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Title: Damn! - A Book of Calumny
Author: Mencken, H. L. (Henry Louis), 1880-1956
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Damn! - A Book of Calumny" ***

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  _Third Printing_




       I  Pater Patriæ                                                 7

      II  The Reward of the Artist                                     9

     III  The Heroic Considered                                       10

      IV  The Burden of Humor                                         11

       V  The Saving Grace                                            13

      VI  Moral Indignation                                           14

     VII  Stable-Names                                                17

    VIII  The Jews                                                    19

      IX  The Comstockian Premiss                                     22

       X  The Labial Infamy                                           23

      XI  A True Ascetic                                              28

     XII  On Lying                                                    30

    XIII  History                                                     32

     XIV  The Curse of Civilization                                   34

      XV  Eugenics                                                    35

     XVI  The Jocose Gods                                             37

    XVII  War                                                         38

   XVIII  Moralist and Artist                                         39

     XIX  Actors                                                      40

      XX  The Crowd                                                   45

     XXI  An American Philosopher                                     48

    XXII  Clubs                                                       49

   XXIII  Fidelis ad Urnum                                            50

    XXIV  A Theological Mystery                                       52

     XXV  The Test of Truth                                           53

    XXVI  Literary Indecencies                                        54

   XXVII  Virtuous Vandalism                                          55

  XXVIII  A Footnote on the Duel of Sex                               60

    XXIX  Alcohol                                                     64

     XXX  Thoughts on the Voluptuous                                  67

    XXXI  The Holy Estate                                             69

   XXXII  Dichtung und Wahrheit                                       70

  XXXIII  Wild Shots                                                  71

   XXXIV  Beethoven                                                   73

    XXXV  The Tone Art                                                75

   XXXVI  Zoos                                                        80

  XXXVII  On Hearing Mozart                                           86

 XXXVIII  The Road to Doubt                                           87

   XXXIX  A New Use for Churches                                      88

      XL  The Root of Religion                                        90

     XLI  Free Will                                                   91

    XLII  Quid est Veritas?                                           95

   XLIII  The Doubter's Reward                                        96

    XLIV  Before the Altar                                            97

     XLV  The Mask                                                    98

    XLVI  Pia Veneziani, poi Cristiani                                99

   XLVII  Off Again, On Again                                        101

  XLVIII Theology                                                    102

    XLIX Exemplia Gratia                                             103




If George Washington were alive today, what a shining mark he would be
for the whole camorra of uplifters, forward-lookers and professional
patriots! He was the Rockefeller of his time, the richest man in the
United States, a promoter of stock companies, a land-grabber, an
exploiter of mines and timber. He was a bitter opponent of foreign
alliances, and denounced their evils in harsh, specific terms. He had a
liking for all forthright and pugnacious men, and a contempt for
lawyers, schoolmasters and all other such obscurantists. He was not
pious. He drank whisky whenever he felt chilly, and kept a jug of it
handy. He knew far more profanity than Scripture, and used and enjoyed
it more. He had no belief in the infallible wisdom of the common people,
but regarded them as inflammatory dolts, and tried to save the republic
from them. He advocated no sure cure for all the sorrows of the world,
and doubted that such a panacea existed. He took no interest in the
private morals of his neighbors.

Inhabiting These States today, George would be ineligible for any office
of honor or profit. The Senate would never dare confirm him; the
President would not think of nominating him. He would be on trial in
all the yellow journals for belonging to the Invisible Government, the
Hell Hounds of Plutocracy, the Money Power, the Interests. The Sherman
Act would have him in its toils; he would be under indictment by every
grand jury south of the Potomac; the triumphant prohibitionists of his
native state would be denouncing him (he had a still at Mount Vernon) as
a debaucher of youth, a recruiting officer for insane asylums, a
poisoner of the home. The suffragettes would be on his trail, with
sentinels posted all along the Accotink road. The initiators and
referendors would be bawling for his blood. The young college men of the
_Nation_ and the _New Republic_ would be lecturing him weekly. He would
be used to scare children in Kansas and Arkansas. The chautauquas would
shiver whenever his name was mentioned....

And what a chance there would be for that ambitious young district
attorney who thought to shadow him on his peregrinations--and grab him
under the Mann Act!



A man labors and fumes for a whole year to write a symphony in G minor.
He puts enormous diligence into it, and much talent, and maybe no little
downright genius. It draws his blood and wrings his soul. He dies in it
that he may live again.... Nevertheless, its final value, in the open
market of the world, is a great deal less than that of a fur overcoat,
half a Rolls-Royce automobile, or a handful of authentic hair from the
whiskers of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.



For humility and poverty, in themselves, the world has little liking and
less respect. In the folk-lore of all races, despite the
sentimentalization of abasement for dramatic effect, it is always power
and grandeur that count in the end. The whole point of the story of
Cinderella, the most widely and constantly charming of all stories, is
that the Fairy Prince lifts Cinderella above her cruel sisters and
stepmother, and so enables her to lord it over them. The same idea
underlies practically all other folk-stories: the essence of each of
them is to be found in the ultimate triumph and exaltation of its
protagonist. And of the real men and women of history, the most
venerated and envied are those whose early humiliations were but
preludes to terminal glories; for example, Lincoln, Whittington,
Franklin, Columbus, Demosthenes, Frederick the Great, Catherine, Mary of
Magdala, Moses. Even the Man of Sorrows, cradled in a manger and done to
death between two thieves, is seen, as we part from Him at last, in a
situation of stupendous magnificence, with infinite power in His hands.
Even the Beatitudes, in the midst of their eloquent counselling of
renunciation, give it unimaginable splendor as its reward. The meek
shall inherit--what? The whole earth! And the poor in spirit? They shall
sit upon the right hand of God!...



What is the origin of the prejudice against humor? Why is it so
dangerous, if you would keep the public confidence, to make the public
laugh? Is it because humor and sound sense are essentially antagonistic?
Has humanity found by experience that the man who sees the fun of life
is unfitted to deal sanely with its problems? I think not. No man had
more of the comic spirit in him than William Shakespeare, and yet his
serious reflections, by the sheer force of their sublime obviousness,
have pushed their way into the race's arsenal of immortal platitudes.
So, too, with Aesop, and with Balzac, and with Dickens, to come down the
scale. All of these men were fundamentally humorists, and yet all of
them achieved what the race has come to accept as a penetrating
sagacity. Contrariwise, many a haloed pundit has had his occasional
guffaw. Lincoln, had there been no Civil War, might have survived in
history chiefly as the father of the American smutty story--the only
original art-form that America has yet contributed to literature.
Huxley, had he not been the greatest intellectual duellist of his age,
might have been its greatest satirist. Bismarck, pursuing the gruesome
trade of politics, concealed the devastating wit of a Molière; his
surviving epigrams are truly stupendous. And Beethoven, after soaring to
the heights of tragedy in the first movement of the Fifth Symphony,
turned to the sardonic bull-fiddling of the _scherzo_.

No, there is not the slightest disharmony between sense and nonsense,
humor and respectability, despite the skittish tendency to assume that
there is. But, why, then, that widespread error? What actual fact of
life lies behind it, giving it a specious appearance of reasonableness?
None other, I am convinced, than the fact that the average man is far
too stupid to make a joke. He may _see_ a joke and _love_ a joke,
particularly when it floors and flabbergasts some person he dislikes,
but the only way he can himself take part in the priming and pointing of
a new one is by acting as its target. In brief, his personal contact
with humor tends to fill him with an accumulated sense of disadvantage,
of pricked complacency, of sudden and crushing defeat; and so, by an
easy psychological process, he is led into the idea that the thing
itself is incompatible with true dignity of character and intellect.
Hence his deep suspicion of jokers, however adept their thrusts. "What a
damned fool!"--this same half-pitying tribute he pays to wit and butt
alike. He cannot separate the virtuoso of comedy from his general
concept of comedy itself, and that concept is inextricably mingled with
memories of foul ambuscades and mortifying hurts. And so it is not often
that he is willing to admit any wisdom in a humorist, or to condone
frivolity in a sage.



Let us not burn the universities--yet. After all, the damage they do
might be worse.... Suppose Oxford had snared and disemboweled
Shakespeare! Suppose Harvard had set its stamp upon Mark Twain!



The loud, preposterous moral crusades that so endlessly rock the
republic--against the rum demon, against Sunday baseball, against Sunday
moving-pictures, against dancing, against fornication, against the
cigarette, against all things sinful and charming--these astounding
Methodist jehads offer fat clinical material to the student of
mobocracy. In the long run, nearly all of them must succeed, for the mob
is eternally virtuous, and the only thing necessary to get it in favor
of some new and super-oppressive law is to convince it that that law
will be distasteful to the minority that it envies and hates. The poor
numskull who is so horribly harrowed by Puritan pulpit-thumpers that he
can't go to a ball game on Sunday afternoon without dreaming of hell and
the devil all Sunday night is naturally envious of the fellow who can,
and being envious of him, he hates him and is eager to destroy his
offensive happiness. The farmer who works 18 hours a day and never gets
a day off is envious of his farmhand who goes to the crossroads and
barrels up on Saturday afternoon; hence the virulence of prohibition
among the peasantry. The hard-working householder who, on some bitter
evening, glances over the _Saturday Evening Post_ for a square and
honest look at his wife is envious of those gaudy drummers who go
gallivanting about the country with scarlet girls; hence the Mann act.
If these deviltries were equally open to all men, and all men were
equally capable of appreciating them, their unpopularity would tend to

I often think, indeed, that the prohibitionist tub-thumpers make a
tactical mistake in dwelling too much upon the evils and horrors of
alcohol, and not enough upon its delights. A few enlarged photographs of
first-class bar-rooms, showing the rows of well-fed, well-dressed
_bibuli_ happily moored to the brass rails, their noses in fragrant mint
and hops and their hands reaching out for free rations of olives,
pretzels, cloves, pumpernickle, Bismarck herring, anchovies,
_schwartenmagen_, wieners, Smithfield ham and dill pickles--such a
gallery of contentment would probably do far more execution among the
dismal _shudra_ than all the current portraits of drunkards' livers. To
vote for prohibition in the face of the liver portraits means to vote
for the good of the other fellow, for even the oldest bibulomaniac
always thinks that he himself will escape. This is an act of altruism
almost impossible to the mob-man, whose selfishness is but little
corrupted by the imagination that shows itself in his betters. His most
austere renunciations represent no more than a matching of the joys of
indulgence against the pains of hell; religion, to him, is little more
than synthesized fear.... I venture that many a vote for prohibition
comes from gentlemen who look longingly through swinging doors--and pass
on in propitiation of Satan and their alert consorts, the lake of
brimstone and the corrective broomstick....



Why doesn't some patient drudge of a _privat dozent_ compile a
dictionary of the stable-names of the great? All show dogs and race
horses, as everyone knows, have stable-names. On the list of entries a
fast mare may appear as Czarina Ogla Fedorovna, but in the stable she is
not that at all, nor even Czarina or Olga, but maybe Lil or Jennie. And
a prize bulldog, Champion Zoroaster or Charlemagne XI. on the bench, may
be plain Jack or Ponto _en famille_. So with celebrities of the _genus
homo_. Huxley's official style and appellation was "The Right Hon.
Thomas Henry Huxley, P. C., M. D., Ph. D., LL. D., D. C. L., D. Sc., F.
R. S.," and his biographer tells us that he delighted in its rolling
grandeur--but to his wife he was always Hal. Shakespeare, to his fellows
of his Bankside, was Will, and perhaps Willie to Ann Hathaway. The
Kaiser is another Willie: the late Czar so addressed him in their famous
exchange of telegrams. The Czar himself was Nicky in those days, and no
doubt remains Nicky to his intimates today. Edgar Allan Poe was always
Eddie to his wife, and Mark Twain was always Youth to his. P. T.
Barnum's stable-name was Taylor, his middle name; Charles Lamb's was
Guy; Nietzsche's was Fritz; Whistler's was Jimmie; the late King
Edward's was Bertie; Grover Cleveland's was Steve; J. Pierpont Morgan's
was Jack; Dr. Wilson's is Tom.

Some given names are surrounded by a whole flotilla of stable-names.
Henry, for example, is softened variously into Harry, Hen, Hank, Hal,
Henny, Enery, On'ry and Heinie. Which did Ann Boleyn use when she cooed
into the suspicious ear of Henry VIII.? To which did Henrik Ibsen answer
at the domestic hearth? It is difficult to imagine his wife calling him
Henrik: the name is harsh, clumsy, razor-edged. But did she make it Hen
or Rik, or neither? What was Bismarck to the Fürstin, and to the mother
he so vastly feared? Ottchen? Somehow it seems impossible. What was
Grant to his wife? Surely not Ulysses! And Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart? And
Rutherford B. Hayes? Was Robert Browning ever Bob? Was John Wesley ever
Jack? Was Emmanuel Swendenborg ever Manny? Was Tadeusz Kosciusko ever

A fair field of inquiry invites. Let some laborious assistant professor
explore and chart it. There will be more of human nature in his report
than in all the novels ever written.



The Jews, like the Americans, labor under a philosophical dualism, and
in both cases it is a theological heritage. On the one hand there is the
idealism that is lovely and uplifting and will get a man into heaven,
and on the other hand there is the realism that works. The fact that the
Jews cling to both, thus running, as it were, upon two tracks, is what
makes them so puzzling, now and then, to the _goyim_. In one aspect they
stand for the most savage practicality; in another aspect they are
dreamers of an almost fabulous other-worldiness. My own belief is that
the essential Jew is the idealist--that his occasional flashing of hyena
teeth is no more than a necessary concession to the harsh demands of the
struggle for existence. Perhaps, in many cases, it is due to an actual
corruption of blood. The Jews come from the Levant, and their women were
exposed for many centuries to the admiration of Greek, Arab and
Armenian. The shark that a Jew can be at his worst is simply a Greek or
Armenian at his best.

As a statement of post-mortem and super-terrestrial fact, the religion
that the Jews have foisted upon the world seems to me to be as vast a
curse as the influenza that we inherit from the Tatars or the democratic
fallacies set afloat by the French Revolution. The one thing that can
be said in favor of it is that it is not true, and yet we suffer from it
almost as much as if it were true. But with it, encasing it and
preserving it, there has come something that is positively
valuable--something, indeed, that is beyond all price--and that is
Jewish poetry. To compare it to the poetry of any other race is wholly
impossible; it stands completely above all the rest; it is as far beyond
the next best as German music is beyond French music, or French painting
beyond English painting, or the English drama beyond the Italian drama.
There are single chapters in the Old Testament that are worth all the
poetry ever written in the New World and nine-tenths of that written in
the Old. The Jews of those ancient days had imagination, they had
dignity, they had ears for sweet sound, they had, above all, the faculty
of grandeur. The stupendous music that issued from them has swept their
barbaric demonology along with it, setting at naught the collective
intelligence of the human species; they embalmed their idiotic taboos
and fetishes in undying strains, and so gave them some measure of the
same immortality. A race of lawgivers? Bosh! Leviticus is as archaic as
the Code of Manu, and the Decalogue is a fossil. A race of seers? Bosh
again! The God they saw survives only as a bogey-man, a theory, an
uneasy and vexatious ghost. A race of traders and sharpers? Bosh a third
time! The Jews are as poor as the Spaniards. But a race of poets, my
lords, a race of poets! It is a vision of beauty that has ever haunted
them. And it has been their destiny to transmit that vision, enfeebled,
perhaps, but still distinct, to other and lesser peoples, that life
might be made softer for the sons of men, and the goodness of the Lord
God--whoever He may be--might not be forgotten.



It is argued against certain books, by virtuosi of moral alarm, that
they depict vice as attractive. This recalls the king who hanged a judge
for deciding that an archbishop was a mammal.



After five years of search I have been able to discover but one book in
English upon the art of kissing, and that is a very feeble treatise by a
savant of York, Pa., Dr. R. McCormick Sturgeon. There may be others, but
I have been quite unable to find them. Kissing, for all one hears of it,
has not attracted the scientists and literati; one compares its meagre
literature with the endless books upon the other phenomena of love,
especially divorce and obstetrics. Even Dr. Sturgeon, pioneering
bravely, is unable to get beyond a sentimental and trivial view of the
thing he vivisects, and so his book is no more than a compendium of
mush. His very description of the act of kissing is made up of sonorous
gabble about heaving bosoms, red lips, electric sparks and such-like
imaginings. What reason have we for believing, as he says, that the
lungs are "strongly expanded" during the act? My own casual observation
inclines me to hold that the opposite is true, that the lungs are
actually collapsed in a pseudo-asthmatic spasm. Again, what is the
ground for arguing that the lips are "full, ripe and red?" The real
effect of the emotions that accompany kissing is to empty the
superficial capillaries and so produce a leaden pallor. As for such
salient symptoms as the temperature, the pulse and the rate of
respiration, the learned pundit passes them over without a word. Mrs.
Elsie Clews Parsons would be a good one to write a sober and accurate
treatise upon kissing. Her books upon "The Family" and "Fear and
Conventionality" indicate her possession of the right sort of learning.
Even better would be a work by Havelock Ellis, say, in three or four
volumes. Ellis has devoted his whole life to illuminating the mysteries
of sex, and his collection of materials is unsurpassed in the world.
Surely there must be an enormous mass of instructive stuff about kissing
in his card indexes, letter files, book presses and archives.

Just why the kiss as we know it should have attained to its present
popularity in Christendom is probably one of the things past finding
out. The Japanese, a very affectionate and sentimental people, do not
practise kissing in any form; they regard the act, in fact, with an
aversion matching our own aversion to the rubbing of noses. Nor is it in
vogue among the Moslems, nor among the Chinese, who countenance it only
as between mother and child. Even in parts of Christendom it is girt
about by rigid taboos, so that its practise tends to be restricted to a
few occasions. Two Frenchmen or Italians, when they meet, kiss each
other on both cheeks. One used to see, indeed, many pictures of General
Joffre thus bussing the heroes of Verdun; there even appeared in print a
story to the effect that one of them objected to the scratching of his
moustache. But imagine two Englishmen kissing! Or two Germans! As well
imagined the former kissing the latter! Such a display of affection is
simply impossible to men of Northern blood; they would die with shame if
caught at it. The Englishman, like the American, never kisses if he can
help it. He even regards it as bad form to kiss his wife in a railway
station, or, in fact, anywhere in sight of a third party. The Latin has
no such compunctions. He leaps to the business regardless of place or
time; his sole concern is with the lady. Once, in driving from Nice to
Monte Carlo along the lower Corniche road, I passed a hundred or so open
taxicabs containing man and woman, and fully 75 per cent. of the men had
their arms around their companions, and were kissing them. These were
not peasants, remember, but well-to-do persons. In England such a scene
would have caused a great scandal; in most American States the police
would have charged the offenders with drawn revolvers.

The charm of kissing is one of the things I have always wondered at. I
do not pretend, of course, that I have never done it; mere politeness
forces one to it; there are women who sulk and grow bellicose unless one
at least makes the motions of kissing them. But what I mean is that I
have never found the act a tenth part as agreeable as poets, the authors
of musical comedy librettos, and (on the contrary side) chaperones and
the _gendarmerie_ make it out. The physical sensation, far from being
pleasant, is intensely uncomfortable--the suspension of respiration,
indeed, quickly resolves itself into a feeling of suffocation--and the
posture necessitated by the approximation of lips and lips is
unfailingly a constrained and ungraceful one. Theoretically, a man
kisses a woman perpendicularly, with their eyes, those "windows of the
soul," synchronizing exactly. But actually, on account of the
incompressibility of the nasal cartilages, he has to incline either his
or her head to an angle of at least 60 degrees, and the result is that
his right eye gazes insanely at the space between her eyebrows, while
his left eye is fixed upon some vague spot behind her. An instantaneous
photograph of such a maneuvre, taken at the moment of incidence, would
probably turn the stomach of even the most romantic man, and force him,
in sheer self-respect, to renounce kissing as he has renounced leap-frog
and walking on stilts. Only a woman (for women are quite devoid of
aesthetic feeling) could survive so damning a picture.

But the most embarrassing moment, in kissing, does not come during the
actual kiss (for at that time the sensation of suffocation drives out
all purely psychical feelings), but immediately afterward. What is one
to say to the woman then? The occasion obviously demands some sort of
remark. One has just received (in theory) a great boon; the silence
begins to make itself felt; there stands the fair one, obviously
waiting. Is one to thank her? Certainly that would be too transparent a
piece of hypocrisy, too flaccid a banality. Is one to tell her that one
loves her? Obviously, there is danger in such assurances, and beside,
one usually doesn't, and a lie is a lie. Or is one to descend to chatty
commonplaces--about the weather, literature, politics, the war? The
practical impossibility of solving the problem leads almost inevitably
to a blunder far worse than any merely verbal one: one kisses her again,
and then again, and so on, and so on. The ultimate result is satiety,
repugnance, disgust; even the girl herself gets enough.



Herbert Spencer's objection to swearing, of which so much has been made
by moralists, was not an objection to its sinfulness but an objection to
its charm. In brief, he feared comfort, satisfaction, joy. The boarding
houses in which he dragged out his gray years were as bare and cheerless
as so many piano boxes. He avoided all the little vices and dissipations
which make human existence bearable: good eating, good drinking,
dancing, tobacco, poker, poetry, the theatre, personal adornment,
philandering, adultery. He was insanely suspicious of everything that
threatened to interfere with his work. Even when that work halted him by
the sheer agony of its monotony, and it became necessary for him to find
recreation, he sought out some recreation that was as unattractive as
possible, in the hope that it would quickly drive him back to work
again. Having to choose between methods of locomotion on his holidays,
he chose going afoot, the most laborious and least satisfying available.
Brought to bay by his human need for a woman, he directed his fancy
toward George Eliot, probably the most unappetizing woman of his race
and time. Drawn irresistibly to music, he avoided the Fifth Symphony and
"Tristan und Isolde," and joined a crowd of old maids singing part songs
around a cottage piano. John Tyndall saw clearly the effect of all this
and protested against it, saying, "He'd be a much nicer fellow if he had
a good swear now and then"--_i. e._, if he let go now and then, if he
yielded to his healthy human instincts now and then, if he went on some
sort of debauch now and then. But what Tyndall overlooked was the fact
that the meagreness of his recreations was the very element that
attracted Spencer to them. Obsessed by the fear--and it turned out to be
well-grounded--that he would not live long enough to complete his work,
he regarded all joy as a temptation, a corruption, a sin of scarlet. He
was a true ascetic. He could sacrifice all things of the present for one
thing of the future, all things real for one thing ideal.



Lying stands on a different plane from all other moral offenses, not
because it is intrinsically more heinous or less heinous, but simply
because it is the only one that may be accurately measured. Forgetting
unwitting error, which has nothing to do with morals, a statement is
either true or not true. This is a simple distinction and relatively
easy to establish. But when one comes to other derelictions the thing
grows more complicated. The line between stealing and not stealing is
beautifully vague; whether or not one has crossed it is not determined
by the objective act, but by such delicate things as motive and purpose.
So again, with assault, sex offenses, and even murder; there may be
surrounding circumstances which greatly condition the moral quality of
the actual act. But lying is specific, exact, scientific. Its capacity
for precise determination, indeed, makes its presence or non-presence
the only accurate gauge of other immoral acts. Murder, for example, is
nowhere regarded as immoral save it involve some repudiation of a social
compact, of a tacit promise to refrain from it--in brief, some deceit,
some perfidy, some lie. One may kill freely when the pact is formally
broken, as in war. One may kill equally freely when it is broken by the
victim, as in an assault by a highwayman. But one may not kill so long
as it is not broken, and one may not break it to clear the way. Some
form of lie is at the bottom of all other recognized crimes, from
seduction to embezzlement. Curiously enough, this master immorality of
them all is not prohibited by the Ten Commandments, nor is it penalized,
in its pure form, by the code of any civilized nation. Only savages have
laws against lying _per se_.



It is the misfortune of humanity that its history is chiefly written by
third-rate men. The first-rate man seldom has any impulse to record and
philosophise; his impulse is to act; life, to him, is an adventure, not
a syllogism or an autopsy. Thus the writing of history is left to
college professors, moralists, theorists, dunder-heads. Few historians,
great or small, have shown any capacity for the affairs they presume to
describe and interpret. Gibbon was an inglorious failure as a member of
Parliament. Thycydides made such a mess of his military (or, rather,
naval) command that he was exiled from Athens for twenty years and
finally assassinated. Flavius Josephus, serving as governor of Galilee,
lost the whole province to the Romans, and had to flee for his life.
Momssen, elected to the Prussian Landtag, flirted with the Socialists.
How much better we would understand the habits and nature of man if
there were more historians like Julius Caesar, or even like Niccolo
Machiavelli! Remembering the sharp and devastating character of their
rough notes, think what marvelous histories Bismarck, Washington and
Frederick the Great might have written! Such men are privy to the facts;
the usual historians have to depend on deductions, rumors, guesses.
Again, such men know how to tell the truth, however unpleasant; they
are wholly free of that puerile moral obsession which marks the
professor.... But they so seldom tell it! Well, perhaps some of them
have--and their penalty is that they are damned and forgotten.



A civilized man's worst curse is social obligation. The most unpleasant
act imaginable is to go to a dinner party. One could get far better
food, taking one day with another, at Childs', or even in a Pennsylvania
Railroad dining-car; one could find far more amusing society in a
bar-room or a bordello, or even at the Y. M. C. A. No hostess in
Christendom ever arranged a dinner party of any pretensions without
including at least one intensely disagreeable person--a vain and vapid
girl, a hideous woman, a follower of baseball, a stock-broker, a veteran
of some war or other, a gabbler of politics. And one is enough to do the



The error of the eugenists lies in the assumption that a physically
healthy man is the best fitted to survive. This is true of rats and the
_pediculae_, but not of the higher animals, _e. g._, horses, dogs and
men. In these higher animals one looks for more subtle qualities,
chiefly of the spirit. Imagine estimating philosophers by their chest
expansions, their blood pressures, their Wassermann reactions!

The so-called social diseases, over which eugenists raise such a pother,
are surely not the worst curses that mankind has to bear. Some of the
greatest men in history have had them; whole nations have had them and
survived. The truth about them is that, save in relatively rare cases,
they do very little damage. The horror in which they are held is chiefly
a moral horror, and its roots lie in the assumption that they cannot be
contracted without sin. Nothing could be more false. Many great
moralists have suffered from them: the gods are always up to such
sardonic waggeries.

Moreover, only one of them is actually inheritable, and that one is
transmitted relatively seldom. But among psychic characters one finds
that practically all are inheritable. For example, stupidity, credulity,
avarice, pecksniffery, lack of imagination, hatred of beauty, meanness,
poltroonry, petty brutality, smallness of soul.... I here present, of
course, the Puritan complex; there flashes up the image of the "good
man," that libel on God and the devil. Consider him well. If you had to
choose a sire for a first-rate son, would you choose a consumptive Jew
with the fires of eternity in his eyes, or an Iowa right-thinker with
his hold full of Bibles and breakfast food?



What humor could be wilder than that of life itself? Franz Schubert, on
his deathbed, read the complete works of J. Fenimore Cooper. John
Millington Synge wrote "Riders to the Sea" on a second-hand $40
typewriter, and wore a celluloid collar. Richard Wagner made a living,
during four lean years, arranging Italian opera arias for the cornet.
Herbert Spencer sang bass in a barber-shop quartette and was in love
with George Eliot. William Shakespeare was a social pusher and bought
him a bogus coat-of-arms. Martin Luther suffered from the jim-jams. One
of the greatest soldiers in Hungarian history was named Hunjadi



Superficially, war seems inordinately cruel and wasteful, and yet it
must be plain on reflection that the natural evolutionary process is
quite as cruel and even more wasteful. Man's chief efforts in times of
peace are devoted to making that process less violent and sanguinary.
Civilization, indeed, may be defined as a constructive criticism of
nature, and Huxley even called it a conspiracy against nature. Man tries
to remedy what must inevitably seem the mistakes and to check what must
inevitably seem the wanton cruelty of the Creator. In war man abandons
these efforts, and so becomes more jovian. The Greeks never represented
the inhabitants of Olympus as succoring and protecting one another, but
always as fighting and attempting to destroy one another.

No form of death inflicted by war is one-half so cruel as certain forms
of death that are seen in hospitals every day. Besides, these forms of
death have the further disadvantage of being inglorious. The average
man, dying in bed, not only has to stand the pains and terrors of death;
he must also, if he can bring himself to think of it at all, stand the
notion that he is ridiculous.... The soldier is at least not laughed at.
Even his enemies treat his agonies with respect.



I dredge up the following from an essay on George Bernard Shaw by Robert
Blatchford, the English Socialist: "Shaw is something much better than a
wit, much better than an artist, much better than a politician or a
dramatist; he is a moralist, a teacher of ethics, austere, relentless,
fiercely earnest."

What could be more idiotic? Then Cotton Mather was a greater man than
Johann Sebastian Bach. Then the average college critic of the arts, with
his balderdash about inspiration and moral purpose, is greater than
Georg Brandes or Saint-Beuve. Then Éugene Brieux, with his Y. M. C. A.
platitudinizing, is greater than Molière, with his ethical agnosticism,
his ironical determinism.

This childish respect for moralizing runs through the whole of
contemporary criticism--at least in England and America. Blatchford
differs from the professorial critics only in the detail that he can
actually write. What he says about Shaw has been said, in heavy and
suffocating words, by almost all of them. And yet nothing could be more
untrue. The moralist, at his best, can never be anything save a sort of
journalist. Moral values change too often to have any serious validity
or interest; what is a virtue today is a sin tomorrow. But the man who
creates a thing of beauty creates something that lasts.



"In France they call an actor a _m'as-tu-vu_, which, anglicised, means a
have-you-seen-me?... The average actor holds the mirror up to nature and
sees in it only the reflection of himself." I take the words from a late
book on the so-called art of the mime by the editor of a magazine
devoted to the stage. The learned author evades plumbing the
psychological springs of this astounding and almost invariable vanity,
this endless bumptiousness of the _cabotin_ in all climes and all ages.
His one attempt is banal: "a foolish public makes much of him." With all
due respect, Nonsense! The larval actor is full of hot and rancid gases
long before a foolish public has had a fair chance to make anything of
him at all, and he continues to emit them long after it has tried him,
condemned him and bidden him be damned. There is, indeed, little choice
in the virulence of their self-respect between a Broadway star who is
slobbered over by press agents and fat women, and the poor ham who plays
thinking parts in a No. 7 road company. The two are alike charged to the
limit; one more ohm, or molecule, and they would burst. Actors begin
where militia colonels, Fifth avenue rectors and Chautauqua orators
leave off. The most modest of them (barring, perhaps, a few unearthly
traitors to the craft) matches the conceit of the solitary pretty girl
on a slow ship. In their lofty eminence of pomposity they are challenged
only by Anglican bishops and grand opera tenors. I have spoken of the
danger they run of bursting. In the case of tenors it must sometimes
actually happen; even the least of them swells visibly as he sings, and
permanently as he grows older....

But why are actors, in general, such blatant and obnoxious asses, such
arrant posturers and wind-bags? Why is it as surprising to find an
unassuming and likable fellow among them as to find a Greek without
fleas? The answer is quite simple. To reach it one needs but consider
the type of young man who normally gets stage-struck. Is he, taking
averages, the intelligent, alert, ingenious, ambitious young fellow? Is
he the young fellow with ideas in him, and a yearning for hard and
difficult work? Is he the diligent reader, the hard student, the eager
inquirer? No. He is, in the overwhelming main, the neighborhood fop and
beau, the human clothes-horse, the nimble squire of dames. The youths of
more active mind, emerging from adolescence, turn to business and the
professions; the men that they admire and seek to follow are men of
genuine distinction, men who have actually done difficult and valuable
things, men who have fought good (if often dishonest) fights and are
respected and envied by other men. The stage-struck youth is of a softer
and more shallow sort. He seeks, not a chance to test his mettle by hard
and useful work, but an easy chance to shine. He craves the regard, not
of men, but of women. He is, in brief, a hollow and incompetent
creature, a strutter and poseur, a popinjay, a pretty one....

I thus beg the question, but explain the actor. He is this silly
youngster grown older, but otherwise unchanged. An initiate of a
profession requiring little more information, culture or capacity for
ratiocination than that of the lady of joy, and surrounded in his
work-shop by men who are as stupid, as vain and as empty as he himself
will be in the years to come, he suffers an arrest of development, and
the little intelligence that may happen to be in him gets no chance to
show itself. The result, in its usual manifestation, is the average bad
actor--a man with the cerebrum of a floor-walker and the vanity of a
fashionable clergyman. The result, in its highest and holiest form is
the actor-manager, with his retinue of press-agents, parasites and
worshipping wenches--perhaps the most preposterous and awe-inspiring
donkey that civilization has yet produced. To look for sense in a fellow
of such equipment and such a history would be like looking for
serviettes in a sailors' boarding-house.

By the same token, the relatively greater intelligence of actresses is
explained. They are, at their worst, quite as bad as the generality of
actors. There are she-stars who are all temperament and
balderdash--intellectually speaking, beggars on horseback, servant girls
well washed. But no one who knows anything about the stage need be told
that it can show a great many more quick-minded and self-respecting
women than intelligent men. And why? Simply because its women are
recruited, in the main, from a class much above that which furnishes its
men. It is, after all, not unnatural for a woman of considerable
intelligence to aspire to the stage. It offers her, indeed, one of the
most tempting careers that is open to her. She cannot hope to succeed in
business, and in the other professions she is an unwelcome and
much-scoffed-at intruder, but on the boards she can meet men on an equal
footing. It is, therefore, no wonder that women of a relatively superior
class often take to the business.... Once they embrace it, their
superiority to their male colleagues is quickly manifest. All movements
against puerility and imbecility in the drama have originated, not with
actors, but with actresses--that is, in so far as they have originated
among stage folks at all. The Ibsen pioneers were such women as Helena
Modjeska, Agnes Sorma and Janet Achurch; the men all hung back. Ibsen,
it would appear, was aware of this superior alertness and took shrewd
advantage of it. At all events, his most tempting acting parts are
feminine ones.

The girls of the stage demonstrate this tendency against great
difficulties. They have to carry a heavy handicap in the enormous number
of women who seek the footlights merely to advertise their real
profession, but despite all this, anyone who has the slightest
acquaintance with stagefolk will testify that, taking one with another,
the women have vastly more brains than the men and are appreciably less
vain and idiotic. Relatively few actresses of any rank marry actors.
They find close communion with the strutting brethren psychologically
impossible. Stock-brokers, dramatists and even theatrical managers are
greatly to be preferred.



Gustave Le Bon and his school, in their discussions of the psychology of
crowds, have put forward the doctrine that the individual man, cheek by
jowl with the multitude, drops down an intellectual peg or two, and so
tends to show the mental and emotional reactions of his inferiors. It is
thus that they explain the well-known violence and imbecility of crowds.
The crowd, as a crowd, performs acts that many of its members, as
individuals, would never be guilty of. Its average intelligence is very
low; it is inflammatory, vicious, idiotic, almost simian. Crowds,
properly worked up by skilful demagogues, are ready to believe anything,
and to do anything.

Le Bon, I daresay, is partly right, but also partly wrong. His theory is
probably too flattering to the average numskull. He accounts for the
extravagance of crowds on the assumption that the numskull, along with
the superior man, is knocked out of his wits by suggestion--that he,
too, does things in association that he would never think of doing
singly. The fact may be accepted, but the reasoning raises a doubt. The
numskull runs amuck in a crowd, not because he has been inoculated with
new rascality by the mysterious crowd influence, but because his
habitual rascality now has its only chance to function safely. In other
words, the numskull is vicious, but a poltroon. He refrains from all
attempts at lynching _a cappella_, not because it takes suggestion to
make him desire to lynch, but because it takes the protection of a crowd
to make him brave enough to try it.

What happens when a crowd cuts loose is not quite what Le Bon and his
followers describe. The few superior men in it are not straightway
reduced to the level of the underlying stoneheads. On the contrary, they
usually keep their heads, and often make efforts to combat the crowd
action. But the stoneheads are too many for them; the fence is torn down
or the blackamoor is lynched. And why? Not because the stoneheads,
normally virtuous, are suddenly criminally insane. Nay, but because they
are suddenly conscious of the power lying in their numbers--because they
suddenly realize that their natural viciousness and insanity may be
safely permitted to function.

In other words, the particular swinishness of a crowd is permanently
resident in the majority of its members--in all those members, that is,
who are naturally ignorant and vicious--perhaps 95 per cent. All studies
of mob psychology are defective in that they underestimate this
viciousness. They are poisoned by the prevailing delusion that the lower
orders of men are angels. This is nonsense. The lower orders of men are
incurable rascals, either individually or collectively. Decency,
self-restraint, the sense of justice, courage--these virtues belong
only to a small minority of men. This minority never runs amuck. Its
most distinguishing character, in truth, is its resistance to all
running amuck. The third-rate man, though he may wear the false whiskers
of a first-rate man, may always be detected by his inability to keep his
head in the face of an appeal to his emotions. A whoop strips off his



As for William Jennings Bryan, of whom so much piffle, pro and con, has
been written, the whole of his political philosophy may be reduced to
two propositions, neither of which is true. The first is the proposition
that the common people are wise and honest, and the second is the
proposition that all persons who refuse to believe it are scoundrels.
Take away the two, and all that would remain of Jennings would be a
somewhat greasy bald-headed man with his mouth open.



Men's clubs have but one intelligible purpose: to afford asylum to
fellows who haven't any girls. Hence their general gloom, their air of
lost causes, their prevailing acrimony. No man would ever enter a club
if he had an agreeable woman to talk to. This is particularly true of
married men. Those of them that one finds in clubs answer to a general
description: they have wives too unattractive to entertain them, and yet
too watchful to allow them to seek entertainment elsewhere. The
bachelors, in the main, belong to two classes: (a) those who have been
unfortunate in amour, and are still too sore to show any new enterprise,
and (b) those so lacking in charm that no woman will pay any attention
to them. Is it any wonder that the men one thus encounters in clubs are
stupid and miserable creatures, and that they find their pleasure in
such banal sports as playing cards, drinking highballs, shooting pool,
and reading the barber-shop weeklies?... The day a man's mistress is
married one always finds him at his club.



Despite the common belief of women to the contrary, fully 95 per cent.
of all married men, at least in America, are faithful to their wives.
This, however, is not due to virtue, but chiefly to lack of courage. It
takes more initiative and daring to start up an extra-legal affair than
most men are capable of. They look and they make plans, but that is as
far as they get. Another salient cause of connubial rectitude is lack of
means. A mistress costs a great deal more than a wife; in the open
market of the world she can get more. It is only the rare man who can
conceal enough of his income from his wife to pay for a morganatic
affair. And most of the men clever enough to do this are too clever to
be intrigued.

I have said that 95 per cent. of married men are faithful. I believe the
real proportion is nearer 99 per cent. What women mistake for infidelity
is usually no more than vanity. Every man likes to be regarded as a
devil of a fellow, and particularly by his wife. On the one hand, it
diverts her attention from his more genuine shortcomings, and on the
other hand it increases her respect for him. Moreover, it gives her a
chance to win the sympathy of other women, and so satisfies that craving
for martyrdom which is perhaps woman's strongest characteristic. A
woman who never has any chance to suspect her husband feels cheated and
humiliated. She is in the position of those patriots who are induced to
enlist for a war by pictures of cavalry charges, and then find
themselves told off to wash the general's underwear.



The moral order of the world runs aground on hay fever. Of what use is
it? Why was it invented? Cancer and hydrophobia, at least, may be
defended on the ground that they kill. Killing may have some benign
purpose, some esoteric significance, some cosmic use. But hay fever
never kills; it merely tortures. No man ever died of it. Is the torture,
then, an end in itself? Does it break the pride of strutting, snorting
man, and turn his heart to the things of the spirit? Nonsense! A man
with hay fever is a natural criminal. He curses the gods, and defies
them to kill him. He even curses the devil. Is its use, then, to prepare
him for happiness to come--for the vast ease and comfort of
convalescence? Nonsense again! The one thing he is sure of, the one
thing he never forgets for a moment, is that it will come back again
next year.



The final test of truth is ridicule. Very few religious dogmas have ever
faced it and survived. Huxley laughed the devils out of the Gadarene
swine. Dowie's whiskers broke the back of Dowieism. Not the laws of the
United States but the mother-in-law joke brought the Mormons to
compromise and surrender. Not the horror of it but the absurdity of it
killed the doctrine of infant damnation.... But the razor edge of
ridicule is turned by the tough hide of truth. How loudly the
barber-surgeons laughed at Harvey--and how vainly! What clown ever
brought down the house like Galileo? Or Columbus? Or Jenner? Or Lincoln?
Or Darwin?... They are laughing at Nietzsche yet....



The low, graceless humor of names! On my shelf of poetry, arranged by
the alphabet, Coleridge and J. Gordon Cooglar are next-door neighbors!
Mrs. Hemans is beside Laurence Hope! Walt Whitman rubs elbows with Ella
Wheeler Wilcox; Robert Browning with Richard Burton; Rossetti with Cale
Young Rice; Shelly with Clinton Scollard; Wordsworth with George E.
Woodberry; John Keats with Herbert Kaufman!

Ibsen, on the shelf of dramatists, is between Victor Hugo and Jerome K.
Jerome. Sudermann follows Harriet Beecher Stowe. Maeterlinck shoulders
Percy Mackaye. Shakespeare is between Sardou and Shaw. Euripides and
Clyde Fitch! Upton Sinclair and Sophocles! Aeschylus and F. Anstey!
D'Annunzio and Richard Harding Davis! Augustus Thomas and Tolstoi!

More alphabetical humor. Gerhart Hauptmann and Robert Hichens; Voltaire
and Henry Van Dyke; Flaubert and John Fox, Jr.; Balzac and John Kendrick
Bangs; Ostrovsky and E. Phillips Oppenheim; Elinor Glyn and Théophile
Gautier; Joseph Conrad and Robert W. Chambers; Zola and Zangwill!...

Midway on my scant shelf of novels, between George Moore and Frank
Norris, there is just room enough for the two volumes of "Derringforth,"
by Frank A. Munsey.



A hearing of Schumann's B flat symphony of late, otherwise a very
caressing experience, was corrupted by the thought that music would be
much the gainer if musicians could get over their superstitious
reverence for the mere text of the musical classics. That reverence,
indeed, is already subject to certain limitations; hands have been laid,
at one time or another, upon most of the immortal oratorios, and even
the awful name of Bach has not dissuaded certain German editors. But it
still swathes the standard symphonies like some vast armor of rubber and
angel food, and so imagination has to come to the aid of the flutes and
fiddles when the band plays Schumann, Mozart, and even parts of
Beethoven. One discerns, often quite clearly, what the reverend Master
was aiming at, but just as often one fails to hear it in precise tones.

This is particularly true of Schumann, whose deficiency in instrumental
cunning has passed into proverb. And in the B flat symphony, his first
venture into the epic form, his failures are most numerous. More than
once, obviously attempting to roll up tone into a moving climax, he
succeeds only in muddling his colors. I remember one place--at the
moment I can't recall where it is--where the strings and the brass storm
at one another in furious figures. The blast of the brass, as the
vaudevillains say, gets across--but the fiddles merely scream absurdly.
The whole passage suggests the bleating of sheep in the midst of a vast
bellowing of bulls. Schumann overestimated the horsepower of fiddle
music so far up the E string--or underestimated the full kick of the
trumpets.... Other such soft spots are well known.

Why, then, go on parroting _gaucheries_ that Schumann himself, were he
alive today, would have long since corrected? Why not call an ecumenical
council, appoint a commission to see to such things, and then forget the
sacrilege? As a self-elected delegate from heathendom, I nominate Dr.
Richard Strauss as chairman. When all is said and done, Strauss probably
knows more about writing for orchestra than any other two men that ever
lived, not excluding Wagner. Surely no living rival, as Dr. Sunday would
say, has anything on him. If, after hearing a new composition by
Strauss, one turns to the music, one is invariably surprised to find how
simple it is. The performance reveals so many purple moments, so
staggering an array of lusciousness, that the ear is bemused into
detecting scales and chords that never were on land or sea. What the
exploratory eye subsequently discovers, perhaps, is no more than our
stout and comfortable old friend, the highly well-born _hausfrau_, Mme.
C Dur--with a vine leaf or two of C sharp minor or F major in her hair.
The trick lies in the tone-color--in the flabbergasting magic of the
orchestration. There are some moments in "Elektra" when sounds come out
of the orchestra that tug at the very roots of the hair, sounds so
unearthly that they suggest a caroling of dragons or _bierfisch_--and
yet they are made by the same old fiddles that play the Kaiser Quartet,
and by the same old trombones that the Valkyrie ride like witch's
broomsticks, and by the same old flutes that sob and snuffle in Tit'l's
Serenade. And in parts of "Feuersnot"--but Roget must be rewritten by
Strauss before "Feuersnot" is described. There is one place where the
harps, taking a running start from the scrolls of the violins, leap
slambang through (or is it into?) the firmament of Heaven. Once, when I
heard this passage played at a concert, a woman sitting beside me rolled
over like a log, and had to be hauled out by the ushers.

Yes; Strauss is the man to reorchestrate the symphonies of Schumann,
particularly the B flat, the Rhenish and the Fourth. I doubt that he
could do much with Schubert, for Schubert, though he is dead nearly a
hundred years, yet remains curiously modern. The Unfinished symphony is
full of exquisite color effects--consider, for example, the rustling
figure for the strings in the first movement--and as for the C major, it
is so stupendous a debauch of melodic and harmonic beauty that one
scarcely notices the colors at all. In its slow movement mere
loveliness in music probably says all that will ever be said.... But
what of old Ludwig? Har, har; here we begin pulling the whiskers of Baal
Himself. Nevertheless, I am vandal enough to wonder, on sad Sunday
mornings, what Strauss could do with the first movement of the C minor.
More, if Strauss ever does it and lets me hear the result just once,
I'll be glad to serve six months in jail with him.... But in Munich, of
course! And with a daily visitor's pass for Cousin Pschorr!...

The conservatism which shrinks at such barbarities is the same
conservatism which demands that the very typographical errors in the
Bible be swallowed without salt, and that has thus made a puerile
dream-book of parts of Holy Writ. If you want to see how far this last
madness has led Christendom astray, take a look at an article by Abraham
Mitrie Rihbany, an intelligent Syrian, in the _Atlantic Monthly_ of a
couple of years ago. The title of the article is "The Oriental Manner of
Speech," and in it Rihbany shows how much of mere Oriental extravagance
of metaphor is to be found in many celebrated passages, and how little
of literal significance. This Oriental extravagance, of course, makes
for beauty, but as interpreted by pundits of no imagination it surely
doesn't make for understanding. What the Western World needs is a Bible
in which the idioms of the Aramaic of thousands of years ago are
translated into the idioms of today. The man who undertook such a
translation, to be sure, would be uproariously denounced, just as Luther
and Wycliffe were denounced, but he could well afford to face the storm.
The various Revised Versions, including the Modern Speech New Testament
of Richard Francis Weymouth, leave much to be desired. They rectify many
naif blunders and so make the whole narrative more intelligible, but
they still render most of the tropes of the original literally.

These tropes are not the substance of Holy Writ; they are simply its
color. In the same way mere tone-color is not the substance of a musical
composition. Beethoven's Eighth Symphony is just as great a work, in all
its essentials, in a four-hand piano arrangement as in the original
score. Every harmonic and melodic idea of the composer is there; one can
trace just as clearly the subtle processes of his mind; every step in
the working out of the materials is just as plain. True enough, there
are orchestral compositions of which this cannot be reasonably said;
their color is so much more important than their form that when one
takes away the former the latter almost ceases to exist. But I doubt
that many competent critics would argue that they belong to the first
rank. Form, after all, is the important thing. It is design that counts,
not decoration--design and organization. The pillars of a musical
masterpiece are like the pillars of the Parthenon; they are almost as
beautiful bleached white as they were in all their original hues.



If I were a woman I should want to be a blonde, with golden, silky hair,
pink cheeks and sky-blue eyes. It would not bother me to think that this
color scheme was mistaken by the world for a flaunting badge of
stupidity; I would have a better arm in my arsenal than mere
intelligence; I would get a husband by easy surrender while the
brunettes attempted it vainly by frontal assault.

Men are not easily taken by frontal assault; it is only strategem that
can quickly knock them down. To be a blonde, pink, soft and delicate, is
to be a strategem. It is to be a ruse, a feint, an ambush. It is to
fight under the Red Cross flag. A man sees nothing alert and designing
in those pale, crystalline eyes; he sees only something helpless,
childish, weak; something that calls to his compassion; something that
appeals powerfully to his conceit in his own strength. And so he is
taken before he knows that there is a war. He lifts his portcullis in
Christian charity--and the enemy is in his citadel.

The brunette can make no such stealthy and sure attack. No matter how
subtle her art, she can never hope to quite conceal her intent. Her eyes
give her away. They flash and glitter. They have depths. They draw the
male gaze into mysterious and sinister recesses. And so the male behind
the gaze flies to arms. He may be taken in the end--indeed, he usually
is--but he is not taken by surprise; he is not taken without a fight. A
brunette has to battle for every inch of her advance. She is confronted
by an endless succession of Dead Man's Hills, each equipped with
telescopes, semaphores, alarm gongs, wireless. The male sees her clearly
through her densest smoke-clouds.... But the blonde captures him under a
flag of truce. He regards her tenderly, kindly, almost pityingly, until
the moment the gyves are upon his wrists.

It is all an optical matter, a question of color. The pastel shades
deceive him; the louder hues send him to his artillery. God help, I say,
the red-haired girl! She goes into action with warning pennants flying.
The dullest, blindest man can see her a mile away; he can catch the
alarming flash of her hair long before he can see the whites, or even
the terrible red-browns, of her eyes. She has a long field to cross,
heavily under defensive fire, before she can get into rifle range. Her
quarry has a chance to throw up redoubts, to dig himself in, to call for
reinforcements, to elude her by ignominious flight. She must win, if she
is to win at all, by an unparalleled combination of craft and
resolution. She must be swift, daring, merciless. Even the brunette of
black and penetrating eye has great advantages over her. No wonder she
never lets go, once her arms are around her antagonist's neck! No
wonder she is, of all women, the hardest to shake off!

All nature works in circles. Causes become effects; effects develop into
causes. The red-haired girl's dire need of courage and cunning has
augmented her store of those qualities by the law of natural selection.
She is, by long odds, the most intelligent and bemusing of women. She
shows cunning, foresight, technique, variety. She always fails a dozen
times before she succeeds; but she brings to the final business the
abominable expertness of a Ludendorff; she has learnt painfully by the
process of trial and error. Red-haired girls are intellectual
stimulants. They know all the tricks. They are so clever that they have
even cast a false glamour of beauty about their worst defect--their
harsh and gaudy hair. They give it euphemistic and deceitful
names--auburn, bronze, Titian. They overcome by their hellish arts that
deep-seated dread of red which is inborn in all of God's creatures. They
charm men with what would even alarm bulls.

And the blondes, by following the law of least resistance, have gone in
the other direction. The great majority of them--I speak, of course, of
natural blondes; not of the immoral wenches who work their atrocities
under cover of a synthetic blondeness--are quite as shallow and stupid
as they look. One seldom hears a blonde say anything worth hearing; the
most they commonly achieve is a specious, baby-like prattling, an
infantile artlessness. But let us not blame them for nature's work. Why,
after all, be intelligent? It is, at best, no more than a capacity for
unhappiness. The blonde not only doesn't miss it; she is even better off
without it. What imaginable intelligence could compensate her for the
flat blueness of her eyes, the xanthous pallor of her hair, the
doll-like pink of her cheeks? What conceivable cunning could do such
execution as her stupendous appeal to masculine vanity, sentimentality,

If I were a woman I should want to be a blonde. My blondeness might be
hideous, but it would get me a husband, and it would make him cherish me
and love me.



Envy, as I have said, is at the heart of the messianic delusion, the
mania to convert the happy sinner into a "good" man, and so make him
miserable. And at the heart of that envy is fear--the fear to sin, to
take a chance, to monkey with the buzzsaw. This ineradicable fear is the
outstanding mark of the fifth-rate man, at all times and everywhere. It
dominates his politics, his theology, his whole thinking. He is a moral
fellow because he is afraid to venture over the fence--and he hates the
man who is not.

The solemn proofs, so laboriously deduced from life insurance
statistics, that the man who uses alcohol, even moderately, dies
slightly sooner than the teetotaler--these proofs merely show that this
man is one who leads an active and vigorous life, and so faces hazards
and uses himself up--in brief, one who lives at high tempo and with full
joy, what Nietzsche used to call the _ja-sager_, or yes-sayer. He may,
in fact, die slightly sooner than the teetotaler, but he lives
infinitely longer. Moreover, his life, humanly speaking, is much more
worth while, to himself and to the race. He does the hard and dangerous
work of the world, he takes the chances, he makes the experiments. He is
the soldier, the artist, the innovator, the lover. All the great works
of man have been done by men who thus lived joyously, strenuously, and
perhaps a bit dangerously. They have never been concerned about
stretching life for two or three more years; they have been concerned
about making life engrossing and stimulating and a high adventure while
it lasts. Teetotalism is as impossible to such men as any other
manifestation of cowardice, and, if it were possible, it would destroy
their utility and significance just as certainly.

A man who shrinks from a cocktail before dinner on the ground that it
may flabbergast his hormones, and so make him die at 69 years, ten
months and five days instead of at 69 years, eleven months and seven
days--such a man is as absurd a poltroon as the fellow who shrinks from
kissing a woman on the ground that she may floor him with a chair leg.
Each flees from a purely theoretical risk. Each is a useless encumberer
of the earth, and the sooner dead the better. Each is a discredit to the
human race, already discreditable enough, God knows.

Teetotalism does not make for human happiness; it makes for the dull,
idiotic happiness of the barnyard. The men who do things in the world,
the men worthy of admiration and imitation, are men constitutionally
incapable of any such pecksniffian stupidity. Their ideal is not a safe
life, but a full life; they do not try to follow the canary bird in a
cage, but the eagle in the air. And in particular they do not flee from
shadows and bugaboos. The alcohol myth is such a bugaboo. The sort of
man it scares is the sort of man whose chief mark is that he is always

No wonder the Rockefellers and their like are hot for saving the
workingman from John Barleycorn! Imagine the advantage to them of
operating upon a flabby horde of timorous and joyless slaves, afraid of
all fun and kicking up, horribly moral, eager only to live as long as
possible! What mule-like fidelity and efficiency could be got out of
such a rabble! But how many Lincolns would you get out of it, and how
many Jacksons, and how many Grants?



Why has no publisher ever thought of perfuming his novels? The final
refinement of publishing, already bedizened by every other art! Barabbas
turned Petronius! For instance, consider the bucolic romances of the
hyphenated Mrs. Porter. They have a subtle flavor of new-mown hay and
daffodils already; why not add the actual essence, or at all events some
safe coal-tar substitute, and so help imagination to spread its wings?
For Hall Caine, musk and synthetic bergamot. For Mrs. Glyn and her
neighbors on the tiger-skin, the fragrant blood of the red, red rose.
For the ruffianish pages of Jack London, the pungent, hospitable smell
of a first-class bar-room--that indescribable mingling of Maryland rye,
cigar smoke, stale malt liquor, radishes, potato salad and _blutwurst_.
For the Dartmoor sagas of the interminable Phillpotts, the warm
ammoniacal bouquet of cows, poultry and yokels. For the "Dodo" school,
violets and Russian cigarettes. For the venerable Howells, lavender and
mignonette. For Zola, Rochefort and wet leather. For Mrs. Humphrey Ward,
lilies of the valley. For Marie Corelli, tuberoses and embalming fluid.
For Chambers, sachet and lip paint. For----

But I leave you to make your own choices. All I offer is the general
idea. It has been tried in the theatre. Well do I remember the first
weeks of "Florodora" at the old Casino, with a mannikin in the lobby
squirting "La Flor de Florodora" upon all us Florodorans.... I was put
on trial for my life when I got home!



Marriage is always a man's second choice. It is entered upon, more often
than not, as the safest form of intrigue. The caitiff yields quickest;
the man who loves danger and adventure holds out longest. Behind it one
frequently finds, not that lofty romantic passion which poets hymn, but
a mere yearning for peace and security. The abominable hazards of the
high seas, the rough humors and pestilences of the forecastle--these
drive the timid mariner ashore.... The authentic Cupid, at least in
Christendom, was discovered by the late Albert Ludwig Siegmund Neisser
in 1879.



Deponent, being duly sworn, saith: My taste in poetry is for delicate
and fragile things--to be honest, for artificial things. I like a frail
but perfectly articulated stanza, a sonnet wrought like ivory, a song
full of glowing nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns,
conjunctions, prepositions and participles, but without too much hard
sense to it. Poetry, to me, has but two meanings. On the one hand, it is
a magical escape from the sordidness of metabolism and the class war,
and on the other hand it is a subtle, very difficult and hence very
charming art, like writing fugues or mixing mayonnaise. I do not go to
poets to be taught anything, or to be heated up to indignation, or to
have my conscience blasted out of its torpor, but to be soothed and
caressed, to be lulled with sweet sounds, to be wooed into
forgetfulness, to be tickled under the metaphysical chin. My favorite
poem is Lizette Woodworth Reese's "Tears," which, as a statement of
fact, seems to me to be as idiotic as the Book of Revelation. The poetry
I regard least is such stuff as that of Robert Browning and Matthew
Arnold, which argues and illuminates. I dislike poetry of intellectual
content as much as I dislike women of intellectual content--and for the
same reason.



If I had the time, and there were no sweeter follies offering, I should
like to write an essay on the books that have quite failed of achieving
their original purposes, and are yet of respectable use and potency for
other purposes. For example, the Book of Revelation. The obvious aim of
the learned author of this work was to bring the early Christians into
accord by telling them authoritatively what to expect and hope for; its
actual effect during eighteen hundred years has been to split them into
a multitude of camps, and so set them to denouncing, damning, jailing
and murdering one another. Again, consider the autobiography of
Benvenuto Cellini. Ben wrote it to prove that he was an honest man, a
mirror of all the virtues, an injured innocent; the world, reading it,
hails him respectfully as the noblest, the boldest, the gaudiest liar
that ever lived. Again, turn to "Gulliver's Travels." The thing was
planned by its rev. author as a devastating satire, a terrible piece of
cynicism; it survives as a story-book for sucklings. Yet again, there is
"Hamlet." Shakespeare wrote it frankly to make money for a theatrical
manager; it has lost money for theatrical managers ever since. Yet
again, there is Caesar's "De Bello Gallico." Julius composed it to
thrill and arouse the Romans; its sole use today is to stupefy and
sicken schoolboys. Finally, there is the celebrated book of General F.
von Bernhardi. He wrote it to inflame Germany; its effect was to inflame

The list might be lengthened almost _ad infinitum_. When a man writes a
book he fires a machine gun into a wood. The game he brings down often
astonishes him, and sometimes horrifies him. Consider the case of
Ibsen.... After my book on Nietzsche I was actually invited to lecture
at Princeton.



Romain Rolland's "Beethoven," one of the cornerstones of his celebrity
as a critic, is based upon a thesis that is of almost inconceivable
inaccuracy, to wit, the thesis that old Ludwig was an apostle of joy,
and that his music reveals his determination to experience and utter it
in spite of all the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Nothing
could be more absurd. Joy, in truth, was precisely the emotion that
Beethoven could never conjure up; it simply was not in him. Turn to the
_scherzo_ of any of his trios, quartets, sonatas or symphonies. A
sardonic waggishness is there, and sometimes even a wistful sort of
merriment, but joy in the real sense--a kicking up of legs, a
light-heartedness, a complete freedom from care--is not to be found. It
is in Haydn, it is in Schubert and it is often in Mozart, but it is no
more in Beethoven than it is in Tschaikovsky. Even the hymn to joy at
the end of the Ninth symphony narrowly escapes being a gruesome parody
on the thing itself; a conscious effort is in every note of it; it is
almost as lacking in spontaneity as (if it were imaginable at all) a
piece of _vers libre_ by Augustus Montague Toplady.

Nay; Ludwig was no leaping buck. Nor was it his deafness, nor poverty,
nor the crimes of his rascally nephew that pumped joy out of him. The
truth is that he lacked it from birth; he was born a Puritan--and
though a Puritan may also become a great man (as witness Herbert Spencer
and Beelzebub), he can never throw off being a Puritan. Beethoven
stemmed from the Low Countries, and the Low Countries, in those days,
were full of Puritan refugees; the very name, in its first incarnation,
may have been Barebones. If you want to comprehend the authentic man,
don't linger over Rolland's fancies but go to his own philosophizings,
as garnered in "Beethoven, the Man and the Artist," by Friedrich Kerst,
Englished by Krehbiel. Here you will find a collection of moral
banalities that would have delighted Jonathan Edwards--a collection that
might well be emblazoned on gilt cards and hung in Sunday schools. He
begins with a naif anthropomorphism that is now almost perished from the
world; he ends with a solemn repudiation of adultery.... But a great
man, my masters, a great man! We have enough biographies of him, and
talmuds upon his works. Who will do a full-length psychological study of



The notion that the aim of art is to fix the shifting aspects of nature,
that all art is primarily representative--this notion is as unsound as
the theory that Friday is an unlucky day, and is dying as hard. One even
finds some trace of it in Anatole France, surely a man who should know
better. The true function of art is to criticise, embellish and edit
nature--particularly to edit it, and so make it coherent and lovely. The
artist is a sort of impassioned proof-reader, blue-pencilling the
_lapsus calami_ of God. The sounds in a Beethoven symphony, even the
Pastoral, are infinitely more orderly, varied and beautiful than those
of the woods. The worst flute is never as bad as the worst soprano. The
best violoncello is immeasurably better than the best tenor.

All first-rate music suffers by the fact that it has to be performed by
human beings--that is, that nature must be permitted to corrupt it. The
performance one hears in a concert hall or opera house is no more than a
baroque parody upon the thing the composer imagined. In an orchestra of
eighty men there is inevitably at least one man with a sore thumb, or
bad kidneys, or a brutal wife, or _katzenjammer_--and one is enough.
Some day the natural clumsiness and imperfection of fingers, lips and
larynxes will be overcome by mechanical devices, and we shall have
Beethoven and Mozart and Schubert in such wonderful and perfect beauty
that it will be almost unbearable. If half as much ingenuity had been
lavished upon music machines as has been lavished upon the telephone and
the steam engine, we would have had mechanical orchestras long ago.
Mechanical pianos are already here. Piano-players, bound to put some
value on the tortures of Czerny, affect to laugh at all such
contrivances, but that is no more than a pale phosphorescence of an
outraged _wille zur macht_. Setting aside half a dozen--perhaps a
dozen--great masters of a moribund craft, who will say that the average
mechanical piano is not as competent as the average pianist?

When the human performer of music goes the way of the galley-slave, the
charm of personality, of course, will be pumped out of the performance
of music. But the charm of personality does not help music; it hinders
it. It is not a reinforcement to music; it is a rival. When a beautiful
singer comes upon the stage, two shows, as it were, go on at once: first
the music show, and then the arms, shoulders, neck, nose, ankles, eyes,
hips, calves and ruby lips--in brief, the sex-show. The second of these
shows, to the majority of persons present, is more interesting than the
first--to the men because of the sex interest, and to the women because
of the professional or technical interest--and so music is forced into
the background. What it becomes, indeed, is no more than a half-heard
accompaniment to an imagined anecdote, just as color, line and mass
become mere accomplishments to an anecdote in a picture by an English
academician, or by a sentimental German of the Boecklin school.

The purified and dephlogisticated music of the future, to be sure, will
never appeal to the mob, which will keep on demanding its chance to
gloat over gaudy, voluptuous women, and fat, scandalous tenors. The mob,
even disregarding its insatiable appetite for the improper, is a natural
hero worshiper. It loves, not the beautiful, but the strange, the
unprecedented, the astounding; it suffers from an incurable
_héliogabalisme_. A soprano who can gargle her way up to G sharp in
altissimo interests it almost as much as a contralto who has slept
publicly with a grand duke. If it cannot get the tenor who receives
$3,000 a night, it will take the tenor who fought the manager with
bung-starters last Tuesday. But this is merely saying that the tastes
and desires of the mob have nothing to do with music as an art. For its
ears, as for its eyes, it demands anecdotes--on the one hand the Suicide
symphony, "The Forge in the Forest," and the general run of Italian
opera, and on the other hand such things as "The Angelus," "Playing
Grandpa" and the so-called "Mona Lisa." It cannot imagine art as devoid
of moral content, as beauty pure and simple. It always demands
something to edify it, or, failing that, to shock it.

These concepts, of the edifying and the shocking, are closer together in
the psyche than most persons imagine. The one, in fact, depends upon the
other: without some definite notion of the improving it is almost
impossible to conjure up an active notion of the improper. All salacious
art is addressed, not to the damned, but to the consciously saved; it is
Sunday-school superintendents, not bartenders, who chiefly patronize
peep-shows, and know the dirty books, and have a high artistic
admiration for sopranos of superior gluteal development. The man who has
risen above the petty ethical superstitions of Christendom gets little
pleasure out of impropriety, for very few ordinary phenomena seem to him
to be improper. Thus a Frenchman, viewing the undraped statues which
bedizen his native galleries of art, either enjoys them in a purely
aesthetic fashion--which is seldom possible save when he is in
liquor--or confesses frankly that he doesn't like them at all; whereas
the visiting Americano is so powerfully shocked and fascinated by them
that one finds him, the same evening, in places where no respectable man
ought to go. All art, to this fellow, must have a certain bawdiness, or
he cannot abide it. His favorite soprano, in the opera house, is not the
fat and middle-aged lady who can actually sing, but the girl with the
bare back and translucent drawers. Condescending to the concert hall,
he is bored by the posse of enemy aliens in funereal black, and so
demands a vocal soloist--that is, a gaudy creature of such advanced
corsetting that she can make him forget Bach for a while, and turn his
thoughts pleasantly to amorous intrigue.

In all this, of course, there is nothing new. Other and better men have
noted the damage that the personal equation does to music, and some of
them have even sought ways out. For example, Richard Strauss. His
so-called ballet, "Josefs Legend," produced in Paris just before the
war, is an attempt to write an opera without singers. All of the music
is in the orchestra; the folks on the stage merely go through a
pointless pantomime; their main function is to entertain the eye with
shifting colors. Thus, the romantic sentiments of Joseph are announced,
not by some eye-rolling tenor, but by the first, second, third, fourth,
fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth violins (it is a Strauss score!), with
the incidental aid of the wood-wind, the brass, the percussion and the
rest of the strings. And the heroine's reply is made, not by a soprano
with a cold, but by an honest man playing a flute. The next step will be
the substitution of marionettes for actors. The removal of the orchestra
to a sort of trench, out of sight of the audience, is already an
accomplished fact at Munich. The end, perhaps, will be music purged of
its current ptomaines. In brief, music.



I often wonder how much sound and nourishing food is fed to the animals
in the zoological gardens of America every week, and try to figure out
what the public gets in return for the cost thereof. The annual bill
must surely run into millions; one is constantly hearing how much beef a
lion downs at a meal, and how many tons of hay an elephant dispatches in
a month. And to what end? To the end, principally, that a horde of
superintendents and keepers may be kept in easy jobs. To the end,
secondarily, that the least intelligent minority of the population may
have an idiotic show to gape at on Sunday afternoons, and that the young
of the species may be instructed in the methods of amour prevailing
among chimpanzees and become privy to the technic employed by jaguars,
hyenas and polar bears in ridding themselves of lice.

So far as I can make out, after laborious visits to all the chief zoos
of the nation, no other imaginable purpose is served by their existence.
One hears constantly, true enough (mainly from the gentlemen they
support) that they are educational. But how? Just what sort of
instruction do they radiate, and what is its value? I have never been
able to find out. The sober truth is that they are no more educational
than so many firemen's parades or displays of sky-rockets, and that all
they actually offer to the public in return for the taxes wasted upon
them is a form of idle and witless amusement, compared to which a visit
to a penitentiary, or even to Congress or a state legislature in
session, is informing, stimulating and ennobling.

Education your grandmother! Show me a schoolboy who has ever learned
anything valuable or important by watching a mangy old lion snoring away
in its cage or a family of monkeys fighting for peanuts. To get any
useful instruction out of such a spectacle is palpably impossible; not
even a college professor is improved by it. The most it can imaginably
impart is that the stripes of a certain sort of tiger run one way and
the stripes of another sort some other way, that hyenas and polecats
smell worse than Greek 'bus boys, that the Latin name of the raccoon
(who was unheard of by the Romans) is _Procyon lotor_. For the
dissemination of such banal knowledge, absurdly emitted and defectively
taken in, the taxpayers of the United States are mulcted in hundreds of
thousands of dollars a year. As well make them pay for teaching
policemen the theory of least squares, or for instructing roosters in
the laying of eggs.

But zoos, it is argued, are of scientific value. They enable learned men
to study this or that. Again the facts blast the theory. No scientific
discovery of any value whatsoever, even to the animals themselves, has
ever come out of a zoo. The zoo scientist is the old woman of zoology,
and his alleged wisdom is usually exhibited, not in the groves of actual
learning, but in the yellow journals. He is to biology what the late
Camille Flammarion was to astronomy, which is to say, its court jester
and reductio ad absurdum. When he leaps into public notice with some new
pearl of knowledge, it commonly turns out to be no more than the news
that Marie Bashkirtseff, the Russian lady walrus, has had her teeth
plugged with zinc and is expecting twins. Or that Pishposh, the
man-eating alligator, is down with locomotor ataxia. Or that Damon, the
grizzly, has just finished his brother Pythias in the tenth round,
chewing off his tail, nose and remaining ear.

Science, of course, has its uses for the lower animals. A diligent study
of their livers and lights helps to an understanding of the anatomy and
physiology, and particularly of the pathology, of man. They are
necessary aids in devising and manufacturing many remedial agents, and
in testing the virtues of those already devised; out of the mute agonies
of a rabbit or a calf may come relief for a baby with diphtheria, or
means for an archdeacon to escape the consequences of his youthful
follies. Moreover, something valuable is to be got out of a mere study
of their habits, instincts and ways of mind--knowledge that, by analogy,
may illuminate the parallel doings of the _genus homo_, and so enable us
to comprehend the primitive mental processes of Congressmen, morons and
the rev. clergy.

But it must be obvious that none of these studies can be made in a zoo.
The zoo animals, to begin with, provide no material for the biologist;
he can find out no more about their insides than what he discerns from a
safe distance and through the bars. He is not allowed to try his germs
and specifics upon them; he is not allowed to vivisect them. If he would
find out what goes on in the animal body under this condition or that,
he must turn from the inhabitants of the zoo to the customary guinea
pigs and street dogs, and buy or steal them for himself. Nor does he get
any chance for profitable inquiry when zoo animals die (usually of lack
of exercise or ignorant doctoring), for their carcasses are not handed
to him for autopsy, but at once stuffed with gypsum and excelsior and
placed in some museum.

Least of all do zoos produce any new knowledge about animal behavior.
Such knowledge must be got, not from animals penned up and tortured, but
from animals in a state of nature. A college professor studying the
habits of the giraffe, for example, and confining his observations to
specimens in zoos, would inevitably come to the conclusion that the
giraffe is a sedentary and melancholy beast, standing immovable for
hours at a time and employing an Italian to feed him hay and cabbages.
As well proceed to a study of the psychology of a juris-consult by
first immersing him in Sing Sing, or of a juggler by first cutting off
his hands. Knowledge so gained is inaccurate and imbecile knowledge. Not
even a college professor, if sober, would give it any faith and credit.

There remains, then, the only true utility of a zoo: it is a childish
and pointless show for the unintelligent, in brief, for children,
nursemaids, visiting yokels and the generality of the defective. Should
the taxpayers be forced to sweat millions for such a purpose? I think
not. The sort of man who likes to spend his time watching a cage of
monkeys chase one another, or a lion gnaw its tail, or a lizard catch
flies, is precisely the sort of man whose mental weakness should be
combatted at the public expense, and not fostered. He is a public
liability and a public menace, and society should seek to improve him.
Instead of that, we spend a lot of money to feed his degrading appetite
and further paralyze his mind. It is precisely as if the community
provided free champagne for dipsomaniacs, or hired lecturers to convert
the army to the doctrines of the Bolsheviki.

Of the abominable cruelties practised in zoos it is unnecessary to make
mention. Even assuming that all the keepers are men of delicate natures
and ardent zoophiles (which is about as safe as assuming that the
keepers of a prison are all sentimentalists, and weep for the sorrows of
their charges), it must be plain that the work they do involves an
endless war upon the native instincts of the animals, and that they
must thus inflict the most abominable tortures every day. What could be
a sadder sight than a tiger in a cage, save it be a forest monkey
climbing dispairingly up a barked stump, or an eagle chained to its
roost? How can man be benefitted and made better by robbing the seal of
its arctic ice, the hippopotamus of its soft wallow, the buffalo of its
open range, the lion of its kingship, the birds of their air?

I am no sentimentalist, God knows. I am in favor of vivisection
unrestrained, so long as the vivisectionist knows what he is about. I
advocate clubbing a dog that barks unnecessarily, which all dogs do. I
enjoy hangings, particularly of converts to the evangelical faiths. The
crunch of a cockroach is music to my ears. But when the day comes to
turn the prisoners of the zoo out of their cages, if it is only to lead
them to the swifter, kinder knife of the _schochet_, I shall be present
and rejoicing, and if any one present thinks to suggest that it would be
a good plan to celebrate the day by shooting the whole zoo faculty, I
shall have a revolver in my pocket and a sound eye in my head.



The only permanent values in the world are truth and beauty, and of
these it is probable that truth is lasting only in so far as it is a
function and manifestation of beauty--a projection of feeling in terms
of idea. The world is a charnel house of dead religions. Where are all
the faiths of the middle ages, so complex and yet so precise? But all
that was essential in the beauty of the middle ages still lives....

This is the heritage of man, but not of men. The great majority of men
are not even aware of it. Their participation in the progress of the
world, and even in the history of the world, is infinitely remote and
trivial. They live and die, at bottom, as animals live and die. The
human race, as a race, is scarcely cognizant of their existence; they
haven't even definite number, but stand grouped together as _x_, the
quantity unknown ... and not worth knowing.



The first effect of what used to be called natural philosophy is to fill
its devotee with wonder at the marvels of God. This explains why the
pursuit of science, so long as it remains superficial, is not
incompatible with the most naif sort of religious faith. But the moment
the student of the sciences passes this stage of childlike amazement and
begins to investigate the inner workings of natural phenomena, he begins
to see how ineptly many of them are managed, and so he tends to pass
from awe of the Creator to criticism of the Creator, and once he has
crossed that bridge he has ceased to be a believer. One finds plenty of
neighborhood physicians, amateur botanists, high-school physics teachers
and other such quasi-scientists in the pews on Sunday, but one never
sees a Huxley there, or a Darwin, or an Ehrlich.



The argument by design, it may be granted, establishes a reasonable
ground for accepting the existence of God. It makes belief, at all
events, quite as intelligible as unbelief. But when the theologians take
their step from the existence of God to the goodness of God they tread
upon much less firm earth. How can one see any proof of that goodness in
the senseless and intolerable sufferings of man--his helplessness, the
brief and troubled span of his life, the inexplicable disproportion
between his deserts and his rewards, the tragedy of his soaring
aspiration, the worse tragedy of his dumb questioning? Granting the
existence of God, a house dedicated to Him naturally follows. He is
all-important; it is fit that man should take some notice of Him. But
why praise and flatter Him for His unspeakable cruelties? Why forget so
supinely His failures to remedy the easily remediable? Why, indeed,
devote the churches exclusively to worship? Why not give them over, now
and then, to justifiable indignation meetings?

Perhaps men will incline to this idea later on. It is not inconceivable,
indeed, that religion will one day cease to be a poltroonish
acquiescence and become a vigorous and insistent criticism. If God can
hear a petition, what ground is there for holding that He would not hear
a complaint? It might, indeed, please Him to find His creatures grown
so self-reliant and reflective. More, it might even help Him to get
through His infinitely complex and difficult work. Theology has already
moved toward such notions. It has abandoned the primitive doctrine of
God's arbitrariness and indifference, and substituted the doctrine that
He is willing, and even eager, to hear the desires of His creatures--_i.
e._, their private notions, born of experience, as to what would be best
for them. Why assume that those notions would be any the less worth
hearing and heeding if they were cast in the form of criticism, and even
of denunciation? Why hold that the God who can understand and forgive
even treason could not understand and forgive remonstrance?



The idea of literal truth crept into religion relatively late: it is the
invention of lawyers, priests and cheese-mongers. The idea of mystery
long preceded it, and at the heart of that idea of mystery was an idea
of beauty--that is, an idea that this or that view of the celestial and
infernal process presented a satisfying picture of form, rhythm and
organization. Once this view was adopted as satisfying, its professional
interpreters and their dupes sought to reinforce it by declaring it
true. The same flow of reasoning is familiar on lower planes. The
average man does not get pleasure out of an idea because he thinks it is
true; he thinks it is true because he gets pleasure out of it.



Free will, it appears, is still a Christian dogma. Without it the
cruelties of God would strain faith to the breaking-point. But outside
the fold it is gradually falling into decay. Such men of science as
George W. Crile and Jacques Loeb have dealt it staggering blows, and
among laymen of inquiring mind it seems to be giving way to an
apologetic sort of determinism--a determinism, one may say, tempered by
defective observation. The late Mark Twain, in his secret heart, was
such a determinist. In his "What Is Man?" you will find him at his
farewells to libertarianism. The vast majority of our acts, he argues,
are determined, but there remains a residuum of free choices. Here we
stand free of compulsion and face a pair or more of alternatives, and
are free to go this way or that.

A pillow for free will to fall upon--but one loaded with disconcerting
brickbats. Where the occupants of this last trench of libertarianism err
is in their assumption that the pulls of their antagonistic impulses are
exactly equal--that the individual is absolutely free to choose which
one he will yield to. Such freedom, in practise, is never encountered.
When an individual confronts alternatives, it is not alone his volition
that chooses between them, but also his environment, his inherited
prejudices, his race, his color, his condition of servitude. I may kiss
a girl or I may not kiss her, but surely it would be absurd to say that
I am, in any true sense, a free agent in the matter. The world has even
put my helplessness into a proverb. It says that my decision and act
depend upon the time, the place--and even to some extent, upon the girl.

Examples might be multiplied _ad infinitum_. I can scarcely remember
performing a wholly voluntary act. My whole life, as I look back upon
it, seems to be a long series of inexplicable accidents, not only quite
unavoidable, but even quite unintelligible. Its history is the history
of the reactions of my personality to my environment, of my behavior
before external stimuli. I have been no more responsible for that
personality than I have been for that environment. To say that I can
change the former by a voluntary effort is as ridiculous as to say that
I can modify the curvature of the lenses of my eyes. I know, because I
have often tried to change it, and always failed. Nevertheless, it has
changed. I am not the same man I was in the last century. But the
gratifying improvements so plainly visible are surely not to be credited
to me. All of them came from without--or from unplumbable and
uncontrollable depths within.

The more the matter is examined the more the residuum of free will
shrinks and shrinks, until in the end it is almost impossible to find
it. A great many men, of course, looking at themselves, see it as
something very large; they slap their chests and call themselves free
agents, and demand that God reward them for their virtue. But these
fellows are simply idiotic egoists, devoid of a critical sense. They
mistake the acts of God for their own acts. Of such sort are the
coxcombs who boast about wooing and winning their wives. They are
brothers to the fox who boasted that he had made the hounds run....

The throwing overboard of free will is commonly denounced on the ground
that it subverts morality and makes of religion a mocking. Such pious
objections, of course, are foreign to logic, but nevertheless it may be
well to give a glance to this one. It is based upon the fallacious
hypothesis that the determinist escapes, or hopes to escape, the
consequences of his acts. Nothing could be more untrue. Consequences
follow acts just as relentlessly if the latter be involuntary as if they
be voluntary. If I rob a bank of my free choice or in response to some
unfathomable inner necessity, it is all one; I will go to the same jail.
Conscripts in war are killed just as often as volunteers. Men who are
tracked down and shanghaied by their wives have just as hard a time of
it as men who walk fatuously into the trap by formally proposing.

Even on the ghostly side, determinism does not do much damage to
theology. It is no harder to believe that a man will be damned for his
involuntary acts than it is to believe that he will be damned for his
voluntary acts, for even the supposition that he is wholly free does not
dispose of the massive fact that God made him as he is, and that God
could have made him a saint if He had so desired. To deny this is to
flout omnipotence--a crime at which, as I have often said, I balk. But
here I begin to fear that I wade too far into the hot waters of the
sacred sciences, and that I had better retire before I lose my hide.
This prudent retirement is purely deterministic. I do not ascribe it to
my own sagacity; I ascribe it wholly to that singular kindness which
fate always shows me. If I were free I'd probably keep on, and then
regret it afterward.



All great religions, in order to escape absurdity, have to admit a
dilution of agnosticism. It is only the savage, whether of the African
bush or the American gospel tent, who pretends to know the will and
intent of God exactly and completely. "For who hath known the mind of
the Lord?" asked Paul of the Romans. "How unsearchable are his
judgments, and his ways past finding out!" "It is the glory of God,"
said Solomon, "to conceal a thing." "Clouds and darkness," said David,
"are around him." "No man," said the Preacher, "can find out the work of
God." ... The difference between religions is a difference in their
relative content of agnosticism. The most satisfying and ecstatic faith
is almost purely agnostic. It trusts absolutely without professing to
know at all.



Despite the common delusion to the contrary the philosophy of doubt is
far more comforting than that of hope. The doubter escapes the worst
penalty of the man of hope; he is never disappointed, and hence never
indignant. The inexplicable and irremediable may interest him, but they
do not enrage him, or, I may add, fool him. This immunity is worth all
the dubious assurances ever foisted upon man. It is pragmatically
impregnable.... Moreover, it makes for tolerance and sympathy. The
doubter does not hate his opponents; he sympathizes with them. In the
end, he may even come to sympathize with God.... The old idea of
fatherhood here submerges in a new idea of brotherhood. God, too, is
beset by limitations, difficulties, broken hopes. Is it disconcerting to
think of Him thus? Well, is it any the less disconcerting to think of
Him as able to ease and answer, and yet failing?...

But he that doubteth--_damnatus est_. At once the penalty of doubt--and
its proof, excuse and genesis.



A salient objection to the prevailing religious ceremonial lies in the
attitudes of abasement that it enforces upon the faithful. A man would
be thought a slimy and knavish fellow if he approached any human judge
or potentate in the manner provided for approaching the Lord God. It is
an etiquette that involves loss of self-respect, and hence it cannot be
pleasing to its object, for one cannot think of the Lord God as
sacrificing decent feelings to mere vanity. This notion of abasement,
like most of the other ideas that are general in the world, is obviously
the invention of small and ignoble men. It is the pollution of theology
by the _sklavmoral_.



Ritual is to religion what the music of an opera is to the libretto:
ostensibly a means of interpretation, but actually a means of
concealment. The Presbyterians made the mistake of keeping the doctrine
of infant damnation in plain words. As enlightenment grew in the
world, intelligence and prudery revolted against it, and so it had
to be abandoned. Had it been set to music it would have
survived--uncomprehended, unsuspected and unchallenged.



I have spoken of the possibility that God, too, may suffer from a finite
intelligence, and so know the bitter sting of disappointment and defeat.
Here I yielded something to politeness; the thing is not only possible,
but obvious. Like man, God is deceived by appearances and probabilities;
He makes calculations that do not work out; He falls into specious
assumptions. For example, He assumed that Adam and Eve would obey the
law in the Garden. Again, He assumed that the appalling lesson of the
Flood would make men better. Yet again, He assumed that men would always
put religion in first place among their concerns--that it would be
eternally possible to reach and influence them through it. This last
assumption was the most erroneous of them all. The truth is that the
generality of men have long since ceased to take religion seriously.
When we encounter one who still does so, he seems eccentric, almost
feeble-minded--or, more commonly, a rogue who has been deluded by his
own hypocrisy. Even men who are professionally religious, and who thus
have far more incentive to stick to religion than the rest of us, nearly
always throw it overboard at the first serious temptation. During the
past four years, for example, Christianity has been in combat with
patriotism all over Christendom. Which has prevailed? How many gentlemen
of God, having to choose between Christ and Patrie, have actually chosen



The ostensible object of the Reformation, which lately reached its
fourth centenary, was to purge the Church of imbecilities. That object
was accomplished; the Church shook them off. But imbecilities make an
irresistible appeal to man; he inevitably tries to preserve them by
cloaking them with religious sanctions. The result is Protestantism.



The notion that theology is a dull subject is one of the strangest
delusions of a stupid and uncritical age. The truth is that some of the
most engrossing books ever written in the world are full of it. For
example, the Gospel according to St. Luke. For example, Nietzsche's "Der
Antichrist." For example, Mark Twain's "What Is Man?", St. Augustine's
Confessions, Haeckel's "The Riddle of the Universe," and Huxley's
Essays. How, indeed, could a thing be dull that has sent hundreds of
thousands of men--the very best and the very worst of the race--to the
gallows and the stake, and made and broken dynasties, and inspired the
greatest of human hopes and enterprises, and embroiled whole continents
in war? No, theology is not a soporific. The reason it so often seems so
is that its public exposition has chiefly fallen, in these later days,
into the hands of a sect of intellectual castrati, who begin by
mistaking it for a sub-department of etiquette, and then proceed to
anoint it with butter, rose water and talcum powder. Whenever a
first-rate intellect tackles it, as in the case of Huxley, or in that of
Leo XIII., it at once takes on all the sinister fascination it had in
Luther's day.



Do I let the poor suffer, and consign them, as old Friedrich used to
say, to statistics and the devil? Well, so does God.

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