criticism, and inculcate little by little two or three principles that sum up his long and patient lesson. “If one has any originality, the first thing requisite is to bring it out: if one has none, the first thing to be done is to acquire it.”
Talent is long patience. Everything which one desires to express must be considered with sufficient attention and during a sufficiently long time to discover in it some aspect which no one has yet seen or described. In everything there is still some spot unexplored, because we are accustomed to look at things only with the recollection of what others before us have thought of the subject we are contemplating. The smallest object contains something unknown. Let us find it. In order to describe a fire that flames and a tree on the plain, we must keep looking at that flame and that tree until to our eyes they no longer resemble any other tree, or any other fire.
This is the way to become original.
Having besides laid down this truth that there are not in the whole world two grains of sand, two specks, two hands, or two noses alike, Flaubert compelled me to describe in a few phrases a being or an object in such a manner as to clearly particularize it, and distinguish it from all the other beings or all the other objects of the same race, or the same species. “When you pass,” he would say, “a grocer seated at his shop door, a janitor smoking his pipe, a stand of hackney coaches, show me that grocer and that janitor, their attitude, their whole physical appearance, including also by a skilful description their whole moral nature so that I cannot confound them with any other grocer or any other janitor: make me see, in one word, that a certain cab-horse does not resemble the fifty others that follow or precede it.”
One underlying reason why American writers so seldom pursue such studies and methods as these is the prevailing disesteem for clearly-focussed attention we have described. Another reason is that the American writer of fiction who loves the pursuit of precise expression will indubitably have to face a number of difficulties which may perhaps not be readily apparent to the writers of other countries.
Naturally enough, in his more newly-settled, or rather his settling, nation, made up of many nationalities, the American writer who desires to “particularize” a subject from his country’s contemporary history, and “to distinguish this from all the other beings and all the other objects of the same race,” will have many more heretofore unexpressed conditions and basic circumstances to evoke in his reader’s mind than the German or French or English writer must summon.
For instance, the young French writer of de Maupassant’s narrative who was to call up out of the deep of European life the individuality of one single French grocer, would himself have and would address an audience who had—whether for better or worse (to my way of thinking, as it chances, for worse)—a fairly fixed social conception of the class of this retail merchant. The American writer who knows very well that General Grant once kept an unsuccessful shoe store, and that some of the most distinguished paintings the country possesses have been selected by the admirably-educated taste and knowledge of one or two public-spirited retail dry-goods merchants; and who also has seen gaunt and poverty-stricken Russian store-keepers standing among stalls of rotten strawberries in Jefferson Street market, in Chicago—that writer will neither speak from nor address this definite social conception according to mere character of occupation which I have indicated as a part of the French author’s means of exactitude in expression.
Nothing in our own random civilization, as it seems to me, is quite so fixed as that French grocer seated in his doorway, that de Maupassant and Flaubert mention with such charm. Nothing here is so neat as that. To convey social truth, the American writer interested in giving his own impression of a grocer in America, whether rich or poor or moderately prospering, will have to individualize him and all his surrounding condition more, and to classify him and all his surrounding condition less, than de Maupassant does, to convey the social truth his own inimitable sketches impart.
Again, ours is a very changing population. Its movement of life through one of our cities is attended with various and choppy and many-toned sounds communicating a varied rhythm of its own. To return to our figure of the retail tradesman—if this tradesman be in Chicago, for instance, he may neither be expressed clearly by typical classifications, nor shown without a genuine error in historical perspective against a static street background and trade life. This background must have change and motion, unless the writer is to copy into his own picture some foreign author’s rendition of a totally different place and state of human existence. The tune of the story’s text, too, should repeat for the reader’s inward ear the special experience of truth the author has perceived, the special ragged sound and rhythm of the motion of life he has heard telling the tale of that special place.
May one add what is only too obvious, and said because I think it may serve to explain in some degree why individual impressions of American life are not greatly encouraged in this country? It will be quite plain that such a limpid, clear-spaced, reverent style and stilled background as speaks in one of Mr. Galsworthy’s stories the tragedy of a London shoe-maker’s commercial ruin, would be false to all these values. It will be quite plain that such a bright, hard, definite manner as that which states with perfection the life of the circles of the petty government-official and his wife in The Necklace would be powerless to convey some of the elements we have selected as characterizing the American subject we have tried to suggest.
But many American reviewers and professional readers and publishers, who suppose themselves to be devoted to “realism” and to writing of “radical” tendency, believe not at all that the realistic writer should adopt de Maupassant’s method and incarnate for us his own American vision of the life he sees here, but simply that he should imitate the manner of de Maupassant. Many such American reviewers and professional readers and publishers believe not at all that the radical writer should find and represent for us some unseen branching root of certain American social phenomena which he himself has detected, but simply that he should copy some excellent drawing of English roots by Mr. Galsworthy, or of Russian roots by Gorky.
The craze for imitation in American writing is almost unbelievably pervasive. The author here, who is devoted to the attempt to speak his own truth—and the more devoted he is the more reverently, I believe, will he regard all other authors’ truth as theirs and derived exactly from their own point of view—will find opposed to him not only the great body of conventional romanticists and conservatives who will think he ought to stereotype and conventionalize his work into a poor, dulled contemporary imitation of the delightful narratives of Sir Walter Scott. He will also find opposed to him the great body of conventional “realists” and “radicals” who will think he ought to stereotype and conventionalize his work into a poor, blurred imitation of the keen narratives of Mr. H. G. Wells.
Sometimes these counsellors, not content with commending a copied manner, seriously urge—one might think at the risk of advising plagiarism—that the American author simply transplant the social ideas of some admirable foreign artist to one of our own local scenes. Thus, a year or two ago, in one of our critical journals, I saw the writer of a novel about Indiana state politicians severely blamed for not making the same observations on the subject that Mr. Wells had made about English national parliamentary life in The New Machiavelli. Not long since another American reviewer of “radical” tendency harshly censured the author of a novel about American under-graduate life in a New York college, because the daughter of the college president uttered views of sex and marriage unlike those expressed in Ann Veronica.
This sort of criticism—equally unflattering and obtuse, it appears to me, in its perception of the special characterizations of Mr. Wells’s thoughtful pages, and in its counsel to the artist depicting an alien topic to insert extraneous and unrelated views in his landscape—proceeds from a certain strange and ridiculous conception of truth peculiar to many persons engaged in the great fields of our literary criticism and of our publishing and political activities.
This is a conception of truth not at all as something capable of irradiating any scene on the globe, like light; but as some very definite and limited force, driving a band-wagon. People who possess this conception of truth seem to argue very reasonably that if Mr. Wells is “in” it, so to speak, with truth, and is saying “the thing” to say about sex or about the liberal party, then the intelligent author anywhere who desires to be “in” it with truth will surely get into this band-wagon of Mr. Wells’s and stand on the very planks he has placed in the platform of its particular wagonbed. It is an ironical, if tragic, comment on the intelligence of American reading that the driver I have chanced to see most frequently urged for authors here should be Mr. H. G. Wells, who has done probably more than any other living writer of English to encourage varied specialistic and non-partisan expression.
We have said that to tell his own truth the American writer will have to sit longer before his subject and will have more to do to express it, than if he chose it from a country of more ancient practices in art, and of longer ancestral sojourns. We have said that he will be urged not to tell his own truth considerably more than an English or German or French writer would be. These authors are at least not advised to imitate American expression, and they live in countries where the habit of copying the work of other artists is much less widely regarded as an evidence of sophistication than it is here.
The American writer must also face a marked historical peculiarity of our national letters. The publishing centres of England and of Germany and of France are in the midst of these nations. Outside the daily press, the greater part of the publishing business of our own country is in New York—situated in the northeast corner, nearly a continent away from many of our national interests and from many millions of our population. By an odd coincidence, outside the daily press, the field of our national letters in magazine and book publication seems to be occupied not at all with individual impressions of truth from over the whole country, but with what may be called the New York truth.
The young American author in the Klondike or in San Francisco who desires to sit long before his subject and to reveal its hitherto unrecorded aspect must do so with the clear knowledge that the field of publication for him in the East is already filled by our old friend the New York Klondike, scarcely changed by the disappearance of one dog or sweater from the early days of the gold discoveries; and that no earthquake has shaken the New York San Francisco.
Of course we know, because she almost annually reassures the country on these points, that New York instantly welcomes all original and fresh writing arising from the remotest borders of the nation; and that in all these matters she is not and never possibly could be dull. Yet one can understand how the Klondike author, interested, as Mr. Galsworthy advises, in seeing an object in “the way that he alone can see it” and “with the part of him which makes him This man and not That,” might feel a trifle dashed by New York’s way of showing her love of originality in spending nearly all the money and energy her publishers and reviewers have in advertising and in praising authors as the sixteenth Kipling of the Klondike or the thirtieth O. Henry, of California. This is apt to be bewildering, too, for the readers of Mr. Kipling and O. Henry, who have enjoyed in the tales of each of these men the truth told “with the part of him which makes him This man and not That.” It is possible to understand, too, how the young author in San Francisco may feel that since New York’s consciousness of his city has remained virtually untouched for eight years by the greatest cataclysm of nature on our continent, perhaps she overrates the extreme swiftness and sensitiveness of her reaction to novel impression from without; and might conceivably not hear a story of heretofore unexpressed aspects of San Francisco told by the truthful voice of one young writer.
These are some of my own guesses as to why individual impressions of our national life are few and why they are not greatly in vogue in America. Whether they be poor or good guesses they represent one Middle Western reader’s observation of some of the actual difficulties that will have to be faced in America by the writer who by temperament desires to follow that golden and beautiful way of Flaubert’s, which Mr. Galsworthy has mentioned.
This writer will doubtless get from these difficulties far more fun than he ever could have had without them. They are suggested here in the pages of The Little Review, not at all with the idea of discouraging a single traveler from setting out on that splendid road, but rather as a step towards the beginning of that true and long comradeship with effort that is worth befriending which our felicitous English well-wisher hopes may be The Little Review’s abiding purpose.
“Henceforth I ask not Good Fortune: I, myself, am Good Fortune.”
Her life was late a new-built house—
Empty, with shining window panes,
Where neither sorrow nor carouse
Had left red stains.
A passing vagrant, least of men,
Entered and used; her hearth-fire shone.
She mellowed, he grew restless then—
Left her alone.
Now she is vacant as before,
Desolate through the weary whiles;
Yet play about the darkened door
Shadows of smiles.
Art and Life
George Burman Foster
Odium theologicum—it is a deadly thing. But the ridicule and obloquy, formerly characteristic of credal fanaticism, seem to have passed over in recent years into the camp of art connoisseurs. No denying it, it was a Homeric warfare that reverberated up and down the earth from land to land, and from century to century, between what was ever the “old” faith and the “new.” In this year of grace, however, it is the disciples of “classic” art—aureoled with the sanctity of some antiquity or idealism—and “modern” art—in whatever nuance or novelty of most disapproved and screaming modernity—who hereticize each other, who even deny each other right of domicile, save, perhaps, in the unvisited solitudes of interstellar spaces. To be sure, those august and frozen solitudes of the everlasting nothing may be conceivably preferable to the theological Inferno, though probably this question has not yet received the attention from critics and philanthropists that its importance would seem to merit.
At the outset it seemed as if the religious warfare had a certain advantage over the esthetic—it agitated more people, and seized men in their idiomatic and innermost interests, while, on the other side, but small and select circles participated in partisan questions and controversies respecting art. But it looks now as if it would soon be the other way around. The people face religious problems with less and less sympathy and understanding. But art, art of some kind and some degree, they are keenly alive as to that, and quick to appraise or to argue. The churches are ever emptier; the theatres, concert halls, museums, “movies,” ever fuller. A religious book—short of epoch-making—finds, at best, only a reluctant and panicky publisher; a new play, a new novel, see how many editions it passes through, how hard it is to draw at the libraries, even after the staff and all their friends and sweethearts have courteously had first chance at it!
Now, it is of no use to quarrel with this turn matters have taken. And we miss the mark if we say that it is all bad. Off moments come to the best of us when we grow a bit tired of being “uplifted” and “reformed.” Humanity has turned to art and, in doing so, has, on some side of its life, moved forward apace, mounted to higher modes of existence, and, whether the church knows it or not, along the steeps of Parnassus and in the home of the muses has heard some music and caught some glimpses of the not too distant fatherland of the divine and the eternal.
First-rate spirits of light and leading have pointed the way to a new esthetic culture—prophetic spirits who in blackest night when deep sleep had fallen upon most men saw the rosy-fingered dawn of our new day. It was to be a day when beauty should be bidden to lead the dance at the ball of life. There were serious philosophers—there was Kant, who contemplated art as the keystone in the sublime structure which modern knowledge and moral will should be summoned to erect in life. There was Schopenhauer, to whom art was the unveiling of the riddle of the world, the most intimate revelation of the divine mystery of life. There was the hero of Baireuth, who, in his artistic creations, summed up all the spiritual and moral forces of humanity, and made them fruitful for the rebirth and fruition of our modern day.
Among these prophets of a new esthetic culture, Friedrich Nietzsche occupies a quite special place, and influences the course of coming events. As a most enthusiastic apostle of the gospel of a world-redeeming art he first flung his fire-brand into the land, but only to scorn and blaspheme soon thereafter the very gods he had formerly so passionately worshipped; now degrading them to idols. His faith in art, not this art or that, but in all art, in art as such, pathetically wavered. Still the artist in him himself did not die; its eye was undimmed and its bow abode in strength. And though he later confronted every work of art with a malevolent and exasperating interrogation, all this was only his pure and pellucid soul wrestling for better and surer values, for new and nobler revelations, of the artistic genius. Indeed, it was precisely in these interrogations that he was at once our liberator and our leader—our liberator from the frenzy into which the overfoaming enthusiasm as regards art had transported men; our leader to a livelier, loftier beauty summoned to the creation of the humanest, divinest robes for the adornment of humanity as a whole.
The great movement and seething in the artistic life of our age signifies at the same time a turning point in our entire cultural life. This turning point discloses new perspective into vast illimitable distances where new victories are to be achieved by new struggles. The great diremption in our present world, making men sick and weak, calling for relaxation and convalescence, appears at a definite stage as the opposition between life and art. Life is serious, art is gay—so were we taught. Seriousness and gaiety—it was the fatality of our time that these could not be combined. So art and life were torn asunder. Art was no serious matter, no vital matter, satisfying a true and necessary human requirement. Art was a luxury, a sport, and since but few men were in a position to avail themselves of such luxury, art came to be the prerogative of a few rich people. Down at the bottom, in homes of want and misery, life’s tragedies were real and fearful; life was real, indeed, life was earnest, indeed; at the top, however, pleasures claimed the senses and thoughts of men; so much so, that even tragedies served but to amuse; tragedies were an illusion of the senses, not realities of life and pain. What God had joined together man had put asunder—and there was art without life, life without art, and both art and life suffering from ailments which neither understood.
There was a time when men worked, too, but it was a beautiful halcyon time, when pleasure and joy throbbed in the very heart of the work itself; when a sunny serenity suffused life’s profoundest seriousness. Art pervaded all life, active in all man’s activities, present in every nook and corner whither his vagrant feet wandered. Indeed, art was the very life of man, revealing his strength, his freedom, his creativeness, with which he fashioned things after his own image and according to his own likeness. Every craftsman was an artist, every peasant a poet. Man put his soul into all that he said and did, all that he lived; his work was a work of art, his speech a song, his life beauty. No man lived by bread alone; everyone heard and had a word that was the True Bread. His cathedrals—domes of many-colored glass—preached it to him; his actors sang it to him; even his priests were artists. With a sort of divine humor, man thus subjected to himself all the anxiety and need of life.
Then, later, man came to think that he could live by bread alone. Even the True Bread came to be mere bread—public influence; political power. And then man’s poor soul hungered. And when he longed for a Living Word that was not mere bread, he was given printer’s ink and the “sacred letter” of the Bible. But this—ah, this was no soul’s food. So the soul lost its soul. Then, as man had no soul to work with, he had to work with his head, his arms, his feet. Man ceased to be an artist who breathes his living soul into his life, an artist who illumined all the seriousness of life with the sunshine of his living love. Would he art, he could not make it, he had to buy it. Could he not buy it, he had to do without it. Thus, life became as jejune and rational as a Protestant service, where, to be sure, there was no priest more, but also no artist, only scribe and theologian—where religion became dogmatics, faith a sum in arithmetic, Christianity a documentarily deposited judicial process between God and man. To be sure, under certain circumstances, decoration and color, even pomp and magnificence, may be found in this church, but no living connection between the outward appearance of these churches and their inner and peculiar service. Thus, too, our private dwellings have lost living union between their appointments and their inmates. What all are curious to know about these houses is whether the men who dwell in them are rich or poor, not whether they have souls, and what lives in their souls, should they have any.
And because art had no soul of its own more, it became patronizing and mendicant—coquetting for the favors of the rich and powerful, sitting at their tables, perhaps even picking up the crumbs that fall beneath the tables. Art, ah, art sought bread—mere bread—and adopted the sorry principle that to get bread was the sacredest of all duties.
Art without life, life without art! Then came that mighty movement of spirits to bring art and life together again, to reconquer and recreate and reestablish a view of life in which man should learn to see and achieve beauty once yet again. Of that movement, Friedrich Nietzsche was the purest and intensest herald. Bold, fiery spirit, with words that burn, he uttered what had been for a long time a soul-burden of all deeper spirits. This burden of souls was that an art creation should go on in every human life as its highest and holiest calling; that, without the living effectuation of the artistic power of the human soul, all human culture would serve but beastliness and barbarity.
To this end our poet-philosopher returns to the Urgrund, the abyss of nature’s life, from whose mysterious deep all tempestuous, wild impulses tumble forth and struggle for form and expression in man. It is life which seeks death in order to renew itself in the painful pleasure of its destruction, perceived but then by man in the thrill of delight which prepares the way for his most original eternal revelation. To breed pleasure from pain; to suck forces of life from the most shocking tragedies; to eavesdrop on the brink of the abysmal so as to fashion sweet phantoms in the divine intoxication of the soul,—this is music, this is art, in this, man struggles beyond and above his whole contradictory nature, transfigures death, creates forms and figures in which he celebrates his self-redemption from seriousness, from the curse of existence. Here, at last, art is no sport, no fiddle-faddle, but at once highest and gayest seriousness. It returns from the service of death which it has performed, to its life, which it receives from “every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Herein lies the over-powering, the prophetic, in this Nietzschean preaching of art. It tells us that we are very far from comprehending life when we have but measured its length and breadth with yardstick and square; that nature is far different from what scholars have figured it out to be, or from what investigators have seen of it with telescope and microscope. It teaches us to listen to the old eternal murmurs of the spirit, whose sigh we hear indeed, but whence it comes and whither it goes we never know—murmurs and sighs which bring forth the elementary forces, instincts, passions, and friendships in man, which men fashion and shape, regulate and direct indeed, but whose coming and going, whose ebbing and flowing, is not within their power. Inspiration, divine in-breathing—a dead concept as applied by theologians to their Bible—comes into its own again in human nature as a whole, it is the true element in man’s life, by virtue of which the soul feels within itself a creative life—its own proof that its dependence is no slave-service, but freedom; that its deepest suffering of pain is itself creative life, creative pleasure.
Is it, now, the tragic fatality of a sick soul, is it the demoniac play of a spirit of negation when precisely the very preacher of this grandiose art-prophecy goes astray in his own preaching, when he finally thrusts it from him, with shrill laughter? The poet-philosopher begins to think concerning his preaching! Art makes the thinker’s heart heavy! Art ever speaks a language which thought cannot express. Art strikes chords in the human heart, and there are at once intimations of a Beyond of all thought. And the thinker of today has bidden good-bye to every Beyond of his thought. Nothing unthinkable was to be left for the feelings. So the thinker felt a stab in every art for his thinker’s heart, a doubt whether he should hold fast to the incomprehensible or sell himself to the devil of the universally comprehensible. And this doubt becomes an open confession of sin in the Zarathustra poesy: poets—and Zarathustra himself was a poet—lie too much! It is adulterated wine which they set before the thirsty. They muddy all their streams so that they shall appear deep. Into the kingdom of clouds they go, and build their air-castles on all too airy foundations. Thus, Zarathustra, poet, grows weary of their lies; he is a bit tired even of himself. And so, now, this doubt-respecting art slips into the soul of even its most enthusiastic prophets—nor are they the worst artists at whose souls these doubts gnaw! To create a beautiful culture in which man shall receive a higher revelation of life, and mount to a higher stage of his development, to this, art which receives its consecration in dizziness and dream, is not yet called. In fact, these artists do lie too much! They seek life indeed, they hunger for life; but, because life is too living to them, too natural, they create an artificial glow in whose heat they think they first have life. Thus, the second deception becomes worse than the first. The devil of matter-of-fact prose is driven out by the beelzebub of over-stimulated nerves, and men flee from the monotony of every-day life to the refinement of sensibility, which art shall superinduce. Poets do lie too much, not because they tell us fairy tales—fairy tales could be the beautifulest, holiest truths! But because they simulate feelings they do not have—feelings which arise in them not naturally but narcotically! Sculptors, painters, do lie too much, not because they create forms and colors which no man’s eyes have ever seen, but because they create their own selves unfaithfully—an alien life which they have somewhere inoculated themselves with and given out as their own. Even architects lie too much, because they compel their works to speak a foreign language, as if stone should be ashamed to speak as stone, wood as wood, iron as iron!
The Nietzschean doubt respecting art—today this has become a demand for truth in art and for truthfulness in the artist! And from these a third—the demand for simplicity! And all this is of a piece with the purpose to live a simple life.
Man does not live by bread alone. It is a living question for the sake of future humanity that our art shall give the True Bread to the heart of man, so that we may form a life in us and around us, a life whereon shall not repose the dead weight of a culture artificially burdened with a thousand anxieties and cares, but a life wherein man shall breathe freer, because he breathes the fresh free air of life itself. Beautiful life, artistic culture; this means the opposite of what many mean by it today—it means, not upholstered chairs, not more cushions and carpets, not motlier pictures on the walls, and not a pleroma of all varieties of ornaments overloading stands and tables, but it means a life full of soul, warm with the sunshine of love, it means that all man does, all that environs him, shall find through eye and ear the mystic pathway to the heart, to bear witness there of a joy and an ardor, of a freedom and a truth, inspiring men to cry: It is good to be here, let us build tabernacles! For such beautiful life, so little is required, yet so much! So little sumptuousness, so much soul! So little money, so much man!
ON THE “7:50”
As you go in and out upon the train,
You’re always reading poetry?
At first it slightly did embarrass me
To have the people stare,
Like you, over my shoulder,
Catching, as it were, a sudden flashing thigh,
Or gleam of sunlight on a truth laid bare,
Then sizing me up from the tail of the eye.
I used to shield the books, and myself, too,
But now I have grown bolder—I don’t care …
They say this morning train from Lake Forest to Chicago
Carries more money, more living money
Than any train of its length and size in the world.
There’s the Club car, for Bridge, and then the Smoker,
And four or five other coaches.
It makes one feel rich merely to ride upon it …
No, it’s not Keats or Shelley—yes, well enough,
But these are living.
I like them young and strenuous,
And when I find one that has done with lies,
I send a word …
DeWitt C. Wing
Your enthusiastic welcome of Change, published in the April number of The Little Review, compelled me to see the play, and I hasten to report a memorable evening. Have you ever heard the hard, sharp, battering, hammering of an electric riveter used on a steel bridge? Change has a punch like that, and every punch is a puncture. No kind of orthodoxy can resist it.
I have never spent a dozy moment in the Fine Arts Theatre. I shall never forget Candida, Hindle Wakes, Miles Dixon, Prunella, Change, and other dramas and tragedies that I have witnessed there. I shall not even forget Cowards. Chicago some day will reproduce and expand the truth which a dozen plays have driven into the souls of people who have sat in that beautiful little room. Whatever the commercial outcome of an attempt to present beauty and truth as expressions of life, the management has already achieved a noble success. Hundreds of men and women will always remember the Fine Arts Theatre as an inner shrine of authentic art, where the furthermost reaches of the human spirit in the fiction of plays have touched and quickened the heart of reality.
Change represents an ever-new voice rising above the rattle of inevitable dogma and decay. It rings true to life. Even its name is profoundly appropriate as a label for an inexorable law. If a play reveals splendid thinking I am almost indifferent to what in that case becomes largely the incident of acting, for to be engrossed in enforced thought is to lose that narrow vision of the outward eye which merely looks on a performance. One is not then an onlooker but a discoverer. Change was hard, subtle thinking plus admirable interpretative acting. Like the Irish and English players who have appeared in the Fine Arts Theatre, the Welsh company who recently gave us this trenchant criticism of life endowed the word “acting” with a fresh significance. One does not think of them as players; they impress one as re-livers of the life that they portray. That is art of a high order. If we Americans are proud of our wealth and wonders, we must bow in humility when we consider that the biggest plays that we have seen and the best acting that we have witnessed are not of domestic authorship. They are imported, and we have enjoyed them at the Fine Arts Theatre in Chicago.
Change is in four acts, written by J. O. Francis. It was awarded the prize offered by the Incorporated Stage Society of London for the best play of the season. The scene is in a cottage on the Twmp, Aberpandy, in South Wales. The time is the present. A tragic change occurs in a family, whose head was a collier. It is a kind of drama that might inspire the private regret that the tragic martyrdom of Christian fanatics is no longer in vogue, and offers a species of justification of summarily removing human obstacles. Who among real men wouldn’t have an impulse to take an active hand in ridding life of a suppressive old barnacle like John Price? He and his conscience and his God stood against the primal law of change, with blind passion and colossal selfishness. If his sons John Henry and Lewis had mangled him I should have admired their passion. Gwen Price, the wife and mother, suffered more than all because she was capable of suffering; I did not wish a change on her account; she was a woman. Her suffering and weakness were her triumph and strength. Besides, she was not at war with life as she saw it in her sons. Her love was great and wise enough to confer tragic beauty and adorn a soul; that kind of love is the supreme religion.
What John Price felt and expressed as religion was a contemptible mental narrowness and spiritual poverty; a counterfeit religion based upon fear and hardened by ceremonial practice. Its one virtue was that it offered the most formidable opposition to the unfolding of manhood in two young men. Youth is ever pushing its entangled feet down against the hard substrata of anterior generations. Too often it is stuck and gradually smothered in the upper mud, which solidifies as insidiously as it forms. A man who can be held by dying or dead impedimenta is himself dead. A man who struggles out and stands triumphant upon it, with the antennae of his being reaching up and out for the widest and finest contacts, fulfills destiny by adding a golden grain of solid value on which a succeeding aspirant for a larger life may stand that much higher on the old foundation. The man who conforms, remains in and a part of the common level, plastically flattens out like dough under a rolling pin, merely fulfills the law of the indestructibility of matter and the conservation of mass. Whereas youth’s great dream is symbolized by the over-topping king of the forest, standing stiff-spined and straight upon the old earth, its head in rare aloofness, the ease-lover functions as a lowly parasite.
With wild winged thoughts of which these remarks are vague memories I took Change in my consciousness from the theatre. No thoughtful person could have returned unchanged from the playhouse. The transitoriness of religions, institutions, customs, and all other so-called fixtures which constitute modern civilization is the tremendous fact that makes Change a powerful supplement to social forces. Of course to the modern mind the idea is already old, but to the primitive majority it is a prophecy.
The author tempered his mild radicalism with the hard-headed sagacity of Sam Thatcher, a one-armed pointsman, who, while unintellectually aware of the changelessness of change, “figured it out” that life is cyclic; that as experience broadens the attitudes of men they lose their little individualities in a common resignation, defeat, and decay, which to him meant contentment. “I’ve been round the world some—round and round. That’s how things go—round and round—I know, round and round.” Sam thus epitomized an old theory which has so many supporters that it must be wrong. But if we do not go “round and round” in what direction do we go? Nobody knows. If our movement is circular there is the desperate possibility of sufficient momentum to gain new territory by virtue of centrifugal force. We can at least make the circle larger. Races have bloomed, fruited, and passed; planets have shone for an abbreviated eternity and disappeared; baffling facts about life-forms upon the earth have come to light. Our conscious life is young, densely ignorant, and full of pain; our instinctive life is ageless, has perfected its knowledge and can endure, as it has endured, the aeons of change. We shall some day get the idea of change into our consciousness.
Unthinkingly one might regret that Sam was clever enough to sway back toward dogma those wavering minds which might otherwise have yielded to the drama’s punches. But his pathetically amusing romance should have made it clear to respectable auditors flirting with new ideas that he was not a competent critic of their particular class-slice of life. What he said was reassuring, assuaging, brilliantly trite, and an untroubled mind would take it and reject the austere, burning truth of the essential message of the play.
“Naught may endure but mutability”: Shelley thus expressed what every educated man knows. Change is the unvarying order, and yet we are constitutionally averse to it. Comfortable people dislike it. “All great natures love stability.” Why do we make John Prices of ourselves? (I think that H. G. Wells, more than any other literary man, has lived in consonance with the law of change.) An expanding knowledge precludes constancy. All John Prices are obscurantists. Convictions and blind faith based upon glorified ignorance have for thousands of years encysted, cramped, and twisted personal life, but somehow it has burst through the fetters and arrayed itself for successive struggles. Analyzing what we see and know, and confessing what we think we feel, we have the ancient riddle before us. We applaud a play like Change, but seek security and stability in every relationship. Eventually every man must feel what Rousseau wrote: “Everything in this world is a tangled yarn; we taste nothing in its purity, we do not remain two moments in the same state. Our affections, as well as bodies, are in perpetual flux.” Maybe Sam Thatcher was wise, but if we knew that our life were cyclic the joy of it to us would cease. The wiser man does not know so much as Sam professed, but his endless endeavor is to try to know more. The law of change, which he sees enforced everywhere, increases his insatiability.
It is ultimate questions to which Change gives rise, and to such questions there are no satisfactory answers. The social value of the play lies in the graphic clearness with which it illustrates the slow but epochal shifts that are always under way in thinking individuals, families, and nations.
There is no Rock of Ages in the land of courageous knowledge. Nothing endures but mutability. The purpose of a play like Change is to open the inner mind to this glorious truth, so that with a fortitude born of understanding we may accept misfortune, calamity, and death as the effects of unalterable law, and not as donated penalties or inscrutable accidents. Poise, power, and personality are the fruits of this attitude toward change, and whoever achieves these has climbed out of the “reddest hell”
Armoured and militant,
New-pithed, new-souled, new-visioned, up the steeps
To those great altitudes whereat the weak
The Vision of Wells
I should like to set “M. M.’s” mind at rest about H. G. Wells, but I can’t quite understand what her objection to him really is. She seems to be in what the charming little old Victorian lady would have called “a state of mind.” Something about Wells annoys her; she hasn’t thought it out clearly, but she raps Wells wherever she can get at him, as a sort of personal revenge for her discomfort.
Suppose, for the sake of argument, that the passage she quotes from the hero really represents Wells’s feeling about the relations between the sexes. He believes that “under existing conditions” there is always danger of love between men and women unless the man has one sole woman intimate, and lets “a superficial friendship toward all other women veil impassable abysses of separation.” “M. M.” wisely admits the truth of that—in fact, it’s the most obvious of truisms. Then the hero—or Wells—goes on to say that this, to him, is an intolerable state of affairs. For this “M. M.” calls him “wicked,” and “Mr. M. M.” accuses him of not being busy enough, and of not working for a living.
I wonder if “M. M.” stopped to think exactly why the hero considers this an intolerable state of affairs. The statement means nothing more than that the man would like to have intimate friendships with more than one woman. He doesn’t say he wants to love more than one woman. Well, it is easily conceivable that a man of active mind and companionability would like to have some degree of intimacy with various women. There doesn’t seem to be anything wicked about that, and it’s possible that he should feel so even if he was “working for a living.” If we confine ourselves to one intimacy, we’re likely to lose the full relish of it before many years. The thought of that is certainly intolerable. A man who is close to a good many people is usually better fitted to appreciate his best friend. A woman novelist who has a conspicuously successful marriage put it well the other day. “If you go into a room where there is a bunch of violets,” she said, “you are charmed by the odor. If you stay in the room all the time, you forget about the odor—or it bores you. But if you are continually going out and coming in again, it greets you every time, and you learn to appreciate its subtleties.” Perhaps “M. M.” thinks that reason is begging the question. Well, take the other side. Any human being who is expanding has an insatiable desire for new experience, new knowledge. That is the healthiest instinct in mankind. Such a person would naturally fret at the inability to be intimate with a new acquaintance who interests him. That feeling would not be wicked; it would be right, by any sane standard.
Forgive the blatant obviousness of all this. But I’m bent on carrying through the discussion to the end. Granted, then, that our hero’s feeling is not intrinsically wicked—what then? He faces a dilemma. Either he must run the risk of a new love affair, or—and this, I think, escaped “M. M.”—present conditions must be changed. If he has a new love affair, he is at the least violating the Victorian lady’s conventional morality, which says that every man must love not more than one woman as long as that woman lives. We come then to an extremely vital problem. On the one hand, is conventional morality desirable? On the other, can present conditions be so changed as to eliminate the danger? The solution of that problem is of great importance to anyone interested in human beings. If it can’t be solved, it means that the man or woman must quench a right and healthy instinct along whichever line he or she chooses. And that’s a bit of pessimism which a warm-hearted man like H. G. Wells doesn’t want to accept without further investigation. That’s the reason he wrote The Passionate Friends. He is engaged in the noble endeavor to do something at least toward freeing the great spirit of mankind from the network in which it is enmeshed. The history of that struggle is the history of human progress.
Perhaps it isn’t necessary further to defend Mr. Wells for the sort of novels he writes. But I’d like to offer an illustration of the difference between Wells and the old-fashioned novelist. The old writer started with the conviction that certain laws and fundamental conditions were forever fixed, and must limit the destinies of his characters. He then works out his little story according to rules, and gets his effect by arousing in us pity for the misfortunes, hatred for the sins, and joy for the virtuous triumphs of his people. The tendency of the whole was to show us once more what the eternal verities were—and the result was highly “moral.” Every character was an object lesson. Wells, on the other hand, is not a preacher, but a scientist. He starts with the conviction that, through lack of impartial investigation, we don’t really know what the eternal verities are, or what power can be derived from them. His attitude is as far from the old writers’ as is Mme. Curie’s from the alchemists’. He attempts to free his mind from every prejudice. Then he begins his experiment, puts his characters in their retort under “controlled conditions,” and watches what happens. What his characters do corresponds to fact as well as his trained mind can make it. The result may be negative or positive—but at least it is true, and, like all truth, it is really valuable.
“M. M.” prejudges the case when she talks about denial, and building up character, and loyalty, and unselfishness. These things may demand her conclusion, and again they may not. At best they are means to an end. She may be right. But Wells is going ahead to find out. He isn’t arguing for anything. We may be denying something we ought to have; we may be building the wrong kind of character; we may be loyal to a false principle; we may be unselfish with evil result. But if we cease to becloud the issue, and watch carefully the experiment of Mr. Wells and his followers, we shall know more about it than we do.
And, for a general toning of her mind, I should like to ask “M. M.” to read The Death of Eve, by William Vaughn Moody, to pay particular attention to the majestic song of Eve in the garden, and after she has felt the tremendous impulse of that line—
Whoso denyeth aught, let him depart from here
to turn back to her words about denial, and see whether she still thinks denial is always synonymous with strength.
It is with no desire to be carping that I offer this criticism of The Dark Flower, for I, too, am a devoted disciple who hangs on the master’s lips; but being a skeptical modern woman withal, I am not abject. Perhaps we should be satisfied with what Galsworthy has given us—this searching vision into the soul of a rarely sensitive man. The writing of it—what we term style—is beyond doubt Galsworthy’s most distinguished performance, far more poetical than any of his verse. Its material is invaluable for its sheer honesty as well as its sheer beauty. Its reality and intimacy are grippingly poignant. And yet how account for the pain of futility which sweeps over you as you close the book, drowning for the time the ecstasy of high joy in all its beauty? It is as if the heavy aroma of autumn’s decay had invaded a garden in early spring.
Yes, there is something essentially futile about The Dark Flower. It lies so hidden in the warp and woof of the whole fabric that the casual reader passes it over unseen. I can best explain by referring to the novel itself. Each of the three episodes deals with Mark Lennan’s passion for a woman: in his youth for an older woman, in his maturity for a woman his own age, in his approaching autumn for a young girl. And in all three passion—the great primal force—is made an illicit emotion. In the first two episodes the women are married; in the last, Lennan is. It is scarcely by chance that Lennan’s loves were unlawful; on the contrary, a symbolic significance seems to be intended, that passion is natural, free, coming and going by tides unbound by man’s will or law. But if that was Galsworthy’s aim, he has run an unnecessary stretch beyond his goal. By his over-emphasis, passion becomes purposefully illicit, voluntarily seeking out the forbidden object and the secret passage. And instead of being the priceless inheritance from a free God, passion becomes an ailment laid upon us by some designing fate.
And now glance at the dénouement of each episode. In the first it is the woman who closes the little drama; Mark merely watches her go. In the second the woman’s husband kills her, and Mark is left dazed. In the last his wife steps in and turns the current of events. Always an extraneous force makes the decision for him. He is never permitted to grapple with the situation created. Galsworthy forever extricates him. Not once is his passion allowed to run its course. Each experience is abortive. If I had been Mark Lennan I should have been tempted to curse the meddling fate that insisted upon rescuing me just before I jumped.
No, a woman would not have had her perfect moment with Mark Lennan, but only the promise of it.
Mark is a futile person; his love life a procession of futile experiences. But in spite of its futility it is an exquisite record for which I whole-heartedly give thanks.
M. H. P.’s remarks in “The Critics’ Critic” of the April number of The Little Review on Dr. George Burman Foster’s paper entitled “The Prophet of a New Culture” in the March issue induced me to give that notable article a third reading. M. H. P. says “… there’s … too much enthusiasm to be borne out by what he actually says,” and then asks the author, “Won’t you forget a little of this sound and fury and tell us as simply as you can just what it is that you want us to do?” This obviously tired and disturbed “critic” continues: “… I have a feeling that pure enthusiasm, wasting itself in little geysers, is intrinsically ridiculous. Enthusiasm should grow trees and put magic in violets—and that can’t be done with undue quickness, or in any but the most simple way. Nobody cares about the sap except for what it does.”
This irrelevant criticism is an intellectually lazy protest of a sensuous, self-styled “healthy” person blundering through an interpretative analysis of hard, serious thought, expecting to find a program or a plan, cut and dried, ready for the seekers of a new culture. Dr. Foster properly avoided making any definite proposals based upon his study of Nietzsche. With a contagious enthusiasm he wrote his own response to Nietzsche’s attitude toward the universe. To condemn his animation is barbaric stupidity. He probably was not conscious when he wrote the paper that anybody wanted him to outline in desiccated phrases a scheme to crystallize the Nietzschean philosophy into personal or social action. He was fired by his subject, and his function—I do not say his purpose—was to spread the flame. The depths of feeling must be reached before action can be more than an abortion of the mind. Dr. Foster’s serious, almost sad, enthusiasm, makes the spirit of Nietzsche arouse feeling, and feeling underlies every organic social action. It is not what he “actually says” but what Nietzsche says to him that explains and justifies Dr. Foster’s enthusiasm.
An incoherent generalization like “pure enthusiasm wasting itself in little geysers is intrinsically ridiculous” is a part of the typical literary method of veneering ignorance or prejudices. For a critic who asks “what is it that you want us to do?” which is the desperate voice of an imitationist, and then talks glibly of “pure enthusiasm,” which is gaseous rhetoric, I have neither respect nor compassion. What is “pure enthusiasm”?
M. H. P.’s objection to “sound and fury,” which he associates with “political speeches” “for a major prophet,” clearly is attributable to a temperamental inability to understand Nietzsche or emotionally to respond to his dynamic appeal to intelligence. A “healthy” critic—was there ever one?—is a myth, or a morbidly self-conscious person whose striving after “healthy” attitudes is an infallible sign of disease at the top. Such a person is pathologically interesting, but in the realm of philosophical criticism he is incompetent. I should expect him to demand that “enthusiasm should grow trees and put magic in violets”—which is a ridiculous horticulture. To limit enthusiasm to so definite a purpose as this is to affect a poetic attitude whose labored simplicity has nothing in common with the magic of violets.
Your critic, who has a mania for “the most simple way,” is aware of his own amorphous complexity, and demands that thinkers and writers be specific, calm, easy, leisurely, “healthy,” and lucid, thereby economizing his unhealthy distress. For him, Nietzsche has no message, and upon him Dr. Foster’s enthusiasm is wasted. To him “sound and fury” exist where to Nietzsche’s “preordained readers” there is the new music of truth. It is that deep harmony which ran in legitimate fury through the remarkable article contributed by Dr. Foster. “Nietzsche was a Knight of the Future.” This sentence from the article bears interestingly upon M. H. P.’s allegation of “undue quickness” in what the author expects from the adoption of the Nietzschean view of life. As for nobody caring about the sap, I should say that if he have an enthusiasm for growing trees and putting magic in violets he will, perforce, have that care for the sap which conditions the strength of the tree and the magic of the violet. Nietzsche’s superman is not to be achieved in a society that cares nothing about the sap.
Whoever reads Nietzsche and Whitman “slowly, profoundly, attentively, prudently, with inner thoughts, with mental doors ajar, with delicate fingers and eyes,” will be better qualified than M. H. P. to serve as a critic of articles like Dr. Foster’s. Why not call it “the critics’ gossip”?
DeWitt C. Wing.
H. G. Wells’s Man of the Future
In a little while he will reach out to the other planets, and take the greater fire, the sun, into his service. He will bring his solvent intelligence to bear upon the riddles of his individual interaction, transmute jealousy and every passion, control his own increase, select and breed for his embodiment a continually finer and stronger and wiser race. What none of us can think or will, save in a disconnected partiality, he will think and will collectively. Already some of us feel our merger with that greater life. There come moments when the thing shines out upon our thoughts. Sometimes in the dark, sleepless solitudes of night one ceases to be so-and-so, one ceases to bear a proper name, forgets one’s quarrels and vanities, forgives and understands one’s enemies and oneself, as one forgives and understands the quarrels of little children, knowing oneself indeed to be a being greater than one’s personal accidents, knowing oneself for Man on his planet, flying swiftly to unmeasured destinies through the starry stillnesses of space.—H. G. Wells in Social Forces in England and America.
Paris, the iridescent dream of every struggling art student on the round world; Paris the sophisticated, the most provincial of all cities—as provincial as Athens of old in the sense that she is complacently sufficient to herself and all the world else may wag as it will, since she cares for nothing that does not happen on a few square miles of soil beside the Seine; Paris the proud, the difficult;—Paris has recently done the one thing that could be surprising from her. She has laid aside her prejudices and her pride and has awarded to a foreigner—and that foreigner an American—the most coveted prize in the whole realm of painting. She has given to Lawton Parker of Chicago the first medal at the Old Salon.
Hitherto it has been an unwritten law that the first medal was not to go out of France. The most ambitious American student, dreaming in his little atelier high up among the pigeons, over fifty centimes’ worth of roast rabbit from the rôtisserie and a glass of vin ordinaire, never has dared even to dream of a first medal. A second has been the height of his wildest hopes. Ten times only since the foundation of the Old Salon has a second medal, of which more than one is given each year, been awarded to an American. Sargent had one. Mary Green Blumenschein, H. O. Tanner, Manuel Barthold, Robert Mac Cameron, Aston Knight, the son of Ridgeway Knight, and Richard E. Miller are among the others so honored. Gari Melchers and Frederick MacMonnies have had a third medal.
Now Lawton Parker has carried off the first! Even for a Frenchman this is an extraordinary honor. It is kept for paintings of most unusual merit, and often no work of the many thousands submitted is considered worthy of the honor. At least four Salons have passed without the award being made at all.
The painting with which Mr. Parker has enchanted Paris is called Paresse, or Indolence. It is a picture of a nude model resting on a couch. She lies perfectly relaxed, her body twisted a little and one arm raised behind her head. The delicate flesh tones are outlined against pale draperies, mauve, gray, and light yellow. The whole composition is in a very high key, the red hair of the girl being the strongest note in the picture.
But it is the lighting which seems most strongly to have impressed the French critics. More than forty reviews in Europe have contained favorable accounts of this painting, and they have been unanimous in their praise of the effects of lighting. Indeed, they have almost exhausted the vocabulary in their efforts to describe it. It is the light of a gray day filtered through a Venetian blind, and the picture’s most puissant charm lies in the way Mr. Parker has caught the delicate and subtle values of this lighting. “Delicate, nebulous, pale, sifted, intimate, tender, harmonious”—these are some of the adjectives used by the French reviewers to describe it.
All this is, however, built on a foundation of solid knowledge. Mr. Parker is an excellent draughtsman and understands thoroughly the possibilities and limitations of his medium. He has long been known among the artists in the Quarter as the most scientific of them all. The chemical composition of the colors, their action and interaction, and the result of time on their brilliancy—these Mr. Parker has studied minutely. It is a subject with which the old masters were thoroughly familiar, but which painters of today too often neglect.
Sanity is one of the chief characteristics of Mr. Parker’s work. This is a day of extravagance, of cutting loose from all ties that bind us to the past. In Paris the academies are virtually emptied of students, that the young men may search for individuality in their own little ateliers. The Cubists and the Futurists are the flowering of the tree of experimentation that has thrust its roots even into the most academic of sanctuaries. Many a promising young man has lost his head entirely. But Lawton Parker has succeeded in keeping his.
He has gone forward with his day, but not blindly. He has carefully tested each step as he came to it, and has stopped short where sanity stopped. The old virtues of draughtsmanship, composition, and color he has kept. But he has added thereto the modern discoveries in the treatment of light.
He and his colleagues, the little group of painters called the Giverny school, are already known as Luminists. Frederick C. Frieseke, Richard E. Miller, and Karl Anderson belong to this group. During the summer months they paint at the beautiful little village of Giverny. They experiment with light in all its possible manifestations. Frieseke and Parker have an open-air studio together, a “water-garden” traversed by a little brook. Here on warm days they paint beautiful opalescent nudes in the sunlight, among the shimmering greens of the leaves or beside the luminous water surfaces. All who have followed the exhibitions in France or even in America during the last few years are familiar with this “nymph pasture,” as it has been wittily called. It was here that the prize picture was painted—but not on warm, sunny days. A year ago it rained all summer, and in desperation Mr. Parker resorted to an indoor canvas, executed in the house adjoining. It was painted with extreme care. One comparatively unimportant part of the canvas, a bit of wall space, he painted over twelve or fifteen times to get just the precise shade he wanted. This painting is now on exhibition in this country.
Lawton Parker’s canvases in his Giverny style are interesting technically. On a foundation of very careful drawing they are handled with great freedom of execution. The brush work is loose and vigorous, the paint being laid on thickly, especially in the background. The flesh is painted more closely, always with great subtlety in the values. A nude body in the shade flecked with spots of brilliant sunlight is a favorite and very difficult subject, in which this subtlety is well shown. The color is excellent, at times, as in the prize picture, very delicate and carefully harmonized; at times dealing successfully with great splashes of autumn leaves or the vivid green of spring foliage. The composition is pleasing.
Mr. Parker is not by any means limited to this style. Indeed, it is in another and quite different character that he is best known in this country. As a portrait painter his work has for a number of years been gaining steadily in popularity. Many prominent people have sat for him, including President Harry Pratt Judson, Judge Peter S. Grosscup, Martin Ryerson, Mrs. Leonard Wood, and Mrs. N. W. Harris.
This portrait style of Mr. Parker’s is very different from his Giverny style. He developed it much earlier in his career, but still uses it on occasion. The difference is one of psychological viewpoint rather than of technic. A portrait, he feels, should be a livable presentation of the subject. It is not a picture to be looked at casually and passed by, but a work to be lived with intimately for long spaces of time. The exceptions are, of course, those portraits of well-known men and women which are to hang in public places. Generally speaking, he paints his portraits in color schemes that will wear well, in a rather low key, with neutral backgrounds. These likenesses are solid, dignified, and simple. To catch the individuality of the sitter is of more importance to him than to paint a striking canvas. That his portraits are successful technically is proved by the fact that he has taken a number of prizes with them, both here and abroad.
Lawton Parker was born at Fairfield, Michigan, in 1868, but spent his early youth in Kearney, Nebraska. When he took up seriously the study of painting he moved to Chicago, which has since remained his pied-à-terre in this country. He studied and taught at the Art Institute there. Later he went to New York, where, in 1897, he took the “Paris Prize” founded by John Armstrong Chaloner: a five years’ scholarship abroad. In Paris he studied under Gerome, Whistler, and Jean Paul Laurens. In 1899 he took the “Prix d’atelier” at the Beaux Arts. In 1900 he received honorable mention at the Old Salon with a nude; in 1902 a third medal, on a portrait. Four years ago he missed by three votes a second medal, which was fortunate for him, since the first cannot be awarded a painter who has received a second.
He has also received medals from the Chicago Society of Artists, the St. Louis Exposition, and the International Exhibition in Munich in 1905.
All lovers of art in this country, as well as the painters themselves, should thank Mr. Parker for having opened the way in Paris for so unprecedented an honor.
It is rhythm that makes music, that makes poetry, that makes pictures; what we are all after is rhythm, and the whole of the young man’s life is going to a tune as he walks home, to the same tune as the stars are going over his head. All things are singing together.—George Moore in Memoirs of My Dead Self.
Pavlowa and her Russian dancers have just finished their tour here in a high tide of enthusiasm,—and financial success, which is worth mentioning because it means other tours next year. There is a whisper that we shall see a ballet still more important which hasn’t hitherto been coaxed west of London and Paris. Only a little of the new art-form now being developed by Fokine, Diaghilev, Bakst, Rimski-Korsakoff, and the rest of the great Russian romanticists of the stage, has come to us. But the important fact is that America, as always behind Europe in seeing new ideas that are not mechanical, is at last waking up to the dance as an art on equal terms with the greatest.
It is curious, but not comforting, to know that in this case the original inspiration came from Illinois. My authority is Troy Kinney, who is, without question, our best-informed critic of dancing outside of the performers and choregraphers themselves. Mr. Kinney tells me that after Isadora Duncan failed to arouse much interest in America she went to Europe, leaving a trail of heated discussion there. When she reached St. Petersburg the head of the imperial academy, Fokine, saw the vision of a renaissance of the dance from its classic sterility. He gathered about him the group of dancers whose names are now known around the world, and persuaded them to desert the imperial academy, which clung to the formalism of the old French and Italian ballet. Artists and musicians were attracted to the movement. This proceeding was quite as daring as it would have been for the superintendent of the United States Naval Academy to desert with part of his faculty and the best of the middies. But Diaghilev espoused their cause and persuaded the government not to punish them, but to let them work out their ideas and then make themselves useful politically by showing western Europe that Russia was not as barbarous as was generally supposed. They are now fully recognized in St. Petersburg and Fokine is again head of the academy.
On the basis of the old formal steps and positions Fokine built a freer structure of movement whose chief aim is not virtuosity or pure beauty of line, but expression. In this new style more modern music was not only possible, but necessary. Meanwhile, setting and costume of the most imaginative type—often futuristic—had to be developed. They all set to work with an ardor possible only to tradition-breakers and are producing an art which is likely to achieve the supreme place first dreamed of by the inventors of modern opera.
Here is another keenly interesting relation brought to light by Mr. Kinney. Everybody knows, of course, that opera was begun during the Renaissance as an attempt to revive the Greek drama. It now appears that in our present Renaissance the revived ballet is probably much nearer the highest form of Greek drama than opera or anything else ever has been. The early drama of Athens, according to Mme. Nelidoff of Moscow, consisted largely of pantomime, dance, and chorus. Words were introduced for the literal-minded. As the size of theatres increased, the actors came to use megaphones, to conceal which the mask was invented. The masks were made larger and heavier to add to the height. With this handicap to dancing, the actor had to depend more on his voice and stature; and the elaborate dialogue, combined with the high heels of the cothurnus, gave dancing its final blow. This kind of drama, says Mme. Nelidoff, appealed largely to the less imaginative and uncultivated, on account of their desire to know in detail what was going on. The other kind, however, continued being developed for smaller audiences, and retained its purer beauty of form in space, sound, and thought. We have little record of it outside of sculpture simply because there were few words, and a choregraphic vocabulary had not been invented. We have almost no record of Greek music, either. It is a bit shocking to think that Aeschylus and Sophocles were, perhaps, contributors to an inferior art, but there seem to be grounds for the ingenious theory.
Everyone who has been to a “movie show” knows how effective even crude pantomime can be. But make your pantomime a portrayal of moods and emotions rather than of events, give it visual beauty which will occasionally wring tears from anyone sensitive to line, and accompany it with music whose most complex rhythm and harmonic color are intensified by the stage picture, and you have an expression on a plane of the imagination where the introduction of a spoken word is like the creak of a piano pedal. If we can’t lead the people back from the movies to “plays,” can’t we give them the modern ballet?
That is exactly what Kinney proposes. He wants a National Academy for America, with resources equal to the backing of the Metropolitan Opera House. Big managers and opera authorities have already admitted that such an undertaking would, if properly managed, be successful. Compared with the present interest in good ballet the interest in good music with which Theodore Thomas started, was nothing. But it is a miracle if America does a thing like that in the right way. Our princes have, as a rule, neither good taste nor much public spirit. Our race of artists—thinkers—mental heroes—is small and largely uncourageous. Our government accurately represents the most of our people, who still regard art either as immoral or entertaining and hence not worth the attention of sensible people.
How bitterly we need missionaries like The Little Review and the people who feel the same spirit! But our case is far from hopeless. The good fighters among us are glad there is a lot still to do. Such visions give strength to our hewing arms as we cry room for our new images.
The men who are cursed with the gift of the literal mind are the unfortunate ones who are always busy with their nets and neglect the fishing.—Rabindranath Tagore in Sadhana.
Henry Blackman Sell
“We have granted the miners every union demand,” benevolently asserts the remarkable J. D. R., Jr., “but we will not recognize their organization”—and here is the hitch. The average lay observer of the fearful struggle raging in Colorado tosses aside his paper after reading this, and possibly comments that he can’t see what the miners want, if all the union privileges have been granted.
That was my first thought, but I felt that there must be something behind the trouble; so I hunted out my old friend Tony Exposito, a walking delegate for Chicago’s pick-and-shovel men, and asked him to explain.
Now Tony never took a degree, and his English is reminiscent of sunny Italy, but he knows just what the trouble is in Colorado.
“Eh? You wanta know what ees matta downa there? Eh? Meester Rokefella say he geeve union preeveleg to all da men? Eh? Meester Rokefella say begess shara men no wanta strike? Eh? He geeve many thengs to da men? Sure! Sure! He geeve many thengs! He geeve many preeveleg! Sure! He geeve! Das justa trubble! Das why da men go strike! No wanta thengs be geeva to them. Santa Maria! when a man breaka hees back en wear da skeen off hees hans wet da pick en da shovel, hasn’ he gotta right to da money he gets? Eh? Now, w’at you theenka dat? Eh?”
“Well, Tony,” I answered, “I never thought of it that way. It does seem as though a man might have what he earns without its being handed to him as if it were a charity.”
“Sure! Sure!” cut in the impetuous Tony. “Sure! das da theng—charety! Meester Rokefella, he say, ‘Coma here, leetle slave, nica leetle slave, coma here;’ en he patta on da head en say, ‘You donna have to work so meny hours; I geeve you tena cents more pay!’ Eh? en then what? Eh? He calla all the newsapaper up en tella dem, ‘I maka mucha mon; I geeve some to my workaman.’ Then all the peeple say, ‘Whata fuss about?’ Eh? I tella you: Workaman want to sell hees labor justa lika Meester Rokefella buy hees beega machenes. Notheng extra to nobody. Eh?”
“But, Tony,” I interrupted, “they say that only a few of the men want the union recognized. What about that?”
“Sure! Das true! Sure! Das jus da fac. When deesa beeg, granda countree fighta Eengeland, deed all the men wanta fight? Eh? Tell me! Eh? No, et was justa few et ferst, dena more, dena more, teel everyone wanta to be free. Sure! Das da way. Poor nuts, dea don’a know whata rights dea shoulda have, en dea musta be ah—educate to steek togeater.”
And I wondered how many of my highly educated friends realized so well as Tony Exposito how frightfully devitalizing gratuities are, and what it means to be able to take a week’s pay with the feeling not of accepting a charity, but of receiving an honest wage for honest work; what it means to teach mentally stunned and browbeaten laborers that they have certain definite rights of life and happiness, and that they must earn them; that when they have earned those rights, it is no favor given or received.
Mr. Chesterton’s Prejudices
The Flying Inn, by G. K. Chesterton. [John Lane Company, New York.]
G. K. Chesterton really possesses a philosophy, but it is a question whether he has ever shown a clear intellectual title to it. His method of asserting ownership is to abuse those who question either his right to possess it or the desirability of the philosophy itself.
In The Flying Inn Mr. Chesterton does two things. He writes a most amusing criticism of modern tendencies the while he is defending his philosophy of Augustinian Christianity.
It may be news to some of Mr. Chesterton’s readers that he is a symbolist with a profound philosophy to expound, and I would never have guessed from his latest work that he was fighting over again the battle of St. Augustine against the Pelagians. But this book recently fell into the hands of a more than usually industrious and erudite critic, Mr. Israel Solon, and in a recent issue of The Friday Literary Review of The Chicago Evening Post, Mr. Solon took the trouble to explain some of Mr. Chesterton’s symbolism. The general reader, however,—and what a good thing it is—does not care a red cent about the triumph of Augustinian Christianity, while the unbiased student of religion knows that Pelagianism, a healthy-minded British heresy of about 400 A. D., which denied original sin, was a more reasonable proposition than the Christianity which it tried to displace.
The only real interest of Mr. Chesterton’s latest book, then, is in his criticisms of life, and that interest arises from their humor rather than from their worth.
Mr. Chesterton’s theory of criticism is very simple. Poke fun at everything you do not like. If it is difficult to poke fun at it on account of its worth or dignity then misrepresent it first.
The present story, for instance, covers the adventures of an Irishman who left the British navy and became a soldier of fortune, and an innkeeper whose inn is closed by a fanatical temperance advocate holding office under a very fussy pseudo-liberal government. This personage, who is an amateur of religions and wishes to combine Mahomedanism and Christianity, drives the innkeeper into vagabondage. The Irishman accompanies him, and they carry the old inn sign and a keg of rum and a round cheese with them. They buy a donkey and cart, and travel the neighborhood breaking up meetings in favor of temperance, vegetarianism, polygamy, and other absurdities advocated by the teetotal aristocrat.
Most of the fooling is excellent, but some of it is very childish. It shows Mr. Chesterton at his most characteristic. He dislikes all liberalism, so the efforts of the present British government toward various forms of amelioration of bonds—ecclesiastical, puritanic, and economic—are satirized by the implication that the aristocrats of this story wish to re-establish the Eastern vices of polygamy and abstinence from wine. He dislikes the Ethical Societies, so he represents them as meeting in little tin halls and listening to fakers from the East preaching strange exotic doctrines in return for large fees. He dislikes the Jews, and so a particularly mean and futile character is painted very carefully as a Jew who mixes in British politics—a thing which Mr. Chesterton and his political allies seem to think should be forbidden by statute.
If we discount all this, however, we shall be able to derive a lot of enjoyment from Mr. Chesterton. In particular we shall enjoy his songs against temperance. One of them concerns Noah’s views on drinking:
Old Noah, he had an ostrich farm, and fowls on the greatest scale;
He ate his egg with a ladle in an egg-cup big as a pail,
And the soup he took was Elephant Soup and the fish he took was Whale;
But they all were small to the cellar he took when he set out to sail;
And Noah, he often said to his wife when he sat down to dine,
The cataract of the cliff of heaven fell blinding off the brink,
As if it would wash the stars away as suds go down a sink;
The seven heavens came roaring down for the throats of hell to drink,
And Noah, he cocked his eye and said: “It looks like rain, I think.”
The water has drowned the Matterhorn as deep as a Mendip mine,
But I don’t care where the water goes if it doesn’t get into the wine.
And for other drinks than those of orthodox alcoholic content he has nothing but contempt. Witness the following remarks:
Tea is like the East he grows in,
A great yellow Mandarin,
With urbanity of manner,
And unconsciousness of sin;
All the women, like a harem,
At his pig-tail troop along,
And, like all the East he grows in,
He is Poison when he’s strong.
Tea, although an Oriental,
Is a gentleman at least;
Cocoa is a cad and coward,
Cocoa is a vulgar beast,
Cocoa is a dull, disloyal,
Lying, crawling, cad and clown
And may very well be grateful
To the fool that takes him down.
As for all the windy waters,
They were rained like trumpets down,
When good drink had been dishonored
By the tipplers of the town.
When red wine had brought red ruin,
And the death-dance of our times,
Heaven sent us Soda Water
As a torment for our crimes.
To the American cocoa debauchee—if there be any—it should be intimated that in all probability Mr. Chesterton’s turn for symbolism is at work in the second of the stanzas quoted above. The English cocoa interests are very powerful and very much interested in the progress of the present liberal government. In England not cocoa drinkers but certain liberal politicians will wince with pained appreciation of that particular stanza.
Such is the method of attack with which Mr. Chesterton goes after liberal Christianity, the Ethical Movement, temperance legislation, futurist art, and—for some insane reason—the Mechnikoff lactic acid bacillus treatment. As we have said, it is, except in spots, most interesting and most amusing, but, except in spots, it is not significant.
Prostitution in Europe, by Abraham Flexner. [The Century Company, New York.]
There can be no doubt whatever in the mind of any student of the evolution of “civic conscience” that the prominence now being given to the subject of prostitution is one of the most promising signs of our day. It is inevitable in the first uncovering of what has been hidden for many generations that this prominence should be marred by much that is to be regretted, by much wild hysteria, and much morbid dwelling on erstwhile forbidden topics. But in the main the knowledge by the people at large of the cess-pools that lie below our civilization is the only starting-point from which to set about the draining and cleaning up of these cess-pools.
As Dr. Flexner points out repeatedly in this volume, it is public opinion, and in the last analysis, that only, which determines the fate of prostitution in any given city. Even the most stringent laws are of comparatively little service when unsupported by an intelligent and watchful interest on the part of the people at large. And on what can an intelligent interest be founded except on knowledge? The voices raised in protest—the voice of Agnes Repplier, for instance—belong surely to the protected “leisure class”—the class which sees no need for change since they have never known from personal experience that such problems exist. Yet it is safe to say that for the great majority of the world’s population the question of prostitution and its attendent train of disease, misery, and degeneration is and has always been one of the most vital questions of life.
A single calm, wise, scientific book, like this of Dr. Flexner’s, given into the hands of our boys and girls of eighteen, would do quite as much good, and for many dispositions infinitely more, than a whole battery of moral lectures, warning vaguely against the “wickedness of human nature” and the “allurements of sin.” Not that this book was written for boys and girls. Far from it. It was written for the serious student of the social evil by Dr. Flexner as representative of the Bureau of Social Hygiene of New York City. It is an unprejudiced, authoritative statement of the present condition of prostitution in the various countries of Europe, and is the result of an impartial and painstaking personal investigation which required two years of the time of an educational expert.
Dr. Flexner nowhere raises any question as to how far European experience is significant for America, but it is inevitable that the reader should form certain conclusions of his own. Much of the book is devoted to the relative merits of the two systems of handling prostitution now prevalent in Europe: regulation and so-called “abolition.” The weight of evidence is overwhelmingly on the side of abolition. Regulation is left without a leg to stand on. This, however, is not a burning issue in America. The New York Committee of Fifteen decided, years ago, that “regulation does not regulate,” and such has been the general opinion in the United States. But the remainder of the book and much that is brought out in the discussion of regulation can be of great service.
It is impossible to summarize here a book so rich both in thought and material. But one thing may be said for the encouragement of future readers: There is in this volume absolutely no trace of the hysteria so prevalent today, and on the other hand, no trace of the morbid dwelling on details from which even some of our official investigations have unfortunately not been free. There is in the entire book not a detailed account of an individual case to turn the stomach. Yet the opinion of every prominent expert in Europe is given, and a calm, scientific attitude is maintained throughout. We are, as Jane Addams has so aptly expressed it, “facing an ancient evil with a new conscience,” and this book of Dr. Flexner’s is the embodied voice of that conscience. This is his last word on the subject:
In so far as prostitution is the outcome of ignorance, laws and police are powerless; only knowledge will aid. In so far as prostitution is the outcome of mental or moral defect, laws and police are powerless; only the intelligent guardianship of the state will avail. In so far as prostitution is the outcome of natural impulses denied a legitimate expression, only a rationalized social life will really forestall it. In so far as prostitution is due to alcohol, to illegitimacy, to broken homes, to bad homes, to low wages, to wretched industrial conditions—to any or all of the particular phenomena respecting which the modern conscience is becoming sensitive,—only a transformation wrought by education, religion, science, sanitation, enlightened and far-reaching statesmanship can effect a cure. Our attitude towards prostitution, in so far as these factors are concerned, cannot embody itself in a special remedial or repressive policy, for in this sense it must be dealt with as a part of the larger social problems with which it is inextricably entangled. Civilization has stripped for a life-and-death wrestle with tuberculosis, alcohol and other plagues. It is on the verge of a similar struggle with the crasser forms of commercialized vice. Sooner or later it must fling down the gauntlet to the whole horrible thing. This will be the real contest,—a contest that will tax the courage, the self-denial, the faith, the resources of humanity to their uttermost.
The welfare of mankind is as much promoted by the mistakes and vanity of fools and knaves as by the virtuous activity of wise and good men.—The late Professor Churton Collins in The English Review.
Masculine and Feminine Literature
Somewhere lately I read a review of Home and the reviewer says that it was probably written by a woman, giving I forget what reason as to description of home life, and details of that sort, which “no one but a woman could have written with such fidelity to truth.” But I couldn’t believe it even before the truth came out the other day. Home is distinctly a man’s story, written by a man. The psychology of it is man-psychology (unconscious of course), and its appeal is more strongly to masculine than to feminine taste—much as I hate to think they differ in literature. I have heard several men speak of it as one of the best stories they ever read, and I, myself, though liking it, could never become more than mildly enthusiastic. To be sure, it is a great tale of adventure. But for whom is the great adventure? Alan and Gerry go blithely about the world in pursuit of it. Alix, Gerry’s wife, after taking a feeble little step in the direction of what was for her a stirring adventure, returns home, chastened, and is properly punished by years of waiting for her husband to close up his small affairs. Her great adventure was sitting at home rearing Gerry’s child. Clem’s seems to have been sitting at home waiting for Alan to get through roving and come back to her. And never a comment to the effect that this should not have been perfectly soul-satisfying to both of the women, and never a notion, apparently, but that they were richly rewarded for their waiting by being allowed to spend the rest of their lives caring for the two bold adventurers. I couldn’t believe a woman living in the twentieth century could even have imagined such stupidities. I don’t mean that Home isn’t interesting, as stories go, but it is the crudest kind of man-psychology and will be as out-of-date in a few years as Clarissa Harlowe is now.
I’ve been wondering a great deal lately whether there is a masculine and feminine literature after one is grown up. I know there was for me as a child. When a story like Camp Mates began in Harper’s Young People I regretted that it was not something by Lucy C. Lillie, who wrote of adorably nice little girls. But possibly if I had ever gone out for long walks and camped for the day in the open as my own little lad does now, I too would have read Camp Mates. A man not undistantly related to me by marriage confessed the other day that he was fondest of stories telling of castaways on desert islands. “It’s a thing I’d like to do myself—have a try at an island,” he said, eagerly. “With your wife?” I asked, tentatively. He nodded, and gulped his dinner, and then immediately repented: “With no woman,” he said, firmly; “they bring civilization, and I’d want it wild.” Well, I don’t blame him. It’s appalling to think of how many men would measure up to a desert island test—would procure by hook or crook some manner of sustenance. And I can think of few, very few women (among whom I do not include myself) whom I should select as companions if I were thus stranded. I mean, of course, as far as their resourcefulness is concerned. Perhaps that is why, in stories of adventure, the woman is left behind, inevitably; or, if she is washed up on the shore by the waves, proves an encumbrance, delightful or otherwise. And it is all a matter of training—not, as our novelist would have us believe, a deplorable lack of brains and stamina.
The Education of Girls
And speaking of training—an interesting thing in March Atlantic about The Education of the Girl has set me thinking. How am I going to bring up my daughter? The education of a boy is, compared to that, a simple matter. Too ridiculous, too, the answers to my query returned to me by different friends and relatives. “Make her a good girl,” says one. But surely “Be good, fair maid; let those who will be clever,” has been ridiculed to a timely demise. Another said: “I hope I shall be able to bring up my daughter so that when she is grown she can persuade some nice man to take care of her, as her mother did.” No mention is made, of course, of what happens if the plan miscarries. It sometimes does. And it is too funny when one realizes that several decades ago, when absolutely no question was raised as to woman’s sphere (home and the rearing of children), she received in college a severely classical or scientific training; and now, when it is by no means admitted without argument that home is her one vocation, noted educators are recommending that women’s colleges abolish Greek and Latin or treat them and science as purely secondary and take up domestic science, economics, nursing, etc., in their place. How can I tell beforehand which of the two my daughter is going to need? I think of myself, filled to the brim with Greek, Latin, French, and German, producing in my early married life a distinctly leathery and most unpleasant pie, or rushing to the doctor with my baby to have him treat a dreadful sore which turned out to be a mosquito bite, and my tearful struggles with the sewing machine on my first shirtwaist which I christened a “Dance on the Lawn,” for obvious reasons … and I wonder. Never would I willingly give up my classics and the joy they gave me. But a soupçon of domesticity would surely have done me no harm. Miss Harkness, in this article, is inclined to think that it does us all harm. She says:
Would men ever get anywhere, do you think, if they fussed around with as many disconnected things as most women do? And the worst of our case is that we are rather inclined to point with pride to what is really one of the most vicious habits of our sex.
But in the meantime that daughter of mine! Suppose she prefers to run a house and be the mother of six children! Some women do, and are wonderfully fitted for it. Won’t she be happier if she knows beforehand how to do it most efficiently? I hope, of course, she will choose, besides, a career of her own; but if she doesn’t want to? And to give both does mean a scattering of potentialities! Which brings me back to the statement that the education of the modern girl is a complex—oh, but a very complex problem.
You remember Stevenson’s poem to his wife. I speak of it in this connection because it throws light on one facet of the feminist problem which perhaps is not sufficiently illuminated. He says:
Trusty, dusky, vivid, true,
With eyes of gold and bramble-dew;
Steel-true and blade straight,
The great artificer made my mate.
“Steel-true” and “blade straight” are epithets more often applied to men; and indeed Mr. McClure, in speaking of Mrs. Stevenson in his memoirs, says: “She had many of the fine qualities that are usually attributed to men rather than women: a fair-mindedness, a large judgment, a robust, inconsequential philosophy of life.”
How then, if in seeking an ideal education for girls, we should dismiss, or at least diminish, the importance of a purely utilitarian aspect and look for something that will eventually ensure such qualities?
If, as the feminists urge, they are trying to raise men to a higher plane, why not apply a little of this passion for uplift to the education of women into nobler, higher attitudes? Steel-true, and blade straight! I like the sound of that.
This education of the girl is getting to be an obsession with me. Everything I read resolves itself into terms of girl-psychology. A ridiculous tale, not long ago, appeared in The Saturday Evening Post, called Letting George Do It. George, in charge of the kitchen for a few weeks or days, immediately revolutionized everything; shortened and lightened labor, invented all sorts of labor-saving devices, etc., etc. Immediately all men say, derisively: “Well, that’s exactly what a man would do. You boast that women are as good as men. Why haven’t they, years ago, done all these things for themselves?” It seemed unanswerable. I have heard housekeepers, bright women, too, speak with exasperation of the foolish story, while helplessly admitting its truth. But I really think I’ve stalked the beast to its lair. Granted it is true, but have men spent their lives for centuries in a narrow round of domestic drudgery? Women have, and with very little intellectual diversion, besides, their society limited to other domestic drudges, and to their own husbands, who don’t try to broaden them unless they are exceptional men. And if men had lived such lives would they have blithely introduced these reforms just because their masculinity makes them so superior to women that they would develop, even under adverse conditions? They wouldn’t stay drudges, they claim. Well, we won’t either, so George is not so smart as he thinks he is!
German-Americans and Americans
I have been greatly interested in an article in the May Century. It was by Prof. Edward A. Ross, of the University of Wisconsin, the title being The Germans in America. You know why, of course. My father was born in Germany, and came over in 1850. About ten years ago Hugo Münsterberg had an article in the Atlantic on the same subject, in which he tried to explain the antagonism existing between native-born Germans and Americans. His argument summed itself up in the statement that the German considers the American no gentleman, and the American considers the German no gentleman. But why? I was willing enough to believe him because of a curious experience of my childhood. I can remember the incident perfectly, though it is many years since it happened. I was in the fifth grade, and the girl who figured prominently therein—her name was Siddons, by the way, and most appropriately, for she spelled tragedy to me—had called out on the street to a little boy who was carrying my books home for me, “Aw, George, do you like the Dutch? George is going with a Dutchman!”
George was certainly no cavalier, for he dropped my books, mumbled something, and was off, while I continued on my dazed, bewildered way, wondering what it was all about. Children learn so quickly to keep their deepest hurts to themselves that I doubt whether I should ever have mentioned it at home had it not been for this same bewilderment. My mother was indignant, not, it seems, because I had had names flung at me in scorn, but because it was the wrong name! “You are not Dutch. You are German, and proud of it,” she said, holding her head a little higher. Pressed for an explanation, she revealed that my father had been born in Germany, “but you must never, never be ashamed of that,” she added earnestly. “Your father was an educated, cultured gentleman.” I was then taken into our little library with its crowded shelves climbing to the ceiling, and shown volumes of Schiller, Goethe, Lessing in German, Tauchnitz editions of the great English writers, books of philosophy and history, and shelves full of Hayden, Beethoven, and Mozart. “He was a graduate of a German university,” said mother, “and you must pay no attention to these foolish children whose parents never even saw an American university.” All very well, but had my mother been German herself? No, indeed, so she could hardly realize what it meant to be an alien and an outcast. Many times during that hard year, while the detested Siddons crossed my unwilling path would I have bartered an educated and cultured German forbear for any kind of American, be his lowly occupation what it might. Later that year a little French girl, Dunois by name, came into our grade. Joy! Here was another alien who would be a companion in misery. But to my great surprise she was courted and flattered by this same Siddons and the two became bosom friends. The Dunois père kept a small, unsavory restaurant in a side street, but the glamour of his “Frenchness” was an aureole compared to the stigma of my “Dutchness.” That is still something of a mystery to me, but the article in the Century explains in part the cause of this attitude among unthinking Americans. Prof. Ross says:
“Between 1839 and 1845 numerous old Lutherans, resenting the attempt of their king to unite Lutheran and Reformed faiths, migrated hither…. The political reaction in the German states after the revolution of 1830, and again after the revolution of 1848, brought tens of thousands of liberty-lovers.” And again he says of these political exiles that they “included many men of unusual attainments and character…. These university professors, physicians, journalists, and even aristocrats aroused many of their fellow-countrymen to feel a pride in German culture, and they left a stamp of political idealism, social radicalism and religious skepticism which is slow to be effaced.”
Possibly one reason for American antagonism to these earlier, superior settlers was the fact that they did somewhat despise American culture and hold rather closely to their own German ways of thinking. I remember in my childhood, in my own home, that although we had Harper’s Young People and St. Nicholas, we also had English Chatterbox—I rather fancy as a corrective to Americanisms to be found in the other magazines. You know Germans in their own land today do not wish for American governesses to teach their children English; it must be Englishwomen. All our toys were sent for from the beloved Fatherland, and beautiful toys they were, too. We had a system of Froebel with all his methods established in our own home, long before the middle western cities dreamed of a public kindergarten. This deep distrust of American methods and culture could not help but impress Americans unfavorably; they would retaliate with the cry of Dutchman, perhaps. Prof. Ross goes on to say:
“Germans brought a language, literature, and social customs of their own, so that although when scattered they Americanized with great rapidity wherever they were strong enough to maintain church and schools in their own tongue they were slow to take the American stamp.” So much for those earlier immigrants. The case is vastly different with the later tides of immigration. “After 1870,” he writes, “the Teutonic overflow was prompted by economic motives, and such a migration shows little persistence in flying the flag of its national culture. Numbers came, little instructed.” In the words of a German-American, Knortz, “nine-tenths of all German immigrants come from humble circumstances and have had only an indifferent schooling. Whoever, therefore, expects pride in their German descent from these people who owe everything to their new country and nothing to their fatherland, simply expects too much.”
Well, then! If they no longer pride themselves on being German, and are easily assimilated by the second generation, we should expect to see the slight stigma of being of German descent removed by this time. But is it? Not long ago I had occasion to attend a Bach revival and the beautiful passion music was played and sung. One of my friends remarked, “You have to get used to this music before you can appreciate it,” and I retorted condescendingly, “I don’t; I have heard it from childhood. This is the kind of music we sing in the Lutheran church.” This same friend later, guiding my tottering steps through the mazes and pitfalls of society in the “most aristocratic suburb of New York,” said hesitatingly, “I don’t think I’d mention it, especially to people in general, that I was a Lutheran, if I were you.” Of course I was seized immediately with a perfectly natural desire to talk of it in season and out to everyone I met. Why not? Why not be a Lutheran as naturally as an Episcopalian or a Methodist? “Well, they are mostly Germans, you see.” But I don’t see, and I never have seen, although this article, enlightening and interesting, goes nearer to the reasons for such an attitude than anything else I have ever read.
Rejections by Editors
Never again shall I feel a sense of shame and humiliation on receiving my rejected MS. and the printed slip. I have always suspected that it was on account of the editors’ lack of taste and discrimination; now I am sure of it. Indeed, I’m not quite sure but that it argues more to be rejected than to be accepted. I’m beginning to be proud of it. Read Henry Sydnor Harrison’s article in the April Atlantic—Adventures with the Editors—and see if you don’t feel the same way! Or, perhaps, you’ve never been rejected with the added ignominy of the printed slip. If so, don’t read this; it is not for you. But all ye rejected ones take renewed hope from this statement that an editor, actually an editor himself, has made:
“I think I can tell you why editors so frequently reject the earlier and often the best work of writers: it is because any new writer who sends in first-class work sends in work that is very different from what editors are used to.”
It reminds me of a time when I wrote, maliciously, I admit, to a certain well-known magazine, to tell its editors a story they had printed by a renowned author had been cribbed entire (unconsciously, possibly) from an old classic; and I told them, too, if they would prefer to print original stories, I had one on hand. I got back such a deliciously solemn reply regretting the unconscious plagiarism and asking me to send on any story I had. I did not do so, for the good and sufficient reason that I had already sent it to them several weeks previously, and had had it rejected without comment. No doubt it deserved to be rejected; every one else did the same with it. To be sure, one kindly editor took the pains to tell me why, personally. “The trouble is,” he said, “there isn’t enough story. Your character-drawing is both careful and sincere, however.” So it must have been dull to deserve anything like that. I wish we could hear a little more of the experiences of those poor rejected, who never do “get over the wall,” as Mr. Harrison terms it. I imagine it would be both illuminating and ludicrous.
And, oh! the happy moments I had on reading E. S. Martin’s comments, in Life, on Mr. Harrison’s article. Mr. Harrison makes the charge that magazines will print poor stories of well known writers in preference to good stories of the unknown, and Mr. Martin’s response is:
“It does not follow that the editors were wrong because they did not buy Mr. Harrison’s tales before Queed. Maybe they were not more than average stories. But after Queed they were stories by the author of Queed…. Queed pulled all Mr. Harrison’s past tales out of the ruck, and put them in the running. It was hardly fair to expect the editors to pick them for winners beforehand.”
What then are editors for, if not to “pick winners?” And Mr. Harrison says himself that Queed was rejected by two publishers. Probably it was hardly fair to expect the publishers to pick such a winner in advance. We, the rejected, have always humbly thought that was their occupation—their raison d’être. And if Mr. Harrison’s short stories were “not more than average stories,” doesn’t it prove his contention that average poor stories by the known are more acceptable to editors than good ones by the unknown?
At least I am going to think so, and some day I shall write an article on the lofty distinction of being rejected.
M. H. P.
The witty mind is the most banal thing that exists.—James Stephens in The English Review.
The Goldfish: The Confessions of a Successful Man. Anonymous. [The Century Company, New York.] Proves conclusively, for anyone who may need such proof, that the “successful” man misses those adventures which William James ascribed to poverty: “The liberation from material attachments; the unbribed soul; the manlier indifference; the paying our way by what we are or do, and not by what we have; the right to fling away our life at any moment irresponsibly—the more athletic trim, in short, the fighting shape….”
Walt Whitman: A Critical Study, by Basil De Sélincourt. [Mitchell Kennerley, New York.] Any biography of Whitman which reveals a large understanding of his big poems of personality is notable. De Sélincourt proves in his closing sentence that he knows his subject, for it is the clearest and best characterization of the poet that has ever been written: “He rises … above nationality and becomes a universal figure: poet of the ever-beckoning future, the ever-expanding, ever-insatiable spirit of man.”
Socialism: Promise or Menace? by Morris Hillquit and Rev. Dr. John A. Ryan. [The Macmillan Company, New York.] A sophomoric debate between two dogmatists that ran in Everybody’s Magazine. One instinctively feels that two evils are guised as panaceas and he will have neither of them. The church, of course, has the last word—in the book.
Penrod, by Booth Tarkington. [Doubleday, Page, and Company, New York.] At rare intervals we have a book on boys that holds the genuine boy boyeousness. The Real Diary of a Real Boy captivated us with the story of big little boys in a village; The Varmit told us of the irresponsible capers of little big boys in “prep” school; and now we have Penrod, in which Mr. Tarkington tells us much—well, of just boys.
Joseph Pulitzer: Reminiscences of a Secretary, by Alleyne Ireland. [Mitchell Kennerley, New York.] An extraordinarily interesting piece of Boswellizing.
Sadhana: The Realisation of Life, by Rabindranath Tagore. [The Macmillan Company, New York.] A quiet essay full of the queer charm of conquered strength memorable for at least one splendid sentence: “… life is immortal youthfulness, and it hates age that tries to clog its movements.” But Tagore is vying too much with Tango just now among people who can neither orient nor dance.
The Meaning of Art, by Paul Gaultier. Translation by H. & E. Baldwin. [J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.] What is art? This book gives the best answer that we have read, but when the author is psychological he is wrong, in most cases. He has a rare faculty of compelling one to read between his lines, and argue things out with oneself.
The Deaf: Their Position in Society, by Harry Best. [Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York.] An astonishing compilation of facts and figures by a social economist who makes a morbid subject interesting to a healthy citizen unafraid of truth about life.
Hail and Farewell: Vale, by George Moore. [D. Appleton & Company, New York.] A completion of the most fascinating autobiography in the English language.
American Policy: The Western Hemisphere in Its Relation to the Eastern, by John Bigelow. [Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.] Cautious discussions that respect diplomatic red tape interest patriotic pedants but bore personalities who are concerned with bigger things than national policies.
The Fortunate Youth, by William J. Locke. [John Lane Company, New York.] Has all the Locke charm—and all the Locke prettinesses. The dish has been served so often that it has become a bit tasteless. Most accurately described as the kind of story whose heroine is always called “princess” and whose hero rises from the slums to make flaming speeches in parliament and achieve the “Vision Splendid.” It will probably run into ten editions and bring much joy.
The Wonderful Visit, by H. G. Wells. [E. P. Dutton and Company, New York.] A reprint of a story published in 1895 which shows Mr. Wells in the very interesting position of groping toward his present altitude.
Sweetapple Cove, by George Van Schaick. [Small, Maynard, and Company, Boston.] The kind of sweet, gentle love story that a publisher would rather discover than anything Ethel Sidgwick could write. We searched in vain for just one page to hold our attention.
Idle Wives, by James Oppenheim. [The Century Company, New York.] Despite a narrative style that at times fairly suffocates with its emotionality, Mr. Oppenheim has put up a very strong case for the woman who demands something of life except having things done for her.
Bedesman 4, by Mary J. H. Shrine. [The Century Company, New York.] The outline is traditional: an English peasant boy makes his way through Oxford, becomes a brilliant historian and a “gentleman,” and marries a “lady.” But the treatment is fresh and delightful; there is something real about it.
Over the Hills, by Mary Findlater. [E. P. Dutton and Company, New York.] There are no new things to say about a Findlater novel. They are always good.
Sunshine Jane, by Anne Warner. [Little, Brown, and Company, Boston.] Jane has our own theory that one can get what he wants out of life if he wants it hard enough. Though we don’t advocate some of her “sunshine” sentimentalities.
The Full of the Moon, by Caroline Lockhart. [J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.] As superfluous as The Lady Doc. Those people who are always asking why such books as The Dark Flower should be written ought to turn their questioning to things of this type.
The Congresswoman, by Isabel Gordon Curtis. [Browne and Howell Company, Chicago.] The tale of an Oklahoma woman elected to congress which closes with a retreat—though not an ignominious one—to a little white house with a fireside and a conquering male.
The Last Shot, by Frederick Palmer. [Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York.] A war novel without a hero by a man who has experienced many wars.
The Women We Marry, by Arthur Stanwood Pier. [The Century Company, New York.] One of the most amateurish attempts to meet the modern demand for sex stories that we have seen.
A Child of the Orient, by Demetra Vaka. [Houghton Mifflin Company, New York.] A blend of Greek poetry and Turkish conquest and American progress in autobiographical form, by the Greek woman who wrote Haremlik.
Anybody but Anne, by Carolyn Wells. [J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.] A mystery story of which the most fascinating feature is the architect’s plan of the house in which it takes place.
The Flower-Finder, by George Lincoln Walton; with frontispiece by W. H. Stedman and photographs by Henry Troth. [J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.] Worth owning if merely for the end-papers which literally lead you into a spring woods. A comprehensive pocket guide to wild flowers.
Prisons and Prisoners: Personal Experiences of Constance Lytton and Jane Warton, Spinster. [George H. Doran Company, New York.] As Lady Lytton, an enthusiastic convert to militant suffrage, the author received courteous treatment in prison; disguised successfully as a middle-class old maid she was handled shamefully. Everyone who doubts the martyrdom or the intrepidity of the suffragettes ought to read this record.
Women as World Builders, by Floyd Dell. [Forbes and Company, Chicago.] Birdseye views of the feminist movement by a literary aviator whose cleverly-composed snapshots actually justify his cocksure audacity.
Women and Morality, by a mother, a father, and a woman. [The Laurentian Publishers, Chicago.] Men and immorality discussed bravely by two women and a man, without the artistic justification of “getting anywhere.”
Karen Borneman and Lynggaard & Co., by Hjalmar Bergström, translated from the Danish by Edwin Björkman; The Gods of the Mountain, The Golden Doom, King Argimenes and the Unknown Warrior, The Glittering Gate, and The Lost Silk Hat, by Lord Dunsany; Peer Gynt, by Henrik Ibsen, with introduction by R. Ellis Roberts. [Mitchell Kennerley, New York.] New volumes in The Modern Drama Series.
What Is It All About? A Sketch of the New Movement in the Theatre, by Henry Blackman Sell. [The Laurentian Publishers, Chicago.] The “art theatre” is explained illuminatingly for those who are vague about the movement. Condensed, to the point, and really informing.
The Beginning of Grand Opera in Chicago (1850-1859), by Karleton Hackett. [The Laurentian Publishers, Chicago.] Mr. Hackett is a man of ideas and he might have written an interesting book by taking “grand opera in Chicago” as his theme. Instead, he has done a hack job with its early history and been given the distinction of tasteful binding and printing.
Tuberculosis: Its Cause, Cure, and Prevention, by Edward O. Otis, M.D. [Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York.] A revised edition of an old, popular book “for laymen.” Abounds in hard, cocksure rules that, if followed, ought to discourage any germ whose host could outlive it. A valuable work for persons who must have a definite programme to guide them in fighting an always individualized disease.
Roget’s Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases, classified and arranged so as to facilitate the expression of ideas and assist in literary composition, edited by C. O. Sylvester Mawson. [Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York.] A revised edition in large type on thin paper.
Richard Wagner: The Man and His Work, by Oliver Huckel. [Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York.] Between W. J. Henderson’s characterization of Wagner as “the greatest genius that art has produced” and Rupert Brooke’s as an emotionalist with “a fat, wide, hairless face” there ought to be a man worth biographies ad infinitum. Dr. Huckel’s is simply a clear condensation for the general reader of standard biographical material, and is worth while.
The Book of the Epic: All the World’s Great Epics Told in Story, by H. A. Guerber; with introduction by J. Berg Esenwein. [J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.] The most satisfying compilation in the field that has ever been offered to the young student or general reader.
The Practical Book of Garden Architecture, by Phebe Westcott Humphreys. [J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia.] A weighty chronicle of garden architecture, observations in many lands and under many conditions. “A pick up and browse” book for the nature lover, with delightful illustrations and much interesting general data of sunny gardens, cobble walls, and running streams.
I am that which unseen comes and sings, sings, sings; which babbles in brooks and scoots in showers on the land, which the birds know in the woods, mornings and evenings, and the shore-sands know, and the hissing wave.—Walt Whitman.
A. S. K., Chicago:
With your permission I shall try to explain why I am not enthusiastic about the second issue of your magazine:
The crime of the April issue lies in the fact of its closely following (chronologically) the issue of March. In the beginning you appeared to us as a prophet, and we wistfully listened to your unique message; now you have degenerated into a priest, a dignified station indeed, but don’t you think there are already more priests than worshippers in our Temple? If you are going to be “one of many” I question the raison d’être of The Little Review.
Your debut was a revelation, a new word, a rejuvenating breeze in the tepid atmosphere of our periodical press. It was a wonderful number, all fresh and beautiful; even the one or two grotesque pieces that had smuggled in drowned in the mass of splendor, just as the heavy colors of the rainbow soften in the powerful symphony of the spectrum.
Now, frankly, would you sign your name under every article of the April Review? I hope not! You have turned your temple into a parliament of dissonances; you have admitted Victorian ladies and sentimental crucifiers of Nietzsche; you have even polluted your pages with an anti-Bathhouse tirade! Then that cacophony of personal letters: I blushed at the sight of these tokens of familiarity and tappings over your shoulder on the part of the benevolent readers. I wished to shout to the Misses Jones to keep off the altar, lest they besmirch your white robe with their penny compliments and saccharine effusions.
I could hardly make myself believe that this irritating copy was The Little Review.
Pardon this frankness. But I wish you success, not popularity.
Mary W. Ohr, Indianapolis:
Let me tell you how much pleasure you have given me in the second issue of your magazine. You are certainly to be congratulated upon having the initiative to start anything so great as this.
I have reserved writing to you until now, for I wished to avoid the appearance of trying to tear down or discourage an effort that was so much bigger than anything I could ever achieve. Your article on The Dark Flower made me feel that possibly intolerance might be your stumbling block, and that your youth and enthusiasm might lead you into many pitfalls that might not be for the betterment of your work. But this number has made me your equal in enthusiasm, and I believe The Little Review is here to stay.
Verne DeWitt Rowell, London, Ontario:
The Little Review is a whirlwind surprise. There is nothing like it in America. I am glad to see you playing up Nietzsche. Over here in this little town we have a Nietzschean vogue, and we are all delighted. Truly the intellectual center of America has shifted westward. To be sure, New York has The International; but Chicago has The Little Review, The Trimmed Lamp, and one or two other magazines of real literature. Then there is Burns Lee’s Bell Cow in Cleveland. Nietzsche is coming into his own at last. Wishing every success to The Little Review, which is one of the two best magazines in America (the other is Current Opinion).
Mollie Levin, Chicago:
The formal bow that The Little Review made to the public in its first issue violated tradition beautifully by doing what formal bows never do—really mean something. It is glorious to be young and enthusiastic, and still more so to be courageous; and whatever goes into The Little Review in that spirit is admirable, regardless of any reader’s personal judgment.
It’s good, too, to have used The Little Review: It makes me think of a child—beautiful in its present stage and with promise of infinite fulfillment.
Marie Patridge, Clearfield, Pa.:
I’ve been tremendously interested in the second issue. It seems to me your critic is wrong in speaking of juvenility or the restrictive tone of the magazine. It’s exactly that which gives The Little Review an excuse for being, that it is not like all other magazines with their cut-and-dried precision and their “Thus saith the Lord” attitude toward things.
As time goes on I think it will be wise to enlarge the scope—more of drama, more of music, more of world politics and science. You will thus get away from the aesthetic tendency which your critic mentions.
I enjoyed the Wells discussion so much. And yet Miss Trevor doesn’t advance any real arguments. It’s very easy to call people muddle-headed and vaguely sentimental, but an appeal to the upbuilding of character isn’t slushy. I’m inclined to agree with “M. M.,” though I’d like to hear an advanced—not a hysterical—argument on the subject. I’m willing to be convinced of the other side, but assuredly it would take something stronger and sterner and more logical than Miss Trevor.
[The suggestion about enlarging our scope is one we hoped no one would make until we had done it, that being the plan closest to our hearts. We can only explain our shortcomings in this regard by referring to a homely but reasonable saying about not being able to do everything at once.—The Editor.]
Mabel Frush, Chicago:
You have invited frank criticism, and that is my reason for not writing at first: I could not accept it all. In the first place, regarding Paderewski. Do you never find him a bit over-powering; do you never feel that a trifle more restraint might give greater strength? In Grieg, for instance, does he carry you up into the high places, give you that impression of unlimited space, rugged strength, and wild beauty? Is he not too subjective?
I quite agree with you as regards Chopin and Schumann. There he is satisfying. His interpretations carry a quality that other artists sometimes treat too lightly; forgetting “a man’s reach must exceed his grasp,” and so sacrificing the greater to the lesser in striving for perfection. Impotency is the price of ultra-civilization.
Your comments on temperament are interesting, but I feel you are not quite fair in your comparisons. Is not Paderewski’s genius largely a racial gift? To me all Russian (or Polish) art—both creative and interpretative—possesses the flame of the elemental, that generative quality which marks the difference between technical perfection and living, breathing, throbbing art. Appreciating that “all music is what awakens in you when reminded by the instrument,” he strives for but one thing: an emotional releasement that results in a temperamental orgy which leaves his hearers dazed, lost in the labyrinth of their own emotions.
As for Rupert Brooke’s poetry, I regard him as decadent—at least too much so to be really vital. Perhaps my vision is clouded, but I could as easily conceive of Johnson worshipping at the shrine of Boswell as of Whitman liking Brooke. Now and then he impresses me as being effete, and I can never separate him from a cult, though I do delight in some of his poems.
Mrs. William H. Andrews, Cleveland:
May I put in my little word and wish you all good speed, editor of The Little Review?
You evidently live in the clear blue sky where fresh enthusiasms rush on like white clouds bearing us irresistibly along. Life grows even more vivid under such stimulating courage and pulsing optimism.
The world is indeed wonderful if we but live it passionately, as did Jean Christophe and Antoine, leaping forward, breasting the waves, with music in the soul. My ears are singing with the third movement of Tschaikowsky’s immortal Pathetique, which to me, in larger part, so belies its name.
Hail to The Little Review! May it dart “rose-crowned” along its shining way, emblazoning the path for many of us.
Mary Carolyn Davies, New York:
I have just finished reading The Little Review from cover to cover, and much of it twice over.
Thank you for loving the things I love, and thank you for being young and not being afraid to be young! This is such a good day to be young in!
With all good wishes for the success of The Little Review (though it needs no good wishes, for it cannot help succeeding).
P. H. W., Chicago:
The article on Mrs. Meynell in your April issue sounded a little curious in its surroundings, as it was a piece of pure criticism and The Little Review is the official organ of exuberance. It is the only one, in fact, and it is a good thing to have such an organ.