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Title: Maxim Gorki
Author: Ostwald, Hans
Language: English
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Illustrated Cameos of Literature.

Edited by George Brandes

MAXIM GORKI

by

HANS OSTWALD

Translated by Frances A. Welby



[Frontispiece: MAXIM GORKI]



William Heinemann
1905



INTRODUCTION

It cannot be denied that the academic expression "Literature" is an
ill-favoured word.  It involuntarily calls up the Antithesis of Life,
of Personal Experience, of the Simple Expression of Thought and
Feeling.  With what scorn does Verlaine exclaim in his Poems:

  "And the Rest is only Literature."


The word is not employed here in Verlaine's sense.  The Impersonal is
to be excluded from this Collection.  Notwithstanding its solid basis,
the modern mode of the Essay gives full play of personal freedom in the
handling of its matter.

In writing an entire History of Literature, one is unable to take equal
interest in all its details.  Much is included because it belongs
there, but has to be described and criticised of necessity, not desire.
While the Author concentrates himself _con amore_ upon the parts which,
in accordance with his temperament, attract his sympathies, or rivet
his attention by their characteristic types, he accepts the rest as
unavoidable stuffing, in order to escape the reproach of ignorance or
defect.  In the Essay there is no padding.  Nothing is put in from
external considerations.  The Author here admits no temporising with
his subject.

However foreign the theme may be to him, there is always some point of
contact between himself and the strange Personality.  There is certain
to be some crevice through which he can insinuate himself into this
alien nature, after the fashion of the cunning actor with his part.  He
tries to feel its feelings, to think its thoughts, to divine its
instincts, to discover its impulses and its will--then retreats from it
once more, and sets down what he has gathered.

Or he steeps himself intimately in the subject, till he feels that the
Alien Personality is beginning to live in him.  It may be months before
this happens; but it comes at last.  Another Being fills him; for the
time his soul is captive to it, and when he begins to express himself
in words, he is freed, as it were, from an evil dream, the while he is
fulfilling a cherished duty.

It is a welcome task to one who feels himself congenial to some Great
or Significant Man, to give expression to his cordial feelings and his
inspiration.  It becomes an obsession with him to communicate to others
what he sees in his Idol, his Divinity.  Yet it is not Inspiration for
his Subject alone that makes the Essayist.  Some point that has no
marked attraction in itself may be inexpressibly precious to the Author
as Material, presenting itself to him with some rare stamps or
unexpected feature, that affords a special vehicle for the expression
of his temperament.  Every man favours what he can describe or set
forth better than his neighbours; each seeks the Stuff that calls out
his capacities, and gives him opportunity to show what he is capable
of.  Whether the Personality portrayed be at his Antipodes, whether or
no he have one single Idea in common with him, matters nothing.  The
picture may in sooth be most successful when the Original is entirely
remote from the delineator, in virtue of contrary temperament, or
totally different mentality,--just because the traits of such a nature
stand out the more sharply to the eye of the tranquil observer.

Since Montaigne wrote the first Essays, this Form has permeated every
country.  In France, Sainte-Beuve, in North America, Emerson, has
founded his School.  In Germany, Hillebranat follows the lead of
Sainte-Beuve, while Hermann Grimm is a disciple of Emerson.  The
Essayists of To-day are Legion.

It is hard to say whether what is set out in this brief and agreeable
mode will offer much resistance to the ravages of Time.  In any case
its permanence is not excluded.  It is conceivable that men, when
condemned to many months' imprisonment, might arm themselves with the
Works of Sainte-Beuve for their profitable entertainment, rather than
with the Writings of any other Frenchman, since they give the
Quintessence of many Books and many Temperaments.  As to the permanent
value of the Literature of To-day, we can but express conjectures, or
at most opinions, that are binding upon none.  We may hope that
After-Generations will interest themselves not merely in the Classic
Forms of Poetry and History, but also in this less monumental Mode of
the Criticism of our Era.  And if this be not the case, we may console
ourselves in advance with the reflection that the After-World is not of
necessity going to be cleverer than the Present--that we have indeed no
guarantee that it will be able to appreciate the Qualities of our
Contemporaries quite according to their merits.

So much that is New, and to us Unknown, will occupy it in the Future!

GEORGE BRANDES.

Paris, May 1904.



CONTENTS

   Introduction

   Characterization

   A New Romance

   Scenes from the Abysses

   English Translations of Gorki's Works



ILLUSTRATIONS


  1.  Maxim Gorki  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . _Frontispiece_

  2.  Maxim Gorki (in 1900)

  3.  Beggar Collecting for a Church Fund

  4.  Tartar Day-Labourer

  5.  Tramps--the Seated Figure is the Original of Luka

  6.  A Page from Gorki's Last Work

  7.  The Bare-footed Brigade on the Volga-Quay,
      at Nijni Novgorod

  8.  Love-Scene between Polja and Nil,
      Act 3 of "The Bezemenovs"

  9.  Gambling-Scene, Act 2 of "The Doss-house"

 10.  A Confabulation, Act 2 of "The Doss-house"

 11.  Concluding Scene, Act 3 of "The Doss-house"

 12.  The Actor, in "The Doss-house"

 13.  Vasilissa, the Keeper of "The Doss-house"

 14.  Nastja, servant in "The Doss-house"

 15.  The Baron, in "The Doss-house"

 16.  Letter to Herr Max Reinhardt



Characterisation; Environment; Gorki's predecessors; Reaction and
pessimism; Literature and society; Gorki's youth; Hard times; A vagrant
life; Journalist days; Rapid success; The new heroes; Creatures once
men; Vagabond philosophy; Accusing symbolism.


Within the last few years a new and memorable note has been sounded
among the familiar strains of Russian literature.  It has produced a
regeneration, penetrating and quickening the whole.  The author who
proclaimed the new voice from his very soul has not been rejected.  He
was welcomed on all sides with glad and ready attention.  Nor was it
his compatriots alone who gave ear to him.  Other countries, Germany in
particular, have not begrudged him a hearing; as has too often been the
case for native genius.  The young Russian was speedily accounted one
of the most widely read in his own land and in adjacent countries.

Success has rarely been achieved so promptly as by Maxim Gorki.  The
path has seldom been so smooth and free from obstacles.

Not but that Gorki has had his struggles.  But what are those few
years, in comparison with the decades through which others have had,
and still have, to strive and wrestle?  His fight has rather been for
the attainment of a social status, of intellectual self-mastery and
freedom, than for artistic recognition.  He was recognised, indeed,
almost from the first moment when he came forward with his
characteristic productions.  Nay, he was more than recognised.  He was
extolled, and loved, and honoured.  His works were devoured.

[Illustration: Maxim Gorki (in 1900)]

This startling success makes a closer consideration and appreciation of
the author's works and personality incumbent on us.


A black, sullen day in March.  Rain and vapour.  No movement in the
air.  The horizon is veiled in the grey mists that rise from the earth,
and blend in the near distance with the dropping pall of the Heavens.

And yet there is a general sense of coming Spring.  The elder-bushes
are bursting, the buds swelling.  A topaz shimmer plays amid the
shadowy fringes of the light birch stems, and on the budding tops of
the lime-trees.  The bushes are decked with catkins.  The boughs of the
chestnut glisten with pointed reddish buds.  Fresh green patches are
springing up amid the yellow matted grass of the road-side.

The air is chill, and saturated with moisture.  Everything is
oppressed, and exertion is a burden. . . .

Suddenly a wind springs up, and tears the monotonously tinted curtains
of the sky asunder, tossing the clouds about in its powerful arms like
a child at play, and unveiling a glimpse of the purest Heaven . . .
only to roll up a thick dark ball of cloud again next moment.
Everything is in motion.

The mist clears off, the trees are shaken by the wind till the drops
fall off in spray.

The sky gets light, and then clouds over again.

But the weary, demoralising, despairing monotony has vanished.

Life is here.

Spring has come.

With all its atmosphere, with all its force and vigour, with its
battles, and its faith in victory.


It is somewhat after this fashion that the personality of the young
Russian author, and his influence on Russia, and on Russian Literature,
may be characterised.

In order rightly to grasp the man and his individual methods, together
with his significance for his mother-country, we must know the
environment and the relations on which Gorki entered.  Thus only shall
we understand him, and find the key to his great success in Russia, and
the after-math of this success in foreign countries.

Maxim Gorki is now just thirty-seven years old.  Ten years ago he was
employed in the repairing works of the railway in Tiflis as a simple
artisan.  To-day he ranks among the leading intellects of Russia.

This is an abrupt leap, the crossing of a deep cleft which separates
two worlds that tower remote on either side.  The audacity of the
spring can only be realised when we reflect that Maxim Gorki worked his
way up from the lowest stratum, and never had any regular schooling.

The most subtle analysis of Gorki's talent would, however, be
inadequate to cover his full significance as a writer.  It is only in
connection with the evolution of Russian society and Russian literature
that Gorki, as a phenomenon, becomes intelligible.


The educated Russian does not regard his national literature merely as
the intellectual flower of his nation; it must essentially be a mirror
of actual social occurrences, of the cultural phase in which any
particular work originated.

The Russian author does not conceive his task to lie exclusively in
pandering to the aesthetic enjoyment of his readers, in exciting and
diverting them, and in providing them with sensational episodes.
Literature of this type finds no home in the Russia of to-day.  Since
she first possessed a literature of her own, Russia has demanded
something more from her writers.  An author must be able to express the
shades of public opinion.  It is his task to give voice and form to
what is circulating through the various social classes, and setting
them in motion.  What they cannot voice in words, what is only
palpitating and thrilling through them, is what he must express in
language; and his business is to create men from the universal
tendencies.  Nay, more, it is his task to reorganise these tendencies.

This explains the general and lively interest felt in Russia for the
productions of _belles lettres_.  This form of literature is regarded
as the mirror of the various phases of that astounding development
which Russia has accomplished during the last sixty years.

First came the reforms of the Fifties and Sixties.  Serfdom was
abolished, class distinctions were largely broken up, local
self-government was initiated.  So many reforms were introduced in the
departments of Justice, of Instruction, of Credit and Commerce, that
the ground was prepared for a totally new Russia.  A vigorous
blossoming of Russian literature coincided with this period of
fermentation.  Turgeniev, Gontscharov, Leo Tolstoi, and Dostoevsky
found rich nutriment for their imaginative talent in the fresh-turned
prolific soil of Russian Society.  With, and alongside of, them a
number of no less gifted authors throve uninterruptedly, till the
reaction in the second half of the Sixties and in the Seventies fell
like a frosty rime upon the luxurious blooms, and shrivelled them.  The
giants were silenced one by one.  Leo Tolstoi remained the sole
survivor.

With him none but the epigones, the friends of the people, worked on.
Few writers attained to any eminence.  Among such as also won a hearing
in Germany must be mentioned Vladimir Korolenko and Chekhov.  These two
belong to the group known as "the Men of the Eighties."

[Illustration: Beggar collecting for a church fund (_After a sketch by
Gorki_)]

These years, which immediately preceded the appearance of Gorki, form
part of the most gloomy period of modern Russian history.  Blackest
reaction followed the desperate struggles of the Nihilists in the
Seventies in all departments.  At the threshold of the Century stalked
the spectre of regicide, to which Alexander II. was the doomed
victim . . . and over the future hovered the grim figure which banished
its thousands and ten thousands of gifted young intellectuals to
Siberia.

This period accordingly corresponded with a definite moral
retrogression in the ethical condition of the Russian people.

There was a necessary reflection of it in the literature.  This era
produced nothing of inspired or reformatory force.  A profound
pessimism stifled all originality.  Korolenko alone, who was living
during the greater part of this time as a political prisoner in distant
Yakutsk, where he did not imbibe the untoward influences of the
reaction, remained unmoved and strong.  Anton Chekhov, too, survived
the gloomy years, and grew beyond them.

He did not, it is true, entirely escape the influences of the time.  He
was the delineator of the deplorable social conditions under which he
lived.  But he deserves to be better known than he is to the outside
public.  His works everywhere express a craving for better things--for
the reforms that never come.  His men are helpless.  They say indeed:

"No, one cannot live like this.  Life under these conditions is
impossible."  But they never rouse themselves to any act of
emancipation.  They founder on existence and its crushing tyranny.

Chekhov is none the less the gifted artist of many parts, and imbued
with deep earnestness, who gave mature and valuable work to the men of
his time, which, from its significance, will have an enduring
after-effect, and will be prized for its genuine ability long after
weaker, but more noisy and aggressive, talents have evaporated.  He
was, however, so finely organised that his brain responded to all the
notes of his epoch, and he only emancipated himself by giving them out
again in his works of art.  And so his "Sea-Gull," "Uncle Vanja," and
other dramas, novels, and stories portray the blighted, hopeless,
degenerate men of his day, his country, and its woes . . . like the
productions of many others who worked alongside of him, but did not
attain the same heights of imagination.


Such was the state of Russian Literature and Russian Society at the
time of Maxim Gorki's appearance.  He stands for the new and virile
element, for which the reforms of the Sixties had been the preparation.
These reforms, one-sided and imperfect as they may have been, had none
the less sufficed to create new economic conditions.  On the one hand,
a well-to-do middle-class, recruited almost entirely from
non-aristocratic strata, sprang up; on the other, an industrial
proletariat.  Maxim Gorki emerged from this environment: and as a
phenomenon he is explained by this essentially modern antithesis.  He
flung himself into the literary movement in full consciousness of his
social standing.  And it was just this self-consciousness, which
stamped him as a personality, that accounted for his extraordinary
success.  It was obvious that, as one of a new and aspiring class, a
class that once more cherished ideal aims and was not content with
actual forms of existence, Gorki, the proletaire and railway-hand,
would not disavow Life, but would affirm it, affirm it with all the
force of his heart and lungs.

[Illustration: Tartar day-labourer (_After a sketch by Gorki_)]

And it is to this new note that he is indebted for his influence.


Gorki, or to give him his real name, Alexei Maximovich Pjeschkov, was
born on March 14, 1868, in Nijni Novgorod.  His mother Varvara was the
daughter of a rich dyer.  His father, however, was only a poor
upholsterer, and on this account Varvara was disinherited by her
father; but she held steadfast to her love.  Little Maxim was bereft of
his parents at an early age.  When he was three he was attacked by the
cholera, which at the same time carried off his father.  His mother
died in his ninth year, after a second marriage, a victim to phthisis.
Thus Gorki was left an orphan.  His stern grandfather now took charge
of him.  According to the Russian custom he was early apprenticed to a
cobbler.  But here misfortune befell him.  He scalded himself with
boiling water, and the foreman sent him home to his grandfather.
Before this he had been to school for a short time; but as he
contracted small-pox he had to give up his schooling.  And that, to his
own satisfaction, was the end of his education.  He was no hand at
learning.  Nor did he find much pleasure in the Psalms in which his
grandfather instructed him.

As soon as he had recovered from the accident at the shoemaker's, he
was placed with a designer and painter of ikons.  But "here he could
not get on"; his master treated him too harshly, and his pluck failed
him.  This time he found himself a place, and succeeded in getting on
board one of the Volga steamboats as a scullion.

And now for the first time he met kindly, good-natured people.  The
cook Smuriy was delighted with the intelligent lad and tried to impart
to him all that he knew himself.  He was a great lover of books.  And
the boy was charmed to find that any one who was good-tempered could
have relations with letters.  He began to consider a book in a new
light, and took pleasure in reading, which he had formerly loathed.
The two friends read Gogol and the Legends of the Saints in their
leisure hours in a corner of the deck, with the boundless steppes of
the Volga before them, lapped by the music of the waves that plashed
against the sides of the vessel.  In addition, the boy read all that
fell into his hands.  Along with the true classics he fed his mind upon
the works of unknown authors and the play-books hawked about by
travelling pedlars.

All this aroused a passionate, overpowering thirst for art and
knowledge in Gorki when he was about fifteen.  Without a notion of how
he was to be clothed and fed during his student life he betook himself
to Kasan to study.  His rash hopes soon foundered.  He had, as he
expressed it, no money to buy knowledge.  And instead of attending the
Schools he went into a biscuit-factory.  The three roubles (then
5_s._), which was his monthly salary, earned him a scanty living by an
eighteen-hour day.  Gorki soon gave up this task, which was too
exhausting for him.  He lived about on the river and in the harbour,
working at casual jobs as a sawyer or porter.  At this time he had no
roof, and was forced to live in the society of the derelicts.  What
Gorki must have suffered in this company, during his struggle for the
bare means of subsistence, may be imagined--he sounded the lowest
depths of human life, and fell into the blackest abysses.

With the best will, and with all his energies, he was unable to attain
any prospect of brighter days, and sank deeper and deeper into the
existence of the castaway.

In his twentieth year he gave up the struggle.  Life seemed to him
devoid of value, and he attempted suicide.  The ball from the revolver
entered his lung without killing him, and the surgeon managed to
extract it.  Gorki was ill for some time after this event, and when he
recovered set about finding new work.

He became a fruit-vendor, as before reading all kinds of scientific and
literary works with avidity.  But this profession brought him no
farther than the rest.  He then went to Karazin as signalman and
operative in the railway works.

However, he made no long stay on the railway.  In 1890 he was obliged
to present himself at Nijni Novgorod, his native place, for the
military conscription.  He was not, however, enrolled on account of the
wound that remained from his attempt at suicide.

In Nijni Novgorod he became acquainted with certain members of the
educated classes.  At first he wandered up and down selling beer and
kvass--filling the cups of all who wished to drink. . . .  But he was
driven to fare forth again, and again took up the life of a vagrant and
a toper.  In Odessa he found occupation in the harbour and the
salt-works.  Then he wandered through Besserabia, the Crimea, the
Kuban, and eventually reached the Caucasus.  At Tiflis he worked in the
railway sheds.  Here he once more foregathered with educated people,
particularly with some young Armenians.  His personality and already
remarkable mental equipment secured him their friendship.  A derelict
student, whom he afterwards described under the name of Alexander
Kaluschny, taught him to write and cypher.  He gave keen attention to
the physical states of an insane friend, who was full of the
Regeneration of Mankind, and entered his observations in his note-book.
Gorki possesses a vast number of these note-books, in which he has
written down his impressions.  At this period he was also studying the
great poets, Shakespeare, Goethe, Byron.  Most of all he admired
Manfred, who dominated the Elements and Ahriman.  Everything out of the
common inspired him.

[Illustration: Tramps--the seated figure is the original of Luka
(_After a sketch by Gorki_)]

It was at this time that he began to do literary work, in the
utmost secrecy.  His story, "Makar Chudra," appeared in 1893 in
the Caucasian journal _Kavkas_, but he was as yet unable to make
his living by intellectual pursuits, and was still compelled to be
Jack-of-all-trades.  It occurred to him to muster a travelling company.
He strapped up a small bundle and sallied forth.  By April he had
enlisted others of like mind.  A woman and five men presented
themselves.  The troup increased on the way . . . but Gorki had to dree
his weird alone, and returned to Nijni Novgorod.

A fortunate accident brought him into relation with the lawyer Lanin, a
true friend to modern literature, who was not slow to appreciate the
talent that had found its way to his bureau, and occupied himself most
generously with the education of the young writer.

Gorki now wrote his first long story.  Various friends of literature
soon began to take notice of him.  They sent him to the famous Vladimir
Korolenko, who was then living in Nijni Novgorod, and editing the
paper, _Russkoe Bogatstvo_.  Korolenko was much interested in Gorki,
but was unable at that time to offer the young writer any remunerative
work.  Gorki was obliged to eke out his living by contributing to small
provincial papers.  He shared the same fate as so many of his fellow
journalists.  None of the editors offered any sort of honorarium, but
simply returned his contributions, when, as happened with one of the
Odessa journals, he asked three kopecks a line from it.  This same
paper, however, commissioned him to write a report of the World's Fair
at Nijni Novgorod in the year 1896.

Gorki gladly agreed, and his reports excited general attention.  But
they were shockingly remunerated, and he was forced to live under such
wretched conditions that his lungs became affected.

Korolenko now exerted himself seriously on Gorki's behalf.  And the
advocacy of a power in the literary world effected what all his highly
characteristic achievements had not accomplished for him.  It made him
known and desirable.  New journals enlisted him as a permanent
colleague on their staff.  Henceforward existence was no concern to the
literary vagabond, who on his own showing had had four teachers: the
cook on the Volga steamer, the advocate Lanin, the idler whom he
describes in Kaluschny, and Korolenko.


Seldom is it the case that an author comes to his own as early as
Gorki.  This was undoubtedly due to the courageous manner in which he
struck out into the social currents that were agitating his country.
And the rapid impression he made was due as much to the peculiar
conditions of the Russian Empire as to his own talent.  There, where
there can be no public expression of schemes for the future, no open
desire for self-development, Art is always the realisation of greater
hopes than it can be where a free path has already been laid down.  And
it is thus that men like Gorki can exert an overwhelming influence
which is absolutely inconceivable to other nationalities.  It is not
merely the result of their artistic temperament.  It derives at least
as strongly from their significance to Humanity, their effect upon
culture, their aggressive energy.

On the other hand, it would be a perversion to ascribe the success of
such individuals to circumstances alone, and to what they say, and the
inflexible virile courage with which they say it.  Talent, genius, the
why and wherefore, are all factors.  In Russia there are not a few who
share the experiences and insight of Gorki.  But they lack means of
expression; they are wanting in executive ability.

Not that many capable men are not also on the scene at present.  But
maybe they are not the "whole man," who puts the matter together,
without fear or ruth, as Gorki has done so often.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

[Illustration: A page from Gorki's last work (_Transcribed and
forwarded by the author to Hans Ostwald_)]

_"As an implacable foe to all that is mean and paltry in the
aspirations of Humanity, I demand that every individual who bears a
human countenance shall really be--a MAN!"_

_"Senseless, pitiful, and repulsive is this our existence, in which the
immoderate, slavish toil of the one-half incessantly enables the other
to satiate itself with bread and with intellectual enjoyments."_

_From "Man."  By Maxim Gorki._

      *      *      *      *      *      *


It is vain for Maximovich Pjeschkov not to term himself _Gorki_, the
"Bitter One."  He opposes a new Kingdom of Heroes in contrast to the
old hero-world, to the great strategists and wholesale butchers.
Bluebeard and Toggenburg, Richard Coeur-de-Lion--what are these bloody
tyrants for us of to-day?  It is impossible to resuscitate them as they
were of old.  They were,--and have become a form, in which the
exuberant and universal Essence of Life no longer embodies itself.

But . . . we must have our Heroes still; heroes who master their lives
after their own fashion, and who are the conquerors of fate.  We cry
out for men who are able to transcend the pettiness of every day, who
despise it, and calmly live beyond it.

And Gorki steps forward with the revelation of the often misrepresented
Destitutes--or the homeless and hearthless--who are despised, rejected,
and abused.  And he makes us know them for heroes, conquerors,
adventurers.  Not all, indeed, but many of them.

The sketch entitled "Creatures that once were Men," which is in a
measure introductory to the famous "Doss-house" ("Scenes from the
Abysses") is especially illuminating.

Here we have the New Romance.  Here is no bygone ideal newly decked and
dressed out, trimmed up with fresh finery.  It is the men of our own
time who are described.

Whether other nations will accept such heroes in fulfilment of their
romantic aspirations may be questioned.  It seems very doubtful.  The
"Doss-house" is for the most part too strong for a provincial public,
too agitating, too revolutionary.  The Germans, for example, have not
the deep religious feeling of the Russian, for whom each individual is
a fellow sinner, a brother to be saved.  Nor have they as yet attained
to that further religious sense which sees in every man a sinless soul,
requiring no redemption.

To us, therefore, Gorki's "creatures that once were men" appear strange
and abnormal types.  The principal figure is the ex-captain and present
keeper of the shelter, the former owner of a servant's registry and
printing works--Aristides Kuvalda.  He has failed to regulate his life,
and is the leader and boon companion of a strange band.  His best
friend is a derelict schoolmaster, who earns a very fair income as a
newspaper reporter.  But what is money to a man of this type?  He
sallies forth, buys fruit and sweetmeats and good food with half his
earnings, collects all the children of the alley in which Kuvalda's
refuge is situated, and treats them down by the river with these
delicacies.  He lends the best part of his remaining funds to his
friends, and the rest goes in vodka and his keep at the doss-house.

Other wastrels of the same type lodge with Kuvalda.  They are all men
who have been something.  And so Gorki calls them _Bivshiye lyudi_,
which may be literally translated "the Men Who Have Been" ("Creatures
that once were Men ").

To our taste the story is too discursive and long-winded.  The
prolonged introductory descriptions, the too exact and minute
particularities of external detail, especially in regard to persons,
destroy the sharp edge of the impression, and obliterate its
characteristics.  It would have been clearer with fewer words.  Honesty
bids us recognise a certain incapacity for self-restraint in Gorki.

This, however, is a trifle compared with the vivid, impersonal
descriptions of the conduct of the derelicts--illuminated by the heroic
deed of Kuvalda, as by an unquenchable star.  Kuvalda loses his
mainstay when his comrade, the schoolmaster, dies.  He is enraged at
the brutal treatment meted out to him and to the other inhabitants of
the slum by the Officials of the City and the Government.  He embroils
himself with ill-concealed purpose with his deadly enemy the merchant
Petunikov and insults the police.  His object is gained.  He is beaten,
and led away to prison.

Unfortunately Gorki endows his characters with too elevated a
philosophy.  He pours his own wine into their bottles.  Vagabonds and
tramps do often indeed possess a profound knowledge of life peculiar to
themselves, and a store of worldly wisdom.  But they express it more
unconsciously, more instinctively, less sentimentally, than Gorki.

From the artistic point of view this ground-note of pathos is an
abiding defect in Gorki.  He is lacking in the limpid clarity of sheer
light-heartedness.  Humour he has indeed.  But his humour is bitter as
gall, and corrosive as sulphuric acid.  "Kain and Artem" may be cited
as an instance.

Kain is a poor little Jewish pedlar.  Artem, the handsome, strong, but
corrupt lover of the huckstress, is tended by him when he has been
half-killed by envious and revengeful rivals.  In return for this
nursing, and for his rescue from need and misery, Artem protects the
despised and persecuted Kain.  But he has grown weary of
gratitude--gratitude to the weak being ever a burden to strong men.
And the lion drives away the imploring mouse, that saved him once from
the nets that held him captive--and falls asleep smiling.

[Illustration: The bare-footed brigade on the Volga-quay, and Nijni
Novgorod (_After a sketch by Gorki_)]

This sombre temperament determines the catastrophe of the other
stories.  They almost invariably close in the sullen gloom of a wet
March evening, when we wonder afresh if the Spring is really coming.

In "Creatures that once were Men," Gorki's sinister experience and
pathos are essential factors in the accusing symbolism.  He relates in
the unpretending style of a chronicler how the corpulent citizens
reside on the hill-tops, amid well-tended gardens.  When it rains the
whole refuse of the upper town streams into the slums.



The new romance; Sentiment and humour; Russian middle class; The man of
the future; Descriptions of nature; Superfluity of detail; The Russian
proletaire; Psychology of murder; Artistic inaccuracy; Moujik and
outcast; A poet's idealism.


And yet it is just this sombre pathos and experience that compel us so
often to recognise in Gorki's types a new category of hero.  They are
characterised by their sense of boundless freedom.  They have both
inclination and capacity to abandon and fling aside all familiar
customs, duties, and relations.

It is a world of heroes, of most romantic heroes, that Gorki delineates
for us.  But the romance is not after the recipes of the old novelists:
ancient, mystic, seeking its ideals in the remote past.  This is
living, actual romance.  Even though some of Gorki's heroes founder
like the heroes of bygone epochs of literature upon their weakness,
more of the "Bitter One's" characters are shipwrecked on a deed.

And it is this reckless parade and apotheosis of such men of action
that accounts for Gorki's huge success in comparison with many another,
and with the writers of the preceding generation.  It is for this that
the young minds of his native country rally round him--the country that
is loaded with clanking fetters.


Gorki is dominated by a characteristic passion for strong, abnormal
men.  This type reappears in almost all his narratives.  Here it is old
Isergil, whose Odyssey of Love swells to saga-like magnitude.  There we
find the bold and fearless smuggler Chelkash, in the story of that
name.  Now it is the brazen, wanton, devoted Malva, who prefers the
grown man to the inexperienced youth.  Anon, the red Vaska, boots and
janitor of the brothel.  And there are numbers of other such titans.

Unfortunately Gorki endows many of them with a vein of sentimentality,
on which account his works are compared with those of Auerbach, in
certain, more particularly in the aesthetic, Russian circles . . . a
reproach that is only partially justified.  Emelyan, _e.g._, is a
notorious and professional robber.  He sallies forth to attack and
plunder a merchant in the night.  But he encounters a young girl of
good social position on the bridge which he has chosen for the scene of
his attack.  She intends to make away with herself.  And in talking to
her he forgets everything else; she moves him so profoundly that he
dissuades her from suicide and takes her back to her parents.

Despite its rank improbability and sentimental character this tale has
a fine humour of its own.  And there is, in particular, one sketch that
is steeped in humour.  This is the "Story of the Silver Clasp."  Three
casual labourers break into an old factory and steal a silver clasp.
One of them relinquishes his share and takes back the clasp.  And all
the thanks he gets is a rating from the old housekeeper.

These, of course, are only accessory productions, artistic enough, but
of a lighter character.  Many of the tales unfortunately suffer from a
hackneyed use of situations, materials, and ideas, suggestive of the
hack writer.  Gorki's cheap sentiment, and maudlin pity, often result
in clap-trap and padding which are foreign to the artist proper.  But
this is the effect of his predilection for individuals of forcible
character.

Gorki is always partial to despotic characters.  And here and there he
has succeeded in creating men, who take life into their own hands,
instead of letting it take them in hand.


It was inevitable that a writer who makes positive affirmations about
life should receive a peculiar welcome in Russia, where a gloomy
pessimism has obtained the preponderance in literature.  Gorki's
conception of life is expressed in the words of the engine-driver Nil,
in "The Bezemenovs" . . . a sympathetic figure, even if he be something
of a braggart.  Nil, who is almost the only cheerful and courageous man
amid a handful of weaklings and degenerates, says:

"I know that Life is hard, that at times it seems impossibly harsh and
cruel, and I loathe this order of things.  I know that Life is a
serious business, even if we have not got it fully organised, and that
I must put forth all my power and capacity in order to bring about this
organisation.  And I shall endeavour with all the forces of my soul to
be steadfast to my inward promptings: to push my way into the densest
parts of life, to knead it hither and thither, to hinder some, to help
on others.  It is _this_ that is the joy of life!" . . .

[Illustration: Love-scene between Polja and Nil (_Act III. of "The
Bezemenovs"_)]

Words like these were bound to have a stimulating and invigorating
effect after the despondency of the preceding epoch.  This new spirit,
this new man, gripped his contemporaries in full force.

The result would undoubtedly have been even more striking if Gorki's
heroes were not invariably tainted with vestiges of the old order.
They are, indeed, men of action.  A totally different life pulsates in
Gorki's works; we are confronted with far more virile characters than
in the works of other Russian authors.  Even the engine driver Nil,
however, fails to relieve any one of the sufferers from his troubles.
He removes Polja confidently enough from her surroundings--but only
leaves the greater darkness behind him.  Even he is as yet unable to
transform the conditions of life--and he is therefore stigmatised by a
little of the Russian bluster.


"The House of the Bezemenovs" ("The Tradespeople"), Gorki's first
dramatic work, describes the eternal conflict between sons and fathers.
The narrow limitations of Russian commercial life, its _borné_
arrogance, its weakness and pettiness, are painted in grim, grey
touches.  The children of the tradesman Bezemenov may pine for other
shores, where more kindly flowers bloom and scent the air.  But they
are not strong enough to emancipate themselves.  The daughter tries to
poison herself because her foster brother, the engine-driver Nil, has
jilted her.  But when the poison begins to work she cries out pitifully
for help.  The son is a student, and has been expelled from the
university.  He hangs about at home, and cannot find energy to plot out
a new career for himself.  The weariness of a whole generation is
expressed in his faint-hearted, listless words, as also in the
blustering but ineffective rhodomontades of the tipsy choir-singer
Teterev.  All cordial relations between parents and children are
lacking in this house.

It is refreshing to come upon the other characters, who are of a
different breed to these shop-keepers.  The vodka-loving, jolly father
of Polja (Bezemenov's niece, who is exploited and maltreated in this
house), is, in his contented yet sentimental egoism, a true
representative of the ordinary Russian, the common man.  And Polja!
And Nil! . . .  Here is the fresh blood of the future.  How sure they
both are in their love.  "Ah! what a beautiful world it is, isn't it?
Wondrously beautiful . . . dear friend. . . .  What a glorious man you
are. . . ."

Albeit this work is far from being a finished drama, it none the less
has its special qualities.  These men often talk as glibly as if they
were essayists, they often seem to be mere vehicles for programmatic
manifestoes.  But as a whole they are the typical quintessence of the
Russian people.


Other wild and intrepid figures are to be found in the larger works
that precede "The Tradespeople"--the novels "Foma Gordeyev" and "Three
Men."  But Gorki's new conception of life is less clearly and broadly
formulated in these than in Nil, and other subsequent characters.
These people rather collapse from the superabundance of their vigour
and the meanness of their surroundings.


In "Foma Gordeyev" Gorki flagellates the unscrupulous Russian wholesale
dealer, who knows of nought beyond profit and the grossest sensual
indulgence, and lets his own flesh and blood perish if they require of
him to budge a hand-breadth from his egoistic standpoint.  Foma, who is
not built for a merchant, and who, while ambitious of command, is too
magnanimous for the sordid business of a tradesman, has to give in.
And the children of his triumphant guardian can only escape poverty by
accepting their surroundings.

[Illustration: Gambling scene (_Act II. of "The Doss-house"_)]

Despite its agonies and martyrdoms, however, there is one marvellously
inspiring feature about this novel,--its gorgeous descriptions of
Nature, rich in life and colour.  "Foma Gordeyev" is the romance of
life on the Volga.

With what intimacy, familiarity, and heart-felt emotion Gorki here
describes and sees!  The great River, with its diversified
characteristics, its ominous events, mingles with the life of Man, and
flows on past us. . . .

It is this characteristic union of the Human-All-Too-Human with his
impressions of Nature in so many of Gorki's works, that makes them at
the outset desirable and readable to a large proportion of his public.
Much of his description of life beyond the social pale would be
repulsive if it were not for this interpretative nature-painting.
Especially would this be the case in "Malva."  This robust,
free-loving, and free-living maiden attracts us by her vigorous
participation in Nature, when, for instance, she leaps into the water,
and sports in the element like a fish.


Gorki's countless wanderings through the Russian Steppes, his sojourns
by the southern shores of the Russian Seas, are intimately interwoven
with the course of Nature, and have given him poetic insight and
motives which are ignored by other authors, who have grown up in the
University, the Bureau, or the Coffee-houses of large towns.  His life
of poverty has made him rich.  He has evolved some significant
prose-poems from the life of Nature, and the contest of her forces.
While the sketch, "Spring Voices," is a satire, bristling with tangible
darts and stings, "The Bursting of the Dam" expresses the full force
that rages and battles in a stormy sea.  The unemancipated workers
construct steep, rocky dams that jut out into the free, unbridled sea.
The waves that so long rolled on merrily, without fell intent, are now
confined, and beat against the hard, cold, sullen rocks.  The winds and
tempests join in a colossal attack upon the unyielding barriers, and
the rocks are shivered in fragments.

[Illustration: A confabulation (_Act II. of "The Doss-house"_)]


Quite different again is the romance entitled "Three Men" (or "Three of
Them").  The tales and sketches published prior to this work were
merely founded on episodes, catastrophes, or descriptive passages from
the author's rich store of material.  They certainly conveyed the
essence of the life of his characters.  They disclosed the axis of
these people's existence.  But they are seldom free from a certain
tiresome impressionism--and often make quite undue pretensions.  The
didactic is too obvious.  Gorki is not always satisfied with saying,
here is a bit of life.  He tries to put in a little wisdom.  His form
is seldom clear and conclusive.  His tales are overladen with detail
and superfluity of minute description.  In Germany, Gorki owes much to
his translators.  This is more especially obvious in the scholarly
translation by August Scholz of "Makar Chudra," Gorki's first published
work.  At first Scholz only produced a portion of this story.  Later
on, when all that Gorki had written had its importance, and his
commercial success was established, the whole of "Makar," which is by
no means free from obscurities, was translated.

In the novel, "Three Men," Gorki leaves the world of vagrants.  He
describes people who are intermediate between the vagabonds and the
settled classes, who find their peace and happiness neither with the
tramps nor with the well-to-do.  Many more than three men live in this
romance through times and destinies of the utmost significance.  The
novel might more exactly be termed "Many Men," or even "No Men."  It
all depends on how you read your author.  In last resort the characters
of the book have all something of the humanly-inhuman about them.

This book is one of the most impressive works of our Russian author.
Its large touches portray human life as it is, not only in Russia, but
everywhere.  The moujik who drifts into the City proletariat suffers
from the life that whispers its secrets within and around him.  "Why
are men doomed to torment each other thus?"  It frets and consumes him,
weighs him down, and flogs him on again.  And from this problem, which
in the hands of many would only have resulted in a satire, Gorki
creates a powerful tragedy.  The aspiring proletaire, be he peasant or
child of the artisan, is for the most part done to death with light
laughter.  In this the unjustified arrogance of the academic classes
expresses itself too frequently.  Too often they discover only the
comic element in the men who have emerged from the ranks, and who,
while gifted with uncommon energy and intelligence, can neither choose
nor be chosen for any of the cultured professions.  They fail to
perceive that the influence of these men would have a refreshing and
invigorating effect upon the whole life of the people.  They miss the
need of some such transfusion of "vulgar blood" into the higher forms
of the body politic.  They cannot admit that it is these very
_parvenus_ who are the founders of new families and a new civilisation.
Nor that many chasms must for ever be left yawning.  They do not
appreciate the peculiar pride which Gorki expresses in this romance, in
such a classic and touching manner, in the character of the girl
student.  Nor do they perceive that these aspirants possess much that
is lacking in themselves--and that not particularly to their credit.
Gorki knows that aspiration is not fulfilled without inward struggle
and travail.  And it is with a subtle psychological instinct that he
endows the men who are struggling upward out of adversity with a deep
craving for purity.  Noble souls are invariably characterised by
greater sensitiveness to delicacy, and this is equally the
characteristic of those who are yearning to rise above their low
environment.  It is not from external filth alone that a man seeks to
cleanse himself, but from inward corruption also.  And so he strives,
and strives again, for purity--and falls the deeper in the mire.

[Illustration: Concluding scene (_Act III. of "The Doss-house"_)]

Few writers share the happy recklessness peculiar to Gorki.  He is free
from false modesty, like his young moujik, who is compelled by his
desire for purity--not by any conventional remorse--to proclaim his
relations with his landlady and commercial partner, the shopkeeper's
wife, before all their acquaintances, at one of her entertainments--and
also to announce himself as the murderer of the old money-lender.  Nor
is it the guilty sense of Raskolnikov that impels this moujik to
confession and reparation.  It is his repugnance for the men in
contrast with whom he stands out as an ideal and promising figure.

And it is here that Gorki seems to us almost to surpass Dostoevsky.
Raskolnikov is a murderer on theory, a penitent out of weakness.
Gorki's murderer, however, kills from inward compulsion.  His act, his
acknowledgment of it, all is sheer naïve necessity.  Here is a man who
feels no compunction for having crushed a worm.

Who, in last resort, is the man that repents his deeds?  Of all the
criminals we have encountered in doss-houses, shelters, and
labour-colonies, scarce a single one.  And the deed came nearly always
like a flash from the blue.  Implacable, dire, and for the most part
unconscious compulsion, but no premeditated volition, drove them to it.
And here Gorki is a true creator, even if as artist he ranks below
Dostoevsky.

[Illustration: The actor (_From "The Doss-house"_)]

The characterisation of the men is beyond reproach.  Each has his
purpose, and bears upon the murderer: the women, however, are not
wholly satisfactory.

Gorki is crushingly ruthless to the wives of the householders and
officials.  He heaps them with vices.  They are not merely vulgar in
money matters.  They are pitiful in their sexual affairs, and, in fact,
in all relations.  Gorki's harlots on the contrary always have some
compelling, touching, noble trait.  One of the prostitutes bewails her
wasted life.  Another craves to share all the sufferings of the man who
has committed murder for her sake.  A third is possessed with a sudden
passion for truth.  And that in the Justice Room, though she knows that
her lover, sitting opposite her, is doomed if she deserts him.

At this point Gorki seems, indeed, to have deliberately abjured his
intimate knowledge of certain classes of the community.  A prostitute
always lies to the end.  Particularly for the benefit of her lover.
Her life is essentially not calculated to make her a fanatic for truth.
If she learns anything, indeed, in her persecuted and despised
profession, it is the art of lying.  Never during a prolonged
acquaintance  with brothels and houses of bad repute have we
encountered a truth-loving prostitute.  Gorki, however, needed her for
his work.  Her confession removes the last obstacle to the confession
of the murderer.  It cuts away the last prop beneath the undermined dam.

And yet it first arouses our suspicion of the probity and reality of
Gorki's types.  Why should he be so emotional in some places while in
others he can be so hard and harsh?  He has not yet arrived at
representation without prejudice.

And then we ask: "How far can his characterisations in general be
accepted?"

Gorki often sacrifices probability to polemics.  Too often he is merely
the emotional controversialist.  Bias and Life are with him not always
welded into the harmonious whole, which one is entitled to claim from
the genuine artist.


To the Teutonic mind the individual works of Gorki, _e.g._, the novel,
"Three Men," still appear gloomy and sombre.  As a whole, too, they
affect us sadly; they are oppressive.

Yet we must remember that Gorki attacks life with a certain primitive
force and urgency, and that he has a passion for courageous and capable
individuals.  It is here that his experiences are to his advantage.
They have steeled him.  Each of his works presents at least one
energetic, defiant man--as a rule, one who is outside the pale of
society.  In one of his sketches, Chelkash is a smuggler, a reckless
fellow, who induces a poor peasant to serve as his accomplice in a
nocturnal burglary.  This rustic is a contemptible creature.  His
avarice prompts him to fall on the smuggler and murder him for the sake
of his gold pieces.  The wounded Chelkash flings the money at him
contemptuously.  Gorki portrays the much-belauded moujik as a pitiable
money-grubber, a detestable associate, who loses all higher motives in
his struggle for the means of existence.

[Illustration: Vasilissa (_Keeper of the "Doss-house"_)]

This, at any rate, is Gorki's belief: it is neither the householders
nor the peasants who are the custodians and promoters of what is human
and noble.  For Gorki, magnanimity and honour are found almost
exclusively among the degenerates and outlaws.  This clear vision and
imaginative insight that forces Gorki into the arms of the men who are
outcasts from the life of the community must not be misinterpreted.
All great writers put their trust in kings, or rogues, or
revolutionaries.  Vigour and energetic enterprise flourish only where
daily anxieties have had to be outworn.  The poet needs men who stand
erect, and live apart from the opinions of universal orthodoxy.



Scenes from the Abysses; The new gospel; Gorki's defects; Truth or
sentimentality; The new Russia; Future development.


The men of the "Doss-house" are again of this type.  They live in the
recesses of a horrible cellar, a derelict Baron, a former convict, a
public prostitute, and more of the same "cattle."  One man who lodges
there with his wife is pilloried, because as a worker he stands apart
from them:

"'I am a man who works!'--as if the rest of us were less than he!  Work
away if it makes you happier!--why be so cock-a-hoop about it?  If men
are to be valued for their work, a horse would count for more than a
man--at least it draws the cart . . . and holds its tongue about it."

And as they speak, so they live.  They are all destitute; but they
content themselves with carrying on a sort of guerilla warfare against
the householders.

And yet for some of them this life of brawls and vodka, of theft and
mendicancy, is a very hell.  Especially for the thief Pepel.  He would
gladly rise to a purer life.  Alone, he is not strong enough.
But--with Natasha.

This Natasha is the sister of the woman who keeps the shelter, and who
herself has relations with Pepel, and does not intend to let him slip
through her fingers.  She even wishes him to make away with her husband
in order that she may live undisturbed with the thief.

This is repulsive to Pepel.

At this crisis the wanderer Luka makes his appearance.  He wants to
help every one.  He is the apostle of goodness and humanity.  He finds
a tender word for the dying wife of the locksmith.  He talks to the
drunken actor about a Reformatory, where he can be cured of his
propensity for drinking.  And he counsels Natasha to fly with Pepel
from these depths of iniquity.  The keeper of the refuge hears this.
She torments her sister, and almost does her to death, with her
husband's assistance.  Pepel is off his head with rage, and actually
fulfils the woman's wishes, by murdering her husband.

She is triumphant.  And the wayfarer vanishes.  In the last Act the
other wastrels are collected together.  They are trying to clear up
their ideas of themselves, and of the world.  One tells how the
wanderer thought the world existed only for the fittest--as in the
carpentering trade.  All live--and work--and of a sudden comes one who
pushes the whole business forward by ten years.

[Illustration: Nastja (_Servant in "The Doss-house"_)]

"Man is the reality . . .  Man who alone is really great . . .  All is
in Man, all is for Man. . . .  To the health of Man!" is the toast of
the former convict Satin.

"Be Men!" is the new watchword for Russia.  And thus for Russians the
"Doss-house" came as a gospel, although Gorki has not yet wrought his
materials into the supreme conflict that must result in a really great
tragedy.  "The Doss-house" is not that tragedy.  It presents no titanic
action, no mighty fate, no clashing shock to reveal the battle of the
great natural tendencies in Man, and give an immeasurable lift to our
conceptions of existence.  There is still something that oppresses
us--there is too much puling and complaint.  Criticism as a whole has
been deceived by the resounding and pathetic words which it has
accepted as a profound philosophy.  Philosophy, however, is for the
study, not the stage.  Our great philosophers have said all that Gorki
has put into the mouth of his outcasts, and said it far more forcibly.
His observations on the dignity of Man are his only original and
impressive contributions.

The critics have gone astray in another direction also.  They have
insisted on the great compassion that radiates from the piece, as
embodied in Luka, the wanderer, and have commended this pillar of light
and salvation.  And they have completely overlooked the fact that it is
he who is responsible for most of the misfortunes.  In last resort Luka
brings help to no one, but only succeeds in embroiling the situation,
and accelerating the catastrophe.

Gorki undoubtedly intended to describe a luminary.  But he failed to
carry out his purpose consistently.  In spite of himself this apostle
is unable to effect any good, too often does just the contrary.  The
action of this character reminds us of Gregor Werle in Ibsen's "Wild
Duck."

From the purely technical standpoint, moreover, "The Doss-house" is
full of defects.  The great catastrophe is brought about by
eavesdropping.  As in the worst melodrama, the _intrigante_ of the
piece, the lodging-house keeper and mistress of the thief, appears in
the background just at the most critical point of the confabulation
between Pepel and his allies, and the vagrant Luka.

A great work of art should scorn such cheap expedients.  Nor are the
whining descriptions given by several of the castaways of their mode of
existence, properly speaking, dramatic; they only induce false sympathy.

The same capital fault is evident in Gorki's other productions.  We
have already touched on the defects of "Three Men."  In "The
Doss-house" again, our author has struck several wrong chords in his
characterisation.  He has failed to present the tragedy of the
derelicts; nor has he in one single instance given a correct artistic
picture of the occupants of the shelter.  As an environment, the
doss-house is interesting enough, but it is imperfect and inadequate.
In his effort to bring these men into touch with his audience, Gorki
credits them with over-much virtue.  On one occasion the thief requires
the outcast baron to bark like a dog.  The baron replies: "I am aware
that I have already sunk deeper than you whereever this is possible."
And it is only after a pause that the thief is able to reply: "You have
confounded me, Baron."

[Illustration: The baron (_From "The Doss-house"_)]

This is no speech for men of this type.  Gorki turns himself here into
a sentimentalist.  The baron should have answered this proposal that he
should "bark" somewhat as follows: "What will you pay me?  Hum!  What
can you offer me--a good place?"  Or suggested him knocking him over
the head.  Then we should have had a drastic representation of the
depraved derelicts.  Description is wanted, not sophistry.
Philosophising and quibbling over personality is a poor expedient, and
one rejected by first-class writers.

It may be alleged that a work of imagination need not be true to
nature.  But Gorki undoubtedly aims at producing an effect of fidelity
to nature, to serve his emotional objects.  To our mind, however, he
would have produced a far more direct and vigorous impression if he had
painted the depravity of the baron and his associates with stronger and
more artistic touches, that is, if he had been hard and ruthless, like
Maupassant in so many of his sketches.  We want instances of
corruption, not nice talk about it.

On one point Gorki is absolutely right: "The Doss-house" is not a
tragedy, but a succession of detached scenes, as he himself calls it.
It has no serious pretensions to be a drama.  It is almost entirely
lacking in construction and in development, in crises or catastrophes
resulting from character.  It has been quite unjustly preferred to the
German play, "The Weavers."  Yet that is in another category.  That is
the classic tragedy of the masses.  It contains all that can be
demanded of a drama: climax, necessary impulsion, catastrophe.  It
would not be easy to surpass this truly modern tragedy, even if it is
less adroitly philosophical than "The Doss-house."  Moreover "The
Weavers" indicates a revolution in dramatic literature.  "The
Doss-house" is at most the corollary of this revolution.  It presents
no new developments in literary style: this is wanting, as in all
Gorki's productions.  And yet the work of the Russian has its points:
the actors have most congenial parts, and talented players are willing
to put their best and most telling work into it.  "The Doss-house" had
an unparalleled success when it was performed at the Klein Theater in
Berlin.  The splendid staging made a magnificent achievement of the
"Scenes from the Abysses," which thrilled and held the audience like
some colossal work of music.  And the human value of the work entitles
it to rank with the best that has been produced in recent years on the
farther side of the Vistula.

Gorki has done well to describe the world and the stratum whence he
emerged, and which he traversed, in his powerful works.  His writings
expound the New Russia.  He himself is New Russia.  He is the man who
has overcome all life's obstacles.

And it is he who holds up new, courageous, virile men to his nation,
men who have faith and will to live.

He is himself profoundly sympathetic.  His works bring him in a large
annual income.  But he does not hoard it up.  He does not clutch his
money.  He knows the value of a helping hand.  In his heart, moreover,
he is averse to open admiration.  This was apparent in his refusal to
accept the public homage offered him some two years ago in the Art
Theatre of Moscow.  Gorki was drinking tea at a buffet with Chekhov, at
a first performance of "Uncle Wanja," when suddenly the two were
surrounded by a crowd of curious people.  Gorki exclaimed with
annoyance: "What are you all gaping at?  I am not a _prima ballerina_,
nor a Venus of Medici, nor a dead man.  What can there be to interest
you in the outside of a fellow who writes occasional stories."  The
Society Journals of Moscow wished to teach Gorki a lesson in manners,
for having dealt so harshly with the appreciative patrons of the
theatre.  He replied with the delightful satire: "Of the Author, who
aimed too high."

While many critics fall into ecstasies over anything that Gorki writes,
he himself preserves the just perspective, as in the case of this
public homage.  No one has spoken as uncompromisingly of his theatrical
pieces as himself.  That alone proves him to be a clever, critical man.
But it also shows him to be honourable, talented, and clear-headed.
How few authors would, if they thought some of their own works of minor
importance, straightway communicate the fact to their public?

      *      *      *      *      *      *

[Illustration: Letter to Max Reinhardt]


_Letter to Herr Max Reinhardt_

_"To you, dear Sir, and to your Company, I send my portrait.  I must
apologise for not doing it before, but had no time.  With it I send an
album of sketches of 'The Doss-house' as performed at the Art Theatre
in Moscow.  I do this in the hope of simultaneously expressing my
gratitude to you for your performance of my piece, and of showing how
closely you and your ensemble succeeded in reproducing Russia proper,
in your presentation of the types and scenes in my play.  Allow me to
offer my most cordial thanks to you and to your collaborators for your
energetic acceptance of my work.  Nothing binds men together so truly
as Art--let us join in a toast to Art, and to all who serve her truly,
and have courage to portray the crude reality of Life as it is._

_"Heartiest greetings to yourself and to your artists.  I greatly
regret my ignorance of the German language, and am ashamed of it.  If I
knew German, I could express my sincere thanks to you more plainly.
With all my heart I wish you luck and success._

_"M. GORKI._

_"NIJNI NOVGOROD,
  "August 1, 1903."_

      *      *      *      *      *      *

Hence we look forward with interest to Gorki's future contributions,
whether in poetry or drama.  It is significant of the man and his
intellect that he has not allowed himself to be saddled by the Theatre
Devil, but presses forward to fresh tasks and aims.



ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF GORKI'S WORKS


1.  "The Orloff Couple," "Malva."  Translated by E. Jakowleff and D. B.
Montefiore (Heinemann), 1901.

2.  "Foma Gordyeeff" ("Thomas the Proud.").  Translated by I. F.
Hapgood (Fisher Unwin), 1901.

3.  "Makar Chudra."  _Monthly Review_, 1901.

4.  "The Outcasts," "Waiting for the Ferry," "The Affair of the
Clasps."  Translated by D. B. Montefiore, E. Jakowleff, and V.
Volkhovsky (Fisher Unwin), 1902; reprinted 1905.

5.  "Three of Them."  Translated by A. Sinden (Fisher Unwin), 1902;
reprinted 1905.

6.  "Three Men." Translated by C. Home, 1902.

7.  "Tales from Gorki."
        In the Steppe.
        Twenty-six of Us and One Other.
        One Autumn Night.
        A Rolling Stone.
        The Green Kitten.
        Comrades.
        Her Lover.
        Chums.
Translated by R. Nisbet Bain (Jarrold & Sons), 1902.

8.  "Twenty-Six Men and a Girl."
        My Fellow Traveller.
        On a Raft.
        Tschelkasch.
Translated by E. Jakowleff, D. B. Montefiore, S. K. Michel.  "Greenback
Library," vol. i. (Duckworth & Co.), 1902.

9.  "Song of the Falcon."  Translated by E. J. Dillon, _Contemporary
Review_, 1902, and "Maxim Gorky" (Isbister & Co.), 1902.

10.  "Creatures that Once were Men" ("The Outcasts").  Translated by J.
K. M. Shirazi.  Introduction by G. K. Chesterton.  (Alston Rivers),
1905.





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